The Dim-Post

January 6, 2016

A note on pile-ons

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 5:01 pm

Second day back at work and NZ Twitter is already the site of pointless feuds, the latest one causing one of the best journalists in the country to delete her account so she doesn’t have to engage with progressive activists any more.

Something I think most people don’t get about social-media pile-ons is that being the subject of one is disproportionately upsetting and aggravating in a way that’s hard to comprehend unless you’ve been there. I’ve been having debates and arguments and fights on social media for years, and gotten all sorts of weird abuse and threats for things I’ve written, and none of it really affects me. But having your timeline flood with insults and call-outs and criticism and snark from dozens of people all at once is really genuinely upsetting. I’m not sure why. But it is. Even if someone has a really good point to make it generally gets lost in all the noise and just contributes to the sense of being unfairly ganged-up on, usually over something trivial.

So maybe don’t pile into a debate and call someone out unless you have really, really good reason. Especially if you can see that lots of other people are already making the exact same point you want to. Especially if you’re a guy and you’re about to explain feminism to a women (The advent of packs of aggrieved progressive white dudes angrily lamenting white male privilege without a shred of self-awareness/irony and turning mostly civil discussions into toxic shit-fights is, I think, not the best thing that’s happened to identity politics.)

Especially if the thing that’s offended you is not really in the grand scheme of things, particularly offensive. I know, I know, in identity politics everything is political, everything ties to patriarchy and privilege, everything is important. But this just seemed like a really trivial thing to lose the ability to engage with a first-class journalist over.

Online progressive activists tend to have a high regard for what they do: they’re educating people, speaking truth to power, changing the world, etc. But mostly the result of this education and challenging via social media pile-ons and call-outs seems to result in the subjects hating progressive activists and identity politics and/or deleting their social media accounts. These don’t seem like big wins for the cause. It often feels to me like the real goal here is to have fun shitting all over people while feeling sanctimonious about it.

Update: response to this in the comments here.

69 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on Talking Southern Auckland and commented:
    The story about the Teen Dad in the Herald today caused one of the bigger blow ups on Twitter since the 2014 elections.

    But guess who caused it? No it wasnt Twitter actually who were debating reasonably and (within their right for engaging with the 4th estate) critically amongst themselves.

    The journalist who wrote the article inserted themselves into the debate between progressives without prompting. Okay that gets the others debating with the journalist as the journalist has entered into the debate they were not prompted into.

    However, things went south when the journalist took offence to being critically critiqued by readers even though critique is part of the role the 4th estate is meant to foster.

    It really when south when the Herald’s Nippert decided to stir the pot mouthing off to everyone else putting them down for daring to question the other Herald journalist who rage quit Twitter this morning.

    If there is blame it lays solely with the Herald for a tone deaf article. That is nice they praise the teen dad who looks after the tot one day while the teen mum who is still at school still looks after the tot every other time.

    Now if the Herald published the story on the mum the framing and commentary from its primary readers would have been of vilification. But for the one day a fortnight dad its praise.

    Sure Herald whatever. Oh and if the Herald was trying to prod Social Media to get a story for tomorrow’s pages well….

    Comment by Ben Ross - Talking Auckland — January 6, 2016 @ 5:10 pm

  2. Another thing to remember with pile-ons on journalists – it’s likely that they had an editor tell them to chase up the story, or suggest the angles, or present it in such a way that the journalist won’t have complete control over. And then there will be various layers of editorial staff who will have an influence over the final presentation and content of a story after the copy is submitted. So for a twitter army to identify one bylined person to attack over a story they don’t like is a bit like shouting at a teacher because you aren’t in favour of education policy.

    Comment by Alex — January 6, 2016 @ 5:13 pm

  3. “So for a twitter army to identify one bylined person to attack”

    I dipped in and out of Twitter a few times today, and I saw a lot of comment about the story, and what it says about society, and little to none about the journalist. Maybe I missed it. Twitter pileons are a thing but this doesn’t seem like a good example.

    Comment by Stephen J — January 6, 2016 @ 5:27 pm

  4. You raise very good points. In activism I aim to be mindful of my true motivations underpinning each action. Unconscious action can lead to the opposite result from that intended, or otherwise create unnecessary harm. There is an amazing author called William Martin who has another book coming out soon: ‘The Activist’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution’. I expect this will be a book well worth reading. Activism and mindfulness are an important marriage. Thank you for your thoughtful pieces.

    Comment by Ro — January 6, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

  5. The social media is where the liberal middle class throw tantrums all in the name of saving the children.

    I’m not sure if it’s linked to the slow decline of centre-left politics but it probably doesn’t help.

    Comment by NeilM — January 6, 2016 @ 5:40 pm

  6. Danyl – called this ad hominem crap what it is…its just bullying (cyber being only a medium of delivery).

    Comment by Mike King — January 6, 2016 @ 6:33 pm

  7. I’m well over twitter, just a bunch of condescending, sanctimonious, white middle class, privileged, university educated, cardboard communists, people calling anyone and everyone out about their white middle class privilege….

