You come to expect the vitriol »« Crude insults, aggressive threats, unstinting ridicule

Fat, ugly, desperate or a bitch who deserves to be slapped, hit or gang-raped

And here’s the New Statesman on the subject.

Helen Lewis-Hasteley –

The sheer volume of sexist abuse thrown at female bloggers is the internet’s festering sore: if you talk to any woman who writes online, the chances are she will instantly be able to reel off a Greatest Hits of insults. But it’s very rarely spoken about, for both sound and unsound reasons. No one likes to look like a whiner — particularly a woman writing in male-dominated fields such as politics, economics or computer games.

Hmm…I don’t seem to have that problem. Maybe that’s because I don’t see talking about it as being a whiner at all; I see it as political. That’s because it is political. The misogyny is political and talking about it is political. Goebbels was political; Radio Mille Collines was political; why would misogynist campaigns not be political?

While I won’t deny that almost all bloggers attract some extremely inflammatory comments — and LGBT or non-white ones have their own special fan clubs too — there is something distinct, identifiable and near-universal about the misogynist hate directed at women online. As New Statesman blogger David Allen Green told me: “In three years of blogging and tweeting about highly controversial political topics I have never once had any of the gender-based abuse that, say, Cath Elliott, Penny Red, or Ellie Gellard routinely receives.”

Kate Smurthwaite –

I get abusive comments on my blog or under my videos. Some is straight up hate-speech: fat, ugly, desperate or a bitch who deserves to be slapped, hit or gang-raped. Other times it is in the form of unsolicited advice: subjects I “shouldn’t” cover or opinions I “shouldn’t” have. I’d say in a typical week I get 10-20 abusive comments though there are undoubtedly more that I don’t see on other sites.

The vast majority of the abuse is gender-related. There is a clear link to internet pornography. Much of the language used could have come straight from pornographic sites.

There is an underlying issue though — the people who post these comments reveal a deep-seated hatred towards women. I find that unsurprising in our culture. Violent extreme pornography is normal internet fare. Gang rape and prostitution are subjects for popular music. At least 95 per cent of actual rapists are still on the streets. That’s the real problem. We need to address that.

Eleanor O’Hagan –

On the whole I’ve managed to avoid the worst threats and misogyny that other women writers endure, but I don’t think that’s luck or because my opinions are more well-argued. I think it’s because, very early on, I became conscious of how my opinions would be received and began watering them down, or not expressing them at all. I noticed that making feminist arguments led to more abuse, and as a result, I rarely wrote about feminism at all. I was so nervous about the abuse I would receive when I wrote an article about cultural misogyny. It felt like I was exposing myself as a feminist.

Yikes! That’s a scary one. Not at all surprising, but scary.

Cath Elliot –

How am I supposed to know for instance whether “Let’s hope she doesn’t end up getting stabbed in the head or something” is a throwaway comment by a sad little man sat in his bedsit in his underpants, or whether it’s something slightly more sinister that means I need to keep looking over my shoulder whenever I leave the house? At what point does “a bit of online abuse” cross over into sexual harassment or hate speech? And how do you determine when a ‘nasty comment’ has crossed a line and become a genuine threat to kill?

I.don’t.know.

That’s all I can stand to read for the moment. To be continued.

Comments

  1. says

    I have certainly noticed this – you would have to be blind not to – but if, say, Cath Elliott or anyone else is subject to this on a site like Comment is Free or Liberal Conspiracy can’t their abusers be banned after the first offence? I don’t suppose you can do anything about it on threads which aren’t under your control, but couldn’t administrators share the IP numbers of serial offenders so they can be banned from all respectable sites? That would leave the misogynist shits to do their sexist abuse on fringe sites, where they wouldn’t be seen by Cath Elliott etc.

    I suppose what I’m calling for is a misogynist black list.

  2. says

    One of the things that has really struck me about the ERV slimepit is how their insults are not just sexual, but about female genitals as disgusting. They like using variations on smelly, stinky, diseased, putrid, deformed, dripping and rotten as descriptors.

    There was a lengthy paragraph somewhere at ERV’s describing Rebecca in such terms, that I can’t find with my poor google-fu and memory for vile insults. This recent example in rot13 is about another woman; translate as you will (eg http://rot13.com )

    Gung pbzzrag ol Pnvar gung lbh yvaxrq gb–vf nyfb Pnvar, syrhe-qr-pbeapbo-va-ure-fjbyyra-nff?

    Fur’f dhvgr n fzryyl nffzbhgushy bs n phagperfprag Jvppna, vfa’g fur? Zl sevraq Oneovr guvaxf fur xabjf ure. Gurl ner obgu fgvgpuref, ohg Oneovr vf n jneevbe, abg n juvare. Naq Oneovr pbhyq xvpx ure nff jvgubhg onggvat na rlrynfu, yvsgvat n svatre, be rire ybbxvat onpx. Vg’f ‘zntvpny’ ubj fur qbrf gung. Tvey-sh vf fbbbb pbby.

  3. Josh Slocum says

    Had I any influence in the blogosphere, I’d do everything I could to help implement the blacklist. We need a united front against this; misogyny is utterly escaping the normal progressive, ratcheting social taboos against explicit racism and homophobia. I don’t know why but it makes me crazy.

    Take the kind of shit Ophelia and Rebecca Watson have to put up with from the likes of “franc hoggle.” Behold nearly 400 comments at Stephanie Zvan’s blog with far more attention being paid to the potential “harm” that would come to that depraved, disgusting, sadistic and frightening font of bile if he were outed. Note how comparatively little (though it’s not wholly absent) genuine concern is shown for the victims of his abuse.

    Wouldn’t happen if it were a gay blogger and hoggle was calling him a faggot who deserved to get his face-hole kicked in. He’d be outed in a second. And anyone honest knows that.

    Something’s way beyond rotten in Denmark.

  4. julian says

    I suppose what I’m calling for is a misogynist black list.

    Que whining of censorship and witch hunts.

    ——

    I know as someone who isn’t ever going to be subject to this type of harassment my opinion likely doesn’t mean much but relegating this sort of behavior to fringe sites doesn’t sound like a very good solution. The opinions, attitudes and hate will still be there festering under the surface and giving everyone a false idea of how calm everything is.

    That said, I really like the idea. It sounds like a good way to help create a safer atmosphere for writers where women like Eleanor O’Hagan won’t have to be fearful of expressing themselves because of the abuse she’d get.

  5. says

    The opinions, attitudes and hate will still be there festering under the surface and giving everyone a false idea of how calm everything is.

    Julian – there are always going to be a certain amount of misogynists and rape fantasists in the world. They just shouldn’t be allowed to hang out in blog threads and intimidate bloggers. It’s not sweeping it under the carpet, it’s sweeping it out into the rubbish so you’ve got one clean space at least.

  6. Pteryxx says

    Intimidation doesn’t have to be public to be effective, but it does help… removing it from public view might help stop the haters encouraging each other, help remove the social acceptance of such activity as normal, and prevent them from being proud of how much they “got away with”. They could still take it to private mode, which might be less fun for them… some might not bother.

  7. Pteryxx says

    If 10% or so of men are predatory repeat rapists (re Lisak) and, they display notably misogynistic and dominating attitudes (re Lisak again) then, isn’t the vast majority of online harassment of women probably being committed by the same population? And maybe, by raising awareness and thereby social pressure and prosecution of this population, much of the online harassment would also stop?

  8. Beth says

    Wow! I had no idea how pervasive it was. I read the New Statesman article and some of the stuff it linked to.

    I tend to favor ignoring such stuff under the same principal that we ignore toddler temper tantrums, but that’s a strategy that doesn’t work for all situations. You don’t ignore stuff that is potentially harmful.

  9. Josh Slocum says

    You don’t ignore stuff that is potentially harmful.

    The point that such invective is not just “potentially” harmful. It’s actually harmful (julian, you should consider this too, I think). Ignoring it isn’t working. Allowing it to bloom in the full light of day isn’t stopping it because — again, just substitute gays or black people and it’ll become crystal clear — it being out there in the full light of day is *not* accompanied by stunned outrage. We need more stunned outrage and more “this comment has been removed for violating standards of decency.”

  10. says

    I’ve been reading some of the comments over at the New Statesman article and this one struck me:-

    welcome to the internet. if you don’t like it, please DO let the door hit you on your way out; this is not a place for someone easily offended. it was entirely your choice to reveal your identity to the hordes of anonymous idiot bastards, and i for one am glad that we needn’t follow politically correct idiocy when we post anything here. free speech, babycakes.

    What is “politically correct idiocy” to some is “normal politeness” to others. Would this commenter say to a female acquaintance who had, say, walked down the street and received a lot of sexist abuse:- “It was entirely your choice to walk down the street, and so free speech, babycakes.” A blog is a public space and there are certain ways of behaving there. Some guy who stood on a street and shouted “You’re too ugly to be raped” at passing females would get arrested.

  11. hotshoe says

    I don’t get why there has been any hesitation in revealing Franc Hoggle’s real name for the harm he does to female bloggers with his campaign of sexual hatred.

    Okay, there’s a lot to be said for the protection of internet anonymity/pseudonymity. I’m one who needs it; my neighbors already think I’m the spawn of Satan and I could be in danger physically if they found out what I say about christian terrorists on the internet in this identity. But that certainly means I have to take responsibility not to send them personal rape threats, death threats, etc.

    There should never be a presumption that bloggers have to put up with anyone’s hateful campaign against them on some grounds of “right to internet anonymity”. What about the much stronger right NOT to be harmed by being exposed to hate speech day after day ? Why are so many otherwise-decent posters at Almost Diamonds basically saying “suck it up, no real harm, can’t out anyone, that’s an unforgivable sin” ? Where’s their compassion for the bloggers with real identities who are the victims here ?

  12. julian says

    re politically correct

    My solution to people like the one quoted in Rosie’s comment is a quick jab to the nose. Society is much to wimpy these days. If you can’t handle something as small as a jab to the face you’re not tough enough to be interacting with people.

  13. hotshoe says

    Some guy who stood on a street and shouted “You’re too ugly to be raped” at passing females would get arrested.

    I don’t even advocate getting him arrested, but at least having the bystanders tell him to shut the hell up.

    It shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere – it’s not tolerated in decent society – toleration of it on the internet needs to be shut off, too.

  14. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    Most of the attrition seems to occur when bloggers are thread moderators.

    Technically easier than a blacklist would be to bring in anonymous thread moderators who are not significantly emotionally invested in the blogger’s well-being (e.g. trusted commenters from an acquaintance’s blog which is topically unrelated). Such moderators could clean up threads while experiencing minimal bother.

  15. Philip Legge says

    I’m in agreement with Josh: this is actually harmful by providing a “chilling” effect on people publishing under their real-world identities who have to think about the consequences of their writings, and what obscene threats and abuse they will receive for writing on particular topics. Numerous women have been forced to give up blogging because of stalking, creepy, or overtly threatening actions and behaviour by anonymous/pseudonymous posters. The typical abuse being hurled very probably contravenes the law either explicitly (threats of rape or worse are usually viewed as criminal acts in many jurisdictions) or as a civil wrong: various torts such as defamation would almost certainly be actionable if the law had a mind to catch up with the on-line world.

    I for one am sick and tired of seeing the inane “But, but… free speech! Censorship!” canard being thrown into play time after time when the issue comes up (as cited by Rosie at #11): misogyny is apparently viewed as a legitimate form of [hate] speech, rather than one that generally should have no place in civilised discourse. Bloggers should not have to put up with morally reprehensible bastards doing the on-line equivalent of defecating in their private space: to rule it out from one’s blog is most emphatically not inhibiting free speech or censorship, it is insisting on a civil level of discourse. The trolls will have to slope off to some other place on the Internet where they can get away with their desire to engage in unbridled hate speech.

    Alethea: PZ quoted a disgustingly fetid effusion by John C. Welch in episode CCXXIX of the endless thread. I gather from looking at the original context on ERV that Welch was demonstrating by example that he could come up with a far more offensive and objectionable version of the epithet “fucking bitch”. But here’s the thing: I could use my imagination to come up with all manner of truly appalling and disgusting statements that would not come close to using a gendered epithet or language denigrating others or minorities. None of which means I should, while also pretending to remain within the realm of civil dialogue.

  16. Pteryxx says

    @ad hominum: adding to your suggestion, that’s one of Gavin de Becker’s tactics for dealing with harassers or stalkers. Specifically, having a friend, or a professional such as himself, filter communications for the target. They never have to see the abuse, but it’s still being monitored for signs of danger or escalation.

  17. says

    ooh-err, you called me Cath! Ohnoes i has been outed!11!elebenty!!!

    Joking, it’s perfectly OK really. (For those who don’t know, I have used my first name openly in the past at SciBlogs.) So far I have no stalkers, although I would still very strongly prefer NOT to have my surname attached to my nym. Just in case I ever do run foul of the anti-Blogging-While-Female vigilantes. Perhaps they’ll take a hate-on to my cheater’s quick dhal recipe.

    And thanks, that’s indeed the paragraph of spew that I remembered. I’m developing a very good memory for handling these: it’s almost left my mind again already.

