Public reaction to the recent viral video of Covington Catholic high school student Nick Sandmann, who mocked a Native American man while wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, showed exactly how harmful doxxing can be towards identifying and solving issues facing society.
Doxxing is the act of revealing the identity or personal information of someone on the internet. Doxxing often is used as a tool of retaliation against people who go viral for racist words or actions.
The issue with doxxing is that it allows the majority of America to ignore the systemic flaws that plague society while letting the alt-right create martyrs for their cause.
Social media users immediately denounced the actions of Sandmann and went about revealing his information without knowledge of what had occurred before the encounter between the student and Nathan Phillips, the Native American man in the infamous video.
Within hours, videos of the incident had gone viral, with most of social media trying to identify the teen in question. After his name started to leak, Sandmann and his family released a statement with his version of events.
In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Nick Sandmann said he “had every right” to stand in front of Nathan Phillips, but now wishes he and his classmates “would have walked away and avoided the whole thing.” https://t.co/YH8Kvpya1W
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) January 26, 2019
In the days that followed, other videos depicting events not seen in the original video, such as the taunting by the Hebrew Israelites, came to life, which supporters of Sandmann used to propel their argument that Sandmann was the victim of a doxxing witch hunt.
By doxxing Sandmann, especially before all of the facts and events of the day became apparent, it was clear that the goal was to create a singular character for the internet to vilify. This reaction plays directly into what the instigators of the alt-right movement desire as they are able to spin the narrative that white men across America are being targeted, harassed and persecuted.
GQ writer says he regrets telling his followers to doxx the Covington Catholic High School kids
"It was an irresponsible and stupid tweet that happened in the heat of the moment because I was upset"https://t.co/ann5yjD5bv
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 21, 2019
The act of doxxing Sandmann only served to harm his chances of college acceptance and future employment. This action strengthens the notion that white men are being oppressed, in the mind of alt-right followers and does nothing to create a productive discussion on the events that occured. Doxxing allows people intimidate Sandmann, as Sandmann intimidated Phillips, which allows the alt-right to perceive themselves as victims, further strengthening the bond amongst its members.
Doxxing has been around since the early days of the internet but has reached prominence in recent years due to the increasing activist conscience of social media. It has been used in a variety of ways, from Deadspin immaturely revealing the identity of PFT Commenter, a Barstool Sports media personality, to more serious matters such as the misidentification of people who attended the infamous Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville.
People such as Kyle Quinn, who was falsely accused of attending the Unite the Right rally, had thousands of comments levied against him due to doxxing. Thousands of people called for him to be fired from his job due to a passing resemblance to a person who attend the rally. Internet users published his home address which forced him and his wife to stay with a colleague, fearing for their own safety.
Over the past few months doxxing has been mostly associated with exposing people who attempted or even succeeded in intimidating minorities. Aside from Sandmann and the other Covington Catholic students and the Unite the Right Rally members, other videos such as “BBQ Becky” and “Permit Patty” went viral due to the racist actions of those depicted.
The intent behind exposing each of these people was to intimidate them because they tried to strong-arm minorities. Doxxing is the epitome of intimidation as it allows thousands of users to dig in to a person’s life and try to harm their future prospects.
While the idea of doxxing is understandable at first, all it does is exacerbate the issues it is trying to solve. Doxxing creates scapegoats for people outraged by the actions perpetuated by those such as Sandmann, and weaponizes people against them instead of the societal flaws that allowed them to act in such a manner. By creating scapegoats, doxxers in turn empower members of the alt right to delude themselves into thinking that they are being systematically persecuted.
It may seem like doxxing is a way of evening out injustice, but the truth is that doxxing in any form is an act of revenge.