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