Whose job


PZ also marvels at this idea that internet bullying doesn’t count. (PZ is at the AA Convention; I wonder if he’s dropped in on the art show yet.)

He starts with the suicide of Amanda Todd and the arrest of the guy who harassed and extorted her.

I pointed out back then that some members of the atheist community have a vile lack of empathy. I will mention it again. Miri rages against the online idiots who insist that internet activity can’t really do psychological harm — they diagnose freely over the internet, and claim that you can’t possibly develop stress disorders from the bullying tactics of the usual slymey suspects — Miri tears that argument up with basic scientific facts from the field of psychology (remember the days when skeptics at least paid lip service to science?)

I’m just going to point to Amanda Todd. Her death wasn’t virtual.

And then, he goes on – if they think internet bullying is so ineffectual, why do they spend so much time and energy doing it?

Good question.

One commenter – Bronze Dog – expands on the point.

I’m once again disgusted by “the internet isn’t real”. The internet isn’t some griefer-friendly MMO we can just quit playing. For many of us, it’s a large part of our social lives. It’s a large part of many people’s professional lives, too. You might as well say that mail and telephones aren’t real. Hell, I’d say the internet is more invasive than the telephone was originally, since there was a time you could switch to an unlisted number. Now, any sufficiently determined troll can find your phone number, email, or blog.

Also – we really need to jump all over this idea that it’s the job of the people being harassed to stop participating in whatever technology or social media site that is conveying the harassment, instead of the job of the people doing the harassing TO STOP DOING THE FUCKING HARASSING. No no no no no no no no, it’s not my job to hide inside and throw away my computer. It’s the job of shitty people to keep their shittiness to themselves. They’re the ones doing bad things that they need to stop doing. They are. I’m not, Melody’s not, the targets are not; they are.

Comments

  1. Blanche Quizno says

    There are a lot of disabled people for whom the onlineverse is their only forum for social contact. For shitweasels to cause their only access to relationships to become instead the source of dangerous stress and stalker-like threats is intolerable. We need more laws governing the onlineverse – technology always comes first and it’s only in seeing what happens that we figure out what needs regulating.

    Now is a good time.

  2. leni says

    I would only add that it’s the job of the rest of us- the ones not interested in participating in the bullying, anyway- to stand up for victims when we can.

    I am a huge fan of Miri’s edits in that thread. I know that very few bloggers would have the time to invest that much effort with every troll comment, but I re-read the Steersman edit about three times and laughed out loud each time.

    I know that tactic has limited use and that sort of thing would not be acceptable or even ethical on a more public forum, but it was enjoyable to watch her utterly deny letting that asshole poison yet another discussion. Free range trolls have plenty of places to go, including their own blogs. They don’t need the rest of us to facilitate for them.

  3. says

    Also – we really need to jump all over this idea that it’s the job of the people being harassed to stop participating in whatever technology or social media site that is conveying the harassment, instead of the job of the people doing the harassing TO STOP DOING THE FUCKING HARASSING.

    This! This is just a ‘digital’ form of victim blaming and harassment; and the analogue forms of it are just as unacceptable. A couple of days ago I read via social media how a friend with cerebral palsy and who has major difficulty with being able to walk, fell to the floor while trying to get aboard a crush-room only tram (at a stop where there are no facilities for making it easier for disabled people). She eventually was able to claim one of the seats reserved for those who are elderly/disabled/pregnant, only to be told off by the tram inspectors who failed to notice the cane she uses, and who fined her for not validating her ‘smart’ card (anyone who’s been on board a Melbourne tram at crush load knows this would have been the last thing on her mind after falling over).

    The real point for this comment was the cherry on top of the ableism failure cake: the tram inspector told her, quote, “If you have balance problems, ma’am, perhaps you shouldn’t be on public transport”. (Subtext: Yes, and why don’t you stop participating in society while you’re at it.) What. the. actual. fuck.

  4. dmcclean says

    #2
    I am fully against this harassment, but to say it needs regulating is tricky. It needs to be regulated by social disapprobation. It needs to be regulated by operators of social networks (and I suspect it will be, since it’s in their own interest to do so). It needs to be regulated by teaching kids not to do that. But it equally strongly needs to not be regulated by law, because that is both a very gray area and very very slippery slope.

  5. quixote says

    That slippery slope argument makes me tired. Does it ever dawn on the people who make it that the slippery slope can itself be a slippery slope?

    All you’ve said is that it’s more important for some people to participate in public spaces than other people. You’re saying the most important thing is to preserve the status quo, to make no real changes. (Because there are limits on free speech right now, and you’re okay with those.) So let’s shut up those pesky people who can’t be heard now. There’s your slippery slope.

    The bad news is there’s no way to get out of balancing different rights if you want fairness. The slippery slope is NOT balancing them. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to be beyond human capability when we actually genuinely want to do it.

  6. dmcclean says

    I feel your pain because it makes me tired too. But this is the issue where it’s needed.

