Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is unique among her peers in Congress for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is her Twitter presence.
Most politicians tend not to engage with those attacking them online. Some simply aren’t as comfortable with the platform as 29-year-old Ocasio-Cortez (hence reports that AOC held a “Twitter tutorial” for her colleagues), but for many, engaging with trolls might seem beneath them or indecorous. Of course, you also have Donald Trump on the opposite extreme, using Twitter to air every petty grievance he feels the second he feels it and serving as a pretty great example of what not to do online.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2019
And then there’s Ocasio-Cortez, who consistently responds to the criticisms being made against her online. In a new interview with NY1, she explains her reasoning for refusing to ignore those attacks.
She is so fucking smart about this. https://t.co/Cde8imhHAh
— Emily Nussbaum (@emilynussbaum) March 4, 2019
“I grew up seeing these attacks on Nancy Pelosi. I grew up with these attacks on Barack Obama. I grew up with these bad faith attacks, even on Hillary Clinton, and so we know what’s going on,” she says. “And I feel like what I’ve chosen to do is break this fourth wall a little bit and respond to them because we saw how completely unfounded attacks like the birther movement with President Obama, they were ignored because it was beneath the president to respond to these things.”
“But then they started to grow,” she continued. “And, as we say, they grow legs and start walking around. And I think that sometimes we have to take a little bit of a different tact and just squash it early and respond to them and be unafraid to say, ‘You sound ridiculous.'”
She clearly has no problem telling people they should ridiculous. She’s done it when trolls come for her for dancing, for wearing nice (rented) clothes, for riding in cars, for growing up in a house, etc. etc. forever.
She also speaks out against the much more serious instances. Because like she said, those smaller bad faith attacks grow legs and not only do those lies spread, but they lend credence to the larger idea that she just generally deserves to be attacked. There is a line to be drawn from, say, Jack Posobiec tweeting out creepy, stalkery pictures of AOC eating dinner, to Fox News working overtime to manufacture things to criticize her over, to someone like the white supremacist Coast Guard officer who was discovered with an arsenal of weapons and a list of targets, on which her name was written.
It’s not a direct line–it’s a muddy one. But Ocasio-Cortez is choosing to nip it right in the bud. She’ll call out the flies constantly buzzing around her like Ben Shapiro, as well as very serious moments like this death threat coming out of an official GOP event:
Cool cool – this is fine, totally acceptable and normal rhetoric; legitimized by the presence of members of Congress and the President. 👍🏽
Let me guess: no apology is necessary here, because they’ve simply been “misunderstood.” https://t.co/5WSo7aELR9
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 5, 2019
There are arguments to be made for both “rising above” and for confronting these people head-on. When you retweet or respond to some idiot spouting sexism or conspiracy theories or whatever the case may be, there’s always the argument that you’re just drawing attention to trolls and giving them power. But Ocasio-Cortez is also right that ignoring them can also give them power, or at least room to grow. She clearly knows what she’s doing and she’s doing it well.
(image: Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Athena Film Festival)
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