Linda Tirado’s Poverty Porn

Once upon a time Linda Walther Tirado aka KillerMartinis wrote an essay about what it feels like to be poor. In spite (or perhaps because) of its nihilism and hopelessness, Linda’s story enchanted the internet and went viral.

Linda Tirado Poverty

Linda’s essay was hailed as brilliant, honest, brave, and shared and discussed all over Facebook, Twitter and the Huffington Post. But as anyone who knows a thing or two about poverty could tell you, Linda’s tale was pure poverty porn. Not honest or authentic at all, but designed — like all effective porn — to make its target audience feel good.

Cooking broccoli is so hard, Linda wrote.

Yes, yes, yes, responded her readers.

Planned Parenthood is three hours away and I can’t afford the gas, Linda explained.

Don’t stop, they said.

Smoking is the only thing that keeps me sane, Linda  revealed .

Oh my Gawd. More, more, more, said her fans. Where can we send you money for hitting every poverty talking point there is from junk food to the Patriot Act, and all in one easy read?

Linda quickly set up a gofundme.com account. And within a few days, she had raised more than $60,000 to write a book about what it’s like to live in dire poverty and despair — and also to head to Vegas for some much needed R and R.

If it hadn’t been for a bunch of haters poking holes in her fairy tale, Linda might have been able to keep on fundraising and reach her final $100,000 goal. But trolls did things like actually pay attention to paragraph two of Linda’s article, where she outlines a day in the life of a two-job, full-time student mom of two very young children. Anyone who did the math or actually knows anything about working mothers with babies and toddlers, would see instantly the story was ludicrous.And this is before factoring in Linda’s later claim that she drove an hour through snowy mountains to get to one of her jobs.

Then there was the curious fact that Linda skipped right over the crucial issue of child care, kind of a giant red flag waving. And a bit of internet surfing would have revealed to the “news” organization that spread Linda’s story that — for someone with two jobs, two kids and a full-course load — she spent an awful lot of time online at Jezebel.com, asking, among other things for decorating tips and how to preserve her china cabinet.

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The trolls also uncovered that Linda was a homeowner — no mortgage either — who had recently crowdfunded some overdue bills. And she turned out to have multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as internet personalities. Before she became a downtrodden young mom making bad decisions, Linda was a lesbian taking on the Mormon church, a hard-nosed political operator who knew the president, and a feisty fast food franchise manager putting entitled customers in their place.

Linda’s fans leapt to her defense accusing her detractors of being creepy stalkers who didn’t  want poor people to live in nice homes, vacation in Vegas or have an active fantasy life.

Linda herself was a little more circumspect. In a very tl;dr explanation on her fundraising page, she confessed that her essay was not 100% true. “I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now,” she admitted. Then, further demonstrating that poor people can indeed be clever, Linda buried a whole bunch of information about her music lessons and private schools in acres and acres of effusive thanks to her donors.

Linda  also continued to display a certain way with words. She told everyone that her parents “helped us find a house to live in” never actually clarifying that she owned the house even when she talked to credulous reporters.

Linda followed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s example, coming sort of clean and moving on. She wasn’t going to  let a few pesky revelations spoil her moment of glory. Like any good con artist, she also knew her mark’s weaknesses and that people hate to admit they’ve been conned.

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After all, Linda’s fans had gone all out, calling her the voice of her generation or, as the HuffPo put it atop the article where Linda admitted she went to private school and wasn’t really poor, “the woman who accidentally explained poverty to the nation.”

What’s more, Linda was clearly relishing the new role her enablers had given her. Holding forth on Twitter, where she tweeted an astounding 1,500 times in one day, she flattered her newfound fans, entertained proposals from fellow poverty activists, and ignored the annoying types asking for clarification. That would  be letting facts stand in the way of the essential truth, which is, as all right thinking people know, small minded and pedantic.

But it turns out there is one factual line that even Linda’s staunchest supporters wouldn’t cross and that’s kiddie poverty porn. As one gofundme.com participant earnestly put it: “She didn’t claim to have an ill child. Refreshing, IMO.”

Read the follow-up: Why discussing Linda Tirado’s teeth is a lose/lose proposition

216 thoughts on “Linda Tirado’s Poverty Porn

  1. NEW YORK TIMES…

    “an essay on poverty that prompted $60,000 in donations until it was revealed by its author to be impressionistic rather than strictly factual.

    … they represented the lightning-in-a-bottle brew of emotion and entertainment that attracts readers and brings in lucrative advertising dollars.”

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  2. “You kill people with your power, with your money. Sometimes you kill them on the pretext of working for their good. It’s true they don’t bleed.” For me, that quote perfectly describes this poverty essay debacle.

