Commenters here hate it when I bring Twitter drama onto the site but in this case I felt I had to since it is ongoing and seems to be getting worse.
A while back I told you, dear readers, that the lag time for this year’s Oscar race was going to be bad. There are too many people with too much time on their hands and that made me nervous. In general, in the past few years, it’s the movies themselves and the filmmakers who are the focus of frustration and rage. But this year, there isn’t much to complain about, considering the lineup is mostly what was already agreed upon by critics and pundits and yes, the dreaded Film Twitter.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t attacks. They’re just focused instead on individual people. The last few days I have been, yet again, targeted on Twitter and swarmed in a way only Twitter can facilitate. Tweets are spread quickly, fear mounts, accusations balloon until full-blown panic is reached. Usually, where I’m concerned since I’m a bit … mouthy … is that I didn’t like Little Women, or I distrusted the praise for Little Women, or I criticized the fan base for a certain movie because they were suppressing dissent. Or I spoke up to clarify the Ansel Elgort allegations. Or others who have committed alleged crimes that people believe they should pay for for the duration of their lives. But this time was different. This time someone believed they finally had the weapon that would destroy me and everyone who works with me.
It had started when high status film critic Guy Lodge insinuated on Twitter that I was the source of an anonymous quote at Hollywood-Elsewhere. I was not the source. But since the source had disparaged Little Women and was talking about “woke” voting in the awards race they naturally assumed it was me (as someone who covers the race I have to talk about what drives people to vote for whatever contenders and it has to be a valid part of the conversation when so much of the awards race is about trying to change the industry). But it wasn’t. And since it came on the heels of the shooting in Atlanta, it seemed doubly offensive and sent a wave of panic throughout Twitter. And before long, there was cascade of dunking, as they say, but this was harder and stronger and more severe than usual. One person in particular glommed onto this and came after me pretty hard and everyone who works with me.
Then I posted something else that I don’t want to get into here because all it would do is start yet another long argument and that is beyond on the scope of what I want to write here. It was on my personal Twitter with only 1,000 followers or so but I forgot that I was always being monitored for everything I say because the end goal is always to “discover” something “bad.” They believed it was intentionally offensive or racist. I did not believe that, nor did I intend it. The game is if you are accused, you are guilty. You don’t really have any option except to offer up a withering apology or fight back.
To offer up a withering apology, though, is to sell yourself down the river. And that, to me, is unacceptable. It isn’t something I can or will do, and it isn’t something you should do either. At the end of George Orwell’s 1984, Winston Smith imagines he’s been shot in the head but he hasn’t really been shot. It’s just that everything he cares about – words, books, love, history has been taken away and all that’s left is serving the singular ideology of “Big Brother.” To him, he might as well be dead. What you think, who you are matters. Even if it only matters to you it is still worth fighting for.
After this site was hurled into the Humiliator (aka “Film Twitter”) over the past few days, one particularly angry and frantic twitter user hurled all sorts of insults but then when I defended myself they whipped it around and cried harassment and then told all of Film Twitter I was harassing them and then continued along these lines for days. Then they tagged everyone on AwardsDaily and told them they were complicit in “white supremacy” and eventually it turned into other catch-alls as people scoured my Facebook for old posts I made that were probably borderline controversial but nothing I was ashamed of enough to delete and apologize for. Then they continued to post about the members of this site, tagging them, trying to shame them, calling them out, urging their followers to unfollow and block and disengage or else they too were complicit in “white supremacy.”
What you might not know about getting dunked on is that the accusation lingers forever. People on Twitter bring up accusations made against you forever because they have decided you are guilty. If they see a trending topic it is automatically true. There is no time distance between waiting for the facts and condemning people who are accused.
This is, and there is no other way to say it, peak Salem. While the term “witch hunt” is overused by now, it applies here without question. In the purest sense of the term. It is fear of people you know having a secret monster living inside them that you are just now uncovering because now you have proof! I’ve had enough people say to me “the difference is witchcraft isn’t real.” But to the Puritans it was. It was as real as gravity. For centuries, it was real. In some countries it’s still considered real. This is about perception, not reality. They have decided to condemn you for something – but that doesn’t mean they are right.
Maybe if I hadn’t spent the last 20 years dealing with people who were angry at me over something – I wrote too much about racism – if I didn’t write enough about social justice – if I liked A Beautiful Mind and not Lord of the Rings. If I went after Crash pretty hard and I spent way too much time complaining about “the white male patriarchy” and I was a vicious Hillary supporter who bullied and attacked other people in the name of a cause — I’d be more willing to be paralyzed with fear and throw myself at the mercy of the Oyer and Terminer. But I’ve been on the other side. I’ve been part of a swarm. I know what inspires it, what drives it and why it is dangerous and unstoppable. I also know it is not based in reality even a little bit. But if I didn’t know, I might go along with this and be scared enough to offer up the withering apology. If I had done something wrong I would have admitted it.
