Being mean online: a few observations

I’ve not really had the time, energy or inspiration to write anything about Charlottesville – so often, when something big like that happens, I find I spend all my energy just trying to keep up with the situation and what’s being said about it, without being able to contribute anything of value myself.

Having said that, as the latest round of discussion around antifa tactics rolls on, I have found my attention caught by one minor detail of the current debate, one that no-one else seems to have mentioned.

To summarise, for people who may not have been following this conversation so far: a libcom user published an article listing various lefty academics and media commentators who’d made various more-or-less snarky criticisms of antifa in the months leading up to Charlottesville.

In response, people with a somewhat distorted sense of proportion and apparently no understanding of power relations compared the article to things like a McCarthyite blacklist or a register that an employer might keep of subversive employees. It probably shouldn’t need to be said, but anyone who can’t tell the difference between a powerless internet poster commenting “here is a list of other people who post things on the internet whose opinions I disagree with”, and a state doing the same thing about its citizens, or an employer doing it to their employees, is operating on some serious “Hitler was a vegetarian, SO THERE!” levels of false equivalency.

Anyway, I’m prepared to believe that the publication of this list of antifa-critical lefty public figures may well have led to people saying some out-of-line things to people who’re on the list. Certainly, by far the worst thing I’ve seen was one of the pundits named in the article lashing out against someone who criticised him in a totally unacceptable fashion, but that person has now taken a step back and removed his online presence, and I appreciate that he is going through some serious distress in his own right, for which he genuinely has my sympathy, so it seems only fair to leave him out of it, and I’m open to the possibility that others on the pro-antifa side of the debate may well have said equally or almost equally horrible things.

Anyway, the aspect of this situation that I find interesting is that, among the commentators who’ve been outspoken in their belief that publishing a list of commentators who’ve argued for a certain position is unacceptably intimidating, is one Angela Nagle, a journo type who’s made a career out of writing about 4chan and tumblr*.

The bit of this situation I can’t quite understand is that, at the same time as Nagle has become a standard-bearer for the cause of not being unpleasant about people online, her work seems to have become an essential reference point for a set of people who’re really quite keen on the hobby of being unpleasant online. One of the really glaring examples of this was a glowing write-up of a discussion of Nagle’s  work in the Morning Star, later reprinted in an edited form by Feminist Current**, which reminded me of nothing so much as that scene in Father Ted where he makes his award acceptance speech and spends the whole time settling old scores.

If libcom deserve condemnation for publishing a list that mentions various people who’ve written things expressing a certain position, then how much more objectionable is an article that does the same thing, but creepily digs up an old facebook post from 2013 (from a personal account, not a public page or anything), puts scare quotes around the gender identity of one of the people being targeted (as well as their profession, for some obscure reason), and then drags another person into it without alleging that they’ve actually done anything wrong, just that they’re mates with someone who once retweeted a shitty post? If it’s wrong to publish articles making lists of people who say things, then the Izaakson piece seems way more dodgy to me, but I’ve not seen it receive anywhere near the same level of condemnation.

Of course, if it was just the one article then it might just be an isolated incident; what’s more troubling is the way Nagle seems to have been adopted as a sort of mascot by Red London. For those readers who might be mercifully unaware, Red London are a kind of Stalinism-by-way-of-4chan. That’s not hyperbole, their shtick is very clearly modelled on the way that the anime nazi kiddies were able to get away with pushing obnoxious totalitarian politics by coating them in a thin layer of irony and deniability. They literally take memes that originated among the nazi 4chan crowd and just replace “Hitler” with “Stalin” and gas chamber jokes with gulag jokes. Lots and lots of gulag jokes. Funny stuff, right?

Anyway, one of the other defining features of the Red London brand is very specific, targeted vitriol against individual activists on the left – actual screenshots of people’s FB posts, mocked-up fake posts (including posts edited to include “jokes” about their political opponents having child pornography), and so on, all served up with the same tired old ironic-not-ironic “it’s just trolling for the lulz” attitude. I can see why, for someone who studies and writes about both the online left and the online far-right, the existence of people who go around bolting hammers and sickles onto the /pol/ house style would make a fascinating case study, but if you’re wanting to position yourself as a crusader for online decency, civility and good manners, surely the only possible reaction to these people is to tell them to do one as swiftly and firmly as possible, and take their gulag jokes and fake screenshots with them.