    I absolutely do not think that it’s more important for some people to participate in public spaces than other people. I will say now categorically that it is not. I have no idea where you read that in to what I wrote.

    What I think is that it is very difficult in practice to construct a system of administration of justice that would enforce a legal regulation against harassment and hate speech in a way that is at all sensible. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    People who propose such regulation generally seem to expect that it will be administered by benevolent non-human overlords. It won’t, it will be administered by humans with all their flaws. It will be co-opted by the jackass portion of society almost instantaneously, and used to suppress speech by exactly those voices from whom we already hear too little and whom we were trying to protect by such enactments.

    You can see this because other people have done the experiment, so you don’t have to take my word for it. Look through the archives of this blog, for example, and read about all the people convicted of “blasphemy”. Some of whom were sentenced to death. Look at what the Bill Donahues and the reconstructionists are champing at the bit to do with a law like that, which they are champing at the bit to enact.

    The House Committee on Misogynist Activities is going to be silencing abortion rights advocates on its second day in action. Long history of many attempts to do such things shows that. And saying you don’t want such a committee is conceding that you want your policy proposal to be administered by benevolent overlords. I want that too. But there aren’t any benevolent overlords at hand. Find some, and I’ll be on your side.

    The balancing has to happen in society. In education. In literature. In public commentary. It’s a huge job and we should dig in, because you are right, there’s no way to get out of balancing. That doesn’t mean that we should use state power to balance. It just doesn’t follow.

    As you say, it isn’t beyond human capability to balance when we genuinely want to. So it isn’t necessary to despair of fixing these problems so badly that we run to courts overseen by kangaroos and worse animals. We are winning this thing, it’s just taking a long ass time. And it’s easy for me to say that, because of the circumstances of my birth, I acknowledge that. I’m not saying it to say “shut up”. I’m saying it to say yell louder. But don’t arm the folks who think that The Handmaid’s Tale was a utopia with more weapons than they already have, because as it stands it is scary as hell.

  7. dmcclean says

    There’s hope for a utopian eradication of this asshattery from respectable corners of the internet, but in my opinion it lies with the followers of Thomas Bayes and not with those of Thomas More. And I don’t say that to slander anyone with the latter’s egregious crimes, but just because they were both named Thomas and he wrote Utopia.

    (Although his fictionalization in A Man for All Seasons gave a great speech about the problem here. It’s late, so I won’t track it down, but he asks his interlocutor what he will do after he’s cut down all the laws in pursuit of the devil.)

  8. leni says

    It needs to be regulated by social disapprobation.

    Mhmm.

    Social disapprobation also comes in the form of laws.

    Note- I’m not saying I’m for or against any particular piece of legislation. But laws are certainly one way to express social disapprobation.

  9. Maureen Brian says

    Is there any evidence from recent history, dmcclean, that this approach of yours has ever worked?

    You seem to be assuming that nothing should be done which might be capable of being overdone. Tell me of a human activity, any human activity, of which that could not be true. Clue: start with traffic cops and work on up to the more subtle stuff.

    Two facts argue against you. Firstly, this is learned behviour so part of the answer has to be to break that chain of learning because no-one leaps from his mother’s uterus threatening to rape a woman he has never met. Or to get her sacked from a moderately important post in his nation’s third sector.

    Secondly, there are examples where a concerted attempt to keep people not liked or not understood or traditionally down-trodden out of the public square have been defeated. How? By the people subjected to discrimination and threatening behaviour standing together and saying – very loudly – “We will take no more of this.” Which is what is happening now.

    The best examples in my lifetime are the overthrow of colonial rule in India, the Civil Rights movement in the US and the demise of apartheid in South Africa. And if you don’t think that women are at least as important, as least as numerous as those examples then perhaps you are beyond help.

    By the way, I have my 72nd birthday in a few weeks. Do you think that your plan to teach toddlers to be even more polite will work through in time for me to reap the benefit. No, neither do I!

    I suggest that you pop off and (re)read Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which has quite a lot to say – with his usual skill – about giving cover to the enemy in the name of calm and good behaviour.

  10. Maureen Brian says

    Just an afterthought and probably stating the obvious but in some cases – like the ones I mention above – some acts are seen as legal, thus not to be challenged, and others are seen as illegal because the people doing the oppressing are also the people writing the laws.

    Gandhi’s march to the sea to make salt is the perfect example.

  11. dmcclean says

    “Is there any evidence from recent history, dmcclean, that this approach of yours has ever worked?”

    Absolutely. In fact it’s ample.

    Look at the progress that has been made in the last few decades in public attitudes towards, and behavior towards, the LGBT community. The approach I am talking about has been followed. The approach of fining or jailing people for saying the f word has not.

    Let me turn that question around. Is there any evidence from anywhere in history that the law approach has worked? Other than the inquisition “working” (in the sense of achieving its aims), for a short while?

    Secondly, there are examples where a concerted attempt to keep people not liked or not understood or traditionally down-trodden out of the public square have been defeated. How? By the people subjected to discrimination and threatening behaviour standing together and saying – very loudly – “We will take no more of this.” Which is what is happening now.

