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Permalink - Posted on 2018-10-07 19:10
Updated through October 19.
Saturday is the final day to vote. If you’re short on time, I’ve posted three example Council ballots. Polls are open until 8pm.
Canadian politics is, typically, boring. And we like it that way. We’ve seen what can happen when politics get too interesting. And well, America, you can keep it. Sorry.
From time to time though, politics in Canada does get interesting. On occasion, the issues get serious enough or an election gets weird enough that we find ourselves in a high-stakes voting scenario. If you don’t believe me, ask Ontario.
As it happens, this Wednesday, October 10, advance voting begins for the Vancouver city election – and our city is in the middle of the most interesting election campaign in years.
“Wait, what? A city election is interesting? Surely you joke!”
Well this is no joking matter. Okay, well some of the candidates are jokes, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This year, new electoral rules and a nearly clean-slate Council have hit the reset button. We have a host of new parties, and new approaches for old parties. There are Mayoral candidates with no parties, parties with no Mayoral candidates, and more credible Council candidates than you can fit in an empty condo.
Before we get to the candidates though, let’s briefly review the current housing shitstorm we find ourselves in. (Or, alternatively, skip ahead if you’re raring to get your vote on.)
Land, land everywhere, and not a drop to drink.
The severity of Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis depends on who you ask. SFU’s Andy Yan says it’s the worst in North America, Demographia says it’s the 3rd worst in the world, and The Economist claims prices are overvalued by 65% – compared to New York City’s 4%.
Okay, maybe it doesn’t depend who you ask. Things are fucked, yo.
Buying a typical detached house in Vancouver currently costs about $2.4 million, almost all of which is land cost. This is in a city with a median income of only $65k.
Of course, people don’t need houses, they need homes. Unfortunately, with the city’s condo prices exceeding $1000 per square foot, a typical two-bedroom unit now costs roughly $1 million. For a condo.
Of course people don’t need to own homes, they just need to live in them. Unfortunately, with incredibly low vacancy rates of under 1%, average rents have risen to as high as $3200 a month for two bedrooms. Existing renters in many cases are stuck in housing that is insufficient but rent-controlled. Too often, needing to move apartments now means needing to leave the city.
As such, 67% of Vancouver residents agree housing is the most important issue facing the city. Housing advocacy groups have formed, with Abundant Housing Vancouver arguing we need more homes, and Housing Action for Local Taxpayers arguing the actual problem is foreign buyers and speculators. After years of resignation to the idea that housing prices always go up (they don’t), things have finally gotten so extreme that there is a rare consensus in the city: something must be done.
As for what should be done, there is a little less consensus. Most parties are on board with speeding up permitting, renewing existing co-op leases, supporting temporary modular housing, taxing empty homes, and using at least some city-owned land to build more rentals.
Beyond that though, parties and voters are divided on what steps to take. To help orient us, I’ve created a not entirely scientific but rather helpful chart based on data from the Cambie Report.
Urbanists generally advocate for a denser, less car-oriented city. With 77% of the city’s residential land currently restricted to unattainable detached houses, Urbanists advocate allowing triplexes, townhomes, and low-rise apartments in more of the city. The idea is that less exclusive zoning will increase the supply of homes, decreasing the unjustified prices that condos and apartments currently demand today. Voters enthusiastic about the idea of a more walkable Vancouver with an increased supply of housing are likely looking at urbanist parties like OneCity, Yes, Vision, and some of the great Independent candidates.
Conservationists on the other hand are less concerned about building homes, and more worried about too much change in their backyards. Conservationists prefer a cautious approach to development, preserving the existing character of their neighbourhoods, and leveraging community consultation to protect the housing they already have – even if their critics call them NIMBYs. An anti-development stance is most popular among those that are already well housed, especially older residents and west side landowners. Conservationist voters are likely to be looking at the NPA, the Greens, COPE, and perhaps some of the fringe parties like ProVancouver.
Beyond planning and transportation issues, parties and voters also differ on the traditional left-right scale of social and economic issues, which has its own effect on parties’ approach to housing.
