A fallen hero

Some gossip about the Conceptual James v Twitter quarrel:

Even if you’ve never heard of James Lindsay, you probably know a few of his hits.

He was part of that “grievance studies hoax” a few years back, where he and a couple of other anti-woke activists published a handful of ridiculous papers (the most headline-grabbing was arguably one about “rape culture” at Portland dog parks) in academic journals. It became known as the “Sokal Squared Hoax,” and to its admirers it was a devastating exposé of how far the humanities in higher education had sunk in service of identity politics.

The couple of other activists were Peter Boghossian and Helen Pluckrose.

At the time, in 2018, Lindsay insisted he was a “left-leaning liberal,” a fellow traveler of the erstwhile anti-woke collective that once called it itself the “Intellectual Dark Web,” and he was praised and promoted by some of its leading figures as an important and brave public intellectual.

But in 2022, he’s a Trump-supporting, Big Lie-espousing, vaccine-denying, far-right bigot who thinks Sen. Joe McCarthy “had it right” and “didn’t go nearly far enough” during his infamous (and near-universally repudiated) witch hunts of suspected communists during the 1950s.

And until the other day a very prolific composer of tweets.

It’s Lindsay’s style of trolling—his hundreds of shitposts per day which drew over 300,000 Twitter followers, and which has on more than one occasion manifested itself as straight-up harassment—that I consider a legitimate contender for platform moderation.

On occasion, I’ve mixed it up with Lindsay on Twitter, and I can attest that the resultant swarm of anonymous psycho @conceptualames fan accounts that floods your mentions for a few days isn’t fun. (Ask any woman who has run afoul of Lindsay online, his Twitter minions target those who displease him online with disgusting, misogynistic, and bigoted attacks—frequently earning Lindsay’s approvals with amplifying retweets.)

That’s where I first heard of him: Gamergate and all that. Practically a generation ago.

Another defender was Lindsay’s fellow “grievance studies” hoaxer Peter Boghossian, who tweeted that Twitter “arbitrarily” enforces its speech codes, and that the company did so when it banned Lindsay. He’s got a point. The tweet that supposedly got Lindsay banned wasn’t much different than thousands of other posts in which he’s spouted bigoted bile or sicced his followers on a target of his ire. (The Daily Beast reached out to a Twitter spokesperson for clarification on why Lindsay was permanently suspended, but has yet to receive a response.)

Who knows, maybe there’s a numerical cap on tweets of that kind and Lindsay blew past it.

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