When Harassment Appears Harmless
ETA: After I posted this, Reddit removed JDA’s comments. Per the r/fantasy rules, “Acting in bad faith in this community can and likely will have consequences.“
A friend of mine was doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) over at Reddit. Among the comments and questions, someone posted the following:
“You’ve been integral in helping me grow my career to where I’ve made six figures on writing in less than 2 years in the biz. So thank you for the support! Look forward to joining you in SFWA. :)”
Seems innocuous, right? Even friendly and flattering, if a bit boastful and self-aggrandizing.
Here’s the thing. The author doing the AMA was SFWA president Cat Rambo. The individual leaving the comment was Jon Del Arroz. You may remember Del Arroz’s name from an earlier blog post documenting his history of trolling and harassing. One section of that post covered his attacks against Cat Rambo, including:
- Accusing Rambo of defending pedophilia
- Accusing Rambo, without evidence, of trying to “destroy” him
- Generally trolling SFWA and Cat Rambo
Rambo repeatedly told Del Arroz to stop contacting her. It reached the point where she had to tell him any additional emails would be forwarded to her attorney.
Now take another look at that comment Del Arroz left on Rambo’s AMA.
There’s nothing friendly about repeatedly, deliberately violating someone’s boundaries. When someone has again and again told you to leave them the hell alone, and you keep following them around, popping up to leave comments or whatever? The words might be friendly, but the behavior is creepy/stalker/harassing.
It’s an attempted power move on the part of the creeper. “Ha ha, I don’t have to respect your boundaries, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” And if the victim complains, the harasser immediately blames them. “I was just trying to be friendly. Why does she have to be so hateful?”
How many times do we see this kind of stalking, harassing behavior get downplayed because, from the outside, it seems harmless? “Oh, he was just coming up to your booth to say hi, that’s all. Why do you have to get all upset about it?”
Maybe because, again and again, there’s more to the story. There’s a history of harassing, threatening, and/or controlling behavior. But it’s easier to accuse the victim of overreacting than it is to recognize that a lot of this nastiness is deliberately intended to appear harmless. Not only does it let the harasser flaunt their power to violate the victim’s boundaries at will, it also sets the victim up to look crazy if they try to respond. (See also: gaslighting.)
How many times have we heard about a conflict and thought to ourselves, “I don’t get why the person is so upset. It doesn’t sound like this was a big deal.”
Just like a friendly comment on an AMA — in isolation — doesn’t seem like a big deal.
I’m not saying nobody ever overreacts to a slight. But people are awfully damn quick to downplay and dismiss complaints by refusing to consider larger patterns of behavior. And that dismissal is one of the reasons creeps and stalkers continue to get away with this kind of harassment.
December 1, 2018 @ 7:47 pm
There was a kid in my high school that did that to me all four years. He would make fun of me when no one was looking then act like my best friend when teachers or such were around and get “offended” when I ignored him or tried to call him out. He never got in trouble and he would laugh about it to his friends cause they were in on the joke. I even got in trouble a few times for telling the teacher about it, cause he was a “good kid” and wouldn’t “do that kind of thing”. It made my life miserable.
If someone is upset because a person is bothering them, but you’ve never actually seen it happen, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t. It just means you haven’t seen it.
So sorry, your friend is having to deal with this. And thanks for pointing it out. I think a lot of people don’t know this is a type of harassment that happens all the time.
Eleanor C Ray
December 1, 2018 @ 8:22 pm
Use of social cues and cultural norms of behavior not only tend to make the victim feel hurt and frustrated, they are something harrassers who are good with them use to tell the victim, “I have society on my side, and you can’t make me stop harrassing you.” Their fluency with the cultural norms allows them to change the nuance, while not giving most other people access to the true communication going on. That makes the victim feel the harrasser is *right*, that society *doesn’t* think there is anything wrong with the behavior, because the harrasser is manipulating the reactions of society to make it appear to be so. The harrasser is both harrassing the victim and manipulating the response others will give that victim. It is particularly ugly and upsetting, isolating the person from redress for the harrassment they are suffering. The victim feels that everyone is against them, that the society they should be able to appeal to for assistance has been twisted around the harrasser’s finger. When people see this type of societal manipulation being attempted, it needs to be called out. Victims need to know that not all of society thinks these harrassers are funny, or cool, or okay people. I appreciate your laying it out clearly, Jim.
December 1, 2018 @ 8:38 pm
Thanks for calling this what it is.
December 1, 2018 @ 11:42 pm
Indeed, the history here is what counts. Thanks for calling this out, Jim.
December 1, 2018 @ 11:49 pm
I am somewhat amazed that JDA’s lawyer has not strongly advised him to shut the hell up. This is not a good look for his court case.
December 2, 2018 @ 1:35 am
Contrarius, I think you’re making some rather excessive assumptions about JDA’s lawyer’s skill *or* ability to restrain his impuses.
