Riffing on the Trail of Tears

I’m a troll, so say residents of Decatur, Georgia’s Oakhurst neighborhood.

Why? Because I spoke and wrote on taboo topics: gentrification and racism in their neighborhood while I lived there.

Whether folks see the redevelopment taking place in Oakhurst as destructive gentrification or beneficial neighborhood upgrading, most people on both sides agree that the neighborhood is changing, taxes are rising, and residents are being displaced. If you’re on the neighborhood conservation and social justice side of the table, it’s bad. If you’re on the other side and a property rights defender or work in the real estate/construction business, it’s good. The commentary from both sides may be found in local blogs, community listservs, and in testimony before the city commission.

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Twitter terrorism

[Ed. Note: This was originally published in September 2012.]

My wife and I went to sleep one night in 2011 and awoke in a Twilight Zone episode. Back in 2007, anti-preservation activists settled for yard signs, rude emails, and disappearing blogs. Today residents in Decatur, Georgia’s Oakhurst neighborhood who oppose historic preservation and who defend destructive gentrification in their neighborhood anonymously¬†use Twitter and other social media sites to settle scores with folks with whom they disagree. They create and post vulgar and defamatory animated videos that offend their more sensible neighbors and demean their entire community.

Screen capture from one of the fake Twitter accounts. The hyperlink originally pointed to the site xtranormal.com where four offensive animated videos had been created and posted by the individual calling him/herself @OakhurstVillain.

As of this writing, Twitter has suspended three “fake” accounts (the status of a fourth is undetermined); complaints have been filed against others and remedial action by Twitter may be pending against them. Sure, people — myself included — use Twitter for mischief sometimes. Parody accounts and other legal uses abound. But there is a bright line between innocent, albeit boisterous, posting and harassment and defamation. The people in Decatur behind these accounts have crossed that threshold.

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