Leslie Jones’ Incident Proves Institutional Failure
“We know many people believe we have not done enough to curb this type of behavior on Twitter. We agree.”
That’s the statement Twitter gave regarding the recent incident involving Leslie Jones. Jones is one of the main actresses in the new Ghostbusters remake, which also stars Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy.
Unlike the other three women, Jones has taken leave of Twitter. Her reason for leaving the social media site that has over 300 million users is due to the amount of harassment and hate mobbing that took place against her.
For those playing along at home, the other three women haven’t left and don’t seem to be getting the type of treatment that Jones currently experienced.
In short, the reason why this is happening is the other three women aren’t black.
Monday ended up being the final straw as Jones sent out multiple tweets quoting those who were sending her harassing comments. At one point, a user copied the Ghostbusters’ star’s handle and began to tweet at her using such phrases as “uncle Tom fag” directed at another person who plays a large role in this story—Milo Yiannopolus.
Please help me find this fake Acct posting the most awful shit in my name. Help! pic.twitter.com/lp4RzVLb6f
— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) July 19, 2016
For those who don’t recognize the name, one may recognize the handle as Yiannopolus goes by the handle @nero. According to Twitter, that handle is now suspended indefinitely due to the part Yiannopolus played in this story.
The self-proclaimed “super villain,” who once compared rape culture to that of Harry Potter, stirred up the social media mob to attack Jones. The Brietbart tech editor began calling out Jones, saying she was playing “victim” due to her response to comments from those on social media—which had nothing to do with the film. He also implied she is illiterate by tweeting “barely literate, America needs better schools.”
There’s a lot to unpack with this story, the first being that racism is alive and well. For those who think it’s not look no further than logging into Twitter. McCarthy, Wiig and McKinnon didn’t receive attacks like this—Jones did. That’s something that shouldn’t be forgotten, the hate mob on Twitter, which has been seen regularly throughout the site’s existence proved once again that racism still exists. At one point, Jones mentions how she has “been called an ape by people” and someone sent her pictures “with semen on her face.”
It’s not just the racism but also the misogyny something all four stars have seen throughout this process.
“Geek culture is home to some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met in my life,” director Paul Feig said to the Sydney Herald in an interview. “I would be sympathetic to that if there wasn’t all the misogyny involved with it … you’ve seen the tweets, [they] were terrible and there’s tons of them.”
The whole Ghostbusters movie has come under attack due to the fact that it’s a remake with four extraordinarily talented women who excel in the comedic world. This isn’t the first time that something involving successful women has gotten push back through misogynistic attacks on social media or in traditional media.
Look no further than any female sports journalist, or any female reporter. This past year has seen many examples of female journalists all over the world having to deal with misogynistic attacks and even sexual harassment from employers and co-workers. Fox News is currently going through this with Roger Ailes and who can forget former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s situation with Michelle Fields, where Brietbart also played a significant role.
But it’s not just in the media or in Hollywood. It’s also happened with the infamous Gamergate incident that saw just how powerful social media could be at attacking a woman for having success.
In 2014, Demos, a research and think tank in the U.K., released a report dedicated to misogyny on Twitter.
Here’s what the report found:
- Between 26 December 2013 and 9 February 2014 there were around 100 thousand instances of the word ‘rape’ used in English from UK-based Twitter accounts. We estimate around 12 percent appeared to be threatening.
- There was a high proportion of ‘casual’ misogyny. Approximately 29 per cent of the ‘rape’ tweets appeared to use the term in a casual or metaphorical way; while approximately 35 per cent of the ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ tweets appeared to use the term in a casual or metaphorical way.
That’s just one country.
Now picture that for the United States, which has roughly 65 million users on Twitter per Statista.com. It’s probably bad, if not worse.
This is a problem and Twitter along with Facebook and other social media outlets need to step up.
However, the problem isn’t only their burden.
These sites are vehicles; the problem is still people. These sites are megaphones and platforms for people. That doesn’t mean that these sites are blameless. They have a “terms of service” agreement. When users sign up it needs to be clear it needs to be followed—and more importantly enforced. That’s been Twitter’s battle for the longest time from Gamergate, to this situation and the Lena Dunham one. It may have banned Yiannopolus but he is just one of many who incite volatile situations.
Speaking of Yiannopolus, he has already released a statement in which he claims the social media company has violated his First Amendment right of freedom of speech. This however is not the case as Twitter has a terms and service agreement which he has been suspended for not following previously.
“With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives.”
“Twitter is holding me responsible for the actions of fans and trolls using the special pretzel logic of the left. Where are the Twitter police when Justin Bieber’s fans cut themselves on his behalf?”
“Like all acts of the totalitarian regressive left, this will blow up in their faces, netting me more adoring fans. We’re winning the culture war, and Twitter just shot themselves in the foot.”
“This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.”
While Mr. Yiannopolus may feel that Twitter is not a safe place for “conservatives” that would be a hard argument to make as his ideal, whom he calls “the daddy” a.k.a Donald Trump who is now the nominee for one of the most supposed conservative political movements hasn’t been banned.
In fact, more users may return—including women if Twitter had actually started enforcing this policy years ago. CEO Jack Dorsey’s company isn’t doing as well as many would have expected in terms of innovation and changing the platform. The user fanbase has stagnated growth and if he is looking as to why it’s the problem, he should look no further to the lady he direct messaged on Monday.
Yiannopolus incited a digital lynch mob, that he knew already existed, to attack a black woman who starred in a remake of a 1980s movie where people get slimed. This isn’t about freedom of speech, it’s about humanity and the Leslie Jones situation proved that there is more garbage than humans online and it’s not the only place where this garbage is located.
tweet screen captures via BuzzFeed, information also obtained from The Atlantic as well as the Demos research group.