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.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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