As Germany is about to enter yet another partial lockdown, I’ve been looking for more ways to occupy my time. I decided to hang out in a Facebook group devoted to fellow graduates of Longwood College. I specify Longwood College because that was the name of the school when I attended. It is now known as Longwood University, and it’s changed quite a lot since my day. Those of us who were Longwood students before all of the insane building projects like to hang out there and reminisce about the old days.
Things have been pretty slow in that group lately, save for the frequent posts by one guy who has managed to sell Longwood College swag. Someone complained about the frequent sales posts. She said the group wasn’t intended to be a sales site. I have to admit, she’s right. But it’s not entirely the seller’s fault, since people did want him to start selling the Longwood College branded merchandise. He supposedly went through a lengthy licensing procedure in order to get permission to sell the stuff.
Now… I don’t actually care too much about the sales postings. It’s easy for me to scroll past them. But I did agree that things in the group had gotten kind of dull. A couple of months ago, I started a thread about Erin McCay George, a woman who used to be the editor of the college’s newspaper, The Rotunda. She ended up murdering her husband for insurance money and is now in prison. She also wrote a book about what it’s like to be in prison. For several days, that was a hot thread. No one seemed to take any issue with it.
Yesterday, I started a more innocuous thread about the State Theater’s roof collapsing during the spring semester of 1994. But then I remembered another “true crime” case involving a fellow alum. The trouble was, the case was about a man who is in prison for viewing child pornography. Although no one seemed to have a problem with chatting about a female murderer who is in prison, it somehow felt potentially icky to bring up the case about the guy who’s in prison for viewing kiddie porn.
People asked me to “spill the tea” about the case, so before I posted the details, I wrote that the crime was pretty yucky. I didn’t mind sharing what I know about it, but I advised anyone who had an issue with it to say so. No one did. In fact, I got more pleas to “spill the tea”, so I did. Bear in mind that this case is over ten years old and was all over the news in Texas back in 2009, 2010, and in 2016. In fact, one can even read very interesting legal documents about the case online. They are readily available to everyone. I also wrote about the case on my old blog.
So, without naming the guy explicitly, I wrote about the case in this group. Then I provided a link to a FindLaw article about his case. Sure enough, I got a shaming comment from someone who was “disgusted” that I would open that can of worms. I wrote that was why I posted a warning as the initial post. The story of the crime was in the comments. She could have scrolled past. She chose not to.
She pressed on that I shouldn’t have shared the story and implied that I should be ashamed of myself. My response was, “Why? No one had a problem with my post about Erin George, who MURDERED someone.” At least in this case, no one died.
Then someone else joked that no one should tell me anything “personal”. And I wrote that this was a news story that was covered extensively in Texas. It wasn’t confidential information. Moreover, I didn’t even write the guy’s name, although I did share a link about the case. It would be one thing if this was something secret, rather than just taboo. But it wasn’t a secret, nor was it even new news. Some people are interested in true crime. I certainly am.
Even if this case was not about someone I knew of in college, I would have found it very interesting, mainly due to the way he got caught. Basically, he hired someone to house/dog sit and did not lock down his computer. She helped herself to the computer, claiming that she was trying to rip music from one of his CDs (which investigators later found no evidence of her doing). She found his stash of child pornography and then went to the police. Granted, this happened in 2009, but it’s still amazing to me that someone with a habit like that one wouldn’t be more careful.
Some people in the group were grateful that I shared the story, salacious as it was. The one woman who “shamed” me eventually got swept up in trading insults with one of the more vociferous posters– the one who had complained about the many sales posts. Meanwhile, I was left perplexed that she’d tried to make me feel small for sharing a story about a ten year old news item. Yes, it was a negative story about an alum, but I did take the time to warn those who didn’t want to read it. And why should the shamer feel she has the right to dictate what people post about if something is not explicitly against the group’s rules? Just like I have explained in response to complaints about my blog, I can’t know what will or won’t offend individual people. I suspect more people were interested in the story– again well reported in the news– than upset by it.