One female film critic offered up the helpful suggestion that I could just be off Twitter if it was causing me problems because Twitter was public and there are “consequences” for committing thoughtcrimes. Getting off Twitter is a great idea overall for everyone. But not for the reasons she is saying. Not because of “consequences.” Leaving Twitter, however, for bigger reasons is a smart choice for your future. We at this site are trying to figure out how to find a better way to reach people to send out links. But until then, one has to keep some presence on social media to alert readers to news or stories.
But why the fear? Why the persecution? Why the mob rule? Somehow the irony of our film community, once devoted to freedom of expression and ideas has devolved into an Orwellian nightmare where everyone must think alike at all times, stick to the program or else some Children Spy will come after you, quote tweet something you wrote and decide that it’s problematic or offensive in one way or another and if they scream loud enough people will decide that’s true. It doesn’t matter if they know you, if they know your heart. If you are accused at all you are guilty.
If I accidentally wrote something while typing too fast, like “all five directors are white directing mostly white casts,” that is a careless mistake. But to a particularly angry tweeter (who is clearly quick-witted and could be putting that intelligence to better use, frankly) this is something they can pluck and use to condemn me as a RACIST! My mind was heading for the Best Picture contenders and so that is what I typed. I spent ten years advocating for women and filmmakers of color – so it does matter to me. But to Twitter, that is PROOF. Once accused, forever guilty.
The thing is, I can take it. I have taken it for a long time now. But what gets me is that those who work with me are now the target – I won’t get into why but just know this: it is 100%, top to bottom, hot steaming unrelenting bullshit that no one should, under any circumstances, go along with. Each of us is able to fight back. We don’t wither in fear around here. And none of us concedes our integrity to a mob. Ever.
Remember – during witch hunt phases there are always people who stay silent, go along with it, or protest against it. As long as your life or career is not at risk you should be in the latter group. Why? Because history does not look kindly on those who go along with suppression. And though it will take a while for our culture to unwind itself from the trauma of the last four years, and especially the last year, one day we will get a grip. And when that happens we will go back over everything that went down – who did what, who went along with what. This is good advice that everyone should take to heart, no matter what tribe we align ourselves with online.
Be kind to people. Whenever I’ve gotten on the side of the bullies I have always regretted it. You can’t take it back, especially online. There are many people I have blocked or tweets that were cruel that I favorited, or people I unfollowed because they said something that offended someone. I have been a go-alonger. But I’m trying harder to not be that way and I suggest you do that too. We make our reputations now on what we do online. Being one of the mob isn’t going to be good for anyone going forward. Standing up against them is.
We can all make better use of our time, intellect and energy than spending it being, what Freddie DeBoer once called, a cop:
The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7. You search and search for someone Bad doing Bad Things, finding ways to indict writers and artists and ordinary people for something, anything. That movie that got popular? Give me a few hours and 800 words. I’ll get you your indictments. That’s what liberalism is, now — the search for baddies doing bad things, like little offense archaeologists, digging deeper and deeper to find out who’s Good and who’s Bad. I wonder why people run away from establishment progressivism in droves.
Many of the people who currently withdraw in apprehension right now are silently on our side. They patiently wait for the treachery to end. They are looking to those of us who have the courage to speak out.
Please leave my staff alone. If you have a problem with me, come at me bro. They are doing brilliant work and do not deserve harassment. It is absurd that anyone on this site would be called transphobic or racist. Someone said to me “you don’t get to decide what is transphobic.” When jobs and reputations and personal honor is at stake, yes, we have to push back against slander.
I have been threatened that advertisers will be contacted and studios will stop advertising. I once thought that was a ridiculous notion but look around. But we see corporations buckling under the pressure, probably because they’re all baby boomers who remember the counter-culture 60s and thus, they don’t want to be on the other side of what they misconstrue as activism. So they pander. They buckle and they do what Twitter tells them to do. All they had to do was wait it out for a few days and Twitter would be onto to something else.
But if I do lose income for the site because studios go along with the panic and momentary but unstoppable wave of hysteria on Twitter? All that means to me, other than being hurt financially, is that I can be freed up to be more honest in my coverage of the Oscar race without worrying about paying advertisers.
There is an upside to everything.