    I would far be more happier to engage them in a pub, or a picnic rather than trying to reason with their keyboard warrior bravado… but hey… #Twitteratti … #Cowards

    Comment by Ratty — January 6, 2016 @ 7:13 pm

  8. Maybe I missed it. Twitter pileons are a thing but this doesn’t seem like a good example.

    The “beauty” of twitter is that it presents all of the abuse you are getting everywhere on twitter and shoves it in your face.

    Comment by unaha-closp — January 6, 2016 @ 9:59 pm

  9. It’s reality entertainment for the well meaning.

    Comment by NeilM — January 6, 2016 @ 10:12 pm

  10. Personally the definitions are suspect, here. So you can dedicate your life’s work to becoming recognised as one of the top journalists n the nation, but that is all horse-pookey because you are not willing to read the collected rantings of pack-mentals who have been lazily dubbed ‘progressive activists’. Like a posh label somehow equates being mean-spirited, cowardly cyber-bullies with being politically relevant. Having an i-phone and an inordinate sense of self-importance doesn’t make one a ‘progressive activist’ any more than owning a guitar and being able to rhyme, makes one qualified to play with the Beatles,

    Or even Herman’s Hermits.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — January 6, 2016 @ 11:13 pm

  11. NZ twitter appears to me to be a bunch of infantile Marxists engaging in conversation typical of some juvenile chat room somewhere.

    I used to read these kind of exchanges in Yahoo chat rooms 10 years ago. Before I became completely bored with them.

    As someone relatively new to Twitter I see it as a great source of news and opinion, but personally focused chats between two or three tiny minded commies (with single word remarks like “ewwww” for example) just make me cringe. I think its an abuse of the service.

    I guess it would be unfair to say this kind of thing is overly represented in the NZ twitterverse, but it sure seems that way.

    Comment by Redbaiter — January 6, 2016 @ 11:58 pm

  12. I don’t get the whole “Twitter is just a bunch of condescending pack-mental Marxist freedom haters” thing. Don’t you choose who you follow on twitter?

    Comment by steve — January 7, 2016 @ 12:28 am

  13. I see the pile-on as another ‘shut up’ tactic, any view or language not reinforcing the prevailing view must be silenced. Great for creating echo chambers but it does tend to create the ground for Trump and Peters if you manage to call enough people sexist and racist.

    Comment by Richard — January 7, 2016 @ 12:39 am

  14. Missed this one. Surprised it’s considered blogworthy. Tone policing Twitter? Good luck with that. Making judgments about Twitter? You’re pretty much commenting on who you chose to follow – there’s nearly a billion accounts. Someone flounced? Big deal. Presumably they’ve still got their megaphone for old people to read.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 7, 2016 @ 12:53 am

  15. “I don’t get the whole “Twitter is just a bunch of condescending pack-mental Marxist freedom haters” thing. Don’t you choose who you follow on twitter?”

    That is a fair point, and its actually the reason I don’t follow many NZ accounts. I had no knowledge of this thing with Kirsty Johnson until I read comments from Matthew Hooton and Danyl, (who I do follow) and out of curiosity I looked to see what they were talking about. I was not surprised to find all the usual Marxist dumbarses involved, and the usual infantile chatter, and it was good to know it had all passed me by.🙂

    Comment by Redbaiter — January 7, 2016 @ 1:41 am

  16. It’s now become a pile on about whether it was a pile on. All very http://youtu.be/b08zVHpjrac

    Comment by robhosking — January 7, 2016 @ 7:23 am

  17. That, my friend was a cry for help.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — January 7, 2016 @ 7:24 am

  18. ‘That is nice they praise the teen dad’. I know that’s what most of the participators would have you believe – they only wanted some balance. However, given their subsequent comments (and their actions in previous pile ons) it’s fairly clear this is a case of crying wolf. All I see (well, that’s a loose term because I don’t actually follow this people) is a core group of people who seem like they have nothing better to do than disproportionately explode at every perceived slight against their worldview.

    Comment by Nick — January 7, 2016 @ 9:18 am

  19. Don’t you choose who you follow on twitter?

    You do. You don’t choose who can @ you though. Lot’s of people have read this and protested that there wasn’t a pile on, they weren’t being aggressive, they were just discussing the issue with the journalist, which is fair. But you can go back and search the timeline, and people weren’t being as super-nice as they think they were, because twitter doesn’t really lend itself to nice exchanges, and there were an awful lot of people all making the same point very stridently, which seemed to have looked exactly like a pile-on to the person subjected to it.

    It’s kind of counterproductive me writing about this stuff, because it lets the activists indulge themselves in the fantasy that they’re challenging the patriarchy, and that men like me are so scared by this we’re trying to control them and shut them down, and lets them ignore (a) the glee from the right every time this stuff gets foregrounded and (b) the women on the left who are also pointing out how problematic this kind of toxic activism is. So I think I’ll try and keep my mouth shut about the issue in the future.

