An antifascist activist discusses constant trolling from fascists, Twitter harassment, her house being set on fire, and other challenges of being doxxed.
Originally published by IdaVox.
Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.
My Life Since I Was Doxxed, A Case Study in Why Antifascists Wear Masks
“Hello, this is Lacy MacAuley,” I answered my phone.
“Is this Lacy?” asked a woman’s voice.
“Yes, this is Lacy,” I answered.
The caller ID showed that the person was calling from Vermont. Probably a Bernie supporter who wants to be part of our protests against Donald Trump, I thought. I was sitting on a floor in a church in Washington DC, on my computer with a few other activists. The date was Monday, January 16, 2017. It was Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day and I had the day off work. All around us, people were preparing for the protests of Trump’s Inauguration on January 20, 2017. A workshop in nonviolent direct action would be underway soon, and we had invited a gaggle of reporters to come and film people learning how to effectively blockade the security gates that would surround Trump’s Inaugural ceremony.
I was furiously responding to press inquiries and making arrangements for other activists to get interviewed. My name and phone number was on all of our press materials, and our news story was a hot ticket.
“Well, I am here in Vermont, and I’ve seen a few Bernie rallies,” the woman began. Her voice then raised several octaves. “But you people planning to protest the President! Just fuck you! You are a c**t.”
“I can hear that you are very angry,” I said, trying my best to use nonviolent communication. “I think you should realize that –“
“Fuck you! You people are just ruining our country!” the woman continued. She elaborated on her point for a moment while my mind worked on how she may have gotten my phone number. Maybe she had seen a press release?
“Thanks and good luck to you. I hope that you stop being so angry,” I quipped, and hung up.
I looked at my friend, who was on his computer next to me, who had a mildly worried look on his face.
“That sounded aggressive,” he said. I agreed.
Moments later, we learned that a right-wing group called Project Veritas had just released a secretly-recorded video, made by unscrupulous right-wing operator James O’Keefe. The video featured images of a number of DC activists, including me, and contained my name and e-mail address right in the video. A quick Google search revealed a broad swath of information about me. People barely knew the term “doxxing” then. The woman who had called just now was just the first drop in the torrent that would become a hurricane. Much more was coming.
The Project Veritas video contained lies, conspiracy theories, and misrepresentations about us – and was slated to become national news on the FOX network. My group set to work responding to the fake news. Luckily, it happened to be released on an afternoon when we had nearly every major news outlet scheduled to arrive at our doorstep at the church. We prepared a statement refuting the video’s lies, and sent it out far and wide. Thanks to luck, tenacity, and plain-spoken truth-telling, we mostly killed their story: FOX News realized the story was baseless, so they didn’t run it, and it never made it past the far right-wing echo chamber. (Say what you want about FOX News, who are mostly awful, but in that political moment, many of the staff were personally struggling to retain a semblance of journalistic integrity, as the world braced for the shit show that would be the Trump regime.)
But the troll army was coming for us. And they were not concerned about the truth.
The right-wing echo chamber sent its foot soldiers to attack with full force. They attacked me and other activists, especially those organizing towards antifascism and anarchism. They had our names, photos, and personal information. Our lives have never been the same.
Women endure more right-wing harassment than men, and the most hateful of it is often directed at black women. Rich white guy Milo Yiannopoulos harassed Leslie Jones for simply being fabulous in a new movie, and sent his battalion of trolls her way. Right-wing lulzboys all over the world won’t stop their horrible racist insults of Michelle Obama. And President Toxic Cheeto continually insults the intelligence of the powerful Representative Maxine Waters – not to mention his poisonous son, Donald Trump Jr, harassing Waters with a racist, sexist attack for a hat she didn’t even wear.
The magnitude of the racism, sexism, classism, anti-Semitism, and general bigotry of right-wing harassment cannot be overstated. There are levels and layers of this. It’s been said to me many times that if I were a white man, instead of a white woman, my harassment would have been more muted.
Sexual violence and abuse would become a frequent topic of my harassment. My harassment would expand to include an endless onslaught of comments pertaining to my story of being a survivor of intimate partner violence and abuse, which I experienced from a live-in boyfriend while overseas in Turkey. I had written a long, heartfelt blog post about it in early 2016 to get it off of my chest and to heal, and right-wing snake Jack Posobiec and Gateway Pundit published a slanderous article in May 2017 about my experience which was full of falsehoods.
