Pillars of the community: Racism, rape culture and the superintendent

My local paper, The Daily Local, took the unusual step this Sunday of putting its lead editorial on the front page, at the top. “Coatesville Area School Board must step down,” the headline said, referring to that board’s failure to act decisively in response to the scandal roiling the school district neighboring ours. That scandal is outlined in the accompanying A1 story by Local reporters Michael Price and Kristina Scala, “A District in Crisis: CASD officials exchanged racially charged text messages; board knew.”

The abrupt departure of the Coatesville Area School District superintendent and another senior administrator came two weeks after numerous exchanges of inappropriate and racially charged text messages were discovered on their district-issued cell phones, and multiple sources have indicated that school board officials were not only aware of the exchanges, but were prepared to allow the pair to remain in their positions until the conduct prompted a criminal investigation, the Daily Local News has learned.

The Coatesville Area School Board is expected to formally vote to approve the resignations of former Superintendent Richard Como and former Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato at Tuesday’s public meeting. Como announced his “retirement” through a letter posted on the district’s website on August 29. Reports of Donato’s resignation surfaced several days later. Both came unexpectedly during the first week of the school year.

“Racially charged” is a too-restrained euphemism. The texts exchanged by Como and Donato were simply racist. And sexist. The superintendent and athletic director expressed gleeful contempt for black students, all females, Jews, Hispanics and Muslims.

You can read a transcript of some of those texts here. The Local has posted those transcripts with a warning about “strong racial language that readers may find offensive.” That warning is, again, inaccurately understated. It’s not “strong racial language,” it’s just racist language and sexist language and anti-Semitic language. And it’s not something that readers may find offensive, but something that is offensive.

Former Coatesville Area AD Jim Donato, left, and ex-Superintendent Richard Como walk the sidelines during a Coatesville football game last season. (Daily Local file photo by Tom Kelly IV)

The local firestorm over this has focused on the giggling racism exchanged by Como and Donato, and that’s understandable. But the misogyny and rape language is just as disturbing, and it’s woven throughout their “conversations.” Their standard term for female students and teachers is “piece” and they’re seething with resentment that, as white men, they’re denied the free use and abuse of women’s bodies in the way that both seem to think is their entitlement.

For Como and Donato — two of the highest-paid executives in charge of the Coatesville Area School District — women are not people. African Americans are not people. Jews are not people. Hispanics are not people. Arabs are not people. (That last one seems to have brought on their encounter with karma, as the texts were discovered by “a member of the district’s IT department,” who seems to be the same person they ridicule in their texts with the usual anti-Arab slurs.)

The Chester County DA is conducting an investigation into what, if any, criminal charges may be brought against the two officials. Criminal charges will be the least of the school district’s problems. Richard Como has been the CASD superintendent since 2005, and his texts with Donato include discussions of the hiring and firing of teachers, with the two celebrating the layoffs of black staff as “good hangings.” Every teacher, coach and administrator in the district who was laid off or denied a promotion in the past eight years now has powerful grounds for a winning lawsuit.

One of the transcripts between the superintendent and the athletic director is of the texts they exchanged while apparently watching the Miss America pageant on television. I saw dozens of articles and posts collecting and condemning the horrifically racist and sexist tweets sent during that pageant, but now I think I underestimated their meaning. I assumed these were the ravings of the ignorant and the powerless — people whose racial resentment was in part the result of their own powerlessness and economic insecurity. But Como and Donato are wealthy, educated people. (Como’s starting salary in 2005 was $155,000 a year. By 2010 that was up to $193,000.) And yet their texts expose them as miserable creatures of resentment.

This is how two wealthy, powerful, educated white men talk when they think no one else is listening. That’s not just something that you “may find offensive.” That’s something that you should find terrifying.

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  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    I’ve just read a bit about these jackasses elsewhere. The racism, sexism etc are indeed slegehammer obvious, there’s simply no way to bring it up without veering into ‘no shit Sherlock’ territory. What’s most disturbing to me is how all-pervasive their bigotries are. There’s a Babbit-like obsession with shoehorning their hatreds into any and every subject. Considering how they seem to speak of almost nothing else in ‘private’ I find it very hard to believe that they rose to local distinction without the people who allowed them to having some awareness of these attitudes. In the worst case these men rose to power because other authorities in Coatesville tended to share their bigotry, though perhaps not with the same intensity. In the best case their bigotry was known and seen as regrettable; but still minimized as ‘Boys will be boys’ when coming from within the tribe of Respectable People.

  • Persia

    Yeah, I’m sure those are selected, er, ‘highlights’ but there’s some weird single-mindedness there.

  • The_L1985

    I want to punch these sickos in the face after just one page of that nastiness. I grew up in southern AL, and I wouldn’t dare say anything so repulsively hateful. Being southern is not an excuse for them.

  • AnonaMiss

    God dammit. I want to be shocked but I can’t.

  • Persia

    It’s just skin-crawling.

  • chgo_liz

    Racism, sexism, prejudice in general from a couple of privileged guys in that age range doesn’t surprise me in the least….but the level of “communication” according to those transcripts is worse than I have seen in any teenage texting among my kids’ friends. I’m absolutely blown away that adults at the height of their careers are that incapable of writing coherent English. It’s (additional) concrete proof that their brains do not work well.

  • Kagi Soracia

    I consider myself fairly fluent in text speak and I couldn’t make head or tails of a lot of it. Holy crap. It was barely English, that’s for sure.

    From a linguist point of view, it almost reads like idioglossia. Their own private language or dialect they only use with each other because they’ve been having these kind of conversations so long that they can encrypt, abbreviate, contract or leave out a large part of it, combined with their own idiomatic constructions and expressions they’ve developed.

    Which is, probably, an even scarier thought.

  • chgo_liz

    Excellent point!

  • DCFem

    “This is how two wealthy, powerful, educated white men talk when they think no one else is listening. That’s not just something that you “may find offensive.” That’s something that you should find terrifying.”

