On September 7th, author Christy Parks (aka C.L. Parks) shared a video on Facebook.
This is the video:
It shows what is believed to be an Arab man giving what looks like a speech in Arabic before it cuts to a goat making noises. Many comments that followed came from people who all agreed with Parks that the video was funny. However, one person* decided to question its humour:
Throughout the exchange, Emma continues to clarify people’s statements in the comments in order to make sure that there’s no room for misunderstanding when she questions them, a great technique that exposes the fallacies we make in our everyday speech, where generalizations and assumptions are often made regardless of a lack of actual facts and the existence of exceptions:
Here Parks employs the ever so popular us versus them narrative, saying she has “no PC feelings for men in that part of the country.” These “men” and “that part of the country” are in reference to Muslim/Middle Eastern men from the Muslim/Middle Eastern countries. PC, I’m assuming, would be in reference to political correctness. It’s so lovely to see a sweeping generalization of an entire group of people like this. This hasn’t backfired in the past at all.
Another Facebook commentator adds some flourish to Parks’ point:
The comments continue with Parks and commentators claiming that Emma has no sense of humour and is out to get Parks. Now, this appears to be Christy’s personal Facebook page. She has a separate author page under C.L. Parks, but the personal page was easily accessible to any Facebook user. However, you can’t access this particular post anymore and will instead get a “this content is currently unavailable” page:
So at this point, the issue is contained on Facebook and is only dealing with an author having a very ignorant view of a group of people. This isn’t exactly new: recently, we’ve seen multiple public figures, like Donald Sterling, exposed publicly for the racist comments they make, and, sadly, these views lead to systematic issues that, in turn, create situations such as Mike Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missori.
However, the debacle soon escalates on Twitter. Here’s a particular conversation between two book bloggers and Parks that became extremely troublesome:
As was established in the Facebook comments, Parks was well aware that it wasn’t a video of “a goat sounding like a human,” but rather a goat imitating a man of Middle Eastern descent who’s speaking his language:
Parks sends the bloggers an image of journalist James Foley with a knife at his throat about to get beheaded by a member of the ISIS terrorist organization that’s operating out of Iraq and Syria. I blocked out the image in respect to the Foley family as well as the any of you who are reading this. The bloggers, of course, reacted accordingly:
This gets dodgy when Parks brings up that she’s lost loved ones during the 9/11 attacks as rationalization for her opinions, insinuating that her loss is reason enough to wipe away her racism and ill treatment of the people calling her out—which is both ridiculous and insulting to those who’ve also lost loved ones that day. 9/11 isn’t a get out of jail free card, and it’s both thoughtless and disrespectful to try and use it as one:
There are really two issues that we have here. The first is the Facebook comments made by both Parks and her supporters, which suggest that they didn’t understand why the video was offensive. To clarify for anyone under the same misapprehension: it’s not a goat acting amusingly like a human. It’s a Middle Eastern individual being compared to a bleating goat. The basic thesis of the video is that they sound the same, and it is clearly meant to be insulting. The comments in response to Emma’s criticism only proved why this wasn’t just a funny video devoid of any racially charged undertones.
The second issue here is Parks’ response to the criticism. Clearly Emma didn’t attack Parks personally, but instead questioned her actions in sharing the video. She made eloquent and rational arguments, pointing out why this could be offensive, only to be brushed aside as someone who didn’t understand humour; the go-to response whenever people criticize a “joke, ” which happened on Twitter when one of the bloggers informed Parks that her actions have led to losing fans and that she was being racist. Parks’ attempt to justify her actions as 9/11 grief to get a pass on posting that very inappropriate photo and making racist generalizations and comments about Muslim and Middle Eastern individuals does nothing but dig her deeper.
There have been many instances of authors behaving terribly, but I wanted to explore this particular instance because of how Christy “C.L.” Parks decided to conduct herself on social media in response to legitimate and well constructed criticisms of her actions. Parks may not think that this will affect her career as a writer, but nothing ever truly gets deleted on the internet and her interactions with her readers will definitely affect who will buy her books.
Here’s a public service announcement to the authors out there: don’t attack people on your social media. And don’t be racist.
* Ed. note: Names have been blocked out to respect the privacy of the people in the conversation.