The Dim-Post

November 2, 2015

The stupid twitterati thing

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 7:40 am

New Zealand Twitter was a pretty toxic place over the weekend. There was a sustained confrontation between a well-known print journalist and a bunch of left-wing online activists. I don’t really know the journalist and I’ve met and liked a bunch of the activists just fine, but my sympathies were with the journalist. And the longer it went on and the more I thought about what was happening the more uncomfortable I felt about it all. Because when a large group of people mock and harass an individual over a sustained period of time it isn’t really a confrontation, or a debate, and it certainly isn’t activism. And when the target got upset, and the activists began to gloat about him unravelling and losing it, and doubled-down on their attacks, it made it pretty clear that what was happening was simple old-fashioned bullying.

‘It isn’t bullying’, the activists would reply. ‘What’s happening is that twitter is a place where marginalised people: trans people, people of colour, the working class, finally have a voice. This journalist – and YOU, Danyl, are straight white middle-class men and you can’t handle the fact that you don’t control the narrative any more. So you’re attempting to silence these marginalised voices by accusing them of bullying and smearing them with names like ‘The Twitterati.’

I’m not indifferent to that argument. I get the idea that my gender and ethnicity give me privilege, and that it can be confronting when this is challenged. But, like I said, I know or know of many of these people and exactly none of them are transexuals or people of colour or working class. They’re heterosexual middle-class white folk and they’ve expropriated the struggle and language of identity politics to give themselves a status of victimhood that they don’t deserve, so they can justify behaviour they’d be horrified by if they saw it in their children.

‘But,’ the activists will probably say next, ‘Women and trans-women and people of colour [etc] are subject to far worse harassment. Why don’t you condemn that and not this?’ Well, (1) I have, and I challenge and/or block people I see engaging in that kind of behavior online, (2) most of the instigators of the Twitterati – or whatever you want to call them are straight white men, so – again – they don’t get to expropriate the persecution of women or other minorities, and (3) the abhorrent behavior of racists or misogynists doesn’t justify progressive activists imitating them.

I’m a massive hypocrite, of course – I’ve been guilty of exactly this type of online bullying, although I like to flatter myself that I’ve never taken part in anything quite this nasty. Maybe that’s the reason I’m offended – it’s a shock to see something ugly and recognise yourself in it. So this was a wake-up for me. I’ve blocked most of the so-called ‘Twitterati’ – they’ve been at this sort of thing for ages, and they’re having too much fun to change just because I write something critical about them. But mostly I’m going to try and change my own behaviour online. No more punching down, or sideways; engage with ideas instead of attacking individuals; don’t participate in pile-ons.

When you’re online its all-too-easy to get wrapped up in the righteousness of your convictions and use it to justify acting like an asshole. And progressives should challenge the narrative, and confront the privileged, like journalists (or me). And they should speak out against things that offend them (although twitter is now in such a constant state of outrage, often about trivial nonsense I feel that this is a very low value form of activism). But if you’re attacking an individual, not their ideas, and you’re doing so en-masse, repeatedly, and they’re clearly distressed about it you’ve left activism way behind, and you’re an ordinary nasty old bully.

73 Comments

  1. Times like these, I think there is hope for us all

    Comment by Pete — November 2, 2015 @ 8:36 am

  2. Thanks Danyl. I’ve been working on the “be the Twitter you want to see” thing too. I’ll sometimes let myself down, but it’s got to be better than this horrorshow.

    Comment by russell brown — November 2, 2015 @ 8:49 am

  3. On-line criticism of individuals should be left in the pub, face to face..

    Comment by Dave — November 2, 2015 @ 8:53 am

  4. Great post. And heaven help us if those vicious partisans ever get to truly run the show and their dreadful identity politick. Humanity has mired itself in that group/collectivist ethic before: is didn’t work out too well. I hate that ‘they’ try to control the language. I hate that they so ruthlessly, and piously, attempt to shame, silence and marglnalise the only important minority in society: the individual.

    I don’t always (in fact rarely) agree with the journalist in question, but he’s a good man. #Difference

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — November 2, 2015 @ 8:56 am

  5. For those of us who don’t give a shit about Twitter, but relish the delightful frisson associated with observing a shrill obsessive outrage-fest, what was it all about in 25 words or less?

