Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Interview: Bill Mitchell explains how to win the war against Twitter trolls

Editor's note: This article was originally published in February 2017.

This is the fifth part of my discussion with Bill Mitchell. The firstsecond, and third, and fourth segments are available on-line. Quoted text below appeared in previous articles, offering background on our conversation.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto

There are a great many talk radio hosts, and all of them are clamoring to be heard. Just how many, though, really offer something which deserves your time and consideration?

While the number is far too small for my liking, Bill Mitchell certainly makes the cut.

He has not been a force in the chattering class for long. Before Donald Trump's candidacy took off, Mitchell could best be described as a talent recruiter for various businesses who just happened to dabble in politics via the Internet. Today, he is a bona fide on-line celebrity. Last year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology named him the foremost average fellow impacting election season.

Among all those influencing the race -- including Barack Obama, CNN, and Harry Reid -- Mitchell came up twenty-sixth. He beat Paul Ryan, The Associated Press, and Michael Moore, to mention a few.

What makes Mitchell so popular is not strategic positioning in FM markets -- his program is Internet-only -- or access to the most powerful names on the District of Columbia-New York City-Boston/Los Angeles-San Francisco-Seattle culture corridors -- he lives in Charlotte. Rather, Mitchell knows how to handle Twitter, focus on pertinent data, and explain complex, contentious matters in a down-to-earth yet coherent fashion.

Despite being in his late fifties, Mitchell is one of American conservatism's rising stars. His star is powered at a time when 'conservatism' is in rapid flux; changing from its family values, pro-free trade, immigration-friendly Reagan-Bush incarnation to a model built around national sovereignty, economic protectionism, and cultural cohesion. 

Essentially, 'American' conservatism is becoming Europeanized. 

Mitchell and I had a candid discussion regarding right-leaning politics and their relation to American life. Some if it is included below.

Joseph Ford Cotto: The neo-Nazi movement has a contingency of keyboard warriors who not only delight in sharing their views, but making life hellish for certain individuals – yourself now notoriously being one of them. Why are American neo-Nazis so aggressive in using Internet memes and the Internet more generally to spread their political ideas?

I look at comments under stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with politics and there are people who make certain anti-Semitic caricatures. It seems like they’re out in force – and I would say that they look like they’re out more than they actually are, but they are certainly there.

Bill Mitchell: Some people who have very little power in their real lives like to feel like they’ve got power on the Internet. I call it, “Twitter brave.” They’re sitting in their parents’ basement 2000 miles away and they can say anything they want to me, but I can’t come punch them in the nose. So, you can be real Twitter brave to me; say things you would never say to my face. A lot of these guys that have little, insignificant, crappy lives, feel empowered by that.

Some people just like being anarchists – they like raising hell and causing trouble. They like hurting people, upsetting people; it gives them a sense of power. I think that amongst these white supremacists – or black supremacists; I don’t want to limit this. BLM – Black Lives Matter – is a black supremacist group. That’s every bit as bad as the KKK, and we just had this white disabled guy tortured for four or five days …. Racism really is an overused term. It’s been overused so much it’s lost it’s meaning.

What it really comes down to is that people call these “hate crimes.” I call them “blame crimes.” These are crimes that have people blaming someone of a different group than themselves for their own misfortune and their own failings. They’re blame crimes. People who commit them are acting out; they are unhappy with themselves and unhappy with their lives and they strike out rather than looking inward and looking in the mirror. They strike out at someone else and say, “It’s their fault!”

I think, also, a lot of these white supremacists are psychotic a little bit. They’re nuts.

Cotto: I saw on Twitter, in a cursory sense, and on political websites people creating memes about you. This is more recent, but in the past, it’s been other people, and these memes pertain to Jewishness, homosexuality, and it’s all so insane. I agree that a lot of those who view this stuff are psychotic. Some are, as you mentioned, probably anarchists who just like to fan the flames, but others really are insane. They’re very dangerous people.

Mitchell: They are, and I’m doing my best to marginalize them. You've got to stand up against them, but then you’ve got to know when to walk away from it, because these people – trolls – they live off of your anger. It reminds me of an old Star Trek episode where there was an alien presence and it got power from people’s anger, so it wanted everyone on the ship to fight.

That’s kind of the way these people are; they’re empowered by your anger and I found – because I’ve dealt with these people before and this is how you deal with them – you throw the gauntlet down, you fight hard for about a week, and just when they think they’ve got you, you walk away. It drives them insane. They’re sending out the memes, they’re sending out the hate tweets, and stuff like that, and you’re just not responding to anything.

Everyone starts to shoot them down because they’re saying all this stuff, you’re not saying anything, and they’re annoying everybody. They are annoying everybody with their crap, and I’m not responding to it. This is how you do it, folks: If you want to be a leader on Twitter, you’re having some real difficulties with people, you fight hard for a week and walk away. You’ll drive them crazy and you’ll win.

Cotto: It works, I imagine, every time.

Mitchell: Every time. Oh yeah; you fight hard and they feel like they’re getting empowered, and you just walk away. It drives them completely nuts. They can’t stand it.  


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