A swarm of internet nasties descended on Laila Alawa, an American Muslim writer, publisher and activist, after she was targeted last week as public enemy #1 by an assortment of right-wing sites — starting with The Daily Caller then spreading to assorted even more fringey sites from JihadWatch to PamelaGeller.com.
Alawa’s most horrendous crime, in the minds of her attackers? She once tweeted that the 9/11 attacks permanently changed the world.
No, really. Here’s the tweet that triggered the onslaught of Internet harassment that’s made Alawa’s life a living hell:
You may notice that she did not say that 9/11 changed the world “for the better.” She said “for good,” a phrase that everyone with even a rudimentary grasp of English should know means “permanently.”
But somehow every right-wing Muslim-hater who saw the Daily Caller post that launched this wave of hate decided that she was praising the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001 in that tweet. Adding to their indignation: the fact that Alawa had participated in the making of a recently issued Department of Homeland Security report on violent extremism.
Professional Islamaphobe Pamela Geller gave her post on the subject this absurd headline:
Freedom Daily meanwhile, declared:
A site called The Political Insider offered a similarly twisted misreading of Alawa’s tweet; the site also managed to transform her work last year with the Department of Homeland Security into a direct appointment by Obama after the Orlando massacre.
Within a few days, there was so much nonsense about Alawa floating around the internet that the urban legend-busting site Snopes.com felt obliged to weigh in with a lengthy rebuttal of the most outrageous false claims, leading the author of the Daily Caller piece to attack the author of the Snopes.com piece as a “failed liberal blogger.”
As assorted right-wing websites and blogs fanned the flames, a virtual army of the internet’s worst people descended on Alawa, flooding her Twitter and Facebook mentions with an assortment of angry and threatening messages.
“On Tuesday, June 14, 2016, I woke up to a hell that even I could not have predicted,” Alawa wrote yesterday in a post on The Tempest, an online publication she founded and runs. “Hundreds of people were tweeting at me, the vitriol, hatred and fury in their messages each worse than the last one.”
Here are some of the messages she collected, one of which I’ve lightly censored:
This fellow gave Alawa a promotion to the top job at Homeland Security:
This fellow showed that he actually does know the difference between “for good” and “for the better” — unless the person using the phrase “for good” is Muslim.
And this lovely lady tossed in a plug for Donald Trump after wishing Alawa a gruesome death:
Meanwhile, this familiar face did his part to spread the Daily Caller’s blatant misinformation:
And all of this because a “reporter” at The Daily Caller searched through at least two years of her tweets in order to find a “smoking gun” tweet that turned out to be neither smoking nor a gun.
In her post on The Tempest, Alawa put the tweet that offended the world in context:
“Just like every American, 9/11 was a tragedy that hit close to home,” she wrote.
I was 10 when it happened, living in upstate New York, and the event and ensuing aftermath left me – and the nation – reeling. So much so that it changed my career path for good – I now fight to ensure that every woman, no matter who or where or how she is, has a media outlet to find a space in. So in 2014, upon the anniversary of the attacks, I sent out a tweet, like I do every year, about the events that had transpired.
She explained the difference between “for good” and “for the better,” knowing full well that it wouldn’t make any difference to
the thousands and thousands of people taking it upon themselves to comb through my private history, any public articles I had written, any photos I had online.
She recounted the abuse she’d gotten over the past week:
I received rape threats, death threats, and images that made me almost throw up. People, furious and filled with a hatred against someone they didn’t even know, had decided I was the perfect target for the entire week.
I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. Each morning, I’d wake up, and suddenly remember what was happening online, and want to go back to sleep. All I could do was numbly block and report, block and report. … I kept laughing when I told the story in public, because if I stopped, I knew I’d start crying. I’d step away from my phone for 5 minutes, and come back to a hundred notifications.
People told her it would get better.
It didn’t get better. It still hasn’t gotten better. I’m now enemy #1 of racist, conservative, Trump-loving America, the favorite obsession of white supremacists and “patriots,” clickbait for every possible conservative platform and bigots like Pamela Geller, Allen West, and Milo Yannoupolis.
The bitter irony at the heart of all this hate? These abusive, vicious, barbaric right-wing bigots have somehow managed to convince themselves and their followers that they’re the ones defending Western civilization from barbarism.
H/T to Orion Anderson for sending me Alawa’s post.