Many moons ago, I realized that by the time I learn enough about a big “news” story to realize I don’t care, the story turns out to be BS anyway. And so it is with the tale of Ellie Kemper, the actress and comedian from The Office and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, who was branded a “KKK Queen” this week.
Why? Because people started tweeting a rumor, based on a misunderstanding about some debutante ball in St. Louis that Kemper attended as a teenager over 20 years ago, and Twitter put it on their “What’s happening” sidebar of trending topics. It turns out that the claim is complete garbage and Kemper has never had anything to do with the Klan, but mere facts won’t do her or anyone else much good in 2021 America. The mob is always hungry for blood, and Kemper is this week’s special.
Once somebody decides to go after you on social media, there’s nothing you can do to defend yourself. Defying the mob is framed in the press as “doubling down,” and groveling for forgiveness just emboldens your tormentors. Kafka was an amateur, man.
There’s an entire media ecosystem devoted to whipping up these fake outrages for clicks. Why go after Ellie Kemper? Why not go after Ellie Kemper. Or you, or me, or anybody. We can be cancelled at any moment, for any reason or no reason at all.
If you’ve got enough money, all you can do is hide out until the mob moves on to another target. But if you can’t afford to just disappear for days or weeks or months… shrug emoji!
This sort of crap generates traffic for Twitter, which is why they amplify it. They know there’s a mob with torches and pitchforks at the ready, just waiting to be pointed toward the next victim. And Jack Dorsey sits on his billions and watches what he’s done.
With great power comes great irresponsibility.
Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones. The pile of stones the boys had made earlier was ready; there were stones on the ground with the blowing scraps of paper that had come out of the box. Mrs. Delacroix selected a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands and turned to Mrs. Dunbar. “Come on,” she said. “Hurry up.”
Mrs. Dunbar had small stones in both hands, and she said, gasping for breath. “I can’t run at all. You’ll have to go ahead and I’ll catch up with you.”
The children had stones already, and someone gave little Davy Hutchinson a few pebbles.
Tessie Hutchinson was in the center of a cleared space by now, and she held her hands out desperately as the villagers moved in on her. “It isn’t fair,” she said. A stone hit her on the side of the head.
Old Man Warner was saying, “Come on, come on, everyone.” Steve Adams was in the front of the crowd of villagers, with Mrs. Graves beside him.
“It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.
— Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery“