Thursday, March 9, 2017

When Your "Activism" Primarily Consists of Being a Twitter Jerk

You're not actually ushering in The Revolution.

A certain Twitter user who has taken a hateful interest in feminists has been brought to my attention as of late. This person's basic methodology is to post screenshots of other people's work, render a snarky, trying-too-hard misinterpretation of it, and present it to their followers for ridicule, like so:

It turns out, I have some thoughts about this Internet behavior.

First: "Hot Take Appreciator." We get it, we get it. You don't actually think people's takes are "hot" and you're not actually "appreciating" them. You're being sarcastic. Congratulations to you and the rest of the Internet.

Second: For context, this person also Tweeted about me several months ago, encouraging their far left/socialist followers to hate-follow me, ostensibly so they could continue mocking my work, after which I blocked several users who began contacting me.  One of them told me that their Twittering, which includes mocking "liberals" like me, helps "lessen world suck." Whatever the hell that means, I don't think harassing people on Twitter actually does improve the material conditions of working people. Just a thought, there!

Third: This person appears to be a "socialist" who is upset that I critiqued Bernie Sanders for meeting with the Pope during the Democratic Primary. They posted a small sample of my writing and inaccurately claimed that I think Bernie is "awful" for meeting with the Pope and that I used his meeting as a purity test against him.

On that point, the reference is actually to this post, in which I quoted bell hooks, who observed Bernie's not-quite-intersectional approach to politics. My point was not that Bernie is an "awful" person for meeting with the Pope. I don't think Bernie Sanders is an awful person. I merely think he is a flawed person. I can see how some Bernie fans might get that confused.

Hillary Clinton is not perfect. Bernie Sanders is not perfect. No politician is. No feminist is. No person is.

Yet, from my perspective, I consistently saw (and continue to see) some people give Bernie passes for things they didn't and wouldn't give to Hillary Clinton - and I think why that happens is a conversation worth having. I-M-A-G-I-N-E for a moment the anti-establishment leftist outrage if Hillary had left the campaign trail to fly to Rome to meet with the Pope - the leader of a misogynistic, anti-gay, anti-trans establishment-of-all-establishments. But Bernie does it, and some of his biggest, most purity-leftist fans are all good? Sure, okay.

Critiquing Bernie on this point seems like something reasonable Bernie supporters, and I know there are some, might be able to concede.

Alas, not all Bernie supporters act reasonably.

I have 10 years of experience dealing with various people acting like jerks on the Internet. The Internet bully, harasser, troll, or jerk - that person with no demonstrable interest in engaging with people in good faith - does not often allow for nuance, let alone a fair, reasonable, or intelligent reading of their target's work.

It's not just me this person targets - other feminists are targets as well. Like I've said, feminists are hated from all sides of the political spectrum. So, Amanda Marcotte, Lena Dunham's bangs, Melissa McEwan, and Shakesville in general are targeted, along with people who only just comment at Shakesville. People's words are screengrabbed and posted by "Hot Take Appreciator" so the band of bullies can begin their rounds of mocking. Tweets about feminists' work quickly devolves into man-after-man-and-woman-but-mostly-man then finding additional things to hate and ridicule about their targets and, naturally, these things tend to lead to Hillary Clinton.

Like, for instance, did you know Hillary actually is unlikable? That's the convo my particular writing inspired, which when you think about it is probably the hottest of all hot takes, isn't it? Please oh please:

I can do sarcasm too!
The Twitter user's post about my writing seems to have also inspired this trollish comment here in Fannie's Room, in which the person clearly had no intention of good faith engagement and never even came back to respond.

I have two main observations at this point.

It is not outside of the realm of possibility that this Twitter user's behavior falls into the category of Russian ratfucking to divide the left. If so, well done, comrades! I salute you.

The sadder possibility is that, of all the ways to spend one's limited time on this Earth, one would spend it being a Twitter jerk in this way. If this person is a socialist in the US, I likely agree with them on probably anywhere from 75-95% of substantive issues, and yet here we fucking are. For instance, I am for:
  • Universal healthcare
  • Limited defense spending
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Free college 
  • Reproductive freedom
  • Fair pay
  • LGBT equality
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Strong environmental protections
  • All the femslash fan videos!
And more.