Left wing parties, for the most part, are arguing for more renter protections, including lobbying the province for tougher restrictions around tenancy and rent increases. At the city level, the left favours preventing existing rental stock from being redeveloped, and taxing the most expensive houses to fund more social housing. Funding housing for the less fortunate has gained more appeal in recent years, as high rents rates make renters feel less and less fortunate. Housing aside, the average Vancouverite is a center-left voter, looking favourably on ideas like stopping pipelines and providing addiction services. Parties on the left include COPE, OneCity, some Independents, and to some degree Vision and the Greens.
Right wing voters are in the minority in Vancouver, but this year there are a herd of candidates on the right and center-right. Fiscally and socially conservative platforms here are about not changing too much – other than perhaps keeping our property taxes famously low, or maybe “cleaning up our streets”. While a conservative mindset often correlates with a skepticism of new housing, this year we also have Yes, a centre-right party that is primarily focused on aggressively permitting new housing – if not funding it via taxpayer dollars. Other right-leaning options include the NPA and the various new fringe parties such as Coalition.
Like, actually who should I vote for?
Vancouver’s Council setup means that each Councillor matters, almost as much as the Mayor. Given that, this summer I set out to try and answer one question: “Given that I care a lot about housing affordability, who should I vote for?” I thought a couple hours of research would give me a good idea. And holy shit was I double plus wrong. This research turned into a rabbit hole the size of a Winnebago. There are more options and far fewer resources than we get for federal or provincial elections.
Overall, I sought out candidates who:
So I did what anyone would do: read the parties’ platforms, subscribed to multiple podcasts on the matter, listened to various candidate interviews, attended a candidates’ housing debate, and even personally met some of the candidates. The bad news is that my brain is now full. The good news is that you don’t need to do all that.
Get a drink, lean back, and optionally open the city’s Plan Your Vote tool open in another tab. Your mission is to pick one Mayoral candidate and up to 10 Council candidates. Let’s do this.
In the urbanist left corner of the ring, we have OneCity. Young scrappy and hungry, OneCity won their first seat on School Board last year, and is back for more. They have an audacious plan to both permit and fund new housing across Vancouver, paired with lefty stances on the various other issues facing the city. If you think we need new housing and tend to vote on the left side of the fence, you’ll probably like OneCity.
OneCity has two Council candidates this year. The first is Christine Boyle, a community organizer, climate activist, and minister for the United Church (you know, the cool church that welcomes everybody regardless of orientation or religious background). The second is Brandon Yan, a non-profit director and LBGTQ2+ advocate that served on the City Planning Commission. Credible candidates: check.
Despite OneCity’s unabashedly progressive message, the party seems to be well liked and endorsed. They’ve also had a late surge in the polls, giving them a shot at shaking things up.
Like the other parties on the left, they’re not running a mayoral candidate of their own – OneCity and progressive independent Mayoral front-runner Kennedy Stewart have endorsed one another.
This election has been called the year of the independent in Vancouver. Not because there are a bajillion of them running – which there are – but because there are some really strong candidates, especially on the Mayoral side.
The favourite for Mayor this year is Independent candidate Kennedy Stewart. Stewart was until recently a Member of Parliament for the NDP, so he has the standard-issue union support and progressive politics. While many candidates are making promises that can only be fulfilled by higher levels of government, Kennedy has actually worked in a higher level of government – albeit not run one.
Although his early campaign was mostly about opposing pipelines, more recently he’s adopted many ambitious housing goals from the urbanist left, with bold targets for new rental and market housing. While his campaign hasn’t exactly been exciting, his positions and poll numbers have earned him official or unofficial support from the main parties and organizations on the left.
The other credible mayoral candidate on the left is also Independent: SFU director and former Vancity and MEC board member Shauna Sylvester. Although her policies are arguably more thoughtful than Stewart’s and she seems like she’d be excellent, polling led to endorsements going Stewart’s way in an effort to avoid splitting the vote – and giving the crown to the NPA’s Ken Sim.