    It would be terrifying if it were remotely surprising. I never bought into the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” theory of politics that its just misguided yokels being led around by the nose by rich hucksters. The rich hucksters believe the crap they’re selling to the alleged yokels and this is further proof of that. The systematic oppression of people of color and women could not continue without the wholehearted buy in of people in positions of power. Racism, sexism and homophobia would end by Saturday if the only people with a vested interest in keeping hate alive were poor yokels railing against government handouts while cashing their unemployment checks. They just don’t have the money or power to keep the messed up system in place.

    And when will people learn not to use public property to conduct private conversations? I’m sure these two would spew racial epithets if you mentioned Kwame Kilpatrick (former mayor of Detroit) in the same sentence as them. But they just made the same stupid mistake he made and it’s cost them their jobs.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Stupid and/or Corrupt has no color.

  • Laurent Weppe

    The rich hucksters believe the crap they’re selling to the alleged yokels and this is further proof of that

    Believe me: I’m talking as an insider here: most among the upper class do despise racist commoners. Many will, in private, talk about them like if they were badly trained pets: inherently too limited cognitively to know better, and in need of a firm hand to control them because their hatred toward the alien races could easily be canalized into hatred toward the upper-class and no one want to be beaten to death by a pack of rabid dogs.

    That does’nt mean that the “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” theory of politics is correct or that the rich are right to be scornful toward plebeans who spew racist bullshit in public: people often describe racism as a belief system, but the reality is that it is first and foremost the screwed up result of a zero sum calculus: you’re a racist poor if you think that the corrupt rich are too powerful to be dragued down from their position of privilege and that the rest of the population has no choice but to fight for the scraps, therefore you must harm your neighbours so your kin can obtain a modicum of wealth, security and confort. Since such nihilist -and let’s say it: cowardly- worldview is hard to confess, you invent an excuse: you say that your ethnic tribe is inherently more virtuous (honest, hardworking, respectfull of its elders/women/children/usw, etc…) than the other ones and from this, you’ll pretend to believe every fictional just-so story, every made up statistic about the other ones, in order to desguise your submissiveness toward the corrupt Powers That Be and your willingness to screw up the minorities because they’re weaker than you as self-righteous anger. There’s little stupidity or ignorance in racism: it’s mostly cynicism covered with lies. Or as I call it when I’m angry, “the Chewbacca Defense of the Rich Kids’ lackeys”

  • USACool

    “you’re a racist poor if you think that the corrupt rich are too powerful to be dragged down from their position of privilege and that the rest of the population has no choice but to fight for the scraps, therefore you must harm your neighbors so your kin can obtain a modicum of wealth, security and comfort.”

    Well said. Except, the irony is it has not worked for anyone but the rich. The second ironic twist is that if the ethnic groups truly did work together to improve things for themselves instead of fighting over the scraps, they’d all succeed far beyond their expectations. It’s simple math (you field a better team if you use all of the talent available).

  • Carstonio

    You’re right that bigotry can be found at all income levels. But I think you’re misreading Thomas Frank. His book was mostly about resentful folks voting against their own economic self-interest, and not because they’re ignorant or uneducated. Frank didn’t claim that the plutocrats who pander to resentment were immune to those beliefs.

  • smrnda

    Racism exists at about all income levels, along with ignorance as you can get into positions of wealth, power and influence with pretty much no credentials if you know the right people. You can read about many businesses where the educated, wealthy white people on top turned out to be just as racist as the stereotypical ‘rural hick’ and in this day of social media, you can find people spouting this stuff across the board.

    Worst, I don’t think this is uncommon behavior. Makes me wonder how many other white guys in power are doing the same, just maybe trying harder not to get caught.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    (That last one seems to have brought on their encounter with karma, as the texts were discovered by “a member of the district’s IT department,” who seems to be the same person they ridicule in their texts with the usual anti-Arab slurs.)

    I believe this is called “BUSTED!”

    Criminal charges will be the least of the school district’s problems. Richard Como has been the CASD superintendent since 2005, and his texts with Donato include discussions of the hiring and firing of teachers, with the two celebrating the layoffs of black staff as “good hangings.” Every teacher, coach and administrator in the district who was laid off or denied a promotion in the past eight years now has powerful grounds for a winning lawsuit.

    So on top of everything else, they got STUPID and then some.


  • Jeff Weskamp

    John Gotti, the late boss of the Gambino crime family, told all the members of his organization that they should “never say anything on the phone that you wouldn’t want played back to you in Court someday.” He followed his own advice. The FBI had to plant bugs in order to record his incriminating conversations. If he were still alive and in charge, he probably would have extended his advice to text messages and e-mail.

    Good thing nobody every gave this advice to the two assholes under consideration here.

  • AnonaMiss

    Of course not. That advice only makes sense for someone who’s breaking the rules. These assholes had the rules changed out from under them.

    One thing we often complain about with these jackasses is how entitled they are. But you know, as reprehensible as it is, it’s easy to understand why they feel entitled – to talk about women as pieces of ass, to use racial slurs and not face any repercussions. It’s because this behavior was modeled to them, and went unpunished, and was the way of the world. Of course they don’t deserve any consequences for their behavior! Their fathers were never punished for such behavior – nor their grandfathers, nor their great-grandfathers, nor their great-great-grandfathers…

    The remarkable thing about this story isn’t what offensively racist, sexist jackasses these guys are. The remarkable thing about this story is that they’re facing some sort of negative consequence for it. And that’s both heartening and depressing.

  • FearlessSon

    And yet, they knew the rules had changed, they knew that they would be socially censured if they spoke of these things openly. Why else would they only discuss them in a “private” medium like text messages? They were doing wrong, and yet they did not care that it was wrong, they just cared that they could get away with it.

    I can understand the backlash sometimes caused by the privileged realizing that the enfranchisement of others grants them a little less power, the panic they feel when they realize that they never meant to be the bad guy but are thrust into that position by changing social mores, but these guys are not evidence of that. They were knowing scumbags, and reveled in the fact that they could get away with it.

    I have trouble finding any sympathy for them.

  • AnonaMiss

    I didn’t mean to express sympathy, as I have none either. My intent was to celebrate the turn of the wheel.

  • FearlessSon

    Sorry, I did not mean to imply that you were. I just felt like I had to say something that appropriately displayed my disgust.

