Oh, Andy, Andy, Andy Fucking Anglin. Not only are you nasty, brutish and short, you don’t understand that words have meanings. Or actions have consequences. Do you? No, clearly you don’t. And that’s probably because you’re all too literally following in the footsteps of someone even nastier and more brutish, though not as short:
In 2016, Andrew Anglin, who runs the hate website The Daily Stormer, published the contact information of Missoula resident Tanya Gersh and urged followers to “Hit Em Up” with an “old fashioned Troll Storm.” He followed up with “NO VIOLENCE OR THREATS OF VIOLENCE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE TO THAT.”
Gersh, who is Jewish and who had been in a dispute with the mother of prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer, received numerous death threats and anti-Semitic. She went on to sue Anglin for emotional distress.
But an appeals court in Kentucky ruled on Tuesday that Trump did not incite violence at a 2016 campaign rally when he said “get ‘em out of here…don’t hurt ‘em,” and that his language was protected by the First Amendment. Anglin’s lawyers argued the following day that Anglin’s language was also protected speech since he similarly conditioned his “troll storm” request with “NO VIOLENCE.”
Yeah, I guess anyone with a drop of reading comprehension can see what’s wrong with all that, even if Trollboy here can’t.
First off, Donnie definitely didn’t say “Don’t hurt ’em”. He has repeatedly called for violence, up to and including the kind that could land the victims in hospital:
(He’s never paid a dime of his followers’ legal expenses for actually carrying his threats out for him, either. But shhhhhh, don’t tell Andy that.)
And then there’s the fact that Anglin called, clear as day, for a “troll storm” to drive Tanya Gersh out of town (in this case, the town of Whitefish, Montana). There doesn’t have to be “violence”, or even a call for “violence” (and note the quotes — as always, there for a reason), for “troll storms” to do harm to an individual. If someone cannot have a moment’s peace because her phone is blowing up with hateful calls and text messages from jackwagons of all fascist stripes, or there are not-so-random assholes leaving packages of flaming dogshit on her doorstep and ringing the bell before taking off, or if she’s constantly getting nuisance visitors at her workplace and preventing her from getting anything accomplished, then the “oh, just a little good old-fashioned trolling” is doing the job it was meant to do. It is terrorizing her and disrupting her life, making it impossible for her to do anything without wondering if one of those “trolls” will, in fact, be an armed terrorist out to literally end her life.
By claiming a narrow definition of “violence” as strictly physical, Anglin thinks he can make an end-run around the charges against him. But that won’t work, because in this age of Internet activism and Internet terrorism, it is quite clear that there is no hard dividing line between the online world and real life. Trolls on the Internet are people, not just pixels on a screen. What happens on the Internet has repercussions in the flesh, and vice versa. The Internet isn’t divorced from real life, it is PART of it.
Anxiety caused by things coming in off the Internet can have real, physically debilitating effects. Even the common-sense measures one takes to avoid it, such as turning off one’s computer and phone, have disrupting effects. You can’t reach the people you want to be in touch with, and they can’t reach you. You are, in effect, crippled by your lack of access to normal online activity.
The trolls know this, and that’s why they do it.
Trolling is not fun and games, any more than an old-timey lynching party was, for the victim of the violence (and note the absence of quotes here, also for a reason). Oh sure, the perpetrators may get their sick, sadistic jollies out of it, but that’s not the point. Who the hell cares about a troll’s pleasure? Nobody but the troll. Their highly subjective idea of fun is not the point; the victim’s all too real suffering is. Trolls are not normal people, but their victims are. And if the law is designed to protect normal people from the depredations of trolls, as is increasingly becoming the case (eg. in the matter of revenge porn), then the whole “I wasn’t trying to hurt her, I was only trolling” defence becomes unacceptable. And it should be.
Trolling IS hurting people. I should know, having been on the receiving end of all kinds of it myself (including actual death threats from actual neo-Nazis). It doesn’t matter if I didn’t get shot, or even “just” beaten up or raped, by those threatening it. Anxiety and trouble sleeping and fear of leaving the house are all real harms in and of themselves. Trolls know that. That’s why they do it; it gives them a feeling of power over a person who dared to raise her voice against them. If they can’t stop you physically, they will still try to do it mentally. And that IS a violence, no matter what shitty excuses any of them try to make.
And frankly, trolling isn’t free speech, it is an effort to SILENCE free speech. And that, too, is a tremendous violence. It has led to self-harm and suicide. There is nothing non-violent about that. There is nothing liberating about it for anyone.
And no, trolling is NOT protected speech, either. Andrew Fucking Anglin is about to find it out the hard way. Because his “troll storm” has not remained confined to the Internet, but has actually disrupted life in the town of Whitefish. Not just for Tanya Gersh, but for everyone else, too. Thus proving my point above, that there is NO hard boundary between what happens online, and what happens in the flesh. What happens on the Internet does NOT stay on the Internet, never has, and never will.
I hope it bankrupts him. And I hope it gets him barred from the Internet for the rest of his nasty, brutish (and hopefully, SHORT) life.