As I write this many on the right are freaking out about the foretold purge of “Nazis” from twitter on December 18th. Couple this with the banning of baked Alaska, the de-verification of various high profile right-wing accounts and I can see why people are getting worried, but they shouldn’t be. The great purge is coming but it’s not necessarily the apocalypse people (including myself previously) painted it as. There was a point to all of this.
Let’s be brutally honest, for all of our talk of conservative opinions not being allowed on twitter it was never really the case. It was more a question of provocative opinions. This is why the alt right was hit so hard, it’s a movement of provocateurs. Whether you are on the left or the right, when it comes to the point where your side has to push back on the Overton Window in order to be heard you will naturally have to employ these tactics. It’s not a question of the dreaded “horseshoe theory” because it has nothing to do with ideology. All shifting the window requires ultimately, is the saying of the unsayable. The underpinning principles of the speaker will dictate what “forbidden truths” get spoken but the fundamental aim is to speak, and keep speaking, outside of the parameters of the current window.
The destruction of one’s enemies is always halted by a call for mercy or the giving of quarter. The optics of the conquering hero are no longer enough to excuse the smiting of one’s enemy. “Punch a Nazi” is a very different proposition from “string a Nazi up”. Even the currently legal death penalty for criminal offences is staunchly opposed by many on both sides of the aisle. So how do you finish off a movement to the point where it will never come back, where it can no longer regroup to fight anew? You hand them a gun and let them pull the trigger themselves. You have no moral compunction to prevent your opponent from making their own mistakes.
For the last year I have been pushing certain ideas in my daily interactions. Sow mayhem, remove yourself from attachments to your accounts, build networks through mass following, do not fall for the conditioning. This was for a good reason. The December purge was always going to come, it’s come sooner than I was expecting but it was inevitable. Here’s the thing though, it won’t work.
Twitter occupies that sweet spot where it’s influential enough to be a regular feature in the mainstream news cycle, but small enough that it’s not beyond being damaged by its own userbase. The left has spent the last year working itself into a frenzy to the point where the mere presence of their ideological enemies is utterly intolerable to them. Their mass reporting/whining has reached the point where automated systems are necessary in order to deal with the sheer volume. Which means the majority of bans are not being reviewed by an actual person. As twitter has made public promises about “ridding their platform of Nazis” those same people will report even more and screech even louder when their personal white whale either remains unbanned, or keeps bypassing bans. The key is to keep poking the bear and coming back for more.
As they pursue the impossible they will be faced with two choices. Either step up the automated systems through keyword/image search or start demanding actual ID from users when setting up an account. The first option guarantees massive collateral damage. Casual users will be caught up in the automated purges and will either lack the interest or knowledge to appeal/bypass a ban. This will shrink twitter’s base of users exponentially with each successive tightening of “acceptable language” and should see many only both sides getting hit.
The second option would more than likely see many walking away from the platform altogether. Either through a lack of trust, a desire for anonymity or fear of a hack. With major breaches such as Equifax/Sony/Ashley Maddison having worked their way into the general news cycle, many would be reluctant to go down this route. Whichever path Twitter chooses escalation is going to blow up in their faces. It’s just a question of how they will meet that fate.
The key is to keep pushing the other side’s buttons. The more wound up they get the more they will push twitter down one of the two paths mentioned above. Remember that your mere presence bothers them. In all honesty much of the work has already been done anyway. Their moral panics and crusades have built quite the outrage industry. Even as our numbers begin to dwindle these people will find targets to berate and demonise. This is ultimately where I believe the concept of micro-aggressions comes from.
When this particularly damaged section of the population has nothing to complain about they simply loosen definitions of what is “morally untenable”, until they hit a decent enough vein of outrage to set up more campaigns. This whole culture is coming to a head as we speak, the original sin like qualities of concepts such as “white privilege” are the apex of the outrage curve. What we are seeing on social media is a microcosm of the greater societal upheavals that are already spilling out into American streets, and have been for some time now. But these sites can serve as a warning if nothing else.
We have an opportunity, and all we need to do to take advantage of it is to keep doing what we’re doing it. There are many ways to circumvent bans to those in the know. My personal weapon of choice is burner phones. For £35 I can get a new device to beat Mac Address recognition, a new sim to beat an IP ban and some airtime to keep me tweeting. I can repeat this as many times as I like and short of either banning pre-pay customers altogether (there goes half the userbase), or the aforementioned ID requirements twitter will never be able to permanently lock me out.
Others, more tech savy than I, will always find cheaper ways around these bans for those willing to put in the extra time/effort. If you’re using a computer invest in a VPN (paid ideally) and clear your history/cookies/cache. The user-friendliness requirements these sites face mean that whatever policies they bring in to fight will always be water downed versions of actual security. Keyword searches can be beaten with creoles, image searches with avatar substitutions/edits. There is always a work around for whatever obstacles they can throw up. The trick is to keep playing the game, because ultimately, they know that the only way this ends is by convincing the more determined “trolls” to walk away.
If you’re new to this game sign up on sites like Gab, Minds or Wrongthink. Get networking, there are plenty of people happy to share the knowledge they’ve gained through successive twitter purges. This was never the end that many are preaching it to be. It is simply the beginning of our endgame.
Pave Darker is a political activist and contributor to New Media Central. You can follow him on Twitter @9th_Prestige