I’m not saying that Nagle is necessarily a hypocrite. Perhaps the reason why she’s so offended by libcom publishing a list of people who’ve expressed a certain political position, while remaining indifferent to Izaakson using a discussion of her (Nagle’s) work as a jumping-off point to have a pop at everyone who’s ever spilled her (Izaakson’s) pint, or the Red London crowd venerating her as a kind of “based bookwoman” while being thoroughly nasty little shits to just about everyone else, is that she’s genuinely unaware of the latter two, although having said that she seems to be pretty keen on Red London, and to have expressed that keenness on a number of occasions. But whatever the case is, I hope she gets around to issuing her condemnation/denunciation soon.



*She also makes the hilariously weak defence that her quote “was about shutting down campus speakers who aren’t even white nationalists”, as if an event hosted by a group with close ties to alt-right white nationalists, where Nathan Damigo and Identity Europa were openly planning to recruit, and the speaker was going to call on attendees to report undocumented migrants, was somehow nothing to do with the events that Nathan Damigo helped organise a few months later. KQED news’ headline about “Californian Who Helped Lead Charlottesville Protests Used Berkeley as a Test Run” captures the dynamic a bit better, I feel.

** I wasn’t previously aware of Feminist Current, but a quick bit of googling reveals that it has something of a reputation for transphobia.

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37 Responses to Being mean online: a few observations

  1. motopu says:

    Thanks for noticing the disingenuous and half baked non-responses from Heartfield and Nagle. They seem complacent in the knowledge that they already have fans who will agree with anything they say, and so they don’t even try. This is sectarian playbook 101, don’t argue content, just smear any and all opponents as McCarthyite (or Nixonian [enemies list], and or the aggressor [hit list]). I don’t know how long people can engage publicly with such a disingenuous and elitist approach, but Nagle literally lashed out and called “political twitter” a “cesspit of unhappiness.” Not only is she making a psychological diagnosis, but her opponents exist in a world of shit, as shit people. In that same quote she notes that her own milieu, “literary people” are the “much more open to complexity.” There is irony in almost every tweet and pronouncement these two have made in response to Comrade Motopu’s critique.

    • Tbh I don’t know if it’s even worth engaging with Heartfield – can he still be considered to be a part of the left in any serious way? It’s lovely that he apparently did a collection for the miners in 84, and maybe I’m misjudging him because I only notice him when he’s making a prick of himself, but as far as I can tell his relationship with the left, like that of Nick Cohen or his RCP/Spiked pal Brendan O’Neill, seems to consist solely of attacking it. Maybe I’m being unfair and he’s actually written loads of good articles about (or, better still, made some practical contributions to) the amazing Durham teaching assistants’ campaign or the cinema workers fighting for decent wages and against victimisation of militant workers or the rank-and-file movement in construction taking on health and safety and blacklisting (yes, real, actual blacklisting!) or the formation of new grassroots fighting unions among cleaners and food delivery workers or… you get the picture. Anyway, if he’s written anything about those, or similar, class struggles, I certainly haven’t noticed it, he seems to prefer boring on about the bad feminists, or antifascists, or whoever’s caught his ire this week.

      On Nagle – I go into this in a bit more depth in my reply to Shetterly below, but I think it’s important to avoid letting them frame this as “compassionate, sensitive commentators who are concerned about mental health vs cruel ultraleft/antifa mobs who think that being mean is great”. I actually agree that twitter is a terrible medium for any kind of sensible discussion, and I’ve cut my facebook use way back, at least in part for mental health-related reasons, and I would have much more respect for her argument if I thought she was making it in good faith, but it’s genuinely stunning to me that these people can have so much compassion for FdB – which is good, it’s good to take care of people, I really hope he’s alright too – and yet seem completely unconcerned for the mental health of the person he attacked. And if political twitter is a cesspool, how on earth are we to characterise Red London, unless making up fake screenshots of people’s posts as a way to attack them is some very complex literary move that just goes over my head?

