Laurie Penny outs herself as an agent provocateur

Finally, the difficult truth is being admitted:

This week, sexist and racist trolls have borrowed the tactics of the CIA and Scotland Yard and sent in agents provocateurs to spread disharmony among online activists. Using stock photos and the stolen information of real activists, users of sites such as 4chan started hashtags including #Endfathersday and #whitescantberaped that are deliberately designed to provoke sections of the social justice left into internal arguments.

Most of these trolls have posed as women of colour, whom they call “black bitches”. Other users have falsified racist tweets from prominent feminists and leftists, and created sock-puppet accounts to make sure the fake tweets are seen and condemned. Users including Shafiqah Hudson picked up on the scam, and identified at least 200 such accounts. Someone has gone to considerable effort to pull off a swindle intended to exploit the “weaknesses” of a movement that, despite a tendency to turn on itself, is growing in strength.

In the past five years, Twitter and other social media platforms have become key sites of cultural activism. From feminism to anti-racism and transgender rights, people have used microblogging sites to make their experiences visible, share stories of injustice, organise collectively and educate themselves. Hashtags such as #solidarityisforwhitewomen, created by Mikki Kendall, and #yesallwomen, created by user @gildedspine, have been enormously effective at making sure sexism and racism, including within the left, can no longer be ignored – at least, not if you spend as much time online as the authors of this piece do.

And so Laurie Penny outs herself as one such provocateur. Obviously: no one of her privileged position and background, let alone education, could ever actually have believed any of the things she’s been saying these past few years.

Her job is, I think, akin to that of the late Tony Benn. No one who inherited one great publishing fortune and married into another could possibly have believed what Benn spouted. The job of the Second Viscount Stansgate was, therefore, to make sure that if anything even mildly socially democratic looked like gaining public support to then move the discussion into some obviously insane socialist direction which then turned everyone off the milder action. So was the grand position of inherited wealth and fourth generation MPs assured.

I’m sure there are others out there too. And I take Ms. Penny to be one in her generation.

Glad she’s finally come out as they say. The pretense was looking threadbare, not to say ridiculous, already.

32 comments on “Laurie Penny outs herself as an agent provocateur

  1. “Hashtags have been enormously effective at making sure sexism and racism can no longer be ignored – at least, not if you spend as much time online as I do.”

    Meanwhile, in the real world where it actually matters, sexism and racism continue unabated. But good for you, at least the tweetering classes remain ism-free.

  2. Seems La Penny & friends have a profound misunderstanding of the nature of Twitter & social media. They’re the electronic equivalent of the graffiti on the bog door. Having the right to take a dump doesn’t mean you own the door.

  3. If she really thinks Hashtags are so powerful, why don’t they achieve anything?
    Twitter is useful and amusing, but at the same time there is a lot of crap on it. If you get upset about the crap there propbably best to not use it.

  4. “online activists.”

    Erm, can you be an activist just online, true you can be active (as in doing something) online, but can you claim to be an activist in the same mould as running stalls every saturday morning or going to endless meetings or canvassing peoples homes?

    I dont think so, I think some of these folk like to be thought of as activists, but online activists, because they have an occassional or regular article, column, blog post to promote and think by say criticising linking tweets without consent and is tantamount to sexist violence, somehow will change society? Even though its just a small but loud and active (online at least) layer of the internet talks to itself so much, it mistakes the noise it creates itself with some purchase on the rest of society.

    I think the comparison to twitter and bog doors is entirely accurate, I wish I had thought of that. Well done!

  5. I’m surprised LP dares to bring this matter up; as Tim notes, she absolutely must be in the pay of MI5 or a wealthy cabal of social conservatives.

    Have you seen the CiF writer Bidisha? Nothing would convince me she is a real person who actually holds the views she espouses.

  6. > Shafiqah Hudson picked up on the scam

    GCHQ should immediately hire Shafiqah Hudson, clearly one of the world’s most observant people. I mean, she managed to spot:

    > hashtags … deliberately designed to provoke sections of the social justice left into internal arguments.

    There is no way on Earth I could tell the difference between this and the crap their factions genuinely argue about. And I was brought up in the Labour Party.

    It does raise the question: how do we tell the difference between lefties realising that evil right-wingers are pretending to be lefties in order to sow disharmony in the ranks, and lefties claiming that other lefties are in fact evil right-wingers pretending to be lefties in order to sow disharmony in the ranks in order to purge them from the Left?

  7. “online activists” are having some impact, but only in the sense that they’re pozzing (as the kids say) some of the previously normal sections of the internet and making people laugh at them.

    An example: I like computer games. Always have, ever since I first started tinkering with a brand new ZX81. Computer games are about fun, not politics. Hitherto it’s been a medium that was gloriously uninfected by political correctness. There’s nothing PC about rescuing princesses, or shooting demons on Mars, or Duke Nukem’s hilarious machismo. So obviously that has to change.

