Monday, July 31, 2017

On The Libertarian Twitter-War

Up there is a writer for Reason (a libertarian magazine) signal-boosting a tweet by a guy making fun of the @ladiesofliberty group (libertarian women) with the "make-me-a-sandwich" joke. Brown re-tweeted it to her 18k followers with a follow up tweet suggesting her followers re-tweet so that prospective employers would see it when he applies for a job.

 The Reaction Was Swift And Vociferous 

A lot of people were, needless to say, very upset about this. The Omnivore, in fact, got into a Twitter argument with one of his foils who decided that The Omnivore's "defense of her" (a tweet being amazed at the libertarian-support for make-me-a-sandwich jokes) was "how we get Trump" by trying to liberally dox people out of a job.

More concretely, Slate Star Codex came down against doxxing people by signal-boosting them. This is the age we live in--so it's worth taking a close look at. 

First Things First: Going After People's Employment Is Wrong

While the Twitter guy who accused The Omnivore of bringing Trump (itself an allegation that is psychologically muddled--it's never "Republican Racists" who brought us Trump--it's liberalsim on the part of someone who emotionally hates liberals and intellectually doesn't like Trump) isn't wrong about that. 

Going after employment is "going for blood." It's taking arguing online into the realm of real-damage. It isn't quite the threat-to-life-and-limb that, say, SWATTING is--but it's not so--so far away from it either. People who have been doxxed out of a job seem to suffer PTSD of a sort (The Omnivore is not a psychologist so that's not a for-real kind of diagnosis). It's bad.

She should not have done it. 

But--she shouldn't have done it because it's playing blood-sports of a sort where her 18k followers is definitely punching down against the guy's very few followers. If he had re-tweeted her to his (say) 100 followers saying "I hope she gets fired from Reason" (which, let's be clear, people with a lot more followers did tweet--considering that payback is cool, yo--it would almost certainly not have garnered the ire).

Secondly, if she had just left it at: "Well, this is stupid. Retweet this to all your libertarian friends as an example of what NOT to do."it might have gotten the same number of RTs--but would not have named his future employment status.

Would that have made it better? The pragmatic argument (that it would show up on searches) says "yes"--just as bad. The social-dynamic argument (that targeting employment is 'how you get Trump') says "no." The Omnivore is pretty sure the answer is "No."

That would have been fine with most people. Something to think about.

Second Things Second -- This Isn't Exactly Doxxing Or Employment Targeting

There's an issue here that we shouldn't ignore: the guy was tweeting this stuff under his own name, using #hashtags, and @'ing specific targets (the ladiesofliberty). This is about as public a throw-down as you can get for his level of followers (The Omnivore will add that using an image is even more eye-catching). In other words, the guy wasn't tweeting (#HasJustineLandedYet) to his 100 or so followers and it exploded--he went full fog-horn and someone (the Reason writer is a member of @ladiesofliberty) in his target zone decided to hit back--by amplifying his own words.

Doxxing is usually meant to be releasing private information about the subject (she didn't). Employment Targeting usually means writing to the person's employer demanding that they be fired (which everyone who @'dd Reason demanding she be fired did). This was neither.

This, at least in this context, is kind of new (it isn't--but it's a good example of a hybrid of the above that isn't fully either). 

This raises a question: when someone over-reaches and takes a shot at you, how restrained are you required to be online? As the guy locked his Twitter account, one assumes that he regrets the tweet--but what level of response would her detractors think was okay?

If she had said "Signal-Boosting This As A Bad Example" would that be fine as it doesn't mention employment? Is, perhaps, the onus on him as he decided to throw-down and got smacked harder than the thought he could?

Something to think about.

Third Things Third - This Is A Symptom Of A Recurring Problem (It Seems)

The Omnivore's response was some surprise was at the break-down of defenses of the tweeter. There were basically three:
  1. She should NOT have gone after his employment.
  2. It's A Joke (honey, get over it)
  3. It's FREE Speech--He Should Not Be Punished!

The first is legit--so long as what is going on is an over-reaction on her part. In other words, he makes a harmless joke, she goes after his employment--even if not directly. That's a valid defense.

The second and third though are part of the context: The stated reason she did what she did is that, apparently, this happens a lot.

From someone with more than 5x her number of followers, for example:

Women KEEP Complaining!

She Just Needs To Get Laid

And so on--it's hard to get a sense of the breakdown--but a survey of a bunch of the responses found 30 about #1 (employment), over 100 about it just being a joke or being free-speech. In other words, the ire about being doxed is not primary.

No, what's primary here is not the principled issue--it's about a battle between people who think that consequences for his speech--apparently of any sort are the problem. It's just a joke, honey. Pipe down.

What The Omnivore Thinks

The Omnivore thinks that it's pretty clear that there is a culture-war context that isn't being discussed here. The signal-boost comes in that context--unavoidably. The Reason writer responded in such a way because of a history that is not contained in the original exchange: a lot of people think it's fine to make fun of women libertarians in public, under their own name--and they will enjoy a superior power-gradient in doing so (more than 2/3rds of Libertarians are male--and they skew young and heavily white for that matter).

When she responded in a way that utilized her superior power-gradient (followers) it exploded. Not only did it explode--but the primary complaint was not that she was doxxing him--but that she was taking a joke too seriously and punishing his free speech.

In other words, the real crime here was that libertarian guys might lose their capability to tell women to make-them-a-sandwich without consequence.

NB: The Omnivore googled the guy's name--his profile doesn't show up at the top of the page (in fact, it might not show up on the top page at all. A followship of 18k people probably isn't enough to ruin someone's life yet).


  1. Libertarian men: you must not use your free speech to counter my free speech!

    Of course, now the fucker can make ME a sandwich, and a fries and a coke.

    Hey! It was just a joke.

    Anyway, I have pretty much zero fucks left for sexist pigs on the internet.

  2. As an ex-libertarian raised by a feminist who grew up one day long ago and joined the real world, these exchanges are incredibly amusing. That said, the kids these days and their context free sexism is nothing new, unfortunately....just now they have the chance to make their one-off comments permanent to the public for posterity where back in the day I had to listen to crap like this and figure out how to compartmentalize my disdain for such idiots.

  3. You know, I once considered myself a libertarian (or at least leaning in that direction) - even had a subscription to Reason magazine for several years. But I had an uncomfortable realization: I'd never met, nor even heard of, a poor libertarian.

    Freeing people from (excessively) burdensome regulation is fine by me. But a lot of what Reason's editorial staff (Veronique de Rugy, Virginia Postrel, Nick Gillespie, Jacob Sullum, Matt Welch, et al) has to say strikes me as rather self-serving: "I've got wealth to protect and don't want The Man or those people to get their hands on any of it."

    Somewhere I can hear Brandon T. Jackson saying, "What the hell do you mean, 'you people'?"

    -- Ω

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