I see you. I believe you.
January 12, 2018 9:12 PM   Subscribe

 
I want to favorite, because what Sarah did is really good, but, damn, she shouldn't have to.

Women have been been demonstrating empathy and giving support, always.

This is not a ray of hope. This is what women do. Always.
posted by slipthought at 9:19 PM on January 12 [99 favorites]


I think the ray of hope is more about how this one particular person reacted when empathy was extended from an unexpected place. He could have rejected it, but he didn't, and it seems like maybe his heart grew a size or three.

It's the acceptance and the change that give me hope, anyway.
posted by hippybear at 9:23 PM on January 12 [71 favorites]


This is what women do. Always.

As someone whose abuser was a woman, I can categorically say this is not true.
posted by saltbush and olive at 9:55 PM on January 12 [56 favorites]


I think the ray of hope is more about how this one particular person reacted when empathy was extended from an unexpected place. He could have rejected it, but he didn't, and it seems like maybe his heart grew a size or three.

Exactly. Yes, it was a woman offering compassion and empathy, and yes, it is disproportionately women who do this in our society. But the point of the story, to me, is that it illustrates that compassion and empathy have the potential to break toxicity and cruelty at the individual level, and that this points the way forward to how we might break the broader toxicity and cruelty that exists as a social/cultural level. (As a not-unrelated side note, I would also say it's also a reminder of how the U.S.'s lack of any real safety net in terms of healthcare, employment, and income fuels untold desperation, anger, pain, and generalized suffering among whole cross-sections of society.)

Among the seemingly endless tide of trolls out there, I don't know how many are genuine sociopaths who enjoy hurting others vs. how many are people who are in so much physical and/or emotional pain themselves that they don't know what to do besides lash out. But what happens if and when some of the people in the latter group may find their suffering alleviated to some degree? If there is any way out of the fucking mess we're in now, I think this is one of the questions we (collectively) need to entertain.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 10:02 PM on January 12 [35 favorites]


If independently wealthy people want to spend time and energy being nice to shitheads who take their misery out on others, I say let them have at it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and there’s no way to know in advance.

But here’s a crazy idea: where resources are finite (which is most places) let’s prioritize helping people in pain who *aren’t* assholes.

So that maybe politically we can spend less time tying ourselves in knots over white working class men, who may or may not ever vote in their own interests, and focus on the working class and impoverished POC who are just as deserving of our empathy and who also do not regularly try to fuck over everyone around them as an expression of their pain and anger.
posted by mrmurbles at 10:35 PM on January 12 [68 favorites]


How many problems would be solved if you could just get people to see beyond the "rugged, must always handle my shit solo" mentality. (says the guy struggling with the same thing) - And I mean it, think of the impact on all fronts, social, political, economical, etc.

(Also, I agree with hippybear that the more interesting piece out of this is that her troll responded the way he did. 99+% of the time I'd expect that to just get a shut down response)
posted by drewbage1847 at 10:44 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


On episode 6 of I Love You, America, reformed neo-nazi Christian Picciolini challenges Sarah Silverman and the audience to "find someone undeserving of your compassion and give it to them." I guess she listened.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 10:48 PM on January 12 [28 favorites]


I can't help but look at this and think: Lots of people have back problems. Like... lots. Most of them don't harass people.

For this one asshole, I have probably five friends who've never harassed anybody for whom a few thousand dollars worth of health care would be life-changing. People who're going without CPAPs and diabetes care and pain management and are still somehow decent people on the internet. More than decent--people who are out there providing emotional support to others even when they're going through their own shit, not shouting gender slurs at celebrities. I'm not going to say she doesn't have the right to spend her money the way she wants to, but she can have the right to do it and I can have the right to say that I think that decision is unjust and shitty.

I'm not against the idea of providing compassion and empathy to even those who don't deserve it, but when you get as far as financial support, I don't think you provide financial support to the sexual harassers before you've made a pretty good crack at providing help to everybody else. She has twelve million followers. I'm going to have a hard time with this as long as I know that there are thousands if not tens of thousands of women in that follower count who have been victims of harassment and themselves lack access to affordable health care for chronic medical conditions.
posted by Sequence at 11:27 PM on January 12 [54 favorites]


Chronic pain can really fuck with a person's soul. It can rob an otherwise good person of everything that makes their life worth living and turn them into an asshole. Saw that firsthand with my late husband.
posted by luckynerd at 11:35 PM on January 12 [29 favorites]


Republican policies cause pain and pain leads to rage and rage clouds judgement and Republicans exploit clouded judgement, and - yes - I thought of Yoda while typing this. It's a perfect feedback loop of evilness constantly re-enforcing itself and ratcheting up the destruction to siphon off what little wealth and hope the poor and working class have left.
posted by Beholder at 12:45 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


...The Aristocrats!
posted by naju at 1:20 AM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I love you, Sarah Silverman.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:57 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


As someone whose abuser was a woman, I can categorically say this is not true.