    You bring up an excellent point in your original argument though: people just cannot get away with this kind of crap anymore. The fact that we see a lot more “scandals” of this kind is not reflective of the fact that we as a society are becoming more dickish, but that we as a society are becoming less tolerant of assholes.

  • USACool

    Enjoyed your conversation with AnonaMiss. Thanks to you both.

    There’s an old story about Irish slavery in the Caribbean (back in the 17th century). There was a time when many of them were slaves like their African counterparts. Two men (one African and the other Irish) attempted a rebellion on one of the islands. Their offensive failed and the two men killed by their British masters.

    I think this is what we forget; that the battle has never really been about ethnicity and has always been about defeating the “assholes.” They use every trick in the book; from bullying to tricking us into believing that we hate each other.

    It may have taken as long as the 21st century to finally began to see the truth. And this is what truly scares the “assholes” among us: A world so different from the past that it even elects a President…of course, of African and Irish descent.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    A lot of people have no notion of morality or propriety independent of their ideas about keeping up appearances. On some level, these men “knew” that what they were saying was “true” and all reasonable people secretly agreed with them, so they believed that as long as they abided by the social contract in public, they couldn’t even comprehend why there should be a problem. Surely, they thought, everyone does that; it’s not like anyone really believes that shit about different races and genders being humans worthy of respect; we all just do that for appearances’ sake.

  • FearlessSon

    I guess the racial and gender groups which they criticized do not count as “people” in their calculation…

    Or more likely, they project their own biases onto everyone, including the disenfranchised, and see this as a case of “we have to screw them over before they screw us over.”

  • Winter

    The difference is that Gotti and his subordinates knew that what they were doing was wrong (or at least subject to punishment if discovered). It comes back to the “You only oppose the police state because you have something to hide” attitude. These guys think they’re completely right and blameless and therefore have no qualms about slinging hateful texts to each other.

    There’s probably also a layer of resentment at “political correctness” preventing them from doing it in public at the top of their lungs like they have every right to do.

  • Abby Normal

    Resenting political correctness is pretty much a sign that you’re dealing with a straight-up asshole, IMO. “Political correctness” as it exists in “PCU” or “Politically Correct Fairytales” doesn’t even exist–it’s just a phrase that racists use when they’re mad about being called out for being racists.

  • AnonaMiss

    I’ve actually been able to get this idea across to some of them by pointing out that “PC” is just another word for “polite”. It works for the intersection of assholes who are also assholish about how one must observe propriety.

  • dpolicar

    Any pointers on how to go about it? I have tried to do this for years (though I typically use “considerate” rather than “polite”) without any noticeable effect.

    Perhaps I just don’t choose my assholes properly.

  • Lori

    Maybe using polite instead of considerate is the key. Maybe the assholes you know don’t think those people warrant consideration or maybe they see consideration in this context as amounting to coddling.

  • AnonaMiss

    Yeah, I think Lori nailed it. Politeness encompasses more than just being considerate – it also includes bits of form like how you hold your fork. If you call it “considerate”, they have to display empathy. If you call it “polite”, it’s just a rule they have to follow, which short-circuits the “but I can’t/don’t want to/shouldn’t have to consider the feelings of a person who XYorZ!”

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    That sounds like you’re conflating etiquette in with verbal rules, but overall I agree. You can be “polite” regardless of your true feelings. All it takes is omitting certain words. Even better if you know a few special words and phrases you can use which cue in other people to your thoughts without actually speaking them aloud…

  • stardreamer42

    Cory Doctorow has suggested using “respecting other people” as a replacement for “political correctness” when arguing with assholes. Quote their own lines back at them with that substitution, and it really points out how stupid and assholic they’re being.

    OTOH, there’s also an element here of “you’ll probably never budge them, but you’re arguing for the minds of the onlookers”.

  • J_Enigma32

    “OTOH, there’s also an element here of “you’ll probably never budge them, but you’re arguing for the minds of the onlookers”

    This and a personal enjoyment from savaging their persons, are the only real reason why I engage trolls at all. That’s why I usually try to get them to admit their true positions (see: the volume of times I’ve gotten Libertarians into admitting that it’s okay for people to die if they have nobody to take care of them – I’ve done it at least once in these comments, but I’ve done it elsewhere, too). That and I love making fun of bullies.

  • The_L1985

    Indeed. Any time people rail against “political correctness,” I point out, “PC just means polite. So what you’re saying is that you prefer to be rude and offensive.”

  • GDwarf

    To be, perhaps, unfairly fair to the anti-PC crowd, sometimes it does go too far. It’s rare, and the uproar when it happens tends to contain it when it happens, but it is a thing. Here in Canada we have extra-judicial “Human Rights Tribunals” which are making all sorts of power grabs (trying to be allowed to hand out jail sentences, etc) and there was a big fuss a few years back when one of them tried to punish a reporter for quoting a racist text so that he could discuss it.*

    That said, yeah, someone claiming “Political Correctness has gone mad!” is, 99 times out of 100, a jerk of the first order.

    *As with all such media-circuses I’m not sure of the details, so there probably was more to it than that, but the very idea of censoring a reporter for giving commentary is skeevy.

  • Omnicrom

    I’ve seen instances of PC gone awry, but in those cases I’ve also seen a lot of Politically Correct people go out of their way to decry cases of Political Correctness that’s unjust idiocy as idiocy and unjust. The thing is that the people who complain loudest about Political Correctness in nearly every instance are people who are not interested in reducing idiocy or dealing with injustice. The one in a hundred case where PC is too far is a telling indictment against the people shouting the other 99 times.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Peter David’s website recently republished a column where he talked about Al Capp facing “political correctness” in the ’50s. Of course, then it was in the form of people writing him nasty letters asking if the Shmoo meant he was some kind of damn Commie. (No, really.) So the meaning of the term is relative to the politics of the person using it.
    It’d actually be kind of funny if somebody turned the tables on Fox News and accused them of advocating “political correctness” the next time they get angry at someone who’s pointed out the flaws in the system.

  • FearlessSon

    It’d actually be kind of funny if somebody turned the tables on Fox News and accused them of advocating “political correctness” the next time they get angry at someone who’s pointed out the flaws in the system.

