Don't fall for torrancing from Z-list celebrities
It's a strategy intended to divide us, just like the culture war
There are certain Z-list celebrities who have boosted their flailing careers in recent years with a technique known as torrancing.
Torrancing is defined by the Urban Dictionary as follows:
“Torrancing is a technique used by the commentariat whereby they use an insulting headline or tweet to generate an angry reaction. As people try to refute the allegation they are then accused of bullying or attacking the commentator, who can then adopt a victim or "poor me" stance. Popular with Z-list celebrities.”
This is a perfect description and I bet you can think of a few Z-listers who do this because torrancing has been happening a lot recently.
The key to the torrancers’ approach is to hide their outrage bait behind a veil of respectability. For example, they might falsely accuse a popular person of racism. This way they can show their friends they have noble intentions, and make people who aren’t in the firing line fearful of questioning them. After all, they wouldn’t want to appear racist, would they?
Torrancing makes most people fall silent, apart from those who’ve been emotionally impacted by the attack. When someone gives the angry response the torrancers were counting on, they weaponise that response against not only them but the entire group.
A case in point would be the popular Jewish children’s author Michael Rosen who has been falsely accused of antisemitism. This is a disgraceful smear, but Rosen’s accusers hide behind the pretence they are acting with a noble intention: to tackle antisemitism.
Most people dare not challenge this lie because no one wants to look like they’re undermining the fight against antisemitism. What if they defend Rosen and they’re wrong? Perhaps they don’t know enough so it’s better to stay silent. Many will opt to applaud the accuser because it’s always best to show the world you’re anti-racist. After all, that’s what all decent people are - anti-racist.
Torrancing like this is effective manipulation.
The torrancers’ goal has nothing to do with antisemitism; their goal is to set a trap for their political opponents. They know that supporters will rush to defend Michael Rosen, they know those supporters will be angry, and they know a small handful will go too far in their response.
Perhaps a person is well-intentioned. Perhaps they don’t choose their words well because they’re emotional and it all comes out wrong. Perhaps there is an aggression to their words that gives the impression there could be racist intent.
That’s what the torrancers are counting on. They just need four or five people to fall for their trap and they’ve got all the ammunition they need. They will quote-tweet or screenshot and insist that hundreds of the replies they receive are of this nature.
“Imagine how horrible it feels being bombarded with these awful messages,” they will say, provoking sympathy from those who’ve not been paying attention. This deception attracts more anger - and the anger contrasted with the sympathy makes one side look good and the other look bad. They’ve been using this strategy for years and while some are wising up to it, others aren’t.
Torrancers will use angry responses as evidence that all their political opponents behave like this - and this evidence serves to justify their original position. They can say: “Look at these crazy people who rush to defend Michael Rosen. Why would he have the support of people who behave like this unless he’s as bad as we say he is?”
This leaves the community in a dilemma. Perhaps one of the foolish comments came from one of your online friends. Do you stand by that friend in spite of their foolishness? Do you defend their words? Do you try to ignore this? Do you criticise your friend? Before you know it, we’re seeing infighting.
While I’ve not seen anyone falling out over the Michael Rosen thing, it’s one of those where it could be a matter of time if people aren’t careful. I’ve seen this story play out many times and the worry is some might not have learned.
The sad thing is, one of the celebrities (who will not be named) had only 160 likes on their original post, despite having hundreds of thousands followers. In other words, they weren’t getting traction. Their attack only gained effectiveness when people angrily replied. This is a person who makes a habit of kicking up a shitstorm on social media and going on TV to lap up sympathy.
One of the most sickening things about the whole affair is these pretend anti-racists celebrated when Boris Johnson became our most racist prime minister since Winston Churchill - and yes, antisemitism is among the racisms Johnson is guilty of.
So far, the Rosen attack hasn’t been as successful as attacks in the past, but this leads me to suspect they will increase the provocation, assuming they don’t give up. If you want them to give up, don’t give them engagement.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t defend someone like Michael Rosen, just don’t do it in the way they want you to. You could simply post something nice about Michael Rosen online or remind everyone how absurd it is to suggest this wonderful man who lost relatives in the holocaust is antisemitic.
You could simply say “I stand with Michael Rosen” and you could act like the people smearing him don’t exist. That would crush them. It would cut off their oxygen and the wave of positivity would make the torrancers look like aggressors rather than victims.
Our political opponents can’t have conversations on policies or power structures or any of the things we want to talk about because they don’t have credible arguments. They will lose every policy debate so why engage them in the conversations they want to have? Those conversations serve only to distract, divide and sap our energy.
We’ve seen the torrancing strategy come to the fore in recent years due to the rise of the online left. The divide and conquer strategy was intended to end us as a political movement. The antisemitism smear was intended to stop us advocating for Palestine, or at the very least, undermine our message.
The answer is to stay united, refuse to give these people the engagement they crave and talk about the issues we want to talk about. A unified online community that doesn’t get distracted by torrancing or the culture war or whatever other strategy our opponents come up with can be remarkably effective. We lose that effectiveness when we walk into their traps.