Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello, haters

Yes, this was a joke. A joke at the expense of some people that take themselves far too seriously. A joke poking at the idea (that it is now really obvious that some people have) that what we as editors do all day is super easy and fun-fun good times, that our entire life's purpose is to spend hours researching and writing about issues like rape in the Congo or the wage gap or politics or the feminist movement for the sole purpose of allowing commenters to talk amongst themselves, and not because we think those issues are important and want people to (gasp!) read about them. At the people who get really up in arms about their inability to express their opinions for a couple of hours, but think that us editors should shut the hell up about ours already. Some jokes aren't meant to make you laugh out loud, they're meant to make you challenge your assumptions about certain things (which is why I like some of the most uncomfortable bits of Sarah Silverman's or Lisa Lampanelli's comedy acts, by the way). But, more pointedly, the point of an April Fool's joke is that you get to laugh at the person you're pranking and, if they are slightly self-aware, they get to laugh at their own gullibility or overreaction. Plenty of people in comment threads and on e-mail and IM did exactly that. Some didn't.

I was a commenter on this site for many months before I was asked to guest edit in October 2007; I then half-wrote Crappy Hour for more than a year with Moe (and Spencer, Jason, Ana Marie, Latoya, Jill, Rebecca, Steve, David, Asma and Kay) and wrote sporadically (post-Wonkette-firing) from January until getting bumped to a regular contributor last summer. Between January and the summer, I played a lot in the comment threads with the other commenters because, being only partially-employed, I had the time to do so. That I don't anymore is far and away a function of the fact that I must sing for my damn supper and thus simply don't have time.

The way some of those people have turned against the editors since the days I first started commenting and feel it's their right to get people fired or make nasty personal comments about them has been disheartening. Today was a case in point. Some of the comments I saw on my Facebook news feed today were incredibly disappointing -- especially coming from people who had friended me. Like Dodai, between that and the emails and the final Tuesday comment thread, the level of "The editors are all shitty writers and nobody reads them anyway" that abounded among a certain class of commenter struck me as incredibly nasty and not particularly related to the issue of comments being (obviously) temporarily gone.

Anyway, so, I screencapped some of what I saw today. Some people were reasonable (Newt, like normal, was reasonable even in the midst of his grumpiness) but others were... not. But this was what I saw much of the day.

For the record, to correct the mistaken assumption a lot of people continue to make, no one at Gawker Media gets paid by page views any more (not that we did exclusively, regardless -- that was our bonus system to make up for low salaries). Even if Gawker Media did still pay its full-time writers by page views, some of us no longer write for them full time and thus do not -- except we can get canned if we're not bringing in any.

Anyway, I'm about to go delete some "friends" on Facebook.


Nefarious Newt said...

Hmmmmm. Well, on the one hand, I'm flattered to have made it into a blog post by someone I respect. On the other hand, I'm a bit conflicted about the havoc I seem to have wrought.

I know it was meant as a joke. I get the April Fools vibe, even though I don't think much of the idea. And perhaps if it had been anything else, I might have had a good laugh. Something about the suspension of the comments struck me the wrong way, and I'm not sure what that says about me. I'd like to be known as a reasonable person, but was my reaction a particularly reasonable one? I've been prone to fits of curmudgeonly behavior many times, but this...

Still, as I posted on Jezebel a little while ago, because it struck so close to the mark for me, it left me feeling uncomfortable, perhaps because the reasoning evinced in the post was so cogent. Perhaps commenting did become too big a burden for the editorial staff -- if so, this is a perfectly natural thing to occur, regardless of the date.

I'm sorry if I have offended you or anyone else in the Jezebel editorial staff. I have the feeling I have invested myself with the site to too much of a degree. Maybe its unhealthy. Maybe I actually have no sense of humor. I don't know. Right now I'm thinking that tomorrow will dawn a new day, and this will be relegated to history as I post in the morning Dirt Bag.

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

I will fully admit to being one of the people that was pretty harsh about the "joke." Which surprised me, considering I haven't really commented much of late, mostly because I haven't really had much to say, nor the time to say it. I think that my reaction stemmed from the fact that I didn't really find it very funny and while I saw the point that you, as editors, were making, I thought it was a little heavy handed and just unfunny.

And while I do go to Jez to read what you guys have to say, I also come for the comments that are so insightful and interesting. I think that the comments are what really bring Jez to a completely different level.