Based on the Oct 9 poll numbers though, you should feel safe voting for Shauna if you prefer her take on things. Her platform includes includes a focus on co-ops and other non-profit housing models, as well as positioning herself as good unifier of what could be a very random city Council.
For Council we also have some very strong independents. Sarah Blyth, for example, is very qualified and has a serious shot. She’s co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society, and served two terms on Park Board. She’s an advocate for affordable housing, on a platform that sounds somewhere between COPE’s and Vision’s, focusing on existing renters.
Adrian Crook is another Council candidate with a serious shot, and has real housing bona fides as co-founder of housing advocacy group Abundant Housing Vancouver. If you’re sold on the idea that Vancouver needs more housing of all kinds, then you want Adrian on Council. He’s the author of 5 Kids 1 Condo, a relatively popular blog about trying to raise a family in Vancouver and his advocacy for more housing of all kinds. If you want more than one independent pro-housing candidate, you might want to look at Graham Cook – also an Abundant Housing supporter – or from the more right-wing side of things, Rob McDowell is popular in pro-housing circles and has endorsements from 3 sitting Councillors.
Okay, back to the parties! 🎉
Where OneCity is the “all the housing” party on the left, Yes is the “all the housing” party on the right. How right-wing are Yes’ non-housing policies, you ask? Nobody knows – all they talk about is housing. Admittedly, all Vancouverites ever do is talk about is housing, so it’s on brand.
Yes’ founder and Mayoral candidate, Hector Bremner, is a sitting Councillor and really knows the housing file. His polished videos and talking points have attracted some fans, who like his a market-oriented plan for mass rezoning new housing supply. Yes has the most in-depth housing plan of any party – it’s 50 pages long and literally has flow charts in it. Flow charts!
Yes has also attracted its share of haters. In addition to concerns about excluding social issues from their platform, even some urbanists are uncomfortable with the idea of a pro-development Mayor who worked in PR for real estate developers and has received $85k in grey-market advertising from a billionaire real estate developer.
Given the latest polling, Bremner doesn’t seem to be within reach of Mayor’s seat – which could mean his Council candidates have a better chance of getting elected than their leader. Local business owner Stephanie Ostler seems to be their strongest Council candidate, and is apparently well liked. They have 4 lower profile candidates running as well, so if market-oriented urbanism is your thing, party-vote it up. Also, if you like the Yes platform, independent Council candidate Adrian Crook has a similar take.
Having held a majority on Council for 8 years, Gregor Robertson’s centre-left Vision party originally focused more on bike lanes and green initiatives than on building more housing. Last year they finally got the message, and started aggressively pushing for new affordable homes.
Even with a solid plan and substanial endorsements, Vision may suffer at the ballot box. Many renters are angry they acted too slowly, and many owners are worried Vision will now act too boldly.
Undeterred, Vision has been pursuing new rental projects, social housing, and gentle density in Neighbourhoods Formerly Known as Single-Family. Despite opposition from some of Vancouver’s wealthiest communities, they’ve been rolling out a program called Making Room that would allow more types of low-rise housing across the city. Many renters see it as an overdue step in the right direction, while landowners flooded City Council to rail against what they deemed a “chainsaw massacre” and a “give-away” to real estate developers. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Given all this, Vision is playing it smart by keeping to 4 (originally 5) Council candidates this year. An outstanding candidate on their slate is longtime cycling advocate Tanya Paz – everybody who meets her seems to hold her in high regard. Paz is joined on Vision’s slate by young housing advocate Diego Cardona, sitting Councillor Heather Deal, and Parks Board member Catherine Evans. Vision has revoked their endorsement of TV host Wei Quiao Zhang.
Vision is no longer running a Mayoral candidate, but has informally given the thumbs up to independents Kennedy Stewart and Shauna Sylvester.
