How I became a target of the alt-right
What it’s like to be targeted by Neo-Nazis and supporters of Donald Trump online — and what I learned from it.
My name is Arrington de Dionyso. This month, I became the target of death threats and online harassment from alt-right members and conspiracy theorist supporters of Donald Trump, thanks to my connection to what has become known as #PizzaGate.
Not that anyone ever sets out to become the target of coordinated online attacks, but to say I was not expecting or prepared for it would be an understatement. I am an artist — a painter and a musician — and while the fight for social justice is important to me, I never thought my art would land me at the center of a situation so closely tied to politics, fake news, and violence.
But it did. In 2010, I painted a mural on the walls of Comet Ping Pong, in Washington, DC. The mural was only up for a year before it was painted over in 2011, but in late October of this year, my artwork became one of the “clues” that online conspiracy theorists cited on Twitter, 4Chan, Reddit, and across the web as “proof” that Hillary Clinton and high ranking members of her campaign were running a sex trafficking ring from the (non-existent) basement of the pizza and game shop.
I’m sure this sounds ridiculous — and hilarious — but it isn’t. It’s terrifying, and it has taken over my life and begun to affect my livelihood as an artist. It has gone beyond the far, dusty corners of the web, where only the internet’s craziest uncles live. Alex Jones has referenced the conspiracy theory to his millions of followers and a member of Donald Trump’s own transition team (and son of his new National Security Advisor) spread the fake news online.
I’m sure this sounds ridiculous — and hilarious — but it isn’t. It’s terrifying, and it has taken over my life and begun to affect my livelihood as an artist.
In the past few weeks, several videos have been created and uploaded to YouTube, with the intent of targeting me and spreading vicious lies claiming I’m a part of this fictitious satanic sex cabal. At least one of the videos was threatening enough that it was taken down completely by YouTube, but the others are still up. These faceless internet trolls have tracked down information about my family, including the livelihood of both of my parents, and have dug up old photos of my friends from nearly a decade ago, using them to back up their “theories.” Everyone in my life has become a target of their blind hatred.
I know that the goal of the alt-right and their allies is to silence any dissenting opinions, like mine. I know they want me to respond by going into hiding, by taking down my art from the internet — and possibly by discontinuing making art altogether.
I’m not going to do that.
I’m not going to let them win.
Nothing that the alt-right, Donald Trump, or his supporters say or do will stop me from believing in the rights of all people — nor will it stop me in fighting for them through my work.
My work celebrates the joy of being human, the incredibly magical gift of being alive. In my music, my goal is to create safe environments where people can explore new ways of organizing expressive sound. In my visual artwork, I draw upon dreams and mythology to depict imaginary worlds populated by tigers, serpents, birds and other animals.
I believe that all humans have an obligation to take care of each other and support each other’s development and growth so that we can leave a better world for our children. I stand against hate crimes, abuse of power, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Nothing that the alt-right, Donald Trump, or his supporters say or do will stop me from believing in the rights of all people — nor will it stop me in fighting for them through my work.
Now is the time when it is more crucial than ever that people stand up and have their voices heard. We cannot allow them to intimidate us into silence.
I will not be silent.
I hope you will join me.