It’s one thing to explain why modern white supremacists are funny (something I’ve already done several times), but it’s quite another to actually illustrate how this can be the case. Fortunately, a good friend of mine recently received an anonymous message from an Internet stalker which allows me to do precisely that.
This troll, you see, was horrified when he visited my friend’s profile (I’ll simply refer to her as Desiree) and discovered my name on her list of Facebook connections. “You do realize that Matthew Rozsa thinks you are a stupid white goyim right?” he exclaimed in his message. “According to his belief system and the Talmud you are as a ‘wild beast’ or a ‘slave.'” When Desiree responded to this unexpected query by asking how he could be sure that she was just white, her anonymous admirer replied by petulantly declaring, “It’s okay, enjoy being called a ‘slave’ and ‘cattle’ behind your back.” Soon thereafter he blocked her, bringing a premature end to the brief conversation that both of us (Desiree and I) had found remarkably entertaining.
While our reasons for enjoying this are probably self-evident, it’s still worthwhile to analyze them here, since the two-part explanation for our mutual mirth actually reveals quite a bit about how o disempower racist trolls of all kinds:
1. When trolls send bigoted messages, they make themselves look like losers.
Think about it for a second. When you read the message that this troll sent Desiree, did you imagine that it was sent from a high-powered business executive or Wall Street broker? Could you imagine this being typed out by a successful lawyer or doctor during the downtime in his private practice, or from a varsity athlete cooling off after a workout session or big game? This isn’t to say that the high and mighty don’t harbor toxic prejudices, but unless they’re using them to con gullible voters (see Donald Trump) or are straight-up stupid (again, see Donald Trump), they rarely express themselves in such crude ways.
This has less to do with ethics and more to do with self-respect, since if you’re like me – and, I suspect, most other people – the image conjured up by the racist troll’s message was probably less “alpha male Nordic god” and more “achingly insecure basement dweller.” One can imagine this kind of letter coming from a manchild who works dead-end jobs and flits in and out of legal trouble, who compensates for his inadequacies by harassing women and minorities while playing video games or polluting his mind with drugs and YouTube polemics. Because Desiree is a strikingly beautiful woman, it’s easy to understand how he developed a sexual fixation with her, and even easier to envision him spraying out a cloud of Cheetos dust and emitting a Darth Vader howl of “Nooooooooooo!” when he recognized my name in connection with her own. This brings me to my second point…
2. It is impossible to be a racist troll without also sounding like an idiot.
The idiocy displayed here is actually multifaceted. On a superficial level, one is immediately struck by the troll’s inability to distinguish between the singular and plural tenses (‘goy’ is singular while ‘goyim’ is plural, ‘cow’ is singular while ‘cattle’ is plural). What’s more, he woefully misunderstands the role of the Talmud in contemporary Jewish life. Like most religious texts that date back to antiquity or the Middle Ages, it is chock full of pseudoscience, racism, misogyny, and countless other opinions that don’t hold up to ethical or empirical scrutiny today. More importantly, though, it is also dreadfully incoherent. Written over a period of centuries by innumerable Rabbinical scholars from all over the world, the Talmud isn’t a coherent book so much as a rambling, 6,200 page discussion on just about anything that crossed the minds of its authors. Outside of the most orthodox religious communities, the average Jew hasn’t read more than a handful of fragments from the Talmud, and the notion that any ordinary Jew actually follows all of its teachings is laughable – unless, of course, one has had little to no meaningful contact with real-life Jewish people.
If you dig a little deeper, though, you’ll find that the real hilarity in this message comes from its poorly thought-out agenda. Exactly how did the troll anticipate that his words would somehow lead to a favorable response? It’s a logical fallacy akin to the men who try to woo women by texting pictures of their genitals. Has there ever been a woman who was turned off by a man but, upon seeing his dangly bits, suddenly thought to herself, “Wait, I could have THAT in me? Maybe I had this guy all wrong!” Similarly, has there ever been a successful, attractive woman who was repelled by the mere thought of cyberstalkers, only to change her tune when he decided to employ some good old fashioned racism against another man in her life?
Of course, this brings us to the general reason why racist trolls are so ubiquitous in the first place. While the offensive rhetoric that they use online would get them marginalized in real life, the Internet is the one place where ignoring them simply doesn’t work. Even if you never confirm having read their remarks, they can always delude themselves into thinking that you have. More importantly, even if both of you already know that their ideology has no vestige of respectability, they can still believe that by virtue of having shocked you, they have ultimately managed to accomplish… something.
Yet although these individuals thrive off of their ability to shock and horrify, that doesn’t mean they want to be ridiculed. The problem, for them, is that they are in fact ridiculous – blazingly, obviously so – and when the rest of us neglect to point this out, we deprive ourselves of our most potent weapon for neutralizing them. These are individuals who rally under a ludicrous “white pride” banner that history has reduced to meaninglessness, whose current political champion is a bloviating trust fund billionaire with Chia Pet hair, and whose pretense of courage is belied by their overwhelming unwillingness to attach their real names to their views. If I wanted to write a farce to demean white supremacists, I couldn’t fabricate a better backdrop than this one.
Nor, for that matter, could I close this op-ed with a better observation than this one from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I’ve already used it, but I’ve noticed that white supremacists who critique my work seem determined to ignore it, which is all the more reason for me to bow out with it here:
“I doubt that citizens like yourself could ever, under our democratic system, be provided with the universal degree of certainty, the confidence in their understanding of our problems, and the clear guidance from higher authority that you believe needed.. Dictatorial systems make one contribution to their people which leads them to tend to support such systems — freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions.”