      • motopu says:

        Yeah, Heartfield is a real Brendan O’neill of a guy. With Nagle, my problem was never her critique of what Ellen Meiksins Wood called “Retreat From Class” politics. That’s a huge influence on me. It’s the sectarianism that substitutes sloppily researched smearing from afar of entire communities for actually knowing the situation on the ground.

        Contrast the alienated quality of Nagle and Proctor’s imaginings of what happened Feb 1st, March 4th, and April 15th in the Bay area to this report back from the attempted Oakland General Strike by Hieronymous and there is just no comparison in depth and quality of analysis. Article here:

        Hieronymous is a part of the groups of people I know in the Bay Area who turned up to confront white nationalists while the Nagles and Proctors along with high profile DSA and ISO allies sniped. Report backs from Bay Area comrades allowed me to see the complete failure of Proctor, Nagle, et. al to come to grips with the situation. In the article linked above, Hieronymous gives a toughly worded critique of the black bloc in the article, but he’s never been one to throw them under the bus because they struggle in an imperfect way as he sees it. That’s the difference between principled comradely critique and being a sectarian blowhard.

      • I’m struck by the way writers at Libcom use “sectarian” to mean “preferring other sects than ours”, and cite each other to defend their beliefs like members of any sect.

        As for the description of the black bloc in “Oakland’s Third Attempt at a General Strike”, it’s consistent with the first time I observed black bloc tactics. In the 1990s at a protest against Iraq sanctions that was supposed to be peaceful, their violence sent adults with children fleeing and ended the protest early. Which must have pleased the police.

        Hieronymous’s account tells how the black bloc hindered rather than helped:

        “The masked-up black bloc opted for breaking a few windows and spraying some graffiti instead of something in solidarity with the workers inside the store.”

        “…we did see some of the destruction at the Wells Fargo Bank at 12th and Broadway, where a circus of moral indignation was no longer directed at the banks, but was directed at the black blockers instead.”

        “The tactics of the black bloc quickly hit a practical dead-end and brought on the same pointless violence vs. non-violence debates that are just as divisive today as they were in 1967…”

        “Without a strategy, the black bloc becomes a form devoid of a theoretical basis in the content of what is being struggled for, which can be summed up as a form of violent activism. It is clearly not class struggle…”

        “…black bloc activists think it possible to smash a social relationship away by mere might…”

        “The insurrectionists in the black bloc want to create an orgy of destruction, believing that social relations can be simply removed through negating their forms, by smashing them, totally oblivious to the content of capitalism – both in theory and in practice – as well as the possibility of finding working class allies in the stores they are smashing. Those low-income hyper-exploited wage slaves often hate work as much as — or more than — the black blockers.”

        And Gerard had this comment:

        “The smashing of windows of course led to lots of arguments. I took turns defending the black blockers and criticizing them, just to try to get conversations going. My own criticism is based on tactics. I couldn’t see any long-term good coming out of the destruction, no matter how much I may hate banks or supermarkets. The young people in black were well organized but it seemed like theatrics more than anything else, and not the kind most working-class people are attracted to. People were working in those banks. I was a lot like the young people in black once, so I sympathized, but, as the saying goes: “I wish I knew then what I know now.””

        And yet you criticize writers who were wise enough to advise against black bloc tactics?

      • There’s a difference between a critique based on actual, on-the-ground observation and a priori dismissal from afar. And more to the point, different tactics are required in different circumstances, so saying that the black bloc played a counterproductive role in an attempted general strike in 2011 is not the same thing as saying that it can’t be helpful in confrontations with fascists in 2017.

  2. I just tweeted a response to someone who shared this post, saying it was good:

    “”Good” here seems to mean “guilt by association” and ignorance of psychological effects of mobbing that broke Freddie at time list came out.”

    To unpack that a little, it may be an unfortunate coincidence that the list at the end of Motopu’s piece was tweeted by someone who characterized it in ways consistent with an enemies’ list around the time that Freddie deBoer finally broke from being mobbed online for months, but people who liked Freddie could not help but wonder if the list was responsible for the straw that broke the back of a camel we admire.

    I recommend you do some googling about mobbing. It’s members tend to think of themselves as “powerless internet posters”, but they break people, sometimes to the point of suicide.