    Linda stated:
    “then they willfully misread my essay. I can’t help that. I wish it were not so because I would rather be having a conversation.”
    “If you have been poor or you’ve been raised poor it doesn’t hurt you to see somebody brought down, its kinda nice sometimes.”
    These statements along with her “Sex, please” *shudder* blog, show a lack for the ability to empathize. Yet, just like Ann wrote, people were crying for more, more, more. In her video interview she claimed she was invited to speak to social workers to teach them how to be more empathetic. HA!
    Ryan Grim: people can’t understand or believe how someone could write so well, is living in grinding poverty. Because, Ryan, she wasn’t living in grinding poverty, and the people who have experienced living in poverty knew she was not poverty stricken or had experienced poverty in any point in her life. People who have not studied or experienced poverty, interchange poverty with poor and broke. They are different. All very different.
    So, if a person decides they are wanting to be an advocate for the poverty stricken, I’d advise them to do their homework. See, the “former poverty folk” are building gardens in our community. We are adopting children who share our same experiences. We are volunteering and teaching, we are…doing. Talk all you would like about poverty, but just like a physician would not allow a CNA to tell him how to perform an operation, you’d better have a solid knowledge/experience base if you expect anyone to listen. Our upbringing trains us to spot bs from miles away, so don’t insult us by acting like you know, when you don’t. You will be exposed.
    And the Gawkerets think this is about timestamps. Please.

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    1. Let’s be clear – the ONLY support LT has is from her fellow gif nerds on GroupDrink – she has ZERO credibility with the mainstream media so even if she self-publishes a ‘book’ (which I doubt she has the discipline for) – all it would be is a 10 cent pulp fiction paperback.

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    2. Linda Tirado aka killermartinis is exhibiting more and more grandiosity and delusion, posting with a focus on her interactions with the rich and famous. Whatever track record she has is policy and advocacy, certainly no work that involved being around the poor. And she appears to have no track record in voluntarism. She has gone to ground, claiming that she is writing to a three-month deadline. Looks as though her new agent, if she has one, has decided that’s her shelf-life!

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      1. LT admitted herself that the essay was her ‘observations’ on what it’s like being poor and not exactly the life she was leading at the time – an obvious political spin – when all the facts about her background started streaming-in.

        Her essay has been classified a fictional autobiography by outside sources.

        The only success I see LT having in the short-term after her 15 minutes are up is actually writing about how she came up with the idea for the essay – perhaps after reading the study on cognitive skills that was published in August and determining that she could be the best candidate for this as there was a huge niche market that existed and was untapped.

        LT has been on Twitter since 2007 and a blog on GroupDrink as KILLERMartinis so she had the benefit of getting information instantly – be that comments, feedback or ideas.

        It would be interesting to see if she ever wrote about being ‘poor’ prior to August 2013.

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      2. And the “poor mes” are coming out of the woodwork. “I make $100,000 and I’m one paycheck away from disaster.” “I haven’t found work in 6 months and as I look at the Pacific Ocean from my home, I’m scared.
        “The grand results of an everybody wins/instant gratification/I don’t control my own life society” An America full of people who don’t take their life into their own hands. It’s truly frightening.

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  3. Some clarity from Professor Kathryn Edin

    Jessica Winter-Miami Herald:
    ” So in an alternate reality, how would the ideal version of “Poverty Thoughts” have shed an empathetic light on the plight of impoverished Americans? I posed this question to one of America’s most renowned poverty experts, Kathryn Edin, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. “She should have written, ‘My life is a disaster and I’m only below the median — how can we even imagine truly poor people making it?’ ” Edin says. “Or, ‘I have a relatively privileged background and education, and yet my decision-making skills have been impaired by the stress of my situation — how on earth are the poor getting by?’ ”

    Such scruples and perspective perhaps aren’t the stuff of a viral blockbuster or brimming GoFundMe coffers. But they are an admission that a person can absorb the terrible, traumatic impact of what feels like hitting bottom, only to look closer and see how far down the bottom really goes.

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/06/3802010_p2/the-meaning-of-poverty.html#storylink=cpy

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    1. I have a friend who is unemployed – he does not own a car – rides his bike to go shopping and to run errands – which not only saves him the obvious gas money and vehicle maintenance (and insurance payments!) – but makes him healthier.

      Everyday he goes to an automotive junkyard and and hand wrenches parts off cars and then rides to a local Salvation Army story to buy items on sale – all of which are put on eBay and he makes enough to cover his bills and have money left over – but statistically he is at the very bottom of the poverty class – but in reality he is doing ok.

      Cooks his meals everyday – never buys junk food or go to Wendy’s or McDonald’s – and is not on any government assistance.

      That is why LT’s sob story did not resonate with me.

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      1. I’m really curious about people like your friend. I think parenting styles have a lot to do with the success of a child. That, and an inner drive.

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      2. I think you are correct Kimberly – as he is a former bike racer (so you need inner drive to go get off the couch and go training everyday!) and both his parents are immigrants – had to work in a factories 16 hours a day – not to stay only to pay bills but because they had a goal of purchasing their own house – which they did in 4 years of being in United States without having the benefit of speaking one word in English!

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  4. Kimberly, Ted, Luxxe, and especially, Ann – thank you for what you’ve written and the work you’ve done here. I reposted this on the Nation’s article, “Linda Tirado is Not a Hoax”. This thread reminds that not everyone is blindly believes the latest trend or thinks it’s better to beg than it is to try do better.

