"Crowdsourcing Revenge" Works For Celebs And Civilians

Illustration for article titled "Crowdsourcing Revenge" Works For Celebs And Civilians

First M.I.A. tweeted her interviewer's number, then a disgruntled subject put a blogger's contact info on Craigslist Casual Encounters. Is "crowdsourcing revenge" the new way of lashing back at unfavorable coverage?

Above the Law blogger Kashmir Hill has written about her experience on True/Slant. She had posted excerpts from an email exchange between a male law student and a female prospective employer, which ended with the student's helpful observation that, "It's amazing that the Ma Bar lets women practice law. Shouldn't you be home cleaning and raising children?" Apparently the law student in question also thought Hill should be home having some casual encounters, as he posted her cell phone number and picture to that section of Craigslist, famous as a clearinghouse for no-strings sex. Another blogger who had covered the law student's story found his info posted on a modeling website, offering nude shoots. The modeling page and Craigslist post have both been removed, and Hill says that while she was initially disturbed by "the calls and graphic texts pouring in," she ended up taking the whole thing in stride. However, she advises "those who might correspond with those prone to vindictiveness" to remove their phone numbers from email signatures.


This wouldn't have helped Lynn Hirschberg, who presumably had to give M.I.A. her phone number to set up the interview on which her Times Magazine profile was based. The profile, it seems, may have contained some inaccuracies, at least according to recordings posted on M.I.A.'s website. One appears to show M.I.A. opting for salad at their sit-down, not fries, as Hirschberg wrote. The other, more substantively, offers a different version of a statement by M.I.A. which Hirschberg renders as, "I'm tired of pop stars who say, ‘Give peace a chance.' I'd rather say, ‘Give war a chance.' The whole point of going to the Grammys was to say, ‘Hey, 50,000 people are gonna die next month, and here's your opportunity to help.' And no one did." The Awl's newsletter (not online) says "it's awesome that subjects are starting to record their interviews with journalists themselves," and indeed, posting her own recordings does seem like a good way for M.I.A. to fire back against misrepresentation. But what about posting someone's personal phone number?

As long as there have been journalists, there've been people pissed off at journalists. But now it's easier than ever to turn rage into a full voicemail box — or worse (Hill mentions the vengeful man who posted a "rape fantasy" ad for his ex-girlfriend on Craiglist, leading to her actual rape). While social media may provide a way for ordinary people to challenge the hegemony of journalists (insofar as journalists still have any hegemony left), Twitter, Craigslist, and the like also offer opportunities for straight-up bullying and even bodily harm. If "crowdsourced revenge" grows, writers may simply stop criticizing those whose retaliation they fear, creating a new informational ruling class run by those with the fewest scruples. Journalism and blogging alike have plenty of problems (misquoting being one), but wholesale Internet intimidation is not the way to fix them.

Using Craigslist To Crowdsource Revenge [True/Slant]
A Job Application Gone Very, Very Awry [The Docket]
Paralegal In E-Mail Thread Changes Tune On Women And The Law [The Docket]
A Mass. Lawyer You Don't Want To Work For And A Law Student You Don't Want To Hire [Above the Law]
War Crimes And French Fries [Neet Recordings, via The Awl newsletter]
M.I.A.'s Agitprop Pop [NYT Magazine]


Earlier: M.I.A Takes On Google, Gaga, and Lynn Hirschberg

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As a journalist, I found the M.I.A. story infuriating. More often than not, out of respect for their privacy, I give interview sources my home phone number. The few times I've been granted someone famous' private number or email, I've guarded it with my life — no matter how the interview went. That's just professional respect.

I know there are crappy journalists out there, but most of us aren't like that and I'm so, so tired of toiling away at a job that has been completely devalued to the point where people think this kind of thing is OK.