    • Do you know that joke with the structure of a grammar lesson, showing how different language can be used to describe the same thing? “I am firm, you are obstinate, he is a pig-headed fool.” “I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.” That sort of thing. Anyway, it strikes me that your post is a proper priceless example of it: “I accuse people of mobbing. You smear people with guilt by association.”

      Anyway, it’s touching that you have so much concern for other people’s mental health. Can I ask if you’ve done anything to check in with the mental health of the person FdB made a serious, incredibly damaging, and as far as anyone can tell completely false, attack against, or is he not someone you admire, and so excluded from your sympathies?

      Similarly, if you’re so concerned about people behaving in damaging ways online, how would you characterise, say, taking screenshots of someone’s private posts and circulating them in a public forum online for people to mock, or making fake screenshots of posts in a specific individual’s name and doing the same thing? Banter? Top keks? Epic lulz?

      • Sorry I wasn’t clearer: those were separate charges. I mentioned smearing by association because of your suggestion that Nagle should be judged by the people who give her favorable reviews. I mentioned “the psychological effects of mobbing” because you don’t seem to grasp the ways mobbing breaks people. Which is understandable. That knowledge isn’t common, though it should be. I wrote about it here:

        I don’t think most people who mob realize that’s what they’re doing. They get outraged and they attack, and they think they’re being individuals. So I don’t mean to imply that everyone who mobbed Freddie did it with the intent to break him. But some of them almost certainly were engaging in what’s been called altruistic punishment. That’s what Malcolm Harris seemed to be doing when he tweeted the list from Motopu’s post.

        As for the things you cite that Freddie did, my understanding is those all happened when he broke. He took them down and went for help. What more should he have done?

      • Yeah, I get that they’re separate charges, I just think that they’re concepts that can be used in slippery ways – if it’s unreasonable for me to smear AN by guilt by association by pointing out some of the people who understand themselves as being on the same side as her, then you calling FdB’s critics part of a mob, even if their individual actions are blameless. On the other hand, if I/Moputu/MH/whoever else is to be held responsible for the behaviour of everyone who’s ever criticised FdB, then the points I make about AN’s associations seem totally legitimate – do you see what I mean?

        And to be precise – I went out of my way to leave open the possiblity that AN might not be aware of things like the Izaakson review. I think it’s very unlikely that she hasn’t seen it, but it’s possible, and so I’m not necessarily judging her for failing to condemn the Isaakson enemies list. It does seem that she has definitely at least looked at Red London’s stuff though, so I think it’s reasonable to suggest that someone can be at least partially judged by who they ask for a promotional t-shirt from. And more importantly, if someone is outraged by behaviour coming from one set of people, but indifferent or even encouraging to similar or worse behaviour coming from a different set of people, I think you can draw some conclusions from that.

        As to FdB’s actions: I’m really not interested in morally condemning the man. I’m aware that I must have missed quite a lot of backstory here, so just to repeat, if people have been saying unacceptable things to him that I haven’t seen, that’s fucked up and not something that I want to have any part of. But even allowing for a considerable amount of nastiness that I might not be aware of, this situation is still very clearly one where there isn’t a bad side of people who are mean online and a good side of virtuous victims, so it makes me very suspicious when people try and portray it as something where being-unpleasant-online is something that’s wholly associated with one side. That makes me think that there are people engaging in some very selective compassion, which makes me feel very suspicious of you. So it’s not about what else FdB should have done, it’s about what else the people loudly proclaiming how concerned they are about FdB, while studiously ignoring the possibility that anyone else might be hurt by this situation, could be doing.

      • Oh, and I notice that you still haven’t said anything to condemn the actual behaviour I discuss in my post, even after being specifically invited to. Again, it seems like your concern over bad online behaviour is somewhat selective.

  3. Humans are selective. It is perfectly human to be more concerned about the people who’re more familiar to you, and it’s natural that groups condone awful behavior on their side while condemning bad behavior on the other. Both of those are regrettable, but they come with being part of our irrational species.

    I’ve grown weary of demands to condemn things—it reminds me of the identitarians who devoutly check their privileges. It smacks of something with a name I’m not crazy about, but I think is a valid concept, “virtue signalling”. Of course Freddie did bad things as he broke. But when people lash out as they break, it’s silly to focus on what they do because the problem isn’t that they’re doing it. The problem is they’re breaking. If Freddie hadn’t been piled on for so long, he wouldn’t have broken as he did.

