Liberal Journalists Aren’t Owed Protection From Mean Tweets
On Memorial Day this year, we learned of the most heroic job in America.
No, it’s not Navy SEALs risking their lives to take out terrorists — it’s female journalists who tweet out Elon Musk’s name.
That’s the opinion — only slightly exaggerated — of Daily Beast contributor Erin Biba. Biba managed to write a whole column about her harrowing experience of receiving tons of mean tweets from Musk fans, whom she refers to as “MuskBros.”
The journalist received all these rude messages after she tweeted out criticism of the Tesla CEO. “A billionaire w/massive power @elonmusk lashed out at two of the most under-attack industries in the country: Journalism and Science. Both are essential for democracy. We should criticize our important institutions, but we shouldn’t threaten their existence w/powerful ignorance,” read one of her tweets.
Musk responded with a civil tweet saying he hasn’t attacked science, just “misleading journalism like yours though.”
That one reply brought Biba hundreds of messages from Musk fans who disagreed with her take. Some were pretty rude and vulgar, and this very serious journalist decided to write a whole article about how she survived these horrifying tweets.
She even interviewed one woman whose incredibly bad tweets has made her “an expert in being harassed online.” A real achievement!
Biba spends her final paragraphs bemoaning how hard it is for her to courageously criticize Musk and to suffer the horrible burden of angry tweeters.
“Elon wrote me a single sentence that, while insulting, wasn’t even really all that bad. And then he moved on and probably didn’t think about me again. I’m betting he doesn’t even remember tweeting at me,” Biba writes. “But in responding to me, Musk has subjected me to days and days of tweets, emails, direct messages, and Instagram tags. I was even at the top of Reddit for a second there. So, Elon, I ask you: Was what happened to me and other women you tweeted at the result you wanted? Did the punishment we received fit the crime?”
She concludes her piece with an implicit plea for Musk to never tweet at his female critics so they have never have to feel the terror of people disagreeing with them ever again.
The Daily Beast touted the op-ed as both “powerful” and “incredibly brave.” Musk, on the other hand, thought it was a dumb article that misrepresented him and his supporters. He also pointed out the obvious that the nature of the internet means certain opinions will always receive massive blowback and he feels little remorse for criticism of false things.
Hello, have you met the Internet? Everyone gets harassed regardless of gender, especially if they say false things. Saying I’m against science is like saying Beyoncé doesn’t know beats. Blowback from latter (all genders) would make my comment stream seem like Socratic dialogue.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 29, 2018
Other Twitter users pointed to Biba’s own un-professional tweets about Musk, including one mocking him for sending his “big dick to space.”
And on it goes… pic.twitter.com/IAYzhi1NuG
— Richard Lewis (@RLewisReports) May 29, 2018
The whole article was an exercise in solipsistic delusion. It asks readers to sympathize with a profession with hardly any public trust as it seeks immunity from criticism. Inciting harassment against journalists — especially if they hail from a protected class — is akin to a hate crime in the article’s telling.
The hilarity of this whole thing is that there is no class of people who do more to incite online “harassment” than journalists themselves. If a public figure delivers a particularly bad take, journalists are the first ones to call attention to it. It’s the nature of Twitter.
But apparently this is a problem if a public figure like Musk does it to journalists because… well, journalists are special. They’re so essential to democracy that they don’t deserve Twitter dunkings — unless they express a conservative opinion. Then it’s totally fine.
The Daily Beast itself did a particularly bad job of pretending it cared about harassment this week. A day after publishing Biba’s plea for attention, the outlet demanded the popular ABC show “The Bachelorette” get rid of its “alt-right” contestant. The contestant in question was smeared as alt-right because he had liked conservative Instagram posts that were critical of immigration.
On Thursday, The Beast published a story that celebrated comedian Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a “feckless c**t.” Guess civility doesn’t matter when dealing with your enemies.
Online harassment is a problem that everyone who approaches the public square has to deal with, and that obviously includes journalists — regardless of how much they want to be excluded from the rules they set for everyone else.
Musk is a rare public figure who engages with journalists on Twitter. Since he has a lot of followers, it’s no mystery why the reporters he replies to receive a lot of messages. He himself has been the target of idiotic attacks in the press, such as him not following any women on Twitter and or dating the wrong woman.
But he is a public figure and an influential billionaire — this comes with the territory.
At least Musk understands this, something many journalists fail to do.
Unfortunately for the media, the public isn’t going to care about their plight when few trust them.
They’re more likely to side with Musk.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.