The Austin Chronicle

Public Notice: Troll Wars

A social media bullying story

By Nick Barbaro, July 27, 2018, News

When right-wing social media bully Steven Crowder came to Austin recently, and went behind the counter at a local eatery to physically confront a trans man in his workplace after he made provocative social media comments, a staff writer at The Austin Chronicle was the only local media with the guts to report on that story. Since then, the story has blown up on social media and national right-wing media, and we've endured death threats, the grossest possible personal insults regarding the writer's female body parts, and commenters on the story asking, among other things, "why has no one ever firebombed" either us or the local restaurant. And still no one else has touched the story. It was an ugly week; we wound up locking the doors during business hours, and are implementing a new security system. As much as that sucks, we are aware that the employee, his store, and his co-workers have also had to put themselves on lockdown.

And I have to admit, we were intimidated by all of that. Freaked out by the vicious threats, and not really sure how to respond to the largely anonymous haters, most of whom seemed to be parroting the same talking points fed to them by Crowder. After Crowder contacted us, claiming our original post was "riddled with errors" – it was not – our writer called him for a follow-up interview. Crowder turned that exchange into an episode of his YouTube series. That was a rookie mistake on our part – kind of like going on the Sacha Baron Cohen show unaware. Given how bad that format is always going to make the caller look, I thought she did notawful, but it did give anyone who watched the impression that she was cooperating with his vile schtick.

Because, mind you, Crowder is the worst kind of hypocrite. He pretends to be respectful and polite in person – as when he recently told LGBTQ Quality of Life commissioner and City Council candidate Danielle Skid­more in all apparent sincerity that "I don't want to offend anybody," and "it's important for me to know, and use the right pronouns, and not be accused of demonizing someone, even accidentally." Yet at the same time, he hosts a game show series on YouTube called "Spot the T****y!," where he invites other bigots on, to identify and make fun of the supposed trans person in a given video clip.

Then there's "T****y Bane," in which he declares his intent "to terrorize YouTube" in order to "disrupt the entire internet. And then, [it] will fulfill its destiny. We will destroy liberalism!" He also promises to "take YouTube from the corrupt, the rich social justice warriors who have kept you down with these myths of safe spaces. [It] is yours. None shall censor you. Do as you please. But first, join for $99 annually ... direct monetization through sponsorships will be enjoyed, channels will be trolled."

Sounds like a joke, right? But it's no joke, really, because "Louder With Crowder" has umpteen followers, and they take the message to heart: "None shall censor you. Do as you please." And so they have – loudly and obscenely and threateningly, trying to smother the Chronicle and the eatery and the two individuals with what in military terms is known as suppression fire: no particular aim, but enough intensity that no one in the affected area dare make a move in the open. And truly, we have been largely immobilized by it, as have other local media. That's why you're likely reading about this whole mess for the first time just now, 10 days after it first broke open nationally in right-wing media.

I'll close this with a sentiment lifted from our writer directly: "With all of my being, I want this to die down and go away. But then they win. Again. It is my belief that we should not give up on relaying the truth, despite his millions of followers trying to silence us through a constant barrage of hatred, violent speech, misleading and twisted statements, and fear-mongering."

Four "Net Zero" homes – produced in a partnership between the Guadalupe Neighborhood Devel­op­ment Corporation and Austin Habitat for Human­ity – have been completed in East Austin, with ownership being transferred to four East Austin families this weekend. With solar generation and energy efficiencies, the homes will produce more energy than they consume, meaning no energy bill and "even deeper affordability" for the new owners. The dedication ceremony will be at 9am this Sat., July 28, at 3100 Father Joe Znotas St.

Four more days left in Anthropos Arts' July 30x31 fundraiser. They're trying to raise $30,000 to continue the work they've been doing for 20 years, providing music instruction and mentorship for at-risk youth in Austin. You can donate any amount, but as a guideline, $100 provides a year's worth of performance supplies; $1,900 sponsors one student for the entire 2018-19 school year. See more info on this fabulous organization, or donate at

Atlas 14 is a comprehensive rainfall study conducted by the National Weather Service, showing a likelihood of larger storms in our future, and thus more severe flooding. The city's Watershed Protection Department is holding a second stakeholder meeting (but then, who isn't a "stakeholder" here?) on Thursday, Aug. 2, 11:30am-1pm in Room 130 at Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Rd. Get free parking at the Riverside Drive entrance to Palmer Auditorium.

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