Work Harder, We’ll Still Mock You

Originally posted on Facebook:

I just made the mistake of reading the comments on a story about how rising rents are displacing even middle-class people. The story highlighted the plight of a family in which the wife was the primary breadwinner (husband is ill), making made $78,000 per year, and yet was still struggling financially due to the high cost of living in Southern California.

The primary takeaway for many commenters was that this woman was overpaid (she worked a government job). The commenters mocked her, told her it was her fault for living in California, and appeared to be questioning her character because she held a job that didn’t require a college education, yet paid a middle-class salary.

Clearly, the poor, working poor, working-class, and middle-class people of this country can’t win with the Internet’s peanut gallery. If they have a low-paid job, they are supposed to “better themselves.” If they have a good-paying job, they are overpaid or (in case of those who have, God help us, a government job) leeches on the public trough.

There is nothing new about this tendency of online commenters to demonize people who are in financial straits: I began to notice it over ten years ago as the recession approached.

I’ve also sometimes wondered if at least some of these commenters have a more sinister motive than blowing off steam or simple trolling. I’m not a huge fan of the “We haz a Russian conspir-a-z!” mindset, but I also think that there are at least some people who publish such comments with a clear goal of demoralizing the financially vulnerable: “Shut up, suck it up, and remember, the economy is always your fault, losers.”

I don’t like any of this one bit.