    Precisely! Welcome to my side. We should be standing together and saying — very loudly — “We will take no more of this.” Which is what is happening now. And it’s working, glacially as it does.

    The best examples in my lifetime are the overthrow of colonial rule in India, the Civil Rights movement in the US and the demise of apartheid in South Africa.

    Did the downtrodden Indians jail their oppressors? No, they largely used the approach I am talking about.

    The civil rights movement is perhaps the one example in history that mixed in a fragment of the law approach, in the form of Title II’s public accommodations provisions. BUT, and this is a big but, the path to enforceability there is comparatively crystal clear. Either someone is kicking you out of their motel or they aren’t. If you have a proposal with similar properties, I’m for it. For example, I support employment non-discrimination laws because even though they are a gray area to enforce, the costs of misadministration is, at worst, that a few poor employees keep their jobs.

    The demise of apartheid in South Africa was achieved by the approach I am talking about.

    I don’t see how you think that the India or South Africa cases are at all analogous unless you are badly misreading my position. Neither is in the same category because neither set of protagonists even had access to state power, so we can’t even reach the question of looking at the manner in which they employed it.

    And if you don’t think that women are at least as important, as least as numerous as those examples then perhaps you are beyond help.

    Absolutely they are. And that’s a very cheap shot. This is a good forum, we can be better than that.

    It doesn’t follow from an end being crucially important that whatever means Maureen Brian selects for achieving it are likely to succeed or should be employed. Looking at the contrapositive, it doesn’t follow from my opposition to such means that I don’t believe fiercely in the importance of the end.

    By the way, I have my 72nd birthday in a few weeks. Do you think that your plan to teach toddlers to be even more polite will work through in time for me to reap the benefit. No, neither do I!

    I’m 32. My plan won’t work in time for me or people my age to reap much of the benefit. Well some, but certainly not anything like “success”. I expect based on the time it has taken to chip away at other things that it will take at least 2 centuries (if we have 2 centuries left…).

    I don’t have a plan that will give us eternal life in your lifetime either. It doesn’t follow that your hypothetical plan to do so is a good idea, unless we look at your plan’s prospects for success and it’s potential costs.

    I suggest that you pop off and (re)read Martin Luther King Junior’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which has quite a lot to say – with his usual skill – about giving cover to the enemy in the name of calm and good behaviour.

    Just an afterthought and probably stating the obvious but in some cases – like the ones I mention above – some acts are seen as legal, thus not to be challenged, and others are seen as illegal because the people doing the oppressing are also the people writing the laws.

    I have done, several times. It’s a powerful endorsement of the approach I am talking about. Direct action. It’s in itself an embodiment of my approach. That it is known, lauded, widely read, and has been influential is evidence of the success of my approach.

    I challenge you to excerpt something endorsing the approach of jailing people for using the n word, which would be analogous to what we are talking about here. It doesn’t have to be that specifically, any endorsement of the use-state-power-to-make-assholes-shut-up approach will be sufficient. But you won’t find it because it isn’t there.

    There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now.

    (my emphasis)

    One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

    You wrote:

    Just an afterthought and probably stating the obvious but in some cases – like the ones I mention above – some acts are seen as legal, thus not to be challenged, and others are seen as illegal because the people doing the oppressing are also the people writing the laws.

    This would be relevant, were you addressing someone who is saying that because some of this horrible behavior is legal it is “not to be challenged.” Such people exist. I am not among them. I say now as I have said several times that it must be challenged fiercely and at every opportunity. What I am saying is that the law is not the right instrument for such a challenge. Interpersonal and collective interaction is, as the passages above from King’s letter illustrate.

    In summary, your examples seem to be largely cases where people spoke up against unjust laws and they were changed. I’m all for that! What I’m opposing is enacting overly vague laws whose enforcement is near certain to have very bad unintended consequences. This is not at all the same thing, which suggests strongly that you’ve badly misinterpreted my position. Try to read again what I said and not what you imagine I might have said.

  12. johnthedrunkard says

    Since the tribe of trolls are implacably evil and incapable of change what can we really do?

    No matter how extreme my scorn and disgust towards these vermin may be, I cannot strike them with lightning. They will never learn, they will never change, they will never be less hateful or more rational.

    The ‘standard we walk past’ CAN be adjusted. But ‘not walking past’ has no weight. Any attempt to argue truth or facts with a Randroid is a much a waste of air as ‘debating’ the Taliban. While drone-strikes are certainly a tempting option, I don’t think the atheist community will accept them.

    Unmasking evil motherfuckers is a Good Thing. Exposing them to richly deserved scorn and ridicule is a Good Thing. Improving community understanding so that toxic behavior is not rationalized or defended—Good Thing.

    But it won’t stop them, and people will still suffer from disgraceful attacks.

