Monday, June 12, 2017

On Toxic Leftbook Culture

I just left a Leftbook group.  One I loved... like I really loved it.  I'd talk about shit I found on this group pretty much every day.  Called "why did you diy that???" it was hilarious, showcasing some of the worst DIY fails, useless DIYs, etc.

What is Leftbook?  I'm using it loosely, as I've seen some more narrow definitions, but generally it's used to describe pages, groups, and other areas on Facebook primarily frequented by leftists (anarchists, communists, greens, SJWs, etc.).  The themes vary, with a number of them being dedicated to something that isn't explicitly leftist, but with rules and conventions that are found in left and SJW communities.  Things like requiring trigger warnings, requiring textual descriptions of pictures for visually impaired folks, bans on oppressive content, or an expectation that there will be Discourse.

And that's great.  I love that there are places I can find interesting things that aren't political where people are actively trying not to be pieces of shit.

But I needed to talk about the shit that just happened at "why did you diy that???" because it's just not fucking OK.  And this is a long time coming.  I've already seen a couple groups I loved less wind up self-destructing over shitty rules, or rules that were applied on the whim of one or two outliers, to hell with what the actual community thinks.  Think things like demanding common in-community words be censored ("i regret to inform you that the cis are at it again" was demanding people censor the word "queer," a word that trans people fucking use).

So today is Monday, which at WDYDT??? means people post their own personal DIYs.  Everything was going fine until--if I remember right, you'll know why I might not remember later--a white teacher posted a picture of a tipi she had built as an educational tool.  And there was Discourse.  People had posted stuff like this before, stuff that wasn't in their lane, had discussions, realized they were wrong, and everything was fine.  White women posting skin and hair care DIYs to ridicule, finding they are meant for black women, apologizing, comments closed, lessons learned, done.  This is a thing that, despite our culture of disposability, happens.  We've all done something appropriative sometime.  If I was forced to make a bet over whether I will appropriate something without thinking in the future, I would bet "yes" to preserve my damn money, and I probably wouldn't even need to wait that long to get it.

But somewhere the planets were aligned just right that rather than having a real discussion on the subject, people hurled abuse at this woman.  There were even death threats.

Now think about what happens when you have a thread on Twitter or a Facebook post get popular, whether for good or bad reasons.  If you're like most people using these services, your phone is connected to them.  If you keep your volume or vibrate on, it's constant, like your phone is blowing up or malfunctioning, an endless cacophony constantly pestering you over this thing you posted.  If you're like me and are stressed out by your phone, maybe you keep your volume off all the time only to see a massive list of retweets, likes, faves, and comments every time you look at it.

It really fucking gnaws at you.  Hell, even when I post something I'm really proud of, and people are showering me with praise, it can be frustrating after a while.  But dozens of nasty comments speckled with death threats?  It doesn't matter if there was some good Discourse there.

The mods told her to keep the post up, because the rules of the group demand it.  "Accountability" they say.  Because in SJW world, you are not allowed to ever forget that you did a bad thing once.

She deleted it anyway.  She was then banned, although to be fair, the experience was so bad she was intending to leave anyway.  The mods then posted an explanation that they had asked her to keep it up, telling people that instead of deleting their posts they can ask for comments to be turned off.

And you know what?  That's abusive as fuck.  If people were blowing up my fucking phone commenting that I'm a terrible person because of some of the absolute shit I wrote in the past I would fucking delete that piece, regardless of if it were breaking a rule.

If your rules are resulting in abuse, they're shitty rules.

And there's more.  If people are sending death threats over this thing... what makes you think they're going to just stick with commenting?  You're forcing somebody to keep her name on something that's generating abuse under the misguided assumption that turning comments off is going to stop said abuse.  Are you like... new to the internet?  Seriously.  And that's not mentioning people taking screenshots to make sure if it ever leaves that part of Facebook it'll wind up on Twitter, Tumblr, or some other section of Facebook.

It's not that I don't want accountability.  To reiterate myself as a convenient example, there are plenty of total shit things I've done and especially written that I will own up to readily.  I wrote an incredibly racist (as in white savior racist) book.  I used to be a class-above-all communist and wrote ridiculous shit about that.  I engaged in seriously appropriative vegan activism.  These were all things that happened, parts of my history I will not erase.  But there's a huge difference between accountability and pillory, the latter of which I guess leftbook thinks is just fucking fine as long as it's not the State doing it.