    Comment by danylmc — January 7, 2016 @ 9:20 am

  20. One of my (many) idle & doubtless hopelessly wrong ideas is that the marginalisation of progressive discussions in NZ – their exclusion from the media mainstream – has meant that the left have gravitated to the open medium of Twitter, but that the heightened likelihood of circular arguments and name-calling reduces the chances of anything positive coming of those discussions. Back in the day progressive voices may not have been prevalent but at least there were more opportunities for them to contribute to the national discussion. Ideas were debated and tested in the public sphere. Now that discussing ideas in any sort of detail is anathema to selling ads, the only time these discussions register in the mainstream is when the self-devouring snake of Twitter pile-ons attracts fleeting attention.

    Comment by Ethan Tucker — January 7, 2016 @ 9:48 am

  21. > You don’t choose who can @ you though

    Yes you can: In the negative. You can block people, and then you never see anything to do with them. It’s dead easy.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 7, 2016 @ 10:31 am

  22. They can still @ you, but you don’t have to receive it. Others will see them, I think, and may respond, which you probably also won’t see. That’s if it’s genuinely upsetting you. I personally only really do it for time wasters and trolls.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 7, 2016 @ 11:00 am

  23. > Yes you can: In the negative. You can block people, and then you never see anything to do with them. It’s dead easy.

    It prevents you seeing it but not from it being said with your name on it, surely? If the choice is between having to view large numbers of strongly worded comments/denunciations, or blocking the most vocal respondents in the knowledge that they will probably keep trashing you in public without you having the ability to respond, I can understand why some people in this situation simply opt to walk away delete their Twitter accounts.

    Comment by samfnz — January 7, 2016 @ 11:03 am

  24. “I personally only really do it for time wasters and trolls.”

    The left on twitter have some pretty bad representatives. So many of them have an extremely limited capability to express what it is they believe in or defend it coherently.

    So many of their contributions can be characterised as “I am outraged that you have a POV that is different to mine, but seeing as I lack the means to defend my own POV, I’ll just call you names and swear at you”.

    Whereas I regret to read words like fuck and cunt and the rest of them, I can let it go if there is an accompanying point. Sadly, that is seldom the case. Left wing responses are too often just expressions of outrage and contempt that expose a belief system that has no rational underpinning.

    In short, they’re just foul mouthed unpleasant brainwashed automatons. And there are millions of them.

    Comment by Redbaiter — January 7, 2016 @ 11:21 am

  25. …marginalisation of progressive discussions in NZ – their exclusion from the media mainstream – has meant that the left have gravitated to the open medium of Twitter, but that the heightened likelihood of circular arguments and name-calling reduces the chances of anything positive coming of those discussions.

    My theory is not that liberal voices have been excluded but rather traditional voting patterns have changed markedly leaving the centre left a bit lost. Perhaps compounded by the fading away, for the general public at least, of left wing rallying cries such as the anti-apartheid and anti-nuclear movements.

    Added to that the rise of new technology based communications such as Twitter which, the medium being the message, create a form of shared intentionality that favours ostentatious display.

    Meanwhile most of my friends and colleagues would have no idea and no interest in what goes on in politics in the social media.

    This divide, which seems to be growing, does seem to be ghettoising liberal thought but perhaps liberal progress is just happening, like maybe it always has, away from those groups who most loudly proclaim their liberalism.

    Comment by NeilM — January 7, 2016 @ 12:14 pm

  26. >I can understand why some people in this situation simply opt to walk away delete their Twitter accounts.

    Sure, it’s their choice, but it’s often baby and bathwater stuff. It’s not like flouncing is actually a qualitatively different response – you will still continue to be discussed, whether you flounced off Twitter or not. Probably by your real name in that case, rather than just your Twitter handle. Flouncing is really just blocking *everyone*, and then hearing via some other medium (probably friends, Facebook, on your blog, your opinion column, someone else’s opinion column in your own paper, etc) that it’s all still going on. Indeed, a huge public flounce is almost certainly going to go that way, it’s a huge drama act in the first place, inviting discussion. People who really want to put something behind them don’t flounce, they just turn away and stop using it, or stop interacting with whoever it is that’s giving them the worst shits. Generally, that works, because the worst kinds of bullying and trollery need interaction to be effective.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 7, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

  27. I dunno. I’ve quit twitter before, and I’ve flounced out of plenty of online arguments before (generally because I was losing) and the urge to quit twitter is different. It’s more like a bad habit you know you should kick even at the best of times and the bullshit just gives you the push to do it.

    Comment by danylmc — January 7, 2016 @ 12:44 pm

  28. I can’t say I’ve ever found it a sensible place to discuss politics (or any issue) in depth, really. It’s not what it’s designed for. But if you use it for what it’s really for, keeping in touch with like minds, lazyweb searching, self-promotion, jokes, memes, live sports and TV appreciation and other diversions from boredom, then it has its place. Reddit can do a similar job, I think that’s what the kiddies use. They probably got sick of how middle aged Twitter is, but then maybe I just think that because the people I follow are middle aged.

