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The Unedited Talks With Members Of The #AlitaArmy

First up is the chat between me(TonyTGD) and StarOfElyon

[greetings and some personal info redacted]

TonyTGD: So, let me start by saying I have not seen the Alita: Battle Angel movie myself. Not for any reason in particular, just a lack of cash and time. That said, I am interested in hearing why you and the others in the #AlitaArmy love the movie so much? I understand the hesitation to speak to the media as I am a GamerGate and Trump supporter. Lastly, I would like to put you on record confirming that Adam White or anyone else from The Independent did not make any attempt to reach out to you or other members of the AlitaArmy before smearing you all.

StarOfElyon: That's right. He never reached out to anyone that I know of. I'll just give you these links to the tweets from the female journalist and the archive of them. I'll be able to say more when I get home. [links posted in main article on OAG] Also, I'm willing to buy you a digital copy of ALITA on the platform of your choice so you can watch it. No problem. That's what #AlitaArmy is here for.

TTGD: Thank you for your time and generous offer. I would love to accept a free copy of the movie but I must decline as it would be a violation of journalistic ethics and could be seen as a conflict of interest. [Twitter was acting up during our talks so I was unsure if my message went through leading to this very similar reply] I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and the generous offer of a free copy of Alita. As much as I would love to accept a free copy of it I must decline as it could be seen as a conflict of interest and/or a violation of journalistic ethics. If you know of any other AlitaArmy people willing to talk or the person behind the AlitaArmy twitter account I would appreciate you facilitating a conversation with them.

SOE: [link to the AlitaArmy account not added to for privacy] Is this the account you're talking about? I'm trying to figure out who it is now. I'll get back to the questions after dinner. [line redacted for privacy]

TTGD: that's fine

SOE: Why I like Alita: I've made a lot of videos explaining why I love the movie and the character but I'm going to try to give you a condensed explanation. The movie itself is very cool and if you actually think about what you're seeing, you'll realize how much love was put into it. There's an enormous amount of detail put into things that won't even be seen unless you look for it. I've seen the movie 21 times and wanted to see it more but couldn't because it left all theaters in my area.
There's also a honesty about the movie. It leans so hard into the source material and into the ridiculousness of the world with zero shame it endears me to it. That's how movies should be. The Raimi Spider-Man films were the same way. They were unapologetically "comic book" movies. There's a lot of risk that comes with not shying away from something like giving Alita huge manga eyes. She was mocked for those eyes. People decided not to see the movie because of those eyes. But it wasn't a decision made by a person who was ashamed or afraid to embrace it. It turns out that Alita is actually very beautiful and her eyes are now symbols of being proud of who or what you are naturally. And that's sort of the theme of the movie. Alita is relatable because she has to find her place in the world, just like we all do. And Alita has hopes but things don't always go her way. She is so determined to be herself, even when she doesn't remember who she really is, that she makes rash decisions. The movie doesn't let her get away with mistakes either. She's punished for what she does. Just like the rest of us. And like us, nothing is handed to her. Whatever she gets, she gets because of decisions that she has made - good or bad. Because we all know what that's like, we root for her. We want her to succeed. But just in the real world, things don't always work out. Alita strives for her goals. She falls and gets back up. She continues to fight even when she literally has only one limb left. And she doesn't win every battle but she tries her best. Alita loves people genuinely, and she wants to be loved the same way. But she's a cyborg. She's conscious of the fact that she can't give the person she loves everything they could have with a "normal" girl. That makes us root for her again. Because we all know the feeling of being either inadequate or wanting something that even super strength can't help you gain. She's so flawed and that makes her more relatable. At the end of the movie, when Alita is in a motorball stadium being cheered for by thousands of people, it's hard for me to control my emotions because it feels so meta. Alita isn't being celebrated because she "won" something. She is being celebrated because she survived her journey. She represents the ability to face the worst adversity that life can throw at you and still continue fighting without losing yourself.

TTGD: That is quite an answer, I thank you for taking the time to write such a lengthy reply.

SOE: no prob. I can analyze that movie from multiple angles. We all can.

TTGD: Now I have something of a sensitive series of questions but I must ask them for the sake of due diligence... Are you aware of any alt-right individuals that are influential among the #AlitaArmy ? Were there any in the past? And, for the sake of having it on the record, would you allow any such people to push alt-right ideas within the AlitaArmy?

