Ah, a tale as old as Reddit: A man claiming to have useful medic skills raises money to go to a war zone. A woman online says there are so many better ways to support the people in war than raising money to transport yourself from Canada to Ukraine. Rape and death threats ensue, social media platforms say no one has violated the terms of service, and the woman has no choice but to go dark.
Blaire Erskine—a comedian from Georgia who rose to prominence during the pandemic for her parodies of politicians—is the latest woman to deal with extreme threats online. After Erskine made the reasonable assertion in a tweet that giving money to a random man — in this case, Anthony Walker, a comedian turned away from his own country’s military service due to a medical issue—might not be the best way to help war victims.
In late February, Walker posted about the need for donations after deciding to go to Ukraine (or at least its western border with Poland). He claimed he wanted to fight or aid the armed forces protecting the country against Russia on the ground. A Canadian comedian trained as an emergency medical responder, Walker said he would like to assist Ukrainian forces as a combat medic despite having had no extra training. Walker went on to earn a lengthy profile in the Daily Beast for his decision to heed Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky’s call to foreign nationals to join the army. Ukrainian officials say 16,000 volunteers have joined the international ranks.
While it’s admirable to physically join the fight for Ukraine’s freedom, the internet drama between Erskine and Walker began because Walker started fundraising to get to Europe. Erskine weighed in on Walker’s ill-made plans because the war in Ukraine is hitting close to home for her: she has family in Ukraine on her husband’s side. She also posted screenshots of Walker on the subreddit “volunteersForUkraine” talking about his low-level of medic certification. “I hear you about being at a low level but most of the residents of Kyiv have no first aid at all,” Walker wrote. “I expect to use a few chest seals up there and that’s at least something they wouldn’t otherwise get.”
It’s unclear from Walker’s tweets since arriving in Europe if he’s even done that, or simply joined convoys delivering supplies.
However, since Erskine’s original tweets in early March about Walker’s call for donations and travel plans, Twitter users with real and burner accounts have bombarded Erskine with death and rape threats. The onslaught has been so plentiful that she temporarily deleted her account, but has now rejoined the app. In a video posted on Thursday morning, Erskine said that she shouldn’t have to be the one to leave the social media platform. “Last night it seemed like I should, so I did. But then I slept on it and realized I worked incredibly hard to make a name for myself on this weird little app — a name which eventually landed me my dream job. I shouldn’t have to leave. They should,” she wrote.
After days of threats stemming from the high-follower counts from both accounts, the best Walker can offer is a tweet from Wednesday:
So, Walker is in Europe, possibly being helpful to the million-plus refugees flowing out of Ukraine, and imploring people to stop harassing Erskine. Yet, his fans haven’t stopped harassing a woman who dared to say his idea wasn’t well thought out. Erskine is still being threatened with rape and death threats—and just creepy edits of her selfies.
All as the war in Ukraine rages on.