    Pretty much most of what I read on the Herald about Twitter is just laughable. They’re always trying to compare the two, probably with the aim of putting off their committed audience from switching. Or something. You’re not going to sell Twitter to anyone who thinks the Herald is a good way to get news. They’re not the same thing at all. It’s pretty hard to really generalize about the Twitter experience because it’s unique to every individual, depends on who they follow. All you learn from people’s claims about it is some kind of idea of the people they follow and/or interact with. They could always not do it like that.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 7, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

  29. “In activism I aim to be mindful of my true motivations underpinning each action. Unconscious action can lead to the opposite result from that intended, or otherwise create unnecessary harm. There is an amazing author called William Martin who has another book coming out soon: ‘The Activist’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution’. I expect this will be a book well worth reading. Activism and mindfulness are an important marriage…”

    See, there’s the reason I have given up on leftist politics in this country. This kind of wet-mouthed, blithering gobshittery from university-educated, middle-classholes who think of themselves as “fighting the good fight” (that, by implication the lesser mortals can’t fight for themselves) makes me feel queasy.

    Comment by Don 1 — January 7, 2016 @ 1:33 pm

  30. I left Twitter but then created a new account with new intention behind it. Discussing politics on Twitter leads to the indulgence of my immature, scared, sarcastic, and angry self – so I am generally staying out of it until I can grow myself up enough to be trusted to engage in rational interchange. For somebody with a limited social scope, this choice has meant further isolation. Where I place my focus has an impact on me and the world around me, though; I have a responsibility to be wise about it. It became apparent to me that on Twitter, real change happens where sarcasm ends. Change happens when people wake up for a moment, quit the gags and black-slapping, look around and reach out to help someone in need. I’ve seen it happen – for a moment, people calm right down. A simple act of kindness is worth more than all the pile-ons and witty one-liners we could muster. I know the people of the Left on Twitter are fundamentally kind hearted. But all human beings hurt. We are prone to unconscious action, to lash out; even when it ends up adding to the very conditions we wish to change. It would be wonderful if there could grow an inclusive ‘peaceful politics’ movement.

    Comment by Ro — January 7, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

  31. it seems to me there is a lot of anger out there – (not something new!) – i have it within me – some tend to internalize – some tend to externalize – people used to be able to beat their kids…i don’t think keyboards are the place to wrangle with this anger – so quitting twitter shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing

    Comment by rodaigh — January 7, 2016 @ 2:20 pm

  32. >See, there’s the reason I have given up on leftist politics in this country. This kind of wet-mouthed, blithering gobshittery from university-educated, middle-classholes who think of themselves as “fighting the good fight” (that, by implication the lesser mortals can’t fight for themselves) makes me feel queasy.

    Hello Don 1,

    You have unwittingly complimented this highschool drop-out who has spent the past 6 years mostly bed-bound; thereby illustrating my point that unconscious action can result in the opposite effect from that intended.

    Comment by Ro — January 7, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

  33. See, this is why I use an avatar on WordPress and Twitter – as a grumpy old feminist, I get sick of the ad hominem bullshit.

    Danyl, fwiw you made a good point. I have the luxury of still being ‘on holiday’ & not currently blogging, although I may re-start in the buildup to 2017. Misogyny still is, however, so I keep my FB & Twitter going to test the temperature of the ‘thin white male’ pool every now and then.

    So far, so ordinary. Same old same old slurs, with men behaving stereotypically.
    For an academic feminist analyst of social policy and social behaviour, it gets boring fast – I just want to shriek ‘get a new idea, stop killing brain cells & use the ones you still possess’ – rather uncharitably!

    Comment by anarkaytie — January 7, 2016 @ 3:24 pm

  34. I wound up hanging out here partly because Danyl often writes on topics I’ve been thinking about – but usually being drawn to different conclusions – and partly because of bad experiences elsewhere with personal attacks.

    That experience did have quite a marked effect on how I view politics. It left me much more wary of self-proclaimed liberals. I think some reaction here is a little off but I find it not so much a problem since it’s not some self-regarding community patting itself on the back for being liberal and tolerant.

    Comment by NeilM — January 7, 2016 @ 4:02 pm

  35. Twitter is the worst thing that has ever happened to NZ’s left, because it has either painted an artificial and unfair picture of the sorts of people and ideas that occupy that space… or it has actually revealed the reality of the sorts of people and ideas that occupy that space. Either way, disaster.

    Comment by @simongarlick — January 7, 2016 @ 5:55 pm

  36. Its crap like this that drives journos like Gower etc to lean on labels like Twitterati, and they are increasingly right. And all it does is turn the majority of voters towards National.
    I quit Twitter recently for this exact reason, its just a life sucking void that now adds little value. If the people that vent their spleens on there put half as much energy into doing something constructive about the causes they apparently support

    Comment by max — January 7, 2016 @ 7:30 pm

  37. I hope she comes back. I appreciate her articles, and the NZH doesn’t have a good way to run an RSS feed on just the authors you care about.

