How an Unimaginably Nasty Online Comment Haunted Me for 13 Years
I am very, very easy to Google.
On one hand, this is great for the ego; because of my unusual name, I’m the only me on Earth! But there’s a downside, too, which is quite plainly that I’m very, very easy to Google.
I often envy the anonymity of the commonplace name. When Apple executive Tim Cook was elevated to CEO, my college pal with the same name receded into the vanishing point of the internet. Lucky bastard.
For people like me, a semi-annual check of the results of a Google search of my name is a prudent, if not necessary, task. Some database glitch could attach “Cheryl Botchick” to a story worthy of @_FloridaMan, and there it would be for all my colleagues, clients and potential employers to see. Best to head these things off at the pass.
Having spent the ‘90s as a writer for a popular music magazine, there’s generally quite a bit to go through: reposts of features, one-on-one interviews, album reviews, music industry mentions and the like. It’s a housekeeping chore to be sure, but tinged with a bit of nostalgic fun.
With one very notable exception.
In spring of 2000, I wrote a rave review of Eminem’s then-new album, The Marshall Mathers LP. I still stand by it. It’s the greatest album of his career and I’m hardly alone in that opinion. In a year-end round-up, however, a Chicago-based blog published a piece on the “most overrated” albums of the year — your basic “these music writers are all ‘slaves to the Man’ song and dance — written by a very self-satisfied guy lamely picking and poking at pull quotes.
Except for the part right in the middle of the page where he went into a homicidal rage about my Eminem review. Seems this particular young white male was very concerned about misogyny, homophobia and violence in hip-hop lyrics. So much so that he wondered aloud if I would give such lyrics a pass if he himself were to write a song about — and I’ll paraphrase here because the content is truly disturbing — “gutting [me] wide open” in a sexual mutilation murder.
Think I’m kidding? It’s worse than you can imagine. This guy specifically threatens to gore me under the guise of his own theoretical lyrics. He repeatedly taunts me by name and describes the act It’s only about three sentences long, but it’s an astounding lapse. Oh, and he ends it by instructing me to “wake up, you fucking moron.” Sure, buddy. Whatever.
When I first read this in 2001, I was 28. I rolled my eyes and snorted. “Oh, Big Man certainly set me straight! I need to be corrected about misogyny!” Don’t get me wrong — it was alarming and bewildering — but who the hell was this loser anyway? I really couldn’t give a shit.
By last month, at 41 years old, I’d read it probably 30 times in 13 years of regular Google checks.
And there it always was, forever.
In fact, as older material would fall away, this mention would notch higher up in my search results. I’d quickly scan a page and it would pop out. “Oh, there’s that one by the guy who wants to carve me up,” I’d think, and feel a familiar, heavy twinge of embarrassment.
Sometimes I’d pause to wonder if this guy wasn’t unhinged for real, the content was so horrible. Should I try and let someone know? What if he’s just a run-of-the-mill jerk? What if he’s something in-between and finds out I reported it and looks me up? He’s probably just some loser alphabetizing his vinyl collection somewhere. Or maybe not? I suppose he technically has the right to write anything he wants. Or is that a criminal threat per the law? Did he insulate himself by saying “if I wrote a song about”?
And WHY did I just spend ANOTHER two or three minutes of my life thinking about this AGAIN?
Then last week, writer Amanda Hess spelled it out for me in Pacific Standard. “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” indeed. She nailed it. I felt a newly refreshed fury crawl up my spine and stop cold in my jaw.
Who does this guy (and his editor!) think he is to use that language in the same breath as my name? And now I’ve had to look at it for 13 goddamned years to boot. He took my name and sullied it with his deranged talk, and I had no recourse.
By the way, have you tried Googling it yet? Haven’t found it, have you? Because it’s gone.
On Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 5:24 PM, Cheryl Botchick wrote:
I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but after many years, I feel compelled to address an issue I have with a post on your site, [redacted].
For brevity’s sake, let me draw you to the portion of the post by your writer in response to a positive review I wrote about Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP: [Redacted]
Why do I even remember this? It’s because every time I Google my rather unusual name I have to see this post.
For now, I will not belabor the point. It’s my hope that you are unaware that this content lives on the web, and upon discovering it now you will honor my request that this be taken down immediately and scrubbed from your servers.
I got a quick reply:
“Hey Cheryl. Wow i [sic] didn’t even know that this page existed anymore. I am so sorry for this. We will take down your review. [Redacted], can you please delete the section which quotes Cheryl?”
Did I just send this guy an email quoting a sexual mutilation fantasy on his website and he replied thinking I didn’t want my album review quoted?
Let’s try again, shall we?
On Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 6:19 PM, Cheryl Botchick wrote:
I greatly appreciate your both your response and your promptness.
I’d like to request quite specifically that your writer’s violent paragraph be removed. I don’t care if you quote my review — I stand by my opinion. It’s the writer’s comments about me that need to be deleted. If you feel the piece makes more sense if you strike my review as well, feel free.”
Many hours later, the reply: “Ohh. i [sic] am sorry i [sic] didn’t read it thoroughly. we [sic] will delete the post.”
Yeah, you didn’t read it thoroughly. How about I send it to your mother, wife, sister, daughter and other female loved ones as well? Maybe they can help you with that careful reading.
Still waiting for a proper apology – or any apology – for the content itself.
But it’s gone. I win.
Editor’s Note: Why So Sensitive? | Tue Night
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