    I know nothing about Nagle and Red London, and nothing about Red London other than what you’ve said, but if all you’ve got is a request for a shirt, you have nothing. There are people who smear me because I went into Vox Day’s comments and asked about information behind a claim a commenter was making—my smearers omit details like one of those commenters saying I’d be among the first killed if they had power. We can engage civilly with our opponents without joining them—see Malcolm X talking with American Nazis. It doesn’t change our commitment to our cause.

    A closing point about selective concern: If Harris had been the one who broke, my sympathy would be with him. But he didn’t, perhaps because he hasn’t been dealing with shit for as long, perhaps because people have different breaking points. So it’s natural that concern went to the person who broke rather than the one who did not.

    • Obviously you’re free to condemn things or not condemn things as you wish. But what you say makes me think you – and Nagle – don’t have the principled objection to mobbing that you initially come across as having, you just object to people who aren’t your mates mobbing people that you like.

      Re: Nagle and RL, you’re welcome to take a look for yourself and decide what you think. But if you really can’t be bothered, here’s four different fake statuses they all mocked up, all presented as being from the same individual, all within the last two months:

      I think that if you actually think that cyberbullying is bad, you have to recognise that that type of thing is unacceptable behaviour. This is getting repetitive, but I think that AN posing as an enemy of people-being-mean-online, while being matey with this lot, reflects really badly on her, and tbh your indifference to it comes across as being more than a bit hypocritical as well.

      Similarly, I know nothing about what happened to FdB prior to his meltdown, all I know is that someone wrote an article that listed various people who’d publicly expressed certain opinions, someone else tweeted it, and then he lashed out in the way he did. I’m willing to believe that other people might have done something worse than writing an article that had a list in it, all I know is what I’ve seen.

      But anyway, I think at this point we’ve more or less come to agreement. My original point was that Nagle (and you, now that you’ve entered the conversation) is a hypocrite who’s willing to, in your words, “condone awful behavior on their side while condemning bad behavior on the other”; you seem to agree that this is the case, so I’m not sure if there’s anything left in dispute.

      • You’re free to assume anything you please, of course, but a little googling should show you I’ve been writing against mobbing since 2009, so in my case, your freedom is a freedom to be wrong.

        Out of curiosity, who do you think Nagle or Freddie or Mark Fisher or even I could have possibly mobbed?

        As for Red London, I haven’t a clue what’s going on there. Has anyone actually gotten hate mail or death threats because of them? The things you shared seem awfully vague, more like stupid jokes than something that would provoke a mobbing, but since I don’t know about them, maybe they did result in online attacks. Can you link to any? Or to any articles about the mobbings they provoked?

      • I should be going to bed now, so will resume this in the morning, but if you think it’s possible to look at what I wrote and read it as me accusing Mark Fisher of mobbing, I think you need to at least rest your eyes a bit as well.

      • I don’t know who you meant to include when you implied some of us approved of selective mobbing. I look forward to the clarification.

  4. motopu says:

    I find the mobbing issue to be a complete red herring, a transparent attempt to blame Comrade Motopu for someone’s pain and suffering as a way to avoid addressing what is in the article. Motopu wrote an article that quoted unacceptable sectarian posturing from 8 high level leftists against people who they smeared and mischaracterized. At that moment, a person snapped, and this was then used politically to avoid even acknowledging anything in the article. On top of that, Motopu is then blamed for cruelty for _causing_ the pain experienced by the person. How? By allegedly creating a “hit list” or Nixonian “enemies list” or a McCarthyite “blacklist.”

    I don’t see why it isn’t obvious that none of the above alleged guilt or actions have anything to do with the content of Comrade Motopu’s article. Reading the linked debates in the article, and the quotes in the article, it’s pretty clear the condescension came mostly from the folks critiqued in the article.

    I will say that going back for years, it is my experience that sectarian groups and fellow travelers use this tactic to avoid engaging in actual debate, leave off comradely debate. Was it really so “cruel” for Comrade Motopu to quote the people in the article, to show in their own words the disdain they have for people to their left or outside of their circles, to show they are willing to intentionally misrepresent the left, and to show they also didn’t really know what they were talking about?