    Comment by Dr. Curiosity — January 7, 2016 @ 9:06 pm

  38. NeilM: It’s still a bone of contention as to whether Clark voters swung to Key, or to the Apathy, Cynicism & Disillusionment Party. As for hot button issues like Apartheid and No Nukes, about the only one that comes close these days is the Great Recession, and its full effects haven’t landed in NZ yet.

    max: Generation Zero and TransportBlog provide a few pointers, and possibly also ActionStation. Sometimes there’s no substitute for ‘boots on the ground’. Obama, for all his faults, made it work for him in 2008.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 7, 2016 @ 9:12 pm

  39. Further to my points: it’s quite normal to vent spleen on social media. What really needs to be done is to laser-guide the spleen-venting so that the likes of Kirsty Johnston don’t get caught in the crossfire.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — January 7, 2016 @ 10:24 pm

  40. This whole thread is a pretty good example though, innit.

    I mean, the way many have decided to type in a nasty sentiment that’s already been expressed? And this is a blog comment section where all the other comments are easily and readily visible. But of course, y’all are not at all like all those nasty people on twitter because umm, you aren’t generalising, or wasting your time and ‘activism juice’ or whatever it is you are talking about on things that don’t matter, and so on and so forth.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — January 7, 2016 @ 10:55 pm

  41. There is an interesting question though. Should teenage parenthood be celebrated (which has the downside of encouraging teenagers to have kids, potentially before they’re ready) or frowned on (which is both unkind and unfair to the parents concerned)?

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 8, 2016 @ 8:38 am

  42. Should teenage parenthood be celebrated (which has the downside of encouraging teenagers to have kids, potentially before they’re ready) or frowned on (which is both unkind and unfair to the parents concerned)?

    Kind of neither. It’s possible to recognise that someone’s made a stupid, life-changing mistake that they’re only going to be able to overcome with a lot of hard work, without being unkind or unfair to them. Most of us have only luck to thank that we’ve avoided such life-changing mistakes – if you think back to your own youth and tally up the events that could potentially have resulted in an unwanted child, a disabling injury or a criminal conviction, unless you led a very sheltered life the biggest difference between you and Teen Dad is luck. Doesn’t mean we should encourage such stupidity though, and certainly doesn’t give this mook Noa something to be proud about.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 8, 2016 @ 9:12 am

  43. @PM

    When you say ‘we shouldn’t encourage such stupidity’, I reckon that puts you in the ‘frowning on’ camp.

    Is teenage parenthood always a ‘stupid mistake’? Can it not be a good idea to start your family early (in the context of a committed relationship)?

    A.

    Comment by Antoine — January 8, 2016 @ 9:17 am

  44. As a child of teen parents I can honestly say it was OK. I know a few peers who had kids in their teens and there’s advantages and disadvantages both ways.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — January 8, 2016 @ 12:56 pm

  45. It may not always be a stupid mistake but the couple would have to have a lot of support (wisdom, time and money) from the adults around them to give that child a fair go in life.

    When it works out well for teenage parents and the child, it’s likely to have come at some considerable cost to the family around them. And those family members they may have had very little choice in the matter because walking away was never an option.

    Comment by mjpledger — January 8, 2016 @ 1:02 pm

  46. Can it not be a good idea to start your family early (in the context of a committed relationship)?

    Sure. But what constitutes a “committed relationship” for a schoolkid? One that lasts longer than a few months? And these days, how many people under 18 are in a position to start a family? In the overwhelming majority of cases, it comes under the heading of “stupid, life-changing mistake.”

    Comment by Psycho Milt — January 8, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

  47. It was a good story. Looking at her story list on the Herald I’m not convinced she is one of the best in the country.

    But I’m Finding it hard to get too concerned about people picking on a journalist when journalists regularly rush to judgement on their privileged platforms, run as a pack pursuing others, stealing from facebook as well as exploiting naïve people for a quick quote, a headline, a byline and profit. Yet try to get a correction from same or an apology and it’s like drawing blood.

    Comment by insider — January 8, 2016 @ 10:22 pm

  48. Yes it’ a bit like asking a a blogger to see the irony in offering the choice between ‘mediocre or cynical’ as the basis of a critique, thus inviting like minded people to engage in a pissing contest to illustrate who dislikes a politician most, then following it up with a post about ‘pile-ons’.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — January 9, 2016 @ 7:36 pm

  49. As an aging feminist with less and less time for twitter I feel like this tweet is everything that’s wrong with social media feminism. https://twitter.com/mizjwilliams/status/685766461541859328

    Comment by Donna — January 10, 2016 @ 7:17 am

  50. I feel like this tweet is everything that’s wrong with social media feminism

    Heh. Jess is down with loads of hardcore alternative feminists that you’re not cool enough to have heard of.

    Comment by danylmc — January 10, 2016 @ 7:23 am

  51. “So maybe don’t pile into a debate and call someone out unless you have really, really good reason. Especially if you can see that lots of other people are already making the exact same point you want to. Especially if you’re a guy and you’re about to explain feminism to a women…Especially if the thing that’s offended you is not really in the grand scheme of things, particularly offensive. I know, I know, in identity politics everything is political, everything ties to patriarchy and privilege, everything is important. But this just seemed like a really trivial thing to lose the ability to engage with a first-class journalist over.”

