When Racism and Sexism Are Online Terror: The Attacks on Leslie Jones

When Ghostbusters was announced as being rebooted with an all-female team, a certain segment of the population was not happy.  It didn’t matter that Kristen WiigMelissa McCarthyKate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones were (and are) all well-vetted comedic talents.  The angry complaints of some fanboys starting piling on immediately.

This giant reaction is a well-documented thing – and its size isn’t being exaggerated. It started when the reboot was announced, continued with the release of the first photo, and ramped up even more with the first trailer.  The trailer quickly broke the record for having the most dislikes of any trailer on YouTube.  On top of this, even before the film was released it was being given one-star ratings on IMBD.  The final straw? When the film was released and got decent reviews there was  a concentrated effort started on Reddit to create doubt about the reviews themselves!  (Ghostbusters currently sits at 73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Understand that this isn’t all fanboys.  Nor is it about you should be thrilled about reboots.  Some people don’t like them regardless.  They will hate 1998 version of The Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan simply because it’s not the original 1961 version with Hayley Mills.  There is room for that kind of discussion.

It’s hard to claim the above as the motive for much of the hatred though.  When you’re a person who prior to the announcement was clamoring for a continuation of the Ghostbusters franchise it makes that argument difficult.  This is especially true when you’re even an original cast member for saying the film is decent.  Fans were slamming Dan Aykroyd for saying the film is good, despite him also pointing out its success would help get that continuation made.

However, this isn’t an article about how misogynist internet trolls reacted to Ghostbusters 2016.  Nor is it about the merits and/or failures of the actual film. (For that, you can read my review.) What struck me is the way these same trolls have reacted – and not reacted – to the stars of the film.

Racism Trumps Sexism : The Attacks on Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones has been viciously targeted online by the Ghostbusters 2016 haters.  It started last month when Jones was hit with a barrage of sexist and racist tweets on Twitter that had her temporarily shut down her account.  Today The Hollywood Reporter broke the story that someone hacked her website and posted  personal information: her driver’s license and passport, as well as nude pictures.

Of the four actresses in the film, McKinnon and Wiig are not on social media.  However both McCarthy and Jones are. McCarthy uses it sparingly, but she’s on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  She also has a website.  Yet, only Jones has been singled out for online attacks.

I’m glad that McCarthy isn’t being subjected to this kind of thing.  Sadly though it also highlights the ugly hierarchy that runs in the thinking of those who engage in this kind of thing.  Sexism is about all women, but when you throw a different race into the mix it’s clear that being a white woman carries some privileges with this group.  These people were angry at the movie being made – but directed their online anger at the single black woman in it.

Where is This All Coming From?

There’s always been a certain level of trolling and bullying done online.  However, over the last few years it’s become more vicious and focused – especially when it comes to women.  What is going on?

Back when the announcement of the all-female Ghostbusters was announced, Donald Trump was one of those public faces decrying how wrong it was.  Yes, the same advocate of building walls to keep out the Mexicans and calling them rapists had to weigh in on Ghostbusters.  Trump certainly isn’t the start of this, nor is directly involved with the Leslie Jones attacks.  What he has done is emboldened a certain segment of the population in their hate-filled xenophobic attacks.

For instance, Variety reported that the original harassment of Jones on twitter resulted in the permanent ban of  Milo Yiannopoulos.  He’s a columnist from the conservative website Breitbart.com charged with inciting the twitter attack on Jones.  Apparently it wasn’t the first time for him doing this kind of thing.


Yiannopoulos had long been credited with inciting mob-like behavior among his followers, and frequently picked on liberals, women and people of color. He became a champion of the so-called GamerGate movement, and was temporarily banned from Twitter before. At one point, he had tweeted that one of his victims “deserves to be harassed.”

Back in 2014 GamerGate was a tempest in a teapot.  Unless you were into gaming or geek culture you knew little about that vicious misogynistic moment.  It occurred within the gaming community and became mainstream news after the fact.  Two years later, that group’s mindset has broadened its scope to things like mainstream movies – and politics.

I mention politics because this online hate-mongering movement isn’t about Republicans or Democrats.  A segment of Bernie Sanders supporters, the so-called “Bernie Bros” – employed similar tactics.   Again, the focus is on verbally harassing women in social media, spamming them with porn, threatening physical violence and gaining private information and making it public.   It’s become as standard as the KKK burning crosses on people’s front lawns – and just as anonymous.

The Wrap Up

There is some good news in this Leslie Jones situation.  It’s in how the media is dealing with it.  Hopefully we have moved beyond 2014 – at least in terms of celebrities.

Remember the celebrity nude photo hacking scandal in 2014?  Those photos were released by someone via 4Chan – and the FBI stepped in to investigate.  Many entertainment sites  initially deemed it fine to publish the photos, or at least link to them.  2014 was also the year the Sony hack occurred.

The Sony hack was investigated by the FBI – and by Homeland security.  It was attributed to the North Korean government. Yet, everyone in the media deemed it fine to release the personal emails of major celebrities.  The hacking was treated as a legitimate source of information.

In the above cases the fact that criminal behavior led to the information was treated as irrelevant.  Like looters after a riot the media went in and took whatever they wanted and published it.  That isn’t what’s happened in this case.  While the reports have said what was hacked, the actual information and photos haven’t been.

Why Homeland Security is Good News

Furthermore, the government is taking this seriously.  Unlike the 2014 incidents, Leslie Jones is a singular person.  Yet, this morning the Department of Homeland Security said it’s investing the hacking of her website.  Hacking is illegal regardless, but this pattern of hacking is starting to be seen in the vein of cyber terrorism.

The Jones attack is likely an individual acting alone, but so are many ISIL physical attacks.  Those are encouraged and inspired by a movement of intolerance and hatred of those refusing to bow to a bastardized version of Islam.  Although I wouldn’t equate the murdering of people to the damage of cyber terrorism, the template is similar.

What happened to Leslie Jones fits into the actions of a U.S. based movement of intolerance and hatred towards women and people of color.  The attacks are designed to create an atmosphere of fear by those in disagreement with a set of beliefs or not part of a certain race.  Having Homeland Security looking into the Leslie Jones attack suggests that this movement is now seen as a real threat.  As these kinds of things are taken more seriously hopefully we will start to see it become less effective in hurting its targets and thus become a less-used weapon.


Start a Discussion

Main Heading Goes Here
Sub Heading Goes Here
No, thank you. I do not want.
100% secure your website.