Very bad people: Do they deserve to be shamed?
The answer is yes.
But not everyone agrees!
Now that the news site Splinter has published the phone number of ghoulish White House adviser Stephen Miller — the man who apparently made the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border a top priority for the Trump administration — we’re in for some squeamish feelings about the ethics of “doxxing,” the practice of revealing an individual’s personal information as enticement to harass, intimidate, or in this case, mildly annoy them.
Just to be clear, the people who have a problem with Splinter today are conflating the juvenile mischief of repeatedly texting Miller an image of Squidward’s cock with, say, circulating the home address of a prominent school-shooting survivor on alt-right forums until someone places a prank call about a hostage crisis that sends a SWAT team to break down his front door.
Totally the same.
Sure enough, although Miller’s number is still available on Splinter, its tweet containing the digits has been removed from Twitter, presumably in compliance with the site’s rules. A couple of other users also were slapped with 12-hour suspensions for sharing the number.
But there’s no putting this genie back in the bottle; the number spread like wildfire. Miller received an avalanche of calls and human/dinosaur porn, and by now his smartphone is surely at the bottom of the Potomac, a lowly assistant dispatched to secure him a replacement with a new number.
The pleasure we take here is knowing that he was temporarily inconvenienced, burdened with the knowledge that leftists were laughing at him. It’s not much, but it’s something.
But — but — isn’t being mean to the Trump administration stooping to their level, like Frank Bruni said?
It’s not even on the same planet. It isn’t the career- and reputation-jeopardizing cruelty of revenge porn; it’s no threat to safety, like death threats against trans college students because they dared to push back against anti-LGBTQ hate speech.
It isn’t doxxing to see a photo of an angry neo-Nazi mob and say, “Hey, isn’t that one guy in my political science class?” or hire a mariachi band to play outside the apartment of a racist lawyer who ranted on video about calling ICE to have people of color deported. It’s actually good to shout “Shame!” at Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, especially if she has the gall to eat at a Mexican restaurant the week she made headlines for defending Trump’s nightmarish border policy of locking children in cages and lying to the public to protect him.
If we’re really going to start worrying that these tactics are, I don’t know, somewhat impolite, we’re in serious trouble. When you’re up against dyed-in-the-wool fascists, policing the various—but limited—avenues of dissent shouldn’t be a top priority. These are peaceful protests designed to disrupt the cushy lives of those who advocate for and eagerly abet a militarized police state focused on ethnic cleansing. Anyone with half a sense of democracy who thinks this is “going too far” would be obliged to explain what the fuck else we’re supposed to do.
Yeah, the tech companies are going to shut down your account when you name the architects of the current American hellscape — as Medium, Twitter and GitHub all did when the universally available LinkedIn profiles of ICE agents made the rounds — because they can’t risk the bad-faith accusations of a double standard from Nazis who want to doxx journalists and leftist activists. But we always knew that big business would stay neutral to the point of collaboration.
It’s up to the folks demonstrating the moral clarity to condemn baby jails to determine where any true slippery slope may lie, and so far, they’re doing a fine job. So go ahead and quit clutching your pearls over each small effort to hold people accountable for human rights abuses.
These piecemeal actions will knit together as a crucial layer of history. Because things in this country are bound to get a lot worse before they get better — if they ever do. And so, we will need to remember the faces of everyone who wanted it this way. They cannot be permitted to leave these decisions in the past. It might have been nice if we did the same for those who argued in favor of torture, war and banking deregulation, but for the moment, calling out the bureaucrats applying white supremacist ideology in their daily work seems a worthwhile project. Truth be told, these monsters are still too comfortable. We could go a lot further before crossing some event horizon of barbarity.
I mean, It’s not like we’re carving swastikas in their foreheads.