To Doxx a Racist - 2018-07-26
The tactic of exposing people's identities to fight racism has a precedent in the U.S. The governor of Louisiana, John Parker, suggested in a speech in 1923 that "the light of publicity" should be turned on the Ku Klux Klan: "Its members cannot stand it. Reputable businessmen, bankers, lawyers, and others numbered among its members will not continue in its fold. They cannot afford it." Later, during the Civil Rights era, several newspapers, aided by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, printed names and ranks of local Klansmen.
But the impact was limited to local communities, where the identities of Klansmen were often common knowledge anyway. As a political tool, the publishing of private information became more potent in the 1980s and 1990s, when it was used by right-wing Christian conservatives against abortion providers. And it was thanks to the internet that doxxing, as it is now known, became widespread and devastatingly effective.
I first met Jenkins outside the CPAC convention in Washington, D.C., in 2015, where I was reporting on the nascent far-right groups that were mingling with the GOP establishment with new intimacy. Jenkins had been warning people about the far right for more than a decade. In the 1990s he was a young activist trying to figure out how to fight the forces of white supremacy in America. He wanted to expose the racists to the world, to shame them into submission. The problem was that, as an African-American, his options for doing so were limited. He couldn't very well go undercover and report on them.