He stirs up trouble on the internet

News organizations keep asking women to go on debate shows with Milo Yiannopoulos. Last March Kate Smurthwaite wrote about what a terrible idea that is.

In the last week I’ve received over 1,700 nasty Twitter messages. Many of these messages have been retweeted and ‘favourited’ hundreds of times. I was going to print all the abuse out and hold it up for a photo to accompany this article. The document came out at 165 pages. To print my week’s abuse I’m going to have to buy a new printer cartridge.

You might assume that to provoke such a response I had said something deeply racist, incited rape or sexual violence or called for the death of a much-loved TV star. No, my ‘crime’ was to ask a man not to call a woman he didn’t know ‘darling’ during a live TV debate on gender equality.

I remember that. I saw it. It was The Big Question, and Yiannopoulos did call her that, very contemptuously. It was infuriating, and I was very glad when Kate snapped at him not to do that.

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that Milo Yiannopoulos has direct links to the #GamerGate scandal which saw massive-scale abuse targeted at Anita Sarkeesian. The hashtag crops up repeatedly. He stirs up trouble on the internet knowing perfectly well that once he has identified a target, that individual will be bombarded with hateful messages. Bombarded is an understatement.
Retweets, favourites, replies loaded with more misogyny, and also the tactic of copying in others who will likely add to the abuse. Creating a sort of harassment chain letter

Yiannopoulos is a kind of professional Twitter-bully. It’s what he does, and for some reason tv stations think that makes him a good person to invite onto debate shows with women.

Among the messages are of course a fair few that wish me dead or raped. Some have photoshopped images with slogans or waded through video footage to find the ugliest image of me they can. They call me ‘bitch’ and ‘retarded’ and ‘harpy’ and ‘asshole’.

A big theme is victim-blaming. I’m told that if I didn’t want this I shouldn’t have gone on TV. I’m told that I deserve punishment for things that other feminists have said. I’m told that if I complain I’m letting down feminism.

It’s what the internet is for – telling women all the things that generations of men have wanted to but didn’t have the tools.

Quite understandably in the 21st century, the first thing a comedy promoter does when recommended an act is bang their name into Google. There’s no way of distinguishing between a punter who has seen my show and not enjoyed it and a troll scrambling for new ways to ruin my afternoon. So my career is undoubtedly being detrimentally affected. Nasty comments have also appeared under basically every video of me online.

That makes it all the more infuriating when well-meaning individuals, from friends to the police themselves, say ‘ignore it’, ‘leave Twitter’, ‘block them’ or ‘report it’. I’m a human being; people use Twitter to communicate with me, as a 21st-century comedian I’m expected to use it to promote my work. When what I have to wade through is page after page of hate, it does affect me.

But you’re supposed to have a “thick skin”! Like an armadillo, or a container ship.

I’ve reported a fair few rape and death threats to the police over the last few years. They ask me to describe the abuse – which means read it out a number of times, making sure it’s fully embedded in my head; I can recite it without notes, better than some of my own material. Then they wait a couple of months and tell me they’re not going to do anything about it. My hope that they might do something about harassment that doesn’t even describe ripping my head off and fucking my bleeding neck has long since faded.

The trouble is we seem to hold the internet to a different standard to real life. We now live significant parts of our lives online and we should have the same rights there as we do anywhere else. If Milo and 500 of his friends stood in the street and shouted these things at me we would all agree there was a serious problem that needed to be addressed. This is no different.

If any technology or legal experts can help me access justice, your help would be much appreciated. You can contact me through my website. katesmurthwaite.co.uk

And don’t ever do a tv show with Milo Yiannopoulos, ever, for any reason.

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