On Leslie Jones and Racism as Usual: Another Chapter of Twitter Depravity

20/07/2016 17:08 | Updated 20 July 2016

It is hardly surprising that Black Lives Matter is a cultural and social imperative after the slew of media reports of black men and women being gunned down in the streets and being murdered at the hands of police officers in the USA.  It would be a truism to state that Black Lives Matter is a necessity for anyone within the United States and it is shocking how many are still attempting to paint this movement as a "hate group" when the inverse, those claiming it is more likely fit that definition of "hate group" participant.

But when American actor, Leslie Jones, was met with an onslaught of Twitter abuse which consisted of racist and sexist slurs, directed by right-wing Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos, @nero, one must wonder to what degree racism is a problem uniquely of the American police forces or uniquely that of white Americans.  Even though Yiannopoulos had sent no abusive tweets directly to Jones, he had orchestrated the maelstrom of tweets this actor had to endure, breaking Twitter's rules ""prohibiting participating in or inciting targeted abuse of individuals." Breitbart has hit back but quite unconvincingly as it reported Milo's desperate hyperbole: "With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives."

Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, personally reached out to Jones but the banning of Yiannopoulos does not address the larger problems of Twitter trolling that occur at far higher rate than other groups.  And while five internet trolls a day are convicted in the UK alone, the overwhelming majority of these trolls are males which represent what is considered predominantly "male behaviour."  While Yiannopoulos is certainly white, he is definitely not American.  Just as the aftermath of Brexit evidenced, there is a hefty helping of racism and xenophobia within the UK, demonstrating that this is not a problem uniquely limited to the USA or the Tory Party but which pervades the entire geo-political spectrum.

But what was at stake for these Twitter trolls violently attacking Leslie Jones? A remake--albeit a woman-only cast remake--of Ghostbusters.  Is this any coincidence that once a cultural symbol such as Ghostbusters could result in such harassment of the one actor of colour?

Jones bravely kept her cool throughout the attack where most of us would have lashed out with some reference to inbreeding or what not.  In one of her tweets, Jones writes, "I feel like I'm in a personal hell. I didn't do anything to deserve this. It's just too much. It shouldn't be like this. So hurt right now."  And bizarrely this woman who has worked her entire life at her craft found herself, quite differently than her male, white cohorts, having to defend her profession:  "As much as you want to thinks actors ain't human I want to give you something to think about. I work off pure passion for this game."  One can see how the limelight shines quite differently on actors of colour as compared to those who have never known such harassment for simply taking part of a film as an actor.

But even before the movie was released, Jones reported that she "got a picture of a guy shooting a black woman in the head," adding,"It was time to use silence as a weapon.  I'm starting to learn that it's more deadly than saying anything."  Others in the cast have responded to the more sexist critiques, such as Melissa McCarthy who responded to the males who claimed she was ruining a "beloved franchise":   "I just thought, "Really? Are we still there?" First of all, they are fictitious characters, [and] so are the original. So to get into, "Well that can't be?" Well, the first ones weren't real either.  It's a movie. I can't make heads or tails of it, and then I never gave it another thought." Director Paul Feig responded to the sexist backlash which has been brewing for months stating, "I have been hit with the most misogynistic stuff" both from outside and inside the film industry where a male producer warned him against making an all female reboot of the original 1980's film: "Oh boy, get ready. It's going to be tough, you're going to have catfights"

We must respond to the venomous sexism and racism that is far too common on both sides of the "pond." I can only say to spend a moment of your time today to send Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) a bit of love her way!