OPINION: Charity And Bullying Can’t Go Hand In Hand

As reported by the Independent earlier today, the producers of “Love is Blind: Claremont,” an online dating show run and participated in by students, came out yesterday with a number of tweets and Instagram story posts calling for “heiresses/heirs” to donate “substantial sums” to 5C mutual aid programs, like Occupy Pomona. If this was not done within five days of the announcement, ran the tweet, these supposed “heirs and heiresses” would be “revealed/doxed on love is blind Claremont.” This first tweet was followed up with a second, which stated that “[the producers of the show] will be launching a Google Form in the next couple days for all the heirs and heiresses, and their whistleblowers, to submit the receipts of (of the heirs and/or donations).” This tweet claimed that the list “will only be seen by the production team,” but given the earlier threat of doxxing and exposure on the show, this caveat can be safely discounted.

This policy of blackmail has begun to have its desired effect. According to an Instagram story post by the “Love is Blind: Claremont” production team, one “heiress” has donated $10,000 to Occupy Pomona. The donation came an hour after their “doxing threat” was posted.

Make no mistake; there’s nothing wrong with donating to worthy causes like Occupy Pomona. I think I speak for the entirety of the Independent’s editorial board when I say that the work Occupy Pomona and other 5C mutual aid programs have done, and are continuing to do, is enormously helpful to many disadvantaged students at Pomona. If someone feels morally compelled to donate $10,000 to one of these groups, I applaud them for their generosity. But I don’t believe that’s been the case here.

What I see in these tweets by “Love is Blind: Claremont,” and in the support these tweets receive in the 5C Twitter community, is naked blackmail. Other 5C student organizations, the Independent among them, have posted in support of Occupy Pomona. But none, so far as I know, have threatened online harassment against those who fail to act as they suggest. The producers of “Love is Blind” have proudly referred to their posts as what they are: threats. They want to humiliate those who fail to adhere to their standards by placing themselves in full control of the narrative. Even if an heir or heiress were to donate to one of these 5C mutual aid programs, anonymity would no longer be an option. If one doesn’t send receipts directly to the producers of this widely-viewed show, one is at risk of being attacked in front of hundreds of fellow students.

There are several things wrong with this. Most obviously, while Occupy Pomona and other student groups like it are wonderful organizations that do incredible things for students, they are not the only worthy causes to which people might want to donate. Students might want to donate to COVID-19 relief efforts in other areas, political campaigns, or environmental movements. Despite what many in the Claremont Twitter sphere seem to think, these supposed “heirs and heiresses” aren’t necessarily made of money. A donation to a different cause might render them incapable of donating to Occupy Pomona. That’s perfectly fine. If people choose to spend their potentially limited resources on causes they consider more important, that’s their choice. Who are the producers of this show to declare themselves the sole arbiters of which causes deserve financial support?

That brings me to my second point. Coming from a wealthy family doesn’t mean one has access to that family’s money. Those threatening “heirs and heiresses” with online harassment seem to have forgotten a crucial component of the definition of the word “heir.” Generally speaking, they don’t have access to their family’s money until they inherit it. That’s not always the case; I’m not denying that there are exceptions to this rule. But to harass people for failing to donate money over which they have absolutely no control is staggeringly unfair.

It’s clear, however, that “fairness” isn’t something the producers of “Love is Blind: Claremont” particularly care for. Their threat that they’ll compile a Google Form where any “whistleblower” can out a recalcitrant heir or heiress is in no way conducive to true fairness. The people who might potentially be outed in that fashion would have no opportunity to defend themselves. Instead, they’d presumably wake up one morning and open their social media accounts to find themselves publicly attacked by their angry peers with no knowledge of how this happened or who stabbed them in the back. 5C students have done this before; in the recent grading debacle, students claimed to be compiling a similar list of those who disagreed with the proposed universal grading policies. 

These modern proscription lists are in no way fair; they’re the tools of cowards, specifically designed to allow those who lack the stomach for frank discussion to attack people anonymously, through a third party, for no better reason than that they might have money. They block any avenue by which the accused might defend themselves; they fail to take into account that students might prefer to donate their limited resources to other causes, and they refuse to acknowledge that membership in a wealthy family does not guarantee substantial personal wealth. They’re weapons completely lacking in subtlety; they’re the weapons of a bully.

That’s the crux of the issue. Thanks to years of appeasement by administration, faculty, and others, students see bullying and harassment as legitimate means by which to achieve their ends. This was clearest during the recent grading debacle, when students claimed that “a lot of people deserve to be bullied” and followed it up with relentless harassment and doxxing of those who disagreed with them. They’ve learned bullying works, and time and again, they’ve had this lesson reinforced.

As such, I urge anyone afraid of doxxing to consider this: if you cave to this pressure, if you send in the receipts of your donations to people to whom you owe nothing, you’re proving once again that bullying does work. I’m not telling anyone not to donate; in fact, I’m suggesting that they do. But I ask everyone who can to donate to causes they believe in, whether it’s Occupy Pomona or anything else. And I ask anyone who does donate to Occupy Pomona or a similar organization not to send their receipts to the producers of this show, who are in no way affiliated with Occupy Pomona, simply because they’re afraid of being harassed online. They have no right to see any sort of record of your financial activity, and you have no obligation to prove that you’ve made any sort of contribution. If you choose to make a donation, do it because you believe it’s morally right, not because you’re under threat. Show them, and everyone else, that bullying doesn’t work.

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