The XX Factor

Jezebel Rats Out Teen Tweeters, Crosses Line

Where’s the button for snitching?

Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

When Obama won reelection on Tuesday, a bunch of dumb kids tweeted dumb racist things about the “nigger” or “monkey” president. The tweets are horrible. And though I knew such sentiments existed, I know it even more now that I read Jezebel’s outraged roundup of the worst of them.

But a difference exists between raising readers’ consciousness and being a rat. In a follow-up post, Tracie Egan Morrissey details how Jezebel, with the aide of a commenter, contacted “the principals and superintendents of [the teens’] schools to find out how calling the president—or any person of color, for that matter—a “nigger” and a “monkey” jibes with their student conduct code of ethics.” Basically, Jezebel reached out to the tweeters’ schools to get the kids in trouble (and, presumably, to gin up page views). They then meticulously noted each administrator’s response. They also updated us, gleefully, on the status of the students’ twitter accounts: Which kids were embarrassed enough to delete them? Which ones offered half-assed excuses? Which ones doubled down on their racism?

Along with parents, educators are in a good position to teach tolerance and sensitivity—and, yes, to mete out discipline. But for a major media outlet to write a self-congratulatory, self-righteous post after playing the informant on a bunch of teenagers looks petty and vindictive, not to mention opportunistic.

Teenagers do stupid things, say stupid things, think stupid things, and are wrong all the time. If Jezebel was really concerned about, say, the safety of the President, they should call the police. If they are outraged by the tweets, sure, publish a roundup of the worst of them (though my colleague Laura Anderson would disagree). But to take it a step further, and to potentially hurt these stupid kids’ chances at, say, getting into a decent college (where, by the way, they might learn things and become less stupid) or, say, securing a decent job by forever cementing their teenage horribleness into Google search—that’s not really doing anyone any good, is it?

Morrissey writes: “We contacted their school’s administrators with the hope that, if their educators were made aware of their students’ ignorance, perhaps they could teach them about racial sensitivity.” Perhaps. More likely, as my colleague put it in an email: “It probably won’t make them less racist if they’re bitter forever.”