Word Cloud Visualization by Mike Dronkers
“self proclaimed thug bitch”
“hope one of your trash junkie thugs takes you out before our tax dollars get wasted”
“dumb bitch. she should be in jail, not whining to lost coast.”
“Kim Steele should get a bullet to the head and be left to bleed out slowly.”
I learned this these things because neither my “Shut Up” app nor Lost Coast Outpost’s own “Zen Silence” option eliminates the website’s comments sidebar and, given that I’m a compulsive reader, my eyes were therefore yanked sideways by that last one. Equally appalled and – somewhat to my chagrin – curious, I clicked into the pool of hatred Steele’s interview with Ryan Burns prompted* and found myself fascinated, both by what she thought she was getting herself into with asking for the attention and by that attention itself**.
“she is the kind of low life killing our country. Bet she gets assistance from state.”
“I bet no one will be doing business with her anytime soon dumb fucking cunt!!!!”
“I just have to put it out there… needs to have a lil taste of… let’s say curb!! Wire that pie hole on her face shut!… DEATH IS TOO GOOD FOR SOME PEOPLE! Feel me?”
Do you feel it?
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way:
- Steele had called Lost Coast Outpost saying she wanted to tell her side of the story because, according to the LoCO post, she felt that the press releases published in local media made her “sound like somebody she’s not – a bad person.”
- Like the excellent journalist he is – and even the most novice reporter should know to do this much – Ryan Burns said yes to interviewing a person involved in a murder who wanted to tell all.
- None of us know the truth of what happened.
- We can agree – based on Steele’s own words – that her lifestyle choices have been unhealthy at best and have culminated to her being at the scene of this recent homicide.
- Whatever the circumstances of the matter, murder is an ugly thing.
- Especially horrific for a mother who saw her son killed in front of her.
If Steele’s version of what happened is true, then she’s clearly in a bad habit of walking into a situation thinking it will benefit her only to have things go severely awry. Because for her to approach Lost Coast Outpost – a site that is both beloved and reviled for its “gritty, largely unfiltered and poorly punctuated word from the street” comments – as a means to repair her reputation indicates that clearly she does not understand how the Internet – or LoCO – works.
“dumb fucking cunt!!!!”
“This bitch is shady”
“Back to jail bitch!!”
“ruined bitches like her”
In a result that should surprise no one, the response was far from supportive. That she thought explaining her involvement in someone’s murder, which she clearly, wittingly or not, criminally or not, was, at the very least, connected to, would garner sympathy, displays a level of either ignorance or self-involvement (or both) that’s impossible to react to with anything other than, What the hell was she thinking? Because, of course, she got this:
“piece of shit”
“What a POS”
“Repulsive disgusting pos of a human.”
bullshit chickenshit bitch.”
“sketchy tweaker junkie bitch trying to cover her ass”
“piece of dope fiend trash”
“sub-humans like this”
And, oh, that photo. This, it turns out, was at LoCO’s urging. According to Burns, “We asked her if we could take her photo. It wasn’t her idea.”
She should have said no, wow, she should have said no, because whether she’s truly horrible or just abysmally clueless, a man was killed by people she brought to his house and therefore it’s excruciatingly obvious that nothing good at all could have come from her posing like she’s taking a belated senior portrait – was she so embarrassed by how unflattering her mugshot was that she wanted to get a more glamorous picture out there?
There is a time for vanity. When you’re talking about watching a man get gunned down during a drug deal you arranged is not that time. The hordes, of course, were delighted:
“this fucking evil cunt’s psychopath smirk… with her tits out.”
“why are her tits all out? real classy. no one cares about your tits, junkie snitch.”
“Really-what a bizarre message she is sending showing us her cleavage. I’m guessing they have gotten her out of messes in the past.”
“Maybe cleavage makes her smile. I know it works for me. I guess she thinks she has killer cleavage.”
“Having bodacious ta tas may convince some.”
“Without the bra it probably resembles the old lady in the Playboy cartoons!”
“to show off her tits”
“But the cleavage! Not.”
“Major boobage and cute lil flower.”
“put your your tit’s away. your an acomplis to murder”
“a smirky smile”
“this POS, and she sits there with that damn smug smile on her face”
“SHUT THE F UP, and button up your shirt, stupid”
To repeat for the sake of emphasis – none of us know what really happened. That is part of the interview’s appeal, to hear at least one version of what went down that fateful night. Steele wants to persuade people she’s innocent, to not be associated with this crime. Understandable. Many people who’ve had their mugshots posted on LoCO only to have the charges later dropped have felt the same way. But Steele’s attempt to clear her name was akin to digging her own grave – and LoCO’s commenters were happy to help bury her.