You're right. I apologize.
posted by slipthought at 5:45 AM on January 13 [17 favorites]


I love what Sarah Silverman did and find it totally inspiring.
posted by vorpal bunny at 6:03 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Her response is great and quite frankly more charitable and empathetic than I would have managed in her position, but there do seem to be an awful lot of these "poor American has his/her medical bills paid for by a celebrity/crowdfunding campaign" stories these days. If only there were another, more efficient and equitable way to redistribute wealth to ensure that everyone could receive adequate health care...
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:32 AM on January 13 [36 favorites]


I love that this happened.

I'm angry at it being portrayed as a "lesson" for how women should react compassionately to abuse; reacting compassionately to abuse is something that women not only do quite a lot, but are extorted to do. I agree that the actual "ray of hope" is way the guy reacted, because that's what's actually unusual.

And I'm saying this because I've tried this.

It usually doesn't work. It usually results in more abuse.

Chronic pain can really fuck with a person's soul. It can rob an otherwise good person of everything that makes their life worth living and turn them into an asshole.

It really can, but on the other hand, as a person with chronic pain I would never accept this as an excuse - or even an explanation - for the behavior. There has to be something more behind it, because most people with chronic pain do not turn abusive. I could be irritable and sulky, but I didn't go around slinging racial slurs at Black comedians, for example...

This is kind of like the "they were just drunk" excuse. Yeah, your inhibitions are lowered and you might be more likely to cross boundaries, but what you do when you're drunk isn't completely divorced from your personality or values.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:38 AM on January 13 [49 favorites]


This is what women do. Always.

No. This is not what women do always.

In our society women have to do an overmajority of emotional labor. I am learning that men are incredibly abusive in a far greater majority than I ever realized before. I do actually grieve for all affected as such and will do my best to be an ally to them.

However, let's not swing the pendulum so far in the other direction as to make the entire female gender saints, please.
posted by WCityMike at 7:11 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]


Republican policies cause pain and pain leads to rage and rage clouds judgement and Republicans exploit clouded judgement

Let's hope Sarah Silverman's 12 million Twitter followers are equally exhorted to start knocking doors for the 2018 Congressional races so we can get some actual humane social policies in place.
posted by Miko at 7:27 AM on January 13 [9 favorites]


There has to be something more behind it, because most people with chronic pain do not turn abusive

Fucking this. And what Sequence said.

It’s not chronic pain. It’s the belief that you’re entitled to more than you have in life, and that you’re entitled to take your pain and direct it at someone else because they’re a woman, or black, or or or, because they are less than you are. Because that’s their job: to take your shit and turn it into something else.

This is still feeding into the essential dynamic of abuse that characterizes so much of our politics and culture. It is romanticizing abuse with a goddamn redemption arc. That’s questionable even in actual romance novels, where the people reading them are grown adults who understand that they are reading fiction and can separate reality from escapist fantasy. It’s sure as shit not better in real life.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:01 AM on January 13 [26 favorites]



This is still feeding into the essential dynamic of abuse that characterizes so much of our politics and culture. It is romanticizing abuse with a goddamn redemption arc. That’s questionable even in actual romance novels, where the people reading them are grown adults who understand that they are reading fiction and can separate reality from escapist fantasy. It’s sure as shit not better in real life.


Seriously. The lesson I'm picking up here isn't that you reach out with compassion or whatever.

It's that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And if being that squeaky wheel is to just lash out at people with gendered slurs is what gets necessary medical treatment?
posted by anem0ne at 8:51 AM on January 13 [15 favorites]


I mean I agree that the framing of this is bad, and the lesson we should be taking is not "be nice to abusers."