    I’m seeing increasing numbers of social justice themed posts on video games sites. Demands that Nintendo include gay marriage in their games, criticism of games like Far Cry 3 for their “problematic” white-male-hero stories. Tearful missives instructing the gaming world to recalibrate itself to meet feminist approval.

    This is overspill from the social justice warrior echo chamber on Twitter and Tumblr, like a particularly runny poo that just won’t stay in a toddler’s nappy.

    In the end though, it’s pissing off far more people than it convinces. There is a general hatred of feminism among young men today that didn’t exist when I was a teenager.

    The more absurd the hashtag hezbollah becomes – and the psychology of their competitive aggrievedness means they can never de-escalate the drama – the bigger the backlash.

    We’re already at the stage where the Laurie Pennys of the world can’t tell the difference between fellow social justice warriors and 4chan users blatantly trolling them. If they were capable of self-awareness they might reflect on what that means about their “movement”.

  8. #Endfathersday and #whitescantberaped […] provoke sections of the social justice left into internal arguments.

    I’ve just been checking my privilege and it doesn’t seem at all far-fetched for there to be large and refractory groupings in favour of putting an end to Fathers’ Day or who support the notion that white folk cannot be sinned against.

    Does this qualify me for membership, I wonder, of the social justice left or of the neo social justice left?

  9. The Father’s Day thing isn’t even new. We weren’t allowed it in our cadre — sorry, I mean, house when I was growing up, on the simple grounds that it was American.

  10. Steve,

    “I’m seeing increasing numbers of social justice themed posts on video games sites. Demands that Nintendo include gay marriage in their games, criticism of games like Far Cry 3 for their “problematic” white-male-hero stories. Tearful missives instructing the gaming world to recalibrate itself to meet feminist approval.”

    I’ve always said that on balance, I’d rather fly Ryanair because I believe in supporting the Michael O’Leary’s of this world, the people who regularly tell the media class to go fuck themselves and has demonstrated that it makes no difference to his trade.

    And I’d much rather that a games company just said “yeah, we like characters with massive tits in skimpy costumes. don’t like it, don’t buy it” than having some professional bit of anodyne PR, or to change things, which just encourages the media class to keep doing it.

  11. Getting an abortion is, from a certain angle, liberating the fetus from its womb-prison. That it can’t survive outside of it is not the fault of the liberator, I would think.

    — Amanda Marcotte

    And that wasn’t trolling?

  12. Nah she’s for real. She’s a colossal fucking narcissist, is what she is.

    #getoutofPolandHitler!

    I reckon it would have worked.

  13. @S2

    Were you always different from the rest of your family, or did you move (politically)?

    If the latter, what was that process like? I’m (genuinely and maybe weirdly) fascinated by converts and political misfits and how they get on with friends and family.

  14. @TS ‘’ve always said that on balance, I’d rather fly Ryanair because I believe in supporting the Michael O’Leary’s of this world,’

    I fly Ryanair shorthaul whenever possible because of exactly this, and the fact that they arrive on time. If I want a sarnie I have to pay for one. Boo hoo.

    (Weird thing is, presumably this policy means less food waste, and I thought that was a good thing, leftie-wise. But they don’t seem to give him any credit for it because aaarrrgggh evilnastycapitalistbastard.)

  15. Get with the times, @interested

    It’s #evilnastycapitalistbastard these days.

    The # is vitally important, like a totem. You can’t be an activist, a good e-citizen, without it.

    Incidentally western civilization has officially ended the day “e-citizen” makes an entry into the OED. Any concept that vacuous will combust once defined #tragedy #endoftheworldasweknowit

  16. Interested,

    > Were you always different from the rest of your family, or did you move (politically)?

    Different, as of course I was brought up to think certain things.

    > If the latter, what was that process like?

    There is not the space. Maybe I should start blogging again. That might actually be a thing to write about. The short version is that I actually believed all the equal-opportunities crap I was immersed in, not realising that it was really just an anti-Right and anti-American tactic. I’m right-wing because I have largely stuck to the avowed principles of the Left, but I actually believe in it all. Very much a Neocon, me. (Not that I like being called one, because it invariably comes from someone who doesn’t know what it means.)

  17. >The job of the Second Viscount Stansgate was, therefore, to make sure that if anything even mildly socially democratic looked like gaining public support to then move the discussion into some obviously insane socialist direction which then turned everyone off the milder action.

    Turned off a majority, perhaps, but there’s a significant minority who think the guy’s a bona-fide hero. Consider, for example, the fact that the very tall left-field tower at Glastonbury has just been named after him.

  18. If I could be bothered, I’d lay a small sum of money at what must currently be good odds on Laurie Penny swinging massively to the right in ahout 25-30 years a la Melanie Phillips.

  19. I’d certainly be interested in a long form version.

    I suspect a lot of us probably hold a lot of what might be termed left-wing ideals like equality (of opportunity) and helping poor people to get out of poverty etc.

    In fact, the reason I loathe the Laurie Penny/Arnald/Murphy type leftist so much is not just because their methods do fuck all for the poor but because for them it’s all a pose, and all about positioning in a much more personal war (it’s interesting how many of them are actually pretty privileged, or come from wealthy families).