“What a shit bag…Charge the bitch!”
“Too bad you weren’t the one that somehow got an ‘unplanned’ bullet”
“Hope this fat bitch gets the Death Penalty.”
“justice will be served: behind bars and on the street.”
“She is shady as fuck and needs to go DOWN.”
“… a waste of resources and human flesh in a crowded world. Can we please just put these mad dogs down?”
“sick twisted cunt!!! Im shocked she hasnt had the breaks beat off her ass yet.”
“I hope you… get killed…”
“Audios Kimberly Steele, hope you have eyes in the back of your head so you can see that sharpened piece of scrap metal or plastic that will be sent through your neck in the prison showers!”
“will likely get killed in jail if it doesn’t happen on the outside before she get’s sentenced. I love it.”
“here might be some bad ass Humboldt acquaintances… come looking for you”
“Kimberly Steele, I hope you get it slow and painful”
“doubt anyone will care when you disappear”
“an eye for an eye whether you pulled the trigger or not.”
“when you get stabbed to pieces with sketchy little prison knives that will break off in your face and take about 100 stabs to make you slowly bleed to death through many small cuts? …you will die among pointing fingers, high-fives, laughter, and people yelling ‘die snitch, thanks for the coffee.’ … you trashpile junkie murderer!”
“hope you have eyes in the back of your head so you can see that sharpened piece of scrap metal or plastic that will be sent through your neck”
The mob is so gleeful. Maybe it’s because I just watched Wolf Hall that the vision of a crowd gathered round lusting for a drawn-out death is so vivid. The willingness to – the pleasure in – not only judging Steele but calling for, hoping for, the detailed destruction of her person is ugly. Even if we believe Steele completely responsible for the death of Trevor Harrison – and unlike LoCO’s commenters, I find that writing about these real people, these events unfolding in real time, makes me extra sensitive – this reaction to her story says much about us and how, even if our justice system has evolved, we have not.
Speaking of evolution, in addition to the “tits” comments above, Steele’s story brought forth specifically gendered insults and threats, as well as assumptions about Steele’s relationship to social services and her worth as a mother. To be sure, knowing the direction in which LoCO commenters prefer to go, the hate and judgment would likely have flowed as strongly if the antagonist had been a man, but we wouldn’t see comments like these:
“Maybe she blew the detective. Seems like that kinda girl.”
“I was thinking would like to meet this Kim Steele babe and offer her a fresh start. I could use some of that. I am not straight and narrow, tho, I am straight and thick.”
“Must be nice to be a woman and get a full media press and whirlwind book tour and Lifetime movie for committing murder. It really sucks being held accountable for my own actions.”
“Now let’s see a follow up story on how much public money this bitch has received from the government over the last 10 years. Welfare, food stamps, child care, etc.”
“I’ll bet she listed herself as unemployed on all kinds of assistance documents. With two little kids she could get a pretty good monthly check.”
“I hope you get your welfare taken away.”
“…miss trash twot”
“…that Steele bitch”
“…crack head bitch”
“…selfish, cold ass bitch”
“…a lying bitch”
I finally emerged from scrolling through the comments, left the toxic muck and arose back into the larger world, the one with sunsets and snuggly cats and husbands to make out with and a job where investigating garbage is, perhaps thankfully, more literal – it’s easier to pick up trash than it is to eradicate hate.
When I brought all this up to Burns (disclaimer: Ryan is one of my closest friends), he responded to say, “I personally found her story fascinating – a glimpse into a criminal lifestyle that’s obviously quite common around here….”
And that, to me is the thing this interview offered – a look into a lifestyle that may be unfamiliar to many of us, but one in which so many people few degrees removed from us are involved. Instead of forming a virtual lynch mob, lighting a bonfire and fantasizing about watching Steele burn, we could have turned to our own families and friends, discussed our community and how to better it – or how to better protect it. Maybe some of those discussions happened offline. I hope so.
*All comments gathered from the two posts at lostcoastoutpost.com and facebook.com/lostcoastoutpost. Over 60 comments were ultimately deleted by LoCO staff, including many referenced above.
**This blog post was formally blessed by LoCO editor Hank Sims.