  18. Pteryxx says

    Y’know, Abbie at ERV isn’t pseudonymous. Neither was at least one of the Facebook commentors Rebecca Watson cited in “Mom, Don’t Read This”. Lots of the misogynist drive-by trolls have used real names, or what looks like real names (I haven’t gone checking on them.) I’m not convinced that anonymity/pseudonymity is as significant as it’s being made out to be, not compared to the general acceptance of misogynistic harassment as normal and not worth censuring through the channels that already exist. As Philip said, many of these comments break stated rules of conduct already. Can folks insist that mods and ISPs follow their own rules? If the rules don’t address ongoing harassment enough, should they change?

  19. Philip Legge says

    Sorry, Alethea – I’d already sent a private e-mail imploring our benevolent blogowner to take pity on my boneheadedness by replacing the problematic beginning to that paragraph – but I see it’s far, far too late. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    Pteryxx, insisting mods and ISPs follow their rules and enforce their terms of service invariably leads to cries of hypocrisy or selective enforcement – Pharyngula has had over 100,000 comments in about three months of operation here at FTB, Ophelia’s blog now has over 20,000 comments. It’s extremely asinine to insist every possible infraction can be reasonably and fairly dealt with – but I expect to see that comeback offered as a ranting kook viewpoint as well.

  20. Pteryxx says

    @Philip: there are already cries of hypocrisy and censorship, but most reputable sites are still largely free of racist and homophobic hate-speech. I still suspect the misogyny differs only in scale, and in how widely it’s let slide.

  21. says

    Josh said:

    misogyny is utterly escaping the normal progressive, ratcheting social taboos against explicit racism and homophobia.

    This.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again because I think it illustrates this point particularly well. For those not aware, here in Canada we have all kinds of actual *legal* taboos about hate speech.

    The Criminal Code says:

    319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of

    (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

    (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

    (2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of

    (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or

    (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

    There are a bunch of conditions and definitions and defences, but these are irrelevant for the point I want to make here.

    My point here is that the law is nice and comprehensive and protective. Except. [sigh] Except:

    In this section, “identifiable group” means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
    – Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46), section 318

    Sex is not one of the “distinguishers”. You want to indulge in hate speech (or incite genocide) against people with brown skin, Japanese people, Muslims, Kurds, or gays? That’s against the law. You want to unleash your vitriol against women? A-OK.*

    Even if we could change this crap in our little corner of the internet, that would be something.

    *Sex is a protected class in the Charter, but that’s not the same thing.

  22. says

    Philip, I’m cool, I have no problem with your little accidental faux pas. On many other sites I go by “Cath of Canberra”. I posted as “Cath the Canberra Cook” when I identified more strongly with my now-dormant blog and food writing.

    I used to think that I was avoiding harassment (except Mabus) by being appropriately girly in my chosen topic. I’m in the kitchen! Making sammiches! But I’ve recently been informed that many prominent food bloggers also get misogynist hate-mail. So it’s probably more that I’m small fry.

  23. says

    Hmm…I don’t seem to have that problem. Maybe that’s because I don’t see talking about it as being a whiner at all; I see it as political.

    I suspect the worries about whining refer to colleagues and bosses, which I think makes it even worse.

    I’ve been in meetings where a woman has raised a valid problem and been dismissed as being ‘negative’ (as if being skeptical is a bad thing) and men have raised similar issues and been huzzahd as go-getters with x-ray vision that can see through corporate bullshit. I’ve even been in the loathsome position of taking up the dismissed problem raised by a female colleague and giving it some kind of dubious credibility by supporting it because, after all, I am male.

    The old joke where a woman says something and everyone looks embarrassed and then a man says the same thing and everyone applauds is not funny at all because it’s what happens every day. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the sort of ‘whining’ some of these writers are worried about.

  24. says

    I’d do everything I could to help implement the blacklist. We need a united front against this;

    These are 2 different things. I am completely against a McCarthy-style blacklist, and not just because I don’t know who would get on it how, why, and by whom. It’s 2011 and the internet, remember. A united front against misogyny, and men to speak out against threats of violence against women, that we do need.

    Wouldn’t happen if it were a gay blogger and hoggle was calling him a faggot who deserved to get his face-hole kicked in. He’d be outed in a second.

    I think this point is somewhat moot because the people who currently need to know who he is are already in possession of that knowledge, including the organisers of next year’s GAC. I see no added benefit at present to out him to the entire internet.

  25. Cassanders says

    @Ophelia,
    While the underlying sentiment may be described as political (a discontent of women having true equal rights with men), I perceive the issue largely being a matter of form rather than content.
    (If the political disagreement had been expressed in a more mature way, I assume this discussion hadn’t taken place).

    I suspect the state of affairs is a sad downside of the “democratic” nature of the net. There is a subset of men unable to express disagreements of ideas in an appropriate way, but as long as they have the opportunity, they still want to “at least express something”

    I have of course no objections to forms of moderation to get rid of the garbage.

    Cassanders
    In Cod we trust

  26. says

    I’m not convinced that anonymity/pseudonymity is as significant as it’s being made out to be, not compared to the general acceptance of misogynistic harassment as normal and not worth censuring through the channels that already exist

    We have to be a bit careful. People can be functionally anonymous even if they identify themselves and others (such as me) aren’t really anonymous even though they usually don’t.

    An important part of anonymity is the desire to be left alone. Saying stupid shit in the knowledge that it’s probably not going to bite you on the arse because criticism can be safely dismissed as whining is a form of anonymity. These people are part of a crowd saying much the same stuff, so they don’t stand out in any way that can easily hurt them.

    Until we turn on the crowd, of course.

  27. Matt Penfold says

    I don’t suppose you can do anything about it on threads which aren’t under your control, but couldn’t administrators share the IP numbers of serial offenders so they can be banned from all respectable sites?

    There is a problem with banning using IP addresses because most ISPs, in the UK at least, use dynamic IP addresses so that the banned IP address with not always be allocated to the same user.

    There is always the possibility of contacting the ISP with details of the offending comments. Many (all ?) ISPs have terms and conditions that do not allow their services to be used for posting such offensive comments.

  28. Rudi says

    As someone who has followed Elevatorgate with a detached amusement since the start – finding nothing unreasonable about ‘that’ video, but finding escalating silliness in the reactions from people on both sides – I have to say I find the attempted blacklisting of Franc Hoggle to be disturbing in the extreme. One poster even thought the police should be called in! This is mass hysteria of the worst kind; behaviour we as atheists would have deplored in religious fanatics. Hoggle is just a blogger with opinions you disagree with, and a tasteless sense of humour which leads him to make crassly sexist jokes/comments. His style is highly questionable, but as far as I can tell he has given ZERO indication of being a Mabus-style wacko.

    Please, folks: take a step back, think about what you’re doing. This is group hysteria, and I for one find it deeply unsettling.

  29. Philip Legge says

    Rudi, I suppose you think there’s nothing wrong with character assassination of people, huh?

  30. Philip Legge says

    [meta] Troll cleanup in aisle five:

    Uv rirelobql. V’q whfg yvxr gb yrg lbh nyy xabj gung zl intvan fzryyf yvxr n svfu znexrg qebjarq va uheevpnar jngre. Gunaxf!

    (I note that this repellant troll is entirely in keeping with Alethea’s observation about the slimepit – see comment #3 upthread.)

  31. julian says

    and not just because I don’t know who would get on it how, why, and by whom.

    The criteria seem straightforward to me. Are your posts essentially what Becky Watson posted upthread? Have you eagerly expressed your desires to kick women you dislike in the cunt? Do you post about masturbating angrily to spite those you don’t like?

    Provide a relevant link to an example of the behavior, leave it up to blog host/site owner to decide how they want to handle said individual.

    There’s nothing McCarthy about this. It would be very transparent in fact with everyone knowing and seeing what type of behavior will get you banned. Post racist, sexist, homophobic or violent content and no one is under any obligation to put up with you. Make it a habit and people are right to protect their local space from your disruptive and toxic attitudes.

    My thinking is mostly, suppose a commenter left ‘You stupid porch monkey’ and similar posts on a black woman’s blog. The comment makes several black regulars (and many non black) feel uncomfortable and they report the comments made them feel the atmosphere unwelcoming. Would she be wrong to turn to another black blogger and say ‘Hey, watch out for this guy’?

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You have the right to protect your space, be free of harassment and are under no obligation to provide a platform for bigots of any kind.

  32. julian says

    His style is highly questionable, but as far as I can tell he has given ZERO indication of being a Mabus-style wacko.

    What’s Franc Hoggle got to do with this except being an example of the kind of person women who blog seriously do not need to be putting up with?

  33. says

    Julian, there are a couple of fairly hefty problems. First, IP address is a really shitty way of determining identity for several reasons. As Matt Penfold said, many ISPs use dynamic addressing. It’s also not difficult to spoof IP addresses.

    Second, it relies on blog owners making sensible decisions. I’m sure we’ve all posted comments that the blog owners and regulars might object to. Not to troll, but because we think there’s a real point to be made, even if it proves unpopular. What if we get blacklisted for that?

    I think any scheme like this has to involve certification of some sort and everyone has to decide how to trust the certification and how to understand the consequences.

  34. mirax says

    #28 is not something anyone need tolerate. Beyond banning and deleting, what else can be done? Is publicising the IP address of any use?

    All that handwringing at the other blog over outing Hoggle was exasperating – I’d have no second thoughts about doing it.

  35. julian says

    latsot, we’re not talking about banning people we disagree with. We’re talking about banning people for bigoted remarks. I understand there’s bound to be some grays when discussing things like Islam and high crime rates within minority communities but that shouldn’t stop us from censoring the very black white cases, which is all I think the original comment that suggested this idea was getting at. And I don’t see why this couldn’t be transparent.

    IP’s I don’t know much about. I’ll leave the moderation aspect up to those more informed and more technically knowledgeable than me.

    ps, If I were banned from every feminist or woman run blog on the blogosphere I would likely start to re evaluate my commenting habits. Seems a pretty clear indicator I fucked up big.

  36. mirax says

    So what if you are on some kind of blacklist that prevents you from commenting on a public site or someone elses’s website? what real right have you lost?

  37. says

    latsot, we’re not talking about banning people we disagree with. We’re talking about banning people for bigoted remarks.

    Of course. But doesn’t that assume that everyone with the power to blacklist people is nice? Who gets to decide who has that power? It’s rather more complicated than you seem to think.

    ps, If I were banned from every feminist or woman run blog on the blogosphere I would likely start to re evaluate my commenting habits. Seems a pretty clear indicator I fucked up big.

    Well yes, but my example was about being banned from every such blog because I was banned from one, perhaps for dubious reasons.

    If there’s going to be a blacklist, it’s going to be abused and someone needs to administer it and there needs to be reasons to trust participants and….

    It’s not straightforward is all I’m a-sayin.

  38. says

    So what if you are on some kind of blacklist that prevents you from commenting on a public site or someone elses’s website? what real right have you lost?

    Well in terms of human rights, I’d have lost part of my right to anonymity. But in my scenario where I didn’t do anything wrong and a rogue blogger blacklisted me for no good reason, I’d have been treated unfairly.

    Understand that I’m not in favour of people being horrible in comments. But the distributed nature of blogs etc. means that blacklist schemes are not feasible.

  39. julian says

    what real right have you lost?

    The right of SIWOTI, of course. ;)

    Well in terms of human rights, I’d have lost part of my right to anonymity

    I think it’d be more accurate to say you’d given up your right to anonymity.

    I get that this, like with any type of oversight, can lead to someone taking advantage to hurt someone they dislike but I see the over all benefit of a safer and less intimidating atmosphere for women as worth it. It seems much better than simply letting people like Franc Hoggle harass any woman he doesn’t like or commentors like Becky Watson make misogynistic posts every time a woman xe doesn’t like mentions an issue relating to feminism.

  40. julian says

    But the distributed nature of blogs etc. means that blacklist schemes are not feasible.

    It probably is just a dream that won’t happen. Still, when the name is attached to an actual person or commentor with history what’s wrong with saying ‘hey, watch out for this one.’

  41. says

    While some of the perpetrators are surely doing it for the audience, others are more interested in silencing (or at least tormenting) their targets. Seeing something like #28 on a comment thread might prompt a reader to think: Really? Are you 14 and think you have made up a clever insult? Grow up and quit wasting people’s time and bandwidth.. But to the person at whom the insult is directed, it stings, and when it is a threat, it can (understandably) be frightening. One potential consequence of heavy moderation, whether blacklisting/banning or retroactive removal of odious comments would be that the the perpetrators could just take their bullying tactics to private email. So the blog comments are pleasanter to read for the audience, but the targets are still getting insulted and threatened in private.

    As a Canadian, this is one of the reasons that I’m similarly conflicted about Canada’s laws on hate speech. (The other reason is that, as an atheist and secularist, I hold unpopular views, and I really don’t want the government to be able to legislate against expressing opinions that could hurt someone’s feelings.)

    (I’m (mostly) pseudonymous, in that I use a (consistent) handle. My real identity is fairly easily to discover, but I’m a smallfry blogger, so I can take some comfort in my security by obscurity.)

  42. says

    I think it’d be more accurate to say you’d given up your right to anonymity.

    Well no I wouldn’t have given up any rights. I might give up my anonymity, but why on Earth would you say I’d given up my RIGHT to be anonymous?

  43. Fin says

    I love threads on this topic, largely because I disagree with just about everyone. And no, it’s not because I’m a misogynist or I think misogynists should be able to spout their crap where-ever they feel. It’s largely definitional.

