Who Knew the Worst Trolls Hang Out on WSJ.com?
Paul Carr is doing a live chat with Wall Street Journal readers about his new Byliner Original "Sober Is My New Drunk" later today. I have no clue why he said yes to this.
Last weekend, the WSJ ran an excerpt of his book, and it received some of the most vile comments, full of pure hate that I've seen anywhere on the Web.
I don't say this lightly. I know trolls. I am to trolls like a sommelier is to fine wines. I've been written about more than 100 times on Gawker and ValleyWag. I did a show for Yahoo Finance; have you seen Yahoo's message boards? It's a step down from YouTube comments. When I joined TechCrunch, former TC'ers had an online poll on how long I'd last, because at that time trolls had run most of the female writers out of the building. Michael Arrington has spent days deleting rape threats about me. When you write about the need for immigration reform, rape threats become death threats.
The brouhaha over Chicago yesterday? That was a fun game of patty-cake in the grand scheme of my career.
But I have never seen anything as morally wrong as what played out on The Wall Street Journal this weekend. The worst of them have -- finally-- been deleted, but if you go here you'll see pages and pages of people wishing, betting, and begging fate that Paul start drinking again. Pages of people insisting he's not really sober. Pages of people hoping that he falls off the wagon after more than a year of him painfully setting his life straight.
Why? Because he didn't do it their way.
Who knew the worst trolls in the world aren't indignant Brazilians or an angry nerd audience at SXSW. They're people in AA. Paul's Byliner is about how he got sober without AA, and I guess the real mission of the organization isn't helping people. It's insisting that everyone in the world can only get sober their way. If you don't follow AA, well, you deserve to be drunk. In fact, according to those comments he is drunk. He's already fallen off the wagon.
They don't know Paul, they don't know what he's been through. They only read an excerpt of his single. But somehow they know better than the rest of us.
"I bet a dollar he drinks within the year. This is an example of a "dry" alcoholic, running on self-will and self-obsession."
"If you're only willing to bet one dollar, maybe you're admitting he might make it?"
"I will take THAT bet all day long and twice on Sunday"
"I bet he falls off the wagon."
"I wouldn't take that bet, it's a sure thing"
"CONGRATULATIONS!!! Let us hear how YOUR steps are working for you in 20 years."
"I have one word to describe Mr. Carr: Nacissist....I would label you nothing but a dry drunk."
"This story was self-indulgent, narcissistic schlock with false humility tossed at the end. Paul Carr: Let us know how you are doing in a few years- maybe 5. I'll be curious to see whether you've made any personal growth." Bear in mind, these are the comments the WSJ could publish. There are hundreds and hundreds more that are just, well, evil. Paul typically laughs in the face of trolls. He'd never admit it, but this has cut him deeply. The idea that anyone who has been through the hell of getting sober would so callously wish all that hard work to be undone is just fundamentalism and intolerance of the worst kind.
As someone who played an uncomfortable role in his life over the past four years, let me assure you, Paul isn't drinking. You know what happens when Paul drinks? He hurts people closest to him. He wrecks companies. He wrecks his health. He destroys relationships.
The Upgrade, his longer book about getting sober paints a care-free, The Hangover-like romp through alcoholism. Although it's one of the most well-written things Paul has ever done, I winced reading it. I'll never read it again. This wasn't so much at what he'd written as my memories of what he left out.
The sad truth is Paul hasn't seen the worst of "drunk Paul," as his friends in the UK called him, because drunk Paul shows up after the blackout. There was the time at a launch party for my first book when he abused anyone trying to buy a copy of my book so much I had to have a bouncer take him out. I spent the night sobbing.
There was another time in London, just after he got fired from the Guardian. We went to have "a" drink. He pounded several at the bar while I was in the ladies room. I still don't know how it was physically possible, but when I came back he was incoherent. I told him I was sick of it and left. He wound up chasing me through the streets of London. I was running as fast as I could, dodging people and turning down alleys in a city I didn't know, trying desperately to get away from the monster of "drunk Paul."
That Paul has gotten sober is astounding to me. I didn't think he could. I especially didn't think he could without AA. Like most people who've been close to alcoholics, I believed AA was the best answer and that he couldn't do it alone. But Paul knew himself better and, as he explains in his Byliner piece, the twelve steps just weren't for him.
It's not that he didn't follow the thinking behind some of AA's tenets. The only thing Paul has worked at harder than staying sober is making it up to people he hurt while he was drinking. Do a search under Paul's byline and see how much he's written for PandoDaily -- particularly during the first few weeks when we were short-staffed and hurting for content. He took time away from his own startup to focus on mine, because I needed him. He doesn't own stock. He doesn't get paid. I've offered, but he insists doing it out of friendship.
This is the obvious one, but there are a million small examples of this every day. Helping watch my child, helping edit a story, picking up dinner, defending me in arguments with other people, talking me through any moment of pain, anger or self-doubt. I see it in every moment of our friendship: Years after he got sober, Paul still lives his life trying to make up for all the carnage Drunk Paul inflicted. And he doesn't just do it with me. He does it with all of his friends.
Person after person in Silicon Valley has remarked to me how completely different Paul has become since he stopped drinking. It's visibly apparent. He's lost close to 30 pounds. He's fit, and he's happier. He hasn't gotten fired from a job and is in the healthiest relationship of his adult life.
As one of Paul's closest friends, I can only answer these AA zealots the way Paul would: Fuck you. Fuck you for betting on my friend's life. Fuck you for laughing and backslapping in the comments about how he'll be drunk again by the end of the year. Fuck you for slighting all the hard work he's done to get here. And fuck you for wishing it to happen so your stupid fucking organization and belief system you hold so dear can be held up.
Isn't it enough that AA has helped millions of people? Why does Paul have to start drinking again to prove its value? There's such an obsession with AA being a way to get sober that it has to be the only way? You'd rather see my best friend destroy everything in his life again just to prove....what exactly? That you were right? That you "win" at the sober game? What the fuck is wrong with you? Do you even understand the lofty tenets the AA philosophy espouses? You wonder why people describe AA as a cult? Paul isn't the one slinging mud at AA -- these commenters are the ones who have made it look like a horrible organization of judgment, hating, and self-righteousness.
I have no doubt, as is the case with all trolls, that this is a wacko vocal minority. The vast majority of people who got sober through AA are likely aghast reading this, even if they disagree with the way Paul did it and worry if it'll stick. Because they are human.
Paul isn't drinking. And he's not "dry" -- the condescending word that AA zealots love to use to mean he hasn't really changed or accepted he has a disease or learned their secret handshake or whatever incantation it is that gives you the AA-seal of sober approval. His whole being has changed. If that's not sober, then sober is just a stupid chip you carry in your wallet.
If you actually read his Byliner single -- which I know trolls don't do -- you'd see that Paul was respectful to AA. As someone who has lived the hell of being an alcoholic, he wishes anyone sobriety in whatever method it works for anyone. It's disgusting that so many people can't return the same courtesy.
If Paul has to start drinking again so that you can feel secure in your sobriety, maybe you're the one who is nothing more than a "dry drunk."
(Note: Any comments on "Why is this on a tech site?" or bile from AA trolls will be deleted. It's on Pando, because Paul is my best friend and one of the most important parts of this organization. Deal with it.)