    I am just going to leave this here.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino


    And I leave that here. :)

  • J_Enigma32

    This is pretty much how I’ve come to see it, too.

    And it’s funny, since they’re the first to demand that you treat their positions with kid gloves. Go in comparing embryos to clumps of cells, saying the only difference between the Republicans and the Taliban is that one is white and the other isn’t, that Republicans are only interested in keeping women as what amounts to slaves while perpetuating rape culture, and pointing out how racist our culture is, and you’ll find out who the real PC and language police people are.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    And they have indeed always had every legal right to do so in public. They just would have had to face the tyranny of disapproval is all. Never mind now.

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    No, they don’t think they’re completely right and blameless. They clearly knew they were wrong. One expressed concern about not saving the conversation so the IT guy wouldn’t find it when he got a new phone. Even more obviously, they did it in private where no one could point the finger. They did it so privately they didn’t even have to look at each other when doing it.

    That was really gross!

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    It’s not that they know they’re wrong, they just know most other people think they’re wrong. And believe me, they resent everyone for forcing them to go to such measures to conceal their natures.

  • Abby Normal

    Why am I not surprised one these dillholes was the athletic director? (For that matter, why am I not surprised that the school district decided to lay off teachers while still keeping said dillhole athletic director around?)

  • Fusina

    Time to tell my story. I graduated from high school in 1980. I took a gym class in my senior year because I liked to run around, and it gave me a break from sitting in classrooms all day.

    My MALE gym teacher, who also, probably not coincidentally, was a football coach at the school, was of the opinion that women should not take gym, because, and I quote here, “Girls with muscles are ugly.” There were seven women in the gym class. To say we were pissed is understating it severely. I say women, because we were 17/18 years old. This memory still stings–and I am still angry about it.

  • Abby Normal

    I graduated in 1995, so the sexism I dealt with in high school sports was less overt, thankfully.

    There was still, however, the notion of the football team being That Which Must Be Defended (to the detriment of everything else)–which was of course totally male-dominated with cheerleaders being the only girls worthy of attention. And we just had a crappy class-B team! It’s even worse at these football-crazy schools in the south.

    The way I see it, the whole “football or nothing” attitude attracts jack wagons like these two, and makes it that much easier for Jerry Sandusky crap to happen as well.

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    My daughter’s HS is football-crazy. In central PA. It’s the pride of the city and the year they don’t get to at least district championships everyone is down. The kids now have to pay to do extracurricular stuff… unless it’s football.

  • The_L1985

    WHAT? That’s terrible!

  • J_Enigma32

    Well, no. Why should you have to pay to attend what basically amounts to a religious service held in the name of a dialed-back blood sport?

  • Michael Pullmann

    I went to high school in Texas. Our team was one of the worst in the division, but our players still walked around like they were God’s gift, and there were plenty of suckers to treat them like it.
    My girlfriend recently got me into Friday Night Lights, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “Yes, that really happens”. (It’s a great show, though. Strong characters and performances.)

  • The_L1985

    My mom taught in rural Alabama at the time that “No Pass, No Play” was instated.

    At which point, the principal and football coach took her aside and told her that she needed to give more of the players D’s so they could continue to play. My mom responded, “I’m not giving anyone a grade that they did not earn. If they want a D, they need to earn one.”

    She quit at the end of that school year.

  • Pam

    Horrible. At my all-girl academic feminist public high school here in Australia we did manage to get a sport assistant fired for his sexism. Apparently he was wasting his time teaching us tennis because girls are useless at sport and we really should have been doing cooking and sewing classes. Not a smart thing to say to overly opinionated girls with a strongly feminist woman principal.
    Of course, he wasn’t a school employee, just someone who came in once a week to help teach us girls tennis so it was pretty easy for our principal to tell him not to come back. I can just imagine how awful it would be to have to endure a teacher like that week in, week out.

  • Fusina

    He pulled the “muscles comment pretty early in the year…and was exceedingly polite most of the rest of the year. Part of the ire we felt was because he wanted to do a unit of football, and was planning to relegate the seven of us to the sidelines to “cheer”. We suggested that we had no intention of doing that, he decided that flag football wasn’t good enough, it had to be tackle or nothing, so we didn’t do football. Too bad, because I threw a killer spiral. I also regularly beat my brother in backyard basketball–at the time I could shoot a lay-up from either side. I have mad spatial relationship skills.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    “Cheer” as in Bounce Those Boobies and Jiggle That Booty?

  • Fusina

    That would have been my guess–although since that was back when I was built much like my daughter is now, there would have been precious little bouncing and jiggling on my part. I was a late bloomer, you see.

    This incident probably has quite a lot to do with my hatred of misogyny, actually. I mean, unless the guy just wants a blow up doll to have sex with, muscle tone for women is necessary. Either that, or the guy was really into jellyfish big time…

  • We Must Dissent

    After reading an article in The Atlantic, I’m starting to think that sports should have a cap on cost per student per season, and that cost should be comprehensive. And the cap should be a lot less than what’s spent per student per period for a year.


  • RtRDH

    Multiple trigger warnings reading these text messages. My word!

  • LL

    LOL. The media and their mealy-mouthed terms; “racially charged.”

    I’m still amazed that employees of govt. entities think that their work-related communications, on equipment paid for by their employers, are private. I don’t assume that about my employer-provided equipment (a private company, not a govt.). I’ve probably sent a few emails (over 15 years) that some people might not like, but I don’t think I’ve sent anything that could get me fired or would reflect terribly on my employer. That I can recall. I certainly don’t use racial or sexist slurs to describe my coworkers, or anyone else. I may have used the term “asshole” once or twice.

    And these peoples’ messages are so poorly spelled, besides. They’re grown men (chronologically, anyway) who work(ed) for a school district. You’d think professional pride, at least, would compel them to at least check their spelling. I guess when you’re in the middle of a rowdy session of bad-mouthing everyone in the world who isn’t a white male person, you get lost in the moment and forget that you’re an educator. I shudder to think what their influence has been on their students.

    Another depressing peek behind the curtain. Can anyone seriously doubt now all the things that students of color, female employees and students and gay students have been saying about the people in charge here, if not in most other school districts? I wonder what unsavory secrets other school districts are hiding.