My reaction was not one of outrage over not being able to share my opinion. It was more that I found the action to be unfunny, and as I said above, heavy handed and seemed to be done as an insult the commenters that make Jez what it is. It isn't that I don't read and appreciate what you guys write, I just think that the comments add a different level to it.

I hope this was coherent.

Megan said...


I mean, I think this goes back to the idea or the perception that many people seem to have that Jezebel editors "hate" commenters. We don't -- but we do dislike individual people that feel it necessary to attack us as individuals, call us ugly, stupid, self-absorbed, racist, Republican, useless, unncessary, poor writers and so on and so forth. It is tiring and it seems intensely irrational. But it goes on every day, in the comment threads and in our email Inboxes in a way I think people don't understand. And over time, it wears you down.

So, like, if you didn't think that we hated the commenters because a group of disgruntled commenters that have either been asked or told or forced to stop attacking editors told you we "hate" the commenters, would you have felt the same way about it? I don't think you would, curmudgeonly tendencies aside. You have always struck me as a reasonable person.

It's not going to actually happen because it is a part of the business model. And if it was suggested, I would be opposed because for every nasty trollish person who feels it necessary to call me names, there are 100 other people who get what I'm trying to do. And for every story I post about sexual assualt, or sexual issues or sexuality, it provides a forum for people to feel normal or express that they don't, and I value that.

Megan said...


The thing is, though, we weren't making a "point" as much as they chose a prank that would have a decided effect. The very idea that there was a "point" stems from this idea -- posited by people that don't know us and have very little interaction with us -- that we don't "like" commenters. I mean, Dodai made a whole SJ about Tscheese the other day, Moe and I used to refer to commenters a bunch in Crappy Hour -- hell, I DID a CH with a former commenter -- and you're currently reading my personal blog.

If you take that feeling out of the equation, then it's just being punked. Which you can think funny, or not, but it has no greater meaning such as you are assigning to it.

And there are plenty of people who think that Jezebel is a glorified message board and are disrespectful to what we've written, many of whose comments you can fine in the Michael J Fox comment thread, in the emails that Dodai posted and on the FB threads that I did. That you don't is appreciated.

Nefarious Newt said...

Well, I'm not one of those who has ever felt that you have ever "hated" commenters. Been exasperated by, yes. Wanted to strangle, yes. Hated, no.

It's the price of fame, no question. I appreciate your writing; others do not. I'd hate to think I would lose the privilege of commenting because of others, but as I have said, ultimately we're allowed that access only by the good graces of Gawker Media. Frankly, I think the site could run without comments, but it would take time to build a base that would be consistent to make that viable.

I do actually think that I have over-identified with the site, for reasons I can't understand. Seeing my comments outside the context they were made in makes me believe that perhaps it is an unhealthy relationship. I don't know. Maybe it's like my relationship with alcohol -- it bested me at one time, but I licked it and now it does my bidding when I want it to.

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

For as much as I can get stabby and bitchy about Jez, I really don't envy what you guys do. I know that what you do is not as easy as everyone thinks. Though I'll be the first to admit that sometimes, like Newt, I find myself too invested in the site. Which may be why I had such a strong reaction to the prank pulled today.

Danielle said...


I really liked this post and generally agree with much that you have to say on Jez. I think the personal attacks people take away from these sorts of things are weird. I just think the prank was a bit passive aggressive. Personally, I am now out of work and ironically not spending my days commenting on Jez but I didnt know about this until the Facebook chatter. I get people getting offended, but I sort of don't get why comments aren't run the way they use to be or maybe they are and Im just missing it. I have been on Gawker more recently since my brain can not handle anything deeper than a Real Housewives post and the haterade towards Jez is incredible and it seems to stem from the echo chamber of the comments. It seems that cleaning house more than anything would be appropriate now. And that could mean people who comment all the time might have to go. Hells maybe I would have to go, but it seems to me when you have the comment thread about opening comment threads once again up to 7 pages within an hour of the post and almost all the comments are "You got me!" or "I was so stabby", something needs to be done.

Megan said...


I think the difference is that we get exasperated by individual commenters, not by The Commenters, you know? There's a really big difference between rolling our eyes at someone like encnyc (whose over-the-top bullshit today cracked me the fuck up to the point that I begged she not get banned because then people would stop thinking her a joke of the editors) and disliking the rest of you because of her, you know?