But also I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to show an abuser's "redemption arc." Because that does happen in real life. Maybe not often, and definitely not predictably, but it happens. My mother-in-law was a very toxic and abusive person for a long time--she had chronic pain, abusive parents, a lack of supportive relationships, massive medical debt, and generally just a terrible quality of life. None of those things inherently meant she had to turn out abusive. But when you add all those things together with her lack of emotional skills and then put her in an environment with a lot of conservative influence... it's not super surprising that she turned out that way. Not because chronic pain/etc. inherently make you abusive, but it often makes you angry, hurt, and sad, and when you experience those emotions in an environment that encourages you to lash out, abuse is one of the likely outcomes.

But the thing is, she was eventually able to recognize that this was a problem. And she got help, she went to therapy, and she worked really damn hard on overcoming those struggles, and to break free of the influences that told her it was okay to yell at and insult and manipulate her kids. And she did it. It took years, but she's a completely different person now. She's now one of the greatest forces for good in both my partner's life, and my life as well.

I know that's not common. I know most people are not fortunate enough to get a completely genuine, unprompted apology from their abusers. But it does happen. And it gives me hope when I see it. Not because I think it means I can change people by being nice--but because it means people can make the decision to change. For this person, maybe it was Sarah Silverman's empathy that sparked it. For my mother in law, it was her son cutting off all contact that made her realize she had to change. I don't think there are any lessons to be had on how we can get abusers to change. Just that sometimes, for whatever reason, of their own volition, they will. I don't think that changes anything for how we treat them or react to them, but it does make me just a little less miserable about the future.

I also think that instances like this one in particular are good for other abusers. Because there's very often this "everyone's against me" mentality, and the attitude is frequently, "Why should I change, you'll still hate me because That's How You Are." I mean, it's pretty much the Republican refrain: liberals will hate you no matter what, you can't win with them. So showing someone change, and then showing them receiving love and support and validation for that change, suggests to others who may be on the cusp of considering change that maybe it's worth it. Again, no one should be obligated to do this, I'm not saying "do xyz so abusers will change"--just that highlighting it when it happens is not necessarily a bad thing. I don't think it's romanticizing abuse to talk about my mother in law. I can see how it could be, if approached the wrong way (for example, I would never use her story to tell anyone they need to be nice to and hold out hope for their abusers--my mother was also abusive and I am under no illusion she will change), but I don't think it's inherently so. The framing of this particular news story is bad, but I don't think talking about it in general is.
posted by brook horse at 9:21 AM on January 13 [14 favorites]


I don't think it's romanticizing abuse to talk about my mother in law

It’s not, because your MIL did the work to get better. This guy hasn’t done much of anything besides cease abusing one particular person who was in a position to help him, and promise to do better in the future.

The redemption isn’t in the apology. It’s in the work you do after that to try to rectify all the harm you’ve caused and to make sure you don’t do it in the future. I do think confusing the two is harmful.

I’m happy about your MIL. :) I’d like to see more of those stories, about doing the work and coming to terms with who you are in the world, and I’d like to see them celebrated.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:58 AM on January 13 [6 favorites]


You know, I know better than to get too emotionally invested in stories involving abuse due to my own past, but I want to say: please read the entire article before reducing the toxic dude to an abusive man with back pain.

He also specifically talks about being raped at the age of 8.

"I can't choose love. A man that resembles Kevin spacey took that away when I was 8. I can't find peace if I could find that guy who ripped my body who stripped my innocence I'd kill him. He fucked me up and I'm poor so its hard to get help."

Yeah, he also has 5 herniated discs and yeah, he's an asshole and yeah, there are lots of people that have both chronic pain and histories of adverse childhood events and sexual abuse that aren't assholes and yeah, there's a conversation to be had about all of those realities BUT:

It really cheeses me off to see a sexual abuse survivor have part of their truth ignored because the alternative narrative that elides that information is easier to attack. Stop it.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:10 AM on January 13 [19 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about this. I do think she’s doing the right thing by trying to understand why people are behaving the way they are. I often find myself overly empathetic to people that do bad things. (Which can be a problem for me; I often will be more tolerant of shitty behavior in my own life because the why makes some sort of sense. I’m working on it.) but I also see how easily male entitlement got him to this place.

In their exchange, he says:
“But I trust no one I've been burned so many times. I'd give the shirt off my back and everytime I get burned.”

I’ve known so many people like this. Mostly (but not exclusively) men. They’re the victims because someone isn’t there to fix the problems, because they feel entitled to fix their problems. I worry when his five minutes of fame runs out, when he doesn’t get everything the way he thinks he should, when Sarah Silverman and her 12 million twitter followers stop being there for him, he will once again feel like he was burned. Because he’s not taking any agency in his own life.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope this is a turning point, and a genuine moment like when Lindy West talked to her troll. (And even that was steeped with emotjknal labor she had to do to understand her abuser.) But I fear otherwise. I’ve seen it too many times.