    Comment by Gregor W — November 2, 2015 @ 8:58 am

  6. Well, it all started with WhaleOil declaring that we should kill all of the muslims, and . . . No, I can’t do it.

    Comment by danylmc — November 2, 2015 @ 9:07 am

  7. Gregor W – that’s just the thing: it’s never about anything. It can’t be in 140 characters. It’s just people being abusive, and then others expressing hurt. And that’s mostly all that’s possible in 140 characters. Even when people want to make a more careful point, they have to remove all their qualifiers to fit the space so what might start out as “I really disagree on this occasion with the specific point you were making Auckland house price rises being good for the middle class” becomes “u is dum and hates poor”

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — November 2, 2015 @ 9:10 am

  8. …it all started with WhaleOil declaring that we should kill all of the muslims…

    When Redbaiter comes in here and does that, the most that happens is someone stroking their beard and reminiscing about usenet.

    Comment by Joe W — November 2, 2015 @ 9:18 am

  9. It’s all pretty opaque to us not in the know…who did you block? who are these twitterati?

    Comment by dan — November 2, 2015 @ 9:23 am

  10. While Jon Ronson’s book on online shaming and harassment is somewhat flawed, it has really made me think more about the mob-like behavior of Twitter. I’ve personally spent a whole lot less time getting involved in this stuff as a result of reading it.

    Comment by Dylan Reeve (@DylanReeve) — November 2, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  11. Luckily for me, I know few enough of the people involved that I was only vaguely peripheral to the whole affair. I did, though, catch someone saying “subtweeting is important, because sometimes people can’t name the subject of their tweeting for fear of reprisal/loss of anonymity/etc.” And, like you say, while I don’t doubt that this is a valid point and a Thing That Happens, exactly none of the subtweeting I’ve ever seen has been of this nature – it’s all just been snide, passive aggressive, Mean Girl bitching.

    Comment by Josh — November 2, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  12. The original debate was legit. A muslim woman objected to WhaleOil’s comments. Someone tagged WhaleOil into a discussion about that, which was a dumb thing to do. So a whole lot of people piled onto that person, so the journalist complained about the pile-on, so the twitterati spent the first half of the weekend attacking the journalist for being a racist, and the second half simply attacking him.

    Comment by danylmc — November 2, 2015 @ 9:27 am

  13. And whenever that calmed down, the journalist made a point of provoking people into continuing it.

    Comment by pete — November 2, 2015 @ 9:29 am

  14. Per Pete and Danylmc’s last points: not many were covered in glory.

    Comment by camerondotca — November 2, 2015 @ 9:40 am

  15. Dylan Reeve: The twitterati reject Jon Ronson’s book as the racist and sexist musings of a white man, trying to justify racist and sexist behaviour. For this reason, they also refuse to read it.

    Comment by Matthew Hooton — November 2, 2015 @ 9:50 am

  16. One observation, we live in such a small country that social media (at this stage at least) operates differently, well at least in different ways, than in countries with much bigger population bases. It is not unusual to walk from one of Queen Street to another and encounter one or more people that you know. Degrees of separation are much lower here than in, even, Australia. A lot of my Australian friends are envious of this small country syndrome. So, yes, we all have people that we disagree with, but know personally and that puts a curse on our online relationships. I don’t know Matthew, for instance, though we disagree vehemently about politics, we write for the same publication and so have been at the same functions, mixed with the same people, run in the same running races etc. I don’t know why – but I was a little upset when he blocked me (he has unblocked me now, thanks Matthew.)
    We should be adult enough to accept that people have different views from ours, but also understand that this is “social” media, not “guerrilla media”, or “warfare media” and you make the valid point that this is a place for ideas, not emotions or point scoring. Hopefully New Zealand social media activists can grow up and become adults – and try at least to show signs of civilisation – otherwise we are no better than ISIL or any of the other crazies who want to drag us back to the Dark Ages.

    Comment by Paul Tudor MW (@paultudor) — November 2, 2015 @ 9:55 am

  17. Oh. For the record per my comment above, when I read the further comments, I wasn’t referring to anything involving Whaleoil but another older issue. The Twits have been active lately, obviously.

