Racists Getting Fired: Call-Out Culture and the New Troll

In this week’s reading about online trolling, author Whitney Phillips writes extensively on trolls’ ability to act as sort of a social police or critic, using humor and satire to elucidate what they (the trolls) view as poor or incorrect internet behavior. In Phillips work, she discusses several negative aspects of trolling (4chan’s /b/ thread perpetuating rape culture, trolls traumatizing family-members of dead Facebook members) as well as a few standout positives (like the social activism of hacktivist group Anonymous). However, as it was published in 2015, Phillips’ work omits a few important additions to troll culture. In my opinion, troll culture has evolved over the past few years into what could be termed “call-out culture”. A clear example of this new ideology of trolling can be found on Twitter, in the semi-recent rush to out racists on social media. Towards the end of 2016 (largely during the election cycle), there was a trend on “Black Twitter” in which modern trolls would take screen shots of racist tweets or messages and re-post them on accounts with large audiences. The punch line: original posters often lost their jobs. Essential in this call-out spree was the inclusion of humor— most screen shots were presented in a way that clearly made fun of the racist views presented. Many racist tweets seemed exaggerated to the point of satire despite their seriousness—one tweet reads “Going to Africa! Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” Here, a racist joke ultimately turns the tweeter herself into a joke, as she was fired from her job as Communications Coordinator following the excessively, humorously racist post. In addition, several blogs and accounts like “racistsgettingfired.tumblr” have popped up as fountains of humor and entertainment. Laughing at racism like this is a type of extravagant laughter, I think, and the re-posting of racist tweets a form of newfangled charged humor. Interestingly enough, the comedians in this scenario (re-posters on Black Twitter) don’t seem to generate much or any of the comedy in the situation— it all stems from the racists themselves. We aren’t laughing at jokes about racism, we’re laughing at the absurdity of racism itself. The trolls are just helping us see the humor.




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