SOE: I don't know of anyone who is "alt-right" in the #AlitaArmy community. Many of us are not even from the United States. There are Chinese, Japanese, German, German/Nigerian, African American, French, British, Australian, and Venezuelan people in this community - just off the top of my head. If anyone is alt-right we don't know about it because they are doing a hell of a job of hiding it. But what would they have to gain by being among us? Since so much of our communication is on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram, I would think we would have picked up on it by now and confronted that person. But I also have to confess that I'm not sure exactly what alt-right is. I assume it's a form of white supremacist ideology. I guess it would manifest in racist attitudes. Am I wrong? The #AlitaChallenge did get co-opted by some right wingers for one week but they left as soon as their protest of Captain Marvel led nowhere. I never personally interacted with any one who was just there for that protest, that I can recall. I was in communication with the same people before we started using the hashtag #AlitaArmy

TTGD: alt-right typically refers to white supremacist or Nazi types

SOE: They would probably be very uncomfortable among us. And if I had to guess what the biggest Alita youtube channels were it would be Doc Ido and GenXStrikes back. GenX often discusses his Native American heritage. Doc Ido is simply a good guy, as far as I can tell. Even though I'm sometimes told my youtube channel is a major deal, I don't look at it that way. I guess people feel that way because I was one of the first to really start making Alita videos and defending the movie from attackers. I don't care what their political alignment was; if they were an enemy of Alita they were no friend of mine.

TTGD: I see...totally understandable. Again, I thank you for your time and if there is anything you would like to add, please feel free to do so now.

SOE: Since I was the one who made the video that The Independent mentioned as an "attack video" I thought you might want to know more about that.

TTGD: As I understand the video has since been taken down, but if you would like to tell me as to its contents that would be appreciated

SOE: When the journalist approached us on twitter for an interview, I said that I didn't feel comfortable talking to a journalist in private because I don't want my words to be twisted. I said that I wanted to speak in the public only where I had witnesses to what I said. Some didn't have any problems talking to her. But most of them live outside the US and so they don't understand my distrust of the media. Then we had reason to suspect that the journalist might not be trustworthy. Since she wouldn't take my invitation to talk in the open, I made a video warning people to not have any contact with her - and I mean ZERO contact, especially not to attack her. The next day she tweeted out to us that she saw my video and that she was hurt by it. She said she was crying. Other people in the #AlitaArmy community called me out. We had a big debate in the open about it. I was sure I did the right thing. I thought maybe the journalist was trying to emotionally manipulate us into trusting her so I wouldn't budge. Some people agreed with my suspicion. Others didn't. Quite a few people criticized me. Then the journalist posted a twitter video explaining who she was and in it she apologized for what she said. Seeing the video, I got the impression that she really wasn't out to smear us and that she really was just trying to get to know us. I apologized for my video and I told her that I would take it down and post a new video explaining the misunderstanding. I told her that I completely forgave her for what she said and I promised to never bring it up again, and I want to keep that promise. I told her she was welcome to talk to me as a friend, even in DMs, just not for interviews in DMs (because I was still too paranoid about someone else using her words against me). It turns out we ended up getting smeared anyway by Adam White, someone who we've never spoken to. Adam never mentioned that we made amends with the Journalist. He never mentioned my video explaining the misunderstanding I had with the her. He never even mentioned that I was african american in his article linking us to the "alt-right". He comes across as someone who saw our conversations with the female journalist on twitter (whom I haven't named here out of trying to be respectful to her). And he barely even understood what was going on. If he did, he intentionally misrepresented everything. Honestly, I believe he knew exactly what he was doing. Because everything happened out in the open. The female journalist has been talking to others in the community and she told us that she was almost ready to submit her story. I wonder how that's going now since this Independent smear piece has made things much more complicated and probably stressful for her. I've apologized openly again for the unintended harm that I caused everyone. I was wrong about the journalist but my attempt to protect us from getting smeared only helped us get smeared.
In this video, I apologized again. I don't know if the female journalist saw it because I didn't send it to her. I'm assuming that she has been distressed about all of this and I want to give her space.

TTGD: Awesome, thanks again. I will parse through all of the information you gave me.


Up next is the talk I had with bostitch42 over email.

B42: Hello Tony,

I read your article on OneAngryGamer. I contacted the twitter account and they advised me to contact you directly.

I’m guessing you’ve been contacted by StarOfElyon already, who is the youtuber that was referenced in the article. If you require more sources, I’m available - I was active myself in the fated twitter thread, and responded to Kylie’s questionnaire as well. 

Most tellingly about the Independent’s lack of journalistic standards though is that Adam White made no attempt to contact the reporter in question, and (afaik) hasn’t apologized since. 

The @AlitaArmy account you mentioned in the article is either a Chinese fan, of someone’s secondary account where they just retweet for marketing purposes - no-one in the active AlitaArmy hashtag seems to know who is behind that account.  

Kind Regards,
[redacted for privacy]

TTGD: Thank you for reaching out. Im at my day job so Im not able to do a lengthy chat at the moment. If you would like to give me a brief overview as to your experience in the fandom as well as why you like the movie so much I can touch base later and get into more specifics. 

B42: Hey, no worries. 