    And I wonder how much of this kind of crap has to be revealed before the white male people in charge finally acknowledge what we all know to be true: THEY are the problem. Not us. Them.

  • P J Evans

    You’d think professional pride, at least, would compel them to at least check their spelling.

    Most people tend to assume that it either doesn’t matter, or that the computer/phone will fix it for them. I’ve worked with college graduates who were certain they were management-caliber and who had a hard time with grammar.

  • Michael Pullmann

    I’ve worked with *management* who had a hard time with grammar.

  • Joykins

    Those texts were nearly incomprehensible except for the slurs. If I had to guess the age of the texters without context, I would have guessed about 16.

  • Joegranby

    Read about this on Gawker. No rest- the thread was full of profanity, abusive language, and the most egregious display of contempt for anyone not sharing their world view. Not in the category of these two, although just as “racially charged” does not quite define their tweets, “uncivil” does not quite define the Gawker comments (of that day or any other). I have never heard language like this in my life-the closest to it was in middle school which is what this is reminiscent of, but clearly it goes on and as society becomes more depraved I do not think the trend looks good.

  • J_Enigma32

    Ah… your last phrase is ambiguous and I’m left to wonder who you’re talking about with “language reminiscent of middle school.”

    Also, just so you have a heads up, “uncivil” is a huge red flag phrase that puts a lot of people’s hackles up. Tends to be the hallmark of a tone troll (someone who disingenuously engages with people and argues with the tone rather than the substance of their position). And you’ve got two or three dog whistle phrases hanging out in there, defined as such by their context, including “world view” and “depraved.” I refrain from making snap judgements (usually, I show up late to the troll barbeques and by that time, everyone knows they’re trolls), but you definitely want to avoid using “uncivil”.

  • Joegranby

    Naw, just a different point of view. I appreciate your “civil” tone, however. I still think the country could use more of that. At least scale back on dehumanizing the other side, but everyone is a little prickly these days. Don’t worry- I came here quite by mistake- the rest of the site may take satisfaction that they have hounded me out of their “conversation” for my transgressions.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Oh, poor you! People used words you disapprove of! Words you only think are bad because Mommy said so! What is the world coming to?!

    Get off your high horse. People using words you dislike is not a valid reason to judge them, and the fact that you do so proves that you’ll sink to some really pathetic lows to find something to feel superior about.

  • Madhabmatics

    oh man someone wasn’t happy about two racists having power over minorities?! you are right that is totally worse, Joegranby

  • de_la_Nae

    I looked at those transcripts, and…I mean what the FUCK?

  • Matri

    Just looked them over and…

    Looked like a pseudo-conversation between a couple of 14-year-olds.

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    No offence, but I was a 14 year old a long time ago, when sensitivities were much lower, and I and my friends NEVER spoke like that about people. Let’s not throw kids under the bus.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That said? I’ve had the good (mis)fortune of having interacted with a fair cross-section of Americans (over the Interwebs, thank God) in their late teens and early 20s in the 1990s and I can assure you that their favorite word was nigger this nigger that nigger nigger nigger. It got so they practically threw the equivalent of a kegger online when something in the news gave them a chance to rant about black people ruining the country.

    In every other respect they were smart, computer-savvy, in some cases practically genius brilliant with what they did. But they were white, suburban and astonishingly ignorant about the world beyond the US’s borders and even to an extent within their country’s borders.

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    Anecdotes don’t constitute data.

    … wait… erm… oh.

  • Michael Pullmann

    If one thing has kept me from playing games online, it’s the language that’s considered acceptable among online gamers. Well, that and me being a misanthrope.

  • The_L1985

    And it’s even worse if you’re female.

    Yeah, the only game I play online is Little Big Planet. The nice-person-to-douchebag ratio is much higher there. Plus I suck at FPS’s, and they tend to be the majority of games you can play online.

  • Rhubarbarian82

    I would only play online games on my 360 if I was in a party with friends. We’d usually only have one or two people on the team who we didn’t know, so it was easy to mute them if they were terrible.

    My girlfriend does what I’ve heard most women do when playing online: turns her mic off, and mutes everyone else. It’s a pretty toxic culture and I want nothing to do with it.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    It isn’t just online gamers. Back in the Seventies when D&D was the province of geeky white boys, you heard a LOT of horror stories of female gamers trickling into the NO GURLZ ALLOWED gaming groups. Including setting up and forcing no-escape Gang Rape scenarios for the female gamers’ characters. With the consent (and participation-by-character) of the other gamers in the otherwise all-male group.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    This must be where F.A.T.A.L. got its fanbase.

    (If you’ve never heard of it, I don’t recommend googling it. It’s a tabletop game with an emphasis on being as offensive as humanly possible.)

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Being misanthropic is no barrier to playing PVP games. I think it helps.
    OTOH, yeah, the language. PVP brings all the trash-talking 12 year olds to the door… (or so they sound like).

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    If I’d wanted to interact with other human beings, I wouldn’t have gotten into video games.

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    The problem with the original statement is not that there aren’t 14-year-olds, perhaps many 14-year-olds, who think and talk like that. But that the poster identified the conversation as being like that of 14-year-olds.

    If you change the post to read

    “Looked like a pseudo-conversation between a couple of Koreans.”

    You’d see the problem immediately.

    But instead, being a teenager is an acceptable term of derogation. Which is unacceptable regardless of the statistical prevalence of such attitudes among the teenage population.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Except that the set of people who are 14, have been 14, or will be 14 covers the vast majority of the human race, and also that there is hardly anyone who is a 14-year-old who will not some day cease to be a 14-year-old.

    This is not true of Koreans.

    I point this out because claiming that insulting teenagers is OMG JUST THE SAME as racial slurs makes you sound like a 14-year-old who is an asshole.

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com/ Ian

    Bigots aways find ways that their particular bigotry is different, defensible, and that people who point it out are unreasonable. Nobody thinks of themselves as a bigot. I’m sure the people in the conversation cited above don’t think of themselves as bigots either.