The site could run without comments, but I think it (mostly) is better with. And if you feel over-identified with the site, well, you're not the only one, you're more self-aware than most who do and at least you weren't a raging pile of horribleness about it like some other people, you know?

Khrushchev said...

Megan, I followed you here. Fuck the haters. That's all I got.

Megan said...

Danielle -

Again, I think the very idea that it was "passive-aggressive" stems from the mistaken impression that we have some problem with The Commenters, or being commented on. If you take that impression out of the equation, it isn't passive-aggressive, it was just sort of evil and subversive and frustrating for people, which is the sort of thing I tend to find funny. In addition, the sheer length that it went on coupled with Anna's over-the-top piece, I mean... It's only passive-aggressive if you think it's some sort of snide remark or statement, and otherwise, it's not.

And, please, all the comments on all the Gawker sites always have and always will be echo chambers. People kiss up to every editor, they tell insider-y jokes, they bash people that don't agree, that's the nature of the thing. Gawker commenters are an echo chamber when it comes to bashing Jezebel, for instance. They have a different set of things to echo, but it's the same thing, which is why it's so fucking funny to me -- it's like the kids in HS who all dressed alike in their not dressing like the other groups of kids who all dressed alike.

Nefarious Newt said...

Doesn't that seem to be the way? Polarization occurs when the like-minded get together. I mean, I don't post to Gawker anymore, because the atmosphere was just too much like high school for me... and here we go, falling into the same kind of trap on Jezebel!

It's to be expected really -- any sufficiently large population fits the Bell Curve, so of course 99.9% of commenters are all right, but that final .1% are the troublemakers, and they are as regular as clockwork.

Anonymous said...

You should take down the screengrabs, their real names are now on the internet, along with their comments. I know you post under your real name, and it is the internet we are talking about where no absolute guarantees of privacy exist, but I expect that those commenters posted their comments, bitchy though they were, under their real names with the understanding that the page had restricted access. Now their identity is freely available for public shaming against their will, and you've abused the privilege of having access to Nefarious Newts's Facebbook page. You choose to post under your real identity -- they didn't.

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

Anon: She removed the real names. The only names left are the ones that go by their Jez commenter names on FB.

Nefarious Newt said...

As you may have guessed, my real name is not Nefarious Newt.

Megan said...


Ummm, last I knew (and I know), Nefarious isn't his real name, nor is Mac's. Anyone who posted under their real name -- though it's widely available for people to see if you're connected with anyone else that commented -- I erased.

Also, one's comments are not restricted-access on FB. Many of those people aren't friends of mine on FB, but their comments were clearly visible because they are friends with the people who are friends with me.

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

Newt, you TOTALLY had me fooled. I could have *sworn* that was your real name! Mine is not VadgeWig. Though it is Britni.

Lizawithazee said...

I stand by my comments but now I'm disturbed that someone will pull my real name off FB and post it on something like this. Lesson learned-- my first FB fuckup. I use my real name on FB and friend only people I trust and respect.

If you ban me on Jezebel for being rude or not following the party line, I hope I can still post on other GM sites.

Anonymous said...

Britni TheVadgeWig - I was mistaken, I'm sorry.

NefariousNewt - May I address you as Mr. Newt anyway?

Megan said...


That is why I removed your name from the threads, which took me no small amount of time to get the color matching correctly. I'm not sure that I necessarily connected your IRL name with your commenter one until now in either case.

Nonetheless, I don't have banning power, nor would I ban you. The only people that have banning power on Jezebel are Anna and Hortense. Depending on the situation, it's my understanding from some of the recent trolling that commenters can be disabled from one site (or only enabled on one site) but if people are banned for trolling and being nasty, it's normally GM-wide. But what you do on FB is your own business.

Besides, yours weren't the nastiest of the comments by any means.

Lizawithazee said...

I do want to clarify: I don't think the editors "hate" the commenters. I do think there have been decisions made in the past few months that are ill-conceived and harmful to the site as an ongoing concern. Today's shutting down of comments is an example of this. But hey, I'm very likely wrong. I'm still entitled to express my opinion in messages to my friends on FB. And I guess others are entitled to mock said opinions!

Britni TheVadgeWig said...

I do think there have been decisions made in the past few months that are ill-conceived and harmful to the site as an ongoing concern.

I do agree with this, Liza.

Also, Megan, while you keep saying that we all read into a motive that wasn't there in the first place, I find it hard to believe that none of the editors considered the fact that people were going to see it as sending some sort of passive aggressive message.