    • I know pseuds get confusing, but referring to yourself in the 3rd person is just funny.

      I’m willing to blame Malcolm Harris instead of Motopu for what bears a most unfortunate resemblance to an attempt to instigate a mobbing. I’m even willing to concede that may not have been Harris’s intent. But whatever the intent, lists of opponents look bad, and McCarthy stays the reason.

      As for what you claim to have proved, nope. I’ve read the piece and I’ve followed many of the people it tries to criticize. They disagree with you, but they do not “intentionally misrepresent the left”. If you want honest discussion, you have to acknowledge honest disagreement.

      • Right, yeah: to clarify, I only started using the term mobbing in response to your use of it, in the original article I relied more on catch-all terms like “being unpleasant about people online”, which I’ll now return to. Anyway, to summarise, the point is that libcom/motopu published an article that listed pundits who’d publically argued for a certain set of positions, and MH then tweeted a picture of it. Various people, including yourself and AN, seem to regard this as being totally out of bounds and way beyond what anyone should tolerate. To me, publishing an article with a list of people who’ve publically argued for a certain position, or even tweeting a picture of it, seem like very very mild forms of being unpleasant online, certainly when compared to, say, Izaakson publishing a nastier article with a list in it, the things that FdB said which I’m intentionally leaving vague here because I don’t want to add to the archive of them, or Red London’s behaviour, so it seems weird to me that people can get so outraged about one while being indifferent to the others.
        And I think you’re being completely and utterly disingenuous about Red London here. You know and I know that if someone had taken one of the pundits you like and care about, edited one of their posts to say “child pornography” instead of “socialist literature”, and then published it in public, we would never hear the end of how outraged you are by it. The fact that you can get so worked up about someone publishing an article that lists pundits who’ve publically argued for a certain set of positions, but just shug that kind of much nastier behaviour off if it’s just directed against some trot activist who you don’t care about, is kind of flabberghasting to me.

        Also, while I remember, here’s a post from the comments on libcom that must have escaped your attention at the time:
        “Interesting thing about Hartfield, his Twitter feed from August 3rd is basically just a list of insults thrown as publicly as possible at someone he’s having an argument with. As I understand it, such wide-broadcast messaging is usually intended to spark a Twitter pile-on against a given target from your supporters. But surely this can’t be the case, given his apparent visceral hatred of that sort of behaviour?”
        Any thoughts on that?

      • “You know and I know that if someone had taken one of the pundits you like and care about, edited one of their posts to say “child pornography” instead of “socialist literature”, and then published it in public, we would never hear the end of how outraged you are by it.”

        Probably not. What Red London does sounds like the sort of juvenile crap that people post online all the time. If people aren’t being attacked for it, meh. They sound like Something Awful–that’s just what they do. Why care about it as long as it stays on their site where anyone who visits it will know it’s meant to be humorous?

        I haven’t followed Hartfield must at all. But again, there’s a huge difference between insults and mobbing. Is he trying to inspire others to attack someone? Then he’s mobbing. Is he calling people names? Then he’s emotionally twelve years old.

  5. motopu says:

    Just spent some time on the Red London fb page and it is pretty awful, although I admit a lot of their meming is so esoteric that they really limit their audience.

    • Yeah, I bring it up not because I think they’re a major problem for the left or anything, but because you and I both know the amount of shocked handwringing that would come from the likes of Shatterley if RL directed their nastiness at targets who they cared about, and I find it amazing how easily they can rationalise it away when it’s directed at people who don’t fit into their criteria for compassion.

      • My criteria for compassion continues to be simple: Anyone who is mobbed and anyone who needs mental health care has my sympathy. Anyone who mobs and anyone who mocks people who need mental health care does not.

        The internet is filled with people who make fun of other people. That’s not likely to ever change. If you want to compare the mobbing of FdB with Red London making mean memes, you have to be able to point to an example of a mobbing that came about because of something Red London did. Can you name anyone who was mobbed because of what they did?

