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The Alchemy of Trolling: Interview with Tiffany Scandal and Tara Dublin

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More women and young people than ever before will participate in what may be the election of our lifetimes (until 2020). Trolls and bots are already out in force. How do we ready ourselves so our freedom of speech can’t be intimidated?
The third in my series of interviews about creative people using social networking to reach an audience features two veterans of the online wars, here to share their experiences: Tiffany Scandal, editor of the feminist essay collection Nasty!, and Tara Dublin, contributing writer to Nasty! 

Nasty! is a collection of powerful proclamations and confessions, stories and essays that celebrate self acceptance and individuality while unflinchingly exposing the horrors women continue to experience. It’s an empowering read that tears the veil of civility to liberate by catharsis. It includes “Raphael and the French Ghost and the Moon” an essay by Jennifer Robin that’s also the first interview in this series. Other writers include Kim Vodicka, Jessie Lynn McMains, Missy Suicide, and Sabrina Dropkick. And 100% of the profits made from this book go to Planned Parenthood. It’s no wonder that this compilation of strong female voices has attracted trolls. 

Tara Dublin wrote about her frightening experience with trolls in “I Got Doxxed After Giving a Donald Trump Supporter the Finger. 

She writes:

Trump-supporting internet trolls have sent me death threats, looked me up to call me slurs like “kike,” threatened to kill or gang-bang me, suggested calling bomb threats in to my son’s school, and put photos of my children in memes promoting incest. Someone created a Twitter parody account for me and posted my home address, a photo of my house, and the phone number for my landline. They’ve sent Chinese food and pizzas to my home, signed me up for magazine subscriptions, filled out personality tests in my name for the Church of Scientology. They are trying to ruin my life any way they can.
Since Tara contributed to Nasty!, the book became another target for the trolls, to whom any reference to nasty immediately conjures Trump’s remark to Hillary Clinton and the ensuing Nasty Woman feminist movement. But the cyberbullies only brought more attention to the book. Instead of feeling intimidated, Tiffany and Tara feel even more deeply the importance of their work and the example they can provide to people who will go through similar troubles because they dare to speak out. I’m honored to interview them for Reality Sandwich.

Tiffany Scandal managing editor of King Shot Press and editor of Nasty!

Tamra Lucid: Tiffany, what inspired you to curate this collection of stories to benefit Planned Parenthood?

Tiffany Scandal: This last election really helped reveal that our country is not as progressive as we thought it was. Seeing all the hate, shame, and ignorance really lit a fire under my feet, and while there are plenty of collections penned by female contributors, I wanted to curate one that felt sassy, brassy, in your face, and diverse AF.

Choosing Planned Parenthood as the beneficiary seemed like the obvious choice. Whenever I struggled financially and/or didn’t have medical insurance, Planned Parenthood had my back. Because decent healthcare is not a priority in this country, I know that Planned Parenthood will continue to serve the people who need help. And as a thank you for their services, I’m happy to pay forward whatever I can so that they can continue to keep as many doors open as possible. 

Tara, what inspired you to contribute your writing to Nasty!?

Tara Dublin: My friend Diana Kirk, who had already been published by King Shot Press, was the one who told me about the submissions. She was so enthusiastic about her experience with Tiffany and Michael, and she encouraged me to submit. I was so happy when I was chosen, since they were only taking a fraction of the submissions they received. And she and both made the final cut, which is really cool. 

Tiffany, it must have been intense to read the submissions you received, and it must have been difficult to choose those that made it into the book. What did you learn from reading through them all?

TS: There will never be an anthology that encompasses ALL of the various female experiences. Too many of us have had similar awful, terrifying experiences that keep getting shrugged off as normal. We still have a very long way to go to stop viewing/treating women as second-class citizens.

Tara, what does this compilation mean to you?

TD: It means SO MUCH to me, because this is the first time I’ve ever been published in an actual real book that people can buy and hold in their hands. I’ve written for plenty of websites, but this is way beyond getting a few hits for a blog. And now I’m going to get to participate in not one, but two professional readings (the first at BookShowLA on March 17th, the second at the legendary Powell’s in Portland on April 2nd), so it’s really becoming such a huge part of my life. I’ve been waiting for this for so long, and I still kind of can’t believe it’s finally happening. 

Tiffany, did you have certain criteria in mind when you chose the stories to include? How did you choose?