  13. says

    Well, for one thing, Twitter could do far more to regulate them. There’s no law that says Twitter has to be a savage free-for-all. Since it has become a tool for all kinds of grown-up activity, it really shouldn’t be a savage free-for-all.

  14. dmcclean says

    Absolutely, Twitter and others could and should do a lot more. And I support that kind of non-state regulation.

    Unpacking a bit, what I meant by saying that the followers of Thomas Bayes might be able to kick these jackasses out of the respectable internet is that bayesian natural language processing tools are a powerful weapon for detecting this kind of harassment autonomously, and certainly of responding autonomously to requests for harassing content to be taken down.

    It’s very much in Twitter’s/Facebook’s interest to do this, since the jackasses have the potential to burn their empires down from the inside. And the cost/scaling profile is likely to be much more attractive to them than hiring many more “referees” would be.

    Of course someone will set up a Twitter-for-jackasses. But in the same way that we, the forces of good, generally have kept Wikipedia on planet earth, and the same way that Conservapedia has almost no audience and is the laughingstock of millions, I have faith that the hypothetical Sensible Party twitter will win out, and the Jackass Party twitter will be a tiny niche. And it will happen without empowering the “blasphemy” crusaders and their ilk.

  15. Blanche Quizno says

    Today’s Post: Fun With dmcclean

    “I am fully against this harassment, but”

    Translation: This harrassment doesn’t really bother me.

    “it equally strongly needs to not be regulated by law, because that is both a very gray area and very very slippery slope.”

    THERE it is!! Here’s one – death threats, threats of physical violence, and publishing someone’s personal information without his/her permission become prosecutable . Done.

    “What I think is that it is very difficult in practice to construct a system of administration of justice that would enforce a legal regulation against harassment and hate speech in a way that is at all sensible.”

    *ahem*

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

    Translation: BE IN AWE OF MY AWESOME LATIN-USING AWESOMENESS!!!

    “People who propose such regulation generally seem to expect that it will be administered by benevolent non-human overlords. It won’t, it will be administered by humans with all their flaws. It will be co-opted by the jackass portion of society almost instantaneously, and used to suppress speech by exactly those voices from whom we already hear too little and whom we were trying to protect by such enactments.”

    Translation: *Shrug* *Throws up hands* “There’s just nothing to be done. See? Impossible.”

    “Look through the archives of this blog, for example, and read about all the people convicted of “blasphemy”. ”

    Translation: “Because we all know that protecting people from bullying, harassment, stalking, and bodily harm is exactly the same as protecting religious shitwads and their privilege from much-needed and well-earned criticism.”

    “The House Committee on Misogynist Activities is going to be silencing abortion rights advocates on its second day in action.”

    Translation: Because it’s OPPOSITE DAY!!!

    “And saying you don’t want such a committee is conceding that you want your policy proposal to be administered by benevolent overlords.”

    Translation: Take THAT, straw man!! Ha HA!!

    “As you say, it isn’t beyond human capability to balance when we genuinely want to. So it isn’t necessary to despair of fixing these problems so badly that we run to courts overseen by kangaroos and worse animals. We are winning this thing, it’s just taking a long ass time. And it’s easy for me to say that, because of the circumstances of my birth, I acknowledge that. I’m not saying it to say “shut up”. I’m saying it to say yell louder. But don’t arm the folks who think that The Handmaid’s Tale was a utopia with more weapons than they already have, because as it stands it is scary as hell.”

    Translation: “We can all see that doing *nothing* and just shelving the problem for later generations to address is obviously the proper, natural, and intelligent course of action. Now I will name-drop various book names to show what a supersmart guy I am.”

    “There’s hope for a utopian eradication of this asshattery from respectable corners of the internet, but in my opinion it lies with the followers of Thomas Bayes and not with those of Thomas More.”

    Translation: “Watch me smugly name-drop some more as I pirouette and leap about gracefully as a gazelle under the spotlight I so clearly deserve! La la la la LA!!!”

    Oh brother *eye roll*

  16. dmcclean says

    Apparently you don’t like my choice of words, or you think “that be fancytalk” is an argument.

    “The House Committee on Misogynist Activities is going to be silencing abortion rights advocates on its second day in action.”

    Translation: Because it’s OPPOSITE DAY!!!

    Exactly. It will be opposite day when you go down this road. Because, regrettable as it may be, the assholes will be very aggressive in using that type of rule for asshole means.

    “it equally strongly needs to not be regulated by law, because that is both a very gray area and very very slippery slope.”

    THERE it is!! Here’s one – death threats, threats of physical violence, and publishing someone’s personal information without his/her permission become prosecutable . Done.

    Banning death threats is fine. I’m all for it.

    Banning releasing someone’s personal information without their permission (with careful exceptions and safe harbors, like that it’s OK to release people’s professional contact information so that we can say “Company XYZ are being assholes. Call their directory of whatever, Joe Smith, at 867-5309″ without fear of prosecution or SLAPPs, is a decent idea. But note that even with something so seemingly “not gray”, the potholes are everywhere. I think these potholes can probably be mostly avoided for this specific proposal.