    Heh. Jess is down with loads of hardcore alternative feminists that you’re not cool enough to have heard of.

    Not easy is it.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — January 10, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

  52. Not easy is it.

    Posting that in my comments thread, instead of her timeline along with dozens of other people was surprisingly effortless.

    Comment by danylmc — January 10, 2016 @ 2:15 pm

  53. Plenty of the ‘pile on’ talk has been about stuff that isn’t @ mentions or anything like it though. Just people talking, the subject actively searches to find what people are saying, finds out they don’t like it, claims a pile on is happeneing and a bunch of people roll out the cliches they use every time it happens. tutt tutt

    I’m just not seeing a lot of self awareness from the critics either, is all. I’m not seeing what is so very different about whatever it is people are complaining about compared to blogs or news outlet comment sections. I am seeing a lot of smug ‘my god you people are awful’ though. But really, what is the difference?

    Should people really search the timelines of other people and do general twitter searches before tweeting? What about before blogposts? Or comments? Or should people who are on the receipt of some flak realise that not everyone sees what they are seeing, and that it isn’t really a hive mind borg of people actively seeking to do political activism? maybe it’s just people saying what they think and that social media systems have emergent properties that can be pretty damn stormy.

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — January 10, 2016 @ 3:42 pm

  54. Let’s just back up to my original point. I’m not saying don’t challenge people on social media, or subtweet or argue, or even mock – although Jess has had a rough year, so I shouldn’t be mean – all I’m saying is that being the subject of a pile-on is more upsetting than you’d think. I don’t believe these people are oblivious to what they’re all saying, since they all follow each other and @ each other into the pile-ons. It’s a group behaviour. People do it because they can see everyone else doing it. Go back and look at the tweets to Kirsty just prior to her deleting her account and there are five or six people in each tweet, all of whom instantly did this ‘What pile on?’ routine as soon as she left.

    I’m not even opposed to all pile-ons, per se. If someone says or does something really vile and upsetting and you want to upset them back then I say fuck it, pile onto them. That doesn’t seem to happen so much though. It’s mostly mass hysteria about trivial stuff.

    Comment by danylmc — January 10, 2016 @ 4:22 pm

  55. I don’t know. I agree with Pascal’s Bookie. There’s a distinct lack of self-awareness here. What’s different between this blogpost, in which 40 people have essentially just said “heh, Twitter activists are morons” (including you linking to a tweet to mock it – Redbaiter for example has tweeted his approval of your mocking) and a bunch of people having a shared adverse opinion on Twitter?

    Comment by Dave — January 10, 2016 @ 4:40 pm

  56. I don’t know. I agree with Pascal’s Bookie. There’s a distinct lack of self-awareness here. What’s different between this blogpost, in which 40 people have essentially just said “heh, Twitter activists are morons” (including you linking to a tweet to mock it

    I didn’t link to anything. Secondly, the difference is the entire point of my post, which I guess I’ve failed to communicate. I’ve been subject to all kinds of people saying critical stuff about me for many years – it’s not as bad as some of the abuse directed at women online, I get that – but I’ve featured on WhaleOil numerous times, and people are cruel and mocking about various things that I write, often deservedly so on pretty much a daily basis, and those things are a whole lot less upsetting than being directly confronted by a big number of people on social media all at once. That’s my experience. I don’t think people realise the difference, and how challenging it is. That is literally all I’m trying to say.

    What’s the difference between saying ‘Twitter activists are morons’ on a comments thread and, say, a big bunch of people contacting an individual twitter activist directly to tell them they’re a moron? Well that just seems really obvious to me. If you don’t get that then you don’t, and there’s not much discussion to be had.

    Comment by danylmc — January 10, 2016 @ 7:17 pm

  57. Go back and look at the tweets to Kirsty just prior to her deleting her account and there are five or six people in each tweet, all of whom instantly did this ‘What pile on?’ routine as soon as she left.

    There were six such tweets. I think the surprise about the “pile-on” from those involved is that most of the tweets about the story did not involve Kirsty at all. It was mostly subtweets, although possibly by people whom Kirsty followed. Kirsty herself was included in only 25 tweets about the story, almost all of which were replies to tweets she herself sent, after she un-subtweeted herself. People who were expressing surprise at being told they were piling on, were people who were tweeting about the story without including Kirsty’s handle, or who had tweeted about the story without including the handle, whom Kirsty had then directly responded to.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2016 @ 8:36 pm

  58. Thanks Graeme – I’ve just spent a while messing around with the twitter search function. If you click on ‘view conversation’ it expands out the original search results and indicates that there were more tweets in the conversations than is apparent from just doing a simple search, but I couldn’t count how many more. Looks like more than twenty-five to me. A lot of the comments directed at her aren’t replies to things she’s said to them, but, like I said, various people including themselves in the conversation like

    Comment by danylmc — January 10, 2016 @ 9:08 pm

  59. Apologies, Donna linked to the tweet rather than you, but your mocking of that tweet appears to have had the same personal effect. I see much less of a difference than you do in this particular instance – Graeme’s description of this particular ‘pile-on’ seems to show the difference is not particularly marked.

