On Leftist Twitter Mobs

mao

Stop reading Confucius you ableist. Get out in the fields and pick some rice.

Last Thursday night, I was attacked by a leftist mob on Twitter, “dragged” to use the commonly accepted parlance. First they went for the resume I have posted on this website. After they realized that it’s a satirical resume with no real information, useless for “doxing” me, they turned to my review of Wonder Woman. My observation that Gal Gadot is a very attractive woman offended them deeply. I was “sexualizing” and “objectifying” a “badass heroine.” Surely, they seemed to believe, this revealed me as a creepy old white man, and would inevitably lead to my losing all 1200 of my followers on Twitter. When that didn’t happen – I lost about 30 – they began to insult me. I was a shitty writer. I was bald. I was ugly. I was sexually frustrated. I was an ugly old, bald, sexually frustrated failed writer with a raging hard on for a Zionist war criminal (the above mentioned Gal Gadot), all of which of course is perfectly true, and none of which had the desired effect, that I “delete my account” on Twitter. Finally, they wheeled out the leftist weapon of mass destruction. One of my trolls, who had a female screen name and a physical appearance as feminine as mine I masculine, was a self-identified “gender queer,” and my use of the pronouns “she” and “her” had revealed me as a “transphobe” and almost certainly a “Gamergater,” which, they declared, was obvious after a more careful examination of the above mentioned satirical resume. So they spent the next two days filling my “mentions” with scatological memes, Photoshopping corncobs onto my eyebrows, and congratulating themselves that they had “dunked” on me real good.

me

I guess the Photoshopped corncob over the eyebrow is the leftist Twitter troll’s version of the dunce cap.

While none of this is particularly surprising or uncommon, it is notable, if only because, for me, the shoe is usually on the other foot. I’m a leftist myself. I’m an enthusiastic participant in leftist Twitter mobs, and have no intention of giving it up simply because I’ve seen it from the other side. I highly recommend it. Leftist Twitter mobs are a cheap, no risk, enjoyable way of turning the tables on the elite, most, if not all of whom have Twitter account. That Hillary Clinton supporter who insists on using the term “Berniebro” well into 2017? Drag him. That overpaid New York Magazine columnist who whines about “free speech” whenever a group of Nazis is chased off campus, but remains silent about the ongoing suppression of the BDS movement? Drag him. That white actress who insists on taking roles as Asians or Native Americans? Drag her. Of course she has an intern who answers her tweets, doesn’t know you exist, and won’t notice the social media campaign flooding her “mentions” with hate, but drag her anyway. Yesterday, leftist Twitter found a particularly deserving target, Kevin Drum, a so-called “liberal” who writes for Mother Jones magazine, but who seems to have been wrong on every issue since the Iraq War, which he supported. This week he outdid himself, writing a short essay wondering why “people” are disgusted by the homeless. I observed that the homeless of course are people, and my response, perhaps influenced by the way I had been in his place only the day before, was fairly mild. Other people were not so restrained.

haywood

My trolls tweeted this image at me repeatedly.

So what did I do to deserve being “dragged?” Did I speculate on why “we” find the homeless “disgusting?” Did I make a racist or homophobic remark? Did I say something genuinely transphobic or genuinely sexist? Of course not. I had, rather, blundered into an ongoing and perennial debate among social media leftists about education, and, by doing so, revealed myself to be “ableist.” Reading Marxist theory, it seems, is occasionally used by white male leftist “gatekeepers” to exclude the mentally disabled, women, the poor, and people of color from the left. It takes time, leisure, and a lot of formal education to make it through the entire three volumes of Capital. Besides, some people argue, since working class people live the reality of class struggle everyday, they don’t have to read about it in a book written 150 years ago. Privileging the written word is, well, privileged. I had meant to say “there should be no hierarchies on the left. Everybody should be an intellectual. Everybody should get an education.” It was interpreted to mean “only educated people should be allowed on the left.”