I ended up explaining once again that I knew that some might not think the story about the pedophile was an appropriate post, but if someone who only wants to read positive posts doesn’t heed an explicit warning that a topic might be icky, that’s kind of on them. Even on this blog, I post explicit warnings when I’m about to get raw, raunchy, or inappropriate. Those who were offended by the post after reading the warning need to take responsibility for themselves. Moreover, I don’t understand why it’s okay to post about a murderer, but not a pedophile. No, it’s not a happy topic, but I explained that it wouldn’t be. She had a choice to avoid the topic entirely, but instead decided to call me out.
I have a problem with “shamers”. I’ve found that, so often, people who shame other people have an agenda. They have a momentary spark of self-righteous pleasure. It makes them feel better about themselves for being “above” another person. But the problem with that mindset is that as you point fingers at someone, chances are, a few fingers are pointing right back at you.
Take, for instance, last year, when a certain person sent me a private message “begging” me not to drag a mutual acquaintance through the mud on the Internet. She tried to appeal to my sense of shame in an attempt to silence me, even though Bill and I were victimized by the person she was protecting. The “certain person” who tried to shame me was very vocal about her desire to be “private” in her own life, yet she disclosed to me that she was sharing, and probably gleefully discussing, my personal business with the person she didn’t want me to “trash”. She’d write “supportive” comments to me on my blog, deleting them after she knew I’d seen them, although she didn’t delete all of them, and yes, they were used as evidence against the person whose honor she was defending. All the while, they were sitting around having a fine time reading my blog. Granted, it was a public blog, but I think she knew perfectly well that she was stirring the shit pot and being massively hypocritical. I think she was hoping that Bill and I would take the heat for shit she did and never took any responsibility for doing. And yet I’M the one who should be ashamed? I don’t think so.
In the back of my head, I knew what she was doing. But when she actually came right out and admitted it, and then tried to make ME out to be the asshole, that was just too much disrespect. I’m definitely not the one who should be ashamed about what happened. All I did was write the truth. It wasn’t a flattering look, sure, but abusive behavior rarely is. The person who was being protected tried to take advantage of us and ripped us off. We suspect she’s done it to other people who didn’t hold her accountable. We took legal action and prevailed, and we’re about to put the last nail in the coffin. Shit’s going to get even more real, as well it should. It would be a bigger shame not to address what happened and do our part to protect other people from someone else’s abusive, predatory behaviors.
Should I be ashamed for pointing out that things aren’t always rosy? Should I suffer in silence when someone treats me badly? Asking someone to be silent when they’re being abused is in itself abusive behavior. Shaming someone for being open and honest is shady behavior. I’ve had enough of that kind of treatment. I’m not going to take it anymore, especially from liars and cheats.
As for the woman in the alumni group, I have no idea what motivated her to try to shame me. She probably should know that I have no shame. I’m the same woman who made up a song called “Big Pink Dildo” to the tune of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi”. I’m not sure what her goal was… did she expect me to delete the thread? Apologize? I explicitly gave her warning. She could have practiced some self-control and accountability. Not everyone is a docile, genteel, “class act” like she is. What gives her the right to try to dictate what other people say and do? What gives her the right to speak for others when she chastises people for communicating things she thinks are “inappropriate”? She’s one of over 1860 people in that group. She should only speak for herself.
As for the “certain person” who tried to shame me into being silent and has stalked my blogs for years, KINDLY GO FUCK YOURSELF. Your efforts at advocacy for our mutual acquaintance made things a hell of a lot worse than they needed to be. If you had simply minded your own business and not done your level best to try to help your “friend” screw us, your “friend” would probably not be in the situation she’s in. Moreover, your intel gathering skills need lots of work. You obviously misjudged us.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it is appropriate to call people out. But nine times out of ten, shaming is not about righting a wrong. It’s about one person temporarily feeling better about themselves for humiliating another person. Was the woman who called me out really upset with me for posting about a pedophile? Would she defend the pedophile’s actions? My guess is that I actually have more empathy for him than she does. The fact is, as awesome as Longwood is, there have been some pretty bad and, dare I say, fucked up things that have happened there over the years. I have never seen anyone have a problem with those topics– Erin George the murderer, the fire at Dr. Sprague’s house that killed her, the murder of Dr. Debra Kelley, her estranged husband, their daughter and her friend, and the murder of a local antiques dealer, just to name a few. We’ve discussed these things at length with no shaming. Why is a pedophile different?