Halifax — Self-professed social justice warrior Tara Harvey, 24, regularly spends her days trying to destroy the lives of unknown people on the Internet, all in the name of equality and openness.
“It’s easier to ruin people I’ve never met than to try to engage in a discussion in person,” said Harvey in an interview. “I can intimidate them into silence while protecting innocent people from any ideas that are different from my own, and therefore incorrect. It’s a labour of love — it’s not easy, but if I didn’t do it, these people could be spewing their message of hatred with no one hating them back even more!
“The most efficient way to go about it is to endlessly skim comments or posts, looking for ‘trigger words,’ which are anything about a woman, a minority, a marginalized group, et cetera, and get angry right away,” she went on. “I make do without context because that gives me more time to instruct more ignorant people.”
Harvey said that one of her favourite tools to make the world a better place is shame. “I shame people as loudly and publicly as possible. This means using caps-lock when I write an indignant status about someone I’ve never seen in the flesh. I make them into a two-dimensional caricature of a person; this gets rid of any temptation to consider their point of view or what their life could be like. For me life is all black and white, good and evil, and NOT FUNNY!!!
“And the thing about free speech is,” she added unprompted, “it violates my right not to be offended. If anyone can just say something I don’t agree with, that’s a personal attack on me, and I’m victimized. That’s not free speech — that’s hate speech.”
Harvey’s former psychology professor, Nathaniel Donovan, takes credit for his pupil’s excellent persuasive abilities. “Shaming people and riling others up against them is the very best way to convert them to your mode of thinking,” confirmed Donovan. “Rather than resenting you, someone you shame publicly will see the error of their ways, and will be compelled to apologize for having an unpopular viewpoint in the first place. It’s psych 101.”
The Manatee spoke with Megan McNeil, who was once shamed by Harvey. “There was a news story about a woman who didn’t pass the physical exam to become a firefighter. I just made a comment saying that firefighters are usually male because men are generally physically stronger, and that I would want someone who could support my weight if I were being rescued from a burning house,” recalled McNeil.
“A couple days later I get tagged in a Facebook post where this Tara girl I’d never heard of called me a ‘woman hater’ and a misogynist. She wrote a long rant of a status about how I am everything that’s wrong with the world, and my comment was very ‘telling’ about the kind of person I must be. All her little mindless minions got on board and made me villain of the month. She even got people to email my family and boss with screen-caps of my comment and their own incorrect interpretations of it. I got fired from my job at a non-profit women’s shelter, and I’m now homeless.
“They didn’t care about making the world more tolerant and inclusive — this superficial woman just wanted to ruin my life because she doesn’t have one of her own.”
The Manatee tracked down the post about McNeil, which had lots of comments from what the Internet likes to call “white knights,” including one reading: “You are so right, Tara! I am livid. We should get together tonight to discuss this more in person. Say, 7 p.m. over drinks and a candlelit dinner? I saw on your Tumblr page that you like the new Italian place in town, so I took the liberty of making reservations every night this week in case tonight doesn’t work. Let me know!”
Our reporter questioned Harvey, a white woman with a university education and a full-time job, about the incident.
“All it takes is one post or comment I don’t like, and I know that that person sees the whole world in the wrong way,” she said confidently. “This means it’s my responsibility to hold a witch-hunt to affect positive social change. You don’t need to have a reasonable discussion, you just need to scream louder than anyone else.”