Stop Freaking Out

Does freaking out help you to engage in political action that improves the world?  Get you to rally to the defense of the oppressed?  Make you vote when you have to?  Does it paradoxically cultivate in you an ability to lucidly prepare for disastrous circumstances through communal organization and grass roots activism?  Then get your freak on, I guess.  If it doesn’t, maybe shut the fuck up before you spread more hurt and pain than necessary to people around you.

This may seem ironic from person who has engaged in no small amount of public political and climate despair, but I’m coming around the bend on that.  Been talking again with somebody who is harmed by amped-up fear in comment sections, like, even when he doesn’t believe it on a rational level, the tension immediately gets him in the nervous system and ruins his day.  And as he’s trying to calm his nerves, he’s complaining about the level of fear people are promoting on the internet, how useless it all is, and I can’t help but concur.

It’s very easy for me to imagine a trans person who in fear of a trans holocaust just offs themself on election night.  (My erstwhile despair commenter wontbehereforlong is no longer in the comments, and that might be why, afaik.)  I don’t care if the fuckheel wins and ameriKKKa goes full nazi.  Don’t kill yourself, please.  What if we reach temperatures like the Eocene Thermal Maximum and the icecaps melt and all the beautiful megafauna of the world go extinct, replaced with ugly ratty little things squabbling over bones in the wasteland?  Don’t kill yourself, please.  What if somebody is finally enough of a creep to use nukes and a small exchange renders some of the urban centers of the global north uninhabitable for a while?  Stick around, babe.  What if plastic pollution reaches a kind of critical mass disrupting reproductive cycles and cellular activity, causing populations of all organisms to crater until natural selection works out the kinks over a thousand barren, burning years?  We have each other, kid.

We have things to do, and you’re invited to the party, mon frere.  Life can go on, if you try to live.  There are so many places in the world right now that have to live with ten times the ugliness the USA is bringing on itself, but people there live on, as best as they can.  Trans and gay people exist in the most oppressive countries in the world.  Women have abortions where that would get them life in prison.  People read banned books wherever they’re banned.

This isn’t Grand Theft Auto, where you accumulate stars from doing illegal shit, and when you have five, every cop psychically intuits your exact location and showers you with machineguns from helicopters and APCs, and suicide bombs you with crown victorias.  The illegality of being trans or jewish or cetera doesn’t instantly mean complete extinction of your kind or even you personally.  You have friends and most of you are going to live.  Hell, even truly universally reviled people like convicted pedophiles have somebody in their lives who would try to help them survive when the whole world says “die.”

It ain’t over til it’s over, and when this election is done, even if the nazis win?  It still ain’t over.  People are hurt by panic and fear.  Also, you’re giving bullies exactly what they want, and what are conservatives if not bullies in their purest form?  When that islamophobic mass shooter in New Zealand filmed himself killing people, some progressives on the internet (looking at you, wehuntedthemammoth comment section) said they felt obligated to watch the video, “to be informed,” or because bearing witness to the senseless deaths would grant those lives a meaning in their heart, or whatever.  OK, sure, whatever.  But you know what the killer wanted?  He wanted you to watch the video (and pewdiepie).  So score one for nazis, again.

This is a significant part of why I unfollowed James Stephanie Sterling on youtube.  They’d beat that drum, day in day out, about how trans people have no political allies, nobody cares about them, they’re all gonna die.  It’s nonsense, even on Terf Island.  Trans people have some amount of allies everywhere they exist.  Jewish people in WWII had some small number of nazis and imperial japanese people smuggling them out of the line of genocide, besides resistance people of every other stripe.  The USA isn’t going to instantly transform into The Man in the High Castle because a little strip of land in Washington DC got taken over by nazis.  The idea that regressive states are the only ones that can rebel is kinda silly.  New York and California have the numbers by population as well as economy, and they aren’t just going to say, “cool, we’ll kill all our gay people for you now.”  Don’t be fucking absurd.

I know you can’t control your fear, much like my bud can’t control his limbic system’s response to panicky people.  But maybe you can just think twice about hitting the keyboard and making some innocent third party feel as bad as or worse than you do, when it achieves fucking nothing.

Am I wrong?  Is publicly shidding your fucking pants every ten seconds helping us win the next election?  Fuck me then, keep dropping those deuces.  If not, maybe step away from the computer and take it down a notch.  Touch grass, smoke grass, whatever.  Deal.

This is directed at me in 2016.


  1. Richard Davies says

    Apologies for being a de-llurkerfir this one topic but it really resonates with me.

    I have chronic anxiety so it gives be some context on some of the commentary I see on events. It is very frustrating to me to see patterns if thought I have been councilled to try and avoid (all or nothing thinking, catastrophism etc) played out daily in countless threads about news items.

    When I am having a bad day I can’t help but agree with them and I feel like I am being blinkered for perhaps going through my practiced skills at de-escalating my own worries.

    When I feel better about my own thoughts it really annoys me because I feel like making such catastrophic comments is often a privilege of someone who can then go about their daily life as normal. Were I to elucidate similarly catastrophic thoughts that would be me done for the week!

    So it’s difficult. I don’t want to minimise the very real stuff going on to people but I do also want to stay sane and I do recognise a lot of pretty pathological thinking patterns displayed on comment sections.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Very well said!