But, again, everyone has different humor and I just didn't see the humor in the joke. Though I do think that some people might be upset that their picture/comment is appearing on your blog in a screengrab without permission. I agree with the commenter that said that they shared these comments in a forum that they felt was safe to do so. I know that if I was one of the commenters whose FB name is my Jez commenter name, I would be a little upset for it to appear on here.

And I'm done putting my 2 cents in. Carry on! :)

kithkin said...

Hey Megan,

I think you're a terrific writer and I deeply appreciate the work you've put into reporting the way women in the military are treated especially, but I also love your thoughtful coverage of just about everything else. I'm glad that you're doing News at 10, and I can't wrap my head around how hard it must be to put that and everything else you do together on such a tight deadline every day.

I don't feel you hate the commenters. I sort of do, sometimes. I certainly dislike several individual commenters.
And, please, all the comments on all the Gawker sites always have and always will be echo chambers. People kiss up to every editor, they tell insider-y jokes, they bash people that don't agree, that's the nature of the thing.
I think that what makes jezebel different, and what made the april fools' thing today so incendiary is just how big jezebel is. You guys get SO MANY pageviews and SO MANY comments. This has all happened pretty fast, from what I can tell, so there are a lot of new people who don't know the rules. There are also a lot of boring people in the world operating with enormous senses of entitlement, and now that Jezebel's fan base is so big and the atmosphere is far more inclusive than, say, Gawker, people come out of their boring, entitled shells and say boring, entitled things.

I felt shocked then relieved when I saw comments were down. I figured it was April Fools', but hey, a girl can dream. I know I have the choice to stop reading when I hit the comments, but it kills me to see a thoughtful post get totally ignored in the comments section in favor of knee-jerk reactions. I know jezebel doesn't do "First!" but certain kinds of comments really come close.

The way some of those people have turned against the editors since the days I first started commenting and feel it's their right to get people fired or make nasty personal comments about them has been disheartening.
I think that's true. I also think that while commenters sing the praises of the "safe" atmosphere of Jezebel on the one hand and act in such a way on the other is telling and disheartening in its own way. I mean, I know you guys don't get pageview bonuses anymore, but if you don't like what one of the editors writes about, just don't click on her stories. It's not digg or reddit, it's a different kind of nastiness.

We can all wish it were better policed, but since there are so many people and just one hortense, I don't know how that might work. Banal and offensive comments get through often, but the ban trigger seems to be pretty sensitive. I guess I'm writing to say I'm sorry and I empathize. This also may be boring and/or entitled, I'm not sure.

I, like Newt and VadgeWig, am also realizing I may be way too attached to the site.

Anonymous said...

I stand by everything I said on the MJFox thread and on FB. That is all.


Anonymous said...

Yo Megan;

I'm just a fan. I love your writing voice. I think you one of the most readable bloggers around. Always interesting. I can't love every single thing you write, but I can come close.

Hang in there!

All the best,

T. Bob

morninggloria said...

Megan-- I know that I differ in opinion from some here, but I thought it was pretty effing funny. Last night I actually thought that something like this might happen on Jezebel today, and I'm sort of glad that it did, because I found the time to clean my entire desk AND pull an epic, epic prank on my entire office. Maybe it was just epic singular. Anyway, thought it was funny, love reading your posts, keep it up, etc.

Megan said...


Re: Newt's name. He blogs under it and has appeared on this site using it and mentioning that he sends me Flair under it. He's hardly hiding.

And I think none of us figured that commenters would see it as a "passive-aggressive" message because we're all pretty aggressive people. Also, frankly, the idea that the editors sat around considering the feelings of the commenters (of which there are thousands, all of whom are individuals with individual ideas, senses of humor, senses of their place in world and feelings about the site) before playing a prank in recognition of the part that commenters play, not as a "fuck you" to it (as some of the commenters seem to have decided we did) and decided to do it as some sort of p-a message is just really absurd.



Kithkin, T Bob, Morninggloria, Khrushchev -


M. Ravian said...

man, i love Jezebel....but it seems like a lot of people's lives online (and perhaps beyond) rise and fall on it. dare i say...get a life? it is just a website. odds are it will one day disappear.

between the Emily Gould story last year and all the stuff you're talking about Megan, i kinda wonder if being an editor at Gawker is worth all of the drama.