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Hot Take HOTTER Take is a weekly column with takes hotter than the burning rage found in the Twitter comments under any prominent politician’s tweets. 

Ben Mora was a regional field director for the Bernie Sanders campaign until last week when he was fired. Mora was using his personal and private Twitter account to say rude things about 2020 candidates. The remarks were pretty brutal, especially the ones regarding the personal appearances and identities of Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. For example, one tweet said Klobuchar “looks like her name: pained, chunky, [and] confused origin/purpose.” There is something to be said about people digging up Mora’s private account to derail his professional life, but it makes sense why he’d lose his job once the cat came out of the bag. However, Mora’s situation folds into a new discourse creeping into the debates and news coverage of the primary: are candidates responsible for their supporters’ behavior online? For employees like Mora the answer seems clear, but for the average Joe with a hashtag of alliance in their bio, it’s both unreasonable for the people they support to be held responsible for their rants, and unreasonable to ask them to even be civil. 

Hot Take: Candidates shouldn’t be held responsible for supporter behavior

Twitter is a cesspool. Pretty much all social media is, but Twitter especially is post-apocalyptic. For that reason, I and so many others love it. It’s a platform perfect for expressing emotion, and in angry times it becomes the best place to unleash latent anger. So it never makes sense to expect any sort of civility in the online realm. To demand a candidate somehow inspire their Twitter trolls to stop being mean is forcing a herculean task upon them. People on Twitter don’t harass people because they like a candidate. They were gonna harass people anyway—they just also happen to like a candidate enough to guide their harassment. (As an aside, “harassment” on Twitter rarely descends to severe cyberbullying or doxing, but these behaviors get conflated with people hurling mild insults somehow.) Any prominent figure on Twitter gets their position of power reversed. Their followers hold all the leverage and really have no reason to listen when told to be civil. Anyone suggesting the behavior of supporters online is necessarily a reflection of the person they support is seriously misguided as to how the internet works.

HOTTER Take: Being mean to elites online is very good

In general, the common person has very few platforms for expressing their anger in real life. Online, with one well-crafted tweet, they can galvanize large swaths of people to come together and dunk on some of the most powerful people in society. Considering the power certain figures hold in society, and their propensity to make decisions which could be life-or-death for certain people, it makes a lot of sense for there to be an avenue to bully them for bad decisions. It’s actually weird to expect common people to not say rude things when a celebrity shows support for an authoritarian regime or a politician introduces a new policy which would destroy some lives. People should be mean online much more often. It’s a good trade-off for them not bringing out the guillotines yet, right?

If you want to be mean to Vincent Rendon online (feel free) he can be reached at vrendon@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.