Brief, well that’s a challenge. Like I mentioned, I had answered KH’s questions, but she’s not running with my story and I was urged by parts of the fandom to share my answers publicly. So if you’ve got a few hours to kill, here’s the first draft on my thoughts on the movie:

But in an attempt to sum it up:
a) technical level: best CGI in the history of filmmaking, superb sound design and fight choreography (an anti-Bayformers approach), superb script + making use of visual storytelling to cram an incredible amount of story into a single 2hr film, and just a love of filmmaking on every level of the production team that radiates from every shot. 
b) A story that I (and most people in the fandom) connect with on an emotional level that just doesn’t happen very often, or at all. I’ve seen people make comparisons to the original release of A New Hope in terms of fan engagement, or The Matrix in terms of connecting with a story. For the fans, it’s not just movie of the year or movie of the decade, it’s movie of a lifetime. 

My experience with the fandom: 
Well I didn’t know much about the IP going in, nor did I expect to stan it this hard. It just happened gradually over time, as after my 1st cinema visit I kept thinking about the movie until I went and saw it a second time, and then again and again and again because there was so much to discover. There’s a subreddit that was very active around the release, and some activity on YouTube and Twitter, but (at least on Twitter) it didn’t really come together until that tweet by the Acadamy asking what people’s favorite movie of the year was, when there was this massive support for Alita. 
(Interesting to note: #AlitaArmy didn’t really see any use until that tweet on March 18th, while the #AlitaChallenge event that surrounds the whole alt-right connection was in the days leading up to March 8th.)

The Alita fandom as a whole is pretty diverse, but the AlitaArmy, in very very broad terms, is made up of 3 groups; Americans, who tend to lean to the right, Europeans who tend to lean to the left, and the Chinese who are like “Whatever. It’s about the movie.” On the libertarian vs authoritarian divide, there’s a lean towards libertarian ofcourse.
The left in the US seems to stay away from the AlitaArmy hashtag in my experience, though those who have seen it can love the film just as fiercely.

Since the film did poorly at the US box office, AlitaArmy is pretty much all about raising awareness / guerilla promotion of the film, in an attempt to boost ticket sales (then) or dvd sales (now), to try and get A:BA profitable enough to get sequels greenlit. 

Hope that’s brief enough. 

Kind regards,

TTGD: I would like to get you on the record answering a few questions. Did  Adam White or anyone else from The Independent did not make any attempt to reach out to you or other members of the AlitaArmy before printing the article on Alita? Are you aware of any alt-right individuals that are influential among the #AlitaArmy ? Were there any in the past? And, for the sake of having it on the record, would you allow any such people to push alt-right ideas within the AlitaArmy?

[As of 10:15 PM Central time on July 12 2019 I had not got a reply to that but I will update if I am sent one.]
[edit: I received a reply to my email]

B42: I was not contacted by Adam White or any representative of the Independent. I’m mutuals with both StarOfElyon and Kylie Harrington on Twitter (the people AW’s story centers on) and they have both stated publicly they were not contacted by AW or the Independent. No-one that I know in the AlitaArmy hashtag or Alita fandom as a whole has come forward as having had contact with AW or the Independent prior to publication of his story. 

I’m not aware of anyone active (on any level of influence) in the AlitaArmy hashtag that identifies as alt-right, or could even be perceived to be alt-right by someone as liberal as myself. (*)
Any alt-right influence (perceived or real) in the Alita fandom began and ended in the weekend of March 8th with the hijacking of the AlitaChallenge. I say perceived or real because I had no desire to investigate people, but a number of the videos and tweets from that one week were so unhinged that I have no trouble believing there was an alt-right connection.
(*)To give an example, I have been exploring how the subtext in A:BA is seen as a very positive message for transgender people, and retweeting trans people who say the same. Not once has someone tried to counter my views or insulted me for it. It may be that some of he more conservative fans don’t follow or talk to me because of it, and that’s fine - the fandom is too big to follow everyone anyway. But not even a block or a snide remark because of it. 
(As subtext goes it’s there in big blinking neon signs, but subtext nonetheless. I _have_ had people comment how they weren’t aware the transhumanism themes applied so directly to transgenderism, for the same reason it applies to people with disabilities of any kind.)

To answer your last question, the paradox of tolerance comes into play. For all the libertarian (sub)text and themes of autonomy in A:BA, there is a consensus in the AlitaArmy to promote A:BA on it’s own merits, and not to bring other films down in order to lift Alita up. So there is (grudgingly) some fandom policing going on, but I’ve only seen it (need to) take the form of polite requests all these months. It’s clear to see this is a reaction to the events surrounding March 8th and all the negativity that flowed from it. 
Myself, I was feeling pretty bad to be part of the Alita fandom in those days around March 8th, and I have to give credit to 3 Buck Theatre to be able to see the positive again: 
So for me, the #AlitaArmy (the hashtag didn’t see use till March 18 incidentally) was very much a way of fighting back against the alt-right influence (again, either perceived or real) 
that surrounded the movie for a while. I have not talked extensively to other fans on the issue, and I don’t want to appear to speak for the entire fandom, but I know I’m not alone in those sentiments. 
So yes, I would push back as much as I could against alt-right influences, if they were to crop up again. 
[B42 wanted to add an amendment]
That the US part of the fandom seeming on the right side of the spectrum is from my POV as a European.