News & Politics

'The Columnist' Depicts Every Journo's Fondest Dream: Murdering Online Trolls

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Have you ever just wanted to kill somebody who said something mean about you online? Have you ever read something so stupid, so counterfactual, so void of anything resembling logic or reason or simple common sense, that you wanted to reach through the screen and throttle the dummy who thought it was worth typing out? The sort of idiot who stops reading an article the second he finishes a sentence that makes him angry, and then fires off an angry comment that ignores all the sentences that came after it. Just a reactionary imbecile. Did you ever want to murder that moron?

Of course not, Dear Reader. You and I know better than that. We’ve been around long enough to know the words of some random stranger don’t mean anything. We know what happens when you don’t scroll down to the bottom of a blog post or news item and click the “Show Comments” button: Nothing. You don’t have to click it. You don’t have to read it. That’s the best way to deal with those guys. I haven’t read a comments section in years, and my blood pressure has only gone down. Everybody wins: A handful of losers get to vent their incoherent rage before they go back to their bleak, meaningless lives, and the rest of us get to not care.

But not everyone is as even-minded and emotionally mature as we are. Some people really have difficulty dealing with criticism. They can’t believe anyone could ever disagree with their wonderful opinions, and they fly into a rage at the merest hint of dissent. We have a name for such sad, pathetic souls: journalists. And now the journalists have a new heroine.

Margaret Rasberry, The Film Stage:

An official selection at Fantasia Film Festival and the Telluride Horror Show, Film Movement has unveiled the new trailer for the Dutch horror comedy The Columnist, starring Westworld alum Katja Herbers, and directed by Ivo Van Aart, scheduled for a digital release on May 7 in the US..

Femke (Herbers) is a journalist who needs to work on her manuscript, but becomes distracted by intimidating and threatening comments on social media. Her friends, publicist, and agent encourage her to ignore the nasty comments, but Femke has determined the only way to commence work on her manuscript is to exact bloody revenge on her cyberbullies one by one.

Here’s the trailer. Warning, it’s in Dutch, but you should be able to get the gist even without the subtitles:

So, the titular columnist gets a bunch of online hate, so she tracks down her trolls and starts murdering them. Based on the trailer, it looks like they’re going for a tone of dark satire. I don’t know anything about Dutch cinema, but Katja Herbers is usually good. So maybe it’ll be worth seeing.

I do know one thing, though: A lot of journos are about to have a new favorite movie! This will earn raves from leading lights such as Brian Stelter and Chris Hayes and Nikole Hannah-Jones, and all the other journos who wish you would just shut up and stop questioning their infallibility.

Back in the old days, my pal Iowahawk (David Burge) did a recurring feature called “Bylines of Brutality.” He collected news items from around the country where journalists were arrested for various crimes: stalking, assault, spousal abuse, child molestation, even murder. It was his way of pointing out that no matter how many awards journalists give each other, no matter how hard they pat themselves on the back, they’re at least as screwed up as the rest of us. Hell, they’re objectively more screwed up than the rest of us.

Just look at Vester Flanagan. He was the local news anchor in Roanoke, Va., who murdered two of his former colleagues on live TV because he was convinced they were racists who had ruined his career. The only thing separating him from the average career-obsessed journo was his follow-through.

When Joker came out in 2019, there were all sorts of panicked think-pieces about how it was going to unleash a wave of alt-right terror. (Then 2020 ended up being the year of Antifa and BLM riots, but whatever.) I wonder if this movie will make journos step back and do a bit of self-reflection? Will it make them think twice about how they deal with conflict online?

Just kidding! If they were capable of understanding themselves, they wouldn’t have gone into journalism.