The Cricket Lady, née Zaida Pugh, is an idiot. She made a huge mess on the D train, killed untold numbers of insects, and emotionally scarred everyone forced to witness her ill-conceived buffoonery in addition to snarling their commutes. Her muddled attempt at art, which she meekly defended as “awareness raising,” did nothing but reinforce the idea that’s it’s best to keep your head down in the face of crisis, and flee in the face of urine. The brave souls who did intervene were made to look like gullible fools. OK then.
Pugh has been arrested and charged on several counts, including reckless endangerment, obstructing governmental administration, false reporting an incident and disorderly conduct. She deserves them all.
She also released a tearful 40 minute video that sounds like it was filmed in a sewer after a rainstorm. “People hate me and probably want me dead,” she sniffles, water dripping forlornly in the background.
Too little too late, you bristle, because her stunt was incredibly reckless, and self-righteousness can be cathartic.
But as stupid as Pugh’s offenses were, she does not deserve the blast furnace of hatred to which she has been subjected. She does not, as she intimated she’s been told, need to kill herself. The internet will move on in a few days (hours), but Pugh has written repeatedly on Facebook that she “doesn’t know what’s going to happen.” Her feed is filled with comments like this:
IDK if I’ll get through this anymore..my life doesn’t seem like it’ll last long in a few but w.e happens I love u all
W.e happens to me aunty whether I’m alive or not I love u and make sure u tell the fam not to stress and just always stick together tell them I’m sorry I stayed away but I was always going through slot in my life but now this happen I’m failed as a parent and my life
Internet rage knows no restraint. I know — I too post things on the Internet for a living. This very weekend, I wrote a quick item in which I fucked up the location of the Grand Canyon — turns out Yellowstone has a Grand Canyon, too! I’m a silly twit, yes, and I fixed the problem within minutes of publishing, but by then it was too late. The commenters had noticed — they smell geographical errors like a shark smells a drop of blood. One informed me how lucky I was that they were being so “cool,” noting that such gaffes had previously inspired lashings so thorough that by the time they were done, the offending writer had turned to dust. “I think we made Foster Kamer cry one time,” she wrote proudly. It grated my nerves for the rest of the day.
Do you remember Justine Sacco? The woman who fired off an insensitive tweet about AIDS before boarding a plane to South Africa? By the time she landed 11 hours later, she found herself in a whole different world from the one she departed — one in which she no longer had a job, but also one in which she was subsumed by a fiery sea of blind, righteous hatred. The internet rage machine does not sleep, and why should it? Why wrestle around in the muck in search of a complicated Truth when a slick, facile one is available right here? Why contemplate Palestine or gun control when there’s the Cricket Lady?
There are differences, certainly. Sacco thought she would make a little joke, and it backfired terribly. Pugh specifically sought attention with her stunt, and she got it. It just turned out to be very, very different than the kind she wanted.
The moment you take something you made and put it online, it’s no longer yours. The internet can be a viciously mean place, particularly because it comes furnished with the security blanket of anonymity. You wouldn’t wish ill of someone to their face, probably. But if you’re a specific type of person — maybe alone in bed, after Instagram has been tapped, maybe slowly wasting under tubed fluorescent lights in a cubicle — you’re perhaps surprised how easily it comes to you. Emphasis on how easily it comes to you. It turns out having someone insult you in print stings almost as much as having it said to your face.
Art is often stupid. Pranks are often stupid. People are often stupid. Zaida Pugh did a dumb thing and she is paying for it. Let’s leave her alone now, okay?
If you or someone you know might be suicidal, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or seek help from a medical professional.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 30, 2016