Being a public person isn’t always easy. From pretending everything is great all the time, to watching everything you say lest you be attacked for your alleged political agenda, sometimes you just can’t win in the eyes of public opinion. Especially when it comes to critics and haters, and even trolls.
A few weeks back my friend and assistant Frank, who also volunteers over at demonolatry.org as webmaster, was sent a death threat through the site email. It wasn’t addressed to anyone specifically because obviously the troll didn’t realize who was running what. (As an aside here: I’ve written before how writers, specifically should never feed the trolls. But I think it’s a skill we all, writer and non-writer alike, could benefit from. After all – you’re on the Internet, trolls abound!) We’re pretty sure at this point the death threat was likely meant for me, as well as other site contributors, because we’re the ones who create the bulk of the content for the site. The troll’s threat was simple: Close down or we’re going to kill you. A death curse was promised, and actual physical harm inflicted by physical people was implied.
Those of you who know me know that I’m no stranger to death threats. I’ve gotten many over the years. I tend to take them with a grain of salt, and wash them down with the bitter tears of my enemies.
It’s probably important at this point in the story I tell you that no less than 24 hours before the death threat found its way into our inbox, I used my FB author page for S. Connolly to warn my readers off of buying $400+ spirit vessels off the Internet. The death threat, as I said, came within 24 hours of that post. Our guess is my big mouth pissed off one of the people who was selling those faux spirit vessels to gullible, desperate people – and my contemptuous statement greatly cut into their profit margin. After all – words can carry a lot of weight when you’re a public figure. When I tell my readers they’re getting ripped off – a lot of them listen.
So the person figured threatening demonolatry.org was innocuous enough that she couldn’t really get in trouble for it, but she hoped her threat would be taken seriously enough that I would shut up about all the frauds in the Spirit Keeping business. It likely was never about removing demonolatry.org from the web to begin with. A few days later, Spirit Keeping & Spirit Vessels, a chapbook I wrote with a couple of magician friends, came out. Within 24 hours Frank received another message from someone claiming to want to help him by warning him about the person/people who threatened us. The warning pretext being: “You better do what they say, or else! They’re doing it April 7! I’ve seen them kill people!”
Uh huh. Needless to say, it’s April 11, things at demonolatry.org are business as usual, and our webmaster is perfectly healthy. Our contributors are all alive and well, and thriving (myself included), we didn’t take down our site, I didn’t apologize for warning people about frauds, the book is still available, and the troll didn’t win. Imagine that.
Negative criticism (that gets dangerously personal) and death threats exist for one reason and one reason alone – to silence the voices the troll doesn’t like, or to silence those who they feel threatened by. I don’t care who you are or what you do – the same applies to office bullies as it does to art critics, as it does to Spirit Vessel sellers threatening to curse or kill website contributors. Don’t be easily swayed and don’t let your trolls keep you from writing, painting, working, listening, or whatever it is your passion to do. You do yourself a disservice otherwise.
Now for the writers and creatives among you: I’ve always looked at it as – if you don’t have critics or haters, especially if you’re a creative – you haven’t made it yet. Once you get that first death threat – then you know your ideas or stories are circulating enough for people to actually have a negative reaction. You know that your work, or views and opinions hold some weight somewhere, otherwise those making the threats wouldn’t feel so threatened.
Causing a reaction one way or the other is exactly what artists of any ilk set out to do. Those who are timid and afraid of what other people, especially the naysayers, think, won’t last long in any creative profession.
To those of you dealing with trolls and other nasties – keep fighting the good fight. To my trolls far and wide – know this: I am not going to stop writing the things you don’t like. I am not going to stop sharing my viewpoint. You will, literally, have to make good on your threats and take my ass out. I’m not afraid. Bring it.