TS: I wanted stories that were empowering. Stories that embraced strong women who aren’t afraid to speak up, to enjoy life, to be who they are. Stories that educated. Stories that addressed sides of womanhood that don’t get talked about all that often. And much like making a mixtape, I had to think about flow, transitions, grouping stories with similar themes or tones, but not having two stories be the same. 

Tara, what theme did you want to capture in your contribution to this compilation?

TD: When I heard the theme was along the lines of “women owning their sexuality, feeling empowered by it, and never apologizing for it,” I took it as a personal writing challenge. While I’ve written extensively about how much my dating life has sucked in the last six years, I never went into specific details regarding my sex life. I mean, my mother reads everything I write, and who wants their mom knowing how they like their action? Even though I use a comedic approach in my essay, I still don’t want her knowing. I’ve told her she’s not allowed to read it, but I’m sure she will anyway. 

Tiffany, what kind of positive responses has Nasty! inspired?

TS: It makes me really happy to see people be excited about this book. It’s cool to see women read some stories and realize that they are not alone in what they went through. It’s cool to see men pick up this book and feel inspired to join the fight in making this country a safer place for women, LGBTQ, and POC. My goal is that maybe it inspires more conversations about what we can do to be better feminists, better allies, better human beings.  

Tara, you’ve written about the cyber harassment you suffered due to a viral video. How did that spill over onto Nasty!?

TD: Unfortunately, the haters on the right discovered I’m a contributor and started bombing King Shot Press and Tiffany with all kinds of awful shit. I felt bad about it at first, but they took it all in stride and slung the shit right back at them in the most glorious way. Thankfully we’re far enough along that we not only understand this behavior, we don’t let it bother us. I mean, they’re all cowards hiding behind screens, and they’re utter morons. They thought I wrote the entire book, they threatened to protest, they called us witches; they just love their manufactured outrage so much. And they also love to create a diversion from the Russia scandal and will jump on literally any chance to do so. Soon enough they get distracted by another bright and shiny thing and move on. And I’m sure by the time our readings roll around, they’ll have forgotten about us and the only people showing up will be the ones who support us.

The funniest part of this ridiculousness is that my essay has absolutely nothing to do with the election or politics at all, except for the fact that one of the hookups I describe happened the night after the election. There IS an essay about the election and how it messed the author up, but it’s by another writer. These trolls are so busy attacking, they’re too stupid to stop and pay attention to anything resembling truth. 

Tara Dublin

Tiffany, what was it like seeing the trolls swarm around one of your authors, your book and yourself?

TS: It was kind of unreal. Fortunately, Tara is a badass and handled herself really well. These trolls basically gave us a ton of free publicity, and because they didn’t bother doing research on the book or on us, they really reenforced why this book exists, why people should buy it, and why we can’t stay quiet anymore. 

Tara, instead of retreating you faced your PTSD.  What inspired you to make your own online presence stronger despite the harassment?  

TD: Because their intention was to silence me, and fuck that. No one tells me what I can and cannot say when it comes to that fucking traitor falsely installed in our White House by a foreign government. I’m speaking out until he’s fucking gone. Once I got over my initial fear, which I’ll admit took some time, I got mad. And I got educated about them, how they use projection language and gaslighting tactics, how they converge on Dark Web sites like 4Chan to create these online campaigns around people with the intent of ruining their lives. I don’t want or need these people respecting me if they support a fucking traitor, so now I just usually mute them after shaming them. They’re not going to fuck with this lady’s livelihood anymore. 

Tiffany, what has it been like watching Tara blossom where many may have broken?

TS: I’m proud of her. I can’t imagine how exhausting it must be to go through this as often as she does, but I’m happy to know she’s out there and she’s not afraid to challenge and resist every day. 

Tara and Tiffany, what was it like being trolled by women who wanted to silence you?

TD: When that happens, I always kind of roll my eyes and shake my head, because I will never understand an actual live human woman who thinks that piece of shit rat bastard is worthy to lead or has any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Those women have been so subjugated by their men for so long, which they don’t realize, and they aren’t really thinking for themselves. It’s disappointing to see women unable to speak out with their true voices because they’re afraid of how their men will react, but that’s our society for you. So I’ll usually just quote their tweet, dismiss them as a sad Lady Trump Troll, and mute them. They’re not going to listen to me, I’m just a girl! 