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — November 2, 2015 @ 10:01 am

  18. For balance and accuracy, let’s not buy into a Hooton/Hubbard line of “blame = Twitter = left = sorted.”

    It’s social media, it’s the internet. Yes, it’s Twitter, and it’s also Stuff comments, and Facebook, and assorted blogs, and so on.

    The difference is that we only judge what we see, so if you’re on Twitter you might well see something nasty happen. Whereas if you never listen to Newstalk ZB, you never hear the bigoted diatribes that never stop. (And at least Twitter occasionally has some good jokes …).

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 2, 2015 @ 10:01 am

  19. And yet, you’ve stopped writing satire.

    WHY?????

    Comment by robhosking — November 2, 2015 @ 10:04 am

  20. This whole twitterati thing can be fixed easily by;

    [Deleted because I don’t want people to act like bullies in a thread condemning bullies – DM]

    Comment by King Kong — November 2, 2015 @ 10:12 am

  21. There are a bunch of people on there who make the place into a toxic mess. It’s a pity, because there are plenty of good users of the site.

    Upset or offend them by *appearing* to have the wrong opinion on something (whether they believe what their accusers think they believe is irrelevant) and a bunch of them will actively try to destroy your reputation and make it impossible for ordinary people to associate with them. The damage is often permanent. I’ve seen this happen to people.

    Because they think they’re saving the world, their fervour is unmatched.

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 10:20 am

  22. But mostly I’m going to try and change my own behaviour online. No more punching down, or sideways; engage with ideas instead of attacking individuals; don’t participate in pile-ons.

    Good on you.

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 10:22 am

  23. “But, like I said, I know or know of many of these people and exactly none of them are transexuals or people of colour or working class. They’re heterosexual middle-class white folk and they’ve expropriated the struggle and language of identity politics to give themselves a status of victimhood that they don’t deserve”

    Nice erasure bro. Shit’s a lot more convenient when you don’t acknowledge the existence of the people you’re shitting on, huh?

    Comment by . — November 2, 2015 @ 10:24 am

  24. The difference is that we only judge what we see, so if you’re on Twitter you might well see something nasty happen. Whereas if you never listen to Newstalk ZB, you never hear the bigoted diatribes that never stop. (And at least Twitter occasionally has some good jokes …).

    On twitter you can see the shit forever.

    Comment by unaha-closp — November 2, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  25. @Moses

    How is this different from other forms of online engagement? It’s different in one (good) way, the voices on Twitter are unlikely to be anonymous, whereas here you and I can be. Other than that?

    If we did a survey of all forms of interactivity – including media with microphones, reaching far more people – then I think you’d find “PC Brigade” rants will far outweigh the comrades’ insurrection. Danyl notices (and blogs on) the latter because naturally our own neighbourhood matters more to us than somewhere we never visit.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 2, 2015 @ 10:31 am

  26. On twitter you can see the shit forever.

    On the internet, in fact.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — November 2, 2015 @ 10:32 am

  27. The problem isn’t with the so called Twitterati it is firmly with Whale Oil and his odious rantings. It would be easy to ignore Slater but because he is so well Connected with the current government then he had to be pulled up. Therefore anyone agreeing and espousing his racist/xenophobic trash writings also need to be pulled up.

    Comment by DM — November 2, 2015 @ 10:32 am

  28. Learning to not be an ad on the Internet is a lesson everyone learns (or needs to). I’ve certainly done my share of being a dick. At least.

    But maybe that’s why I agree so much with Danyl. Further, what you say and do is all about YOU. Be the person you hope you really are.

    Comment by Steve W — November 2, 2015 @ 10:44 am

  29. There’s an emergent property of Twitter’s design, which someone nailed in a Tweet today (and I withhold the credit only to preserve their locked account wotsit): it hopelessly confuses the boundary between conversation and publication. So we have a massive clash of expectations and social convention, with people feeling more or less legitimately that they have been wronged, according to their model for Twitter. Which unfortunately, is not shared by their interlocutors. Hence the endless contested metaphors: Twitter is my private conversation, Twitter is a crowded bar, Twitter is a public square, Twitter is a custard slice with a dead fly on top.

    For me this means that despite my best intentions, yes, I get drawn into compromising my own standards for behaving with other people. The design of Twitter greatly encourages the unhappy interactions we see. I blame Twitter the medium much more than I blame the participants.