    First off, blogs/websites are not equivalent to public spaces. They are, unequivocally, private spaces. No one gets to publish anything on blog x that the owner and operator of blog x does not (at least implicitly) approve. What does this mean? It means that free speech is not the issue. You can stand on public land, and spout whatever hateful bullshit you want – but in a privately owned space, the owner of the space does have the right to quash your expression (generally by making you leave).

    So, blacklist/ban/delete comments with wild abandon; I’m fine with that. Most publications do that on their websites.

    The anonymity part I have problems with, from both directions. On one hand, I feel that anonymity is a privilege, on the other, identity is such a dangerous game that ripping away such a privilege, even with a certain amount of justification, has potentially disastrous consequences. I have already seen three serious mental car crashes from just that behaviour, and it worries me that people are getting so very vindictive about this.

    Yes, hateful, misogynistic comments are dangerous, but going after someone with an equal or greater amount of vitriol over such comments is morally troublesome. Until such a time as they commit a crime, I feel that personal attacks (and exposing someone’s personal identity IS a personal attack) are completely unwarranted. For reference, calling people names – however horrible, hurtful and unjust – is not a crime.

    The aim of the game should be convincing these people of why they are wrong, not banishing them to a “slimepit”. This doesn’t mean we have to tolerate their bullshit, but it also doesn’t mean we have a right to personally attack them in return for their bullshit – which solves nothing. It will not convince them that they are wrong, it will only make them feel under attack, which can spiral, as I have said, into a serious mental car crash.

    And finally, just to cut off any comments in a certain direction, I am not saying we should be nice, I am just saying that we should be ethical in our responses to these people.

  44. says

    It seems much better than simply letting people like Franc Hoggle harass any woman he doesn’t like or commentors like Becky Watson make misogynistic posts every time a woman xe doesn’t like mentions an issue relating to feminism.

    Well the problematic word here is ‘letting’, isn’t it?

    I grit my teeth when people start talking about who they personally will allow to say things.

  45. julian says

    @atsot

    If I had to guess, I’d say it’s how so many people seem more concerned with associating Franc Hoggle’s real name with his actions online than with the people he’s been targeting with comments like the one formerly at 28.

  46. says

    And what do you know, I’m told someone or some people has/have started a campaign against B&W at Facebook. My posts can’t be “shared” any more; they’ve been flagged as “offensive.”

  47. says

    OK – I was wrong about the feasibility of a blacklist via IP addresses. That’s a lack of technical knowledge on my part.

    @Fin – I agree about blogs, sites etc being private spaces and most of what you say, but I haven’t got your tenderness towards people who make vile comments in blog threads – knowing that that will have no consequences for them. Nor have I any interest in reforming them. I want them to stop, and if that means outing them, so be it. It’s not as if they’re heroic dissidents in authoritarian societies needing to be anonymous – they are creeps who use anonymity to harrass people. If you were some deranged person writing anonymous letters harrassing people that could be a criminal offence. If you were known to be that kind of person, it would mean social death.

  48. Bruce Gorton says

    Okay, here is the thing. We all read this post by Ophelia Benson and the reaction from a lot of people was “Franc Hoggle.”

    That, qualifies him as a bit of an epic douche doesn’t it? When the subject of hateful misogyny on the internet leads to people uttering the same name… umm, yeah.

  49. says

    Fin –

    it worries me that people are getting so very vindictive about this.

    Yes, hateful, misogynistic comments are dangerous, but going after someone with an equal or greater amount of vitriol over such comments is morally troublesome. Until such a time as they commit a crime, I feel that personal attacks (and exposing someone’s personal identity IS a personal attack) are completely unwarranted. For reference, calling people names – however horrible, hurtful and unjust – is not a crime.

    It’s not vindictive. That’s insulting.

    Look: crude sexual insults about real people under their real names are about real people under their real names. Whatever harm the insults do is done to those people. Doing it pseudonymously means there is no cost to doing it; no risk; no nothing. All that naming the pseud does is to change that: to creat a cost; a risk; a something. It changes the situation where all the cost is on one side (and not the side using the crude sexual insults). Maybe it will inhibit some of the crude sexual insults. That’s not “vindictive”; it would be a good outcome!

    As for equal or greater amount of vitriol – excuse me? Are you kidding me? What equal or greater amount of vitriol? What are you talking about?

    Calling people names is not a crime; true; but not all bad things are crimes. Furthermore, naming a pseud is not a crime, either, so what’s your point?

  50. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    My posts can’t be “shared” any more; they’ve been flagged as “offensive.”

    You can probably ask for human review from Facebook.

    (Youtube handled this issue very poorly, so I say “probably”.)

  51. Pteryxx says

    It’d be great if Facebook responded to misogynist offensive content so quickly, wouldn’t it.

  52. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    One potential consequence of heavy moderation, whether blacklisting/banning or retroactive removal of odious comments would be that the the perpetrators could just take their bullying tactics to private email. So the blog comments are pleasanter to read for the audience, but the targets are still getting insulted and threatened in private.

    The technical means of dealing with this problem already exists, though, in the form of spam blacklists for email. Normally handled by mailservers, they can also be handled by end users.

  53. says

    ad hominum salvator@

    This is the only real problem with a blacklist

    No it isn’t.

    It’s fairly easy – as you did – to come up with a technical architecture that will enable bloggers to blacklist people. Well done. But you’re still missing the point. Who gets to decide who is blacklisted? What body exists to appeal against those decisions?

  54. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    But you’re still missing the point.

    No, I understand your concerns. I just don’t see them as bugs.

    Who gets to decide who is blacklisted? What body exists to appeal against those decisions?

    I already told you. Each blogger decides who to blacklist and who else’s blacklists to subscribe to.

    “Appealing” then means either convincing the signing blockers to revoke their digital signatures on your blocked-user object, convincing other website operators to locally whitelist you, or convincing others to stop trusting the signers of your block.

  55. Pteryxx says

    re heavy moderation: Any tactic that makes harassing drive-bys less attractive – more cumbersome, more time-consuming, whatever – will reduce the incidence. Determined harassers will still get through, but most of them aren’t that determined. No single tactic needs to stop ALL the harassment on its own.

    @latsot: Blacklists aren’t absolute; they’re opt-in. Folks who are banned can go whine on their own sites, just as they do now, or to someone peripheral to the community. If misogyny-based blacklists actually became SO prevalent and readily believed that they had disproportionate power over commentors? In my lifetime? (I might laugh myself sick.) I’d expect them to work more like a wiki, where blacklist entries get made by bloggers who can back it up with evidence for other blacklist-sharers to confirm. Or just hire it done by some blacklist-mods, according to a common set of standards.

  56. says

    I already told you. Each blogger decides who to blacklist and who else’s blacklists to subscribe to.

    Yes I know. And this scheme is quite obviously open to abuse and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about that abuse.

    I’d prefer an innocent-until approach, personally.

  57. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    If someone is terribly concerned that there should be a simpler centralized method of appeal, it would be trivial for those concerned to create a site where individual blocked-user objects are publicly discussed.

    This inspires a distributed whitelist, now that I think about it. Objects in this list would function similarly to revokations in the blacklist, except they would be signed by different people. End users would then determine for themselves whose whitelistings to prioritize over whose blacklistings and vice versa.

  58. Pteryxx says

    re blacklist abuse: How would appealing or mis-use be significantly different from current methods of appealing or mis-use of moderation? It seems to me that blacklisting is just a communal version of moderation that distributes the workload.

  59. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    And this scheme is quite obviously open to abuse and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about that abuse.

    The damn thing is to publicize that a particular blocker’s list entries are not properly categorized (e.g. categorizing non-gender-based abuse as gender-based), and so end users should stop using that particular list.

  60. Midnight Rambler says

    Not sure if this is related, but the New Statesman article, and Laurie Penny’s blog there (actually all their blogs), are now reported as attack sites by Google this morning. I wonder if someone hacked them overnight.

  61. Midnight Rambler says

    Or, maybe someone just reported it as such. If you click on “why was this page blocked?”, there’s no real reason given.

  62. Pteryxx says

    O_o Midnight Rambler: how’s the saying go? Twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action?

  63. says

    For reference, calling people names – however horrible, hurtful and unjust – is not a crime.

    This is not necessarily true. In real life we have hard-fought-for laws against harassment, stalking, and uttering threats. Within the next few years, I expect many jurisdictions will also have laws against bullying (and not the Freedom to Bully Gay Teens to the Point of Suicide for Jesus Act that Michigan is going for), including online bullying. Much of what you blithely term “calling people names” would fall under such legislation as we already have *if it were being done offline by someone who was not anonymous*. No. My point is that it *does* fall under such legislation, but since it’s online we grant these people not only anonymity but immunity from the law.

    (The following is from the Criminal Code of Canada, but I’m pretty sure that there would be similar laws in the relevant jurisdictions.)

    264. (1) No person shall…engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

    Prohibited conduct

    (2) The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of

    (a) repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;

    (b) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;

    (c) besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or

    (d) engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.

    264.1 (1) Every one commits an offence who, in any manner, knowingly utters, conveys or causes any person to receive a threat

    (a) to cause death or bodily harm to any person;

    (b) to burn, destroy or damage real or personal property; or

    (c) to kill, poison or injure an animal or bird that is the property of any person.

  64. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    Not sure if this is related, but the New Statesman article, and Laurie Penny’s blog there (actually all their blogs), are now reported as attack sites by Google this morning. I wonder if someone hacked them overnight.

    Hacking their ad syndicators works too.

    Or, maybe someone just reported it as such. If you click on “why was this page blocked?”, there’s no real reason given.

    I was under the impression that Google Search’s bad-site filtering requires Google’s spiders to find suspicious software at minimum.

  65. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    Google says

    “Of the 32 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 5 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2011-11-06, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2011-11-06.

    Malicious software includes 5 scripting exploit(s), 5 exploit(s), 1 trojan(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 7 new process(es) on the target machine.”

    etc.

    Keep your anti-virus software up to date, everybody.

  66. Midnight Rambler says

    It must have just updated. When I visited right before I posted, it said the last time Google checked was 11-03 (27 pages) and there had been none resulting in malware. So that means it all happened in the last two days at most.

  67. Pteryxx says

    Sure, there often are laws against harassment, stalking and threats, and the laws aren’t enforced, whether or not the offender’s known publicly. ERV’s full of examples; there’s also Watson’s commentary, Facebook, Penny Arcade and so on.

    Here’s another example of a known harasser:

    ‘I hope you get raped to death with a gorsebush,’ one email memorably began. I gave the letter writer some style points for creativity, but quickly deducted them when I noted he’d sent it from his work email, at a progressive organisation. I helpfully forwarded it to his supervisor, since I thought she might be interested to know what he was doing on company time. ‘Thanks,’ she wrote back, and I didn’t hear anything more about it. Several months later I attended a gala event the organisation was participating in and watched him sitting there on stage, confident and smug.
    (…)
    He’s still there, and people tell me I’m not the only one who has received alarmingly graphic communiques from him for speaking my mind.

    From Tigerbeatdown here: source (which incidentally is an excellent article, too.)

  68. says

    ad hominum salvator ॐ says:

    The damn thing is to publicize that a particular blocker’s list entries are not properly categorized (e.g. categorizing non-gender-based abuse as gender-based), and so end users should stop using that particular list.

    But….publicise how? Complain about it on your blog? On the blogs of people you think have done you wrong? Or is there some sort of authority to complain to? What’s that authority? Who gives it that authority? What do we do if we think it’s got something wrong?

    Do you *really* not see the problem?

  69. julian says

    latsot, this isn’t a government agency or some large corporation monopolizing the internet. Your fears really don’t make sense.

  70. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    But….publicise how? Complain about it on your blog? On the blogs of people you think have done you wrong?

    Probably.

    Or is there some sort of authority to complain to?

    Repeating myself now:

    If someone is terribly concerned that there should be a simpler centralized method of appeal, it would be trivial for those concerned to create a site where individual blocked-user objects are publicly discussed.

    This inspires a distributed whitelist, now that I think about it. Objects in this list would function similarly to revokations in the blacklist, except they would be signed by different people. End users would then determine for themselves whose whitelistings to prioritize over whose blacklistings and vice versa.

    What’s that authority? Who gives it that authority?

    There is no authority in this proposal except each blogger who chooses to subscribe to various blacklists and whitelists in whole or in part.

    Do you *really* not see the problem?

    I really do not see any serious challenges in your concerns. All of your concerns ultimately reduce to “how can we hope that bloggers will choose their list subscriptions wisely?”

    Some won’t. Other people will complain. Some complaints will get significant public attention and the blogger will either react wisely or lose some readership. Some complaints will go unnoticed and this will be tragic. It’s a system with all the same limitations as blocking currently has, but distributed.

  71. says

    But….publicise how? Complain about it on your blog? On the blogs of people you think have done you wrong? Or is there some sort of authority to complain to? What’s that authority? Who gives it that authority? What do we do if we think it’s got something wrong?

    Do you *really* not see the problem?

    A problem with what? Preventing anonymous jerks from leaving crap on my blog? Because keeping someone from posting on one or several blogs will somehow prevent that person from posting ANYWHERE ELSE on the internets?

    You might as well start complaining to every newspaper and printed publication for screening “letters to the Editor” and never printing the nasty crap that people send in. Seriously.

