Hillary’s Harassment Brigades

As I’ve written previously, I tend to be pretty dismissive of claims about the supposed world-altering importance of “Targeted Harassment” as a social phenomenon, as least insofar as it is seen as a problem requiring prompt remediation by our merciful Tech Overlords. For better or worse, the internet is an unwieldy place, and social media amplifies that effect many times over. Some people will not care to subject themselves to constant vitriol, and that’s their prerogative; Twitter in particular provides a host of tools for users to customize their experience. They can block interlocutors who are especially vituperative, or they can block users for any reason at all. They can set their account to private. They can view “mentions” from only those they follow. Etc. Different folks have different levels of tolerance for this kind of thing, and it’s right that they be able to set the terms of their own internet engagement.

As of late I’ve been on the receiving end of an absolute torrent of 24/7 vitriol. I can perfectly understand why this is so. First, we’re nearing the climax of a highly cantankerous presidential campaign, and tensions are heightened on all sides. On top of that, I regularly expound firm opinions about contentious topics, and some segment of internet users are bound to disagree with what I say. I like to think that my opinions are amply grounded in reporting and facts, but nevertheless, some readers will inevitably take exception and state their objections accordingly.

Then, some segment of that segment will resort to unsavory methods of getting their point across, such as ridiculous trolling schemes, stupid personal insults, willful misconstruals, and every other tactic those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time on the internet are well accustomed to by now.

This is the name of the game, in a sense. If you attain the “privilege” of a minor social media platform, you are implicitly accepting that it entails withstanding considerable backlash. (Females clearly get a disproportionately nasty onslaught due to losers making a big deal about their appearance.)

However creepy or crass the backlash, it’s still gratifying in a sense that people are engaging with your ideas, arguments, and reporting. Really!

THAT BEING SAID…

If you do think “targeted harassment” is the key political issue of our day, you ought to be pretty outraged about the conduct of innumerable Clinton supporters on social media right now. I don’t think it’s fair to single out any of these people individually, but let me assure you they exist and in vast quantities.

During the Democratic Primary Contest, a meme developed whereby “Bernie Bros” were seen as the especially aggressive Twitter users registering complaints at journalists and other media figures. The proliferation of these users (their provenance was frequently disputed, as many proved to be straight-up trolls) was then taken to be an indictment of Sanders himself, as well as the campaign/movement that had built up around him. The typical Bernie Sanders supporter on the internet was subsequently accused of countenancing a nationwide “harassment” ring dead-set on traumatizing women and minorities. It was really spectacularly stupid.

So now there are legions upon legions of Clinton supporters doing much the same thing in their relentless drive to defeat Trump: trolling maliciously, deliberately spreading false information, launching “coordinated” personal attacks on those they deem adversarial. This is all happening, right now. Where, then, are the cries for “civility” that we heard several months ago in the context of the “Bernie Bro” craze? Where are the demands that Hillary herself “disavow” such disreputable conduct? Where oh where? *crickets* *crickets*

I actually think it would be rather silly to demand that Hillary comment on this. But that’s because I don’t buy the original premise about “targeted harassment” being the great civil rights crusade of our day. If you do buy into that premise, shouldn’t you be mounting a strenuous effort to extract some kind of deadly-serious statement from the Clinton campaign distancing her from such lamentable behavior?

Compounding all this is an element of low-grade psychological warfare that the Clinton apparatus is responsible for and that Hillary should absolutely be made to comment on at some point. David Brock, the former right-wing journalist who is now an extremely wealthy political hitman on behalf of the Clintons, has intentionally stoked paranoia among Twitter dwellers by launching an initiative to literally pay pro-Clinton trolls to “confront” people online. We don’t know how numerous these paid trolls are, but presumably they exist and are out in the field. So when you encounter a Clinton troll on Twitter, you never quite know if it’s a Brock lackey or just a genuine idiot.

Hence, the initiative has sown paranoia and confusion, “gaslighting” people who jostle with Clinton trolls by causing them to question the true nature of the interaction they just had. If you’re sincerely concerned about “internet harassment” as a foundational political issue of the 21st century, shouldn’t you denounce the Brock-backed efforts to foment frenzy online? (And by extension, shouldn’t you denounce the Clinton campaign, with whom Brock’s operation appears to have illegally coordinated?)

Even Hillary’s closest confidants like Neera Tanden seem to agree that Brock is a deranged lunatic, and yet they collaborate with him anyway, thereby countenancing his efforts to stoke “online harassment,” which everyone associated with the Clinton campaign team is supposed to be so concerned about preventing.

Or maybe most people don’t actually care about “targeted harssment” as such — they care about using the issue as a bludgeon to discredit their political enemies. Hmmm, maybe that’s it.