While COPE was once the unified left in Vancouver politics, they’ve struggled in modern times. That may all change this year due to the work of poverty advocate and altogether fascinating person Jean Swanson. Whether she’s going to jail for protesting pipelines or offering tissues to millionaires crying about higher land taxes, Jean is fun to watch – whether or not you agree with her. She’ll likely be COPE’s first elected Councillor in years.
COPE’s housing platform is pretty traditionally leftist – it prioritizes protecting existing renters, taxing mansions, and ending homelessness. COPE in general and Jean in particular are skeptical of allowing new condos or other for-profit housing, preferring homes to be built for the poorest folks first. While this is a noble sentiment, voters hoping to upgrade from okay housing to pretty good housing may not be excited to wait their turn.
In addition to Swanson, COPE has two other Council candidates: activist Derrick O’Keefe, who seems to be a bit more of an urbanist than Jean is, and former Councillor Anne Roberts, who during her tenure was known for campaigning against the Canada Line – in favour of more buses.
Ah, the Greens. At the national, provincial, and city level the Green Party has become a kind of protest vote. The “left but not those guys” vote. As such, they’ve surged in the polls this year.
Interestingly though, when you dig into the Greens’ policies and record, they’re more conservative than people think. While folks seem to vote Green for change, at the city level they’re a party of the middle ground.
The Vancouver Greens have one sitting Councillor, Adriane Carr, who is extremely likely to be re-elected by virtue of name recognition. This is despite the fact she has voted against far more housing than any sitting Councillor – including social and rental housing. Her reasons for voting against housing may vary – sometimes it’s concerns about landowners’ views, or often it’s longtime favourites “insufficient consultation” or “this won’t fix the crisis”. As a whole, her record is pretty plain: she votes to conserve what we’ve got.
Despite Carr’s record, the Greens’ Pete Fry and Michael Wiebe are interesting candidates. They both seem more urbanist than Carr, and if elected with her could push her towards supporting more housing. Green also has an additional Council candidate, David Wong, who given interest in the party could also do well. If you think Council needs more centrist voices, or you’re a “don’t rock the boat” type voter, the Greens could be a good fit.
The NPA is the longstanding right-wing party in Vancouver. Their big idea on housing is to allow detached houses to have two basement suites. So if you’re itching to live in a basement suite, they’ve got you covered.
With a platform surprisingly close to the Greens’, the NPA has just enough progressive policies to be electable in Vancouver. For the most part though, they’re the party of the status quo – especially now that their more pro-housing members have splintered off into the new Yes party.
Their Mayoral Candidate, Ken Sim, is a business guy, owner of Rosemary Rocksalt bagelry and Nurse Next Door. In most polls Sim has ranked 2nd place for mayor, giving him a real shot at winning – if the renters and young people stay home on voting days.
Without getting deep into the new conservative fringe parties, it’s worth knowing they exist. None are on track for the Mayoralty, but they could nab a Council, School, or Park Board seat.
The most infamous is a strikingly conservative party called Coalition. They’re the one party not focused on housing, due to their burning desire to tear out bike lanes and “clean up” “vagrancy”. I suppose every wedding needs a drunk uncle.
There is also Vancouver 1st, who according to the polls is in the race for last place. They’ve garnered media attention for a promise to somehow bring back the Vancouver Grizzlies, and more recently for joining some Coalition candidiates in criticizing SOGI, BC schools’ sexual orientation and gender identity policies. ಠ_ಠ
Then there’s ProVancouver. In the initial version of this guide, I had a hard time making sense of the party, so I dismissed them as anti-housing and not having a chance. This led to one of their Council candidates warning followers to be extremely wary of this misleading guide, followed by an angry pile-on by pro-Pro social media accounts. On Oct 11, new Council polling showed surprising gains for Pro and Coalition, which obliged me to say a bit more about them. They sought attention, and I guess they got some.
While their housing take is a cromulent anti-developer, pro-rental platform, their organization and the behaviour of their candidates make some voters feel very uncomfortable, in a way that goes beyond platform disagreements. I really wish I had a simple argument for why this is the case.
