Apparently the latest thing that people want to campaign for is a “report abuse” button for Twitter. Once again, it is my sad duty to say that while I agree with the principles, the idea itself is actually quite silly and might make things worse. To be honest, I’m considering automating my blog, so often do I come to this conclusion. The same piece, over and over again, just inserting the name of whatever liberal feminist campaign du jour is about.
But I digress. What could possibly be wrong with a button to make it easier to report abuse on Twitter, and automate suspensions of abusers? Rather a lot, actually. I can foresee, within seconds of it happening, that I would disappear off of the face of Twitter, for starters.
See, I have a habit of being pretty fucking rude to people who behave oppressively. I use rude words and tell people to choke on various bodily secretions. I don’t let things drop. I hold people to account, sometimes seriously and sometimes by gleefully engaging in some pure, unadulterated puerile trolling. I subtweet shade, leaving it where it can be found by the vanity searchers, and I’m not afraid to call out the racists, the misogynists, the transphobes and homophobes and ableists of the world. That would get me banned pretty fucking quickly, only taking a few powerful people to get pissed off at me. And my goodness, I piss off the powerful.
But surely any new measures would have differentiation between abuse and a good old-fashioned flaming targeted at an utter dicklord? Probably not. Already, I have seen good feminists and anti-racists suspended from Twitter for hurting the precious feelings of the poor misogynists and racists. This goes through the current Twitter abuse channels. A “report abuse” button would speed up this process considerably, allowing for an ever-greater greater quantity of marginalised voices to be silenced completely, to be left unable to fight back. Making reporting abuse easier will just create a larger volume of tweets which must be sifted through, making it take more not less time to weed out the abuse from the vexatious complaints.
The problem is, a lot of the supporters of this seem to consider anything other than utmost deference and politeness to be “trolling”. Take, for example, Caitlin fucking Moran, who has been exceptionally vocal in this, and with good reason: people are often cross with her for saying really fucking horrible shit. She disingenuously pretends that this instant accountability afforded by the Twitter age is somehow an orchestrated campaign of silencing and abuse. She wants to continue being able to flaunt her privilege and announce to the world that she’s kind of racist, kind of classist, kind of ableist and kind of transphobic. She wants to do all of this without ever being called out on it.
The thing with politeness is that it’s a rule of communication which is inherently slanted in favour of the white, economically-privileged person with the luxury of considering other people’s problems a purely academic question. It’s easy to be polite if you are questioning someone’s very existence, and not so easy when it cuts the other way. When I see misogyny, I don’t want to be fucking polite. It’s not a matter for fucking debate. And the same goes for any injustice I perceive. We’re never going to get fucking anywhere if we continually defer to our oppressors.
But because of their position of power, they see our questioning their role as the oppressor as abuse, and they will gladly use any new measures to silence those who have found the voice to question the status quo. Any new abuse policy Twitter would implement would have to accept the difference between calling out and abuse, and I don’t think it would ever do that, as to acknowledge the direction in which power is directed is far beyond far too many people. These people focus on “equality”, and “equality” is precisely how white people declare anti-racism campaigns to be racist against white people, and misogynists cry MISANDRY whenever a woman challenges them. Imagine the outcry if Twitter did the right thing here: we would be drowning in white male tears, and Twitter would back down before one could finish typing “your a dick” and sending it to a well-known evolutionary biologist. Furthermore, abuse can be polite. Indeed, the polite stuff is often the most insidious, given that that the privileged who insist on politeness at all times fail to recognise it as abuse. It remains an enormous problem.
So instead we’d be stuck with what I’ll call the “silence marginalised voice that hurt your privileged fee-fees button”. And I can’t get behind that, because there are a lot of good voices who will be further silenced by those with the power and the platform.
What can be done, instead? After all, oppressive abuse does still run rampant in the online environment. The thing is, that is a reflection of the general oppressive and abusive culture we inhabit. And therefore, the same measures need to be taken. We need fucking solidarity. Stand with people fighting oppression, and support their struggles. Offer help when someone is getting shit, and chase the fuckers off. Accept your own role in oppression, and strive to mitigate it, accepting that you will likely be told off from time to time for fucking up, and that it’s not going to be polite. Kick up, don’t kick down. Don’t work within the system: tear it down and salt the earth beneath it. Show compassion for those who are having a hard time.
Unfortunately, we live in an age where people want quick fixes, no matter how inadequate they are. We live in an age where people will gladly forge a weapon which may be used against them. And then there are some who would seek to punish anyone who criticises them, and are salivating at the consequences of this measure.
The good news is, a lot of them will be sulking off of Twitter on August 4th. The commentariat Cult of Nice will be “boycotting” Twitter that day, displaying that they don’t really know what a boycott is. That day will be a good day for marginalised voices. No longer will they be silenced and drowned out by those who like to talk over everyone and silence the voices that we should be hearing. That day, Twitter will be ours. I propose we spend the day listening to one another, building solidarity and laying the groundwork for changing the world. We have a day unpoliced by oppressors. Let’s use it.