    What is wrong with you people? Why are women expected to accept abusive language when other people can rightfully block similarly abusive crap from their blogs? Would anyone here have a problem with racist language being blocked? Or language derogatory towards LGBT people?

    If you don’t, then I really hope I never meet you IRL. Free speech is one thing…free speech without responsibility for the harm caused by your words is something else entirely.

  72. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    But….publicise how? Complain about it on your blog? On the blogs of people you think have done you wrong?

    Probably.

    And not only that. With distributed whitelisting (PKI signed or otherwise but PKI is better) you could complain to anyone. You could whitelist yourself too. Any whitelist you get into would increase your chances of having your comments displayed, depending on a particular blog’s web of trust.

  73. Josh Slocum says

    What is wrong with you people? Why are women expected to accept abusive language when other people can rightfully block similarly abusive crap from their blogs? Would anyone here have a problem with racist language being blocked? Or language derogatory towards LGBT people?

    Repeated for emphasis. And frankly, I’d like some answers right now from the Concerned about:

    1. Why you’re more concerned about the potential “abuse” by moderators (excuse me, but in what universe can a blog owner’s own policies about commenting and moderation be considered “abuse” any more than my policies about drug use in my house?) than you are about the women suffering this shit every day.

    2. Why this is even a question for you. Seriously. Answer the goddamned question – why is it different for women than when the case is abuse of gays or people of color?

    And no, rorschach above, your answer wasn’t an answer at all. The point is not “moot.” The issue is not settled and the people who have an interest in knowing the identity of hoggle are not in total in possession of that information. Lots of other people have an interest who are not GAC organizers or attendees.

    That’s the fucking point – we don’t put up with this kind of abuse toward other targets such as gays, black people, jewish people, etc. Abusers are dragged out into the public limelight all the time (come on rorschach, you know this and it’s not cool for you to avoid addressing it directly. You know better!).

  74. says

    Would anyone here have a problem with racist language being blocked? Or language derogatory towards LGBT people?

    See this is the thing. The standards are different. Always always different. Because let’s face it: women are both inferior and demonically evil. Obviously.

  75. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    A problem with what? Preventing anonymous jerks from leaving crap on my blog?

    Nah, latsot is worried about what happens when someone gets flagged as a white supremacist for preferring Firefox over Chrome.

    It’s not an insurmountable problem, though.

  76. says

    Nah, latsot is worried about what happens when someone gets flagged as a white supremacist for preferring Firefox over Chrome.

    I hate both. Between that and Blogging While Female, I’m a lost cause.

  77. says

    What is wrong with you people? Why are women expected to accept abusive language when other people can rightfully block similarly abusive crap from their blogs? Would anyone here have a problem with racist language being blocked? Or language derogatory towards LGBT people?

    Excuse me? MY people?

    All I’m saying is that I don’t think this particular approach will work for various reasons.

    I don’t want people to be abused. In fact, my work is partly about helping people to protect themselves from this kind of thing for this kind of reason.

  78. Josh Slocum says

    In case I’ve tl;dr’d too much, just to be crystal clear: I’m furious that the real victims here are getting about 20 percent of the moral concern that the bullies are. Ophelia Benson is the target of hoggle’s abuse (yes, I know, not the only target – stop that scolding post-typing). All this hand-wringing about the Grand Societal Implications for Free Discourse has (conveniently?) made it impossible for Ophelia, or Stephanie, or Rebecca, or any other target to out this vile motherfucker to put a stop to this abuse. No matter what, they’d be the villain for fighting back because you lot have set up the rights of despicable misogynist scum to stand in for Free Speech in the First World of the Internet as more important and more worth talking about than the well-being of actual victims.

    Uck. I need a shower.

  79. says

    I think is this the point we need to address:

    2. Why this is even a question for you. Seriously. Answer the goddamned question – why is it different for women than when the case is abuse of gays or people of color?

    Exactly. It is not different. At all. We disapprove of racist language and gay-bashing because the people affected by that abuse have no control over the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation.

    Women have no control over being born female, so why is it acceptable to harass and abuse us based on us being female?

    This double standard can kiss my grits.

  80. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    excuse me, but in what universe can a blog owner’s own policies about commenting and moderation be considered “abuse” any more than my policies about drug use in my house?

    latsot responded to my suggestion, so I’ll reply to the degree that I understand latsot’s concerns.

    A distributed blacklist means bloggers are implicitly incorporating other bloggers’ moderation habits into their own. Not a problem as long as everyone understands what they’re doing and behaves as expected without making any mistakes.

    A problem arises when a commenter is blacklisted for something they didn’t do (even if accidentally, and there will be accidents). Maybe there’s a blacklist category for really annoying antivaxxers, but one antivaxxer is blacklisted as a racist instead. You download this list and your policy is to allow antivaxxers but block racists. Now you’re accidentally blocking someone your own policy doesn’t intend to block.

    It’s just not an insurmountable problem.

  81. says

    Nah, latsot is worried about what happens when someone gets flagged as a white supremacist for preferring Firefox over Chrome.

    No, I’m really not.

    I’m entirely on side in principle, I just don’t think this is the right technical solution.

    Please don’t decide that I don’t want to help build a proper solution or that I don’t think change is necessary. I really do and my posts here and elsewhere surely attest to that.

    All I’m saying is that based on a lot of experience I don’t have much confidence in the proposed solution.

  82. says

    Excuse me? MY people?

    Yes, ‘you people’. Because ‘you guys’ is a gendered term and I didn’t want to use it in a discussion about WOMEN being abused, and ‘you folks’ sounds really stupid. Touchy much?

    All I’m saying is that I don’t think this particular approach will work for various reasons.

    Concern troll is concerned.

    I don’t want people to be abused. In fact, my work is partly about helping people to protect themselves from this kind of thing for this kind of reason.

    You have a very funny way of showing it when you’re more concerned about the trolls than the people they’re harming.

  83. Josh Slocum says

    All right; “you lot” is unnecessarily provocative and certain to piss off someone who doesn’t deserve it. I’m sorry about that. It isn’t everyone.

    But it’s enough commenters that the conversation has effectively been dragged away from the well-being of the victims and into the putative, perhaps, maybe, hypothetical well-being of unnamed innocent Other Commenters who might be unfairly filtered. Which of course lets hoggle and his ilk off the hook. Because now even people like me have to spend more time pushing back against other well-meaning non-misogynist commenters who can’t keep their moral perspective long enough to keep their eye on the goddamn ball. Thanks. Thanks very much. I appreciate having my sympathies and efforts diluted that way. It feels so home-y, so familiar. Oh, yes, it’s just like being at a Democratic Party convention.

  84. says

    Y:

    You have a very funny way of showing it when you’re more concerned about the trolls than the people they’re harming.

    I’m not more concerned about the trolls. I’m not sure what I said that made you think that, but I’m not.

    I just have some opinions about how systems like this might and might not work in practice. Please don’t attribute random and horrible opinions to me.

    I agree with Josh that the discussion has been derailed enough, however, and I’m sorry for my part in that.

  85. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    No, I’m really not.

    You’re not? I am. That kind of shit does happen. But I think the solution is obvious in this case.

    I’m entirely on side in principle, I just don’t think this is the right technical solution.

    Well, me neither. As I said at the beginning, “there is no way to block a determined commenter, except by automatically triggering moderation on all new user IDs. This is a big problem. It makes me feel like it’s too much work for too little gain, when other solutions are technically ready to be implemented right now”.

    I think the right technical solution is to “use first-comment automoderation all the time or during heavy attack campaigns, and bring in socially distant human moderators as I suggested in #15″.

    I’ve only been saying that if people really want a shared blocklist, even after understanding how ineffective it will be, it can be done.

    +++++
    latsot hasn’t said anything against “outing” abusive commenters, and should not be presumed to be against it.

  86. says

    lastot:

    I’m not more concerned about the trolls. I’m not sure what I said that made you think that, but I’m not.

    I just have some opinions about how systems like this might and might not work in practice. Please don’t attribute random and horrible opinions to me.

    Read back through your comments. All of them. And then hopefully you will understand why people have the impression that you’re more worried about the abusive posters than the people they’re targeting.

    I agree with Josh that the discussion has been derailed enough, however, and I’m sorry for my part in that.

    I also agree it’s been derailed enough, and I apologise for my part as well. I’d love to hear more about setting up shared blacklists as versus arguing about whether women have the right to share information on people who are harassing and abusing them.

  87. says

    Read the article, and the only issue I have is with Kate’s bit — she starts off well but falls slightly short of the mark by blaming internet pornography rather than asking the question of why internet pornography (and, indeed, pornography in general) would be like that, indicating that there is likely a puritanical streak present.

    Now to wade through the 100 comments…please excuse me if I get puke on the floor while running for another bucket.

  88. says

    Ad hominum salvator:

    A problem arises when a commenter is blacklisted for something they didn’t do (even if accidentally, and there will be accidents). Maybe there’s a blacklist category for really annoying antivaxxers, but one antivaxxer is blacklisted as a racist instead. You download this list and your policy is to allow antivaxxers but block racists. Now you’re accidentally blocking someone your own policy doesn’t intend to block.

    Thanks for trying to sum that up.

    I can see that we’d need to try and make sure the lists are as accurate as possible, but I don’t see why we should shelve the idea because someone might potentially block someone who doesn’t deserve it.

    This next bit is directed at people who think the given summary is worthy of serious consideration:

    This conversation actually seems a bit silly to me. These are our blogs. They are not free speech zones unless we declare them to be free speech zones. We can set up any rules we want, and we can moderate to any standards we want. Accidentally blocking someone who wound up on the wrong list? That can get fixed, so why is it considered a problem that should prevent us from setting up this type of system?

  89. Josh Slocum says

    Accidentally blocking someone who wound up on the wrong list? That can get fixed, so why is it considered a problem that should prevent us from setting up this type of system?

    Don’t know if it’s conscious or unconscious, or a mix of both, but it’s plain and simple de-railing. A way to avoid the more problematic issue. And I don’t give a shit, frankly, if it’s conscious or unconscious, and I don’t give a shit if someone gets pissed off and wounded and feels unfairly maligned. The derailing needs to stop. Period.

  90. says

    Read back through your comments. All of them. And then hopefully you will understand why people have the impression that you’re more worried about the abusive posters than the people they’re targeting.

    I don’t understand why my pointing out potential problems with a particular scheme should cause people to think I’m not an opponent of sexist idiots.

    The abuse of female bloggers is a huge problem and I agree entirely that change is needed. I write and talk about this a lot and it’s just not true that I sympathise with the abusers.

    I have some expertise in the area of privacy and anonymity and hoped I was contributing to the discussion. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that I’m less concerned about the victims than the idiots. I’m not.

    I’d love to hear more about setting up shared blacklists as versus arguing about whether women have the right to share information on people who are harassing and abusing them.

    But I didn’t say this. I pointed out some potential dangers with shared blacklists and suggested we have to be careful with such things. I don’t think this is more important than protecting people from abuse. Neither do I think we shouldn’t implement such a system: I just think there are various problems which weren’t considered earlier in the thread, no big deal.

    I’m a computer scientist: I can’t help taking every discussion to a more abstract level. I’m sorry if this led people to think I’m more concerned about the rights of the abusers. I’m really not.

  91. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    by blaming internet pornography rather than asking the question of why internet pornography (and, indeed, pornography in general) would be like that, indicating that there is likely a puritanical streak present.

    No, it does not indicate anything of the sort.

    Not seeing the same zomgnecessity! of making the distinctions you believe need be made does not clearly indicate anything.

    It may indicate oversight of something the author would, if prompted, say was important.

    It may indicate the author is not the same sort of radical as you are.

    It may indicate the author does not imagine any significant gain from making such a fine grained distinction between pornography as it exists and an idealized Platonic feminist pornography.

    It may indicate a word limit.

  92. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    I don’t understand why my pointing out potential problems with a particular scheme should cause people to think I’m not an opponent of sexist idiots.

    Simply: if they don’t understand the tech portion of the discussion, then they don’t have an easy heuristic for differentiating between serious technical problems and concern trolling. (This is not always easy when everyone does understand the tech.)

    I dunno. I knew where you were coming from. In a couple of days nobody’s going to hate you for it. May as well let it go.

  93. says

    Josh #4:

    Something’s way beyond rotten in Denmark.

    I’ve been thinking this ever since I saw Greg Laden open in the comments by defending Hoggle, and even moreso since one of the Pharyngulites defending the outing in that thread was banned for what was, according to Pharyngulite standards, a perfectly reasonable post.

  94. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    I have attempted to model latsot’s mind and realized another problem: when you accidentally click on your ally who is one up or one down from the hateful comment, you reveal your ally’s personal information to the web.

    Heh.

    It’s not a great idea in the long run.

  95. says

    latsot, let’s go back to:

    Second, it relies on blog owners making sensible decisions. I’m sure we’ve all posted comments that the blog owners and regulars might object to. Not to troll, but because we think there’s a real point to be made, even if it proves unpopular. What if we get blacklisted for that?

    I think any scheme like this has to involve certification of some sort and everyone has to decide how to trust the certification and how to understand the consequences.

    Why do I need certification to decide who gets to post to my blog?

    It’s my blog.

    There’s also your trolling bit from above, where you comment that blog owners need to be ‘sensible’. Why, and sensible in whose terms? Does ‘sensible’ mean we need to have every comment to which we object peer-reviewed before we ban people or put them on moderation lists, just to make sure we’re not overreacting?