    Banning threats of physical violence is trickier yet. Of course, under some circumstances such threats are assault. Under other circumstances utterances with literal meaning that is a threat of physical violence, e.g. “Don’t say that, John James Smith, or I’ll wash your mouth out with soap” are bad but I’m not sure you could convince society to ban them. The real problem comes because threats can be very menacing without being direct, clear, or actively voiced. They can be subjunctive (“You’d better be careful”, in the wrong tone of voice).

    You pretend it is simple. It isn’t. How would you have ruled in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire? Excerpting the precis from Wikipedia:

    Walter Chaplinsky, a Jehovah’s Witness, was using the public sidewalk as a pulpit in downtown Rochester, passing out pamphlets and calling organized religion a “racket.” … Upon seeing the town marshal (who had returned to the scene after warning Chaplinsky earlier to keep it down and avoid causing a commotion), Chaplinsky attacked the marshal verbally. He was then arrested. The complaint against Chaplinsky stated that he shouted: “You are a God-damned racketeer” and “a damned Fascist”.

    The court ruled that the arrest was legitimate. I would argue that it wasn’t. And that this is precisely the place where rules like this go.

    So: death threats, yes. Outing personal information: OK, carefully. Threats of violence? Starting to become very gray. Hateful comments that aren’t threats of physical violence? Here be dragons.

    Note that what’s gray is not whether these actions are wrong. It’s whether you can set up a machinery of law and adjudication that will decide that they are wrong without also deciding that lots of other things, like Chaplinsky’s quite rightful outrage, or blasphemy, are wrong.

    “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

    Translation: BE IN AWE OF MY AWESOME LATIN-USING AWESOMENESS!!!

    My point, jackass, was that the extreme difficulty or impossibility of doing this has been a problem for civilization since the word go. Actually, even the history of the phrase is an example. The concept is traceable at least to Glaucon in the Republic. But only a few centuries later Juvenal was writing it in a context that was about how you can’t keep your wife locked up because you can’t trust the guards, which is sickening. (He wasn’t endorsing this point of view though, he was satirizing it AIUI.) Interesting digression.

    “As you say, it isn’t beyond human capability to balance when we genuinely want to. So it isn’t necessary to despair of fixing these problems so badly that we run to courts overseen by kangaroos and worse animals. We are winning this thing, it’s just taking a long ass time. And it’s easy for me to say that, because of the circumstances of my birth, I acknowledge that. I’m not saying it to say “shut up”. I’m saying it to say yell louder. But don’t arm the folks who think that The Handmaid’s Tale was a utopia with more weapons than they already have, because as it stands it is scary as hell.”

    Translation: “We can all see that doing *nothing* and just shelving the problem for later generations to address is obviously the proper, natural, and intelligent course of action. Now I will name-drop various book names to show what a supersmart guy I am.”

    No, jackass, I am not proposing doing nothing. Speaking of straw men…

    This generation needs to address it! I need to address it! You need to address it! The next generation will need to address it, and the one after that, and the one after that. Culture has a lot of inertia. Even if we pass your law, culture has generations of inertia.

    The course of action I am proposing is not nothing. I will reiterate. Let’s crack down on death threats. We’ve had success doing this in the schools after Columbine, we can do it in the wider society. Let’s get the social networks to be ruthless about banning people for hateful speech, interpreted very very broadly, not just explicit threats of violence. (But interpreted by them, not by the legislatures.) Let’s call out these assholes wherever they are, every damn time, ad nauseam. (Or whatever your preferred thesaurus choice is! Since apparently mine offend you.)

    I was mentioning the book because the reconstructionists, who are a very real threat here in the United States and especially in some of them, are trying to get blasphemy laws back on the books. Our defense against them is in the establishment clause, but to say that they are chipping away at the establishment clause would be a massive understatement. We need to fight them. But it will be tough if we start chipping away at the free speech clause by jailing or fining people for misogyny. The court is still on our side by about half a vote, but given the age-vs-ideology plot of the justices, there’s little reason to expect that to continue.

    I was also mentioning it because I was trying to signal that I’M ON YOUR DAMN SIDE. What I think we should do, which is far from nothing, is 90 or 95 or 98% of what you think we should do.

    “There’s hope for a utopian eradication of this asshattery from respectable corners of the internet, but in my opinion it lies with the followers of Thomas Bayes and not with those of Thomas More.”

    Translation: “Watch me smugly name-drop some more as I pirouette and leap about gracefully as a gazelle under the spotlight I so clearly deserve! La la la la LA!!!”

    OK, that one was obscure and too clever by half. You’re right, I’m sorry.

    My point was (and it was buried behind jargon) THAT WE SHOULD NOT DO NOTHING. I don’t see how you could possibly have read this and have written that I was saying “*Shrug* *Throws up hands* “There’s just nothing to be done. See? Impossible.”” It’s dishonest.

