Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
Apparently the “learn to code” meme is causing journalists to seek out their Safe Spaces™ and call for their nannies to smack down their detractors:
I wrote for @newrepublic about “Learn to Code,” how to spot a brigade attack, GamerGate and the calculated use of plausible deniability by far-right trolls: https://t.co/w5EFIhLjRm
— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) February 1, 2019
Naturally, I followed Miss Lavin’s link to her article for The New Republic, and it’s about what one would expect: a very long whine.
The Fetid, Right-Wing Origins of “Learn to Code”
How an online swarm has developed a sophisticated mechanism to harass and gaslight journalists—and to get mainstream media outlets to join in.
By Talia Lavin | February 1, 2019
Last Thursday, I received the news that the HuffPost Opinion section—where I’d been opining on a weekly basis for a few months—had been axed in its entirety. The same opinion column had had a home at The Village Voice for some 21 weeks before that entire publication shuttered as well. “This business sucks,” I tweeted, chagrined at the simple fact that I kept losing my column because of the cruel, ongoing shrinkage of independent journalism in the United States. Dozens of jobs were slashed at HuffPost that day, following a round of layoffs at Gannett Media; further jobs were about to be disappeared at BuzzFeed. It was a grim day for the media, and I just wanted to channel my tiny part of the prevailing gloom.
Then the responses started rolling in—some sympathy from fellow journalists and readers, then an irritating gush of near-identical responses: “Learn to code.” “Maybe learn to code?” “BETTER LEARN TO CODE THEN.” “Learn to code you useless bitch.” Alongside these tweets were others: “Stop writing fake news and crap.” “MAGA.” “Your opinions suck and no one wants to read them.” “Lmao journalists are evil wicked cretins. I wish you were all jail [sic] and afraid.”
I looked at the mentions of my editors, who had been laid off after years at HuffPost, and of other journalists who had lost their jobs. There they were, the swarm of commentators, with their same little carbuncular message: “Learn to code.”
On its own, telling a laid-off journalist to “learn to code” is a profoundly annoying bit of “advice,” a nugget of condescension and antipathy. It’s also a line many of us may have already heard from relatives who pretend to be well-meaning, and who question an idealistic, unstable, and impecunious career choice. But it was clear from the outset that this “advice” was larded through with real hostility—and the timing and ubiquity of the same phrase made me immediately suspect a brigade attack. My suspicions were confirmed when conservative figures like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump Jr. joined the pile-on, revealing the ways in which right-wing hordes have harnessed social media to discredit and harass their opponents.
There’s much more at the link.
Now, unless Miss Lavin’s relatives tend to dislike her, one might wonder she characterized relatives as “pretend(ing) to be well-meaning” when they questioned “an idealistic, unstable, and impecunious career choice.” After all, the layoffs of journalists has been going on for a long time now, something which long predates Donald Trump’s presidency, as newspapers all over the country have made enforced cutbacks in trying to reduce costs; journalism would certainly seem to qualify as an “unstable” profession. As for impecunious, other than for the elites, I won’t challenge Miss Lavin’s characterization of how much money they make.
But, more amusing to me was her attempting to prove that “learn to code” was a somehow coordinated — by whom, we don’t know — assault by meanies on the right:
What’s a brigade attack, you may ask? It’s a rather dramatic name for coordinated harassment, usually migrating from one social media site to another. Often hatched in the internet’s right-wing cesspools, these campaigns unleash a mass of harassment on unsuspecting targets. 4chan’s /pol/ board—a gathering-place for people who want to say the n-word freely, vilify feminists, and opine on nefarious Jewish influence — has an oversize role in organizing brigade attacks, in part due to the fact that all its users are anonymous.
Heaven forfend, I was practically expecting to see Ernst Röhm leading the Sturmabteilung down the streets! Perhaps my stock buy in jackboot manufacturers wasn’t a good one, after all.
One would think that someone as familiar with the internet as Miss Lavin obviously is would understand: there are a lot of conservatives on Facebook and Twitter who don’t need to be paid, who don’t require a Stabschef to tell them what to retweet.
“Learn to code” is a shorthand message pointing out the hypocrisy of the left who were perfectly fine with Appalachian coal miners losing their jobs, and if an article Miss Lavin referenced which claims that “learn to code” is based on a lie might be half-true — though the article is so filled with name calling and invective that it’s difficult to take it seriously — it’s still based on the very real perception that the left are fine with coal miners and petroleum and natural gas workers losing their jobs. It was, after all, Hillary Clinton who said:
I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country, because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.
Perhaps “learn to pull wire” would be a less offensive term for Miss Lavin? It really doesn’t take much to learn how to run wire for an electrician; that job can be learned in a day, and subsequent days just enable you to get faster and more efficient at it. Pulling wire for an electrician enables you to learn what the electrician is actually doing, and it’s a job which will never go out of demand, not as long as we use electricity to power our homes and businesses.
Of course, pulling wire, or running plumbing lines, or roofing houses, or pouring concrete, all require people to work in unheated or air conditioned spaces, out in the cold of winter or the heat of July and August, in dirt or mud, in conditions that office workers like Miss Lavin might see as somehow beneath them. Yet, while such job choices don’t have the cachet of being a journalist, they don’t usually leave their practitioners impecunious.
Are wicked right-wingers piling on the newly unemployed journalists? When BuzzFeed hires, and retains despite layoffs, an investigative reporter like Jason Leopold, who has published phony stories, then yeah, there are going to be people who believe that journalists in general have earned the desserts they have been served. Miss Lavin herself was forced to resign from her position as a fact-checker for The New Yorker, “posted a series of photos on Twitter mistakenly implying that an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent had a Nazi tattoo.” Once informed that her facts were not facts, she deleted the tweets and apologized, but she could not keep her job. That she was hired by Media Matters for America to be a “researcher on far-right extremism” the following month shows both Miss Lavin’s and Media Matters’ strong, inherent bias.
So, yes, there’s some definite schadenfreude going on here, but schadenfreude is something that is very much earned.
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.