The All-Caps Aftermath: What Happens When You Go Viral
As I write this, I have spent the last five days dealing with two jobs, two sick children, and a brand new puppy. And I am still nowhere near matching anything even close to the level of overwhelm that came with this post.
I’d always wondered what it would be like to go truly viral. To gain massive attention for something I’ve written, particularly something that was me. That was written the way I write, the way I talk. This was a passing thought the way any actor thinks “I wonder what it’s like to be famous” or how every CPA thinks “I wonder what it’s like to do Matt Damon’s taxes” (accountants, I’m sorry, I don’t know what you dream of.)
Now I know. And…it’s weird. It’s still weird, months later. And I really haven’t talked about it, on account of how weird it is. So today, I shall break through the weird in this post-caps world we’ll call The All-Capstermath. (Note: We won’t call it that.)
In early February, my Hillary Clinton-treatment-related outrage was beginning to boil over. I knew that I was seeing this focus on what a demonic monster she is, a feeling for the most part steeped in GOP smears. Not entirely (I’ll get to that) but mostly. Emails. Benghazi. Iraq. Things were being blamed on Clinton, highlighted as unspeakably horrific and entirely solitary actions in a way I wasn’t seeing in other candidates, that I hadn’t seen in other candidates except one. Her entire life was being as parsed and hammered as Barack Obama’s was. Only it wasn’t just the Republicans doing it.
Dustin posted this in our staff chat:
I didn’t have any ideas that day, and I was still working full-time at a job that was rapidly devouring my soul. I could totally pound out a quick post about my rage. That is my literal job around here.
So I did.
How do I think the post turned out? Pretty standard, I guess. Me yelling about something in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way, not necessarily picking my words super carefully. Letting the rage exist on the page and not worrying too much beyond that, because that’s what the post is. It’s a feelings explosion.
Would I do it differently now? Yes.
For what it’s worth, at this moment, with some distance, I’m proud of what came out of the post. Good and bad. I stand by what I said. Except for one paragraph. Most of you know which one.
Here’s the thing about privilege: it’s not a fun thing to have. It’s not like you get to trade it in for prizes at Dave & Buster’s. It just means some people don’t have to deal with the bad shit other people deal with. It doesn’t mean your life can’t suck. It doesn’t mean you have it easy. It just means there are certain things you don’t experience. That’s it. It’s not an indictment. It just exists. And I don’t know why there’s such a controversy about the existence of privilege among the privileged.
But when you get called on your privilege, that’s hard. I don’t care how much of an ally you consider yourself. It’s hard to think of yourself as a good person and have it pointed out you’ve done something or said something that’s hurt people.
Because mass incarceration? The crime bill? I didn’t understand the ramifications, the lasting and lingering pain, what it meant to so many people. I was ignorant. I knew that things Bill Clinton had done in the ’90s were being piled on Hillary Clinton today, things she’d since changed her mind on, and lumped them all together. Also, I worded this part—“SHIT THAT WAS A BIG GODDAMN DEAL AT THE TIME IS NOT COOL NOW.”—terribly. What I was trying to say was the ’90s focus on crime is now seen for what it is and as such is not “cool” (note to those writing your own all-caps nonsense: it’s really fucking embarrassing to have to quote yourself and explain after—proceed with caution). As the world becomes more knowledgeable, largely thanks to Twitter, it’s harder to write criminals off as “just criminals” as I think it was very easy for white America to do in the ’90s (and a lot of white America to still do today). There are societal and systemic systems in place and many more of us know about these now. I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for taking something that is of huge importance and is so painful to many and diminishing it, even dismissing it. And I promise not one person who called me out on that was muted or blocked. I listened to it all. I took it all. It was deserved. I hope I know better now. And I thank you for that.
But there were mutes and blocks. Oh were there mutes and blocks.
For starters, if there remains any question in your mind regarding the existence of the Bernie Bro, trust me, they exist. I’ve muted several hundred of them. Girl ones, too—it is important I note this as all their tweets start with “I’M A GIRL SO YOU’RE SAYING I HATE WOMEN? HA.”
Another big lesson I learned is that you can go out of your way to say that gender is not the only reason to dislike a person, that there are other reasons of course, but that certain treatment is wholly linked to a person’s gender, and about 85% of people will still say “so you’re saying everyone who hates Clinton hates women.”
And the comments section? I don’t believe we’ve ever actually addressed this publicly, but no one went through the 15,000 comments and deleted all but 834, the 834 that still show up today. We did a wipe of the whole comments section and through pure technological shitshow glitchery, that number just stuck. The comments section was obviously beyond moderation. Death threats (I’ve received many), accusations of murder, generally abusive messages toward me, the candidates, other commenters, it was bad. I stuck to my word—I noped out, catching only a few early calls for my very late-term abortion. Dustin, TK, everyone tried to do what they could but that beast spun out of control. And our comment section is just that—ours. Ours the Overlords, but also “ours” the community we’ve fostered over the years. I don’t want my readers I’ve come to love to have to see that. That’s not fair.
Of course, there was good. There was overwhelming good. The outpouring of love and support and kind words and new friends has been incredible. I’m so grateful. And, holy shit, Caitlin Moran, Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, Joan Walsh, WENDY DAVIS. Women I deeply respect liked and shared my post.
But in the moment? That was hard, too. Because for someone with anxiety, especially anxiety socially, ESPECIALLY someone who was at that very moment at the tail end of a two-year nervous breakdown? It was too much. It was like everyone was looking at me. Everyone was talking at me. It was too loud, too bright. News outlet after news outlet reached out for interviews—CNN, HuffPo, NPR and so on and so on. I said no to every single one. The party line I gave and instructed Dustin to give for the requests on my behalf was that I was choosing to let the piece speak for itself. This was true. But mostly it was that the very idea of talking about it, of getting more attention, made me physically violently ill. And I knew nothing I could possibly say would change the negative views people had of me and that post—deserved or not. (For what it’s worth, this is why I feel so justified judging the shit out of Amanda Lauren and her Deathwish Tour.)
Eventually it all died down. People lost interest, and I could breathe. However, that’s not how this works. It found its virality once again, though by no means at the fever-pitch it did before, and may continue to do so. Now I’m well enough that I welcome it. I’ve muted most of the more vocal Bros, their cries drifting into the wind unheard (if a bro bros in the forest and no bitch slut whore for Shillary is around to hear it, does it make a fart sound?).
And, hey, I got this chill hang out of it.
Yep, I got to meet the muse of it all. I was invited to her MSNBC town hall. The mayor’s wife handed me her purse thinking I was an employee. Clinton’s staffer’s sheet just said “COURTNEY ENLOW FROM TWITTER” and that was all she knew about me and I certainly didn’t bring the post up because she probably still wouldn’t know what that was or who I was, nor should she. I did tell her she did a great job in the interview like she was a child because I don’t know how to talk to humans. I walked away feeling like a dumb sack of butts.
It’s absolutely the perfect way for this to all end. So cheers to viral discomfort (consult your physician) and it being entirely my fault no one on this site can post a damn thing without someone calling us all Hillary shills. CAPTAIN CAPS OUT.
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