A guest article submitted by one of our friends.
Did Warren Beatty think the song was about him? Given the vivid force with which Carly Simon sketched his character it is not difficult to believe that he did. Similarly, if I were to name the person who triggered and centred in the following events, he would probably think this is about him, and he would love an opportunity to sell the book he thinks is the centre of the controversy.
Controversy there was – and is- but it is not the book (controversial as it is) that is at the centre of this story, it is an idea, or rather the growth of an idea – the realisation that, even with a very busy home life and living in relatively isolated circumstances, I too can engage and support the development of a voice which is resistant to hate, resistant to the growth of racism and fascism and to the nihilistic self-interest which appears to be sweeping the West at this moment in time.
The growth of misanthropy which underpins all that has happened in the West in the years since the crisis in Capital has resulted in an exponential rise in the wealth of the top one percent while the rest of us struggle, red in tooth and claw, for the crumbs that remain.
Out of this dog-fight we have witnessed the resurgence of a populist nationalism combined (as always) with a virulent racist, homophobic, ahistorical, apolitical, antagonistic way of looking at the world.
This resurgence has been garnered by the past demolition of any organised socialist political force combined with the lack of a credible socialist narrative in mainstream media.
This lost narrative of the left is what has led many to seek to compensate by adopting social media outlets such as Twitter, to voice a way of seeing the world which is alternative to the mainstream and to the nihilistic right.
It is within this context that this story unfolds.
Like most using Twitter, I dabble amateurishly: knocking out a tweet now and then on the issue of the day, retweeting the odd meme, getting into the odd squabble with odd-bods whose views appear deranged and to whom, in the real world, I would never give the time of day. The normal run of the mill twitter stuff.
I recently asked a friend why he has never used Twitter. He said: “I did once. It was a shit storm”. This story is about one such shit storm and how I passed through it. It began when I came across the account of a man who was intent on using Twitter to flog a book. Let us call him Joe.
The first thing I noticed about Joe was his contempt for the libtards as he would label that broad range of thought and opinion usually described as the left – and the contemptuous manner with which he dismissed the most reasonable of approaches and questions to his opinions.
Then there were his contributions: the usual mixture of Islamophobia and disdain for others this time combined with a visceral hatred for the underclass particularly for those among this class with the audacity to “breed”.
That Joe is childless is clear from the time he spends on Twitter trying to flog his book and from the rants which reveal a bitter racist, driven ironically by the politics of envy.
As I watched Joe engage with his followers and detractors, I noticed how he used rhetoric to discourage attempts at critical exploration by focusing on the basest of human fears and anxieties. As is characteristic of the right: life’s essentials: housing, health, education, are starved of resources not by a system awash with wealth, but by the threat of the other – the immigrant, the European, the undeserving and in particular (yes he does use this genocidal refrain): the infection of left.
His comments for the most part are attempts at satire that lay bare (to anyone with eyes to see) his bitterness with the world. And his bitterness is mainly focused on this “infection”. By contrast, he presents himself and his “guys” as normal. This classically fascist delineation is to his mind (and to that of his most ardent followers) an illusion of those who are othered – those who are on the outside of his group.
Joe’s account has been on Twitter since April 2016. But how could an obvious personality-challenged ignoramus like Joe have 19k followers? His strategy is surprisingly simple: follow as many like-minded people in the expectation that most of those will follow you back. In this way, Joe intended to build a base from which to flog his book and grow more followers.
But why did so many followers remain, and how could he be gaining 100 followers a day? What most piqued my curiosity most was how Joe used language to his advantage…
Joe’s timeline consists almost exclusively of his retweeting others’ comments with his added commentary. This ensures the conversation focuses on him whilst offering followers the attraction of engaging with his wider audience of followers. In reality the conversation is tightly controlled by this strategy so this wider audience remains exclusively focused on him.