    Comment by Stephen J — November 2, 2015 @ 10:49 am

  30. Because they think they’re saving the world, their fervour is unmatched.

    The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality – GB Shaw

    Comment by Gregor W — November 2, 2015 @ 10:53 am

  31. I don’t think this means there’s anything wrong with Twitter’s design. It’s just how Twitter works, and its utility and vitality come from the very things you mention, Stephen. It’s just helpful to bear in mind that Twitter works the way it does.

    Comment by russell brown — November 2, 2015 @ 10:57 am

  32. “Hopefully New Zealand social media activists can grow up and become adults – and try at least to show signs of civilisation – otherwise we are no better than ISIL or any of the other crazies who want to drag us back to the Dark Ages.”

    Let’s not get carried away though eh?

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — November 2, 2015 @ 11:01 am

  33. “No more punching down, or sideways; engage with ideas instead of attacking individuals; don’t participate in pile-ons.”

    All very well, but if somebody had asked you to describe your behaviour online this time last week, would you have described yourself as punching down/attacking people not ideas/pileing on? Because if not (and I seriously doubt it), you’re basically just promising to stop doing something that you’ve never started.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — November 2, 2015 @ 11:02 am

  34. How is this different from other forms of online engagement? It’s different in one (good) way, the voices on Twitter are unlikely to be anonymous, whereas here you and I can be. Other than that?

    I don’t know. All I know is that I see well-paid well-educated white people making huge assumptions about the people they’re talking to (class, race, gender, sexual experience) and then very vocally attacking those people and presenting it as a social service – and doing so until that person expresses absolute contrition and admits the alleged offense (“yes, I hate women and brown people and treat them as subhuman and for that I am very sorry”), or until their reputation as a decent person is destroyed.

    Maybe it lowers the barrier to entry? There are plenty of anonymous and semi-anonymous people on Twitter, pretending to be a rabbit or robot or whatever else. And then there are people who build their identity online as a crusader for justice.

    But yeah, RadioLive and NewstalkZB are absolute shit. If I was in government I’d find a way to destroy them, using a proxy. Facebook is where much of NZ’s discussion happens, but it tends to be reasonably self-policing. People will call each other out if it goes either way. Or so it seems.

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 11:02 am

  35. With all my respect Danyl, I think he was going out to try and provoke, offend and cause arguments, inserting himself into conversations all over the place.

    While I generally abhor violence, I don’t have much sympathy for someone who walks around trying to pick fights, then gets punched out.

    Comment by Michael — November 2, 2015 @ 11:07 am

  36. I sometimes wonder if the “Twitterati” is an underlying symptom of a shortage of proper counter-weights to ZB, RadioLive et al.

    That said, the pile-on mentioned in the opening post has Peoples’ Front of Judea written all over it.

    Comment by Kumara Republic (@kumararepublic) — November 2, 2015 @ 11:12 am

  37. “It’s just helpful to bear in mind that Twitter works the way it does.”

    Well yeah, but it’s very difficult to do so — which is again, inherent in the design. Twitter is great in some ways (immediacy, intimacy, impact), and terrible in others (the simplistic and lacking model for privacy or community). “It’s just how it works” is not an acceptable excuse for bad design in other spheres of life, and software is no different. Design choices shape behaviour by what they allow and encourage. Even if you think Twitter is just allowing an aspect of human nature to manifest, well, that was a design choice to make that easy.

    Comment by Stephen J — November 2, 2015 @ 11:19 am

  38. There’s some interesting hubris at work here. Twitter is no different to any of the media that preceded it. Usenet, IRC et al all had similar problems. To a certain extent people just grew up and moved on or modified their behavior. The difference probably is that the Twitterati somehow feel they are “the just and the good” more so than any other user group before them.

    Comment by rsmsingers — November 2, 2015 @ 11:27 am

  39. Relevant differences between Twitter and predecessors (for me, anyway), off the top of my head:

    – posts have URLs that are easy to sling around and permanent until deleted
    – by default, all posts are open to the world
    – no segregation of communities that can evolve different standards and cultures (cf Usenet groups, IRC channels)

    And because they were relatively esoteric at the time they were introduced, the users of Usenet and IRC were more homogenous than Twitter. Just being accessible through that universal protocol, HTTP, makes a big difference.

