A Sacco Offense: Gawking, Trolling and seeing Red(dit)

Great video about shaming and Justine Sacco from Jon Ronson.

I was online that night and felt the same as he did, the unease at the online mob, and actually I did post about it, defending her as not being malicious – note I didn’t mention her initially by name. I didn’t need to, every single tweet and timeline was talking about her, like Jon said. It went global.

Sad to find out that her life was destroyed, that it was as I thought either something silly or misunderstood. I’ve posted quite a lot in the past on the strangeness of social media, especially Twitter…I refused to join it for ages. It’s a weird goldfish bowl, one where people rant and rave and point fingers but never actually seem to look at their own sins, their own faults.

The internet was colonised originally with John Perry Barlow types, WELL beings and cyberspace ex-hippies and evangelistic techno-priests who saw the technology as a way to connect people, that when people had a voice society would change, they’d realise that all people are the same. That has happened to some limited extent, but also came with it the negative side, the nastiness, the shame and the hate. It was a very naive ideology, one I bought into in the early 90’s as a cyberspace and VR freak. But quickly after the internet became popular in the late 90’s and not just full of academics and geniuses, things started to become less civil. Trolling became a thing, so did hacking and shaming. Unfortunately giving everyone a voice also includes the crazy people, the truthers, the tin-foil hat types, the religious, the bigoted, the harmful. And these people get very annoyed if they see women in charge (being mostly sad teenage males), or their toys get taken away so they can’t spout hate.

I don’t remember this ‘deshaming’ Twitter, maybe that was pre-2008 when I joined, it seemed to be always a place where people where ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and has become like Instagram a place for posturing and humblebragging, freaking about numbers and creating grand scheme for autofollowing scripts – many of the people with large numbers from those times actually hacked them, btw.

I got bored with such mobbing around the time a bit later that black Twitter decided to shame a black gay couple and their daughter, showing their prejudices in a rather ugly way, ditto when the Biphobia account decided to retweet everything I said to a hundred people because, hey, some twelve year olds decided I was biphobic (I’m pretty sure I’m not btw). There was a point where ‘Social Justice Warrior’ became an insult, and that just wasn’t the horrible same mob use of these tactics against women of GamerGate (hi guys! Yes those sad fucks Google Alert that shit), but something had gone wrong well before that.

I was talking about hashtag activists on this very blog…it’s that disturbing amplification, like what happened to Reddit and Ellen Pao & co. recently which also has echoes of GamerGate, and even more related the meltdown of Gawker which is facepalm city (no, taking the word of a seemingly insane rent boy/Proofer-Truther Survivalist is not good, neither is outing a married man with no perceivable public interest) that makes me distance myself from these movements and journalistic trends.

We don’t need no friggin’ pitchforks. For a long time I’ve been making sure I’m punching up not down, and only in cases where there is some public interest, and will continue to do so. (video via Jez Biggs)

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