Friday, April 20, 2007

Who I Really Am...

I'm about to ask a big favor of my very dear and very wonderful friends, people who've actually met me unlike those who attack me. No hard feelings if you choose to say no. No hard feelings if you choose to do it anonymously.

Many of you have told me over the past year that you wanted to defend me but were afraid to get dragged into all of this. But you know the real me, the person they're attacking rather than the words on the screen.

So, here's the big favor. In the comments to this post, answer this question:

Who is Melinda Barton? What is she REALLY like? And please, don't tell them about that one time at dyke camp.


Blogger reasonably prudent poet said...

i would so love to know what this is all about. can you at least point me in the direction to find out more? or should i just let this be one of those things in life that aren't for me to understand?

1:47 AM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

A year ago, I began a series for Raw Story (never completed) on the types of extremism present in the left, believing that if we are to be successful, we must face down our own extremists and make it clear to them and the world that they don't represent us. I began with atheist extremism--the anti-theist brand predominantly. Admittedly, it was not as well written as it should have been. Certain well-placed bloggers claimed that I'd called for a purge of all atheists from the Democratic party, of which I'm not a member; that I'd attacked all or most atheists, which was not the case; that I supported theocracy, which is just stupid considering I'm a Reform Jew in a predominantly Christian country; and calling me a bigot and basically a traitor to the left. By the time it was done, there were tens of thousands of blogs, websites, message boards, comments threads, etc. calling me a bigot and all sorts of things. Many of these people had not even bothered to read the original column, evidenced by the fact that many referred to me as a Christian, despite the fact that it was made clear in the column that I'm a Jew.

I issued a formal apology for anyone who genuinely misunderstood based on flaws in the piece, spent months trying to explain what I really meant, etc. I was attacked at every turn, cyberstalked, threatened, etc. The staff at Raw Story also received thousands of hate mail letters and e-mail. Raw Story had to start moderating the comments thread b/c the current comment system at the time could only ban 20 people. Why moderation? to be able to get rid of the commenters who referred to me as Jew Dyke, bitch, cunt, etc.

Before this happened, I was publishing a few times a month on average. Now, other than a few book reviews for a now defunct magazine I'd been writing for since 2003, I haven't been able to publish anything online or in print (my normal venue) for a year. There are some editors who won't even respond to my e-mails. I nearly didn't get the job I have now because the woman interviewing me decided to google me mid-interview. Imagine having to spend half of an interview explaining that you're really NOT a bigot. It has been really horrible, but I was hoping it would die down. Now, with DU, it's starting all over again.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous ross k. said...

Having never met you face-to-face, I won't promote myself to "friend" status, but as a writer with the hope to get published eventually, I find it very worrisome, discouraging and sad what they've done to you. A witch-hunt and a hate fest. It's a shame.

Worrisome and discouraging because it makes me take a sobering look at how far I could be pushed back by taking the wrong stance in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even before you wrote the piece on atheists, I was wary of posting at Raw Story or having my full name up anywhere a lot of people would see it, and I certainly didn't want to WRITE anything for them myself after that, and become a punching bag for hundreds of mean-spirited people.

I think people are entitled to challenge whoever becomes a leader by speaking first, that they should challenge freely and it is part of the speaker’s job and set of skills to have to answer them and hold them off. Most people deserve to have their say. Free speech aside, however, it’s hard to swallow how quickly people will oppose and attack something they have misread and misunderstood, and how damaging that can be. It makes me think twice about speaking my mind in a public forum, I’m sure it has done that for others, and that is a sad thing for everyone.

11:14 AM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Thanks, Ross. I assure you that the support of those who know me and those who never met me but understood that at the very least, I was not the kind of person or writer they were try to accuse me of being has been invaluable. I don't know if I could have kept my sanity otherwise.

But please don't let what happened discourage you from writing. We need as many reasonable people as we can to counteract the unfortunately cruel tenor of the prevailing discourse. As a writer, you will be criticized and even attacked for what you say, but believe me, the first time a reader tells you that your worked changed his life or that he took one of your articles home to share with his family over the dinner table or that you made her feel a little less invisible, it makes up for all the rest.

I haven't been able to get those responses for a while for obvious reasons. But the many times I have over the years makes me know that persevering (by trying to complete my book, for one thing) is worthwhile.

Now, where the heck are my friends. Oh yeah, some of them were up late at a Hooters block party last night. Damn them. I swear, I really do have friends in real life even if many of my friends are weird Luddites who don't even go online.

11:46 AM  
Blogger reasonably prudent poet said...

hey, thanks for the explanation. i appreciate the time it took to give it. i'm sorry all that happened to you. it sounds really incredible.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Rob the Webkahunah said...

I disavow any knowledge of Hooters, block parties, scantily clad women in bikinis, or enormous amounts of playing video games that may or may not have lead me not to answer this blog entry till today.

Who is the REAL Melinda Barton?

This Question is way more difficult to explain than one would think, because Mel is a woman of great complexity and character that remains more hidden to those around her than is generally believed.

I however do know her better than most others do, so I will give it a shot...

Mel is smart, witty, and usually misunderstood. A lot of people tend to try and pidgeon hole her due to her religion, sexuality, or political views, but those that know her know that these people are doing themselves a diservice by not getting the full picture. She hides a very sensitive, caring side behind a hard as nails exterior, which leads many to think that she's aloof... but nothing could be farther from the truth. She cares about others a lot more than most do. She is observant and smart enough to not have to try to notice details in the world around her, and can communicate these details with a clarity of thought that most do not have. At the same time, a lot of times she is completely clueless, (particularly with women) just as the other 4 billion of us are.

Melinda has a 'cult' following of dedicated friends whose respect and admiration she has earned simply by being herself. To a great many people, (myself included) she is a trusted advisor, confidant, and pep talk expert. She's also a pacifist, a semi-devout Jew (by choice), and the type of person that tries to understand the mechanics of hatred simply because she's not the type of person that hates anyone.

Dislike, maybe... but hate, no.

More than anything though, I think the one quality that defines Melinda is that she will always give you her honest opinion, and is never afraid to share it.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Melinda Barton said...

Thanks, Rob. But, if you're trying to make me tear up, you've failed. Really. I just have something in my eye.

8:02 AM  

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