Ian Danskin, (Danskin 2018)

This is an entry in the Alt-right Playbook.


How many words can you change in an argument until it’s not the same argument anymore?


Imagine you’re bouncing around Twitter - a damn fool thing to do, but who am I to judge? - and you come across someone claiming “[Public Figure X] doxxed me.”

You’re thinking, “Oh no, I’m a fan of Public Figure X! I find their work very inspiring.” So you look a little deeper into the story, and you come to understand a few things. First, it turns out, by “Public Figure X” they mean an employee of Public Figure X. Well, employees are often acting on behalf of their employers; if your campaign staff meets with Russians, it’s reasonable to say you are in contact with Russia, so maybe this is something like that. Also, it turns out that, by “employee” they mean a contractor that Public Figure X hired several years ago. Well, OK, if a contractor does something on behalf of a client, that’s often basically the same as an employee doing it. And, apparently, by “doxxed” they don’t mean Public Figure X - or Public Figure X’s contractor - personally hacked anyone’s computer, they mean Public Figure X’s people shared information that had been acquired by someone else. Well, that’s fair, if someone posts your home address on a forum and then the forum spreads it all over the internet, it’s reasonable to say the forum doxxed you. Oh, but it wasn’t a home address or a private email, it was the person’s name. Well, if you’re anonymous for safety reasons, having your name revealed can lead to threats or silencing, so, depending on why you’re anonymous, having your name leaked can be a kind of doxxing. Oh, and by “leaking a name,” they mean, liked a tweet that had the name in it.

OK, now say you’re bumming around Facebook - which, maybe you shouldn’t, but I do it, too - and someone posts an article saying “All pornography is coercive.”

You’re thinking, “Wow, that’s a pretty sweeping statement! I’ve gotta investigate this.” So you read the article, and it seems there’s a school of thought that, since, in porn, the product is usually images of women’s bodies, women tend to be socially pressured or financially incentivized to do things with their bodies that people like to see but they aren’t necessarily comfortable with. Since that consent is not freely given, all pornography is coercive. And you think, “Well, but what about worker-owned porn collectives, or amateur porn that’s just exhiitionists who don’t monetize their videos?” And, after digging around the author’s work, you find, buried in a footnote in another article, that, in their opinion, if it’s worker-owned or unmonetized, it isn’t “porn,” it’s “erotica.”

Now say you’ve ambled into the wildlands of Tumblr - woe betide the ones who travel too far from their dashboards - and you come across the claim that “[Activist Y] is a bigot.”

You’re thinking, “Ah jeez, first Public Figure X and now this?” So you read a number of other posts on the subject, and eventually piece together that, by “bigot,” the people making this claim mean “anti-sex worker” - which, no question, that is a bigotry - and by “anti-sex worker” they mean “anti-sex” - which, OK, that’s kind of a stretch - and by “anti-sex” they mean “prudish” - which is definitely a stretch - and by “prudish” they mean “is critical of the sexual objectification of women in Fantasy imagery because they believe it drives women away from the community.”

How many words can you change in an argument until it’s not the same argument anymore?

There are a few different aims when somebody does this:

  1. Making the unacceptable acceptable

    The statement “Activist Y is against sexual objectification” is not controversial amongst progressives. If you go after Activist Y for that belief, you’re going to make progressive enemies. But if you redefine this as “anti-sex,” and “anti-sex” as “a bigot,” now it’s Activist Y who has the enemies, and you’ve just smuggled an anti-feminist argument into feminist language.

  2. Making the unremarkable remarkable

    “Some pornography is coercive” is not the kind of take that sells magazine subscriptions. But if you’ve got a private definition of “pornography” that excludes sexually explicit material that isn’t coercive, you’ve got yourself a provocative headline, especially since, at first glance, nobody knows you’re using a nonstandard definition of the word.

  3. Cutting people off from their communities

    The statement “Someone who used to work with Public Figure X liked a tweet that had my name in it” gets converted into “Public Figure X doxxed me” for the purpose of turning Public Figure X’s community against them, with the added benefit of gaining favor with anyone who already hates them. It’s a standard abusive [relationship] tactic: if you want to mistreat someone, first you cut them off from their friends.

[formatting added]

One can make the (already dubious) argument that this isnt technically a lie, but it’s meant to form a picture in your mind of something that didn’t happen […].

[…] when the Right does this, it does it to the Left, and, when the Left does this, it does it to itself. The Far Right is perfectly happy converting an attack or a bad argument into whatever they think progressive language sounds like, and bigots on the Left are perfectly happy sneaking transphobic arguments into feminism, but the Left, by and large, will not touch conservative language. We don’t try to isolate a member of the Alt-Right by telling his community he’s a race traitor or secretly gay.


Danskin, Ian. 2018. “The Ship of Theseus.” Tumblr. Innuendo Studios. https://innuendostudios.tumblr.com/post/173479828992/the-newest-installment-of-the-alt-right-playbook.