It may be their skepticism of newcomers, defense of parking and detached houses, lack of socially progressive messaging, supporters’ alt-right style social media behaviour, a sense that they’re populists, or maybe I’m just secretly salty that their proponents think I’m illegally on the payroll of the real estate industrial complex. In any case, if you find their pro-rental rhetoric appealing, you may want to instead consider Green, COPE, OneCity, or Independent candidates.
If you want to hate-read, or get a sense of why young people and renters need to actually vote, I’d say reading about Coalition would be your go-to. But before getting sucked into that vortex, make a specific plan for your own vote.
Stereotypically, only retired homeowners vote in local elections. This year, you will too. (If you’re a retired homeowner, hey hi! I get where you’re coming from but I really hope you’ll also support more affordable housing this election.)
The city has a helpful Plan Your Vote tool for that lets you check off who you’re planning to vote for, and see them in a concise list in the order they’ll appear on the ballot. It’s quite useful, given the ballot is long and randomly ordered.
Early voting runs Wednesday, Oct 10 to Wednesday, Oct 17, and any voter can vote at any polling place. If you really need to, you can wait until mass polling happens on Saturday, Oct 20 – but all the cool kids vote early.
This guide was a large undertaking and covered a lot of ground. If you have feedback or (especially) corrections, get in touch!
If you have the time and brain capacity to learn more from other sources, here are some great starting places:
For new readers curious where I’m coming from: I’m a thirty-something with a family, currently renting a condo in Mount Pleasant. I run a small business, and like many in my generation have become an advocate for affordable housing – for my family, my employees, and my friends who can barely afford to stay in a city with acres and acres of single family houses.
Special thanks to the Cambie Report hosts and supporters, both for the excellent and informative show, and tolerating my many questions about Vancouver politics. Also thanks to the many folks who are helping get more voters engaged in democracy.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-28 19:10
This article was originally written for Inside OmniFocus. It assumes you’re familiar with OmniFocus, the whiz-bang task manager for iOS and the Mac.
If you’re like me, you depend on OmniFocus for Mac. Sure, the iOS version is great for capturing and occasionally checking off tasks, but the Mac is the altar at which I plan, organize, and execute my work. That’s why I am redonkulously excited that OmniFocus 3 is now on the Mac.
While this update offers a number of UI updates and features, the soul of the release is that it now supports a cornucopia of new workflows that weren’t previously possible to set up in OmniFocus 2. It does this by adding three key features that work together to help you organize your work in novel new ways:
Together, these three changes make OmniFocus 3 so much more flexible that it’s time to take a long, critical look at your workflow. Your projects and contexts may have made sense a few months or even years ago, but it’s time for a shakeup.
“Hey buddy,” you may protest, “My OmniFocus workflow is a magical garden utopia of productivity and harmony!” And if that’s you, then well, excellent. If you don’t want to take some time to rethink how you choose the work you do, then who am I to judge?
That said, I’m going to be honest here. My workflow is not a magical garden utopia of productivity and peace. At least, not yet.
In fact, most OmniFocus users I know have at least one or two aspects of their task workflow that leave something to be desired. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
It’s all right, we can get through this together. In fact, we don’t need a doctor at all. What we need instead is OmniFocus 3, a tasty beverage, and the willingness to blow up our old workflows.
Yes, summer is over, fall has fallen, and it is an excellent time to ask some hard questions and shake up your task management. Pull things apart, try some new approaches on for size. Look critically about how you’re organizing your work, how you could do better work, and how you too can find your garden utopia of productivity.
Or, at least, how you can have less than 13 overdue items at once.
Let’s get to it.
This is most people’s first workflow question about OmniFocus 3. Your tags, née contexts, can now double up or triple up, so you can have an item that is both “Office” and “Today”, or “Home” and “Quick”. Where I previously had a project called “Seasonal Goals 🏅” in OmniFocus 2, I’ve now made that a tag. A nice thing about tags is they’re easy to trial – add some, see if they’re useful. If not, try something else.