    My point was we should ruthlessly cut out this stuff from the internet, and that we should get the social networks to do it, and that the prospects for their success in doing so are quite good.

    I’m very frustrated that no one is reading what I am saying, they are assuming I am somehow defending or apologizing for these shitbirds. I’m offended. I understand that the slyme pit apologists are everywhere, and that we all have our guard up against them, and that there’s cognitive biases that lead us to false dichotomies. But seriously this is getting ridiculous.

  17. dmcclean says

    The ends here (stopping this crap) definitely justify the means of fining or jailing these jackasses, by the way. I’m not arguing that they don’t, which seems to be getting lost in translation.

    I’m arguing that if you start doing it (beyond the death threats, and the outings, the very most objectively and narrowly decidable bits), that a lot of innocent people are going to get caught up in it once the jackasses grab the levers of that power. That’s why I don’t want it done by the state, where the jackasses can grab the levers, but by absolutely everyone else.

  18. dmcclean says

    By the way, where is your righteous outrage towards smugness at the commenter who name-dropped King and the Letter from Birmingham Jail, appealing to something it doesn’t say, and then vanished when confronted with the text itself which clearly endorses what I am saying about how positive changes have been won in the past?

  19. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    dmclean,
    We get it. We draconian women need to make sure we don’t take this wanting to be able to safely participate in the world around us too far, because that would be just like persecuting people for blasphemy. Thanks. yourmansplaination and dire warnings of how any laws that might give us some protection will just be abused, so we ought to suck it up. Gotcha.

  20. says

    Hey, Blanche, that was just rude. And dmclean isn’t saying what you seem to think.

    Sorry, I haven’t kept up with this thread. No rudeness please.

  21. dmcclean says

    US v. Morrison was a joke, I’m with the ACLU in supporting VAWA.

    And I’m for doing lots of other things, some of which are legal, but I’ve written that multiple times upthread.

    So no, you don’t “get it”.

  22. Maureen Brian says

    dmcclean @ 15,

    I am not an adherent of the school of history which only counts events as having started at the point where “your method” begins to work. That means that for each major change we must entirely ignore the period leading up to that and the all the brutality it involved. Sometimes that could mean ignoring why change was even contemplated in the first place.

    You go ahead if you wish but you are not going to dissuade me from the view that the increasing harshness required to enforce the status quo, the individual atrocities which break through into general consciousness – Sharpeville? – and the realisation among the oppressed that only total change will do, these all build to the point where a significant minority of the advantaged are embarrassed by what it is taking to hold people down. These things can take centuries. Even if it is quicker it is not a magic fairy wand operation.

    Only then does jaw-jaw become a better option than war-war. Only then does a David Ervine or a Desmond Tutu come onto the scene with well thought-through arguments and the authority to speak on behalf of others.

    This thread kicks off with a good challenge – did you read Doctornerdlove? and the comments? – to the implicit assumption that we should try another century of smiling sweetly, falling over ourselves to see the oppressor’s point of view and taking it like a man. A difficult combination to attempt. Maybe then all would be well? I repeat – history does not tell us that.

    Even in a carefully edited history of the planet it is the Stonewall Riots we recall not the Stonewall afternoon teas at the Savoy. And both Harvey Milk and Steve Biko were still assassinated. No?

    —————

    I didn’t run away. I tried, I really tried to reply to you. I even drafted that reply and the notes are on the desk in front of me. In the end, though, my duties as a host over-rode any obligation to you and so off I happily went to spend the day with my guests in the Yorkshire Dales.

  23. Maureen Brian says

    “My dear fellow clergymen,

    You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”

    (It then discusses matters specific to the time and place, including the “negotiated settlement” with Rev Shuttlesworth and others which soon turned out not to have been made in good faith, before waxing both philosophical and biblical to underpin the idea that a degree of tension – not violence, tension – is necessary for one human brain or one society to move forward.)

    “I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice …”

    Martin Luther King, Jnr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written April 1963

  24. dmcclean says

    All of that is true.

    Sorry for falsely accusing you of a hit and run, thanks for replying.

    Who is doctornerdlove, I don’t see that name upthread anywhere. I will read whatever xe wrote if I can find it. I did read all the comments.

    If you want war-war instead of jaw-jaw, go for it. If there is a Stonewall type incident it will probably be justified. Neither of those things has anything to do with my point, which is exclusively that legal regulation of hate speech is a bad idea. My point is not, and I feel like I am saying this for the hundredth time, my point is NOT that the victims should shut up and only respond by politely jaw-jawing. My point is NOT that men should shut up and let this happen.

    Your quotes from the letter don’t support your point. I’m not opposing the equivalent of “the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham”. I’m opposing something the letter doesn’t discuss at all, which is legal regulation against calling someone a n— (extending the analogy). You can’t excerpt the part of the letter where King endorses that because it doesn’t exist.

    Bring on the tension!

    The second quote is also not on point. We shouldn’t be more devoted to order than to justice. We should be more devoted to justice. I am not calling for order. But not all laws enacted in the name of justice have or are likely to lead to just results when actually enforced by actual humans.