    So people from different social groups collide viciously, and the collisions are facilitated, and there are no cues about the culture of those groups. It’s like alt.tasteless trolling rec.pets.cats, every 10 minutes.

    Comment by Stephen J — November 2, 2015 @ 11:40 am

  40. @Stephen I disagree about the homogeneity of the users. It’s true there were more early adopters of technology finding there way onto Usenet but there was a large body of non-technical users coming through universities and research institutes world-wide. They may have been similar in levels of education but that didn’t make them culturally or socially similar. Each newsgroup could also develop its own unique culture.

    As for IRC my gut feel is that there was a greater diversity of people taking part in discussion than exists in the NZ twittersphere. And the important part there is “taking part” and “discussion”.

    Comment by rsmsingers — November 2, 2015 @ 11:58 am

  41. Can someone please provide a link for those of us who don’t know what the context of this is? Im curious what it’s about.

    Comment by HJC — November 2, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

  42. Twitter is great in some ways (immediacy, intimacy, impact), and terrible in others (the simplistic and lacking model for privacy or community). “It’s just how it works” is not an acceptable excuse for bad design

    Hang on a second. If you’re on Twitter, you KNOW that your voice is open for the rest of the world to hear. If someone wants a private or limited-access community, there are plenty of other social media options available to them.
    Or, to put it another way, a 2-seat sports car doesn’t suffer from design flaws just because you later decide that what you really need is a 7-seat people-mover.

    Comment by Phil — November 2, 2015 @ 12:39 pm

  43. I’m pretty sure the Power Words that basically destroyed modern online activism were “tone policing”. These are Power Words that allow you to say and do whatever you want, to anybody.

    Comment by Trouble Man — November 2, 2015 @ 1:01 pm

  44. Just for interest, chaps, as far as I can tell, this is a conversation almost entirely amongst men. I’m not familiar with absolutely everyone’s handle on this thread, so I can’t tell for sure, I’m sorry.

    I’m not sure what that signifies, if anything.

    Comment by Deborah — November 2, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

  45. “If you’re on Twitter, you KNOW that your voice is open for the rest of the world to hear.”

    But it’s so easy to forget. And everyone does, all the time, who isn’t just following celebs and brands.

    I would use your metaphor a different way. Two seater sports cars don’t force anyone to drive past their abilities and have an accident, but their design encourages it, and the cost is often borne by third parties.

    Comment by Stephen J — November 2, 2015 @ 1:54 pm

  46. Not so much into free speech or should I say left wing free speech? No part of my comment was bullying just recognising racism/xenophobia for what it is.

    Comment by DM — November 2, 2015 @ 2:07 pm

  47. “Just for interest, chaps, as far as I can tell, this is a conversation almost entirely amongst men. I’m not familiar with absolutely everyone’s handle on this thread, so I can’t tell for sure, I’m sorry.”

    And posts on the same topic, by women, have almost no comments. I also don’t know what that signifies, but it’s telling. Maybe not listening to the voices that you’re accusing is part of the problem?

    Comment by Megan — November 2, 2015 @ 2:11 pm

  48. Means you probably teach tax and sup at the table of the big bad tax surveillance state Deborah, and are consequently blinded to the shades of Twitterati-speak manifesting in that comment. Though careful, even posting to this thread may earn you the high-jump direct into your own show trial🙂 You can’t rely on logic in these matters. The issue is in big part born of emoting (like our tax law).

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — November 2, 2015 @ 2:46 pm

  49. as far as I can tell, this is a conversation almost entirely amongst men. I’m not familiar with absolutely everyone’s handle on this thread, so I can’t tell for sure, I’m sorry.

    That seems weirdly appropriate, in this instance, because what started out as a muslim woman pointing out hate speech degenerated into a bunch of white men abusing each other.

    The issue is about being an ally, I think. Progressive guys are supposed to be allies to women and minorities, but that doesn’t give us the right to speak on their behalf, or run around abusing people and then claiming we’re ‘being an ally.’

    Comment by danylmc — November 2, 2015 @ 3:00 pm

  50. ‘…what started out as a muslim woman pointing out hate speech degenerated into a bunch of white men abusing each other….’