Also, if you haven’t read it already, read the article about her tv show linked from the main article. It does give some great background into what she is trying to do generally. I do find it commendable, and think I’m gonna have to break my “no tv” rule and watch. If nothing else, she acknowledges generally how complicated this stuff can be.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:23 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


And she addresses the idea that we should be helping everyone as opposed to the few. Unintentional but interesting agreement to the idea in comments that lets not help one guy, lets help everyone.

(That Sarah Silverman, she is a good egg.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:25 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Many abusers have been abused. I don't think that means they're not abusive. Most people who have been abused are not abusive. I think we can acknowledge cycles of abuse without letting people off the hook. Focusing resources on abusers at the expense of survivors, even though those demographics overlap, can have consequences that reinforce abuse rather than stop it.
posted by lazuli at 10:25 AM on January 13 [7 favorites]


where resources are finite (which is most places) let’s prioritize helping people in pain who *aren’t* assholes.

So that maybe politically we can spend less time tying ourselves in knots over white working class men, who may or may not ever vote in their own interests, and focus on the working class and impoverished POC who are just as deserving of our empathy and who also do not regularly try to fuck over everyone around them as an expression of their pain and anger.


There has long been a conservative/right-wing ideology of the "deserving" vs. "undeserving" poor, which has not only devastated countless individuals, but has led to decades of policies that have been devastating to society as a whole. A liberal/left ideology of the "deserving" vs. "undeserving" poor, while perhaps emotionally satisfying, seems unlikely to me to fundamentally fix the problem.

The scarcity of resources is a constructed one. It's not that the wealth doesn't exist to provide decent health care, housing, and income for everyone; it's that that the wealth is concentrated in the hands of an infinitesimal few at the expense of the vast majority of the rest of us.

To put it another way: Everyone deserves health care in this, the richest country in the history of the world. Yes, even assholes.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 10:35 AM on January 13 [19 favorites]


Many abusers have been abused. I don't think that means they're not abusive. Most people who have been abused are not abusive. I think we can acknowledge cycles of abuse without letting people off the hook. Focusing resources on abusers at the expense of survivors, even though those demographics overlap, can have consequences that reinforce abuse rather than stop it.

Is this in response to my comment? It reads like it.

In case it is: I never said we should let this person off the hook, or that because he was abused he is not abusive, or really any of the strawmen you just created.

My beef is the narrative in this thread has been to define this abuser as a troll with chronic pain. That's not the full picture. Additionally considering that he is a survivor doesn't change his behavior, and doesn't excuse his behavior. But ignoring the fact that he is a rape survivor is something I've both experienced and seen time and time again from people who want the easiest way to attack someone and not acknowledge the full picture.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:43 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


To put it another way: Everyone deserves health care in this, the richest country in the history of the world. Yes, even assholes.

But this interaction actually reinforces the idea that people must prove that they're "worthy" of healthcare/donations. It's a weird celebrity GoFundMe interaction.
posted by lazuli at 10:44 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


But this interaction actually reinforces the idea that people must prove that they're "worthy" of healthcare/donations. It's a weird celebrity GoFundMe interaction.

And I would say that it reinforces the idea that no one should have to resort to GoFundMe and/or celebrity interaction in order to get healthcare in the first place.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 10:54 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


And I would say that it reinforces the idea that no one should have to resort to GoFundMe and/or celebrity interaction in order to get healthcare in the first place.

I think both are true.
posted by lazuli at 11:07 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


This is reminding me of the TED talk given by Megan Phelps-Roper, formerly of the Westboro Baptist Church, in which she described how a Twitter user reaching out to her with thoughtful and respectful arguments kickstarted a process of enlightenment that led her to leave and renounce the WBC after being indoctrinated by it all her life. And that Twitter user is now her husband.

There's also the story of black blues musician Daryl Davis, who has convinced approximately 200 KKK members to leave the klan.

Many abusers and bigots will never change, but some will. I think the challenge is to protect ourselves and others from abusers while remaining open to connecting with them. It's a difficult balance, especially when one is too exhausted from long-term abuse to have the energy or the courage left to reach out to the very people who will often do nothing but exploit that openness.
posted by orange swan at 11:20 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Her response is great and quite frankly more charitable and empathetic than I would have managed in her position, but there do seem to be an awful lot of these "poor American has his/her medical bills paid for by a celebrity/crowdfunding campaign" stories these days. If only there were another, more efficient and equitable way to redistribute wealth to ensure that everyone could receive adequate health care...

