Bunnies, I was doing a little research for our donation page and stumbled upon Kate Miltner, a doctoral candidate at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication who has been giving conference talks about RBD during the past few years. Miltner, who sports most impressive credentials, has racked focus on the comments section, namely RBD as community. A description of her talk at the 2016 Crossroads in Cultural Studies conference:
Welcome To The Catlady Basement: An Ethnographic Exploration of “Hateblog” Reblogging Donk
A “hateblog” is a blog whose main purpose is to critique and mock its targets for the amusement and satisfaction of its audience. This paper is an ethnography of Reblogging Donk, a hateblog focused on American internet personality Julia Allison. While Reblogging Donk may seem cruel and incomprehensible to outsiders, it cannot be simply dismissed as the work of internet bullies wounding innocent victims for fun. Instead, it must be examined within the context of anti-fan behaviors, particularly those endemic to online communities focused on gossip and reality TV. This paper discusses the ways in which Reblogging Donk is a “moral text” (Gray, 2005) that provides a great deal of insight into contemporary discourses and practices surrounding online fame and femininity. Furthermore, Reblogging Donk complicates the conceptualization of online “hate”, and showcases how both media and social contexts play a deeply influential role when it comes to these behaviors.
Miltner’s abstract for another talk about the basement:
Sun, May 28, 15:30 to 16:45, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, 2, Indigo Ballroom A
In July 2008, the cover of Wired Magazine featured a brunette woman with the headline “Get Internet Famous! (Even If You’re Nobody)”. The woman was Julia Allison, one of the internet’s first “microcelebrities” and, at one point, the third most hated person on the internet (Golson, 2008). Allison is a complicated figure whose behavior and life choices have inspired a fair amount of critique, but few have been as aggressively critical as the participants on Reblogging Donk (RBD), an online community and so-called “hateblog” devoted to chronicling and critiquing Allison’s life choices and missteps.
A “hateblog” is a blog whose main purpose is to mock and critique its targets for the amusement and satisfaction of its audience. Allison has described the discursive activities of RBD and its community as “cyberbullying”, and has claimed that she has suffered greatly as a result of their activities. The RBD community members, on the other hand, frame Allison’s highly public (and self-publicized) antics as “an unbelievable online reality show” and their discussion and dissection of her life as the same “hatewatching” practices that are widespread amongst online communities focused on gossip and reality TV.
This paper uses Reblogging Donk as a case study for examining the often murky boundaries of online harassment. While RBD may seem like a straightforward case of online cruelty and victimization to some, such a claim is complicated by the fact that RBD engages in many of the same “anti-fan” behaviors that are commonplace in many online fandoms (Marwick, 2013). As Harman and Jones (2013) have documented, “hatereading” and “hatewatching” are mainstream and commonplace practices; examined through this lens, RBD’s activities aren’t the obsessive dissection of an innocent private citizen (as Allison would have it), but a community that has been brought together through legitimate critique of a public personality and her often questionable behavior. The case of RBD highlights the difficulty in drawing distinctive boundaries between different forms of antagonism in online environments, particularly when culturally prevalent behaviors are legitimized and encouraged in one context and vilified in another.
So, lurker or commenter? Miltner clearly has the goods on Judy and her talks don’t seem to be a complete vilification of the RBD community. However, given Miltner’s research interests in, and papers on, cyberbullying and online anonymity, we’re definitely not getting a complete pass. I’m going to send her an email and ask if I can see a copy of her remarks.
One thing’s for certain: ANYTHING Miltner has written about the basement will be smarter, more sophisticated than Donkey lover Alice Marwick’s half-assed, sophomoric commentary.
Who do you think you are, Donkey? Living off Dadsers, bragging about your $1200/mo massage bill, posting schoolgirl “Dear John” letters at age 37 – you are the ultimate first world problem.
Site update: Upgrades will begin later in the week and a donor page will be going up on Wednesday or Thursday. Stick with us! There’s lots to come, including hot tub parties, more Donkey BS, and the return of Julia Tutu!