TS: It’s something that blows my mind. Women who think we’re already equals, or women who romanticize an era where men were the breadwinners (but you could also buy a house for $8,000 and infidelity was something a lot of  people just turned a blind eye to). Sadly, their arguments and thinking do come from a very privileged place. Maybe they don’t know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, to have to support a family on their own, to work so hard and still earn less than male colleagues, etc. Maybe they think everything’s fine because that’s what they’re being told and their privilege doesn’t let them see how hard it is for other women who are not in their position? It’s strange, and as empathetic as I can be, I can’t ever fully understand a woman who will stomp on the pursuit of freedom of other women.

Tiffany, was the extra publicity positive?

TS: Totally. We made a lot of sales that day.

Tiffany, having been a social worker, and a counselor for at-risk women and LGBTQ youth, did the cyber harassment open a door into the world they face, and did your professional skills give you any tools for dealing with it in a healthy way?

TS: What we experienced is nothing new. People face this everyday. I’ve been, and have worked with people who have been, harassed constantly. Through my experience, I’ve learned to not hold on to the anger thrown in my direction, and refuse to waste my energy on anyone who isn’t willing to listen. 

Tiffany, has working on this book made you more or less optimistic about America?

TS: Both? It makes me sad that the mere concept of this book has people up in arms and yelling on rooftops about how awful it/we are. It makes me sad that empowered women are so hated, men AND women try to boycott us. BUT – I’m happy to see people speak up. I’m happy the submissions call for this anthology was so popular. I’m happy people believe in the power of this book and have been sharing it with friends, family, strangers. 

Tara and Tiffany, as election 2018 nears we can expect to see more cyber harassment online as trolls try to stop free expression of ideas. What advice do you have based on your experiences?

TD:  The most important thing to remember is that so many of those accounts are fake troll bots. When I get trolled, the first thing I do before even thinking up a reply is check their profile. The bots usually have a low follower account (though there are some that have accumulated tons of followers who are too stupid to realize they’re following a bot), their pic is almost always some stock photo or someone famous, nothing is spelled right (though this is also true of the human trolls), and often their tweets have just been copied from another account. If it’s an actual person, it depends on what the topic is and how bad they’re coming at me. I’ll determine whether or not it merits a reply, and if it does, I usually just zing them with something like “Go fuck yourself, traitor” or “Someday you may know the touch of a woman you don’t have to inflate first, but today isn’t that day” or “Why so triggered, Snowflake?” They really hate that last one, because they don’t like it when you use their words against them.

Most of the time it’s not worth the energy to engage with them, since they’re not interested in anything that remotely resembles intelligent political discourse and they thrive on the attention you’re giving them. They’re after the reaction, most of them don’t even care about the issues. They just love being terrible. So I try not to feed them. I mute them so they can just keep right on shouting into the void and I’ll never see it. It’s more satisfying than blocking, because they know they’re blocked, but they don’t know that they’re muted. I report all viable threats when they come through, and I’ve gotten plenty of accounts suspended. Sometimes my followers will take up the cause for me, and it’s fun to watch them fuck with the trolls, but I’ve lost my hard-on for that kind of thing. I’m not a shit-starter. 

TS: Can we just take a moment to giggle over the fact that these trolls, who claim to value the constitution, love to try to shame us into silence whenever we practice OUR first amendment right? Anyway, advice is don’t dwell on the negativity. Laugh whenever possible. Most of these trolls are very shy, timid people in person. But on the chance they can be a physical threat, report them immediately. 

Tara and Tiffany, what are you each working on now?

TD: Right now I’m all about spreading the word about Nasty! and hoping someone connects with my essay “Here’s to You, Mrs. Robinson” enough that they buy the rights to it. I think it would be a fun little indie film. I also have submitted a proposal for a memoir/essay collection that I’m hoping to hear back about soon. Aside from writing, my other passion is voice-over work (I was a radio DJ here in Portland for 5 years), and I’ll never give up the hope of doing a voice in an animated series or film, or a video game. 

TS: I’m currently writing and editing three of my own manuscripts, occasionally glancing over the King Shot Press future releases, and trying to keep up with a Patreon page. This month also has me incredibly busy with booking and promoting live reading events for Nasty! 

Upcoming NASTY! Events: 

March 17,  7PM, Book Show Los Angeles

March 18, Verbatim Books, San Diego

April 2,  7:30PM. Powell’s City of Books, in the Pearl. Portland

  April 13, Enjoy Co. Portland.

May 20, Browsers Book, Olympia, WA

June 6th Wooden Shoe Books, Philadelphia

June 8, Cafe Con Libros, Brooklyn, NY

June 9 Bluestockings NY, NY

June 6th Wooden Shoe Books, Philadelphia


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