I just also happen to believe that the way to achieve the most enduring, non-violent progressive change, given the fact that millions of other Americans oppose these things, is through the pragmatic, informed, incrementalism suggested by Hillary Clinton's platform. At the same time, had Bernie won the Primary, I would have voted for him. Full stop. But, sure, Insular Wannabe-Socialist Twitter (or Russian Ratfucking Twitter), go ahead and hate me.

However, should one decide that people who hold the above beliefs are the absolute worst, I might offer that if your litmus test for who is/isn't "leftist enough" is "Have you ever rendered a critique of Bernie Sanders?" then you might not be participating in the One True Socialist Revolution, but instead the rank, shallow political amateurism and cult of personality that defines extreme ideologues and ultimately renders movements politically irrelevant because it's less about substance and more about following a savior.

If you're spending time sifting through a decade or more of what-you-deem impure, stupid, frivolous feminist writing and well-intentioned people's blog comments, searching and digging for something - anything - to screenshot and mock because you think these people don't sufficiently Feel The Bern, maybe you're not participating in a revolution, you're just being an irrepressible jerk like the rest of the irrepressible jerks who are a dime a dozen on the interwebs.

If you, for instance, dig through the feminist's archives and find that maybe she once criticized a cartoon, or wrote something that your cruel, cold-hearted worldview finds unserious, and you henceforth initiate a round of Twitter mocking of it, maybe you're not participating in a revolution, you just haven't found a good life-affirming, personal-growth-inspiring hobby.

And, if you think it's pathetic for a feminist to criticize a movie or to talk about pop culture, consider that it might be even more pathetic to spend days mocking the feminist for criticizing a movie or talking about pop culture.

Related! "A Serious Post About the Memes of Production." Because, you understand, this Twitter bullying of feminists is not, actually, trenchant at all.

Nor is it revolutionary. It does not in any way serve working people or people who are resisting what the Trump regime is inflicting upon us, and if you're not standing with us, then at least have the decency to leave progressives alone and stay the ever-loving fuck out of our way.

Because right now, "Hot Take Appreciator," your politics look to me like nothing more than mean-girl socialism, which is like its brocialist comrade, except it's a gateway misogyny of sorts: when women mock progressive women it gives permission to leftist bros to be outright misogynists because it's a woman mocking the feminists first. And then all misogyny is suddenly fair game, because you're a cool girl, right, not like those other girls? You don't even care about stupid trigger warnings and all that girly, shitty, frivolous "PC" feminist stuff, do you?

When you understand that many of these Clintonistas and feminists that you and your pals mock are part of the revolution, not outside of it, you should likewise understand that it's only your small, politically-irrelevant insular leftist bubble that treats us like we're Nazis simply because we didn't Feel The Bern like how you Felt The Bern. Or worse, y'all sneer: we're liberals.

I have a lot more I could say about this type of leftist cyber-circle-jerkiness. I won't even say "grow up," because comparing your behavior to children is an insult to children, who at least usually start out decent. I won't even go deep into the fundamental mistake that mean people so often make in thinking meanness makes you strong and sensitivity makes other people weak.  There is nothing, literally nothing, strong about mocking feminists on the Internet from your "Hot Take Appreciator" Twitter account.

Instead, I'll just cut straight to it.

What I have seen, "Hot Take Appreciator," with your stream of misrepresentations and ridicule of progressive women's work is exactly one thing, and it is this:

While I have learned so much from so many different people on the Internet, I see that I have nothing at all to learn from you, because you seem to have nothing of real substance to say.

[UPDATE, 3/10/17: Well, for all the teeth-gnashing and feigned hipster cynicism/disinterested "too cool to take this seriously" commentary my blogpost has inspired over the past 24 hours from Team "Hot Take," still the unanswered question remains: How does your Twitter mocking of progressive women improve the conditions of working people and, in general, relate to your "socialism"?

So weird how that hasn't been addressed.

I think the most substantive thing they've suggested, which will come as a Total Newsflash to anyone who's been reading for awhile, is that I'm not cool because I write actual articles that are long and I am sincere because I have feelings. Who even uses Blogger anymore anyway, like, how lame, don't you know you're just supposed to write about politics in 140 characters at a time with a snarky screencap?! (Am I being "negged"?) Sorry guys, I'm taken. And gay. Definitely 100% gay. LOL your "socialism."]

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