    If there’s one thing that you can *guarantee* is that if you point out agism, ableism, sexism, racism, homophobia whatever kind of blanket derogation you like, you’ll always get three things in response: special pleading, personal insults, and a doubling down on the bigotry.

    Its also remarkable how often bigots think that calling you a member of the group they are phobic of is an insult: I’ve been called a queer, a girl and a nigger before.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Um. That’s flirting with agism, doncha think? I mean, I was 14 once, and I and my peers were neither more nor less prone to racism/sexism than the rest of society.

    EDIT: What a minute. It just occurred to me that you could have been referring to the lack of spelling/grammar in the texts. If so, I apologize for the accusation.

  • Abby Normal

    I remember reaching a certainage–younger than 14–when my friendsand I first picked up swearing and we swore about every other word (out of adult earshot, of course) because it made you feel like such a badass. (That’swhy the South Park kids don’t sound all that unrealistic to me.) That’s kind of what these guys sound like–all swagger and trying to look cool.

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Yeah, I agree that’s entirely in keeping with the behavior of 14 year olds. My friends cussed a lot too.

  • Fusina

    Just heard on the news today that the GOP once again tried to defund the ACA. Which is how I got into a discussion about the ACA in which I was told that it would put Mom and Pop businesses out of business, that it would cause people to not have health insurance, that it was criminal to “force” people to buy health insurance, and anyway it is wrong to make us hardworking citizens help those lazy bastards who sit on their asses all day, and that the ACA is for the young people and that we should be working harder to fund Medicare, that people who don’t have a job are just lazy, and that if only Reagan would come back from the grave to be our fearless leader again all would be well. After I pointed out a few facts, I was told that it was useless to argue with a lib anyway, as it didn’t do any good since our minds were closed.

    Yeah, like the conservatives are so open-minded.

    Okay, feeling a little better now. Thanks for putting up with my venting.

  • J_Enigma32

    I’ve been arguing with people a lot lately who think they can “opt out of” Obamacare insurance.

    That’s right. They see Obamacare as an insurance that they have to purchase, and they’re damn determined not to. They also labor intensely under the delusion it’s a form of socialized medicine. I had one lady tell me that it was going to lead to the world being taken over by rich bankers since nobody would be able to be healthy or something, and there would be death panels (that was the first time I’ve ever heard someone use that argument with genuine belief in their position). I had to alert her to the fact that Obamacare would probably save her life after the tinfoil hat cut off circulation to her head.

    I wish Obamacare was a single-payer system. I wish the United States was like the rest of the civilized world. But it’s not. I benefited from it, sure (hey, did you know ADHD is considered a “preexisting condition?” I didn’t either, but it was enough to keep you from getting health insurance), and it instituted a lot of much needed reforms to the Privatized Insurance market, but it missed the point: Insurance should not be privatized at all

  • Fusina

    Oh I totally agree, and with friends in GB and cousins in Canada, I’ve had a pretty good look at what it is and is not. During the conversation, I was informed that there was a cousin in Canada whose daughter needed life saving surgery, and that she waited until she was down to 80 pounds before they finally got her into surgery–Not sure of the age of the daughter, that was not giving in the convo, or the precise amount of time between the need for and the going to surgery–also not given me, just how frantic the Mom was about how long it took. Unfortunately, this could have been much less time than was indicated–when your child is not well, minutes seem like hours and your time sense is all out of whack. I also don’t have a good frame of reference regarding children, as I have a petite daughter–she didn’t break 100 pounds until after her 18th birthday, so I have no idea of what the age of the child would have been.

    I do know that a friend in England has a daughter who ran across a road–or tried, anyway, and got hit by a car. She also got the medical help she needed, including physical therapy to help her walk again. I was in GB for a work project and cut my knee on something, and was told that if it festered, I could just go to hospital and it would be taken care of, for free. This flabbergasted me, as I didn’t live in GB, wasn’t a citizen, didn’t pay taxes there, etc…

  • Fusina

    Oh, and the Husband saw a shirt that I totally want, ADHD (in lettering like the AC-DC logo) under it the phrase “Back in…Hey look, a squirrel”. I have it, my daughter has it but got a lot of help and it is now under control–lots of coping strategies, if you see what I mean. But the shirt is awesome.

  • The_L1985

    “Attention disofficer order, I mean attention deficit disorder…what were we doing? HI!”

  • Fusina

    My daughter showed me the shirt that says, “I have CDO. It’s like OCD, but now the letters are in the right order.”

  • cminus

    As they should be!

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    Just got an email from my congressperson. I’m sad to say it was with pride that he said he was doing his best to delay, defund, and (some other negative adjective I don’t remember) Obamacare until it could be repealed.

    I very politely explained in my reply how happy all the nurses at the local hospital were when it got passed originally. They were looking forward to the patients who wouldn’t be as afraid to come in when they needed help.

    Got a nice form letter back saying my interest was appreciated.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Reminds me of the letter I wrote to a Canadian Senator expressing my dismay at his reliance on a Fox News outlet for his “proof” that a transgender rights bill would mean omgpedos would stalk bathrooms and claim they were transgendered to get away with it.

    Any intelligent ten year old kid would just roll his or her eyes at the absurdity of that crap and it’s an embarrassment to the Canadian Senate that people like that asshat are appointed to the job.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Well, now you know how to vote next November.

  • J_Enigma32

    I just had a mental image of the Hatter and the Hare cramming the Doormouse into the teapot.

    It truly is a Mad Tea-Party, don’t you agree?

  • http://algol.wordpress.com/ SororAyin

    Oh crud, insurance and all that preexisting conditions crap. If Obamacare did nothing else, stopping the practice of rejecting people with preexisting conditions would be enough to make it a worthy policy in my book.

    BTW: Something is wrong with my health (it’s not life-threatening or anything, so don’t worry), and I can’t pin it down. I have been having strange symptoms for a couple of years, and don’t know what it could be. I am uninsured, and it is only because of Obamacare that I dare seek out doctors (there’s a low-cost clinic nearby, so I can afford them) in hopes of getting a diagnosis. Without Obamacare, I’d be afraid of getting tagged with a preexisting condition that would make it impossible to ever get insurance.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    :( I’m sorry to hear that! I hope you can get treated soon!