    Did it really start there, though? I’d got the impression it started with the journalist writing a piece, a month or two back, which was critical of the Twitter in fairly general terms, and that causing great hurt amongst some people.

    Forgive my cynicism, but the venom around all this looked so damn personal it really looked like payback for that.

    Comment by robhosking — November 2, 2015 @ 3:10 pm

  51. And posts on the same topic, by women, have almost no comments. I also don’t know what that signifies, but it’s telling. Maybe not listening to the voices that you’re accusing is part of the problem?

    For the ignorant, could you tell us where they are?

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 3:12 pm

  52. I also don’t know what that signifies, but it’s telling.

    Telling of what though?

    It could be evidence of blog readers being perpetrators / useful idiots of a pervasive oppressive patriarchy silencing women.
    Or it simply be that people don’t read those other blogs.
    Or that the writing is turgid.
    Or that they are dull identity politics mavens with an obvious axe to grind.

    Endless reasons…

    Comment by Gregor W — November 2, 2015 @ 3:14 pm

  53. I’d got the impression it started with the journalist writing a piece, a month or two back, which was critical of the Twitter in fairly general terms, and that causing great hurt amongst some people.

    For the ignorant, could you tell us where that is?

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 3:14 pm

  54. Ignorance isn’t an excuse, but sure. https://twitter.com/Styla73/status/660931778098556928

    Comment by Megan — November 2, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

  55. Ignorance isn’t an excuse, but sure.

    I had no idea that any of this shitstorm in a teacup even existed until I opened this website this morning.

    If Philip Matthews was deliberately stirring other people, then that’s not cool. On the other hand, if he felt like he was being harassed by “dozens of young women” then clicking on hashtags and responding to arguments is something that I can see a reasonable person doing.

    (What’s with people attacking other people behind their backs and not having the courage to say it to the person they’re accusing of being horrible?)

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

  56. Did it really start there, though? I’d got the impression it started with the journalist writing a piece, a month or two back, which was critical of the Twitter in fairly general terms, and that causing great hurt amongst some people.

    Crucially, that piece hung on the word “Twitterati”. The journalist has not helped himself since and, while I don’t doubt his sincerity, has been needlessly provocative more than once. But the amount of anger visited on a made-up word has probably been the silliest part of all this. No one involved seemed willing to step back and be an adult, even though it was clear that the whole thing was causing distress to everyone. I actually suggested to one of the combatants after the journalist had lashed out in what seemed to be be bit of a meltdown that perhaps everyone could leave it alone now. Nope. Wasn’t gonna happen.

    Comment by russell brown — November 2, 2015 @ 3:57 pm

  57. That was actually a really informative article.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/social-networking/71613272/the-twitterati–who-are-they-and-what-do-they-want

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

  58. The issue is about being an ally, I think. Progressive guys are supposed to be allies to women and minorities, but that doesn’t give us the right to speak on their behalf, or run around abusing people and then claiming we’re ‘being an ally.’

    #notyoursheild ?

    Dangerous ground here.

    Comment by unaha-closp — November 2, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

  59. I’ve been where the journalist concerned was when I was labelled a misogynist by one of these dreadful accounts simply because I chipped a (non-offensive, on-debate) tweet into her timeline (where I knew one of the other tweetees). Yes one should leave the fray, but it’s hard to, because it’s natural (and sane) to protect your reputation; thus a myopic tunnel vision tends to happen. So I understand his reaction in this instance – it’s human to want to know what others are saying of you if it is undeserved, and to want to express the true facts when they have been taken out of context. Especially as this lot hunt in packs and are vicious. Mrs H is an old school feminist (individualist), and is so appalled by this identity prolitick she won’t go near social media anymore (meaning she has more sense than me). In that she joins good company: Streep, Saradon and now Greer for starters. Excellent writer, humanist, Ella Whelan from Spiked sums the problem up with this – from http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/why-im-not-a-feminist/#.VjbVhiuqyUl (her words go for identity politick race issues also, and all the men – ironic white knights – who want to appear as allies):

    ‘Finally, contemporary feminists do not believe that women are independent, free-thinking individuals. Feminists promote a cliquey, sisterhood mentality, but not through a collective and positive sharing of ideas. They’re the kind of group you’d encounter at school who would shun you if you weren’t wearing the right kind of hairband. Today’s feminism is opposed to criticism and nuance, refusing to allow women to form their own opinions or challenge preconceived ideas. And feminists call for the state to intervene when they want an opposing view silenced, and launch Twitter wars against dissenting views. ‘

    Indeed, when I read that again, that last sentence, I’m prepared to give more time to Twitter than perhaps it deserves: the free society demands these accounts be fought. And I do so in my blog. Because they attack the basis of the free society, free speech ( http://lifebehindtheirondrape.blogspot.co.nz/2015/04/oh-yes-you-are-attacking-free-speech.html ). The world they would create is hell on earth. (Said as an atheist.)