This central control provides an air of leadership reinforced through language. Joe assumes an ordering role: he refers to his followers generically as “guys” and the “guys” are invited to offer opinion – through Joe – who selects and presents contributions of what is considered a normal (a favourite word of his) viewpoint.
Joe assumes a level of knowledge he does not possess. He once informed his followers of his degree in Geology (specialising, he claimed, in climate change) to lend an air of credence to his climate-change denial. In reality, Joe graduated with a mediocre BA (2:2) prior to climate-change being a significant feature of any syllabus.
Continuous retweeting with commentary provides an illusion of conversation similar to a radio DJ with an audience. The speaker may occasionally include another’s voice, mediated through Joe’s selective prism. Conversation this is not. There is no narrative, no story, no ebb and flow of ideas, no progression of thought toward ever greater depth or sophistication. This is the bastardisation of conversation.
Retweeting one comment after another ensures thought and language remain superficial and unsophisticated. The most complex of issues: immigration; Europe; climate-change; economic and social policy: all are subjected to the same process of one-liner commentary before moving on to the whim of the next follower. Until of course some lefty tries to enter the fray with a question or a thought to provoke discussion.
Then the strategy of drawing in is revealed for what it is in reality: the setting of a boundary – a wall, if you will, – a way of ensuring people are clear about who is accepted, who is acceptable, or to use one of Joe’s favourite phrases, who is normal – and who is not: who is left outside, other than normal, who is the infected left-facing libtard. The questioner is retweeted with some attempted satirical quip – and offered for his followers’ amusement and further disdain.
It was into this fray that, angel like, I chose to tread.
I had been curious about this book Joe was so desperate to flog, so I ventured on Amazon to take a peak. I read the introduction. An introduction is the author’s sales window; the hook to draw you in to the book– here the essential nature and style of the book is presented for the would-be buyer.
I was shocked. There is a spelling mistake in the first line. Throughout the syntax is clumsy and the jarring nature of the prose is exacerbated by an apparently unconscious disregard for punctuation and the rules of grammar. The voice is weak. There is an attempt at simile that a child might wince at. Joe describes an oxymoron, and reveals he does not know what one is. It was immediately obvious this was a vanity publication. What surprised me most was that, prior to publication, the author appears not to have asked someone to cast an eye to offer advice. The most rudimentary oversight reveals a truly child-like grasp of language and content.
Bolstered by my judgement of his work I approached this Joe with my usual humility. Yes, I fully intended to treat him with the same scorn which he reserved for the left.
As is his way, Joe was dismissive. In spite of the fact that I had witnessed his tactics so many times before, I was affronted. How dare he treat me with contempt for the entertainment of his followers? I persisted. And so did his scorn. Eventually, I challenged him to debate his ideas. (Yes, I can be a bit of a drama Queen. You have to understand, I was highly indignant).
Joe ignored me. I challenged again. Again, nothing from Joe. Occasionally, a follower would intervene with some insult. This kind of exchange lasted for twenty minutes before Joe himself decided to respond to dismiss my challenge as beneath him. I decided then not to let this imposter continue arrogantly, unchallenged.
Later that same evening I returned to Joe to challenge him to defend the views. Then things began to change quickly.
I have said that I approached Twitter in an amateur way. For professional reasons I use Twitter anonymously. First Joe, then one, then two then three of Joe’s followers challenged me about my anonymity. I explained to each and everyone I prefer to remain anonymous for professional reasons. My explanation fell on deaf ears.
D0xing is a term I am now familiar with. Then, I had never heard of it. Joe’s d0xers had found my name and used google to locate where I live. Then the intimidation began. A personal picture was posted on line. The d0xers began to comment on the picture of a “typical bearded leftie”. The image was of a man in his sixties; a decent-looking, handsome man with a kind face. An obvious family man. A man who appeared to be many things. One thing he most certainly was not though– he was not me. The address they posted was not mine. It was the address of this kind-looking old man.
