I woke up last Wednesday, August 13th, and took to my twitter, preparing myself to ingest yet another round of bad news. It had been a trying week, with more hateful, scary events taking place every day. While I knew I’d find evidence of this in my twitter feed, I expected to find solace in the kind sentiments of the liberal people and publications that I follow.
Instead, I was confronted by a Thought Catalog article entitled “Ferguson, Missouri, Looks Like a Rap Video,” by TC writer Anthony Rogers. The article is deeply racist, and, regarding the looting in Ferguson, includes the sentence “You cannot find Jordans, rims, or weaves … in Ferguson, MO.”
The article came on the heels of another offensive and disturbing piece of writing that was published on August 12th. Written by former Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes, “Transphobia is Perfectly Natural“ is so full of visceral hate that it’s almost unbearable to read. “What’s the matter with simply being a fag who wears makeup?” the author recalls thinking when he sees a trans person on the streets of New York. “To justify trannies is to allow mentally ill people to mutilate themselves,” he continues. (Both McInnes’ and Rogers’ articles now feature the above offensive content warning.)
My relationship with Thought Catalog started out bright and exciting, as TC was the first website ever to publish my work. The day in spring 2012 when I found out that they were going to post “How To Undo A Healthy Week In One Friday Night” — my opus — I was ecstatic. I’d made it! I’d spent the year prior reading thoughtful, relatable pieces by Ryan O’Connell, Gaby Dunn, and Stephanie Georgopulos every day, and had come to view them as my own personal celebrities. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be on the outskirts of their world.
I kept submitting, and Thought Catalog kept publishing — all in all, I was credited with 22 pieces. But as I grew as a writer, I began to get frustrated. They were always happy to publish articles that I knew were trivial click bait (e.g., “5 Reasons I Hate Brunch”), and they generally rejected anything I wrote that was a little deeper and didn’t guarantee a huge audience.
Eventually, I stopped submitting to Thought Catalog; my last piece was published in September 2013. And over the course of this past year, I’ve watched the site devolve into a collection of pieces that are largely trash (with some exceptions, but I’m talking about the majority of what I’ve read). Examples of said trash include the offensive and much talked about “I’m Not Going To Pretend That I’m Poor To Be Accepted By You,” and the even better “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands and Kids And I’m Not Sorry.”
Then, last week, it became intolerable.
After the Ferguson piece was published, I saw some fellow former TC writers, led by Nico Lang, talking on Twitter about requesting to remove their writing from the Thought Catalog archives. I didn’t hesitate in joining them. My reasoning is that, even though my writing is way back in TC history and I’m certainly not known for my work there (or, let’s face it, anywhere), I do not want my name associated with a publication that breeds hate. There are two pieces to this. One is admittedly self-serving: I’m thinking of my writing resume, and the kind of person I want to project. The other is just about being a decent human. How could I allow such a hateful platform to profit off of my work, even in the smallest denominations?
Amy Glass, who wrote the “I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids” article, defended her work by saying that she “used provocative language to start a conversation.” And Thought Catalog defends all of its content by returning to their creed that “All thinking is relevant.” I’d have to disagree. The hateful words that Thought Catalog has presented to its huge audience are not only irrelevant, they are harmful. Journalism exists to inform and to provoke constructive discussion. It is not meant to be a platform for angry, screaming, misinformed voices. Thought Catalog has taken the click-bait culture to a dangerous place; now, it’s not enough to publish an article that 20-somethings will relate to. To really make a splash, it’s best to spew transphobia and racism.
I’m grateful to Nico Lang for organizing the charge to remove content from Thought Catalog, and I’m relieved to no longer have my name on the site.