"Poor American has his/her medical bills paid for by a celebrity/crowdfunding campaign" is pretty much how another, more efficient and equitable way to redistribute wealth kinda amounts to. By law.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:33 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I admire Sarah Silverman for doing this. For taking a look at this guy in some detail, having empathy for his situation, and for spending the capital (money or otherwise) to see about getting him some assistance, and giving it herself.

I work with people (as a mentor) with chronic issues. So often, we disregard the backstory of a problem or a person and rush to judge. All it takes is a little empathy. With many of the people I see, their issues lead to anger and resentment, which leads to acting out. Dealing with the underlying issues often helps mitigate this.

My hope is that this man will see the gift he's been given and will seek to be a better person.
posted by disclaimer at 11:42 AM on January 13 [2 favorites]


This guy hasn’t done much of anything besides cease abusing one particular person who was in a position to help him, and promise to do better in the future.

"One week later, Jamrozy was able to get an MRI which showed he has five herniated discs, My San Antonio reported. Silverman offered to pay for his back treatment in full, a gesture that Jamrozy says motivated him to donate money he already raised through a GoFundMe page to help other San Antonians in need."

It's not a ton, but that's not nothing. Especially for someone who could definitely use the money. His twitter also says that he's contacted several sexual assault support groups he's going to start going to. It's only been a week or two, so obviously we're not going to be able to really tell right now if he's truly going to put in the work to change. But it's a start. And yeah, why is the bar so low, etc., but psychology tells us that reinforcing even small attempts is part of the road to larger change. Obviously we should save big celebrations for larger transformations, but I don't think it's wrong to highlight the positive change someone has made at the beginning of their journey.
posted by brook horse at 11:49 AM on January 13 [15 favorites]


> the return of the thin white sock: "There has long been a conservative/right-wing ideology of the "deserving" vs. "undeserving" poor, which has not only devastated countless individuals, but has led to decades of policies that have been devastating to society as a whole. A liberal/left ideology of the "deserving" vs. "undeserving" poor, while perhaps emotionally satisfying, seems unlikely to me to fundamentally fix the problem."

This is what Picciolini's words said to me. It doesn't matter if someone doesn't deserve your compassion. Give it to them anyway. And it doesn't have to be a selfless, draining act.

Are the poor in other countries more deserving of aid than those in the US? It's not a giveaway. We provide foreign aid largely to make the world more stable for the US. Should we spend money housing criminals when there are law-abiding people without homes? Most of them will re-enter society and we'd be better off if they aren't broken when that happens. Compassion is leaky.

Some of our aid will be squandered, some criminals will reoffend (imagine a nordic model rather than what we have), and this guy may remain a Twitter troll and it's still worth doing.

> orange swan: "This is reminding me of the TED talk given by Megan Phelps-Roper"

Silverman had her on the show, too.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 12:36 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


To put it another way: Everyone deserves health care in this, the richest country in the history of the world. Yes, even assholes.

What an odd straw man. Literally nobody is proposing that we only give healthcare to nice people, or brown people, or women. In fact, inherent in your comment is the idea that there's some kind of zero-sum between white working class and POC working class. Which is the entire flaw in white working class Republican thinking.

But if you're going to help impoverished and working class POC, what you do will include strengthening unions, increasing real wages, and providing universal healthcare, which is going to help working class and impoverished white people too.
posted by mrmurbles at 1:46 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I would like it if this incident caused more men and trolls to stop calling Silverman a cunt! It seems like she pulled a needle in a haystack. A haystack of misogynistic trolling which will only be stopped by leaving the public eye forever or ceasing to be a woman. I find it surprising that this is the result and it’s an interesting anecdote about the world we live in (so shitty for shitty reasons). But I find it hard to warm my heart on this one. There’s just so much data that says we could be doing things so much better and more humanely but as a society we just stamp our foot and go, “No! Don’t wanna!” We can’t rely on the Humanitarian Cunt Outreach project to fix the country.
posted by amanda at 2:12 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


What an odd straw man. Literally nobody is proposing that we only give healthcare to nice people, or brown people, or women.

