The internet moves from object of hate, to object of hate.

Perhaps a prime example was Justine Sacco, who after tweeting an ambiguous, clearly satirical message about AIDS that some people interpreted as racist, found herself the subject of an internet hunt — all while she was on an airplane to Africa. By the time she landed, she had been fired from her job, and people tracked her airplane and confronted her at the airport when she landed. The writer for Gawker who started the whole thing apologized years later.

Certainly there have been many other such examples, but the Sacco incident stands out.

I don’t know if it will reach Sacco proportions, but there is an internet “outrage” gaining momentum against a guy in Barrington, RI, who wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper complaining about older women who wear yoga pants:

To the editor:

The absolute worst thing to ever happen in women fashion is the recent development of yoga pants as daily wear outside the yoga studio.

Not since the mini-skirt has there been something worn by so many women who should never have it on in the first place.

From casual to formal, weddings, funerals, shopping, and even for the workplace, yoga pants are everywhere on women of all ages, usually paired with a blousy top and a pony tail hairdo. What a disaster!

Like the mini-skirt, yoga pants can be adorable on children and young women who have the benefit of nature’s blessing of youth. However, on mature, adult women there is something bizarre and disturbing about the appearance they make in public. Maybe it’s the unforgiving perspective they provide, inappropriate for general consumption, TMI, or the spector of someone coping poorly with their weight or advancing age that makes yoga pants so weird in public.

A nice pair of tailored slacks, jeans, or anything else would be better than those stinky, tacky, ridiculous looking yoga pants. They do nothing to compliment a women over 20 years old. In fact, the look is bad. Do yourself a favor, grow up and stop wearing them in public.

Besides, why would you want to wear something that’s seen on dozens of other women every day, everywhere? I thought women didn’t like doing that for obvious reasons. Yoga pants belong in the yoga studio. What’s next? Wearing a “Speedo” to the supermarket? Imagine if men did that. Yuck!

To all yoga pant wearers, I struggle with my own physicality as I age. I don’t want to struggle with yours. Thanks,

Alan Sorrentino

Barrington

The letter received numerous negative comments, and additional critical letters to the editor in response. All of which seems a perfectly appropriate way to disagree.

But then things turned ugly. The story spread as local women organized a protest (scheduled for Sunday, October 22, 2016) to march past Sorrentino’s home.

This is the original Facebook event page (image via Washington Times):

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/21/yoga-pants-parade-targets-rhode-island-man-who-der/

https://www.facebook.com/events/125245751277998/

The protest movement took a local newspaper flap and turned it into an internet rage and national news story.

The AP reported:

Women clad in yoga pants plan to parade through a coastal Rhode Island town in protest of a man who said the attire looks tacky and ridiculous.

The women plan to hold a parade Sunday in Barrington to show they can wear whatever they want.

Their outrage is in response to a letter that town resident Alan Sorrentino wrote to the Barrington Times about his dislike of yoga pants. He said women over age 20 shouldn’t wear them.

Of course, Sorrentino never tried to stop older women from wearing yoga pants, he just expressed his opinion about it. Yet this is being portrayed as an issue of women’s rights:

https://www.yahoo.com/style/women-are-throwing-a-yoga-pants-parade-to-defend-their-right-to-wear-leggings-in-public-173358451.html

(added) The organizers even have taken to Twitter to claim that this man’s letter to the editor is the equivalent of French police forcing Muslim women to take off burkinis on the beach:

https://twitter.com/paradeyogapants/status/790190786327437312

Many national news outlets covered the story:

https://news.google.com/news/story?ncl=dV0LCNzqLhqsp1MPtQ_jz527mrRxM&q=yoga+pants+protest&lr=English&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi01_TSq-_PAhXBGD4KHcCdAEwQqgIIJjAA

The protest story was covered extensively on local television:

And even national news:

Along the way, the protest turned into internet stalking and calls to get Sorrentino. Some of the Facebook comments expressed a pent-up anger that seems to be taken out on Sorrentino, including this message from Jamie Patrice Burke, one of the organizers of the protest:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154602059322433&set=a.10150158000457433.332678.604807432&type=3&theater

And this one from a local mother who felt the yoga pants comment reflected a larger societal misogyny:

https://www.facebook.com/events/125245751277998/permalink/129965697472670/?ref=1&action_history=null

Other messages were threatening:

Justin Katz at Ocean State Current noted how the protest turned into a threatening mob:

Some women (and men) are planning a parade in yoga pants down the street of a man who did nothing but express an opinion about appropriate clothing (published in a forum that only a portion of even his town’s residents encounter on a regular basis). If it happens, the event will be mainly than an opportunity for some people to live out the fantasy of valor on a Sunday afternoon by reveling in somebody else’s powerlessness.