    It’s a blog. Getting blacklisted/banned from a blog isn’t going to get anyone fired from a job or expelled from school, or kicked out of their house. I understand that the blacklist won’t be completely effective from a technical standpoint, but it will be highly effective in letting blog owners share information on abusive commenters. It will allow bloggers to compile information on those abusive nits in one place, and share info on abusers who post from multiple accounts.

    I understand that placing comments in moderation and/or having someone else review those comments/emails is a useful way to weed out abuse. That’s great. But why should female bloggers have to allow that abuse to start with? Why can’t we share lists with new bloggers so they’ll know who the problem commenters are? Why don’t they have a right to simply block those people…why are they required to read garbage from known abusers before they block them?

    I don’t see a problem with giving women tools to help protect themselves. I don’t see a problem with giving women a list of abusive commenters so they can avoid those people from the start.

    And then there was this comment:

    I grit my teeth when people start talking about who they personally will allow to say things.

    I, personally, will block sexist asses from posting on my blog because I have the right to do so. It’s my blog.

  96. Pteryxx says

    The Ys:

    But why should female bloggers have to allow that abuse to start with? Why can’t we share lists with new bloggers so they’ll know who the problem commenters are?

    That reminds me – the Tigerbeatdown article mentions that readers of her blog sometimes got targeted after they made comments. Wouldn’t having a blacklist available let commentors armor-up before they join a community, in the lurker phase? Or help narrow down possible harassers who seem focused on the source comments?

  97. says

    @The Ys:

    Oh for goodness’ sake.

    Why do I need certification to decide who gets to post to my blog?

    You don’t. I didn’t say that.

    Does ‘sensible’ mean we need to have every comment to which we object peer-reviewed before we ban people or put them on moderation lists, just to make sure we’re not overreacting?

    No. I didn’t say that either.

    Why can’t we share lists with new bloggers so they’ll know who the problem commenters are? Why don’t they have a right to simply block those people…why are they required to read garbage from known abusers before they block them?

    I didn’t say you couldn’t. I didn’t say you had no such right.

    I, personally, will block sexist asses from posting on my blog because I have the right to do so. It’s my blog.

    I entirely agree. You have simply misunderstood what I was saying. I’m NOT saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to ban people from their own blogs. I made some points about how a particular scheme might work or not in practice, which you obviously didn’t understand. There’s no need at all for the vitriol, I agree with you.

  98. says

    Pteryxx:

    Wouldn’t having a blacklist available let commentors armor-up before they join a community, in the lurker phase? Or help narrow down possible harassers who seem focused on the source comments?

    That would be very helpful, yes – like Pharyngula’s Dungeon and Wiki?

  99. Nepenthe says

    @109 ad hominum salvator

    All your concerns are moot because whenever a feminist criticises porn, she must immediately insert a long disclaimer about how there’s nothing inherently wrong with porn, that the incredible misogyny, racism, classism, and transphobia present in mainstream porn is entirely coincidental and that of course she would never want to ban porn, or even suggest that those who consume it are helping to perpetuate patriarchy. Ideally, of course, she ought not mention porn at all, because there’s nothing wrong with porn, porn has absolutely no relation to or effect on misogyny and feminists certainly aren’t evil people trying to take away the sacred porn.

    I’m surprised you didn’t realize this; I’m sure this law is written down somewhere.

  100. says

    latsot:

    You have simply misunderstood what I was saying. I’m NOT saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to ban people from their own blogs. I made some points about how a particular scheme might work or not in practice, which you obviously didn’t understand. There’s no need at all for the vitriol, I agree with you.

    When you use phrases like “blog owners making sensible decisions”, etc., those phrases have meaning.

    I will stop contributing to the derail now.

  101. Silver Lining says

    I wondered what Franc would do if he was in Ophelias place.It didn’t take muchto find out.Its common knowledge he used to post as Felch Grogan before he started his Gray Lining blog & you can see they write the same.

    As Felch Grogan he used to be on Atheist Nexus where it looks like he was some kind of unofficial vigilante.I found at least 3 times where he tracked down & posted personal stuff about other members including there real names and where they live.

    None of these people was dangerous I don’t think.He says one lady is not really an atheist like she pretends to be, one is an author who sockpuppets to spam his own book &one was a gay hater.There might have been more I got sick of looking after 3.I haven’t given links for these because I don’t think its fair to them to have there private details exposed again because Franc is in trouble.

    But so you can see I’m not making this up I also found him saying “I once traced a psychotic ex-girlfriend to her precise job workstation location because the retard thought she could send me anonymous potshots from Yahoo (traced without any assistance from Yahoo thank you very much). She mysteriously got fired.”

    http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/privanon/forum/topics/anonymous-messaging

    He doesn’t say she was threatening him just bagging on him so he got her fired.So it looks like Franc Hoggle aka Felch Grogan doesn’t give a shit about revealing other peoples information if they upset him &he doesn’t care if it puts them in danger or they loose their job.He thinks if you act like a troll and your personal details are on the internet you deserve it.

    Ophelia has more ethics than Franc but I think shes got a lot more reason to let people know who he really is if shes got his name than he ever had.

    PS Franc thinks people who reveal there personal information on the internet are retards but he’s been a bit sloppy himself.He’s already posted hisreal first name &his ethnic background and the state he lives in in Australia so it wasn’t real hard to find the rest. He uses the same kind of swear words a lot & he used to post under his own name back in the 90s & he’s written to papers using his real name & registered a business with a fancy name that means shit. Definately Hoggle. Should of taken your own advice Franc. Its not up to me to out him and out of respect for Ophelia I won’t but I don’t see why people he’s attacked shouldn’t. I bet I’m not the only one who knows who he is anyway.

  102. says

    His style is highly questionable, but as far as I can tell he has given ZERO indication of being a Mabus-style wacko.

    Except for the four or five months of single-minded, obsessive hatred, and the absolute self-righteous certainty that he is the good guy opposed by an evil conspiracy.

    You may not know this, but I was a witness to Mabus’ descent into madness from the 1990s onward. Hoggle is a baby Mabus.

  103. Aggie says

    Yes! Finally people are talking about this! I cannot understand how it is that racism, homophobia, anti-semitism etc. are (for good reason) punished, socially abhorred and generally thought to be unacceptable, yet sexism is still fine, just fine. It makes me feel like my head is going to explode.

  104. Fin says

    Ophelia, I was not particularly referring to the blogposts in question, but rather something that comes up in the comment threads that follow.

    It troubles me that some people seem to think that attack is the best form of defense. We can defend ourselves from this without going on the attack – and just to be clear “attack” does not equate with disagreeing with or arguing against someone, nor deleting their comments, nor banning them. Attack in my mind is going after someone on a personal basis, outside of the current engagement – posting names, addresses, phone numbers, and so on. People have made the argument that this stuff should have an effect in the real world, which sounds disturbingly like the vigilantist argument that’s put forth by many different people on many different fronts (against paedophiles, against drugs, against this and that and whatever). It feels very close to a precipice for me.

    People keep making the argument by analogy that our response to homophobic or racist comments would be different. I don’t think so. We would attempt to talk around a person who made slightly or beside the point homophobic/racist comments, for a little while, if they seemed recalcitrant, they would be banned. If they just launched into racist/homophobic invective, their comments would be deleted. That’s simply the tack that we have to take here. You’ll note that in this take, psuedonominity is irrelevent. We should react to the specific instances of this behaviour, consistently argue against it, and aim to protect those that it is aimed at, without attacking the individual performing such behaviour. After all, even if we take the position that it is a crime – the criminal law makes no judgement about the worth of an individual, merely about specific instances of behaviour.

    Essentially, all I want is a moderated, case-by-case response. This may be wrong, but even the lowliest of people, the worst behaved, the most disgusting human beings imaginable, deserve some level of ethical treatment. That they refuse to behave ethically themselves is no excuse.

  105. says

    We should react to the specific instances of this behaviour, consistently argue against it, and aim to protect those that it is aimed at, without attacking the individual performing such behaviour. After all, even if we take the position that it is a crime – the criminal law makes no judgement about the worth of an individual, merely about specific instances of behaviour.

    Yes, and when the police determine a crime has been committed, the individual committing the crime goes to jail or gets assigned to community service/probation or pays a fine…depending on the crime.

    The police don’t say: “Oh, you got drunk and hit a bicyclist. Your car did the damage so your car has to serve six months in jail, but you are free to go.”

  106. says

    Fin, and what would we do if after being banned they expanded and intensified their hate campaign across the entire skeptical/freethought blogosphere, started their own blogs on which nearly ever post was a further expression of their hate, repeatedly polymorphed to evade banning, and continued doing this for months? Do you really think they wouldn’t be recognized as a problem which couldn’t be resolved by simple banning if they were going after people in this fashion over race or sexual orientation? Do you really think they wouldn’t be outed in a heartbeat?

    Please go back and read everything Josh Slocum has said in this thread. In my opinion he’s been consistently and absolutely right about this — these people are already doing massive harm to the freethought/skeptic blogosphere by making it a less welcoming space for women, and the fact that we are so fastidiously unwilling to make them pay *any* costs whatsoever for their behavior makes it worse, by undercutting all of those grandiose claims to be *so* *worried* about female underrepresentation in the community.

    In the real world, we don’t clutch our pearls about the possibility that a democratic nation jailing some asshole for an ongoing campaign of vicious harassment against an individual might theoretically justify evil dictatorships locking up heroic reporters. Why are we suddenly completely incapable of drawing distinctions between evil fuckers who shouldn’t be permitted to abuse others from the shadows and brave free-speechin’ pseuds when we go online?

    I’ll grant, the punishment needs to be proportionate to the crime — if Hoggle was a Muslim apostate living in Saudi Arabia and outing him might get him killed, I’d say that those in the know should probably keep his secret and find another way to deal with him. But he’s given no indication that he faces such dire consequences, so I don’t see why there’s any reason for the rest of us to waste more brainpower agonizing about his possible fate than he seems to have done. In the absence of other evidence, why should we believe that he faces anything worse than the possibility of a certain amount of justly-deserved social opprobrium? And why the fuck is it so important for us to shield him from that, when he and his nasty little allies are doing so much harm to our communities?

  107. says

    …Perhaps this is an example of Yeats’ lament that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity.” I’m not really a fan of his rather pessimistic and mystical vision of the world, but I’m thinking he may have nailed this one at least.

  108. says

    Why are we suddenly completely incapable of drawing distinctions between evil fuckers who shouldn’t be permitted to abuse others from the shadows and brave free-speechin’ pseuds when we go online?

    QFT.

  109. julian says

    Essentially, all I want is a moderated, case-by-case response.

    Funny. All I want is a tactic that will actually work.

  110. Pteryxx says

    If I’ve learned anything personally earthshaking from this bloody mess, it’s how much of a big fat target a pseudonym is. I shouldn’t have to point out that obsessive creeps are evil gits who do real damage and need to be stopped, whether or not they have names. But anonymity’s something the evil git has, something that can be taken from him, and a real name’s something to toss out there in the quite honest and desperate hope that SOME good comes of it, even if it’s only as a gesture. I really thought, going into this discussion, that y’all who post and comment under your real names were braver by far than I; but it turns out the bravery’s more in what y’all say and who you take on than whether your nym lives in your wallet.

    (cc’d to Zvan’s thread)

  111. Fin says

    I give up. It’s a pretty simple point that you can’t harass someone because they harass you or others. Go harass the hell out of them all, have fun validating their tactics.

    “Funny. All I want is a tactic that will actually work.” and ethics be damned, eh?

    This was never about free speech – I made that clear in my first post.

  112. says

    Pteryxx, I think in truth a large part of the reason I chose not to be a pseudonym is that I feel that for me it would be a very fragile shield. I know just enough about online anonymity to know how hard it is to actually do it right, and to recognize that I don’t have the skill to be sufficiently ironcladly anonymous that I would actually feel safe in it, while still being vocal. I fear I’d just be setting myself up to be surprised by some nasty freak penetrating my carefully constructed pseudonymity in an unexpected way, just as Hoggle gloats about doing to an ex-girlfriend in the post quoted above.

    So I feel that I may as well own what I do, take credit for the good, try to avoid doing anything I’d be genuinely ashamed to have associated with my real life identity, and be aggressive as hell about going back at anyone who attacks me in a serious way, so that no-one will think for an instant that they can get away unscathed from fucking with me.

    This, in turn, is a large part of my motivation for wanting to see Hoggle and his ilk taken down — even though they haven’t gone after me personally, I don’t want anybody to think they can get away with behaving like that towards anybody in my general vicinity, because they, or someone emboldened by them, might decide to come after me next. I want them to be KOed hard and fast *now* before I have to worry on my own behalf about them or some copycat. And that would be true whether I was pseudonymous or not, given the way Hoggle apparently takes pride in penetrating others’ pseudonyms and then mocking them for their lack of technical expertise.

    As to whether or not outing him constitutes such a KO, well, I don’t know. But the potential result of IRL social opprobrium for Hoggle at least seems like a good start for fighting back against him and his buddies, and IMO any reason for serious concern about his wellbeing is negated by the fact that he’s already had plenty of opportunity to raise objections if he’s in real danger.

