If actor James Woods and poker pro Vanessa Selbst were to face off at the poker table, we know who would have the advantage. But in the world of Twitter, it’s not always so clear.
“I thought everyone on twitter was irrational,” Selbst tweeted on Wednesday, “but it turns out I’m just in a feedback loop generated by a @RealJamesWoods retweet. AHHHHHH!!!”
Selbst had unintentionally provoked a Twitter fight with actor and poker aspirant James Woods that turned into a display of how well-meaning political discourse can quickly step into the lower depths of the American commitment to free speech.
The two are clearly political opposites, but things got heated after some of Woods’ 978,000 followers, many of whom have some semblance of #MAGA or #AmericaFirst on their profiles, began chiming in.
Selbst has nearly 96,000 Twitter followers, not as many as Woods but a formidable following nonetheless, presumably with a higher percentage who are representatives of the poker community.
Before long, a Twitter spat became a Twitter brawl, with poker Twitter rallying around Selbst, particularly after gender-based and homophobic slurs started flying.
She Said, He Said
Selbst knew she was asking for potential trouble when she tweeted after the recent terrorist attack in lower Manhattan:
“Stop talking about terrorism, it really isn’t a big deal vis a vis actual threats to humans. (Gonna catch some flack for this). #NYCStrong.”
Selbst, a PokerStars Team Pro who’s never held back on revealing her liberal political leanings, was attempting to make the point that more people in America die from other causes than terrorism, a point that as the tweet suggests, she knew was inviting criticism.
Woods’ initial response was a sober point worthy of debate. “But the underlying strategy of ‘terrorism’ is to create malaise in the emotional well being of a people. It’s not solely a statistical issue,” he tweeted.
Her response: “Not that I have any interest in engaging with you bc you’re a lunatic, but I’m pretty sure you’re agreeing with me w/o realizing it.”
Selbst’s “lunatic” jab got the outspoken conservative Hollywood celebrity to suggest that insults such as this were a “classic liberal tactic,” which was enough of a dog whistle to rally his trolling troops.
In response to Selbst’s original post, a Trump supporter who believes homophobia is hilarious, user @NHpatriotNH, said, “Oh, that’s a girl,” a jab at Selbst’s short hair. Similar and worse rolled in, particularly after Woods offered his support of such rhetoric:
“That’s being somewhat generous,” he replied.
Bad Behavior Breeds Bad Behavior?
Shortly before sending that tweet, Selbst claimed Woods blocked her on Twitter, meaning she no longer could see his tweets about her. But even without the direct connection, the poker community was rallying to her defense.
“I would be so embarrassed to reach my 70’s and still be mocking people for how they look,” poker pro Jamie Kerstetter said while using her acerbic wit to mock the actor’s age.
High-stakes hedge fund manager Bill Perkins also chimed in. “I wonder if you said ‘calling James Woods a good actor was generous’ how he would react or feel?” Perkins tweeted.
Daniel Negreanu was more direct: “This old ass cracker is a real piece of sh*t.”
Selbst, to her credit, shrugged off Woods’ potentially offensive gender challenge, and even somewhat agreed with his assessment.
“Well I don’t really identify as a girl or a guy, think I’m somewhere in between,” she replied to Kerstetter. “So he’s sorta not wrong, altho ‘generous’ is a weird term.”
Both Woods and Selbst come from different backgrounds and share opposing political views. But they also have more in common than they probably realize. They love poker, have more money than the average American, and are often criticized for expressing their political views on Twitter.
Perhaps, these two poker players can put aside their differences and hug this one out? Of course, Woods would have to unblock her first.