That's literally what's implicitly proposed in comments like this. This is a non-snarky, sincere question: as a practical matter, how would we "prioritize" those who we deem to be the non-assholes over the assholes? Would we only set up health care clinics in counties that went blue in the last election? Would we ask white, working-class men to somehow prove that they're not racists or misogynists before they receive medical treatment or social services?

But if you're going to help impoverished and working class POC, what you do will include strengthening unions, increasing real wages, and providing universal healthcare, which is going to help working class and impoverished white people too.

Of course, and what an odd strawman to suggest that I would be making any other point. Our side fights for universal healthcare, stronger unions and worker protections, better jobs and wages, better schools, better housing, better infrastructure, and better public services precisely because it will help everyone-- men and women, straight and LGBTQ, white and POC, immigrant and non-immigrant. And given the state of the world, "everyone" means a lot of white working-class Trump voters alongside the rest of us. This is not to "tie ourselves in knots over white working-class men," but rather to recognize that class is, indeed, the unifying factor among all of these issues. It's not possible, in my opinion, to simultaneously declare for the side of helping all working and poor people while simultaneously insisting that we prioritize the non-assholes over the assholes. That's why I think that Sarah Silverman's act of compassion was actually a profound political act (even if she wouldn't characterize it as such) to be celebrated, not dismissed.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 2:39 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


> mrmurbles: "What an odd straw man."

I believe they're saying scarcity is manufactured and ranking peoples' worthiness is not constructive. Silverman didn't have some money set aside to pay for someone's healthcare and just decide to reward someone for being a douchebag. This was a personal interaction. It's not a policy decision.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:40 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I think my whole line of commentary is creating a derail from the actual point of the post, so I'm bowing out from here. My point was that rather than expending a lot of energy in political strategy and punditry on the concerns of a subset of asshole voters, we would do better to focus on the equally worthy, likelier-to-vote-in-their-own interests, non-asshole voters.

When it comes to policy, most programs that help non-assholes will help assholes too (universal healthcare etc), and when it comes to special interest priorities, we should focus on the ones that help some without harming others (like addressing police targeting of minorities, not bringing back coal or deporting immigrants).
posted by mrmurbles at 3:29 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I believe they're saying scarcity is manufactured and ranking peoples' worthiness is not constructive.

People of color and other vulnerable groups already know this. They've known it for a long time. When they hear someone say, "Well, we can't prioritize anybody, we have to be fair.", it just means they're somehow going to be at the back of the line, again.

Because they know being "prioritized" isn't being first in line. Being "prioritized" just means they have a better chance.
posted by FJT at 5:32 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Some of the things Silverman has said in the past made me think poorly of her, but her behaviour here was really inspiring. Yes, celebrity charity is so inadequate that it's practically a distraction from the universal welfare that America needs, but her compassion and courage in reaching out to this man is the sort of thing that can never be unwelcome.

Also, Silverman is already politically active. I don't imagine she's going to abandon her support for social change just because she was able to help one guy with a bad back.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:32 PM on January 13


MeFi has taken an exhausting turn towards shitpiling first and foremost any marginally good thing that doesn't come on the Purity Express thorough Perfect Town.

I'm glad someone decided to take something and turn it ninety degrees towards better. Trying to understand and humanize some random internet entity as a person? Stepping back from aggression in a fuck you moment? Helping a stranger? These are good things. They don't have to be perfect. We need more of them.

Good on you for trying, Sarah. Trying is the important part.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:21 PM on January 13 [23 favorites]


I can almost guarantee that is not the only or anywhere near the first person who tried, online or off.
posted by rtha at 1:34 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


So I'm sorry, but the people who have beef with this have beef because she wasn't charitable in the correct way to someone y'all don't deem as deserving?


Sound like any other group of people we routinely criticise for the exact same behaviour?

Good god we can find fault with absofuckinglutely anything.
posted by sio42 at 8:38 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


MeFi has taken an exhausting turn towards shitpiling first and foremost any marginally good thing that doesn't come on the Purity Express thorough Perfect Town.
This literally just made me do a spit-take in a McDonald's. Thank you, Ogre, for perfectly capturing how it feels to listen to people tear down a positive act that wasn't done How I Would Do It™.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 9:37 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Good lord, no. No one in this thread has objected to what Sarah did; it is an unalloyed good. People, including myself, have objected to the way this story has been celebrated, because celebrating this as a feel good redemption arc, absent the social context wherein this dude’s abusiveness has fuck all to do with his suffering and everything to do with his beliefs about what he is entitled to, and that he is celebrated for clearing the exceptionally low bar of “don’t hurt people because you think you’re entitled to” while many, many other people meet that fucking bar every day while suffering everything this guy suffers and more because of people like him, is actually itself harmful. Romanticizing abuse like this directly leads to the sorts of attitudes where we treat the poor feelings of abusers as more important than the people they’re actually abusing. It is in a direct goddamn line with “but he was having trouble at home” and “it will ruin his life if you press charges.” It is fucking bullshit.