    One of those weird synchronicity things; listening to a classical station, and the arse-kicking organ chords of Saint-Saëns’ Third Symphony started just as I was reading this. Very apt.

  3. Dennis K says

    This post should be FTB’s EULA we have to click through before beginning our daily doom-scrolling.

    Thank you for your voice of reason.

  4. Lakitha Tolbert says

    Thank you for writing this! It helps to know I’m not alone with these exact sentiments.

  5. beholder says

    A popular blogger on this site (who shall go unnamed for my own self-preservation) seems like they try to cultivate a climate of fear in their audience, feeding them daily you-should-be-afraid-of-this-now-style posts that rarely get any follow-up or retrospective analysis. Fear grabs the eyeballs, for sure. Freddie DeBoer calls these kinds of bloggers “accelerants”, and I believe they have taken a toll on the mental health of people visiting FTB. It’s psychological damage in the service of clickbait.

    maybe step away from the computer and take it down a notch. Touch grass, smoke grass, whatever. Deal.

    I think I’ll take you up on that. My own parting thought:

    I’ve been yelling “Free Assange” for so many years now, and even a couple of weeks ago it seemed impossible that he would escape Belmarsh alive. But he did, and that’s got me feeling bubbly and optimistic. Maybe righteous anger and collective popular pressure are worth something in the end.

  6. says

    Thanks for the comments everybody. I like to see a random delurk, a name I haven’t seen in a long time, and just seeing that evidence this post was a good idea. There are ideas that don’t get expressed very often, because the people who feel the pain the most don’t have the crunchy carapace to publicly speak their piece. This post wouldn’t exist without the person-to-person laments of one such shy guy, and shows the value of neurotypical blowhards like myself listening to quiet people. I recommend it.

  7. Marissa van Eck says

    So, I’m going to say this as kindly as possible: this is incredibly privileged and shortsighted of you. That is the polite version. I will leave the earthier version to your imagination.

    I’m in the middle of an Express Entry emigration process to Canada. I am a closeted lesbian; only my mother, sister, brother, and girlfriend know what I am. The last several years have only served to reinforce the painful decision I made, literally more than half a lifetime ago, not to come out to anyone else, when I lost my best friend in high school in the worst possible way by falling in love with her.

    Are you correct that a Trump win won’t *instantly* result in concentration camps springing up across the nation, to be filled within a week by the entire queer and trans population of the country? Yes. But you’re not considering that life is already horribly difficult enough as it is, and even with all the misappropriated straight privilege I’ve been pretending to I’ve STILL been homeless and hungry before, even WITH a STEM degree, a full time job, and a clean straight-edge lifestyle! There are other ways to kill people than directly rounding them up and making them take a gas shower.

    (CENSORED BY GAS PER NEW COMMENT POLICY / BAN ON POLITICAL DOOMERISM. LEFT UP WITH LINE THRU IT SO YOU CAN READ IF YOU REALLY WANT TO. ->) That “little strip of land in DC” is where the laws are made and enforced. You’ve seen Project 2025 and Agenda 47. You know what these people want to do, and by God, they will do it. Our “institutions” will not protect us; they have been dead letters since Ford pardoned Nixon in ’73, a good 15 goddamn years before I was even born. At this point it will only be sheer luck whether I even survive the next year if things go really, really bad.

    Do you understand what this is like? Do you understand what it is to feel like a refugee trying to flee your own country? Can you possibly comprehend how soul-crushingly horrifying it is to know that your government is very likely to be taken over by people who want you dead or worse, and believe you deserve to spend eternity on fire, howling and shrieking and begging for mercy that will never come, as your skin crisps and your flesh roasts and your bones crack and your eyeballs boil and burst in their sockets, world without end, amen? Somehow, I don’t think you can.

  8. says

    I’m only allowing this one counter argument out of moderation this one time and will not allow a follow-up. In fact, I’m closing comments on this post. Why am I allowing you to speak your piece? Because yes, your life blows, and you are allowed every inch of terror you’re inclined to feel and express.


    We’re all doing our best with or without publicly wallowing in our pain, we’re all going to vote with compassion and take whatever actions are necessary to fight the bad guys on this deal. We don’t need to also feel terrorized 24-7 any more than we already do. You are COLOSSALLY missing the fucking point.

    There is a privilege in your position of defending public freak-outs, which is that your limbic system doesn’t dust off your entire life every time you see a public freak-out happen. Re-read Davies’ response at comment number one and think about it. All I’ve said is that if you’re thinking catastrophically and coming close to advocating suicide in response to terrifying realities, maybe you should step away from the keyboard BEFORE YOU HURT SOMEBODY ELSE, because YOU WILL.

    There are plenty of places you can get away with pathologically self-destructive expressions of your terror, from X/blue hell to Failbook to the comment sections at Pharyngula. And I do believe you should be able to tell your story and express your feelings, as you have done here, which I allowed this time. But I’m gonna add a political doomerism ban to my comment policy, because I’m not allowing it to fuck with neurodiverse people in my comment section, thanks.


    –ALSO Maybe consider the possibility you will live through this, and that you should. Be alive, kid.