  • chgo_liz

    One common medical issue for women which results in years of “strange symptoms” that don’t make sense is thyroid dysfunction. I’d recommend that when the clinic takes blood for a CBC, ask them to do a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test as well.

    Good luck!

  • P J Evans

    Calling liberals ‘close-minded’ is a form of projection.

  • Fusina

    In retrospect, I think it was her way of saying, “I’ve lost the argument and now the only thing to do is attack the person who has pointed out to me where I am ignorant.”

  • P J Evans

    That too. It’s telling that they think it’s a winning argument.

  • FearlessSon

    It is also a common technique for cranks and quacks. Calling someone else “close minded” for not believing in, say, perpetual motion, psychic phenomena, or the moon landing being a hoax.

    Funny how they will be quick to call someone who does not adopt their pet theories closed-minded, yet when you try to explain why those theories are wrong they do not want to hear about it.

  • j_bird

    It’s especially funny since the accusation happened after Fusina quoted *facts*. Don’t let your facts clutter up my beautiful, open mind!

  • FearlessSon

    I hear comments like this from commentators on this board all the time, about how someone or another engaged in a pointless argument about something and they were clearly living in a bubble from which they had no desire to escape.

    I do not really get that. Sure, I live with a Republican (a former one in any case, still conservative but he no longer feels comfortable with the party) and we sometimes disagree and argue (relatively calmly) when political topics come up, but I never seem to get in these random arguments with people who are less looking to debate and more looking for someone else to prop up their own anger.

    I am not sure if I feel more disappointed or relieved that this is the case.

  • The_L1985

    My favorite “Why I don’t vote for Party X” story is that of a close friend of my fiance’s (who is rapidly becoming a good friend of mine, too): “20 years ago, I voted Republican. Now, I vote Democrat. My views haven’t changed at all–the GOP has just moved.”

    My least-favorite is my father. See, he voted for Jimmy Carter, and then stagflation happened, so clearly he should never vote Democrat again, ever. Never mind that the GOP party line has changed dramatically, for the worse, since then; he will vote Republican, and defend his choices, until the cows come home.

  • Kenneth Raymond

    That first bit reminds me of a line from Robert Anton Wilson: “It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.” As far as I can tell, Wilson elucidated the principle behind the Overton window well before Overton really codified it (Wilson wrote that line in 1980 and Overton came up with his idea in the mid-90s, though it wasn’t named after him until after his death in 2003), but was perhaps overly optimistic about it…

  • Fusina

    I like to discuss. I will discuss things into the ground. But start putting lies on the table and I get nasty in a hurry. Use facts, not fiction. To this end, I have realized some stuff.

    I will now only call it the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Not Obamacare, but if they call it that, I will point out that it was Romneycare first.

    It is not forcing people to buy health insurance. It is, however, forcing insurance companies to insure people they previously would not touch.

    There is no one undeserving of health care.

  • dpolicar

    When I want to disengage from that sort of discussion of the ACA, I usually explain that:

    1) After my 2008 stroke I was effectively locked into my current employer, since changing employers might well require changing insurance providers, and my stroke was a pre-existing condition that providers could legally use to deny me coverage.

    2) The ACA makes this substantially less the case, thereby increasing my freedom to choose my own employer or going into business on my own. Right now, the ACA is the only law with substantial support that has this effect.

    3) I support entrepreneurship and the freedom of individual employees to seek better jobs. So until a better law comes along, I support the ACA.

    The sorts of people who oppose “Obamacare” generally aren’t interested in any of that stuff, and they certainly don’t want to be painted as anti-entrepreneurship. So they try to reframe the discussion, and if I don’t allow that they go argue with someone else.

    WRT “Obamacare” vs “Romneycare”… I expect that as the U.S. gets used to the ACA and decides it’s actually a good thing, the GOP will regret having rhetorically tied it so firmly to Obama and start to rebrand it as “Romneycare.”

    In that vein, one of my favorite debate moments was when Romney made a whole
    production of apologizing for calling the ACA “Obamacare” and Obama
    grinned and said “No problem, I like ‘Obamacare’!”
    Knowing Romney’s history with similar programs, I was giggling for the
    next several minutes.

  • Fusina

    I have a sister in Massachusetts. She loves Romneycare. I’d love to be a fly on the wall if my ultra conservative parents start a discussion on the ACA with her–or possibly not. My Mum is one who is pissed at Medicare because they don’t cover 100% of her medical bills…but opposes the ACA because that wouldn’t be fair to her.

    Don’t ask–I get along a lot better if I steer the convo into non offensive areas. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of those. Even the weather recently became off limits.

  • dpolicar

    Oh, I don’t need to ask… I’ve mentioned here from time to time my political conversations with my own mom; I know what that’s like. (The most recent significant one being where I finally explained to her that she was of course free to vote for whoever she wanted, but when she votes for the guy who wants to make my family against the law rather than the guy who wants to make my family legal, I take that personally.)

  • Fusina

    I started anti-gay–that was how I was raised. Only then, I met gay people, hung out with them, made friends with them…How can I be against something that is so not my business–or anyone else’s either. I’ve heard the arguments regarding pedophilia–but no one ever tries to call hetero sex evil because of that, and I don’t believe that pedophiles are necessarily gay. Warped, twisted and sick, but I’ve not met any gays who were that. Fashion oriented, and in my case, knew where to get larger size cute shoes, yes. I wear size 10 USA shoes. Cross dressing males were my salvation when it came to cute shoes.

    I do hope the above made sense.

    So I make a rainbow prayer bead set–I hang various things from them, usually involving a rainbow of gemstones, sometimes crosses, or circles, specifically because of that. If you would like one to hang from your rear-view mirror–or even to wear, I give them away, so let me know–if you want to contribute something to a good cause to pay for it, fine. It is just my way of paying back good for all the evil that has been done.

  • dpolicar

    Thanks for the offer of the bead set. I’ll pass, but I appreciate the thought.

    When I was a kid, I thought gay sex was disgusting.
    Of course, I thought straight sex was disgusting, too.
    Also, I thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea.
    Fortunately for all of us, we are not bound to the limited perspectives of our youth.

