Lindy West released a book last week, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, in which she writes about feminism, fat-shaming and online trolls.
The book, whose front cover carries a quote by Lena Dunham calling West “an essential (and hilarious) voice for women,” is purportedly a stand against a culture that silences women it deems to be too opinionated or too “antagonistic.”
But when conservatives and libertarians—some of whom contend they’ve never even weighed in on feminist issues—went on Twitter went to check out West’s profile, they found that they’d been blocked. En masse.
West doesn’t seem to discriminate based on anything other than ideas: While people as prominent as National Review Online’s Kat Timpf were blocked, people with less than a thousand followers were also given the Internet boot.
So @thelindywest has blocked like every conservative for no reason.
Poor Butters is her contractor and has his work cut out for him.
— Shoshana Weissmann (@senatorshoshana) May 23, 2016
The prevailing Twitter theory seems to be that West uses a “block list” similar to those used by #GamerGate foes—perhaps even the same one—or an auto-blocking bot, like The Block Bot, that seeks out Twitter relationships and blocks people pre-emptively based on whether they interact with social media accounts the bot operator considers to be unsightly, or “troll accounts.”
According to West, it seems, that list includes literally everyone who has ever even vaguely mentioned “libertarian” or “conservative” (or, for that matter, what West considers “anti-feminist”) principles. That’s a strange definition of “troll.”
Blocking in the name of “tolerance?”
How pathetic of a person do you have to be to block people based on a list? No idea who @thelindywest is but I'm blocked as are many others.
— Robb Allen (@ItsRobbAllen) May 23, 2016
— Grace Driggers (@grace_driggers) May 23, 2016
— Anna White (@annaeleanor) May 23, 2016
I have never heard of this person before, but, having discovered that I'm blocked, she's apparently heard of me. https://t.co/qD6QYMiUzA
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) May 23, 2016
— Joey Kingpin (@Joey_Kingpin) May 23, 2016
— Luis A. Mendez (@THELuisAMendez) May 23, 2016
That’s just a small sampling.
The funny thing is West gave an interview to Buzzfeed Monday morning, where she speaks of her utter delight at engaging people she considers to be “Internet trolls,” saying that it’s the only way to make inroads among what she terms “anti-feminists.” In fact, West goes on to say, in the Q&A, that she doesn’t believe in mass blocking, because she’s an open person who likes dialogue.
Just blocking and ignoring never felt satisfying to me. It just felt so passive and it felt unfair that we were supposed to not talk about this thing that is just pervasive in our professional lives. And the justification was like, if you give them attention then they’ll keep doing it. Well, they’re not stopping anyway! They’re going to hate me no matter what I do. So either I have this sort of unsatisfying, wet blanket powerless feeling, or I take control of the conversation.
That’s probably much easier when there’s no conversation to take control of, because anyone who might, at any point in the future, disagree with you on anything is blocked from interacting with you.
I wanted to reach out to Lindy to get an explanation, but I’m one of the people she blocked on Twitter. Like many of the other people Lindy mass-blocked, I have never had a single interaction with her.