In the aftermath of this past weekend’s horrific violence during a protest-turned-white-nationalist march in Charlottesville, VA , professional activists on the left have once again taken to the practice of “doxxing.”
For those unfamiliar with the term, doxxing is a tactic primarily used by liberals – and to a lesser extent conservatives – to shame and silence their political opposition by way of finding out their personal information: Their employer, their home address, who their family members are, what school – if any – they might attend. They then use this personal information against opponents.
Raleigh-Durham’s WTVD news outlet ran a sympathetic puff piece Monday on one such local activist who has gained national prominence post-Charlottesville:
Logan Smith has made his choice on how to fight this new wave of intolerance. He’s taken to Twitter, under the handle, “Yes You’re Racist,” publishing the names and photos of the white nationalists caught on camera at the rally in Virginia.
“If they’re so proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with KKK members and neo-Nazis then I think people should know their names,” Smith said.
Smith who works as communications director for Progress NC Action, a left-leaning policy advocacy group in Raleigh, says he’s “unmasked” about a dozen people so far. He said tips on the identities of the white nationalists have been coming in from across the country.
The article goes on to note that Smith claims he doesn’t publish anyone’s personal information – just their names and pictures – and also quotes Smith saying he and his family have gotten anti-Semitic threats death threats as a result of his actions, but that he will not back down in the face of those threats.
It sounds heroic. Noble. And to some, patriotic.
Unfortunately, the piece left out crucial information that would have given viewers and readers a different, not so glamorous glimpse into the world of doxxing and how it has hurt innocent people and others whose offenses aren’t even in the same stratosphere as those of white nationalists. Not only that, but it appears the news outlet didn’t bother to question Smith on the fact that he knows he doesn’t have to publish the personal information of the people he targets on his page because he’s fully aware that other people will do that for him.
It’s the whole point.
While it’s true that no one in their right mind wants to associate with racists – whether they come in the form of white nationalists or the Black Panthers – you also have to keep in mind the possibility that the wrong person has been “outed”… and even if the correct person was outed, that they have family members who probably don’t deserve the same scorn and ridicule that comes when mob rule becomes a substitute for the law, a judge, and a jury. But they’re going to get it anyway because of their association.
The New York Times, whose left wing creds have been established beyond a shadow of doubt, wrote about one such case of a person wrongly doxxed from over the weekend:
After a day of work at the Engineering Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Kyle Quinn had a pleasant Friday night in Bentonville with his wife and a colleague. They explored an art exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and dined at an upscale restaurant.
Then on Saturday, he discovered that social media sleuths had incorrectly identified him as a participant in a white nationalist rally some 1,100 miles away in Charlottesville, Va.
For someone whose only sin was a passing resemblance to someone else ”” the actual man in the Charlottesville photo has not been conclusively identified ”” Mr. Quinn bore the direct consequences of the reckless spread of misinformation in breaking news, a common ritual in modern news events.
Also, unlike the WTVD piece, the Times noted how Logan Smith (aka @YesYoureRacist) had made some harmful mistakes in his “outing” attempts:
While the @YesYoureRacist account was one of the most visible leaders in the name-and-shame effort, it also made a misstep. The account apologized for using an old photo of Joey Salads, a YouTube star, from a different event in which Mr. Salads said he was wearing an armband with a swastika as an “experiment.” He was not at the rally.
Still think doxxing is a heroic endeavor? What if you haven’t participated in a hateful rally and instead were simply expressing an opposing viewpoint when it happened to you? My longtime blogger friend and colleague A.P. Dillon and I both speak from experience:
— Sister Toldjah ? (@sistertoldjah) August 15, 2017
When you put yourself out there in the political arena, whether as an activist, politician, or the like, you expect that you’re probably going to be subjected to more scrutiny that the average Joe. It goes with the territory. But how far is too far? Do people with whom you disagree not deserve to work, to be able to provide?
It’s easy to say “no” when it comes to racists and other hateful types, but what about others who don’t fall into that category, who have legitimate disagreements with their political opposition? Keep in mind that no line can really be drawn here, because once you’ve gone down the path of “this is acceptable” you can’t go back, and anyone can become a target.
Having “the right” to “expose” your opposition doesn’t always make some of your tactics right to utilize. Think about it.
Along those same lines, less one-sided reporting and more in-depth analyses of the tactic of doxxing needs to be given by any mainstream media outlet – local or national – that decides to tackle the issue. It will give their readers and viewers the opportunity to make up their own minds, instead of mainstream media outlets doing it for them.
UPDATE – 8/15 – 4PM: The News and Observer gets in on the act, too. Predictable.