Do you know what the top trend on Twitter yesterday was? It was #BoycottStarWarsVII. Fans weren’t angry about the fact that J.J. Abrams might mishandle their baby or the fact that Disney has ret-conned a good 25 years of Extended Universe continuity. No, there are over 100,000 tweets complaining about Star Wars: The Force Awakens because it is, ostensibly, too diverse. Except…those complaints are lies started by a group of errant internet trolls, and everyone who co-opted the hashtag to express rightful anger over a perceived wrong was complicit in their gambit.
In this storify graciously compiled by Vox contributor Genevieve Koski, who has her own take on the story here, we see the “movement” begins with a couple of incredibly insensitive tweets authored by “Lord Humungus” and some other cohorts. While clearly hateful, this group’s tweets were also intentionally inciteful, designed to bring negative attention to them because “all press is good press.”
Indeed, almost all the tweets using the #BoycottStarWarsVII hashtag express rage towards this group of hateful individuals and all those who share their point of view. However, because hashtags lack tone, there’s no way to distinguish who is using this trend to express bigotry and who is co-opting it to speak out against racism. Thus, many Twitter users perceived the group of racists as much bigger than it actually was.
If you look at Lord Humungus’ Twitter, it’s impossible to take it seriously. Hashtags like #StopAppropriatingWhiteCulture read like the immature joke of a college freshman to his or her first cultural studies course rather than the actual rhetoric of a white supremacist. The fact that anyone took this individual seriously to begin with is a little beyond me. However, once people started dog piling on the trolls by using #BoycottStarWarsVII ironically, it’s quite easy to see how and why it kept going.
The internet can be a great tool for the discussion and dissemination of information. However, it can often produce an “echo chamber,” where users ignore or actively trash viewpoints that differ from their own. Then, when an easy target like Lord Humungus sprouts up with a clearly socially unacceptable message, users will often pile shout over one another into the abyss in order to feel like they’re a part of the socially “right” group, overblowing issues like this one.
But at least we’re talking, right?