A few weeks and a half-dozen insane Donald Trump quotes ago, comedian Leslie Jones was flooded with harassment on Twitter. For those of you who have seen the internet, you know this isn't exactly new. Feminist writer Jessica Valenti left social media entirely when strangers threatened to rape her ... five-year-old daughter. Back in March, Nintendo employee Allison Rapp endured weeks of abuse, eventually getting fired from her job for having the nerve to be harassed. All of those awful things -- and so very, very much more -- are the handiwork of the so-called "alt-right." Here's what we learned about them ...
5Hatred Has A New Name And A Spin Campaign
Hey, remember when Donald Trump tweeted that antisemitic image macro about Hillary Clinton? It's OK if you don't. Nothing is lost on the internet, no matter how much you want it to be:
Journalists traced the original image back to 8chan, a message board that specializes in outrageous racism and harassment.
Not linked here, because holy fuck don't go to 8chan.
Trump claims he thought the Star of David was a "Sheriff's star." But a quick glance at the thread in 8chan's /pol/ board, where it originated, unearths a horde of antisemitic and outright fascist artwork.
Yes, that's sexy Knight Hitler on the bottom left there.
8chan and its members are a particularly militant fringe of what's come to be known as the alt-right. This demographic is savvier than its swastika-wearing, cross-burning forbears. They've realized that outright bigotry looks bad, so they put on a semi-legitimate public face. Openly Nazi forums like Stormfront and news sites like the Daily Stormer have given away to websites like Breitbart and Reddit's /thedonald. A lot of the hatred is now thinly veiled behind terrible memes, but the good ol' fashioned stuff is still there too:
Hmmm ... pretty normal. No blatant racism here ...
Ah, there we go.
Looking deeper into alt-right articles reveals a weird dichotomy: rampant homophobia and racism, as well as lionizing the very, very few gay and minority figures who happen to support their cause. It's the "I have a black friend" fallacy taken to the extreme. Some of these people even serve as the "faces" of the movement, and stray from explicit racism in favor of dog whistles. Here's one example, courtesy of We Hunted the Mammoth: After Trump replaced the Star of David on that macro with a circle and insisted he didn't mean to make any kind of antisemitic statement, The Daily Stormer (a site literally named after a Nazi newspaper from the '30s) said this:
The Daily Stormer
*ahem* "The Leader"?
So how is it possible to be a figurehead of a hate movement without your career collapsing in on itself like a dying star?
4The Alt-Right "Leaders" Keep Their Hands Clean
One of the folks I talked to while preparing this article was Republican Party strategist Rick Wilson. You might remember him from news stories like this:
To be fair, there have to be some doing it to domestic cartoons too.
Rick was drowned in an ocean of hateful tweets, obviously, but it went beyond that. He earned his own 4chan thread, where users coordinated a harassment campaign which included leaking his family's address. "When they put your address out there, a lot of the shit was irritant type stuff ... having Qurans sent to my house, saying there was a garage sale ... that's prank kind of stuff."
But it went a bit beyond "man-boys will be man-boys" when they started sending Rick pictures of his family covered in semen, or when Rick's daughter found this letter, from "reddit," at her house:
Now, that seems like the sort of thing that came from an angry teenager who spends all his time online. And it probably was. But that's not a harmless demographic; a significant number of mass shooters match that description. "Angry, disaffected shut-ins" are a dangerous group to piss off. Rick says, "we live in a world where ... it's only going to take one actual fucked-up crazy person killing a family somewhere to change the social media landscape a lot."
One prominent figure in the alt-right is Theodore Beale, or Vox Day online. Beale doesn't directly threaten people, but he does regularly advocate for his readers to harass folks for him. Here's how he advised his readers to treat women like Jessica Valenti, a writer for The Guardian whom he happens to dislike:
Does all that apply to that kindergartner they threatened to rape, too?
Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart's technology editor, also avoids directly typing "commit crimes for me against this person." But this article gives a great breakdown of how he gets around that. First, Yiannopoulos writes an article about someone (usually a woman) who did something he disagrees with.
Wow -- from zero to "witch hunts" in four words.
He doesn't include her name, but he links her Twitter prominently. Within a couple of hours, the harassment train is at full steam, with each such Tweet linking back to Yiannopoulos (his handle was @nero before he was banned from the platform).
This is how Yiannopoulos kicked off the Twitter campaign against Leslie Jones. The harassment only started rolling in after he posted his Ghostbusters review on Twitter, and he stoked the flames by retweeting clearly fabricated inflammatory quotes from Jones:
Jones is far from the first woman to fall victim to this sort of thing, although she's the first one famous enough to force Twitter to do something about it; they banned Yiannopoulos and a number of other asshats in the wake of these events. But even with Yiannopoulos off the site, Jones is not going to be the last woman to suffer this kind of abuse. And yeah ...