    WRT pedophiles and gay people, there’s a few different things worth noting.

    Most importantly, from my perspective, is that groups and individuals are different. This isn’t a difficult concept, really… most people are pretty clear that even though the overwhelming majority of pedophiles and sexual abusers of children (different groups!) are male, it doesn’t follow that men are either pedophiles or sexual abusers of children… but some people have trouble treating (for example) “gay” the way they treat “male.”

    Often this is just because they don’t know many gay people. As they get to know more gay people, “gay” often stops feeling so relevant.

    Sometimes the causes are more tenacious than that.

    That aside, I’m also reminded of a quote from some years back which I can’t find now, to the effect that if someone is sexually oriented towards goats, it’s mostly just a mistake to ask “well, yes, but are they male goats or female goats?” The answer to that question doesn’t really help you decide what to do next… what’s important is that they are attracted to goats.

    Similarly, what’s important in this context about pedophiles is that they’re attracted to children… the sex or gender of the children is not especially important, and a classification system that treats those as important questions is going to distort reality in important ways.

  • Fusina

    Ah. When I was a child, I was warned against homosexuals because all of them were (and the sound trak here was the DUN dun DUN of mysteries being revealed) pedophiles. I got to know them, and it wasn’t true of any of the gays I hung out with–not many that I was aware of, this was well before people were coming out in droves. Finding that one thing told me wasn’t true led me to investigate. And I decided that not only is it not my business what consenting adults get up to in private, mostly I don’t want to know ;-)

    And yeah, kids and sex–most of them are very much of the “Yuck, I’m never doing that” camp. And I like your goats analogy–good un. And I have to admit that it doesn’t seem to matter what gender a pedophile is looking for, until puberty most kid bodies look very similar, so it would seem to me to be a non-specific gender attraction. Or something. And a very bad thing. When I was a child I was sexually abused by a neighbor, so I know whereof I speak.

  • dpolicar

    I’m sorry that happened to you… no child should ever have to suffer through that. Really, no person should.

    And yeah, I’m pretty sure my dad was of the “all gay people are pedophiles” school as well, though we never discussed that explicitly. (He died before I came out to my family.)

    And go you for taking the evidence of your own experience seriously in the face of contrary assertions by authority. It’s rarer than you might think.

  • Fusina

    I can’t take full credit for that. I was outcast, and therefore gravitated to those who were also outcast.

    In good news I have been invited to attend a wedding, a guy I dated very briefly in high school, we were friends before and after–he is now out and getting married. So I am making a couple of the bead sets as a wedding present–along with a gift certificate to a gaming shop as he is also a gamer.

  • The_L1985

    “Also, I thought digital watches were a pretty neat idea.”


  • Caroline Dye Chapel

    I would absolutely love a rainbow prayer bead set. Do you make them in any particular format? I’m partial to the Anglican “four weeks” style, myself, but I’ll take them as you prefer to make them.

  • Fusina

    As a matter of fact, they are the Anglican style–Would you prefer jade or crystals, and cross or other?

    email your address to fusina at verizon dot net.

  • Caroline Dye Chapel

    Done. check your email :)

  • FearlessSon

    Something that I have noticed about people who oppose the ACA is that they also tend to oppose things like unions and minimum wage. Basically anything which gives business owners less leverage over their employees.

    In part, I think that this is because some of them believe in the dream that they would one day too be entrepreneurial business owners, but I think that among some of the them it is just an authoritarian thing, they want other people to be subject to the same authorities and rules that they voluntarily submit to; the surf hating the freed man so to speak.

  • dpolicar


    I usually attribute this to a general tendency to identify psychologically with the perceived-as-powerful, which I can understand. But of course there’s a lot of different stuff going on.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    And once upon a time, it was almost Nixoncare too. If our healthcare system is the Greatest In the World, you’d think the president who signed it into law could be trusted to improve on it, eh? (Try not to drown in the layers of irony, sarcasm and fail.)

  • Kubricks_Rube

    My rule-of-thumb for deciding if discussion is worth it or not is whether there’s a reasonable starting point. For example, a semi-common topic at family events is Obama’s policies, attitudes toward and relationship with Israel. I have no problem disagreeing on whether Obama is good or bad for Israel, but I have no interest in debating whether Obama is purposely bad for Israel and/or anti-Semitic because of debunked urban legend X, Y or Z.

    ETA: In the example I’m using, debunking X, Y or Z just shifts the conversation to Jeremiah Wright.

  • chgo_liz

    One of the things that drives me crazy on this subject is that our current reliance on private insurance is detrimental to small entrepreneurial companies. I predict that many more small businesses will be created after the ACA is in full effect….because the founder(s) can finally afford to take the risk, and their job offers can be more competitive to attract good employees. Right now it’s too much of a gamble to quit a job at a medium-to-large corporation (which provides health insurance, unlike most small companies).

    In other words, the Republican party is antagonistic to a significant percentage of U.S. businesses. The party reserves all its love and support for industry leaders instead.

  • Fusina

    The three points I listed above are now my arguing positions–if I ever get sucked into another one. The one that I like the best of the three is the one that I hear the most–eg, that people are being “forced” to buy insurance. Yes, yes they are…at what I understand are affordable rates for them, and discounted for people who are at or below poverty level…or, and this is more to the point, insurance companies are being compelled to cover everyone. As someone with major depression and a lot of other mental health issues, I am very glad about this, as it means if something happens and I have to get my own insurance, I have a good chance of getting some. Either that, or I move to Canada or Great Britain. So God save the Queen, eh?

  • BaseDeltaZero

    It’s… it’s just like a random torrent of offensive words. It doesn’t even make sense, yet it is unpleasant to read.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Required watching:

    * The Rainmaker (also read the book)

    * John Q

    If you want to understand the charlie foxtrot that is US health insurance those two are a fine place to start.

  • themunck

    I admit, I just started with Michael Moore’s “Sicko”, and then read the anecdotes. That was enough for me.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “Sicko” is kind of the icing on the cake.

  • noyatin

    The larger lesson, for me, is that without a vigilant local newspaper this might have been swept under the rug.

  • LoneWolf343

    What if I just find it infuriating?