    Comment by Dave — January 10, 2016 @ 9:09 pm

  60. your mocking of that tweet appears to have had the same personal effect.

    I do regret that. I’m sure there are lots of busy little elves out there desperately eager to alert Jess whenever anyone slights her online and I should factor that in.

    Comment by danylmc — January 10, 2016 @ 9:28 pm

  61. Danyl, you realise that in every one of those four examples you just gave, Kirsty *chose* to join in the conversation?

    Comment by pete — January 10, 2016 @ 9:30 pm

  62. Danyl, you realise that in every one of those four examples you just gave, Kirsty *chose* to join in the conversation?

    And you realise that in every one of those four examples the tweeters piled in after she did so thus the title of the post ‘A note on pile-ons.’

    Comment by danylmc — January 10, 2016 @ 9:33 pm

  63. “I’m sure there are lots of busy little elves out there desperately eager to alert Jess whenever anyone slights her online ” wtf?

    It’s impossible she reads your blog?

    Comment by Pascal's bookie — January 10, 2016 @ 9:40 pm

  64. If you click on ‘view conversation’ it expands out the original search results and indicates that there were more tweets in the conversations than is apparent from just doing a simple search, but I couldn’t count how many more.

    It does, but the vast majority of the tweets in those conversation don’t involve Kirsty’s handle. There might be a couple I missed, but it doesn’t seem many more than 25. You appear to right about many of the replies being from new people, but the lack of context (ie the tweets being replied to by others) makes that difficult.

    Mostly, I was just looking at why, in this instance, many of those involved did not think they were piling on.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — January 10, 2016 @ 11:27 pm

  65. I was just looking at why, in this instance, many of those involved did not think they were piling on.

    I decided when I wrote the post that I wasn’t going to name anyone or ‘call them out’ (I do have a flicker of self-awareness). I did write about guys jumping in, as per the tweets above, but mostly it was the women who Kirsty engaged who felt accused and the guys mostly oblivious. And it’s hard to tell who felt genuinely accused and who was simply attention seeking.

    Comment by danylmc — January 11, 2016 @ 6:43 am

  66. Kia ora koutou me nga mihi nui o te tau hou

    I’d like to jump in here so I can answer some of the points you have all obligingly raised in a comments thread that isn’t a pile on, because that would be – what’s the phrase? – “hav[ing] fun shitting all over people while feeling sanctimonious about it”.

    Firstly, I really fail to see what relevance my tweet about Caitlin Moran and Emily Watson has to see to this thread but since you raised it, Donna – I was merely making a point about how if those two women (who are both strident feminists, and good on them) are the *only* ones we ever hear from, then whole swathes of women are being missed out of the discussion. Moran particularly is a problematic figure given some of her past comments about trans women and women of colour. To me, she encapsulates some of the worst aspects of the second wave – white women fighting for white women’s problems and making clear they care little for anyone else’s. That’s not a way to effect widespread useful change. If that tweet is a symbol of everything that’s wrong with social media feminism to you, Donna – then goodness me you are a very very lucky woman not to have been confronted with, say, the TERF brigade.

    Danyl, your comment about me being “down” with lots of hardcore feminists is just snark and it’s really upsetting from someone who I used to consider a pal and an ally. I don’t know where or when I’ve so upset you, but to be honest, I’m very upset with the degree of ad hominem nastiness you’re evoking on this thread. I don’t read your blog, largely because you’ve blocked me on twitter so I’m largely unaware of when you post, and my “little elves” (as you patronisingly refer to my actual, real-life friends) did make me aware of this. But that’s because there are people online who look out for me, because they are kind friends. I did indeed have a rotten 2015. I’m not keen for a rotten 2016. I now have no public profile, and don’t want one. So I don’t see why I’m still a target. You need to practice what you mansplain. If what I write bothers you, look elsewhere.

    No apologies for the length of this comment – I don’t have a blog on which to address these points.

    Comment by mizjwilliams — January 11, 2016 @ 9:54 am

  67. Hi Danyl and friends. While I have tried to ignore this blog post and subsequent comment thread it seems like you all are going to keep pontificating on is it, isn’t it without actually ever having read the tweets that led to Kirsty leaving.

    Have you seen the Storify? Here is all the tweets that were posted prior to Kirsty leaving Twitter: https://storify.com/madicattt/head-boy-teen-dad-saga

    Notably it may interest you to read the following.

    I do not follow Kirsty Johnston. Prior to last Tuesday I had never interacted with her and hadn’t even heard of her.

    On my way to work I read an article and it was interesting and so I tweeted how I felt about it. It turned out that a lot of other people were interested and had feelings about it too. Those feelings were both positive and negative and it was quickly established that how we all felt about it went well beyond the scope of the article. It had triggered and conversation on how society treats teen parents and in general female reproduction and wow – amazing – it was all pretty cordial and respectful!

    Then I received a tweet from Kirsty Johnston – I didn’t know who she was so I looked at her profile – she worked for the herald. Hmmm. So I checked the article and oh – Kirsty wrote the article. Here is the transcript of the interaction with Kirsty.