    But that’s me out of this thread😉

    Comment by Mark Hubbard (@MarkHubbard33) — November 2, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

  60. The journalist has not helped himself since and, while I don’t doubt his sincerity, has been needlessly provocative more than once. But the amount of anger visited on a made-up word has probably been the silliest part of all this.

    That’s a pretty good summary, I think. This has been going on for a while, with the journalist making various bad judgements and inflammatory remarks, and I didn’t really care or pay attention to much of it – because twitter is 90% people bickering about stupid stuff – until things got really nasty over the weekend, when the journalist obviously wasn’t in a good place and people should have sensed that and cooled off, instead of piling on. One of the core twitterati is also a journalist, and has been the subject of online harassment, and she really should have called time on it all and didn’t, which is a shame.

    Comment by danylmc — November 2, 2015 @ 5:05 pm

  61. FFS Danyl, she reached out to him and offered to help and she got blocked for her trouble. And she didn’t get half the support he’s getting when it was her being harassed.

    Comment by pete — November 2, 2015 @ 5:19 pm

  62. Forgive my cynicism…

    Actually, don’t bother. I’m good with it.

    Comment by robhosking — November 2, 2015 @ 5:20 pm

  63. Please Danyl – read the pieces referred to in 54 and the comment at 61.

    Remember your post about the Labour Party’s research? Read it again. And FFS can we drop this stupid twitterati label. It is an inflammatory form of name calling designed to dismiss and deride ideas you disagree with.

    Comment by Karen — November 2, 2015 @ 5:35 pm

  64. … she really should have called time on it all and didn’t, which is a shame.

    Not really fair or accurate. Don’t think she should be held responsible for other people’s actions. And she did try to reason with him while not resiling from her own position – a difficult thing to do on the Twitter at the best of times (and these were not the best of times, by a long chalk)

    Comment by robhosking — November 2, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

  65. she reached out to him and offered to help and she got blocked for her trouble

    Oh, well that’s different then. What did she say?

    Comment by Moses — November 2, 2015 @ 5:47 pm

  66. Who are all these people? The nature of twitter is it full of people trying to one-up each other in a huge, egotistical, all-corners public bitch fight. It is a truly awful medium, albeit probably perfectly attuned to the times. Twitter is utter rubbish for communicating, something I worked out immediately after I read you have the princely total of 140 characters to play with. Anyone who takes that sort of medium seriously needs their head read. After all, if you don’t have a twitter account than you are pretty much innoculated from the bards of the twitterati.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 2, 2015 @ 6:37 pm

  67. Danyl, thank you for your thoughts.

    I share your disappointment at the online behaviour of some of the people whose ideas and thoughts I generally admire.

    Yes, it is bullying and I have been mildly subjected to it myself when I responded to a tweet which, at face value, appeared to be degrading a minority group but turned out not to be the intention behind the post (my early twitter lesson became: check who is saying it and why they are saying it + don’t comment if you can’t verify background details).

    Admittingly, when I apologized, the twitter conversation took a pleasant turn and the call to attack stopped, nevertheless, I was left with an uneasy feeling and unwillingness to engage or, more to the point, disagree/challenge that person again. This is why this kind of online bahaviour is damaging and cannot be termed as activism because ultimately it alienates people bar those who are already in agreement with you (hence the echo chamber).

    Having said all of that, I have to take issue with the main stand of your argument. Speaking on behalf of the marginalized is not “appropriating their victimhood”. Allies of the marginalized people do have a right to speak on their behalf. How else can we give voice to those whose concerns are not heard loud and often enough? Of course, we have to make sure that we get it right by listening closely to what they say first, but that is not the same as staying silent.

