Who’s Afraid of Twitter Trolls?

twitter-trollsSalon has an article called The Intellectual Dark Web conservatives fear in which it claims that anonymous Twitter accounts calling out right-wing media are the real Intellectual Dark Web. Sounds like whistling in the wind to me. If you read the article, a single conservative columnist is being conflated with the intellectual dark web, probably for clicks.

The rise of President Donald Trump should have precipitated an ideological insurrection.

Among Conservatives? Why would it? By reducing taxes and regulation, tightening the borders, and attacking the progressive media, he is giving them exactly what they want.

But the most popular movement to come out of the right post-2016 was the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW), a quasi-informal group of political commentators and professors who’ve gained traction for its hostility towards American liberalism.

What a load of shit. Most of these people are liberals. What they are critical of are the identity politics of the so-called progressives.

Bari Weiss, a conservative op-ed writer at The New York Times, introduced the IDW in a column earlier this year. In the piece, she elevated personalities such as Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk, to name a few. They were grouped together not because of an ideology they shared, but because of an ideology they all rejected.

See my post Normies are Noticing the Alt Media.

The IDW criticizes most, if not all, policies and social movements that have arisen from America’s liberal trajectory. Feminism, affirmative action, subsidized health care, Black Lives Matter, wealth distribution, immigration, all have come under fire by the IDW.

Feminism has its roots in communism. Black Lives Matter is an identitarian movement. Subsidized health care and wealth redistribution are socialist ideas. To call any of these part of liberal ideology is disingenuous.

Their main antagonist may be the “mainstream liberal media,” which they vilify for propping up progressive causes. Because of this, conservative media has welcomed these new voices into the tent, even though some whitewash racism and anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

The alleged “whitewashing of racism” is a twitter post attacking Bret Wienstien’s defense of Ben Shapiro’s comments about Arabs because they were taken out of context. In the linked video, Wienstien is very clear that he doesn’t support the comments. The other link is broken (good job, Salon).

Some would argue that parts of right-wing media landscape have long been tainted. Before Trump announced his campaign for the presidency, certain writers and watchdog groups have monitored the debasement of conservative media. But since Trump took control of the White House, there has been a more aggressive push to discredit certain conservative personalities and websites. CNN’s Brian Stelter has taken on some of the responsibility, as his show “Reliable Sources” seeks to call out journalistic malpractice from all sides.

Brian Stelter is not credible. CNN is biased.

Nevertheless, the most formidable group that has consistently held conservative media’s feet to the fire this past year or two has been a handful of anonymous Twitter accounts. These anonymous Twitter accounts — or anons — have fact-checked and criticized conservative journalism to the point that the right can no longer ignore them. Their media criticism has now become mainstream, frustrating conservatives who see this as a blatant attempt to delegitimize and silence right-wing voices.

Anonymous twitter trolls are going to take down the alternative media? Are you sure these aren’t Russian bots?

Using unnamed sources in “man on the street” reporting is often frowned upon, if not improper. Washington Post journalist Dave Weigel revealed this week that he would not use a quote unless he gets the speaker’s full name, age and occupation. This is standard policy for many media outlets.

Most if not all of the mainstream media have used unnamed sources in their incessant coverage of the Russiagate conspiracy theories. They may talk a good game, but they don’t walk the talk.

A review of [columnist Salena] Zito’s work, conducted by anons, demonstrated that Zito goes to the unnamed-source well over and over again. Some hints that Zito may be making up quotes, according to the anons, was that dialogue she shares contains language and syntax that appear in her prose. Another mainstay in Zito’s writing is that she often converses with people at rural gas stations. The anons swear that these quotes cannot possibly be real. It’s difficult to verify them considering she does not provide enough information to identify the speakers.

Zito is only doing what the mainstream media do. She is not part of the alternative media. Anonymous trolls claiming that her quotes are false does not make them false. This is fake news.

Zito addressed the allegations in a Twitter thread on Tuesday. She emphatically denied the charges in parts and in whole. She also tried to impeach her accusers by emphasizing they were anonymous, although she did say “it’s their right to criticize me anonymously.”

She is right to discount anomymous critics. If they don’t have the balls to say it using their real names, what they say doesn’t count for much. It’s funny how when you are attacked on twitter, it’s by “vicious alt-right trolls”, but when a conservative is trolled, you give her grief for calling them out. You are a hypocrite!

There were some good-faith defenses of Zito’s work. However, a lot of her allies tried to kill the messengers as opposed to the message. The public confrontation between mainstream conservative pundits and the anons was the manifestation of an ongoing debate over the merits of anonymous criticism.  The concern over bot accounts and foreign intelligence campaigns has somewhat stigmatized the anonymous use of Twitter.

And this was ginned up by you. Time for some of your own medicine.

When Weiss’ IDW column first published, the name “Intellectual Dark Web” drew some eye rolls. The dark web is a part of the Internet that can only be accessed through unconventional networks, such as Tor. Members of the IDW are anything but inaccessible. Content from the IDW will appear as recommended videos on YouTube. Peterson and Rubin have gone on tour together, speaking before sold-out auditoriums. Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk have become two of the most prominent conservative voices on Twitter.

Wienstien call it the dark web because you don’t hear IDW opinions at all in the mainstream media; you have to go to Twitter and Youtube to find them. This is called an analogy. Did you attend a journalism school?

Beyond their disgust with American liberalism, the other trait that draws IDW members together is their ability to capitalize on a void in American conservatism. Taking a page from Trump, the IDW learned that to succeed in the punditry business meant becoming an avatar for disenchanted Americans, a mostly-white demographic that feels as if 21st-century orthodoxy repels it.

So Candice Owens, a black woman, Ben Shapiro, a jew, and Dave Rubin, a gay man, are appealing to disenchanted whites? What you incorrectly refer to as liberalism and 21st century orthodoxy is actually socialism and so-called progressivism. There is nothing liberal about it.

It’s not intellectualism that the IDW offers, nor is it an ideology. It’s a sense of injustice that the IDW has enflamed and exploited for money. Zito’s own reporting confirms how receptive Trump voters are to grievance politics — how they prefer playing the victim. In this sense, the IDW and mainstream conservative media have dovetailed their efforts to curtail progressivism.

Zito is not part of the IDW (or even of the alternative media). The IDW offers intellectualism and an ideology: one of free thinking individualism. Saying Trump voters like to play the victim is rich, when progressives constantly play that game.

Not all conservative outlets have lost respect for its past. Publications such as The Weekly Standard and Commentary continue to appreciate its roots. So does National Review from time to time. However, a plurality of conservatives seem to have become untethered from the ideological strain it once embraced.

The conservative establishment is dying. This is a good thing. The fact that a so-called progressive pines for the Bush era is sad indeed.

The jury is still out as to whether Zito crossed any lines in her reporting. Regardless, it’s evident that the right needs to look inward to self-regulate some of the content it has been peddling. Sadly, most of the people willing to do so at the moment are anonymous Twitter users. If people are looking for a discreet group of influencers striving to hold gatekeepers accountable, then the Twitter anons staging a crusade on conservative media are far more deserving of an audience.

Individuals can say what they want. “The right” is not a collective, and no one is responsible for regulating free speech. Few are going to pay attention to a bunch of random anonymous twitter users winning points against a mainstream media conservative that no one has heard of.

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About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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