“Set yourself on fire.”
“You’ve made your bed, now get fucked in it.”
“Fuck your feelings.”
To most, these will sound like the words of an online troll, or at the very least someone with what in the 1990s we used to call “anger management issues.” And that’s probably an accurate assessment.
Yet these are not occasional, one-off outbursts, but rather part of a pattern of behaviour from perhaps the most darkly fascinating person currently causing grief on social media. They are the words of Randi Harper, an activist who runs a charity set up to prevent online abuse. Yes, you read that correctly.
This is the story, in three parts, of how Harper rose to prominence, how she has gotten away with such outrageous behaviour for so long while maintaining friendships with influential media commentators, activists, and journalists, and how she treats those who disagree with her far-left, hardline feminist politics.
It is the product of dozens of interviews with friends, former colleagues, and objects of Harper’s vindictive social media crusades. Almost all of them refused to speak on the record for fear of reprisals from Harper and her band of social media supporters.
The fact that so few people are willing to speak out about this new wave of progressive trolls perhaps tells its own story.
Our interviews reveal a deeply troubled, hateful, and damaged human being in desperate need of help. They also expose just how tolerant to hatefulness the authoritarian left-wing establishment in America has become, provided the abuser in question has the right sort of opinions.
“Randi Harper is probably the person doing the most harm to the cause of feminism on the internet today,” a well-known progressive journalist confided last week, on condition of anonymity. “Ordinarily we could dismiss her as a mess. But she has become a damaging force.”
Harper herself apparently believes she has something to hide: shortly after being notified that this story would appear, she swapped the names of her two Twitter accounts,@freebsdgirl (on which the majority of her hateful invective had been published) and@randileeharper. She has since made the @freebsdgirl private so that only users she has approved can see her past tweets.