A couple of days ago I made this video, a sort of ‘how-to- guide to avoid a great deal of the internet reporting mistakes that most news outlets slip into. By great fortune, an event fell into our collective lap to show how media fails to report on the internet, and how these guidelines might help.
Rapper ‘Tyler the Creator‘ has – allegedly (at time of writing this was not confirmed) been denied entry into Australia to do a show, largely due to the agitation of a feminist organisation called ‘Collective Shout’ and in particular one of their members Coralie Alison.
You already know you’re in for a bumpy ride when online feminism is concerned, but when you involve the rap community, a controversial rapper, and you account for the fact that Tyler is known to many people for this tweet…
Then you know things are going to get extra interesting, wise as the tweet is.
So to recap, a rap performer has (allegedly) been denied a visa to perform in Australia, due to the intervention of a feminist group. How is this being reported?
It’s being reported in terms of ‘misogynistic hate mobs’ attacking feminist activists, and the fact that they have successfully (it would seem) prevented an ‘undesirable person’ from entering their country to practice their free expression has been largely ignored. I mean, it’s obvious that the only reason anyone might be angry or upset is because these people are women, right? It couldn’t have anything to do with censorship, authoritarianism or lack of understanding of rap culture, could it?
Let’s apply the rules…
1. Am I being trolled?
A huge amount of the abuse etc directed at Coralie and vice versa appears to be trolls. There are egg account, low volume accounts, brand new accounts and clearly dedicated trolling accounts all involved. Much of the ‘worst’ of the abuse can be dismissed as irrelevant trolling that isn’t representative of either side.
2. Understand what a troll is
In addition to the above, many of the angry people have genuine reasons to be angry. They’re not trolling or being abusive or harassing, but expressing their outrage and anger over what has happened. They have legitimate beef, as do the anti-censorship activists and others. Disagreement, however strongly, doesn’t make one a troll, abuser or harasser.
3. Understand online movements
Reaction here is organic. Individual people and existing networks of interested parties (such as anti-censorship groups) have latched on because the controversy fits their interests. This is very different to organised harassment, it’s emergent behaviour.
4. Understand Chan/Anon culture
Tyler’s tweet on cyberbullying virtually makes him a patron saint of anon/chan culture. So if he gets in trouble it’s going to draw them. Amongst the trolls you’ll find plenty of people expressing their anger in less-than-pc terms, but this still isn’t evidence of misogyny or other nasties, their anger is legitimate, they’re just not saying it in a way the general public is used to. A tech reporter should know better. What’s happened also plays into identity politics, which is the philosophical opposite to anon/chan.
5. Be Fair
The story is being reported in a one-sided fashioned, centred around the supposed misogynistic abuse of the people responsible for the censorship and visa denial (allegedly) and downplaying the fact that a huge act of artistic censorship has taken place. The other side of the story should be more important, especially since it plays into the motivation of those who have objected and explains their anger. It also annihilates the (pre-existing) ‘harassment of women online’ narrative by making it clear that what’s being hated is not women, but a specific group of feminists and one particular woman, because of something they have done. Not what genitals they have. This is not misogyny, but giving a woman or group of women a free pass when they do something wrong (like censor an artist) ‘because vagina’, is sexism.
6. Clickbait and Gonzo
Gonzo isn’t a problem here, but clickbait is. ‘WOMAN TARGETED BY SEXISTS!’ will draw attention, play into an existing culture war and cause comment battles, all of which means clicks. It’s not, however, an accurate reporting of the story. This may be made worse by the fact female journalists are the one female group that has been shown to get a bit more abuse online than the norm – which is fairly equal.
So what would a responsible and informed report look like?
Well, to hit the main points…
A controversial rapper has (apparently) been denied a visa to enter Australia and perform, thanks to the influence of a feminism pressure group. This censorship, enacted on their behalf by the Australian government has caused a significant online backlash on social media against the office of immigration and the feminist group, particularly Coralie. I would then compare this to the deportation of Islamic extremists or the barring of entry to the UK which was enacted on pick-up artist Julien Blanc.
The most important aspect here is the censorship and the angry reaction to it. It’s irresponsible to claim this is misogyny (hatred of women for being women) when there is a very clear and obvious cause and effect, and it’s irresponsible to lump those with legitimate anger and outrage in with obvious trolls or a fringe minority of genuine abusers.
What do you think?