Go High or Go Low: What’s the Best Way to Resist in 2017?

CN: Ableist language and transphobic comments

We all remember Michelle Obama’s famous “When they go low, we go high” quote from earlier this year. It was a rallying cry to all of us disgusted by the Right’s racist, sexist, and queerphobic rhetoric. However, I can’t help but wonder: what does going high instead of low look like?

A few days ago, I think I went low.

On Wednesday I tweeted “.@MsBlaireWhite is the Ben Carson of trans people.” Blaire White then retweeted it, called me a moron, and . . . well you can look at all the responses yourself. (READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!) At first I was thrilled to piss off so many Twitter assholes, but then I talked to some Facebook friends and I realized I kinda went low. Don’t get me wrong; I still think Blaire White is fifty shades of wrong about . . . everything! Yet, as Michelle pointed out in the video, technically I used the same trolling technique the Twitter trolls use. I issued an apology on Twitter, but as a friend pointed out, we keep losing whenever we try to go high, so what can we do?

At first I thought, “Well, since I’m a skeptic, I’ll just continue to debunk bad ideas.” But then I came across this article from The Christian Century called “Fascism Can’t Be Stopped By Fact-Checking.” In it, Daniel Jose Camacho says debunking propaganda with facts and data sounds like a good idea, but . . .

The problem is a particular vision of the world supported by people with power to carry it out. This kind of political project can’t be fact-checked away. As the profoundly undemocratic conditions in the state politics of North Carolina have recently proven, conciliatory attempts to compromise with this project are absorbed and outmatched by those wielding power. In such cases, our American fallacy of bi-partisanship is exposed because there are certain things that cannot be met halfway and there are times when both parties fail us.

In other words, the Alt-Right doesn’t care what a nobody on the Internet like me thinks.

Camacho’s suggestion instead is:

The important thing to keep our eye on is the power we do possess and the various avenues by which we can resist. What can resistance look like? I think we will have to utilize all of the legal, political, economic, activist/organizing, artistic, and religious means available to us.

Naturally, being an atheist I don’t use religious means, especially since theology plays a huge role in oppression. However, I think what he’s trying to get at is it’s not enough to simply write blogs and do podcasts debunking Alt-Right propaganda. Don’t get me wrong; I think those are great forms of activism, which is why I do what I do. Also, as Cody Charles of Everyday Feminism recently pointed out, some people literally do not have the means to march in the streets. So I interpret Camacho’s suggestion as this: whatever means you have to resist the Trump regime, use them!

And maybe that’s what Michelle meant by going high.

What do you think?


  1. says

    I go both high and low.

    I go high when I want to discuss a topic in a formal, thoughtful way. Gratuitous barbs distract from forming a serious discussion—or at least, they distract me from presenting my perspective in a serious, thoughtful way.

    I go low when I’m in the mood to let off steam. Letting out that anger helps maintain my sanity. However, I don’t bother tweeting the insults at the target of my steam letting. It’s humor that I share with the folks who are subscribed to me. The insults won’t impact the target in any way that will change their minds and calm reasoning won’t do that either, for the most part. So, I keep the humor “in house.” And quite frankly, it can be dangerous in real time to have a hoard of alt-right thugs trying to track you down. I keep a well maintained block list.

    Plus, I just get tired of being expected to be a “nice girl” in everyday life. Society expects women to be kind, compassionate, polite, and empathetic 24/7. When I’m behind a keyboard, sometimes its a relief to be unfettered (or at least, “less fettered”) by those social conventions.

    I make no apologies for going low. My targets are people who are generally those who are abusive, mean, bigoted, and/or stubbornly clueless about their privilege. At that point, I consider them to be fair game for humorous barbs. White is an ass of epic proportions. I’m wouldn’t lose sleep over insulting her. I’m sure she doesn’t lose sleep over being a transgender token for alt-right shitlords. She soaks up the attention of her horrid followers and thrives off of it… at the expense of trans people and a host of others of minority status.

    Whatever you do, just be safe. That’s my 2¢.

  2. DanDare says

    Going high means leaving things in a good state after you have done something instead of damaging your own foundations. The trumpkins lie and so honesty and the search for truth are damaged. They manipulate emotions and so the whole concept of trust is damaged. Go out and be activist but don’t damage reason itself by sneering and using generalisations. Explain cite discuss show. In this twitter is not your friend and can only be used sparingly.

  3. says

    One key thing here is that little is literally “high” or “low”. This is metaphorical so what gets spread around is the idea of a range of intensity in social actions. The high end is high in work and often longer but better somehow. The low end is worse, or less effective but easy.

    Not all of these questions are useful for every example but I would try to ask things like:
    What is intense? Why was it intense? What was high work and low work? Why was an option easy? What do the social realities look like when compared to the symbols used? If I am getting personal is it relevant to the person in this social situation? Is that person actually hurting me with the thing I am using in a way that causes strong reactions?

    Is the social splash damage worth it to everyone? Anyone?

    This is non-literal so it is strategy. An example of “going low” for me is getting personal when relevant. Appealing to cowardice when a person acting aggressively becomes reluctant to do something like explain why they feel like a characteristic relevant to part of the group lets them treat a whole group as a negative. Appealing to incompetence when real-world sexual predation is not helped by paranoia about trans people (I’ve used that on on my parents). There is going to be some splash damage because abusive people use those words too. So I am always willing to justify it.

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