On Not Being a Creep, Jerk, or Harasser

In hindsight, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that so many revelations about men in positions of power have been coming out, one after another. There’s a reason there’s a stereotype for the “casting couch” and the like. That sort of thing doesn’t come ex nihilo.

That said, it’s getting to the point that I start to wonder who isn’t a creep out there in the world. Of course, I know that’s not the case. There are tons of good men out there who aren’t walking around, creeping on everyone they come in contact with. But those men don’t get news stories written about them. And thank goodness, I suppose. How depressing would it be if it started to become newsworthy when someone wasn’t sexually harassing people?

At the same time, I’m continually dismayed by the tone deafness of some people out there. This past week, the Magic the Gathering scene has had its own brush with controversy. A YouTuber with more than 100,000 subscribers has been, apparently, trolling the interwebs, casting stones at just about anyone he could hit, and a well known cosplayer has stepped away from the game because of it. This caused a cascade of criticism to follow, all aimed at the YouTuber, detailing the many different things he’s said and done, and the behavior from his fans that he has at the very least turned a blind eye to, and at the worst encouraged.

I’ve watched the clips and read some of his posts, and I’m just left shaking my head in disappointment. Disappointment that someone out there can be that much of a jerk and claim to not understand he’s being a jerk. Even bigger dismay that 100,000+ people like his content enough to subscribe to him.

But he isn’t alone. There are many people who are making good money by being brusque and uncaring. By being as provocative as they can be to anyone that might get them more eyeballs. It’s the Simon Cowell effect on the internet. Some people just love to watch a good train wreck, and if there’s someone who’s going to sit back and say mean nasty things about other people, that inevitably attracts those people, like moths to a flame.

Part of me can understand the appeal. I was an American Idol fan back in the day, and I used to love to be shocked at just what Simon got away with saying. But it didn’t stop with Simon. People (and television executives) discovered this was a sort of brand you could replicate, until all judging shows seemed to have the requisite jerk. Donald Trump went from “rich white guy people sort of abstractly know about” to “judge of The Apprentice.” He rode that Jerk train all the way to the White House, where he’s become the troll in chief.

It should not surprise us that behavior like this is rampant in our society. Not when a man can say and do the things Trump has said and done and still be elected President.

There is a large contingent of mostly white males who are outraged. Outraged that people are becoming more tolerant. They’re disgusted by what they call PC culture. Enraged that some people are actively trying to make the world a better place. Social Justice Warriors, they call them. SJWs for short. I’ve seen this happen in fantasy author communities, video game communities, politics, religion. You name it. I assume it’s pretty much anywhere, to one degree or another. It’s ugly, but it seems the people spewing this hate just don’t get it. They do not understand that what they’re doing and saying is harmful and obnoxious.

Trump tapped into this vein in his run for office as well. “Make America great again” speaks to this mindset. Reassures people that this new world where people can be accepted for who they are and treated how they wish to be treated is something that doesn’t have to stick around. That we can go back to the good ol’ days, where white men got to grope who they wanted to grope, say what they wanted to say, and could crush anyone they didn’t like.

The sad truth is that 38% of the country still think Trump’s doing a good job. “Pay attention to what he does, not what he says,” they tell me. While Hawaii is testing its nuclear alert system and North Korea is playing chicken with the world. “It’s just an act,” people reassure me. And never mind that just today, Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos posted by far right extremists. I continue to believe Trump has made this country much worse in his two years of influence. (The first when he was running for office, the second as he’s been in it.) The country I live in now is an actively worse place to live than it was two years ago.

But there’s hope. I see all these accusations of sexual harassment coming out against people at the highest levels of entertainment and news. Matt Lauer. Kevin Spacey. And there are very real consequences for them. That’s good. There needs to be. My hope is that Trump’s presidency ends up being a wake up call to the majority of people in this country. That we reject what he stands for the way we’re standing up and rejecting a culture of sexual harassment.

I know not everyone will agree with the change. But I’m consoled by the fact that I believe the ones who are scared by it are on the decline, while the ones who find Trump reprehensible only gain in numbers every day. And I think the more Trump bangs his little drum of hate and discord, the more he strengthens the opposition.

In the meantime, I continue to do what I can to be a good person. To say nice things. To try to improve myself, and to not just do unto others as I would have others do unto me, but to treat people how they ask to be treated. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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