    Yes, power structure matters and it is hard to see how someone like Cameron Slater, with his powerful media access and platform, can feel threatened by a small group giving him a taste of his own medicine.

    What is wrong here though is the notion that somehow it is ok to adopt the very oppressive methods that we are trying to fight against. It is morally wrong and I don’t see how it helps our cause.

    Comment by Donna Mojab (Miles) — November 2, 2015 @ 6:40 pm

  68. because ultimately it alienates people bar those who are already in agreement with you (hence the echo chamber).

    It occurs to me that it’s ultimately self-defeating. If you make yourself hazardous to engage with, people learn to never engage with you.

    Comment by russell brown — November 2, 2015 @ 6:46 pm

  69. FFS Danyl, she reached out to him and offered to help and she got blocked for her trouble.

    Yes, much as I gleefully ignored it all over the weekend, I think I saw the tweet in question and she actually was trying to help.

    Comment by russell brown — November 2, 2015 @ 7:19 pm

  70. This weekend I very much disagreed with the way people used an argument with ‘cis’ to then suggest eventually that their freedom of speech was impeded. Cis is an accurate description labelling something other minority gender groups have observed. If you don’t feel that way or observe it, congratulations. You’re not marginalised by gender norms. Well done. Now have a heart for the people that are. I saw your tweet Danyl, and I was floored. But I ignored it and I argued the concept instead. Not with you, though. I just had my little rant in my own time instead.

    I read some of the stuff over the weekend from the journalist involved because it was retweeted into my timeline, and I couldn’t drum up any pity for someone deliberately searching online when people didn’t follow or mention them personally. Again, the principal of ‘twitterati’ or ‘cis’ can be argued in any person’s tweets without specific mention of the original context because actually, the concept itself IS worth discussing. There’s a reason why people aren’t mentioning them- it isn’t a pile on. It’s an issue people feel strongly about and while their statements are a catalyst, we all are on twitter to state our opinions.

    I mocked the concept of Twitterati on my own feed and got blocked for the issue. But I didn’t block people. I didn’t personally mention people. As a woman who has a lot of privilege, I responded to a trans friend’s suggestion and they appreciated it. A lot. It means a lot to people who are marginalised when an ally listens to them and acts on their suggestions. It was my way of supporting their voice and I don’t regret offending someone who didn’t give a damn about them. So there’s that. I don’t have to ‘subtweet’ a mainstream media person to support an oppressed person but it means more to me to support them than it does to sit on the fence and pretend it’s ok. I knew that person was watching and feeling supported. They aren’t Twitterati for simply being supported and I’m not owning that label for backing them up.

    For once, maybe some of you guys could consider that the rest of us believe the principals are actually worth fighting for, and centring yourselves in the discussion is not appropriate. You may have started the conversation, but a lot of the time, it moves on without you. In other words, no, I don’t necessarily follow or fight, but nor do I need your permission to mock ideals that clearly are worthy of critique.

    Comment by Vashti — November 2, 2015 @ 7:51 pm

  71. All this reminds one of the internal bickering at Pravda circa 1996.

    Comment by Redbaiter — November 2, 2015 @ 8:04 pm

  72. Speaking on behalf of the marginalized is not “appropriating their victimhood”. Allies of the marginalized people do have a right to speak on their behalf. How else can we give voice to those whose concerns are not heard loud and often enough? Of course, we have to make sure that we get it right by listening closely to what they say first, but that is not the same as staying silent.

    Thanks for writing that. It goes to the heart of a lot of this. I find that the best way to be an ally is to make arguments from my perspective and then amplify the voices of minorities so they can make their own arguments and speak for themselves. Trying to make identity politics issues about me basically just seems wrong.

    Comment by danylmc — November 2, 2015 @ 8:13 pm

  73. > Trying to make identity politics issues about me basically just seems wrong.

    This is pretty much exactly what you’re doing though. You’re having a bit of fun by mocking people for “appropriating” the persecution of trans people, but meanwhile you’re ignoring the actual trans people who are telling you they’re not okay with your “jokes”.

    > then amplify the voices of minorities

    You could fucking start by not ignoring the voices of every single minority person who spoke up this weekend.

    Comment by pete — November 2, 2015 @ 8:26 pm


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