The healing of Cooper »« Anatomy of a bully is it

Eran Segev on a few cruel individuals

Another in Amy’s series: another guy saying yeahno, harassment and bullying and threatening aren’t funny or cute. Eran Segev, contributor to the Skeptic Zone podcast and to the Skeptic magazine (in Australia), and former President of Australian Skeptics.

He’s had some of it himself. Way too much of it.

When organising TAM Australia, my fellow organisers and I were the subject of some astonishingly rude and unfriendly tweets and blogs over some decisions we made. Not one of the authors had contacted us to ask for the reasons behind the decisions. All were skeptics; people who wanted to attend the conference, and most eventually did. And over the past year or so, I have had a cruel and nasty campaign of vicious defamation directed at me. Obviously I will not be repeating what was said, but I’ll say that it was directly related to my being a man, and I can assure you it was so nasty that it could easily ruin my life. No exaggeration. Let’s just say, that because of a few cruel individuals I have had a pretty tough year. These people got to me.

We can see that he knows what it’s like.

I have met Rebecca a few times, and exchange emails with her occasionally, but we are not close friends by any stretch, and until fairly recently I had no idea of the composition of her mailbox. However, some mutual friends gave me some of the details of the emails and other messages she has been receiving, for years. I was horrified. I was at the local police station for less than Rebecca receives in an average week.

When I found that out, I started asking around, and discovered that not only is Rebecca not alone, it is practically the norm for women who are active online. And if they dare to be active feminists, then the level of hate becomes immense. And these are not just some gamers or kids. There are good reasons to believe that at least some of the messages come from adult members of the skeptical community; from people you might meet at Skeptics in the Pub or at TAM.

I have no idea how Rebecca and women like her tolerate it. I don’t completely understand how they don’t crack under the pressure. Perhaps they sometimes do.

No, we turn into Feminazis and Femistasi instead. We morph into the Oppressed Sisterhood. We become Infantilizers and Victims.

I also don’t understand, and surely never will, what goes through the minds of the perpetrators. I try to reason: OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I. So what? Why does it mean that she deserves to be insulted, humiliated and threatened with physical violence? If you want to say something, say “I disagree with you and you’re being unreasonable. Here’s why.” And if that gets shot down, argue some more; or leave. But hatred and violence?

Do you threaten a colleague you argue with that you’ll kill them? Do you wish the shop assistant that hasn’t helped you that she’ll be raped on the way home? What gives you, what gives ANYONE, the right to subject another person to such hate? And where does this hate come from? And why women? Do you not have a mother; a sister; a girlfriend? Do you hate them too? Do you insult and threaten them, too?

I was shocked that someone could hate me enough to want to ruin my life; imagine having dozens, maybe even hundreds of people personally wishing you raped. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I hope I never find out.

It’s what we’re supposed to expect because we say things in public. We have to develop a thick skin and then it will all be fine.

Comments

  1. callistacat says

    “If you want to say something, say ‘I disagree with you and you’re being unreasonable.'”

    “Do you threaten a colleague you argue with that you’ll kill them? Do you wish the shop assistant that hasn’t helped you that she’ll be raped on the way home? What gives you, what gives ANYONE, the right to subject another person to such hate?”

    Exactly. Jeesus.

  2. Ysanne says

    Great post.
    “Do you threaten a colleague you argue with that you’ll kill them? Do you wish the shop assistant that hasn’t helped you that she’ll be raped on the way home? What gives you, what gives ANYONE, the right to subject another person to such hate?”

    YES YES YES.
    This hateful bullying would be a completely unacceptable mode of interaction in meatspace: People who publicly scream insults, threaten with horrific violence and start sending abusive letters with when someone disagrees with them are rightly considered as way too dangerously fucked-up to be around. They’re not “the few bad apples in the community”, they’re the “unbearable asshole who was kicked out”.
    There’s no reason to tolerate the same abusive shit online.

  3. says

    Mister Segev expressed exactly how I feel about this. I have many women in my life, both family and friends, and I love them all dearly. How dare these neanderthals behave this way? What would their mothers say? If you disagree with someone but all you do is insult and threaten them, then maybe your argument doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

  4. picklefactory says

    I’ve listened to the Skeptic Zone on and off for a while, and Eran always came across as a mensch — glad to have my suppositions confirmed for a change.

  5. says

    I’ve noticed this with cars. Drivers are ruder because they’re not seeing the other person face to face–they’re seeing a car, a metallic beetle or behemoth if you will. If they were walking on the sidewalk with those same people, they wouldn’t cut them off, yell at them, or give them the finger. The Internet has this problem cubed for people of little imagination. I look at drivers, wave thanks at them, let them in, and try to tolerate their foibles. Some people imagine the people at the keyboards–others don’t.

  6. frankathon says

    *claps* Well said! I have to say that all this has brought to my attention many bloggers and writers that I had no clue existed and also brought to light people I would never want to read.

  7. blamer says

    @Markita, very astute.

    Exchanging words online so quickly escalates from stoicism.

    The OP is surprised by hate mail but glosses over the context of argumentation.

    Passionate activism is notorious for being a bad-behavior arms race. Socially progressive advocates seem particularly susceptible to “frienemy fire”. And these online communication tools we use offer little incentive to remain unprovoked; to keep our fuels way from an increasingly famous fire and/or firebug.

    When text on a screen really feels threatening to our personal identity —including our group identity– we can expect the human animal to display its typical primal response of combative “us Vs them” imagery and moral rhetoric. And some degree of chaos to ensue.

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