By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Things In Clumps
It’s funny how things happen in clumps.
Today, my Kickstarter got funded, I think I may have a decent cut of my first short film ready to submit to Sundance on Monday, and a guy who has been harboring a raging grudge against me for years finally told me what his issue really is.
(Ed Note: It also turns out that the day I wrote this and all this other stuff was happening was also the 17th anniversary of The Hot Button/Hot Blog. Woo-hoo!)
I guess I should be celebrating the first two things… and I am. But the third one is where my mind is right now.
Don Murphy has been shitting on me for years now. On the blog. Off the blog. Wherever he can. I have kept asking, online and off, what the rage is about. Variations of, “You know,” was usually the answer.
I scoured my mind. What did I do that could upset him so much? We had had a minor verbal wrestle over the cost of Transformers, but when he insisted, I publicly withdrew from claiming to know better. He had shown me a film early which I didn’t much like… but I didn’t write about it, either early or on release. I had caught him trolling, though he swore it wasn’t true, even though the troll happened to have the same IP address as his office. Whatever. Classic Don Murphy.
It had to be something else. He was claiming he would destroy me… that he spent 15 minutes every day of his life trying to do harm to me and my business… he attacked people who worked for me online… he tried to bring his acolytes to group-troll MCN for a few days until they gave up.
The one thing that stuck with me as a possibility was something off-handed and stupid I said to a filmmaker who had worked with Don. But when I offered that up as a possibility, I was told by Don that I was wrong… it wasn’t that.
But it was that.
He admitted a few months ago that, according to him, I wished his wife ill as she has been fighting cancer. I insisted that I had not. And I have not.
But today, he finally got specific and claimed that we had the following conversation. “I said let’s stop fighting, my wife has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and I am very upset and in bad shape. Your reply was ‘That’s what she deserves for being with you.'”
That conversation never took place.
Don has never come to me looking to bury the hatchet. I have been asking him to do so for years. (And he started being a jerk to me, turning on what was a casual professional friendship, before this moment he is now so focused on ever took place.) He has never explained to me that his wife was ill, much less diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
But… at an event where I was actively avoiding Don after some run of shenanigans, someone did tell me that his wife had cancer. And I did say, “That’s what you get when you hang around Don.”
A terrible thing to say. I am embarrassed that I said it. No amount of harassment by Don excuses saying something so nasty about someone he loves who has nothing to do with his bad behavior. And when I saw a look of horror in the face of the person I said it to in a very loud room, I quickly backed away from the comment. But yes, I said that. And no, I can’t make that fact go away. I can apologize for it, but I can’t make it go away.
But I did not wish cancer upon her or say that she deserved it. Just didn’t. And no amount of playing “telephone” can change that fact either.
As I say, the harassment that had provoked me to say something idiotic had started long before the comment. But from that event on, Don used it as his battering ram in his mental prosecution of me. He had his cause. I became the great oppressor of all (“Kingo”), so arrogant that I think I know everything and every thought I have had the power of a monarch’s decree.
So that is the tale. Truthfully, I am more relieved to have Don put a name on his rage towards me than to have a successful Kickstarter or to be in a good place with my first short film. Most rage comes from pain and though I can certainly piss off my share of people (or more than my share), his pain and my concern that somehow I am actually responsible for it weighs on me.
I am comfortable with my enemies. I have fewer real enemies than I can count on a hand. There are plenty of backbiters and people who make up stupid stories about me (I have AIDS… I am passing for white… I masturbated at work at EW in NY… etc) that I hear now and again and just have to laugh, because really, why would anyone care enough to make stupid shit up about me? I am not important. And I am not a big keeper of personal secrets. If I were gay, I’d be way out. If I were dying, I would not be blogging. And I have never even been in the NY offices of EW, where I allegedly worked out the bathrooms and had child porn on my imaginary computer.
But real enemies who have really tried to do real harm to me? Small group. And I am fine with having them. Kinda like it, really. I have a handle on what ideas are harbored by the three people other than Don who have actively threatened me. Two of them are just in denial about themselves. One is just a liar who doesn’t care what destruction comes of it, plain and simple. And then there is Don, who I think is genuine in his pain and anger… but thinks I said something that did not. And the distinction of language matters a lot in this case.
Of course, what I actually said might be enough to make Don hate me anyway. And I can live with that.
But after a few years of this popping up like herpes every few months, never becoming a serious problem, but always a unpleasant, embarrassing experience, I am happy to close this chapter. (Did I think Don was really going to send people to hurt me and my family while we were on vacation overseas? No. Did being threatened by e-mail ruin a portion of a day for me? Of course.)
And now, it is out. Not just between Don and I, but for anyone who cares to read about it here.
It is toxic sludge that I have to take some blame for… but which has been blown significantly out of proportion.
I don’t harbor anger towards Don. I’m not happy to be the focus of his mania, but he has done no real damage outside of wasting a lot of his time and mine. But he believes what he believes. And if he never chooses to believe me, there is not a thing I can do about it. My powerlessness frees me.
And now, on to the happier events of the day…