Is Doxxing Ever Okay?
Nazis who get doxxed are not victims. But so far the media has failed to get the message.
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When I signed up for my first journalism class in high school, I would not have guessed that a message from a Neo-Nazi would be the way I’d discover my name’s first appearance in the New York Times.
Alas, it is not a byline. Instead, Times reporter Nellie Bowles found me at an anti-racism rally in San Francisco, drawn in by my neon orange sign (it read, in glittering capital letters, “Nazi pissboys fuck off!!!”), and interviewed me for a few minutes. I appear briefly near the bottom of the resulting story, “How Doxxing Became a Mainstream Tool in the Culture Wars.” The article is one of those milquetoast culture section pieces that finally introduces people who don’t use Twitter to a deeply complicated issue that marginalized folks have been yelling about for years while the mainstream press continually ignores them. In this case, it addresses the phenomenon of “doxxing”—publishing or disseminating people’s identifying information, and not because you want to send them flowers.
In the piece, Bowles does some stellar work in the field of equivocation, taking a kind of “all lives matter” approach that applies no nuance whatsoever to the consideration of whether doxxing might mean something different for, say, a woman of color targeted at home with death and rape threats from misogynist trolls versus a Neo-Nazi losing his job at the hot dog stand. When Bowles considers the victims of doxxing, she skims through everyone from the dentist who shot Cecil the Lion to women harassed by Gamer Gaters to white supremacists chanting “Blood and soil!” while carrying torches down a public street in the American South—as if they’re all the same, really, just victims in these here culture wars.
For the purposes of the paper of record, it doesn’t matter who’s doxxing or being doxxed—the point is that doxxing is … complicated! And people have thoughts about it! As with all Times stories that sit at the intersection of culture and politics, Bowles’s piece includes some obligatory, nonspecific handwringing over “murky” ethics, and because it includes the phrase “the ukulele player moving by electric pony,” it is a very complete New York Times story.
And yet, it is egregiously incomplete. I would know this without having been quoted in the piece—I don’t think it takes a doctorate in ethics to realize that it matters who is being doxxed, and who is doing the doxxing, and why, when we talk about the moral stakes. But I know which information Bowles had about me and about why I think identifying Nazis is a good idea, and I know that that information—which is critical to contextualizing my thoroughly inane five-word quote—appears nowhere in the piece.
I realized I’d been quoted in the article when a Twitter troll — complete with a Pepe-plus-Trump cartoon showing the president draped in a St. George flag, a popular U.K. white supremacist symbol and now a burgeoning dogwhistle for Neo-Nazis in the U.S. — rolled into my mentions. Here’s my part of the story:
“It’s important to dox Nazis,” said Andrea Grimes, 33, of Alameda, Calif. She held a sign that read: “White people pick one: Be the problem. Be the solution.” She said she had “outed” white supremacists to their parents, which she said often worked well to stop bad behavior online.
To be clear, I don’t think I was misquoted here — I am sure that I said that doxxing Nazis is important, because I believe it is — but, “She said she had ‘outed’ white supremacists to their parents, which she said often worked well to stop bad behavior online” thoroughly fails to convey what happened to me back in 2015 when scads of Neo-Nazi trolls piled into my online life with rape and death threats and racist blather.
I don’t “out” Neo-Nazis as a hobby because I dislike “bad behavior online.” I “outed” Neo-Nazis because after I made a joke about owning a gun vaporizer, they put a Photoshopped pig nose on my Twitter avatar, put that picture on their Daily Stormer Neo-Nazi blog, and unleashed a flood of angry white men into my mentions, telling me they hoped I would be raped by black men and kill myself as a result. I “outed” Neo-Nazis because they depend on fear and silence to keep their victims compliant. I “outed” Neo-Nazis because if your fucking kid is a Neo-Nazi, you need to fucking know it, Debbie.
I wrote extensively about the ordeal at Rewire. You can read about it in two pieces: “Do Feed the Trolls: To People Who Will Hold Them Accountable,” and “How To Talk to Your Guy Friends About Not Threatening To Rape And Murder Women on the Internet.”
I conveyed the broad strokes of this experience to Bowles, near-hollering over the din of the rally around us. She was friendly and understanding. I am certain she understood that I had outed Neo-Nazis to their families because they had attacked me online — an essential component of understanding why doxxing was, ahemm, my own “tool in the culture wars.”
Absent this context, I have no idea why my graf was included in Bowles’ piece at all, because “It’s important to dox Nazis” is something plenty of other people did or could say in the article, and the only reason it’s important that I doxxed Neo-Nazis is because Neo-Nazis told me they hoped I got gang raped. Actually, as a man named Elliot put it [sic]: “I hope you get raped by a gang of black man and they set you on fire your the enemy you fuckin asshole I can’t wait for the revolution assholes like you are gonna die at the hands of real Americans we want our country back from liberal assholes like yourself I end this with a fuck you in the face you fat cunt and kill yourself signed the real American public.”
When I forwarded Elliot’s message to his listed family members on Facebook, hoping that someone, anyone, would do a single goddamned thing about their son or uncle or cousin who reads Neo-Nazi blogs and fantasizes about raping and murdering women he disagrees with politically, one defended him as “excitable.” As if he were a badly behaved Pomeranian prone to pissing on the rug and telling women that they will be raped, murdered and set on fire when guys like him take charge.
Well, guys like him took charge. There were many Elliots. They would go on to put Donald Trump in the White House. In the years since my appearance on the world’s leading Neo-Nazi blog, I had forgotten how shitty and scary those days were. I had forgotten how busy it is at the intersection of men who obsess over their gun rights and men who make rape threats and men who are Neo-Nazis and men who believe white race traitors should “die at the hands of real Americans.”
I had forgotten because men like Elliot love men like Donald Trump, and while lots of us knew that, and said that, nobody believed us — especially, no one believed the black women who have long been targeted online by men like Elliot — because something something economic anxiety and populist sentiment and drain the swamp.
I had forgotten, because the Neo-Nazis are no longer only in my inbox. They are in my streets. And if I have to tell their moms and dads and aunts and uncles and grandmas and girlfriends about them to keep them at home in the basement instead of behind the wheel of a Dodge Charger or at a prayer meeting in a Charleston church, I will do it.
Because it’s important to dox Nazis.
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