The right-wing had a field day with the connection to Islam, many claiming I had converted to Islam. While the #MeToo movement soared, I was dealing with constant nasty comments pertaining to my story of survival. Right-wing trolls sent comments through every channel they could, and occasionally a misogynist would start shouting at me about Turkey and my abuse at public events. New #MeToo stories were playing out every day in my life through 2017.
But on January 16, 2017, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day, all of this was just beginning.
By later in the evening that day I had received over a hundred phone calls from right-wingers who had gotten my information from the Project Veritas news. Most were full of expletives and ire. In all voices, with a Texas drawl, New Jersey accent, or Southern twang, people shouted at me that I was “evil,” a “b**ch,” a variety of derogatory gendered terms, that I was “killing America,” and especially, that they wished physical violence or death upon me. A few had a more measured tone, imploring me to stop organizing protests against poor Mr Trump. After all, you know, he hasn’t even taken office yet, so at least give him a chance? The calmer voices were drowned out by the screechers and death threats. It sounded as if some would shoot missiles at me if they had their finger on the launch button. My mobile phone was set to “vibrate,” and it was vibrating nonstop.
That evening, as soon as I could catch my breath, I brought all of my devices and computer together and, with the help of a friend, reconfigured my electronic security. It was already pretty good, but we made it as tight as the Mint. From that day on, I also implemented personal home/work/travel security practices that made me less vulnerable.
I hadn’t gotten any sleep, but the next day, I had to report to work at the youth-homeless-families-in-need-oriented nonprofit organization I worked for. I was frazzled with dozens of responsibilities, but hadn’t been able to take the whole Inauguration week off of work. During a morning meeting with a colleague, my phone vibrated nonstop. I couldn’t avoid the topic. I began to describe the overall drama to her in succinct bullet points. I recall her eyes widening, and it was then that I truly acknowledged how far this was from everyday experience of more mainstream do-gooders and lefties. The phone kept on vibrating.
I wanted to throw my phone into the Loch Ness, but I had a dilemma: Some of the calls were still from reporters, looking to work on stories about the Inauguration Day protests. Instead of blocking all calls, I resolved to only answer phone calls from Washington DC, New York City, or Los Angeles, the three major media markets in the US, or from overseas. Luckily, my phone could be set to display the town and state for each caller. Virtually none of the harassers were from major cities, but from towns I’d never heard of. I knew I might miss a few important calls, but screening calls this way would become a reliable strategy to ensure that I wasn’t wasting time and the press had what they needed to cover our Inaugural protests.
My text messages were exploding. My e-mail was off the hook. My Facebook messages were a writhing snake pit.
And in an instant, my Twitter was permanently an attack zone where right-wingers harass me for things yawningly generic and deeply personal – and everything in between. Back when I joined Twitter in 2008, it was fun. Why did the right-wing have to ruin Twitter for everyone?
The attacks on Twitter continue to this day. I call my band of teeming trolls my “anti-fan club.” Once I posted a photo of a baby turtle to test whether right-wingers really would harass me for each post. Sure enough, someone out there had to make a nasty comment. On a photo of a baby turtle.
I’ve been an activist for years, and I’d dealt with minor harassment issues prior to January 16, 2017. In mid-November of 2016, I’d been a part of the group that held the protest outside the conference of Richard Spencer, famous Nazi. Thanks to diligent work by local antifascists, we were able to get the Hamilton Restaurant to cancel the Nazis’ Friday night meet-and-greet. We chased them to the next venue, Maggiano’s restaurant, and my comrades stormed inside while I transported our sound system. I still had spray paint on my hands from making our “No to Racism and Fascism” signs, and was in close communication with the press. I had agreed to help lead chants at the demonstration on a sound system I’d borrowed from a DJ friend. We had a crowd of over 500 antiracist activists blocking 14thStreet in downtown Washington DC the next day to protest Spencer and his conference.
That weekend became famous for the terrifying “Nazi Salutes in Washington” video footage taken as Spencer announced “Hail Trump! Hail Our People!” to get a rise from the audience, like a karaoke fan singing “Strangers” in a bar. That was the weekend that Liberal America finally did put two and two together, and realized that hate groups were on the rise.