    I believe you and I have conclusively demonstrated that nothing in the letter can be found in opposition to the point I am actually making. I agree that in specific parts and in its entirety it opposes the point you think I have been making, and that the point you think I have been making is not a good point and indeed is unethical.

  25. dmcclean says

    I’m saying to use the bazookas, the gunships, the cruise missiles, the B-2s, and the M16s.

    I’m saying to consider leaving the land mines on the shelf because they have a nasty habit of blowing up innocent farm kids 57 years after the war ends.

    And you people are accusing me of pacifism and of sympathizing with the enemy? It’s outrageous, really.

  26. dmcclean says

    Oh, OK. Yes, I read it, I just failed to retain the author’s name.

    I commented in Ophelia’s thread about it earlier, about some specific ways I am speaking up from within (a different part of) the geek/nerd culture

    I will say that the article is absolutely correct in every respect

    I fail to see how Maureen thinks it supports her case, unless she disagrees with Doctor NerdLove as she does with me.

    We have the voice. We have the male privilege that says male voices have more impact, that we aren’t dismissed as easily. And we need to use it. We have to be the ones who make geek culture a place where this sort of toxic hate and abuse of women is unacceptable. Do not let this behavior go unremarked. Push back against idea that belittling, harassing or abusing women is somehow a masculine virtue, that it’s acceptable because “Internet, lulz” or “guys just being guys”. Marginalize these people. Isolate them. Excise them from the community – we don’t need them, we sure as shit don’t want them.

    Yup. That. All of that. Intensely.

    If you read my comment on the thread, I am not “hid[iing] behind the fig leafs of “not all men” or “not my problem”.” I could write name names, but I don’t think that’s constructive and even flirts with the don’t-needlessly-reveal-other-people’s-real-life-identity-information rule.

    Maureen seems to be employing the tactic of pointing out that the problem she wants to solve is horrible (it is), as a way of making it beyond the pale to even suggest that one thing among the dozens of weapons we have to respond with is perhaps not a great idea. An idea that Doctor NerdLove doesn’t mention or endorse, instead xe endorses the same things I have been loudly endorsing. Just as Dr. King didn’t mention the idea I am criticizing and instead mentioned all the things I have been loudly endorsing.

    I challenger her to excerpt something from that article that supports her position in the one narrow area in which we disagree. She can’t, because I read it three times and it isn’t there.

    In citing it, she said:

    This thread kicks off with a good challenge – did you read Doctornerdlove? and the comments? – to the implicit assumption that we should try another century of smiling sweetly, falling over ourselves to see the oppressor’s point of view and taking it like a man. A difficult combination to attempt. Maybe then all would be well? I repeat – history does not tell us that.

    I’m sorry to be blunt, but no shit. I agree one hundred percent. It doesn’t follow that all means our justified. In particular, the means of legally banning hate speech and misogyny are justified, ethically, as I said up thread. It doesn’t follow even from that that all means are a good idea. I happen to think that that one in particular is not. That is the entirety of the point I have been making in this thread. The Doctor NerdLove article doesn’t even address our sole point of disagreement.

  27. Maureen Brian says

    dmcclean,

    Right! My guests have gone to the movies so let us begin at the beginning. As far as I am aware there is not a global campaign to have certain words relating to gender, genitalia, skin colour, ethnicity or class banned and banned for ever. I’d be interested to know where you got the idea that this was happening because if you think about it we’d need to identify all the words which have taken on a negative cast in all languages spoken by more than three people. We’d also need the most offensive of the euphemisms and a global dictionary of words which must never be used. Be honest with yourself – we don’t have that many spare linguists.

    So if you are demanding that I use the words of MLK or some suitably credible person to defend a campaign which as far as I’m concerned is not happening then no way, Jose! That’s a silly game and I’m not playing.

    There was a time, in the immediate post-colonial period about 40 years ago, when quite a bit of attention was paid to what language we used in increasingly diverse societies – how words sounded to the speaker and to the listener. I regarded it as quite a useful exercise but there were no bans, no firing squads, not even an end of term test.

    What has been happening in the last few years and which sometimes gets a bit noisy is a fight-back on several fronts against hate crime. Doctor NerdLove addressed one aspect of it but there are others. We could probably group them into a vague category of women in professional positions who face campaigns to silence them, to drive them out of a field of work or a particular job – much of this happens on the internet and in some fields that is backed up by an assumption of the sexual availability of any woman who is out of her house without either a husband or a chaperone because then she must be a whore. Either that or the man currently groping her is so very, very important that a right to rape is an implicit part of his contract. The train departing now, folks, is heading for the eighteenth century. Climb aboard, as quick as you can!