Celebrate Sarah. Not the fucking abuser who has only recently decided to try not to be a piece of shit. The rest of us have have figured out how not to be abusers without getting a goddamn benevolent intervention from someone we were trying to hurt. He does not get a fucking cookie for being less terrible with a whole lot of help.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:40 AM on January 14 [11 favorites]


Not to say being abusive is a mental illness, but as someone in the field of mental health, I have long given up on the idea that "well these people experienced x and turned out fine without any help" as really having much weight or meaning. Yes, personal agency and people are responsible for their choices, etc. But also I think we very often fail to realize how much help (or at least lack of harm) we have had. People and environments have a hell of a lot of influence on how people deal with their struggles. If I hadn't had the emotional support of my partner and their family I would have grown up totally alone and depressed and probably would have killed myself. If I had been directed to different books or social media sites maybe my anger and pain would have found a more destructive and harmful outlet. I had a lot of reinforcement that directed me in a positive direction. I think we often misjudge how much reinforcement people have in a negative direction, and how big a role that plays in people's behavior.

I understand not wanting to celebrate this man for the bare minimum. And I don't think anyone should be obligated to. But I don't think people should be derided if they do celebrate. Some of us come from backgrounds where we have seen a small change like this be the groundwork for larger change, and it is in our nature and instinct to celebrate. I celebrate my partner for getting out of bed or doing the dishes even though tons of people manage to do that with no difficulty or help. I celebrate people for going to class. I celebrate when people move in a positive direction, even if most people are already doing it. I don't think simply saying "you've made a positive change, that's good" is romanticizing abuse or prioritizing abusers' feelings over their victims.

But I don't know, maybe I'm mixing up my professional responsibilities with how my day-to-day interactions should be. I spend a lot of my work time praising kids just for not being awful to each other and seen it be helpful so I tend to do the same thing in my general life. Maybe I should have a different modus operandi for abusers vs non-abusers. But I'm not sure where/how to draw that line.
posted by brook horse at 11:30 AM on January 14 [10 favorites]


It is in a direct goddamn line with “but he was having trouble at home” and “it will ruin his life if you press charges.” It is fucking bullshit.

I hear you and it is clear you have strong feelings about this. Respectfully, there is a fine distinction in there that is incredibly important. Brook Horse touches on this too.

The second quote "it will ruin his life if you press charges" is absolutely horseshit, totally agreed. Consequences are reality and life and that is never an appropriate line to take when someone commits a crime.

The first one though? That's a whole hell of a lot more complicated. Like Brook Horse, I also work in mental health. Specifically integrated behavioral health. And what the field has been moving towards accepting and operating from over time is the reality that there are powerful social determinants of health that affect us all.

There are a lot of people who suffered childhood sexual assault that are not abusers. Hi! I'm one of them! Nice to meet you!

That's not because I made one choice and this dude made a different choice, though. At least, it's incredibly unlikely that's the reason. There's no one reason. But I would wager every dime to my name that we have have a starkly different set of social determinants of health. Chronic pain is so frequently co-morbid with mental illness that it rolls off the tongue right alongside substance use disorder and diabetes. These people aren't outliers, this is standard stuff.

Nothing excuses shitty behavior. Lots of things explain it. When someone is abusive, "they are having trouble at home" is not fucking bullshit, it is like, step 1 in a behavioral health treatment program.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:46 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


The first one though? That's a whole hell of a lot more complicated

Yes, and this entire conversation is still privileging the pain of an abuser. I don’t...like do people really not see the direct analogy to the troubled Trump voter, and the endless attempts to ~understand~ them? Plenty of them have their own pain, they all have their own stories, all of them human. Most people arrive at being who they are through a twisted path littered with things they could not control.

And yet it still remains true that privileging the experiences of abusers over those they abuse is always contributing to the dynamic of abuse. That is what is happening here. That’s why this framing is gross.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:10 PM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I don't think simply saying "you've made a positive change, that's good" is romanticizing abuse or prioritizing abusers' feelings over their victims.

