Here’s a Grammar Lesson for Internet Reporters

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Last week some old tweets from around 2009 “resurfaced” in which director James Gunn made some tasteless jokes about pedophilia. He was subsequently fired as director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3.

A few days ago, a pilot from 2009 “resurfaced” in which director Dan Harmon made some tasteless jokes about pedophilia in a parody of Dexter.

Today a tweet from 2009 “resurfaced” in which comedian Sarah Silverman made a tasteless joke about pedophilia.

But tweets don’t resurface themselves. So who did it? Southpaw explains:

(Praxis: a customary practice or conduct. In other words, internet trolls have deliberately chosen “resurfacing” as a way of producing confusion and revenge. That’s why you’re suddenly seeing it so often.)

This is generally true of tweets and other internet memes: they mostly don’t “resurface” for no particular reason. Some actual person with an axe to grind spends hours or weeks plowing through old archives in order to find ancient material like this. Even when it’s obviously a joke—tasteless but still a joke—they know that it might damage the target’s career.

Why bother? Not because anyone cares about these specific people. They’re discovered at random, after all. The reason is so that genuinely hateful tweets and social media posts from neo-Nazis and white nationalists can be played down when they’re discovered. After all, “everyone does it,” right?

Everyone who plays along with this game, from Disney all the way down to beat reporters producing a quick deadline post or a 30-second segment, needs to understand the role they’re playing. It’s not benign and it’s not accidental. So give some thought to how you handle this stuff. Explain the context. Find out where it first “resurfaced.” Don’t just be a pawn in service of internet trolls and flamers.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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