While many OmniFocus 2 Pro users created some variant of “Due or Flagged” to work out of, now custom perspectives can be far more thoughtful and useful than that.
Since you can negate rules, feed custom perspectives with tags, specify “all” or “any” conditions, and even nest rules, it’s now a lot easier to create perspectives you want to spend a lot of time in. Instead of living in the boring old Tags, Projects, and and Review perspectives, it’s worth experimenting with how far you can go with custom perspectives. As a bonus, a complex custom perspective makes for a great horcrux.
There are already some great recent articles on Inside OmniFocus for inspiration, such as Productivity in Three Dimensions. I’ve seen some creative perspectives like “Next Up”, “Stale Items”, “Monday Review”, “Backburner”, “Lazy Day”, and so on.
The limit is your imagination – as long as you have a Pro license, that is.
I’m sure the Omni folks would be too nice to say this so plainly, but I say that if you’re into OmniFocus enough to read whole articles about improving your workflow, you’ll get your money’s worth out of OmniFocus Pro. 🌟
A common OmniFocus bad habit is choosing arbitrary due dates for a herd of tasks based on when you’d like to have done them. Later, those dates happen to line up, creating roiling mass of not-actually-due-now tasks mixed in with some actually-these-are-due-now grenades. I call this a Due Bomb.
You may also have encountered the Defer Bomb, the result of getting busy and deferring a lot of medium-urgency tasks from your “next” list, which then conspire to all pop back up at once with unpleasant consequences.
The calendar in Forecast can help avoid these problems, but in an ideal world we don’t plan when future tasks should happen using fake due dates. What we really want is metadata – say, a tag or project – to help indicate which items we should be doing now, soon, or someday. We also want a view – say, a custom perspective – to let us see what we should be focusing on now, and what are good candidates to consider doing next.
Once due dates are only used for serious due dates, and you have a working system surfacing medium-urgency items, then you can recruit now-you to choose your day’s work, instead of your longtime nemesis, 3-weeks-ago-you.
Given the flexibility of custom perspectives and tags, it’s possible to build a really slick “Today’s Work” perspective that slices and dices flags, tags, due dates, projects, and other things to propose a hot list of targets for focusing on today. It’s neat.
Neatness aside though, there are two really nice things about having Today be simply a tag. For one, you can manually sort items within a tag, which is handy for a shortlist of your day’s tasks. Secondly, OmniFocus 3 Pro lets you specify a “Today” tag in Forecast, which will display nicely along with your actually-due items, and also enable a handy keyboard shortcut for toggling that tag on any item.
Not everybody used the Forecast view in OmniFocus 2, but it is substantially improved now. If you have OmniFocus 3 Pro and can set a Forecast tag, it’s definitely worth trying out as your working view.
A lot of people manually assign tags to new tasks as they clean out their inbox. That works, but in OmniFocus 3 you’ll likely have more tags than before, and you don’t want clearing your inbox to become a chore worthy of procrastination. Given that, it’s worth remembering that if you assign a tag to a project, and then assign a new item to that project, it’ll inherit that tag. Kinda cool.
OmniFocus neophytes typically make broad projects like “Networking”. Rather than being a project per se, this is moreso an “area of responsibility” – something that never really ends, and could accumulate items endlessly. In an ideal world you’d have projects named after goals like “Meet 20 people for coffee in 2018”, or at the very least “Meet more people for coffee”.
Back in the halcyon days of OmniFocus 2, having a lot of projects like this could be unwieldy. Now though, since you can now use tags and flexible perspectives to view different slices across all your projects, you should have a somewhat easier time maintaining more specific, measurable, time-boxed projects now. Which is a Good Thing™.
Yes, rhetorical question-asker, now you’ve got it! This question is what flipped me from protective of my old setup into total abandon. As I prepared and researched for this article, I eventually absorbed the scope of how tags and custom perspectives can interact, and what other people were doing with them, and it blew my mind. The next thing I remember, I was writing a 2000-word article about task management workflows.
