By Seth Tamarkin
A decade ago, rapper Tyler, The Creator said something profound about our relationship with the internet. Something that should’ve reverberated through our times for all to hear.
On Dec. 31, 2012, he tweeted, “Hahahahahahahaha How The Fuck Is Cyber Bullying Real Hahahaha Nigga Just Walk Away From The Screen Like Nigga Close Your Eyes Haha.”
This piece of advice never crossed into politicians’ and the medias’ minds, because now more than ever they’re demanding censorship over people’s mean tweets.
Right as the latest Gaza war ended, peoples’ tweets began to haunt them. Coincidentally, corporate journalists and politicians did the lion’s share of crying about social media.
One example is Tablet reporter Eve Bartlow. Bartlow, a music reporter and avowed Zionist, caught heavy flack for wholeheartedly supporting the Israeli airstrikes that caused billions in damages and hundreds of deaths. Her constant praise of Israel led one of America’s most famous comedians to respond. Seth Rogen tweeted under one of her pro-Israel tweets with a simple message, “Eve Fartlow.”
Surely, a tweet as stupid as that would never upset a grown adult. As Tyler so eloquently put it, just walk away from the screen. Instead, she wrote an entire op-ed in response, accusing him of antisemitism. Let’s ignore that the “antisemitic attack” came from one of America’s most beloved Jews.
In the article, she compares the wave of “Eve Fartlow” jokes to a “social media pogrom.” Pogroms were the organized massacres that Christians routinely did to Jews, for the record. It may not be antisemitic, but it’s certainly offensive that she’d compare fart jokes to one of the worst periods in Jewish history.
She lists some of the horrible transgressions she and other Zionists faced in the “pogrom.” Instead of massacring a Jewish community, these evil tweeters dared to unfollow Zionists’ twitter accounts. Oh my!
Additionally, she had to deal with tweets with “homophobic, misogynistic, and extremely violent language.” Violent language on the internet? Now I’ve seen it all! Now, she’s resorted to blocking people for her “protection.”
While it seems all in good fun to make fun of her inflated ego, her reaction is a microcosm of how journalists and politicians treat social media.
In their mind, social media cyberbullying it’s akin to a pogrom. For that reason, they should be allowed to censor the internet to “protect” themselves.
There’s a logistical reason to pretend social media trolls are a real threat too. Politicians and journalists understand many Americans don’t use social media. Only about 23% of Americans use twitter. Because of this, politicians can gain sympathy with the other 77% and paint others as villains.
This happened infamously in the 2016 election. When people on twitter repeatedly pointed out Hillary Clinton’s awful record as a politician, her team concocted a bad-faith plan.
Suddenly, the people criticizing her actions were not doing that at all. Actually, what they did was sexism. Worse, the sexist smears belonged to a coordinated group of Bernie Sanders supporters hellbent on stopping a woman from reaching higher office.
The media immediately bought it. They labeled the critics “Bernie Bros,” alluding to the debunked claim that his supporters were only white college-bros.
In 2020, the Bernie Bros narrative returned in full force. Out of nowhere, every person on twitter who criticized a Democrat candidate’s public record wasn’t doing a public service. They were once again either pulling a racist, sexist, or homophobic smear on the likes of Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg.
Journalists ran with it like never before. Apparently, Bernie’s twitter army was so vile and ruthless that candidates were frightened to…check twitter, I guess? They never really made a reason as to what they were scared of, but believe them, it was scary. So scary, in fact, that CNN and fellow candidates took time away from debating kitchen table issues to focus on Bernie’s fearsome mob.
During one debate, Buttigieg claimed Bernie had to “accept some responsibility and ask yourself what it is about your campaign in particular that seems to be motivating this behavior more than others.” Elizabeth Warren argued Bernie was building a “a foundation of hate” because his supporters dared call the head of a Nevada union “corrupt.”
Of course, anyone on the internet long enough to understand how it works understands that blaming someone for the actions of twitter trolls is ridiculous. Everyone’s an asshole on social media. This is both a widespread phenomenon backed up by research, and such common sense that Tyler, The Creator could go viral tweeting about it a decade ago.
If you aren’t on Twitter though, it may be understandable to be weary of such a vicious group. But here’s the kicker. While the media manufactured claims of Bernie Bros harassing people online, a group emerged in 2020 that actually harassed people and owned it; the K-Hive.
Whereas no progressives claimed “Bernie Bros” as a real movement, K-Hive members gleefully referred to themselves by that name as they obsessed over Kamala Harris.
One member with over 7,000 followers spent “30% of her day parsing social media feeds” for anti-Kamala content. After progressives criticized Kamala’s record, she put out a list for her followers saying they “may go through some things pretty soon.”
Another prominent member, Reecie Colbert, said, “I wanted them to know I will stomp a hole in you if you come for Kamala.”
Sadly, Bernie legitimized the ‘Bernie Bros’ lie when he told them to “stand down”. At least he acted in good faith though. Kamala, however, did no such thing. Instead, she and Biden actively courted her most vitriol supporters. Biden even tweeted he’d be “honored to have support” from the “#Khive.”
Interestingly, the media framed this group differently than the progressive one too. The K-Hive didn’t harass other users, the “fanclub” simply protected Kamala Harris from attacks.
What this shows is the corporate media and corporate politicians are perfectly fine with online abuse if they get to be the abusers. That thinking shouldn’t surprise anyone who uses the internet. The fact they pretend their lives are threatened over twitter insults shows their willingness to victimize themselves over any and everything.
This led to the most infamous twitter troll of them all, Donald Trump. The Democrats seemingly used Bernie Bros as a beta-test for how they’d react to Trump’s tweets. The NYT wrote about how Trump’s typos were “code” to his “most extreme supporters.” MSNBC op-eds celebrated after the election that Trump’s tweets would no longer “terrorize” the nation.
Meanwhile, political scientist Ian Bremmer noted how no world leaders actually took Trump’s tweets seriously. They understood his embarrassing lust for attention for what it was.
To be fair, there’s no denying Trump’s tweets hinged on the, well, unhinged. However, the media’s obsession with his tweets allowed them to gloss over his real, destructive policies. Think of all the issues that could’ve been brought up if the media wasn’t wasting time with ‘covfefe?’
This culminated in the media’s celebrations when Twitter finally banned Trump. However, like in earlier cases, world leaders had the opposite reaction.
More than anything, the celebration illustrated how censorship is the preferred tool for an increasing number of journalists and Democrats.
The crusade against mean tweets is just another way for politicians and the media to try and censor everyday people.
If only they heeded the words of Tyler, The Creator, they’d understand how pointless it is to lose sleep over the opinions of tweets.
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