Today marks the launch of Damon Young’s column in the Magazine. He writes about the angst, anxieties and absurdities of American life — specifically culture, class, money, and race. — Richard Just, editor
The best thing, of course, is the culling. The white supremacists have discovered your phone number and have begun to text malapropistic threats — “Put your moneys where your phatn—– lips be” — and so you call your provider and get it changed. When that’s done, you look through your phone to decide who’s worthy of your new digits. Then you become Thanos. Close friends, family and frequent contacts make the cut, but the rest are given wrath or mercy at your whim.
Whom shall I smite? You, vaguely unremarkable peasant, saved as “Basketball Brian”? Can you even hard hedge a ball screen, my dude? Should I update you and finally put your full name in my phone? Or shall you forever be an unsaved specter, damned to the valley of relationship simulacrum?
Although doxing is approximately as old as the Internet, which means it’s still new, the thought behind it — procuring and revealing private personal information to harm the target — is old as dirt and American as a lynching. My doxing happened in March, following a blog post I wrote contextualizing the Atlanta spa murders as a predictable byproduct of white supremacy. The piece was shared on Fox News and Breitbart, by Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro, and others who claimed I argued for the extermination of White people. These willful misinterpretations of my words, intended to exacerbate latent resentments against Black people, conjured enough fury that harassment became an inevitability.
But enough about these triflin’ chicken hawks. Back to me!
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The culling process is similar to planning a wedding on a modest budget and making hard decisions about who gets invited. The only difference is the implicit message, which shifts from I enjoy your presence enough to want you to experience this day with me to I’m getting harassed by Nazis and I can’t really tell the cops because there might be Nazis there too lol but yeah I trust you enough not to share this number with anyone!
This is related to the third best thing about getting doxed by white supremacists, which is that for the next three to five months, you win every conversation. Now, to win a conversation means that you consider each interaction to have a winner and a loser, which is a thing that I do. Because what’s the point, otherwise? Also, winners and losers here don’t require sentience. If, for instance, I need to board a 5 p.m. flight, and the gate closes at 4:45, and I get to the airport at 4:29, sprint through security at 4:36, and hustle to the door by 4:42, I just mushed that airport in the face. O’Hare International Airport is my son.
Conversations with people adhere to the same rules. Here you are, with your droning blather about frittata retention and the topographical choices on “Mare of Easttown,” while I know that at any moment I can incinerate you.
Me, as if passing a spork: Oh, by the way, here’s my new number.
You, unaware of your impending demolition: Ha! You a big deal now, huh? Can’t even keep your old number like us common folk do.
Me, itching for the kill: Yeah … I actually had to change it because I was doxed by white supremacists.
You, now a gelatinous pool of humanoid sludge, attempting to speak, but physically unable to make intelligible words: aaaaaaaaaaargggggggggg
Sometimes it feels better to not say anything about the doxing at all, and then to walk away, satisfied at the magnanimity of my pardon. If only he knew what almost just happened to him, I smirk to myself, 30 minutes later, while debating whether I should apply for a concealed carry permit. He almost died.
If you’re sincerely paralyzed by the insipid monotony of existence, and feel like an arbitrary assemblage of galactic flotsam scudding toward the sweet nothingness of death, and need an anchor to remind you of the preciousness of life, try Be Black, Get doxed.
The fourth best thing is also John Blaze. The day the harassment began was shaping up to be a lazy and forgettable Saturday, the sort of weekend morning so mundane it’s obscene. And then the threatening emails, texts, tweets and DMs began. My phone felt like one of those Cheesecake Factory buzzers when your table’s ready. And I have never felt more alive than when I realized what was happening. It’s like an adrenaline-filled piñata smashed over my head, splashed onto my skin and crashed into my veins.
You can keep your coffee, your chocolate, your Zoloft, your cocaine. Nothing induces sustained hyperarousal like doxing. Seriously, fam. Forget “Eat, Pray, Love.” If you’re sincerely paralyzed by the insipid monotony of existence, and feel like an arbitrary assemblage of galactic flotsam scudding toward the sweet nothingness of death, and need an anchor to remind you of the preciousness of life, try Be Black, Get doxed.
Anyway, that’s enough preamble — let’s get to the second best thing.
There are times, when first learning about a story like the Atlanta shootings, that finding the words to give it a sociopolitical context are difficult. You sit and stew and attempt to find an angle that’s rigorous and conscientious and distinct enough to provide some sort of connection to a more comprehensive theme. The words eventually come, but they drip out like saline from an IV — deliberate, methodical, pained. This was not one of those times.
Finding a connective thread for this was easy. White supremacy — the urge to create it, the lust to enact it, the bloodthirst to retain it — is the catalyst. Whiteness was invented to conjure and justify social hierarchy, and the unstoppable inertia behind Robert Aaron Long’s acts of terror — including, but not limited to, the election of Donald Trump, the politicization of the pandemic and the Jan. 6 insurrection — stems from this reality. Of course, people who happen to be considered White people are not inherently evil or anything. Just people. White supremacy, however, is, and it’s an atmospheric force that threatens everyone’s life.
But the worst of White people are more interested in status retention and terror than in mirrors. So now I’m a new member of an exclusive club of Black Americans who told the truth about America to Americans and were rewarded with a dox. And for real, I ain’t special. Any non-White person who speaks on America’s symbiotic relationship with white supremacy is a candidate.
Still, I’ve never been much of a joiner. I don’t belong to any professional organizations. The thought of pledging a frat in college made my teeth itch, and I only connected with the Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Pittsburgh 10 years ago for brunch Groupon access. But it feels good to finally be down with a clique. I’d invite you to join us too, but then I’d have to give you my number.