Let’s start with the obvious: Joey Gibson is a dork.
While achieving moderate fame for being the leader of far right-wing group Patriot Prayer, in actuality, Gibson is just a loud-mouth, small-town nobody who, without the internet’s help, would’ve lived and died as another angry, put-upon dude spending his lunchtime eating pimento loaf sandwiches in his car and listening to Rush Limbaugh.
Unfortunately, Gibson’s stumbled upon this century’s golden ticket for propelling angry nobodies like him into the spotlight: trolling. With the lure of “triggering snowflakes,” he’s convinced impressionable, like-minded dorks (including accused MAX murderer Jeremy Christian) to join him on his semi-regular Portland visits, which are expressly designed to send progressives into a tizzy and provoke violence. Then they leave, laughing uproariously as Portland’s police, counter-protesters, media, and mayor’s office fight amongst themselves.
Activists are right: Simply ignoring this roving band of dorks doesn’t do enough, and the refusal to confront their racism only makes their targets feel less safe.
However—and this is what we’re forgetting—there are different types of confrontation. If the past year has taught us anything, physical confrontation is exactly what these losers want in order to promote their disingenuous “we’re so persecuted” narrative. And local and national media are all too happy to play along. What’s the primary focus of news reports that follow these altercations? Is it the hundreds of peaceful anti-fascists who show up to counter Patriot Prayer’s misanthropy, or the miniscule number of people who throw a punch? (That’s a rhetorical question, because you know the answer.)
So if we put aside punch throwing, what kind of confrontation can work? A possible answer is “creative humiliation.” As we know, right-wingers are the least funny people on earth. They are inherently insecure, and the sound of people laughing at them is their kryptonite. One person I know regularly busted up anti-abortion protests by standing alongside the group holding a sign that read, “What about the aliens?” People driving by would point and laugh at the anti-abortionists who finally grew so uncomfortable, they slithered back to whatever dork-hole they crawled out of.
We live in probably the funniest, most creatively devious city in America—so why respond to small-town racist nobodies with the exact methods they prefer? Want to push back? Good for you—but don’t play their game. Get on the news by making fun of them. Use your creativity to humiliate these ridiculous, backward-thinking dum-dums and show the world that we recognize them for who they really are: dorks.