Dear community. I’ve recently come under escalating social media attacks from a guy named Canin Apriori. Some of you already know him, especially if you’ve been stalked and trolled by him yourself. Recently, his attacks have gone past the point where I can keep ignoring them. This is an introduction to his basic operating system. It is also a reminder that we need to do better as a community to address both the harm done by people like him as well as that done to them.
I’m not going to pretend this doesn’t bother me. The intention of a troll is to destroy your sense of safety, damage your relationships and cut off your sources of support and sustenance – and Canin has honed this craft. A lot of you already know this script all too well – especially women and others regularly targeted by male stalker behavior. I guess I’ve been shielded till now. Growing up, my family was always under surveillance, but the ambush-friendly environment of the internet adds a whole other level of creepy.
For those not familiar with who this guy is, these social media gems (regarding other Twin Cities activists) are a good start: “You owe me more than your life could ever repay.” “And just so we’re clear… they aren’t good people – their death would help me sleep easier.” “I won’t feel safe until I see heads roll.” “I want them dead.” “All I hear are the sounds of these knives I’m sharpening.” He gets away with all this toxic bullying by posing as an anti-toxic-masculinity hero!
I’ve become the latest focus for his rage (for “reasons” we’ll get to). He’s now demanding that local cultural organizers drop me from an upcoming panel. His message to them starts out with:
“Ricardo Levins Morales has NO place on that panel. First off, he’s white.”
This is classic Canin. Once he’s decided I’m not on his team he feels empowered to bestow an overriding importance to my white Ashkenazi father while erasing my mother, a Boricua woman, along with our large extended family, our shared ancestors and the homeland where I was born and raised. This is how you amplify and validate white supremacy, hermano, not how you fight it! Incidentally, I only became “white” after he decided to turn against me, before then I was cool. He holds other mixed-including-white people (who have displeased him) in similar contempt (after similarly erasing everyone except the whites in their heritage).
The rest of his reasoning will reveal much about Canin:
“I sought to reach out to RLM for help – he told me there was nothing he could do – and then told me it was likely better that I leave the community/state.” “And he has ZERO capacity to listen to men of color, trust, I tried.” It is “an insult to anyone attempting to have an authentic experience, that the space be infected by his parasitic presence.”
I only sat down for a conversation with Canin once. We spoke for over an hour and it was notable for his total lack of curiosity about me – or anything not Canin. He talked a lot about his disdain for a long list of people he felt had dissed or failed him over the years. He expressed a need for help dealing with past and ongoing trauma but then told me he already knew all he needed to about trauma and recovery and I couldn’t possibly add anything. He’s the one who informed ME that he had decided to move out of state.
Soon after that he posted an angry message, railing against phony and hypocritical leaders in the community, immediately clarifying in a personal email: “Anything I am saying there is not directed at you at all. Your conversation has been a blessing, even if it has come to an end.” The last time I heard from him was in a group email about an online networking platform he’d developed. It began, “I’m reaching out to say thank you. All of you, in some way, have helped me grow as a person, and bring this project into being.” The next I knew, he was trumpeting that I’m a white supremacist!
Nothing he’s ever posted actually says anything about me causing harm to anyone. All his complaints boils down to him feeling that I didn’t give him personal emotional support he decided he was entitled to. For that failure to deliver I must be publicly destroyed as the public enemy I am and the whole community must take part. This is a mind-boggling display of self-absorption, but it is totally Canin.
There’s one more thing that he can’t forgive. I took part in a women-led accountability process in response to harm done by a local leader/activist’s misogynist personal behaviors and manipulative leadership style. Communities around the country have been increasingly trying to create alternative processes for dealing more deeply with such behaviors in place of the default responses of letting the harm go unchallenged or simply just driving the culprit from the village. (Or having the discussion hijacked by Canin-style performances of male rage.)
In our case, we learned what we could from other communities’ experiences and reached out to as many of the women harmed by this individual as possible so they could be as involved – or not – as they chose (we did this before meeting with the individual, to make sure that their voices and needs would be at the centered of the process). It led up to a healing justice circle (which many of them indicated they wanted), led by an experienced practitioner. In one of his more delusional posts, Canin tried to claim the credit: “they only did that because I made a blog post that garnered over 13,000 reads – regarding the predatory nature of an individual RLM tried to save, after I exposed them.” (We apparently missed that we’d been exposed, especially since the process was not secret – we openly met with anyone in the community who wanted was concerned.) No one in that room mentioned a need for a male savior to swoop in and take charge of their narrative. In a familiar pattern, Canin consistently highlights me, the only man in the core accountability group, while erasing the five others – all women – who made up the team. This was truly difficult and exhausting work, without a road map, led by women I deeply admire.
In streams of tweets and posts Canin states clearly that his pursuit of this same individual is rooted in overwhelming personal hatred (complete with violent fantasies) and not any serious idea about addressing patriarchal/misogynist culture in activist organizations.
My evil influence is apparently spreading. He took aim recently at another local activist accusing him of “growing into his own as a paternalistic activist under the tutelage of RLM at the utterly worthless @MPD150. (their actions have NOTHING on the work I did alone with mpdcomments.org – and that’s just the facts.”
“Tutelage”? “Facts”? Really? Can you make any random thing be true just by saying it? That seems to be what happens in Caninworld.
Approaching panel organizers to demand I be dropped is taking familiar a page from the FBI playbook. The difference is that in this case it’s revenge for his own self-inflicted personal disappointment, which somehow has become everybody’s problem.
I agree with Canin that he’s as intelligent and capable as he claims. That means he knows exactly what he’s doing. When you repeatedly target someone with dehumanizing language, it’s a dog-whistle signal for the pack to pile on. You want plant seeds of doubt about somebody such that even people who don’t know them will feel uncomfortable (“You know, I heard something about this guy, I can’t remember the what it was about but think I’ll keep my distance…”). That lets you inflict tremendous human damage without ever having to make a real case.
Having exposed the nature of Canin’s bullying I can be sure that the attacks – and his bizarre fixation on me – are going to escalate even more. Personally, I think that just leaving me alone with my “totally worthless” work would be a much better choice, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve never said anything about Canin until today and would be quite content to never have to do so again. My community will have my back, for sure. But I’m very concerned about why his friends and supporters do not step up to challenge his abuse-disguised-as-activism posturing. Whatever he’s doing, it is not leadership and no one should fool themselves that it is. Without people encouraging him, telling him that he’s “so brave” and supplying him with “likes” and “shares,” he will not be able to keep it going very long.
Under the requirements of masculinity, especially for dark men who bear such a heavy burden of oppression, it is not much of an option to let yourself be vulnerable, leaving rage as one of a few acceptable outlets. Also, the issues around colorism and privilege in our communities that Canin points to are very real and deeply damaging. But it is never the duty of one who’s been targeted for harm to provide assistance to the person targeting them no matter how much he might need it. My job is to protect my ability to keep building in all the areas of my life and work that Canin wants to destroy, not figure out what he needs. That’s for the people in his life who care most about him to address. The first requirement, though, must be that he stop doing harm.