After we’d effectively dogged the Nazis that weekend, I caught a small glimpse of right-wing harassment. Through Twitter, a variety of white supremacists found me and sent threatening messages. They shared information about me in their forums, which was disconcerting, but still small scale.
Besides protesting Nazis, as I was throwing all of my so-called spare time into organizing for the Inauguration protests, a right-winger calling himself “US Navy Jack” published an article about me on Oathkeepers.org in mid-December 2016. This was the first of many articles coming from various right-wing sites, from Breitbart to Daily Stormer, from Daily Mail to Gateway Pundit. They searched articles I’d published professionally in my own name, my social media, personal blog posts, including reviewing my story of surviving intimate partner violence, and even analyzing my professional bio to get information. My name was all over the DisruptJ20 material for planning our Inaugural protests. There was no escaping it.
In June 2017, after I’d wound up doing some interviews with news stations about antifascism, my house inexplicably caught on fire. I had been renting a room with friends, and my address was listed in official databases. We all had to move as part of the house was destroyed. We wondered, could this be more right-wing harassment? Insurance investigators didn’t seem to care about that line of reasoning, but there it was. There was the basic, terrifying question: Did someone try to kill me? We may never know.
Enduring a number of death threats and different kinds of harassment has made me a different person. I actually engage them at times, and fire back my own comments, to show that I am not afraid of them. I don’t tune out my detractors. I try to measure whether their threats are credible. When someone sent me a picture of a house I used to live in, I invested time into judging that person’s capacity to kill me. On July 4, 2017, when local white supremacist Jeffery Raph Clark sent me a very clear death threat through a Twitter account @dc_stormer, referencing other antifascists who had been murdered in Europe, I knew it was someone who had showed up at an antifascist event to harass us in the past, and who plays with guns in his little cell of other fascist idiots. I quickly and publicly revealed his identity. (He didn’t know we knew his name and Twitter account. Hah. How many of them are in the dark on how much we actually know about them!)
I guess these right-wingers see a small-bodied woman and think I am somehow easily rattled, or that they can scare me. But my sisters and I were raised to be scrappy, resourceful, and fierce. We grew up in a rural corner with dirt under our fingernails, sneaking into cow pastures, climbing trees, and helping our father work on old cars, several of which were broken down in the yard with tall grass growing up around them. Training and athletics added confidence. We were girls, so had to deal with intense and infuriating sexism, but I seldom believed the many people who would underestimate me.
I was always a dreamer who didn’t fit in anywhere until I realized I could be a warrior for justice. I am the opposite of intimidated by the right-wing trolling. It is a confirmation that I am working in the correct direction. Does it bother me and complicate my life in numerous ways? Yes. Has it made it harder to do decent work on radical and progressive issues that I care about? Sometimes. Does it fluster and scare my friends and family? Of course. Is it a hassle and a time sink to process all of these harassers? Absolutely.
The harassment lately is not as vehement as it was last year, but it continues. I am under no delusions that the fascists are gone for good. The current lull and quiet from a lot of the most notorious fascists should be celebrated as a victory, yes. But they are regrouping and we have to be ready to defeat them again.
I don’t wish being doxxed on anyone. I wrote this little article to give my fellow organizers and antifascists some material, next time your liberal friends question why you wear a mask or why you are protective of your name. The fear of being doxxed is not irrational. It’s a legitimate and valid fear. Keep wearing those masks!
If I had it to do all over again, of course I wouldn’t choose to be doxxed. But few of us could have predicted the way the troll army would descend upon us, and all of the outcomes of simply using our names in our work, as so many of us did in happier times. I’ve tried to use the doxxing as a way to do my work in the open, to the benefit of all who wish to defeat their destructive agenda.
I am no shrinking violet. I did not go away. I was not silenced. The work continues!
Help us to maintain the Enough is Enough blog and keep us going. We also want to extend our from the ground coverage this year. But we need your support to finance it. Travel expenses etc. Here is how you can support our work: https://enoughisenough14.org/help-maintain-our-site-and-continue-our-work-donate-2/.
Support Enough is Enough! Donate!
Donation for our work in the Enough is Enough info-shop and our independent reporting on our blog and social media channels.
New shirts and other stuff in the Enough is Enough shop. Support our work. Click here.