December 2, 2018 @ 2:27 am
Harassment/stalking/intimidation has nothing to do with whether an individual act is permitted or legal or even customary. Much, possibly even most harassment involves acts that are entirely legal. It’s the context or the pattern they occur in that makes them harassment.
Example: assuming you have a listed phone number, it’s not inappropriate for me to call you up on the phone. It is certainly legal. If you tell me you are not interested in talking to me and I persist in calling, that’s a different thing. If I keep it up day after day, ad infinitum, I’m moving into actionable-harassment-land. Each call, in isolation, a legal and innocuous thing, but the collected pattern isn’t.
– pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
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December 2, 2018 @ 12:03 pm
In context that post doesn’t even read as if he is being “fake friendly”. He seems to be straight up taunting her by implying that the attention generated by his harassing of her has contributed to his success. What a repulsive tool.
December 2, 2018 @ 5:26 pm
My hubcap is in internet security. He is VERY careful (as are all of us… well, the kids are working on it) about such harassment. He really has seen it all.
This guy needs an arrest under his belt, some hefty lawyer fees, and we’ll see how gutsy he is with his “six figures.”
December 2, 2018 @ 5:34 pm
Thank you for your part in bringing this out in the open.
December 2, 2018 @ 10:32 pm
‘It’s an attempted power move on the part of the creeper. “Ha ha, I don’t have to respect your boundaries, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” And if the victim complains, the harasser immediately blames them. “I was just trying to be friendly. Why does she have to be so hateful?”’
Jim, that single paragraph is an excellent summary of the behavior we have seen that guy demonstrate toward multiple parties–and, yes, particularly toward Cat Rambo. The first time I ever read Cat’s description of his behavior toward her, which was somewhere between 1-2 and years ago, I echoed others recommending she file a police report. The next time I ever saw anyone mention his name, it was for similar behavior again. And again after that.
Indeed, his name came up multiple times on my radar before I was aware that he writes fiction. For some time, I knew of him -only- as an online troll who seemed to have an enormous amount of empty time on his hands, based on how many people he was pestering. Trolling, harassing, being a pest–these are the things he’s known for, not writing fiction.
Jon Del Arroz
December 3, 2018 @ 11:55 am
r/Fantasy is a public forum. I have a right to post as much as anyone else. I didn’t say anything mean or wrong, despite the way I’ve been mistreated by establishment publishing with the help of rabble rousers like you, Jim. You guys repeatedly try to keep me out of public spheres which are necessary for authors in the internet age because my existence triggers you. Too bad. I’m not going to quit appearing on popular websites, attending conventions, or joining professional organizations. I am a professional, I’ve earned it.
Jim C. Hines
December 3, 2018 @ 12:00 pm
Jon Del Arroz – True to form.
Jim C. Hines
December 3, 2018 @ 12:12 pm
Jon Del Arroz – You may have noticed that your follow-up comment went immediately into moderation. I have no interest in letting you use my platform for your faux-victim performance.
December 3, 2018 @ 12:26 pm
I think it’s hysterically funny that Jon clutches his pearls when he gets called out on his ongoing harassment habits, yet he is consistently deleting my fact-presenting comments from his own blog.
Anyone surprised by the blatant hypocrisy? Of course not.
December 3, 2018 @ 12:43 pm
There is a difference between existing and using public spaces like everyone else does, and using said spaces to bother people who don’t want anything to do you with and have told you such on multiple occasions.
If the internet were a bar, it would be the difference between hanging out with your friends and minding your own business while you enjoy the space, and going up to a group of people who don’t want to talk to you and butting in on their conversation.
One is polite, one is rude. Learn the difference.
December 3, 2018 @ 6:16 pm
Jim, you rabble rouser, you. 🙂
Pixel Scroll 12/1/18 Too Many Pixels, Herr Scrollzart! | File 770
December 4, 2018 @ 9:26 pm
[…] (7) JDA ACTS OUT. Jon Del Arroz tried to slime Cat Rambo’s AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) session on Reddit yesterday. Jim C. Hines has the quotes and provides contextual analysis in “When Harassment Appears Harmless”. […]
December 5, 2018 @ 4:40 pm
You can stalk someone in public. It’s still stalking. And meant to intimidate and unnerve the person being stalked.
December 12, 2018 @ 11:00 am
I was curious how Arroz would answer, so I asked on his blog post about this event. “You knew that she had asked you not to contact her any further. Why. then, did you?” The question remained up for 24 hours unanswered, then vanished. All my further questions have been blocked. I suppose I should not be surprised. There’s no answer to that where he comes out looking good.
Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing
February 25, 2019 @ 10:16 am
[…] ETA: See also this post from 12/1/18: When Harassment Seems Harmless […]