Twitter being Twitter, a microblogging system with a 144 character limit, I did not have time to sufficiently develop my argument, but if I had, it would have gone something like this. Working class people don’t need to be told not to worry about formal education. In fact, the less “privileged” you are, the more you need books like Capital, Wealth of Nations, Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, Mark Twain, and Shakespeare. For the genuinely wealthy and privileged, life under capitalism makes sense. It seems rational. You work hard, you get what you want, and even if you don’t work hard, life always seems to turn out okay. For the working-class, on the other hand, life under late capitalism can be a thoroughly baffling experience. Why can’t I pay my bills? Why can’t I afford good health care? Why does it seem that the harder I work the poorer I get? The ruling class doesn’t want us to understand the system that keeps them rich. They want to keep us ignorant. They deluge us with propaganda, TV shows, bad movies, comic books, shitty music, cable TV news, all of which is designed to make us feel that the world we live in is the only possible world. Just read a play by Shakespeare or listen to a piano sonata by Beethoven on the other hand, however, and you instantly realize that that “another world is possible.” The scales fall off your eyes. You feel yourself in touch with the deepest and most humane impulses of humanity. Adam Smith or Karl Marx may take time and study but it’s worth finding a way to learn their major works. Both men made mistakes, but both provide you with a critical perspective that helps you begin to understand why the world is the way it is. Besides, while Wealth of Nations and Capital are both difficult books, they’re both much easier than the Bible, which is a devilishly hard work to master. If the same evangelical Christians we call inbreds and morons can make it through the Book of Deuteronomy, surely even the most disadvantaged leftist can make it through the Communist Manifesto.

Alas, however, it all came across as “this cis gender white man hates transpeople and the disabled.” Perhaps, as Marshall McLuhan argued, “the medium is the message.” What I noticed in my leftist trolls, the virtue signaling instantly turning into ferocious anger when contradicted, the self-congratulatory tribalism, had a startlingly familiar quality to many Republicans I’ve tilted with online. Indeed, much of what my leftist trolls filled my “mentions” with over the past few days, the memes, the sex shaming, the obsession with human excrement, the harsh accusations that I was ‘being too emotional,” was almost indistinguishable from what I used to get from the Trump Train. The democratic, anti-elitist effect of social media, while genuine, is not genuinely socialist, but rather populist. The leveling effect of “dragging” a member of the elite on Twitter works both ways. It does indeed cut the target down to size, but it also puts blinkers on the members of the angry leftist, or right wing populist, mob. If the Trump Train sees everything as a liberal conspiracy funded by George Soros, my leftist trolls seemed to think everybody they didn’t like was somehow a member of “Gamergate.” Indeed, their obsession with a largely online feud that very few people outside of social media enthusiasts have even heard of was startling. Even if I were as sexist, racist, transphobic, sexually frustrated or abelist as my trolls maintained, I’m still a 51-year-old man, far outside the Gamergate demographic, and couldn’t name the five most popular video games if you held a gun to my head. Perhaps I should just take my own advice and read a book, or, better yet, ride my bike. That would be good advice, but it’s advice I doubt I’ll take. Social media for me is as much of an addiction as Diet Coke, and I’ll almost certainly be back on Twitter tomorrow morning. Oh hell, I’ll be there tonight.

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16 comments

  1. So, would you recommend Twitter for the computer-phobe who doesn’t understand the terminology you use? Drag? Other than apparel, that is? it’s a totally different language. What’s an “ableist?” What planet am I living on, anyway?

    1. No. Stay away. Its best days are behind it.

      Ableist = Person bigoted against people with disabilities. My argument that socialists should read Marx and Adam Smith, for example, is considered to be “ableist” against people with learning disabilities, and “classist” against the working class.

      1. Sounds like those people could stand to read a dictionary, too. Or write their own. I guess no group has a monopoly on fuzzy thinking.

        1. As I say above “the medium is the message.” Twitter is conducive to a certain kind of anti-elitist populism but it’s just as much a right wing sentiment as a left wing one..

          1. Drag = Think throwing a rope around someone in town that you’re feuding with and making a display of dragging them around behind your horse. Like that, but with ostracizing blog posts/tweets/whichever.

            … Well, that’s the dumbest analogy I’m going to get to write for a while. Oh, also, that’s ableist. Using the word “dumb,” that is. Because some people are dumb through no fault of their own and you shouldn’t use the word with negative connotations. But also, you shouldn’t use the word at all, not even as it is technically defined, because of the negative connotations of the way you cruelly used the word previously.

            I wrote a boring article mostly endorsing the “PC culture” of the left these days, but there are definitely times, like this, where it utterly ceases to make sense (or, perhaps it would be more fair to say, a segment of its proponents cease to make sense; see, for instance, cornering and shaming some random white college student for the indignity of his cultural appropriation of dreadlocks). When it comes to specific words, terms, etc., I’m wary of writing something out of my vocabulary when the logic for not using it in one context relies on how it’s used in another context, the logic for which relies on the first context. If I’m going to censor myself, I need a good reason, and if the reason involves a feedback loop, it’s probably not a very good reason. If I want self-perpetuating dilemmas, I’ll watch one of those terrible Terminator sequels again.

            P.S. – If you’re looking to convince yourself to wage a war of attrition against modern technology, join Twitter. You’ll find all the justification you need.

            1. I kind of live for moments when you break Twitter and suddenly realize the technology is communicating through the users and not the users through the technology.