I think we're talking about two distinct things here. On a personal or family relationship level where most of us operate on, it's a much simpler thing when we celebrate someone for taking a small positive step. But having an influential celebrity involved and then throwing that into the transmogrifier known as the internet heightens and distorts everything.

It's not quite as simple anymore.
posted by FJT at 2:13 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I guess we will have to agree to disagree, schadenfrau, because I just don't see how "this entire conversation is...privileging the pain of an abuser". The conversation has been about more than the abuser, and a bunch of different viewpoints have been expressed about the whole thing. And discussions of the framing of posts generally belong in MetaTalk.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:42 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Non-snarky question: what makes this man an "abuser" instead of "a person who behaved abusively on one occasion that we know of"? To me, labeling a person implies that they did something repeatedly, except in cases where someone committed an act of criminal brutality (in which case murderer, rapist, etc. are accurate labels no matter how many times those actions occurred).

Otherwise, I hesitate to label someone based on a single action.
posted by delight at 7:39 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


MeFi has taken an exhausting turn towards shitpiling first and foremost any marginally good thing that doesn't come on the Purity Express thorough Perfect Town.

If there was a turn, it happened a while ago. "[Person X] is [gross] because [Y], so I can condemn the heck out of them without having to think about it [even though it accomplishes precisely nothing]" is a popular school of thought. I'm actually encouraged to see a few soft-hearted people commenting in this thread. I'm more and more doubtful about the usefulness of anger (for some people this will sound like I'm saying they have no reason to be angry, but I can't help that) -- especially here on the Blue: anger, or righteousness, or placing "the onus" in the right spot -- as though the things we type into the comment box are going to make a big difference. At best, we can give each other something to think about. I find it encouraging when someone like Sarah Silverman does what she did, even if the onus wasn't on her...rather than being righteous or angry, which would have been easy. That doesn't mean everyone has to do the same; it takes a lot of energy. If you can't, then don't, but...you don't need to justify it by saying the bad person is beyond forgiveness or unworthy of compassion.
(Mind you, I need to vent, too; I just save it for Republican elected officials. They volunteered, after all.)
posted by uosuaq at 7:45 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I think this was a hell of a thing for Silverman to do and applaud her loudly. But I have met so many people like this in my own life as a nobody - people who are always the victim, who have the world after them, and all their problems are somebody else's fault, and who actively search for new ways to be the victim and to lash out (their ultimate objective, I suspect) - that I simply cannot engage with it any longer.

Several in my own family. They lurch from crisis to crisis, from one wrong-done-unto-them to the next. If they can't find a fresh one in their required timeframe, they refixate on an old problem we all thought resolved, or manufacture a large issue out of one that was minute. No more.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:49 PM on January 14


people who are always the victim, who have the world after them, and all their problems are somebody else's fault

Is that what this guy is doing? When prompted, he disclosed his difficulties. He's not walking around town asking for handouts from all comers.

Did he attract attention by doing something horrible? Yes, and that is problematic. But I haven't seen any evidence that he is a Professional Victim and that this is a Thing He Does.
posted by delight at 7:53 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Sarah Silverman is a saint and I hope that people don't jump to the conclusion that insulting others on Twitter might be a good start to getting help.

"I insulted Sarah Silverman on Twitter and she did NOT pay for treating my athlete's foot! What a ****! Life is so unfair!"
posted by sour cream at 2:07 AM on January 15


Have we somehow landed on 'Every interaction and discussion thereof but be perfect and beyond reproof, or not at all'? That...does not seem productive.
posted by Nieshka at 3:23 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


There's something I can't quite articulate that troubles me about emotional labor sometimes now being called something one Should Not Have To Do rather than something Everyone Should (and Has To) Share. I will always applaud those who perform emotional labor in an exceptional way - and Sarah Silverman's reaction (along with Lindy West's) absolutely merits that.
posted by mosst at 11:01 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Have we somehow landed on 'Every interaction and discussion thereof but be perfect and beyond reproof, or not at all'? That...does not seem productive.

No, we haven't landed on that.

The difference of opinion in this thread is the difference between
"a nice thing happened"
and
"a nice thing happened and therefore we should all [learn from it/adopt the same tactics in similar situations/see it as a beacon of hope for the future]."
posted by mrmurbles at 1:22 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]


Trying to understand and humanize some random internet entity as a person? Stepping back from aggression in a fuck you moment? Helping a stranger? These are good things.

And while the other issues brought up in this thread have merit, this incident is best framed as presented above.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 9:06 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


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