By my lunch break, massive alt-right accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers had sicced their sycophants on me, claiming that I was trying to “cancel ‘South Park.’” By the time I got home from work, nearly half a dozen videos on YouTube had popped up like poisonous mushrooms, in which men raged that I was a fat, ugly social-justice warrior liberal snowflake who couldn’t take a joke.
If you’ve never experienced online trolling, there’s not much I can do to describe for you what it’s like. In the abstract, it seems like it shouldn’t be able to hurt you. In reality, it’s hundreds of thousands of people calling you an idiot, a bitch and worse — tweeting at you faster than you can block them. You’ll receive emails, a good chunk of them death threats, nearly all the rest vicious anti-Semitic slurs. You’ll get notifications that strangers are trying to hack into your personal accounts. People will bombard your employer with complaints to get you fired from your job. All the while, you’re implicitly barred from publicly sharing what’s happening to you lest people criticize you for a) whining or b) making it all up for attention.
I didn’t call for “South Park” to be canceled. I didn’t even say I hated the show! But the nuances of my point didn’t matter. Painting critics as prudish, finger-wagging scolds is the go-to defense mechanism for those who subscribed to the show’s fragile worldview. They have to be the brave victims, the enlightened underdogs under attack by the hectoring, anti-freedom censors.