#WeHaveHerBack is gaining traction on Twitter and social media accounts around the country are tweeting and amplifying this hashtag.
Translation: We have Kamala Harris's back and we are not going to allow what happened in 2016 to happen again. We are standing together against the onslaught of sexist and racist media coverage. And because we know better, we will help be a truth-shield against the barrage of disinformation that will be relentlessly hurled against Kamala Harris.
In her article As Kamala Harris faces racist and sexist online attacks, women's groups and Democratic Operatives say they have her back, Jazmine Ulloa of the Boston Globe discusses this digital form of resistance and solidarity and provides very helpful context.
How can #WeHaveHerBack?
Here are a few resources to help us to be better prepared than we were in 2016.
The group, Ultraviolet, has created a guide, Reporting in an Era of Disinformation: Fairness for Covering Women and People of Color in Politics. While the target audience for the guide is the media, namely reporters, the guide is helpful to any of us as consumers of media. It is just as important for us to put anything we share through the same scrutiny that we ask reporters to do.
In Right-wing media leap to attack Kamala Harris as the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Media Matters has compiled a list that shows the posts from far-right media accounts and personalities as they respond to news of Harris's selection as the VP candidate. This list is instructive in that it shows the range of false narratives that the far-right is cultivating and repeating. When reviewing this list, it is important to remind ourselves of the line that is attributed to Joseph Gobbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda: A lie told a thousand times becomes the truth. They will keep repeating this crap. Over and over.
How can #WeHaveHerBack against these narratives?
Twitter, Instagram and TikTok are platforms where people use hashtags to search, group and share content. If you are on Twitter, you will have the most opportunity to amplify. Facebook is not a hashtag drive platform, though a search of #wehaveherback turns up people who are talking about this. That said, even on Facebook, the hashtag serves as a form of short-hand, a message to the reader that this word combination has meaning, that #wehaveherback means something. Using it in a post or comment can only help and not hurt.
Also, thanks to our Facebook filter bubbles, we might not see these malicious narratives in our social media feeds. But if we have right-leaning family, friends or colleagues, we can be sure they are seeing this. Patiently listening and not blowing up might be too much for many of us, but for those who can stomach the conversations, Talking with Relatives Across the Political Divide offers some pointers (for the ultra-patient, there's active listening).
What should we watch out for on the next level down in the disinformation inferno? A very brief foray down the far-right-lite rabbit hole shows that the usual suspects are up to their usual tricks.
Harris was the top target for disinformation early in the cycle of Democratic candidate debates. It's important to remember that disinformation, particularly Russia-inspired, doesn't necessarily have a "party", but it does seek to divide. When Harris questioned Biden's history on race in an early debate, a storm took shape on Twitter. In the second debate, which took place in June of 2019, disinformation expert, Caroline Orr Bueno was one of the first to spot the igniting trend.
Orr Bueno found that the same message, originally posted by @ali, was copied verbatim and reposted by hundreds and hundreds of accounts, likely trolls. Donald Trump Jr. even retweeted the original @ali tweet, sending it further into Twitter amplification orbit.
It is worth noting that @ali has now Twitter-renamed himself "Ali v. Kamala Harris". We should assume he is not giving up the fight. His pinned tweet is a video of himself going on for 51:32 minutes describing his reaction to the selection of Harris as VP candidate. True disclosure: I could not bring myself to listen to this.
Glancing at his feed, I happen upon a retweet of the same right-wing white supremacist, anti-feminist, Mike Cernovich (@Cernovich) who literally created the Hillary has poor health narrative in 2016. Cernovich is back at it too. His focus appears to be on Harris's record as a DA. If this doesn't stick, he will change themes. The story doesn't actually matter. What is important is that Cernovich is a major far right social media influencer who will do anything to keep Trump in office. He will keep trying.
It is worth noting that Cernovich has been one of the driving forces pushing the "Sleepy Joe" narrative. The anti-feminist in him will likely go against Harris with more vitriol.
Birtherism 2.0 is another angle that we are likely to see. The question of Harris's eligibility to run was reawakened by Republican Constitutional scholar, John Eastman, in his 8/12/20 Newsweek Opinion piece. We can only hope that Newsweek will hear from its readership for publishing this. In What a Kamala Harris Meme Can Teach Us About Fighting Fake News in 2020, Benjamin T. Decker traces the lifecycle of the false citizenship narrative. Decker's article shows how small ideas can bubble up from far-right online communities and become part of much larger narrative that is legitimized by the media. While he wrote this in 2019, we can expect much more of this now.
Through all of this, it is so important that #WeHaveHerBack.
As a community of activists and progressives, we can easily help amplify that hashtag by retweeting and adding the hashtag to our own posts, especially as the narratives start to fly. #WeHaveHerBack is one way to shine a light on this - let's help make that light stronger.
Post-script - for those who want to stay one step ahead of the disinformation inferno consider following these accounts:
@JaneLytv - Jane Lytvynenko, Senior Reporter, Buzzfeed
@RVAWonk - Carolyn Orr, Behavioral Scientist and Reporter
@MelissaRyan - Melissa Ryan, Producer - Ctrl-Alt-Right-Delete (subscribe)
@noUpside - Renee DiResta - Stanford Internet Observatory - recommend reading her wisdom on how the antivaxxers use social media
@selectedwisdom - Clint Watts - Author, Reporter, MSNBC contributor
@BostonJoan - Joan Donovan, PhD - Research Director, Shorenstein Center at Harvard - also check out Joan's Big If True series and subscribe to Meme War Weekly
@BrandyZadrozny - Brandy Sadrozny - Reporter, NBC
@conspirator0 - Conspirador Norteño - Data Scientist, Twitter data visualizer extraordinaire
@cward1e - Claire Wardle, Strategy Lead at FirstDraft News (want to learn about investigation - check out the verification courses here.