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.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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