      • OK, so real quick: your criteria for compassion seem a bit reductive and daft. I think that it’s wise to assume that, in any large online argument on the left, or probably just any large online argument at all, there will be people who have experienced or are experiencing severe mental distress on both sides. I think that in a sufficiently large-scale disagreement, it’s likely that there will be people who experience the number of people disagreeing with them as a “mob” while at the same time they are perceived by other people on the opposing side as being part of a mob, which would make them simultaneously deserving and undeserving by your standards.

        More generally, I think that if someone says something that large amounts of people disagree with, then they’re likely to get large amounts of people disagreeing back at them, and I don’t think that’s likely to change either. I think that the “mobbing” charge is still unproven against Moputu and libcom, unless there’s some glaring evidence that I’m unaware of. I appreciate that there must probably be some backstory with MH and FdB that I don’t know about, because all I know about is him tweeting that list, and I don’t think tweeting a list by itself constitutes any kind of particularly grave offence either.

        Out of interest, what do you reckon to a) antifa in Charlottesville, and b) the black bloc in Berkeley yesterday? (Other than “bloody hell, they must have been well sweaty wearing heavy black clothing in that heat”?)

      • I agree that there’s likely to be people with mental health issues on both sides of an issue. I can have compassion for both, just as I can say both sides should reject mobbing.

        I granted earlier that individuals in a large group may be part of a mob without intending to, but it depends on how they behave. Disagree? Fine. Issue vicious attacks, make unsupported claims, dox, make death threats, etc.? No. That’s mobbing.

        Complete agreement black blockers must be mighty warm in their costumes. 🙂 So far, I’m seeing headlines that suggest they’ve made another tactical error by going violent. Hitler exploited violent opposition to demand more power, Trump is likely to do the same.

        The brilliance of the civil rights protesters was that by being nonviolent, the images of protests always made the police look bad. The public sees that and sympathizes with the protesters. Antifa should learn from the successes of the past.

      • OK, I think we’re getting closer to agreement here – at least on the original issue of being mean online, the question of Birmingham 1963, Robert F Williams and the Deacons for Defence and Justice will have to wait for another time. The thing that confuses me is that I don’t think Moputu’s article can be characterised under the heading of “Issue vicious attacks, make unsupported claims, dox, make death threats, etc”.

      • Will Shetterly says:

        I agree Moputu’s article would not have looked like an attempt to mob if Harris hadn’t tweeted a screen cap of the list and if Freddie hadn’t broken then. As a free speech lover, I support the right to criticize what other people say, especially when I disagree with the criticism.

      • OK, it looks like we’re getting closer and closer to agreement here – I think the outrage directed at Moputu/libcom over this has been completely misplaced, and it sounds like you more or less agree with me on that score. On Harris, I’m agnostic, because I don’t know if there’s some important context here that I’m missing – is there a backstory of Harris having prior form for “[i]ssu[ing] vicious attacks, mak[ing] unsupported claims, dox[ing], mak[ing] death threats, etc” that I’m unaware of? Because posting that screen cap might be a bit of a weird and unhelpful thing to do, but by itself his actual post definitely doesn’t seem to cross that line either.

      • Will Shetterly says:

        Harris’s “names and shames” sounds like mobbing rhetoric, and I understand he and FdB have a long history, though I don’t know the details.

      • Think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one, “names and shames” seems just like someone describing an article’s content to me – I can’t see anything that seems like a call to further action there. If neither of us know any further details, it’s probably best to just leave it there, with the understanding that, unless I’m unaware of something majorly important, Harris seems far more sinned against than sinning here.

      • Will Shetterly says:

        I’m good with agreeing to disagree here. Cheers!

  6. Oops, weird typo: I meant “much at all”.

    • Honestly it sounds like we’re in total agreement at this point. I don’t think you really believe in the things you’re saying, and you openly admit that you don’t believe in them either, so where’s the disagreement?

      • I openly admit I don’t believe in the things I’m saying? Huh?

      • Mark 3:28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:

        29 But he that shall publish an article that lists pundits who’ve argued for a certain set of ideas hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.

        30 Also bullying is grand as long as it happens to a trot thou hast not heard of before.

      • Okay, you’ve swum out into a sea of bullshit, and I’d rather stay on the shore. Good luck out there.

  7. Pingback: The party’s over: a reply on autonomism, organisation and bad history | Cautiously pessimistic

  8. Pingback: Being mean online: a postscript | Cautiously pessimistic

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