Experts in autocracies have pointed out that it is, unfortunately, easy to slip into normalizing the tyrant, hence it is important to hang on to outrage. These incidents which seem to call for the efforts of the Greek Furies (Erinyes) to come and deal with them will, I hope, help with that. Even though there are many more which I can’t include. As a reminder, though no one really knows how many there were supposed to be, the three names we have are Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone. These roughly translate as “unceasing,” “grudging,” and “vengeful destruction.”
Some truly terrible things have happened or become public this week, but tough to keep resisting when a story is so awful it sends you to pray at the porcelain altar. So I won’t go into any detail about the woman in Russia who died this week of internal injuries after surviving for two years in a coma induced by the violent rape. That may be the kind of incident that makes us feel life would be a lot better if there were more women running things But let’s not get carried away: the wrong women in power are just as bad as men, often worse.
For instance, let’s hope God tells Michele Bachman in no uncertain terms NOT to run for the Republican nomination for Senate. But she is far from the only nut-job-ette out there, I’m sorry to say. Take Arkansas (please, with apologies to Lenny Bruce).
In Arkansas, a – person – named Jan Morgan has been drumming up support from the right wing – the far right wing – looking toward the May Republican primary for Governor. Here is how she, according to her website, think the state should keep people safe:
Crime has continued to rise in parts of the state. We must ensure we have the resources to protect the public. This means prioritizing funding for our prisons, courts, and law enforcement over welfare programs and non-essential functions of government. We cannot fail on keeping our people safe. That is one of the primary purposes of state government.
She also supports gun rights and cutting taxes, and opposes Sharia law. You can see that in the video at Mother Jones (click through) if you can stand to watch. One of her objections to the current Republican Governor, Asa Hutchinson, is that he failed to sign a bill which would have outlawed Sharia Law in Arkansas’s court system. Part of me wishes that he had signed it – if only we had the resources to challenge all the things that Fox Evangelicals want the law to say which are just like Sharia. But we don’t. We have bigger things to resist.
Alecto, would it be asking too much of you to monitor all the women candidates for public office and try to weed out the nut jobs? Not that the male candidate bench isn’t also hip deep in nut jobs, but that really is too big to ask you.
And then there’s Twitter. It has become a major harassment tool. Among others, white nationalists and Nazi trolls love to play there. Twitter has suspended many white nationalists, and decertified leaders of the “alt right,” but there is more work to do.
Yair Rosenberg was, according to the Anti Defamation League, the second most harassed Jesish journalist on Twitter during the 2016 election cycle. That cycle is over, but the harassment of Rosenberg is not. He decided to help do something about it.
And so last November, in the wake of Trump’s victory, I decided to turn the tables on them. My target? Impersonator trolls.
You probably haven’t heard of these trolls, but that is precisely why they are so pernicious. These bigots are not content to harass Jews and other minorities on Twitter; they seek to assume their identities and then defame them.
How does an impersonator troll work? Well, he (or she) creates a new account that like the person they target, get and use the person’s own avatar, and then get into Twitter conversations and say things which – let’s just say the victim would never say – to make the victim look bad.
What would you think if suddenly TomCat started talking like Roy Moore, just to take a far out example? PRetty scary? Well, Rosenberg got assistance to create a bot to smoke them out.
Using a crowdsourced database of impersonator accounts, carefully curated by us to avoid any false positives, the bot patrolled Twitter and interjected whenever impostors tried to insinuate themselves into a discussion. Within days, our golem for the digital age had become a runaway success, garnering thousands of followers and numerous press write-ups. Most important, we received countless thank-yous from alerted would-be victims.
The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn’t work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing.”
So guess who got banned?
You got it. The bot. The Nazis won. Why???
This month, Twitter suspended the bot again, and this time refused to revive it. The company’s justifications were both entirely accurate and utterly absurd. “A large number of people have blocked you in response to high volumes of untargeted, unsolicited, or duplicative content or engagements from your account,” we were informed. This was true; Impostor Buster had been blocked by many neo-Nazis. “A large number of spam complaints have been filed against you.” Yes, by neo-Nazis. “You send large numbers of unsolicited replies or mentions.” Yes, to neo-Nazis.
The real threat, apparently, was not these trolls — who today continue to roam the platform unchallenged — but our effort to combat them.
Megaera, maybe you would look into this?
Finally, it is, I fear, time for more news on the 2020 Census and what the current regime is doing to destroy it.
Civil rights advocates have raised alarms because the Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Census to include a question about citizenship in its 2020 national survey. But the way the Trump administration has framed this request also shows it’s poised to make proof of citizenship the latest voter suppression tool.
As many civil rights groups have noted, asking immigrant families to disclose undocumented relatives will push people to evade Census takers or simply lie, causing an undercount and diverting federal funds away from locales with immigrant populations.
I feel pretty confident in saying there has NEVER been a question about citizenship on the Census “short form.” One of the rights groups contesting this only went back to 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was enacted, to prove there has not been one since then – but I can’t imagine there having been one at ANY time before that.
Alabama already requires citizens to produce paper proof of citizenship when they register to vote in state elections, as do a handful of others. But Federal voter registration is set up so that “every person who registers must declare they are a citizen and that their signature is a sworn legal oath.”
Republicans are interested in proof of citizenship to vote because they have noticed who is least likely to have it – minorities, the poor, the elderly, married women who changed their name upon marriage. As many as a third of voting-age women may not have proof of citizenship that reflects their current name.
Speaking as a married woman who uses her married name, I can prove my citizenship, I think. I cannot do it with a single document. I have a contemporary copy of my birth certificate (a copy from 1945). I think I have my first Social Security card in my maiden name – but, if I don’t, it’s on my DD214 with my maiden name. I have my original marriage certificate, and I have my current Social Security card, showing the same number that was attached to me in my maiden name. I have no idea whether THIS Department of Justice would accept that collection of documents. I had a passport once, but I fear it’s been lost – and, in any case, it was in my maiden name too.
The Catch-22 here is that I believe if we VOTE in a new Congress we can win this. But we need to be able to vote. It might not hurt for all of us to check our files and be sure we have whatever documents we need in order to satisfy Big Brother. Now. Additionally, all our GOTV efforts need to address this issue in the communities they are working in.
Tisiphone, please educate and assist all our campaign staff and all our volunteers to be aware how important this is … including that we may need additional campaign funds to help people get their documents. It seems to me like a poor use of campaign funds – but it might well turn out to be an extremely good investment.
The Furies and I will be back.
Cross posted to Care2 HERE.