    So, for me, I don’t think the realnymous/pseudonymous issue is about bravery vs. cowardice, it’s about taking the most practical and forthright approach to protecting myself, emotionally and physically, given my desire to participate openly and freely in online communities. I completely respect that the calculus comes down differently for other people, and I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone else how to handle it for themselves. This is just how it shakes out for me, and by this logic I’m willing to say that it makes sense to both respect most pseuds (those who aren’t dedicated to making the web an unsafe space for others) and yet still out Hoggle.

  113. says

    It’s a pretty simple point that you can’t harass someone because they harass you or others.

    It’s a pretty simple point that you can actually report people for harassment. That’s a law.

  114. says

    Fin, how is linking the man’s name, Google-wise, with his online behavior equivalent to harassment?

    How is it any worse than, say, writing a newspaper article publicly linking John Freshwater’s name to his appalling classroom behavior rather than just describing it as the behavior of an anonymous teacher? I choose this example because Freshwater was most certainly a private citizen before the court case involving him, and yet now he is known all across the world as an asshat, his career has been destroyed, and he has been forced to sell his home to pay his legal fees. Was it therefore wrong for his accusers to make his actions public and take him to court?

    You, and others making arguments similar to yours, have repeatedly ignored the question of how linking a harasser’s real name to his real poor behavior constitutes harassment in return, rather than completely appropriate publicity for the fact that the harasser is doing something they shouldn’t. Why does Hoggle deserve some kind of special shield of protection for his vile behavior that Freshwater didn’t get?

    For that matter, why does he deserve special protections from having his bad behavior linked to his real name that wouldn’t be accorded to a restaurant with rude waiters or shitty pizza? What is so all-fired special about a several-month campaign of misogynistic harassment that makes it more sacrosanct than a hardware store with lazy jackass employees, such that it would be okay for me to put up a blog post criticizing that hardware store and its employees by name, but it’s not okay to say who Franc Hoggle is for realz?

    Your standards on this issue are just incredibly confusing to me.

  115. hotshoe says

    It’s a pretty simple point that you can’t harass someone because they harass you or others.

    Fin, define harass in your first usage in that sentence.

    Explain specifically how making one post on one blog which links a pseudonym with its owner’s real name fits your definition of harass in your first usage in that sentence.

    Explain why one can’t do [can’t be allowed to do] this first kind of “harassment” (if it is indeed “harassment” at all) as an appropriate social response to the kind of harassment in the second usage in your sentence – which as we all know, includes rape threats, death threats, and creepy specific references to you and your family and your pets.

    Where is the moral equivalence here ? Do you really think there is one ? Really ?

  116. hotshoe says

    For that matter, why does he deserve special protections from having his bad behavior linked to his real name that wouldn’t be accorded to a restaurant with rude waiters or shitty pizza? What is so all-fired special about a several-month campaign of misogynistic harassment that makes it more sacrosanct than a hardware store with lazy jackass employees, such that it would be okay for me to put up a blog post criticizing that hardware store and its employees by name, but it’s not okay to say who Franc Hoggle is for realz?

    Because it’s all about the menz. You know they’ve got to protect Franc Hoggle’s “right” to his secret identity because his secret identity is male.

    Internet privacy wouldn’t mean shit to 95% of these guys if Franc Hoggle were Frances Hoggle.

  117. says

    The issue is not settled and the people who have an interest in knowing the identity of hoggle are not in total in possession of that information. Lots of other people have an interest who are not GAC organizers or attendees.

    Like who ? For example, hoggle has impersonated my internet nym, he lives close by by Australian standards, he will be at the GAC next year. And yet I don’t have his details. And I don’t want anyone disagreeing with the guy or finding him to be an asshole to have them, either. The people he has threatened and stalked and campaigned against have this info, and it’s up to them what they do with it. And that’s enough, for now.

    Because it’s all about the menz. You know they’ve got to protect Franc Hoggle’s “right” to his secret identity because his secret identity is male.

    Oh, please. Don’t be ridiculous. Ophelia has hoggle’s details, and she hasn’t outed him yet. I will support whichever decision she makes, or PZ, or Zvan, or whoever, anything from blacklisting him to writing to his mother. I’m just saying that as it stands, I wouldn’t be doing it.

  118. Josh Slocum says

    Don’t be ridiculous. Ophelia has hoggle’s details, and she hasn’t outed him yet.

    She hasn’t outed him because she can’t, now, without all sorts of blowback and recrimination, you jackass. Don’t be ridiculous, rorschach. We know each other, and I’m not saying this to be a burr under your saddle. But you are being obtuse.

    And a jackass. Stop, please.

  119. says

    Well then, please tell me what you think will be achieved by plastering hoggle’s identity all over the internet. I don’t think for a moment that Ophelia hasn’t outed him, or PZ or Watson, “because she can’t, now, without all sorts of blowback and recrimination”. That’s just not true. What kind of recrimination would that be ? From who ? If you know me, as you say, then you also know that I have asked the GAC organisers on my blog to come out and say how they will ensure the safety of female participants, given that the likes of hoggle will be there.
    You’re calling the guy a jackass who is saving every single comment and article by “hoggle” regarding myself, in case it becomes necessary to pass it on to authorities one day.

  120. Josh Slocum says

    I don’t think for a moment that Ophelia hasn’t outed him, or PZ or Watson, “because she can’t, now, without all sorts of blowback and recrimination”.

    What the hell? Do you see hoggle’s name all over the Internet? What in the world are you talking about?

    If you know me, as you say, then you also know that I have asked the GAC organisers on my blog to come out and say how they will ensure the safety of female participants, given that the likes of hoggle will be there.

    You know full well who I am, rorschach, as much as I know who you are. We’re both long-time commenters around the same watering holes, and we’ve emailed each other. I respect you, not just as a correspondent, but as a generally quite smart guy.

    And yeah, I think you’re being a jackass about this. I think if you slowed down you’d see how impossible it is for Ophelia or any other woman blogger to out this hoggle mofo without immediately being beat down with “you dumb bitch. . he didn’t do anything to you feminazi cunt.”

    You really don’t get that? You really think that’s substantively different from the fear a gay blogger has about dudes that threaten to fag-bash?

    Shit, sorry to sound so frustrated, but damn. . I expected you to get this.

  121. says

    I think if you slowed down you’d see how impossible it is for Ophelia or any other woman blogger to out this hoggle mofo without immediately being beat down with “you dumb bitch. . he didn’t do anything to you feminazi cunt.”

    What, as opposed to “kick her in the cunt”, like normal ? No, I don’t get it I’m afraid.

  122. hotshoe says

    Because it’s all about the menz. You know they’ve got to protect Franc Hoggle’s “right” to his secret identity because his secret identity is male.

    Oh, please. Don’t be ridiculous. Ophelia has hoggle’s details, and she hasn’t outed him yet. I will support whichever decision she makes, or PZ, or Zvan, or whoever, anything from blacklisting him to writing to his mother. I’m just saying that as it stands, I wouldn’t be doing it

    Oh, please, rorschach. I’ve never disrespected you and now I have to, because that’s a dumb goddamn response.

    My reply was a little flippant, and if you want to criticize me for being flippant in a serious discussion, fine. But don’t pretend to read my post and then twist it 180 degrees to try to make me look stupid.

    Here’s what Anne C. Hanna wrote in the paragraph just before the one I quoted:

    You, and others making arguments similar to yours, have repeatedly ignored the question of how linking a harasser’s real name to his real poor behavior constitutes harassment in return, rather than completely appropriate publicity for the fact that the harasser is doing something they shouldn’t. Why does Hoggle deserve some kind of special shield of protection for his vile behavior that Freshwater didn’t get?

    Too bad you were so busy taking offense and giving offense, not actually following this serious conversation. You would have seen that they [in my sentence] are the same ones Anne is questioning. Why do they ignore real poor behavior ? Why do they claim Hoggle deserves some kind of special internet protection ?

    Simple. Because they are all about the menz. Of those who are taking the side of the harassers, not the victims, probably 95% are doing it just because it’s a menz issue. They’re not honestly for “free speech” or “privacy rights” or any such thing, except as they apply to men, but they’ll use them as convenient buzzwords in their attempt to bully others into letting men get away with harassment. They’re not making a principled stand for pseudonym protection, they would out Franc in a heartbeat if they thought Franc was a real female bitch. They’re not even all men themselves, but they’re all about men’s rights to trump women’s peace and safety. The ones who aren’t taking the side of the harassers, well, those aren’t the people I was speaking of when I said “Because it’s all about the menz.”

    Not Ophelia, you ditz. She’s not “they”. And if you’re not part of the people who’re “all about the menz”, hooray, good for you. Now if you please think a little more carefully before shooting off your next response, then I can really cheer for you.

  123. says

    You know, it occurs to me that if the problem is that no female blogger can out Hoggle at this point without coming in for a world of misogynistic assault, it might still be somewhat easier for a male blogger to do so. Or, alternately, an anonymous (one-time pseudonym) commenter. There’s gotta be *someone* who can connect the dots from Silver Lining’s comment above.

    And, Rorschach, hasn’t a pretty clear explanation already been given of exactly what outing the bastard is supposed to accomplish? What are you looking for as a useful effect that hasn’t already been explained a dozen times previously?

  124. says

    hasn’t a pretty clear explanation already been given of exactly what outing the bastard is supposed to accomplish?

    In the case of Ophelia Benson or Rebecca Watson, yes of course. And I note they have not done so yet. In the case of any random internet Joe Blow, not so much.
    If you recall, I have pointed out that those who have been threatened/spammed by hoggle, and the organisers of the next big atheist conference where hoggle will attend, do have this information already. I’m just not sure as to what else you want, and for what reason ?

  125. says

    Rorschach, I don’t know you well enough to know whether you’re being intentionally dense, but the point (which has been made over and over in this thread, if you care to read back a bit) is that this isn’t just about the possible IRL harm these people can do. It’s also about the fact that they’re already doing harm to our online communities, making women feel less safe in speaking out because of the possibility of having to deal with this kind of shit and then, to make matters even worse, being concern-trolled into silence when we try to defend ourselves.

    Look at what’s already happened here and in the Almost Diamonds thread — far more electrons have been spilled on defending these assholes’ fictitious “right” to be anonymous assholes than on defending women bloggers’ actual right to speak their minds freely on the internets without being subjected to an ongoing stream of the most vile possible insults, objectification, and threats. Hoggle et al. have already harmed women’s freedom to participate equally in these online spaces just be exposing exactly how little even this supposedly very progressive community really cares about that equal participation.

    These discussion threads have made it clear that Ophelia and Stephanie apparently can’t even count on the full support of the “pro-Rebecca” portion of the commentariat if they take the next logical step in defending themselves and the rest of us. Consequently, we as a community are about to let ourselves be snookered into letting the harassers get away entirely with making our online spaces less safe. We will leave them laughing at our cowardice and inability to stand up to them (in fact, they already are, if you check Greylining), all because some of us can’t tell the difference between protecting the free speech of the oppressed and exposing harassers to the daylight.

    Frankly, at this point I don’t even think it matters any more if outing Hoggle was a good idea in the beginning, because it’s necessary now if we don’t want to embolden them to even greater heights of abuse. I don’t want those assholes or any copycats thinking they can come after me next, or any other woman skeptic who catches their attention, because we didn’t take a strong stand against them now when we had a chance to do so.

    I think Hoggle’s name needs to come out *now*, and I really hope that somebody will do it soon.

  126. Hertta says

    rorschach:

    I’m just not sure as to what else you want, and for what reason ?

    Well, I for one would like to see Hoggle’s sustained attack to have consquences for him too, not just the people he’s attacking. I’d like to see the internet at large condemning his behavior and defending the people that behavior has hurt. So far I’ve seen a lot of people defending his right to pseudonymity, which is the one thing that has made it possible for him to keep up a sustained hate campaign without any consequences to him.

  127. says

    Also: if the only worry about outing at this point is that one person will have to do the outing solo and take all the heat, what about a coordinated and reasonably synchronized endeavor across as many freethought/skeptic blogs as are willing to participate? It wouldn’t prevent Hoggle’s gang from going after people, but it will spread the load around a little bit and prevent any one person from being the sole target. It would also show a unified community front against these folks and their harassment campaign. My blog is tiny and nobody reads it and I have, to date, no substantial personal stake in this issue, but I’ll be happy to participate if those with a greater stake want to go this route.

  128. says

    My blog is tiny and nobody reads it and I have, to date, no substantial personal stake in this issue, but I’ll be happy to participate if those with a greater stake want to go this route.

    Ditto

  129. says

    I’d like to see the internet at large condemning his behavior and defending the people that behavior has hurt.

    That is exactly what has been happening, at least on the blogs I read (or write).

    These discussion threads have made it clear that Ophelia and Stephanie apparently can’t even count on the full support of the “pro-Rebecca” portion of the commentariat if they take the next logical step in defending themselves and the rest of us.

    Pay attention, please. I have pointed out that Ophelia has hoggle’s info, and can out him whenever she likes. And I have also said that I will support that decision (and if it is thought that a decentralised outing of his info is the way to go to take fire away from single individuals, then I’m in for that as well). I don’t have hoggle’s info, so I won’t be doing the outing.

  130. says

    Rorschach:

    You’re not the only person questioning outing Hoggle, so the fact that you’ll be supportive if it takes place, while helpful, does not negate the fact that there’s been a lot of blowback against the idea in general. In other words, yes, I’ve been paying attention, but to everybody, not just to you.

