Opinion: Doxing is Not Some New Antifa Tactic; It’s Old Right-Wing Terrorism

Doxing was standard operating procedure of white nationalist movements long before antifa started fighting back.
Doxing was standard operating procedure of white nationalist movements long before antifa started fighting back. Photo by Old White Truck via Flickr
One of the most frustrating articles I’ve read this year appeared in the Washington Post earlier this week. Crime reporter Robert Klemko did a deep dive into the life of Edward Jeremy Dawson, a man who has been a part of various far-right groups linked to violence like Patriot Prayer and the Three Percenters. After video of Dawson yelling at reporter Laura Jedeed at a MAGA event went viral, left wing activists exposed his name and location (doxing). This led to Dawson losing his job and a wave of harassment.

Klemko’s piece raises some interesting questions, such as whether naming and shaming hurts more in terms of radicalization than it helps (probably). It also accurately portrays how woefully inadequate our protections from organized harassment campaigns are. However, what made my blood boil was the consistent framing of doxing as some newfangled left-wing tactic. As he puts it, doxing is “part of a growing effort by left-wing activists to punish members of far-right groups accused of violent behavior by exposing them to their employers, family and friends.”

Dear Robert: where the hell have you been over the last decade? Are you just hearing about this now that big scary Antifa is doing it? Do you honestly think a single sentence saying “the tactic also has been employed by the far right to target not just their leftist opponents” adequately covers the scope of this phenomenon and its primary usage by the far-right as a terrorist tactic?

Trying to frame doxing as some sort of rising wave of leftist activism out of control is a compete misunderstanding of how the culture war has grown on the internet. The practice of doxing and organized harassment campaigns grew out of the Chan boards and Reddit and became the de facto method of trying to silence progressive voices.

This was GamerGate, among many other lesser-known movements. Klemko links to a previous story about the doxing of the families of mass shooting victims, but for some reason ignores his own paper’s reporting on YouTuber Anita Sarkeesian being driven from her home by doxing in 2014 for the crime of saying “Hey, maybe there should be more women and less rape in video games.” The same thing happened to game maker Brianna Wu.

Remember Milo Yiannopolus and the never-ending argument about his free speech when it came to speaking his fascist drivel on college campuses? One of the reasons he was consistently protested was because he loved to expose the birth names of trans students and expose them to his army of serial harassers. He used doxing as literal theater.

Those sort of reactionary right-wing movements opened Pandora’s Box with doxing long ago. They are the ones who built the ecosystem where fighting ideological opponents by trying to terrorize them in real life was standard operating procedure. That continues to this day.

I’m not saying that doxing is right when the left does it because it’s not. I’m not even saying that the right at this exact moment in time does it more because I do not have any data to back that up. What I am saying, and what Klemko seems to miss in his tender exploration of Dawson’s shattered reality, is that this technique began its life as a right-wing tactic determined to silence marginalized people who they felt were speaking out of turn.

This technique began its life as a right-wing tactic determined to silence marginalized people who they felt were speaking out of turn.

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The leftists who are doxing people engaging in far-right violent activism are now just responding to the altered paradigm (as well actively cooperating with the FBI). There’s no going back unless this country finally starts doing something with its online harassment laws and enforcement, which I can tell you from personal experience are completely useless.

They are also, frankly, doing the only thing that tends to lead right-wing terrorists to any accountability. Anyone who follows the on the ground reporting in places like Portland, Oregon knows that left-wing activists get scooped up at every opportunity by authority while right-wing ones have to stage a damn insurrection before they start getting the law on them. Left-wing activism has always been demonized in this country, whether it’s the FBI taking down the Black Panthers for starting daycares or aerial bombing coal miners unionizing in West Virginia.

It is only now, after a lot of minds and hearts have been changed, that even exposing someone as a far-right provocateur even does damage to that person. Suddenly, we’re supposed to care about who doxing hurts now that’s some Oath Keeper from Washington state who is sad he gut shot his own life? Nah. There are serious discussions to be had about doxing and how to move forward, but we cannot ignore that it’s something the alt-right hate-fucked into the world until it became impossible to remove from the culture war arsenal.

Antifa didn’t invent this, and acting like they did is a dangerously biased view of reality.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner