The Economic Terrorism of Targeted Harassment Campaigns
Bette Dangerous was hit last night with a fear and repulsion campaign designed to silence me - good luck with that
I am not anonymous about my recovery. A 12-step program saved my life and gave me a life worth living. Mostly, it gave me emotional sobriety - an ability to pause to grace - which helps me daily as I fight fascism.
I have been doing this work for seven years, and have been the target of many online harassment campaigns - in the early days, just taking it in silence as I tried to navigate my way out. I am aware of the collective impacts - I have been harmed financially multiple times - when you are the subject of ugly brigading harassment, the fear, repulsion, and depravity is aimed to silence you and to make you so toxic that allies scatter, job opportunities evaporate.
Read Nina Jankowicz’ GoFundMe plea for a variation of what women in the fight against fascist disinformers endure, and if you can, support her in her fight to sue Fox News.
Last night, I was at a theater experiencing something I never wanted to end - a play about the founders of AA - Bill W. and Dr. Bob. For me, it was hallowed ground. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “What has been America's most nurturing contribution to the culture of this planet so far? Many would say jazz. I, who love jazz, will say this instead: Alcoholics Anonymous.”
A simple program for complex and defiant people gave me a graceful, sober way to live and has helped millions of people globally. So with my spirit replenished by theater excellence, I came home, and gave myself permission to wile away a few hours indulging in my favorite addiction - French New Wave films.
I had two of my favorite icons cued up - Paul Meurisse in a George Lautner film - The Eye of the Monocle (L’oeil du monocle). Lautner specialized in brilliant gangster comedies, and I discovered my love for the laconic actor Meurisse in my favorite Jean-Pierre Melville film, Army of Shadows, about the French Resistance.
As I watched Meurisse move deftly down alleyways with elegance and precision, I knew he had to have been a dancer. Just like when I saw Roy Scheider shirtless in Marathon Man - I knew he had to have been a boxer. Sure nuff.
So I paused the film to look up Meurisse’s back story, and that is when I saw my phone blowing up with Substack notifications.
Jim and Heidi Had Sex liked my posts. At first that made me laugh - Jim Stewartson is one of my best friends, and one of the bravest guys I know. I also love his family for how they stand by him as he fights on the virtual frontlines - a one-man army against so much evil and harms created by cheaply bought humans. He is my hero.
Then I saw that Heidi’s Mom was liking a lot of my posts. That did not make me laugh, because they used a pornographic image as an avatar. I am of a generation that managed to miss the Big Internet Ugly - I am not desensitized by the dark interwebs, because I don’t go there. I get my kicks watching actors like Paul Meurisse move elegantly through Corsica in gangster comedies, etc.
So I called HiFi, my best friend and ally in the fight, and god bless him, he answered the phone at 3 am ET. He could hear the panic in my voice and he reminded me to keep calm, and to find the settings that would turn off the ability to like and comment.
It was at that moment, I heard Timothy Snyder’s voice in my head - be calm when the unthinkable arrives. I have been training for moments like these.
I was gifted at birth with an innate ability to be grace under pressure, but had spent the day writing a very personal story for Byline Supplement about what we lose in this war - family members, an ability to feel safe in our country - and I was emotionally raw. By then, dozens of notifications were popping up by an account titled Josh Fidel is a pedophile - an account using HiFi’s real name in order to disparage him.
With HiFi and Snyder’s tutelage - I felt a calm come over me. And I began sifting through the Substack settings until I had turned off the ability to like and comment on posts, and the ability for my community members to see the display avatars of the criminal assailants who had liked their comments.
‘Misreading Troll Impacts’
I have sent Substack security multiple pleas for assistance to end the depraved harassment campaign, and as I noted to them, the attackers exploited a vulnerability in Substack’s content moderation system.
Ironically, I had a draft-post in queue titled ‘Misreading Troll Impacts’ because media always misses the bigger picture - these aren’t inconvenient ants at a picnic. This is war.
These attacks are designed to create chaos and destabilization - an overall malaise on the collective psyche. My latest attack is designed to create economic terrorism, with fear, repulsion, and depravity. All my best friends in this war - the most influential voices and minds - are subjected to online harassment campaigns.
My sorrow this morning is that my beautiful community cannot comment or like posts at the moment - I am comforted always by your kind, intelligent and supportive words. Eventually, Substack will get back to me, and we will carry on, with comments turned back on for paid members. Until then, I miss you and please standby.
Also, please note - the economic terrorism is real - I haven’t gained any new paid members since the attack began - and it is not lost on me that the attack occurred just as I hit 1,000 subscribers - a feat for a mom who launched this magazine three months ago in order to try to do good in this world and in order to remain independent so I have the freedom to do good.
I am going to need all of you to please stand by me and others who are targeted in this way. It is a sign that I and my team are doing good and influential work if attempts are being made to silence me.
I am also going to need your help building the paid membership community. If you have allies that care about democratic freedom vs. fascism, please share my work and ask them to consider supporting. Success gives me the economic power to fight back. Please note, a handful of members of this community keep my lights on during days like this with Ko-Fi tips, which is also tremendously reassuring.
I can’t do this without you. I will get the comments turned back on as soon as I am safely able to so, and I am sorry for any impacts on our community. I already heard from one member asking how to block these bastards, and I am working on it.
In the meantime, there is much real work to do. There is a roundup of my top stories of the week to report.
I am going to continue to find time for self care - I will be heading to the symphony to hear Mahler 3 by Zubin Mehta - he won’t be with us forever - after I finish my Meurisse film.
Once I was able to stop the attacks, I remembered why I grabbed my phone. It turns out I was correct, Paul Meurisse was indeed a dancer - he got his start in dance halls and cabarets, and I learned he had a two-year love affair with another one of my French muse’s, Edith Piaf, who inspired Meurisse to focus on acting rather than singing. Another gift to the world from the little sparrow.
I will now get to writing Bette’s weekly roundup.
I will leave you with these words from another muse - Ruth Ben-Ghiat - whose latest Lucid is titled - Lessons of Hawaiian Activism: The Value of Resilience. She was honored to be the 2023 Maggie and Dan Inouye Distinguished Chair of Democratic Ideals, and shared a story about a conversation she had with a community member. She wrote that the community member “became emotional when talking about the challenges of reaching people who are in the ‘disinformation tunnel’ and consumed with hate. She compared the deluge of lies and negative emotions to a tsunami, and described those fighting for social justice and democratic freedoms as opihi (the Hawaiian word for limpets), or small creatures that cling to the rocks as the water rushes in.
“It's a good analogy, since authoritarianism does deluge us with lies and threats, and it certainly tests our strength and ‘staying power.’ It can be difficult to show up day after day to protest, or doggedly work on lawsuits, legislation, voter registration, and more without knowing what the outcome of your efforts will be.”
I sent Ruth a message this morning, thanking her for her words - telling her once again, she was right on time, her words coming to my emotional rescue.
Bootstraps up, we fight on.
I am glad you are here.
Bette Dangerous is a reader-funded magazine. Thank you to all monthly, annual, and founding members. Thank you as well to all those who support my work with your generous coffee tips and who buy my ebooks.
More info about Bette Dangerous - This magazine is written by Heidi Siegmund Cuda, an Emmy-award winning investigative reporter, author, and veteran music and nightlife columnist. She is the cohost of RADICALIZED Truth Survives, an investigative show about disinformation and is part of the Byline Media team. Thank you for your support of independent investigative journalism.
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