    [@madicattt] Im just real tired of what is basic good behaviour being put on a pedestal when a guy does it (& when a girl has little choice to not do so)
    [@ani_archy] @Madicattt also the child only stays with him once a fortnight! The young mum is doing almost all the work!
    [@kirsty_johnston] @Madicattt @ani_archy @Ll_politico no, he just didn’t tell his parents straight away. He’s a good kid trying to set an example, ffs
    [@kirsty_johnston] @Madicattt @ani_archy @Ll_politico we did the story because he’s head boy, not because he’s stepping up with parenting.
    [@madicattt] @kirsty_johnston @ani_archy @li_politico I get that, like I’ve said to others – my frustration is bigger than this story (& so a bit unfair)
    [@madicattt] @kirsty_johnston @ani_archy @li_politico it’s more the fact that when men step up to parenting it’s applauded in a way it isn’t for women.
    [@ani_archy] @kirsty_johnston @LI_politico @Madicattt no he didn’t. He hid it for 3 months. He is going to pay for nappies & has the child once fortnight
    [@kirsty_johnston] @Madicattt @ani_archy @LL_politico If the mum had been made head girl we would have written about her. It’s not about gender politics.
    [@madicattt] @kirsty_johnston @ani_archy @Ll_politico it is in a way tho – would a teen mum be made head girl? That’s bigger than ur story bt nt my resp.
    [@kirsty_johnston] @Madicattt @ani_archy @Ll_politico I don’t see any reason why not. Particularly after we’ve publicised Aotea College’s choice.
    [@moylea] @kirsty_johnston @Madicattt @ani_archy @LI_politico uh huh sure, be interesting to see has a teenage mum ever been made head girl…?
    [@ani_archy] @kirsty_johnston @Madicattt @LI_politico he has the child once a fortnight & intends to pay for nappies? Meanwhile teen mum is juggling 24/7
    [@ani_archy] @kirsty_johnston @Madicattt @LI_politico everything is gender politics. Teen mums get shamed & are certainly not celebrated.
    [@matthewjpb] @kirsty_johnston come on Kirsty? Really? You really think there wouldn’t be a storm if a teen mum was HG? @Madicattt @ani_archy @LI_politico

    So as you can see Kirsty inserted herself into the conversation and tagged three people. Two extras who had been participating in the conversation earlier joined in. That was that.

    This argument wasn’t about Kirsty. Sure, there was some disagreement about how the story was conveyed but what became super obvious super quickly was that this story was way bigger than education. In my high school for one – girls were asked to leave school if they fell pregnant. In NZ this is normal. This is just one reason why people were upset – why people wanted to talk about it – a news article in the country’s largest newspaper. Shocking huh? This could have been an opportunity – one that Stuff has picked up and run quite well with. But it’s fair enough that Kirsty was over it – that’s her prerogative as a person.

    Notably – she didn’t leave because she felt piled on – as you have claimed. See: [@publicaddress] 1. To be clear, Kirsty Johnston didn’t depart Twitter because because she felt piled-on in today’s uproar. She was just over it in general. https://twitter.com/publicaddress/status/684645662441353216

    Where the whole thing did become nasty was after she left. Is that conversation above really worthy of calling me a cunt Jarrod Gilbert? Or a Neanderthal Matt Nippert? Or of writing this blog post and continuing a ridiculous debate on what was really a nasty storm in a teacup. You say that you have a flicker of self awareness to not name and shame or call us out but really – NZ Twitter is small. As the comments have shown it is very easy to work out who it is you’re talking about.

    The thing that a lot of you don’t seem to get is that most of us don’t use Twitter to win battles or for that matter elections. Twitter isn’t great for politics? No shit. I suspect if you start talking to people you’ll find that a lot of the people you’re condemning above use Twitter to voice how they feel about big things that they don’t have space to talk about in real life. This may be even more surprising but people use it to find people to discuss those feelings with. Sometimes we don’t all agree but for the most part it can be pretty civil – until someone busts in wanting to ‘win’ – wanting someone else to be the bad guy.

    What disturbs me about NZ Twitter is how much glee there seems to be when things go wrong. Everyone leaps in with a hot take, taking sides and casting slurs and to what end? Three women now have left Twitter over this now. Was it worth it? Are you all happy?

    Have you considered that when you talk about how Twitter is bad for the left that a lot of us don’t give a fuck about the left and right and that we’re actually just talking about our lives?

    Comment by madicattt — January 11, 2016 @ 10:48 am

  68. “white women fighting for white women’s problems”

    Really really offensive.

    The same criticism of black women would be deemed racist by the brainwashed loons who call themselves feminists. In actuality just victims of Critical Theory.

    (Whites are oppressive, & must therefore be replaced by non whites.)

    Comment by Redbaiter — January 11, 2016 @ 11:12 am

  69. Everyone else keeps getting blocked by the spam filter but it always just lets Redbaiter right on through.

    Anyway, that seems like a suitably horrible note to end things on. Closing comments.

    Comment by danylmc — January 11, 2016 @ 11:24 am


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