An important story told with heart and talent in two ways: her terrific article, What happened when I confronted my cruellest troll, and then with the This American Life treatment, If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS.
And then, there I was in a studio with a phone — and the troll on the other end. We talked for two-and-a-half hours. He was shockingly self-aware. He told me that he didn’t hate me because of rape jokes — the timing was just a coincidence — he hated me because, to put it simply, I don’t hate myself. Hearing him explain his choices in his own words, in his own voice, was heartbreaking and fascinating. He said that, at the time, he felt fat, unloved, “passionless” and purposeless. For some reason, he found it “easy” to take that out on women online.
A remorseful harasser? Rare!
And yet, in my less volatile context (publishing about health science quackery), I have been surprised by how often I’ve inspired abject apologies from the authors of hate mail simply by turning the other cheek and being just a teensy bit nice to them. (I think the niceness is the secret sauce.) I’m not suggesting women should respond to harassment by turning the other cheek! Hell no. But in my job, I’ve been startled by how many have changed their tune from something like I hope you suffer and die to I can hardly believe I wrote that, I’m so sorry. People are strange.