Self reblogging to add a thing I found:
The account @Anti_Racism_Dog didn’t last long. Twitter suspended it quickly, a fate reserved only for the most aggressive, abusive and hateful users. What could a dog – an anti-racist one, at that – do to deserve it? @Anti_Racism_Dog had one real function: to bark at racist speech on Twitter. The account responded to tweets it deemed racist with the simple response ‘bark bark bark!’ Sometimes it would send wags to supporters but that was pretty much it.
For the short time it lasted, it was amazing to watch how people reacted to @Anti_Racism_Dog. The account would respond mostly to what the sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva would call ‘colour-blind racism’, that is, racisms that are generally right-libertarian in orientation and justified through appeals to supposedly objective discourses like science and statistics. It’s a notoriously insidious white-supremacist ideology, a virulent strain evolved specifically to resist anti-racist language. Colour-blind racism defends itself by appeals to neutrality and meritocracy, accusing its adversaries of being ‘the real racists’. Although its moves are predictable, they’re hard to combat rhetorically since they’re able to ingest the conventional opposition scripts. Colour-blind racists feed on good-faith debate, and engaging with them, especially online, is almost always futile. But when they’re barked at by a dog, one whose only quality is anti-racism, they flip the fuck out. They demand to be engaged in debate (‘Tell me how what I said was racist!’) or appeal to objective definitions (‘The dictionary says racist means X, therefore nothing I said was racist’), but @Anti_Racism_Dog just barks.
@Anti_Racism_Dog inverted the usual balance of energy in online dialogs about race. Precisely because the dominant global discourse is white-supremacist, it is rhetorically easier to make a racist argument than an anti-racist one. Look at almost any comment thread or discussion board about race and you can see anti-racists working laboriously to be convincing and to play on their opponents’ ‘logical’ turf, and racists repeating the same simple lines they were taught (‘I didn’t own slaves’, ‘I’m just stating the facts’, ‘The Irish were persecuted too’, etc.) ‘Trolling’ as a certain kind of internet harassment is tied to time: the successful troll expends much less time and energy on the interaction than their targets do. It’s the most micro of micro-politics, an interpersonal tug of war for the only thing that matters. But have you ever played tug of war with a dog?
A true troll doesn’t have a position to protect because to establish one would leave it vulnerable to attack, and playing defence takes time. @Anti_Racism_Dog, by fully assuming the persona of an animal, was invulnerable to counter-attack. You can’t explain yourself to a dog and you look like an idiot trying. The only way to win is not to play but this is the colour-blind racist’s Achilles Heel: they’re compelled to defend themselves against accusations of racism. It’s the anti-racist argument that gives them content; theirs is an ideology that’s in large part a list of counter-arguments. After all, white-supremacists are already winning – their task now is to keep the same racist structures in place while making plausibly colour-blind arguments against dismantling them. @Anti_Racism_Dog was empty of anything other than accusation and so left its targets sputtering.
The account served a second purpose: as a sort of anti-racist hunting dog. @Anti_Racism_Dog quickly attracted a lot of like-minded followers who understood the dynamics at play. Whenever it would start barking at another user, this was a cue to the dog’s followers to troll the offender as well. There’s only so much one dog can do alone. Colour-blind racism is particularly dangerous because it isn’t immediately visible as such. It provokes good-faith discussion from liberals about what counts as racism, muddying the water. But @Anti_Racism_Dog’s strategy draws new lines about what constitutes acceptable discourse on race, placing colour-blind racists on the other side by speaking to them like an animal. What would be taken as totally insane in flesh space can be infuriatingly clever online.