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In 'Conversations With People Who Hate Me' An Activist Calls Up His Worst Critics

Dylan Marron has a lot of haters. The actor and activist makes online videos about social justice — and the comments that appear on those videos can be harsh, to say the least.

Plenty of people would just ignore all that negativity, but not Marron. He decided to reach out to his harshest critics to ask about what set them off, and why. The first season of his podcast, Conversations with People Who Hate Me, featured Skype calls between Marron and his detractors.

In the second season, he moderates conversations between "trolls" and the people they've trolled — though as he explains below, using the word "troll" isn't a great way to start a dialogue.

Interview Highlights

On why he stopped using the word "troll"

I definitely used to use the word troll. I don't like it anymore, because ... that is starting the conversation at a deficit, you know what I mean? I want to make sure we are in as safe a place as possible — and I know that's a very zeitgeisty term right now. I also want to make a safe space for the person who wrote me or my guest something negative.

On how he reaches out to people who are angry with him

The simple line I give is: Do you want to move this online conversation offline? I think there's something about a phone [call] that is a happy medium. It's not in person so we're still apart, but it's that real time conversation, you hear someone's voice. You hear their "ums" and "uhs," you hear their hesitation — and that goes for all of us on the call, including me. And there's something so humanizing about that and disarming. Almost invariably my guests will say: Listen, I shouldn't have said that. I might agree with the core thing that was driving me to say that, but I was a little too intense about it.

On the conversations being framed from the vantage point of progressives being attacked by conservatives

I am not pretending to be some sort of bipartisan moderator ... of course I have a stake in this. I clearly agree more with one side, but that doesn't mean I can't foster a space for meaningful, nuanced, dialogue.

On whether these dialogues are exhausting

It's actually not. I love the calls. I love the calls so much. The calls make me feel like maybe the world is good after all. Because someone who thinks very differently from me, someone with whom I shared a very negative introduction, they are willing to talk. There are at least a handful of people who I've come across who are willing to own up to things they've written online and it gives me hope.

Melissa Gray and Jolie Myers produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.

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