Outrage is a powerful thing, right? Outrage isn’t always a bad thing. It can motivate us to move mountains and accomplish essential change. It can move us to sympathize with humans in pain, and give us the courage to fight for what is right. Outrage is that feeling in our gut that tells us something is wrong, like really fucking wrong — like when a straight Daily Beast writer penned a problematic article talking about his covert exploits on Grindr at the Rio Olympics.
Nico Hines’ piece was horrific. It managed to perpetuate sex-shaming stereotypes upon the gay community, while also publishing the details of potentially closeted queer Olympians, who may be in danger if their home country realized their sexuality. The article was horrendously careless, and reeked of ignorance. If you want a more detailed account of how truly problematic the piece was, there are more than a few.
So yes, outrage can be appropriate. Outrage at the content of the article, outrage at how haphazardly it was constructed, outrage at the heterosexual privilege that allows journalists to not even consider the sometimes catastrophic implications that occur alongside “coming out.” Outrage against the post, outrage for education on queer issues, outrage for change — absolutely.
But sometimes outrage takes an ugly turn. In the internet world we can call this “outrage culture,” but my father just called it retaliation.
It’s when change isn’t enough. It’s when explanations aren’t enough. It’s when we lose focus on making the world better, and become obsessed with punishment. It’s when only blood is enough.
For the last few hours in the internet world, there has been an outcry for blood.
And the hashtag “#FireNicoHines” has gained steam on Twitter, with some people tweeting their “thoughts” to Nico directly.
And I have to say, as a gay man, these reactions to Nico Hines’ article don’t leave me feeling empowered or strong — they make me feel a little sick to my stomach. Some of the reaction has been stupendous. Some of it has pointed out the problems with the articles, condemned said problems, and given queer people a voice. Some of it, however, has been quite disturbing.
About two months ago, I researched an article chronicling a group of people around the internet who were applauding the Pulse Club shooter in Orlando. The purpose of the article was to rally our community around ushering in social change, and to try to channel righteous outrage into action and pride for our LGBTQ+ community. My goal was to kill the ideas, not the people. However, many of my readers had different thoughts. I got a myriad of messages — some threatening — demanding that I uncensor the names of the people associated with the hateful messages, so that they could deliver their brand of justice upon the heads of people who said deplorable things. People wanted vengeance, and because Omar Mateen was already dead, they would take it from anyone they could.
The message that Nico Hines gave us was appalling — but I do not believe that was his intention. He did intend to advocate for the outing of Olympians, he certainly did not wish for their death. He was blind to what he was doing. He was ignorant. But the cure for ignorance is not hate, it is education. It is learning. It is growth.
While my faith has been strained over the last few years, I find myself in times like these thinking back to a quote from Jesus as he hung on the cross in 1st century Judea.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Sometimes we have to forgive each other when we have no f*cking idea what we’re doing. And forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, it doesn’t mean maintaining the status quo, but it does mean that we hold ourselves to a higher standard than tweeting ugly names, death threats, and hopes of unemployment to someone who is probably feeling the full force of his error right now.
There is no doubt that Nico needs to receive some diversity retraining, and that perhaps the Daily Beast needs to hire more queer voices or invest in a new diversity vertical. These things will make the Daily Beast a better publication, and will make Nico a better writer. These things will improve the world.
These are the things we should be channeling our outrage to. We should be posting Nico’s article to our timelines, explaining exactly how this post is problematic and how it trivializes the queer experience. We should answer questions from friends and family, talk about what it is like being LGBQT+. That is the outrage that will work. That is the outrage that will bring change.
If your only goal is Nico’s termination, or even the shuttering of the Daily Beast, then your goals are far, far too small. Our goal should be — absolutely must be — creating a world where our children will never have to fear for being queer. Blind hatred will not advance that goal.