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    1. I get where you are coming from. Personally, I don’t see what she did as begging and frankly begging is necessary when choices are not available. She had choices.
      She is an opportunist and a manipulator who grabbed on to the poverty platform to make a name for herself. She is too lazy to finish college or too busy with the Jeze/Gawker crowd to volunteer. It’s disgusting to see my progressive party try and ride this dog and pony show. It’s no wonder Republicans want to cut off extended unemployment benefits. With examples like Ms. Tirado shoved in their face, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to what is really happening. Now, their world view of “laziness is the cause of poverty” has been confirmed. Sick.

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      1. “She is an opportunist and a manipulator who grabbed on to the poverty platform to make a name for herself. She is too lazy to finish college or too busy with the Jeze/Gawker crowd to volunteer. It’s disgusting to see my progressive party try and ride this dog and pony show.”

        I couldn’t agree more. Just saw her on Bill Maher and she comes across as arrogant, angry and self-possessed.

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      2. I cannot believe it! She was on Bill Maher. I have not watched the whole thing yet, but I did post this comment on the YT clip I found. “Wow Linda Tirado is still portraying herself as someone who was or once was in poverty. I thought we covered all this nonsense and she was called out over and over again. Hey Linda tell everyone how you bamboozled thousands of people into giving you over $60k to write a book, which already had a media buzz due to the blog huffpost did on your piece of fiction. There are several of us willing to dig up all your lies and expose them to the world as a whole, but it looks like the media has already jumped on your lie to help promote theirs. Just know there are those of us who do have long term memory and your burned into it like the sun’s radiation scorches cancer on delicate human skin. Enjoy your paid for fame.” I guess people do still believe in Santa Claus and unicorns.

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  5. Rumor has it that LT is in Santa Barbara, CA discussing a book deal and a speaking engagement tour. Another business write-off for the ‘expenses’ after the brief trip to Las Vegas to celebrate birthdays.

    Explains why there has been no Tweets on her Twitter account since Dec. 6th
    when she wrote…

    KillerMartinis ‏@KillerMartinis 6 Dec

    @Just_Darrin yeah, man, I’ve been writing. Time to do the thing. Plus the emails. Trying to get through those.

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    1. Well maybe! She did go to Santa Barbara to hang out with Mac McGill, “homesless” celebrity. Since then there has been a PR campaign (demonstrated by google stats on the “definding linda” recent story). So her agent – if signed – could well be trying to resuscitate some sort of career for her. As another commenter put it, watch out for the speaker circuit, Linda – there’s usually a Q&A session to contend with!

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      1. It is a 10 hour drive to Santa Barbara from Utah and then spending time in SB with celebrities such as Mac McGill – then you still have a 10 hour drive back home – I wonder how she got time off work? I guess still no time to go to the dentist either?

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  6. This one’s for Ravenpaine (note the very telling “sweet sweet free money” in the first para!!!:

    Linda Tirado posting as KM in August 2013 on Groupthink (she applied without even knowing what course she wanted to do, just for the money!!!! Sick of working!!!) :

    “So I quit my job and enrolled in school for fall semester. They’re willing to work with me on getting my scholarship back and things of that nature, but I have to declare a major by tomorrow. They told me yesterday about this, and I have until tomorrow afternoon to research employment rates in my two possible majors, figure out which is actually academically viable, pick one, and defend the decision. I only decided to go back to school a week and a half ago. I intended to start in spring, but they fast-tracked me through admissions and I start class Monday. I have no idea what they’re hoping to see, how to present it, or how to bolster my case for the sweet sweet free money. I haven’t been a student in a decade, and I really paid no attention to it when I was. I used to turn in papers written in Sharpie and assume I’d get an A on the merit of the work, but I hear they don’t go for that as much anymore and I have misplaced my favorite markers anyway. Any advice is welcome; this is all a bit overwhelming. A bit.

    … then after a bit of a discussion, Linda Tirado makes it clear her house is mortgage free!:

    I do have the option of incurring a year’s debt and going back for the money next year, but I hate to mortgage the house and I don’t have the credit for any other kind of loan. My stellar hubris as a teenager means I’m ineligible for any subsidized loans for my first year back until my GPA returns to something not so laughable. I’m wondering how they expect success if there’s no time to plan, but apparently people in my situation have usually gamed everything out before they reapply. I applied to see if they’d even let me in before I started to worry about funding or majors. “

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    1. Looks like pan handling runs in the family…

      KillerMartinis ‏@KillerMartinis 28 Nov

      @MacMcGill7 Oh, god, man. My real dad did the homeless thing in San Diego for a while. He says the warm was nice but the busking was hard.

      KillerMartinis ‏@KillerMartinis 28 Nov

      @MacMcGill7 but he liked it better than anywhere else he’d been because of the beaches

      KillerMartinis ‏@KillerMartinis 28 Nov

      @MacMcGill7 I used to randomly busk with arias when I was feeling bold. They do not draw a crowd, my friend.

      Like

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