Los Angeles Localism Rears Its Ugly Head

I dissent.

Los Angeles surfers have found yet another reason to be pissed off. After I dared to bring up race and gender politics in my reporting on an incident at Venice Pier, the nastiness of localism has displayed itself –  inadvertently, by way of digital tirades and threats, adding legitimacy to each one of the points made in my article.

The piece in question discusses the ways in which bias may have influenced a surf school owner’s attack of a black woman in the lineup. Responses have ranged from denial of video evidence to accusations of unethical journalism.

A few responses were well-reasoned: need I have included the word “black” in the headline when the crime could have been motivated by a range of other factors? Shouldn’t the language have been more specific than “spends free time harassing black surfer?” Many have concluded that the headline was designed to be inflammatory. My bottom line remains telling the story that rings true for the women targeted.

That sort of discussion, while difficult, is productive. Regrettably, it was drowned out by another line of criticism as soon as the Dogtown crowd caught wind of my story. Angry male surfers, many of them friends with the aggressor named in the article, flooded to Sea Maven’s page, tagged one another, and unleashed their wounded egos:

“Pull up to the Venice pier tomorrow and get slapped, you fucken wierdo [sic],” one wrote. That comment has since been deleted by Instagram for violating community guidelines.

“Fuck this mag that isn’t her spot, man or women that’s how the lineup works.”

“You either are a local there and respected there, or you don’t surf there at all, it’s that simple.”

“Pulling leashes and burning people is part of surfing a spot that is localized. The only way you can repent for the trouble you caused Wagner is by publicly apologizing and then don’t surf ever again.” Also, “I hate you so much.”

Shacked Mag, “The Los Angeles Surf Mag,” chimed in with a long string of incoherent paragraphs that demanded further explanation as to the bases of the claims made. While a journalist is by no means obligated to reveal sources, I drummed up patience from the depths of my soul to explain that the information came from conversations with involved parties and the statement from NBC, as is self-evident in the article. I’d finally given up on responding when Shacked chimed in on yet another comment thread, one wherein I’d encouraged a complaining Venice resident to write an article sharing their perspective on localism.

“We attempt [sic] to have a respectful educate [sic] discussion…she is incapable if such once she is unable to back up what she has stated…And by the way, we have uncovered a lot of info on this that proves your blog is full of lies. We have be [sic] polite and respectful, in all our comments (you have not). We also are educated as well.”

While it’s tempting to repeat more of this baffling exchange, I must now turn to their numerous rebuttal articles, which part of me wishes I’d never read. My piece, according to them, is “factually inaccurate,” “poorly written,” and “states that this was a race-motivated assault…to earn sympathy views and shares (in order to make money off the ads run on the site).” Sea Maven is independent and does not run any ads.

They went on to publish malicious, demonstrably false statements against Rhonda Harper and her organization. Below is an excerpt from the story that Shacked Mag is featuring on the home page of their website more than two months after my story ran.

The anonymous Shacked writers (there is no contact information on their website) have now spent months stewing over this story, while their jeering fans have apparently lost interest. Meanwhile, Harper is still being harassed online.

This misogyny and racial hostility is poorly-masked.

Upon reading the original Shacked story in December, I took a deep breath, went for a walk to enjoy the views of snow-capped San Gabriel mountains, and tried to refocus on my Constitutional Law final. Try as I might, I could not stifle the urge to point out the hypocrisy, the baselessness, the condescension, and the utter lack of reason employed by the Shacked commenters. I warned them to leave me alone, and after they continued demanding information (where I would be surfing) I blocked them.

On one hand, I’m ashamed to have been sucked into the vortex of surf media’s self-serving, perpetual jousting match. On the other, I believe that introducing a direct voice of dissent is one effective way to challenge this narrative.

The overarching theme is not provocation, but rather attempts at suppression, silencing, and intimidation. These empty displays of fragile masculinity won’t deter me. I will surf wherever I damn well please, knowing that these men are cowards who probably wouldn’t dare to attack a white woman in the light of day. I will loudly, and perhaps messily, defend the rights of black women to be free from harassment when asserting belonging in waves. And when someone pulls my leash, literally or figuratively, I will gladly put them on blast.

Molly Lockwood3 Comments