Open letter to Laurie Penny – we love you
You’ve had to deal with a lot of shit of late.
Much of this has come from from people on the right. We hear tales of threats of rape and of violence on right wing blogs and on police forums.
Such people are just malicious arseholes. It would be nice if we could all ignore them. But sometimes, it’s hard to ignore it when people threaten you with physical violence, or with rape. It’s scary. No one should have to deal with that shit.
Sometimes such people are called trolls. But this somewhat comic monkier doesn’t seem appropriate once they start threatening you. So, here’s what we say to these vindictive arseholes:
What is it about abusing people that gets you so aroused? Is it that you are so pathetic, so weak, and so inarticulate that this is the only way you can express yourself? Maybe it’s only when you are sitting in a darkened room writing about how violent you’d like to be that you truly feel human? If so, you need help. Go get some counselling. Or maybe just get drunk, or take some drugs, or listen to loud music. But don’t take it out on Laurie, or anyone else. It’s not their fault that your life is shit.
But not all of the criticism has been random abuse from the right. Some on the left have also been happy to line up and fire shots at you too.
Such criticism comes in the ancient and ignobel tradition of the left ritually sacrificing whichever of its own children the right so chooses. Because it is easier to say “oh god, yes, them, they’re shit” than it is to say “no, piss off, I love their writing, and they are my friend”.
And so here is what we have to say:
1) Laurie, you are an excellent journalist. It’s true that you don’t do conventional news journalism in that you are honest about your biases and you write movingly. But that’s great. Why should we expect all journalists to be the same? How boring would that be?
2) Laurie, your writing is wonderfully moving. You have inspired us, and I am sure you have inspired thousands of others. That you write movingly is not something you should be criticised for. Robert Fisk and George Orwell move people. That your prose is sometimes florid is not a criticism either. So was Ernest Hemmingway’s.
3) You are getting shit because you are standing up for what you believe in. We’re all proud of you.
4) You have always been there for us. Whether it was burning the novel in your bag to keep a crowd of us warm and cheerful in the 8th freezing hour of a kettle, or driving round London with Shiv Malik, smoking copiously and trying to track down everyone who had been arrested on the 26th to ensure we were OK; whether it’s arguing our corner on the telly, or standing your ground in the papers, you have been there for us and you have been there with us. When you write about these experiences, and when you write about standing on that line between journalist and activist, you are not selling anyone out. You are saying how it was for you. And we should be grateful.
5) The line between journalism and activism is a complex one, further blurred by the newly emerging traditions of the blogosphere. One of the objections people seem to have is that they think you’ve failed to tread this line carefully enough. This may or may not be true. But, frankly, who cares? Everyone gets stuff wrong sometimes. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human.
To people on the left who think that now is an appropriate time to criticise Laurie’s journalism, lay off. There is a discussion to be had about how activists report in the mainstream media on protests that we take part in. There are genuine disagreements about what is or isn’t good writing. But now is not the time. Laurie is our friend. People are treating her like shit because she associates with us. Now is the time to stand together and tell the right that they can fuck right off, that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, that Laurie is exceptionally talented and we are lucky to have her in our movement.
Laurie, here’s to you. Know that we think you are great, and that we are grateful for all that you have done.
(tweet @brightgrn if you want to add your name)