    To be fair, I suspect that a lot of the overall reaction is just the usual nerd/skeptic need to devil’s-advocate everything, plus knee-jerk liberal preference for protecting privacy and free speech in general. In fact, I share both of those tendencies myself.

    But I do think that there’s also a pretty strong recognition among most people that the decisions about how to best protect oneself from harassment are ultimately in the hands of those being harassed. So I think that it’s very likely that post-outing support for Ophelia and Stephanie would be substantially higher than one might guess from some parts of these comment threads. In fact, if they’d just gone and done it without consulting the community at all, I have a strong suspicion that there would’ve been far less second-guessing than they’ve been subjected to as a result of being so courteous as to invite us all to stick our nosy noses into the decision.

    In any case, it’s up to those with the knowledge to make the decision. I just don’t think that it’s right, in discussing what decision should be made, to minimize the chilling effect Hoggle and his ilk have on women’s online speech on the internet while being unduly concerned about the impact on poor poor Hoggle of linking his real actions to his real name. Again, why is it okay for me to reveal online that an IRL restaurant makes terrible food, so that people can avoid it, but not okay for me to reveal online that IRL-Hoggle says terrible things on the internet under a pseudonym, so that people can avoid IRL-Hoggle too?

  131. says

    IF someone was sending large numbers of anonymous harassing hate-mail through the US Postal Service (you know, paper made from trees, walking through three feet of snow to put paper letters in a mailbox like I did when I was a young punk (and we liked it that way!), that sort of thing), would anyone be bleating about the dangers of outing this person’s identity? Of course not — the authorities would find out who was doing this, charge him by his real name, and the incident would be a matter of public record. So why is there any controversy about doing exactly the same thing WRT harassing communications via the Web?

    And as for “precedent,” gimme a break. I think most bloggers are intelligent enough to tell the difference between someone using anonymity to avoid unfair retaliation for expressing legitimate opinions, and someone using it to get away with harassment. The only way anyone could possibly confuse the two, is if they think harassment is legitimate.

    On a side note, I do take issue with bringing “violent porn” into this discussion. For starters, the woman-hating pond-scum who are doing all this harassment are 100% responsible for their own actions, regardless of what porn they are, or are not, exposed to. Blaming porn for any of this only lets the real perps off the hook.

    Second, violent porn is no more “pervasive” on the Internet than any other kind of porn. Unlike the Stuxnet worm, porn does not actively seek to get itself onto your PC on its own. It’s only “pervasive” if you actively seek it out.

    And finally, violent porn is not a cause, it’s just another symptom. Certain men (and, yes, some women) despise women in general to a pathological degree. One result of this hatred is the harassment of women we see on the Internet; another is that such men tend to be attracted to the kinds of porn that cater to their hatred. Take away one result, and you’ll still have the other, so long as the pathological hatred remains.

  132. says

    One more thing: the woman-haters are already harassing people like Rebecca Watson BY HER REAL NAME, and actively seeking to expose the real identities of whatever other women they want to punish for…whatever. So if they know their target’s real name, where’s the horrible unfairness of exposing their real names?

  133. says

    Rorschach – for the record – yes it certainly is the case that I can’t out hoggle for the very reasons that Josh gave. It’s because there are so many people screaming in agony about the sacred and absolute right to pseudonymity and the “harassment” of poor hoggle.

  134. says

    And another thing, connected to what PZ said @ 21 – I took a deep breath and looked at hoggle’s blog yesterday: hoggle is (I mean this very literally) frighteningly obsessed with PZ. Not me; PZ. Dangerously obsessed.

  135. Pteryxx says

    It’s also possible to support someone and care about someone without necessarilyagreeing with them. (At least, it should be.) Whatever the decision turns out to be, I still intend to be supportive of Stephanie and Ophelia et al, even if I can’t in good conscience support their decision. I know I’m potentially being insensitive by disagreeing with someone who’s threatened and deserves support. But Stephanie asked it of us:

    So the challenge is this: Knowing what I know, having the information I do, give me a good reason why I’m not morally obligated to attach his real name to this kind of behavior as publicly as I can. (emphasis mine)

    If she hadn’t asked to be challenged, and the decision was to out Hoggle without our input, I probably would have bitten my tongue and said nothing. But I would have thought less of Stephanie than I do now, after she’s shown willingness to publicly consider that she might be wrong, even when her own well-being is at stake. When any person of us is hurt, threatened, desperate and has few options and broad support, that’s exactly when we’re most convinced of the obvious rightness of whatever we do.

  136. says

    I think if you slowed down you’d see how impossible it is for Ophelia or any other woman blogger to out this hoggle mofo without immediately being beat down with “you dumb bitch. . he didn’t do anything to you feminazi cunt.”

    And you think she’d be treated nicely by that lot if she cooperated? Please. If they even got a hint that they could make her cave with the threat of more hounding, their immediate response would be more threats, and more hounding.

  137. says

    Ophelia: I suspect that hatred of PZ is fueling a LOT of the hate on ERV. People who say anything non-hostile about Watson are routinely labelled “PZ sycophants,” with no connection except that PZ took Watson’s side. If PZ had been trashing Watson from the start, I suspect that many of Watson’s current haters would be defending her instead.

    And I have no idea why there’s so much hate — unless it’s coming from ignorant right-wing Christians who hate PZ for being an outspoken atheist. I know PZ can be a prick at times, I’ve disagreed with him many times, and he’s banned me from commenting on one of his posts at Panda’s Thumb. But the hatred I’m seeing is really far beyond any offensive things he’s actually done.

  138. says

    RB, true, they fume about PZ endlessly, along with Rebecca. I take up very little space in comparison – I talk about it disproportionately because it’s, you know, precious MEEEEE.

    I suppose it’s just success that makes them so livid. PZ’s blog is popular and they’re not as popular as he is, therefore, he is eeeeeevil.

    They’re only going to get more furious as Freethoughtblogs vacuums up more and more TERRIFIC BLOGGERS.

  139. says

    Rorschach – for the record – yes it certainly is the case that I can’t out hoggle for the very reasons that Josh gave. It’s because there are so many people screaming in agony about the sacred and absolute right to pseudonymity and the “harassment” of poor hoggle.

    For what it’s worth Ophelia, if Hoggle’s outed and you’re getting backlash for it, I think there’s a lot of us –including me, myself, and I– who are going to have your back, and give the support we can.

  140. says

    Thanks, Nathan. But there are also a lot who aren’t, and will do the other thing, and since they’ve rushed to say so, it’s not possible to ignore them.

    On the upside, I don’t really care (except about the principle, in general). I had no immediate plans to out him anyway.

  141. says

    Rorschach – for the record – yes it certainly is the case that I can’t out hoggle for the very reasons that Josh gave. It’s because there are so many people screaming in agony about the sacred and absolute right to pseudonymity and the “harassment” of poor hoggle.

    Ophelia, forgive me if I’m speaking out of turn, but I seem to remember that the original challenge on this issue from Stephanie was for the community to provide a good reason why outing Hoggle isn’t a moral obligation. To me this sounds less like you’ve been convinced not to out him by sound reasoning, and more like you’ve been silenced by the vociferousness of the negative responses. Is this how you feel about it too, or am I misinterpreting what you’re saying? If I’m understanding the situation correctly, I think that says that something very bad has gone down here.

  142. Chris says

    It’s your blog so run your own blacklist, then share it with like minded people and perhaps incorporate their lists into yours.

    If the idea catches on the network will grow, if not you’ve still protected your blog from unwanted comments.

    You surely don’t need peer affirmation or an international agreement for what you obviously think is the right thing to do?

    As for revealing information about anonymous posters, if you think it is correct do it. Obviouslly you don’t as you haven’t.

  143. says

    PZ’s blog is popular and they’re not as popular as he is, therefore, he is eeeeeevil.

    I suspect your blog is more popular than their blog, too. After all, how popular can a blog dedicated to hating PZ and Watson be? It’s a topic that runs dry awfully fast.

  144. says

    A few of us actually did start a banlist (care of John Loftus at Debunking Christianity) when Mabus was at his peak of operations on Blogger (blogspot). It worked fairly well for a bit, but he was so persistent that we’d have to have been updating the banlist every day, sometimes twice, to keep up with him.

    In the end, most people affected by it just switched to a different commenting system from the native one at Blogger; the new commenting system had a banning function built-in, so there was no more need to share the banlist. And Mabus, he then moved on to Twitter where he was finally noticed by authorities.

    Anyway, banlists work preemptively if they get updated frequently enough and can stop a troll dead in its tracks. An ideal banlist would not only track who is banned and all their sockpuppets and morphs but also it would track who trolls are being banned by so that others can subscribe to the banlist of someone (or banlists of a group of people) they trust.

    To stop a few trolls, banlists work well enough. The biggest problem with banlists is that they can get awfully big and clunky given how creating a commenter identity is far too easy across all the different types of blogs. Perhaps a way around that would be to count the number of times a known troll tries to leave a comment and ban them for a time period based on their persistence level, and once their ban period runs out, archive them. Then, new trolls could be compared against the archives and if they are repeat offenders, their persistence level would go up and they would be banned again appropriately. That would keep the banlist somewhat fresh and perhaps not overly big.

    The way we did it for Mabus just before everyone changed commenting systems is that we only put Mabus himself and all his known identities in the central repository and left it up to the individual bloggers to ban other trolls locally on their own blogs. They could also opt out of searching for matches to the Mabus files if they wanted. So, I could see that as another possibliity to cut down on the overhead: have different levels of banlists based on the trolls’ persistence levels and common agreement of who is considered a troll.

  145. says

    On the PharyngulaWiki we’ve tried setting up some kind of Troll Watch list. I think this could work, provided people always provide sources for why they’re putting certain names there (though in case of a flame war, the list might need to get protected).

    But I’ll also support whatever decision you will take on this matter.

  146. says

    Anne, oh, I’m not at all convinced by the soundness of the reasoning. Hell no – I think the reasoning is pathetic.

    But do I want to go out there and twist in the wind? No.

    The “community” doesn’t have our backs. It just doesn’t.

  147. Philip Legge says

    Chris @ #164,

    a long reply on whether outing is “correct”, since you glibly assume it is not, or else it would have already happened. Society exists as a set of mutual obligations between people, and peer affirmation is one of many feedback mechanisms that provide people with both positive and negative examples as to what is acceptable conduct, and what is unacceptable. Say poster P suggests a controversial idea on their blog, and posters Q, R, and S agree, but X disagrees: despite the numerical imbalance if the various parties have disparate reputations for being good thinkers or moral people, then P might carry the argument (perhaps by weight of strong ideas also contributed by Q, R, or S), or contrarian X might be able to persevere by greater weight of knowledge, experience and insight into the subject.

    What we are seeing here is a little more complicated in terms of interactions. Poster P (for pseudonymous) is materially harassing posters X, Y, and Z under their real names in a way which could do them harm by way of damaging their reputations. (IANAL, however I will note that the damaging of reputations is a civil wrong and potentially actionable.) Poster P merely claims he is “holding up a searchlight” on the activities of X, Y, and Z, and meanwhile X, Y, and Z complain of P’s treatment in that he is not playing fair.

    Now for one of those persons to expose the way in which P is not being fair and open, by removing some of the privilege that he has by way of pseudonymity (say P is not anonymous, although his identity is obscure), is in itself an action that could lead to unpleasant consequences, and the person who did would suffer a cost to do it, because this exchange is being conducted in society, and there are observers A, B, C, and so on, each with their different view and priorities: A might rail that free speech trumps harassment (boy, has that idea been given a thumping recently); B worries that outing P will set a precedent for outing others with legitimate needs for pseudonymity and/or anonymity; C sees nothing wrong (“zero bad”) in outing trolls; etc. (One need only look at these various threads to see how observers have brought their own emphases.)

    There is a paradox here that is aided by Internet culture, and it is not really very convincing that it should remain unregulated. If P were harassing X, Y, and Z through the newspapers or magazines, it would probably be difficult for P to get an open airing of his views without relinquishing his identity to the particular publisher, at least; and if X, Y, and Z were prevented from taking action against P then they would have recourse against the publisher. The Internet equivalent is that X, Y, or Z would have to use a legal remedy against a pseudonymous person on the Internet, or against that person’s ISP for allowing the “publishing” their views. Instead this would trigger the Streisand effect, and a thousand mirrors would spring up amplifying the harassment (possibly in perpetuo).

    My view is that from a moral standpoint, if P is really sure of his complaints, then he shouldn’t be afraid of making them in clear sight (transparency) – since there are cases where whistleblowers have to protect their identities, it is not clear that P isn’t abusing the privilege that is afforded to those who are less powerful as compensation. However, while P remains pseudonymous he won’t suffer a cost to his reputation from adopting that stance.

    On the other hand, if X outs P, then they will get dumped with the social cost of having wronged P, and one can imagine the hand wringing and justification that will go on: “why didn’t you just ignore P”, “retaliation is only exacerbating the problem”, “two wrongs don’t make a right”, “P is a martyr for free speech”, blah blah blah. The problem is that is easy to see why outing the identities of pseudonymous people can lead to bad consequences; conversely, the problem with online harassment of P’s type is in finding adequate responses that punish wrong-doing without exacerbating its magnitude or trivialising its impact.

