Here’s a Grammar Lesson for Internet Reporters

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.