As with their attempt to stop the newspaper from allowing such views to be published, the parade’s effect — its intended effect — will be to warn others away from expressing views to which fascist agitators like Erin Johnson of Barrington might object. In matters of disagreement with the self-righteous, only those willing to depart from the challenges of their daily lives in order to escalate the fight will push back, isolating the great majority of people who just want to go about life in harmony and forcing them to choose between extremes. (Nevermind that one of the extremes is largely fictional.)

Our society once strove to encourage discussion of differing points of view to foster understanding and to resolve those differences in a way that we used to call “civil.” Guess those days are done.

Local popular radio host John DePetro interviewed Sorrentino, who detailed not only the abuse he has received as a result of the protest coverage, and also his fears for the protesters approaching his house:

Alan Sorrentino, the man who wrote the critical letter about women in yoga pants to the Barrington Times this week, spoke exclusively to WPRO’s John DePetro Saturday and asked organizers to call off a planned protest parade on his home Sunday, saying he has received threats on his life and property. “Please don’t invade my home,” Sorrentino said to DePetro.

“It’s vicious and intimidating,” Sorrentino continued. “The fact that this is seen as an appropriate reaction to something I wrote in the paper is really disgusting.”

Sorrentino shared several voicemails he received with DePetro, including threats such as “we’re showing up to your house you mother f—–,” “die alone b—-,”you’d better watch your f— ass,” and “go die you b—-.”

Sorrentino compared the harassment he is receiving to threats he had received in the past as an openly gay man. “This brings back memories from when you were afraid to stand up for yourself because you didn’t know who was going to descend on you, what kind of physical harm or intimidation you were going to be subjected to.”

The letter was written in jest as a respite from the current political climate, Sorrentino said….

One of the issues is why march to Sorrentino’s house. Why not hold a protest somewhere else?

Bringing hundreds of protesters to someone’s home ups the level of the protest from issue-oriented to vilification of the person, and is tantamount to doxxing.

I reached out to one of the organizers of the protest, Jamie Patrice Burke, for comment on the threats:

WAJ:

I’m writing about the fact that this protest has now turned threatening and the guy who posted the letter is receiving death threats. I saw your recent post about this being non-violent, but I would like a statement from you that I can include in my article about how the frenzy over the event has turned threatening. Why did you organize this as a march to his house rather than some other place? Do you have any regrets about that?

Jamie Patrice Burke:

The Yoga Pants Parade is a peaceful walk of women and the people who love them supporting their choice to wear whatever they want. I am sure Mr. Sorrentino is regretting his letter that has now gone viral and drawn much attention to him. I was hoping he may have had a change of heart and would walk along with us as a sign of peace but my request was denied. I cannot control who has threatened Mr Sorrentino based on his letter, but I can assure you the women at our event are non violent and have not threatened Mr. Sorrentino. When you put your name and address on such a ridiculous letter, you open yourself up to all sorts response. I am not responsible for the response, and neither is the Yoga Pants Parade. We will continue to ensure this is a peaceful gathering of love and support of the Body Positive movement.

Please note this was never a march TO his house, a parade by house house was planned and will continue as planned. We will not be engaging with him or other residents, as this is a peaceful walk with no intent to disturb the peace.

It seems that the organizers are recognizing what they have unleashed. The word “Peaceful” was added to the name of the event (see above for original page image):

yoga-pants-protest-fb-event-page

Also, as this message calling on people not to confront Sorrentino during the march was posted this afternoon and pinned to the top of the event page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/125245751277998/permalink/130087167460523/?ref=1&action_history=null

I submitted a comment to the event Facebook page, but as of this writing several hours later, it was not approved and has not appeared on the page:

yoga-pants-protest-fb-comment

The question remains, was this guy deserving of the internet hate being visited on him over his OPINION about older women in yoga pants.

Does he deserve several hundred people protesting outside his house?