YouTube and the Anonymity of #Hate

I make YouTube videos. I like the immediacy, interactivity and honesty, and the fact that it stays up there forever, giving historical context... documenting what it was like to live in New York at this particular time in music and politics and anything else my camera discovers. And, I love the idea that 1,671,751 people have actually watched them!

Michael Moore dubbed us Citizen Journalists. We document breaking news on our iPhones and Canon 5Ds. We're there on the front lines of history, before the mainstream media gets there, and for years after they've won their Pulitzers, our work resides in blogs, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Our bodies and our cameras are bruised and dented from being thrown against barricades, or tripping over our own damned feet running backwards down Fifth Avenue. We've risked and incurred serious injuries, spent an inordinate amount of time in emergency rooms... and we still can't get our NYPD press passes.

When headlines are on the newsstands, I like to go out and ask people what they think, like what did Gov Elliot Spitzer get for $4,300, or when Occupy Wall Street protestors shut down the Law & Order SVU "Mockupy" set, or when I lost my health insurance, or when Pete Seeger gave a surprise midnight concert at Columbus Circle.

For the most part I get 'thanks for posting', 'so glad you were there because I couldn't be', but recently, a disturbing, and escalating trend of bigotry, racism and hatred, spewing from the anonymity of the internet. As I started covering more events like Occupy Wall Street, Gay Pride, Marriage Equality, repeal of DOMA, and most egregiously, the Trayvon Martin verdict protests, I noticed an alarming spate of pretty scary, flat out racist comments being posted on my channel, unnerving, not only because of their anonymity of ignorance, but because of my complete transparency.

YouTube, as is Twitter, are populated by 'Internet trolls'...

Hateful, racist, sexist, immature, misspelled, questionable, comments made by internet trolls mainly consisting of an age group of 7-13, written on a site known as YouTube. In short, its where immature coward kids go to gain confidence by writing hateful messages they'll never have the guts to say in their lifetime. -Urban Dictionary

The secret language of Twitter are hashtags, signified by a # before the name. The hashtag before three letters, #OWS was the beginning of a movement. Occupy Wall Street was a hashtag revolution, IMHO. Internet trolls reply to certain trends with bile in total anonymity with 2 followers and an Avatar with no photo. But YouTube commenters are more sinister and frightening. It is the temperature of the country. The 'analytics' on each of my videos tells the complete story. Every state in the union, 58% men, most hits, not surprisingly in New York, California and Florida.

Two weeks ago, I filmed the NYC Justice For Trayvon Martin March Demanding DOJ Civil Case @ PROTEST of ZIMMERMAN Verdict which was a spontaneous march, snaking through the streets of New York. It was a joyful event in its diversity, very different in its inclusion and cross section of Americans, than any other demonstration I'd filmed.

But when I posted the video that night. These, no holes barred racist, bigoted, bad grammar and just place dumb, comments started appearing. I was quite upset in the beginning, when I read the first few. I couldn't sleep. But the next morning, when I went in and saw 60 of them, now there are 95, like cockroaches. I decided to keep them there...

There is a consistency of the rhetoric. Most often memed by the proselytizers of Hate Talk Radio, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Ingraham and that ilk. They can really say anything they want with no repercussions. They are anonymous haters, and there are a lot of them and they gain strength with numbers.

I can't post the Trayvon march comments here, but you're welcome to view them yourselves.

Social media, and YouTube in particular, is valuable tool. It is a completely democratic temperature of the people... both sides, whether you like it or not. Like live streaming, it's possibly the only real, unfiltered truth there is.

Last week, there was another vigil in New York City with Trayvon's mother and luminaries like Jay Z and his wife were there along with elected officials and leaders from the black community, there was a message of hope. These three young boys told me from their experience what racism is. They told me what they hear everyday, the words of almost a hundred anonymous haters and a few on this video too...I think the value of seeing this is, for the first time, since Obama's speech, we have a glimpse into this world, a world known all to well to those of color, and there in lies a healing moment.

Maybe the tragedy of this child's death is starting the dialogue about race on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. And, just maybe, we can start a new hashtags... #Hope #Healing