            2. Most disturbing part was the relentless sex shaming (which I don’t think was meant for me so much as a warning to the members of the clique/hive not to step out of line). It’s hard to shame someone for a fairly conventional hetero attraction (Gal Gadot is fuckable) but definitely easier to use against members of their own group with more unconventional sexuality.

              1. I do find it strange that by these standards, you can objectify Liam Hemsworth, but not Gal Gadot. I am opposed to the objectification of women in general, as a function of patriarchal society, but objectification is either right or isn’t right. I would argue that it’s perfectly fine (mostly) if unimpacted by gender (mostly; if most of the news articles about an incredible scientist is about how hot they are, it’s hard to see a context where that’s not a problem), but the issues arise where women are compared to men when it’s obvious that society puts enormous pressure on both, but especially and much more punitively women, to fulfill their “role.” It seems like a lot of people who idealize themselves as pragmatic but also informed are looking to declare enemies when they encounter those who argue at times from the position of the ideal, but I think that they mistake this position with that of the chronic “Devil’s advocate,” who cannot help but propose the most unlikely and ridiculous hypothetical scenarios in an appeal to narcissism (or just in an exercise of outright psychological manipulation) to try to get people to abandon their morals, or who just troll those people because they’re worthless schmucks in general who get off by disrupting rational debate. These aren’t people that I’d like any notable segment of the left, however minuscule, to remind me of, and I’m not the sort to cast pro-choice, anti-nationalist, pacifist leftist detractors as closet Republicans the way Barack Obama’s most ardent supporters did. I don’t want them on my side because they aren’t really on my side; they’ve just found a mindset that’s comforting to them and have decided to use it as the precipice from which they harass and bully. I think it’s a segment of the left that the left needs to be vigilant about; political correctness has its place and has always existed in one form or another, but if your most vociferous supporters hijack that philosophy into a proto-fascistic platform while you’re trying to resist a barely-hiding-it-and-laughing-while-they-do-fascistic platform, you’re completely fucked.

  2. “It takes time, leisure, and a lot of formal education to make it through the entire three volumes of Capital.”

    Get woke, Stan. Unless, you know, you’re a member of one of any of the following ideologically-sanctioned groups of the downtrodden. In that case, stay ignorant. But get woke too. Or something. I don’t know.

    1. I think the key difference is that they saw books as something to get through to get a degree or membership in a group and I see them as a key to understanding the world.

      Study is basically the scales and tedious exercises you have to do to learn how to play a musical instrument, yet nobody would say the disabled shouldn’t learn music just because it might be harder for them. Why? Because most people see music as a good in and of itself.

      1. In the context of these sorts of works being mandated reading in higher education courses, I can appreciate where they might be coming from in terms of coherent analysis and context largely being something that’s hard to get in a robust way outside of an organized education setting. While I pretty much disagree with this, I can at least appreciate it as a coherent viewpoint. Where I get lost is where the idea that simply reading and comprehending, in so far in as typical reading comprehension education can get you, is elitist/sexist/racist/ableist. I have significant worries that a good portion of the most vociferous advocates for the left in this country are as prone to tribalism as the right has demonstrated to be. While it seems as if they represent a much smaller percentage of Democrats/liberals/the left than their counterparts in the Republican party do–where it seems that those who value bandwagoning above principles have become the norm–it worries me that it is a trend that could expand, where lines, however based originally in principle and morality as they may have been, become drawn and then the drawers refuse to ever move them, the lines ultimately serving as a monument to their role of ideologues rather than as rational critics. In this sense, I worry too that those who prosecute “performative allyship” in the public sphere are performing the most rank examples as well.

        1. I used the term “self-congratulatory tribalism” to describe this crowd.

  3. I followed this with interest and the complete lack of self-awareness these people have is something to behold. I was amazed by that blue-haired “gender neutral” girl or whatever she/it is who wrote, “We need to read less and organize more.” Imagining her or anyone in that mob (like the registered sex offender-looking dude) trying to organize people, especially working-class people, is absurd, and they will have zero understanding of why their efforts failed.

    1. re: (like the registered sex offender-looking dude)

      Ha. Ha. Which one was this?

      As for Lilian, as I said. I don’t stalk profiles. If you have a female first name. I’m going to call you “she.” If you’re leading a troll attack on me, I’m not going to make much of an effort to get to know you better.

      1. Scott. It’s that stare.

        I learned more than I wanted to know about their self-serving concern for social justice just from the replies. What’s more democratic and egalitarian than public libraries these days?

        1. What’s more democratic and egalitarian than public libraries these days?

          Typing the book’s title and “.pdf” into Google.

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