This week I’ve burned down my projects, scrambled my tags, and tried a half-dozen different ways of looking at the work I do. Yet still, despite the chaos that is my OmniFocus setup, the most pressing thing – this article – got done. The due date on this article’s task pierced the fog, a yellow beacon in the forecast.
Okay okay, I’ll admit it – it was a red beacon.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!
Okay yes, but here’s the thing: it’s been great. The enforced focus of only having my most important work clearly visible has led me to be more focused than I have been in months. I’d set up my tags and projects back in an era where I added maybe 2-4 tasks a day, whereas now I’m capturing 10-20 a day, leading me to be swamped by medium-importance items. The old system wasn’t working, and was ripe for revolution, and between using new capabilities and asking new questions, I’m really optimistic about the new system.
So, it turns out, sometimes you really do need to blow it all up. And with OmniFocus 3 now bringing some really new workflow options to the Mac, there’s never been a better time than now. Let the creative destruction begin.
Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-01 07:10
A couple years ago, I started more intentionally broadening who I follow on social media. In particular, I’ve followed more people who aren’t just other white guys. It’s nice – I recommend it.
However, this approach highlighted a problem. As I started to follow more diverse people, I noticed that Twitter’s “who to follow” suggestions were fighting back. This is the default behaviour of recommendation engines: the mathematically “best” suggestions are the stereotypical ones. Thus, if you try and leave your bubble, it will recommend you get back in.
This is kind of annoying, so a couple years ago, I did what you do: I complained about it on Twitter:
I hate how recommenders blindly fight attempts to diversify. “People like you follow more white guys. Have you tried following white guys?”
My comment got some replies, including a sarcastic quip from friend and fellow white guy Boris Smus:
white guys are the worst!
It was a joke, from one white guy to another.
It was also true. As I would find out two years later, white guys are the worst.
Last Friday, I started getting some unusual Twitter notifications.
From “Zombie of some kind”:
woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof
Reported for racism.
From “Haul Paller”
Always. I feel my testosterone dropping by just looking at this pussy.
Oh no. The clown cavalry has arrived, and they’re in my mentions.
The alt-right internet trolling apparatus consists of many different warrens and tentacles. One recent tentacle to burst out of the goo is a Twitter account called “Blue Check Watch”. Its MO is to look for old tweets by verified accounts that are “racist against whites”, and brigade them.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a white male president who was objectively bad by almost every measure was elected with only 46% of the vote, driven primarily by white male voters. In such a circumstance, a frustrated white male might say something like “White males suck”, on account of white males having just collectively done something that sucked.
Fast forward a few years, and trolls dig up said tweet. They publicize it as if it’s some kind of dark secret, attach it to the author’s photo and place of employment, and summon a brigade of locusts. They descend, harassing people, reporting them, attempting to get them fired, sending anti-Semitic comments, and generally behaving like a classic mob of alt-right bot-children.
And so our weekend went. We were called cunts, which hasn’t happened to me in a while. One response informed me that if I was a white guy who hated white guys so much, I could go kill myself. Which is good to know, that’s a helpful tip.
The problem is though, I don’t want white people to die. I just want them to stop being the worst.
As the brigade got bored and moved on to the next target, I had many questions. Boris summarized his thoughts on being targeted, along with a reflection on whether Twitter is worth trying to participate in anymore. My friend Christina Warren, who was targeted by the brigade earlier in the month, responded with cheery gifs and remarkable patience.
Myself, I was motivated to learn more about some of the bizarre rhetoric within the chaos. In particular, I read up on:
Learning about these rhetorical devices is kind of like learning about common confidence scams. It’s both morbidly fascinating and good mental preparation. Out of context, the term “white pride” might not immediately trigger alarm bells for everyone. With some thought though, it’s pretty easy to connect it to some of the worst tendencies in humanity.
So, it’s worth reading up a bit and becoming aware of the tricks white nationalists try to use to divide people. That way, if these ideas do leak beyond the troll cages and infect anyone we know personally, we’ll be prepared to discuss it, and help make things less bad.
The power is in us. We can stop being the worst.