One d0xer invited himself to my home. Then another decided he too would like to pay me a visit. I am not a big man or a fighter but to show weakness in such circumstances would clearly have been a mistake. Although the picture of this old man they repeatedly posted was not me and the address was not mine, there remained the possibility that they may obtain my true identity and location and so I did what any “normal” person might do in such circumstances and suggested that should they come to my house I would give them a welcome they would not forget.
This of course spurred them on to explicit threats and intimidation. I retired that night with the thought that these strangers may in fact be intent on offering serious violence to an infected libtard who had ruined their Country. I was concerned for myself and my family.
Still concerned but determined to face down my intimidators, I returned to Twitter the following day. Sure enough they were there. Such cowards hunt in packs. The intimidation and the hate continued for another day. And for another day (to their obvious hilarity – I was after all clearly over 60 and unable to defend myself against young, healthy men) I stood my ground in the face of their intimidation and threats.
By the third day, I was beginning to feel quite stressed – and my family were beginning to feel the brunt of my ire, the root cause of which, obviously, I kept to myself.
I should say at this point that from a tweet later discovered when browsing Joe’s timeline, that Joe had orchestrated this whole charade. With the words operation destroy troll Joe initiated and orchestrated this whole event. Joe himself was noticeably absent from this activity.
There was however one particularly persistent d0xer. We’ll call him Dave. Over the course of this third day Dave must have retweeted the same tweet “you fascist, communist (something or other)” 30 times. This beside a whole range of tweets on topics ranging from my cowardice, the infection of socialism from which I suffered and my family.
I was beginning to gain a sense that this person was slightly unhinged. I was beginning to believe that such a person may well persuade himself to pay me a visit. Then, suddenly, things began to change.
I had only recently began to follow an account (we’ll call him Charlie) so I did not know Charlie very well. He approached me in his usual quiet, understated way with a direct message (one that the others could not view) and said: “I don’t normally believe in d0xing but what these guys are doing is wrong and they will get what they deserve. Step back and watch what happens.”
Minutes later another account appeared. We’ll call him Kaz. Kaz presented a direct no-nonsense business-like approach. Kaz flipped the situation immediately. Kaz set about intimidating Dave and Dave was, I was so pleased to see, obviously flustered. Then another account entered the conversation: Baz. And then a baby ape joined us.
Kaz, Baz and Baby ape were white knights. They set about Dave and his entourage with a passion and vigour matched with wit and intelligence that I could only marvel at. And what they achieved in a matter of a few hours was astonishing.
Baby ape began in a very quiet voice to ask Dave if he believed in Karma. Dave was at first confident in his response. But his confidence began palpably to ebb when he was presented with an image of himself smiling with his child.
Baby ape very thoughtfully and very kindly provided me with information about Dave. I was pleased to be in a position to provide Dave with a picture of his home and engage him in conversation about how much he had paid for it three years earlier. I provided Dave with his place of work and he was not pleased to learn of my intention to contact his employer and the police with the evidence of his on-line harassment of an elderly man.
Thanks to those three white knights Dave and Joe’s entourage melted away as quickly as they appeared. Joe remains. Joe is regularly questioned by me about his views. He still refuses to engage. He continues to hold Court with his followers, arrogantly posturing and dismissing the infected left interspersed with unsubtle racism, homophobia and general fascist intolerance. But he is challenged. And his challengers are heard.
That happened about three weeks ago. I now follow Kaz, Baz and Baby ape. My eyes have been opened to another, darker side of Twitter. A side in which hate and intimidation is resisted and challenged. A side in which on-line fascists are questioned and those engaging in the threat of violence or in real violence are subjected to the same kind of exposure.
As you would hope and expect, having had my eyes opened to this constant theatre of political struggle, I now try to do my bit to support. So should you.
Resist hate. Expose the tactics of fear and intimidation. Help keep social media free of ghouls so that the socialist narrative can be heard among the cacophony of fears and anxieties which are the hallmark of the racist and fascist right.
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