    Anyway, yes, I’d read it if you wrote it.

  20. @Tank ‘Turned off a majority, perhaps, but there’s a significant minority who think the guy’s a bona-fide hero. Consider, for example, the fact that the very tall left-field tower at Glastonbury has just been named after him.’

    Tells you all you need to know. The kind of people who can afford to spend a weekend and hundreds of pounds on frivolities like pop music, beer and drugs in a tent in Somerset are precisely the kind of people for whom Tony Benn (sans any power, of course) was an irrelevance. He’s nothing more than a slogan on a t-shirt that says ‘I care (even if I don’t understand)’.

    See also Che posters, CCCP pins, pictures of Lenin etc

  21. Tank,

    “Turned off a majority, perhaps, but there’s a significant minority who think the guy’s a bona-fide hero. Consider, for example, the fact that the very tall left-field tower at Glastonbury has just been named after him.”

    That festival really has gone to the fucking dogs. Used to be about a load of grebo kids smoking weed and watching The Wonder Stuff, the sort of people who would go to illegal raves, and now they’re celebrating the man who tried to put Radio Caroline out of business.

  22. Aye, “Glasto” is about as alternative and counter-cultural as Wimbledon Fortnight, these days.

  23. Hashtags are useless ? Really? So who/what else put Boko Harem out of business, eh?

    I liked Iowahawk’s tweet about some of those clowns getting shot a few weeks ago:

    “Boko Haram terrorists killed in a hail of bullets and hashtags, but mostly bullets”.

  24. Let’s not shout too loud about how pointless Twitter is, that would be counter-productive.

  25. I was skimming headlines a couple of days ago and as sometimes happens, my brain interpolated something I scrolled over too quickly to properly parse. I though I had read that Iron Maiden had refused to play Glyndebourne, on the grounds it’s infested with pretentious cunts. Eh? I’ve heard of rock opera, but that’s a new one. So I scroll back and find they’ve refused to play Glastonbury, on the grounds it’s infested with pretentious cunts. And let’s face it, one can imagine an interchangeable Hellograph article on Gwyneth Paltrow being annoying at either one.

  26. Steve – “I’m seeing increasing numbers of social justice themed posts on video games sites. Demands that Nintendo include gay marriage in their games, criticism of games like Far Cry 3 for their “problematic” white-male-hero stories. Tearful missives instructing the gaming world to recalibrate itself to meet feminist approval.”

    There is money in computer games. They want to shake the industry down for cash. It is also a world where merit matters and be be measured – either your code compiles or it crashes. Which means that the workers in these fields tend to be male and Asian or White. Annoys the Sisters no end.

    And of course it is part of the long march through the Institutions. Now that the BBC and the schools are mainly indoctrination machines, so too the computer games industry must celebrate Gay sex, inter-racial marriage, the mythical glories of the Islamic past and so on.

    “In the end though, it’s pissing off far more people than it convinces. There is a general hatred of feminism among young men today that didn’t exist when I was a teenager.”

    Men used to be chivalrous. Which means they put up with any amount of bullsh!t from women even if they were feminist harpies. Not so much any more. The young men who openly express their feelings were raised on G.I. Jane. They think, probably wrongly, that women are tough enough to take it. Equality is great innit?

    “We’re already at the stage where the Laurie Pennys of the world can’t tell the difference between fellow social justice warriors and 4chan users blatantly trolling them. If they were capable of self-awareness they might reflect on what that means about their “movement”.”

    Poe’s law at work.

  27. The Stigler – yes. It’s pretty depressing when business leaders fall over themselves to pander to the left. Paying the Danegeld and all that. We need more “fuck you” capitalism.

    SMFS – “They want to shake the industry down for cash.”

    Oh yes. But it’s also about the groupthink among journalist types. A lot of the noise is coming from white men with liberal arts degrees who write for tech and gaming blogs. When they describe a game as “problematic” because it features a white male protagonist, they’re not doing so for cash, but because it’s what’s expected in their peer group of people who write and Tweet for a living instead of making things.

    “It is also a world where merit matters and be be measured – either your code compiles or it crashes. Which means that the workers in these fields tend to be male and Asian or White. Annoys the Sisters no end.”

    As Obama said: “you didn’t build that!”. If one-legged lesbians of colour want to build their own tech companies or make their own games, great. But of course they don’t and can’t. They want a free slice of what the white and oriental male geeks built. They want to be able to boss them around.

    Fun factoid: the BBC made an excellent drama a few years ago called “Micro Men”. It was about the early years of the British computer industry, specifically the personalities running Sinclair and Acorn.

    Some genius on Comment Is Free noted that Wikipedia says one of the designers of the BBC Micro was Sophie Wilson, but no female boffins were featured in the show. Why was the Beeb airbrushing women and their priceless contributions to technology out of the story? Sexism, I tell you!

    Someone pointed out that Sophie was indeed in the programme, but in those days went by the name Roger.

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