    Now the particular dynamic in this situation is that on-line harassment is not gender independent: websites like haltabuse.org document statistics that harassment follows the mores of the largely patriarchal culture we are all steeped in, and that besides being more often the targets of harassment, women are much more heavily targeted with sexually demeaning and threatening forms of abuse if their gender is known or suspected. So if P is a man, and X is a woman, then X will almost certainly have a much higher social cost to pay (in terms of retaliatory abuse for having committed a wrong against P) then if the person outing P had been another man. This is why Ophelia, Rebecca, and Stephanie would be very cautious before doing what you suggested at post #164.

  148. Philip Legge says

    tl;dr summary of #170: none of those uppity wimminz can do wrong to one of teh Menz, they wouldn’t have the community looking after their back.

  149. ildi says

    The “community” doesn’t have our backs. It just doesn’t.

    That’s the worst part about this whole mess…

  150. says

    Yup. It has been all along.

    Still. There are communities and then there are communities. The larger atheist one doesn’t have our backs but the vast majority of the FTB one does, and with the way FTB keeps vacuuming up high quality bloggers…well you see where I’m going with this. I don’t exactly wish I could hang out with the cool kids who get to swap jokes with hoggle and Justicar.

  151. Sally Strange, OM says

    This needs to be a button you can pick up for free at GAC: Here. You’re welcome.

    Deep schisms, yo! And rightly so. Is the community welcoming to harassers, or is it welcoming to women. Atheists need to make up their mind.

  152. says

    SallyStrange,

    Is the community welcoming to harassers, or is it welcoming to women. Atheists need to make up their mind.

    that is a very false and very unfair dichotomy, that greatly oversimplifies things. But in the meantime, can I steal that button ?

  153. Chris says

    Philip Legge #170

    If you had read what I had written you wouldn’t have written a long reply on whether outing is “correct”, since you glibly assume it is not, or else it would have already happened .

    I actually wrote Obviouslly you don’t as you haven’t. a very different thing. I cannot be the you in that sentence, please reread what I actually wrote it and fathom out who the you referred to is.
    ——

    Your comment boils down to, people will only do what they think is right if all their friends agree and no harm (physical or social) will come their way.

  154. Philip Legge says

    I answered what you put down on the page: the implication of your final sentence is fairly unambiguous. If you meant something different, then you didn’t communicate it. Write clearly if you want to communicate.

    And while we’re at it, “Your comment boils down to, people will only do what they think is right if all their friends agree and no harm (physical or social) will come their way.” — is a pretty shallow reading of my post as well, if you want to trade points on misreading what other people have written.

  155. Chris says

    Philip Legge #177

    You are correct, the final sentence in my original comment was fairly unambiguous. I’m amazed that you misread it.

    As for my summary of your epistle being shallow, I would just say that I have reread what you wrote and believe my summary is fairly accurate.
    You go on about benefits and costs and do the possible costs outweigh the benefits and give various examples.
    I don’t disagree that there may be costs to doing what you think is right but is that a valid reason for not doing it.

  156. says

    that is a very false and very unfair dichotomy, that greatly oversimplifies things.

    True. But it is a dichotomy that MRAs (atheist or not) are trying to create and reinforce, possibly with the conscious intent of sowing division and mistrust within the atheist movement, and hounding women out of it.

    And the fact that Dawkins has said absolutely NOTHING in response to this Rovian attack (an attack which he had a clear hand in launching), only further proves how useless and self-centered he is as a “leader” of that movement.

  157. Sally Strange, OM says

    that is a very false and very unfair dichotomy, that greatly oversimplifies things.

    Tell that to the abusers and male supremacists. These people are going to push it until either they achieve their goal–silencing women in the atheist community–or until the community reacts negatively to their abuse and takes steps to publicly shame and exclude them on the basis of their abusive behavior.

    But in the meantime, can I steal that button ?

    That’s the point. Spread it around. Be aware that if you wear it, you are reinforcing a false and unfair dichotomy though. You’ll be “against free speech” (per the male supremacists) and for the cessation of online abuse of women and feminists (per the rest of us). Some people will be pro-hoggle. It will be very divisive.

  158. Pteryxx says

    (cc’d this comment to Zvan’s thread)

    I realized something else, after it nagged at me overnight like a thorn (just how intuition is SUPPOSED to work). And that was PZ’s comment on B&W:

    PZ Myers says:
    November 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    His style is highly questionable, but as far as I can tell he has given ZERO indication of being a Mabus-style wacko.

    Except for the four or five months of single-minded, obsessive hatred, and the absolute self-righteous certainty that he is the good guy opposed by an evil conspiracy.

    You may not know this, but I was a witness to Mabus’ descent into madness from the 1990s onward. Hoggle is a baby Mabus.

    and Ophelia’s follow-up:

    Ophelia Benson says:
    November 7, 2011 at 7:50 am

    And another thing, connected to what PZ said @ 21 – I took a deep breath and looked at hoggle’s blog yesterday: hoggle is (I mean this very literally) frighteningly obsessed with PZ. Not me; PZ. Dangerously obsessed.

    Everything I know about criminals with personal motives – every kind from stalkers, harassers, and partner abusers to serial bombers and assassins – says that obsession is the single defining characteristic. Someone who is obsessed won’t respond to reason, threats or risks to themselves. Their target just wants to be left alone, but to the aggressor, that is the same as losing – they have devoted themselves to a Cause. This manifests in domestic violence as the commonly held sentiment “If I can’t have you, then nobody can.” Also, to someone who is obsessed, winning doesn’t matter either – they MUST have a target, and if one target becomes unavailable, often they’ll readily switch to another. That’s one reason they become serial offenders.

    This also applies regardless of the aggressor’s supposed reason for the obsession. A stalker who spouts love for their target is just as much a risk as one who uses hate speech, or one who’s a conspiracy theorist. (They may use different tactics, but their words aren’t as important as the degree of obsession they show.)

    Now, not all obsessive types escalate to the point of real threat. Gavin de Becker cites cases who have happily sent threatening or lovelorn messages to his clients for DECADES without ever metastasizing into outright threats; but these people still have to be carefully monitored, because some of them WILL become more and more dangerous. They don’t become threatening in a vacuum, either. Often they respond to perceived threats or slights by escalating their own behavior – this is why, for example, an abuser is most likely to kill a woman when she tries to escape.

    I think that these discussions aren’t focusing enough on Hoggle’s obsession, rather than his misogyny. I woke up with the strong suspicion that for him, misogyny is functioning as a convenient smokescreen. Woman-hating doesn’t get taken seriously. I think because of that, Hoggle’s got a veneer of undeserved respectability that he wouldn’t have if he were devoting his blog to attacking only PZ. He’s attracting a cloud of misogynistic sycophants to feed on, but THEY aren’t the obsessed ones.

    Practically, this changes my viewpoint on outing him. Given that he’s made a personal crusade out of this, he’s likely to perceive outing him as a personal attack by his enemies. Most of us would perceive it as leveling the playing field, but an obsessed person is a crusader devoted to battle and righting perceived wrongs against him. To him, outing might be an insult that must be avenged, even if nothing whatsoever befalls him as a result. I think that shifts the risk-benefit ratio against outing him.

    However, his obsession makes him much more likely to be dangerous than the rank-and-file misogynists that encourage him. I would put much greater weight now on warning conference organizers and warning law enforcement about him. I would suggest finding a stalking specialist or security professional in his local area (the conference venues probably know of some) and reporting to them.

    I also suggest that PZ do the reporting, or at the very least that reports to professionals be framed around him, because galling as it is, he’ll probably be taken more seriously as a man (and Hoggle will be taken more seriously as a potential stalker of a male target).

    My references are Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear”, John Douglas’s “Obsession” and other books on profiling, and domestic violence materials on the cycle of abuse.

  159. says

    Pterryx @182:

    Perhaps now there are 2 separate issues; First, we have the credible and reasonable question of whether Hoggle is mentally ill, or on the edge, and whether he is a potential danger to others. This is certainly an important consideration, particularly for the safety and security of Hoggle’s targets.

    But I hope this does not cause us to lose sight of the issue of support for (or at least tolerance of) misogyny in the atheist/freethought/skeptic/secularist community. It’s not just the obviously socially dysfunctional people who are bullies.

  160. Pteryxx says

    @Theo Bromine, yes I think whether Hoggle’s a threat should be considered separately from taking a stand against misogynistic harassment in general. Practically, they’re still intertwined, but the responses differ.

  161. says

    First, we have the credible and reasonable question of whether Hoggle is mentally ill…

    And that leads to another question: if Hoggle is mentally ill, is it good for HIM to be allowed to post hateful ravings without consequence? I don’t think so — I think that breaking down his barrier between fantasy and reality, and forcing him to deal with real-life consequences of his actions, is necessary to encourage him to admit he has a problem and change his ways. Letting delusional people persist in their fantasies and hide from reality is NEVER good for them, or for the society that has to deal with them.

  162. says

    Chris @ 179 and elsewhere – you’re hopelessly confused. You’re mashing together principle and self-interest, and drawing unwarranted conclusions. What you’ve said about me is flat wrong.

  163. Pteryxx says

    Uh… when dealing with someone obsessive to the point of delusion, forcing them to confront reality can sometimes cause them to go nuclear because they have nothing left to lose. Then you get murder-suicides, or suicide-by-cop; less dramatically, an aggressor might not care about jeopardizing their own job, home or safety. Obsession is a sign that you’re not dealing with a reasonable person anymore. They may or may not be mentally ill or amenable to help or treatment as we think of it.

    As a layperson (laycritter) I have no clue if Hoggle or any specific person may or may not be reachable by treatment. My take is that he really, really needs to be reported to experts in this sort of thing.

  164. Pteryxx says

    Whoops – I wasn’t clear enough. The reason I cc’d my own comment to Stephanie Zvan’s thread was in hopes that further discussion about obsessive behavior or Hoggle specifically would go there, where it’s on-topic. I cc’d it here to ensure that Ophelia would see it, and also because the comments that sparked my response are here. So, I suggest that anyone who wants to engage me about it take it to the other thread, and leave this thread to focus on the much bigger problem of widespread misogynistic harassment.

    Link to my cc

  165. Pteryxx says

    Comment by Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville:

    I do think that discussions of anonymity tend to happen in the space of presumptions that men and women (in broad and imperfect categories) do not share: Men tend to assume that other men would not leave rape/death threats under their real names.

    I can assure you that they do. Maybe not every man who would send such swill under a cloak of anonymity would also do so under his real name, but the vast majority of men who send this shit to me do via easily traceable emails and/or IPs, and many more of them than you probably expect do it under their real names, even from work email addresses.

    That isn’t an indication of stupidity, by the way. It’s an indication that they’ve rightly assessed the law’s indifference to the behavior.

    link to source

    That suggests anonymity isn’t as big a factor, but also that blacklisting might be very effective against a lot of the hateful spam.

  166. Chris says

    Ophelia Benson #186

    If you read the original comment #164

    I just suggested that you can have your own blacklist, PZ has a dungeon and if you wished you could do somethimg similar. It doesn’t require universal buy in from those you consider your peers.

    I may be incorrect about the outing issue, but #169 you wrote But do I want to go out there and twist in the wind? No.

    The “community” doesn’t have our backs. It just doesn’t.

    So I assumed that was one of the reasons for not outing, a personal reason as I read it.

    On mashing together principal and self-interest, the whole discussion seems to do that. Is the cost, blow back, worse than the benefit from outing. If there was no cost would there even be a discussion?

  167. says

    On mashing together principal and self-interest, the whole discussion seems to do that. Is the cost, blow back, worse than the benefit from outing. If there was no cost would there even be a discussion?

    Yes, I think there would be. Many people have expressed issues of principal against outing, and they would still have spoken up if cost wasn’t an issue. The cost factor seems a more recent innovation (I could be wrong; I would have to reread everything to be sure).

  168. Chris says

    @NathanDST #194

    Yes, I think there would be. Many people have expressed issues of principal against outing, and they would still have spoken up if cost wasn’t an issue.

    I agree that some have mentioned principles against outing, but generally the principals seems to be that of possible collateral damage and/or free speech issues.

    How much free speech, when they deem it hateful, should a person tolerate on their own blog?

  169. theobromine says

    How much free speech, when they deem it hateful, should a person tolerate on their own blog?

    I don’t see why there should be any inherent right to free speech in blog comments. What goes in a blog should be (both morally and technically) completely under the control of the blog owner(s), whether an individual, group, or corporation. I think that the only requirement is that the blog owner has a responsibility to clearly state the moderation policies, whether they choose to allow all comments, control spam, control language, ban specific commenters, make sure that the discussion stays on topic, or even decide to arbitrarily delete comments according to their whim.

    The blog owner decides what kind of blog they want to host, and, based on that, the readers/commenters will decide if that is the kind of blog they want to visit. It’s a big wide internet out there, and lots of room for people to make their own blogs where they can make their own rules.

Trackbacks

  1. […] It’s like an avalanche. I’ve heard women speaking out about the online abuse they receive for years, but suddenly, it’s as if it has media traction, and more and more women are coming out to denounce the anti-woman hate speech that seems to be common currency on the internet. Laurie Penny, Helen Lewis Hasteley, Kate Smurthwaite, and now a profile of multiple female online writers all tell the same story: there’s a misogyny epidemic on the net. Ophelia Benson, who gets her share of the abuse too, highlights their stories. […]

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