    Does it occur to you that some of what happens is already illegal? Do you know the definition of assault in England and Wales? Well, it does not involve any physical contact – it only requires that the offender put the person attacked in fear of imminent violence. Like constantly tweeting someone to say, “I know where you live and I’m coming tonight to rape you,”

    So why aren’t armies of these young twerps lined up in the street waiting for the Magistrates’ Court to open? Because we don’t have the luxury of doing this on a level playing field. Just as very poor people and Black people tend, overall, to get a lower level of service from law enforcement so do women.

    Exactly how a country deals with abusive behaviour depends upon how its legal system has developed over centuries, whether it has a Bill of Rights or a written constitution, which terms it uses for the different areas of concern and how willing the judges are to develop precedent. As far as I know though, every developed country and many others have laws to deal with such campaigns – whether they are dealt with under threatening behaviour or some entirely different heading.

    So let us return to Dr King. The lesson I took from that – reading it long, long ago – was that where an injustice can be seen to happen there is no neutral position. There is no comfortable bench on the sidelines where you can watch to see how it all pans out. Failure to do anything in not a non-action but an action in support of the abuser. From that there is no escape.

    So where do you stand now?

    ________

    Now, may I commend to you these recent blog entries, including their comments, which may help you see what’s happening?

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2014/04/16/your-uninformed-and-incorrect-opinions-about-psychology/

    followed immediately by

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2014/04/20/online-bullying-and-trauma-whats-at-stake/

    and

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2014/04/15/how-could-twitter-possibly-cause-ptsd/

  28. dmcclean says

    As far as I am aware there is not a global campaign to have certain words relating to gender, genitalia, skin colour, ethnicity or class banned and banned for ever. I’d be interested to know where you got the idea that this was happening because if you think about it we’d need to identify all the words which have taken on a negative cast in all languages spoken by more than three people. We’d also need the most offensive of the euphemisms and a global dictionary of words which must never be used. Be honest with yourself – we don’t have that many spare linguists.

    That should be easy to remedy. Start with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_speech for a summary. Then you can read http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches?s=hate+speech for myriad examples of the way in which this goes spectacularly wrong and backfires on the forces of good.

    I didn’t say banning specific words forever and ever. I said that such laws create a gray area (the opposite of specific and the opposite of eternal. So as to those specific attributes of what I am warning about you are attacking a straw man. The fact that we don’t have that many linguists is (repeating a theme) evidence for my point and not yours.

    So if you are demanding that I use the words of MLK or some suitably credible person to defend a campaign which as far as I’m concerned is not happening then no way, Jose! That’s a silly game and I’m not playing.

    You absolutely cannot be fucking serious. Read the thread! You brought up King and the Letter from Birmingham Jail to slander me by association with the segregationists and their appeasers! You brought up the letter even though, as your later failed hunt for an excerpt that’s on point shows, it supports my case and not yours. Whether because you misread him, myself, or both I can’t tell.

    When your appeal to authority supports my point, you don’t get to call a mulligan on whether or not the person is an authority. That’s dirty pool. Fabricating the claim from whole cloth that I “demand[ed] that [you] use the words of MLK or some suitably credible person” is just bullshit. Rank bullshit. Show where I made such a demand or retract this claim.

    There was a time, in the immediate post-colonial period about 40 years ago, when quite a bit of attention was paid to what language we used in increasingly diverse societies – how words sounded to the speaker and to the listener. I regarded it as quite a useful exercise but there were no bans, no firing squads, not even an end of term test.

    I endorse this and I do it regularly. Whenever anyone says cunt, or co-ed, or bikini in my hearing just to name some of the words. Where in holy fuck are you getting the idea that I don’t support this? Not making it the fucking law is what I am talking about, that and that exclusively. And then only because it backfires to administer, not because the action is unworthy of sanction.

    The paragraph after this is so spectacularly irrelevant. Yes horrible things are happening. Yes people are dragging us backward to the eighteenth century (and earlier). How many times have I said that upthread with ever intensifier I can think of? We must be nearing a dozen by now. It doesn’t mean that hate speech laws are a good idea.

    Does it occur to you that some of what happens is already illegal? Do you know the definition of assault in England and Wales? Well, it does not involve any physical contact – it only requires that the offender put the person attacked in fear of imminent violence. Like constantly tweeting someone to say, “I know where you live and I’m coming tonight to rape you,”

    I’m not familiar with the legal system of the United Kingdom, no. I thought that this was the definition here in the states, and was going to say so in replying to another commenter, but when I looked it up on Wikipedia it wasn’t the case. Here in the states apparently the most common definition requires an element of “[an] apparent, present ability to carry out” the threat. I’m not familiar with the jurisprudence of how apparent is apparent.

    I wrote upthread about the issues with banning all threats of physical violence, or of continually broadening the definition of imminence . You picked a clearcut case. There are cases which are not clearcut. This has led to serious problems. If something is proposed which is narrowly tailored , I will probably be for it. But it depends on the specifics. I only weighed in on this thread in the first place to raise a yellow light about hate speech laws, and since then I have been accused of every horrible thing imaginable. The utterance you mentioned may already be illegal in some jurisdictions here as well, there are so many states that I have no idea.

    (Here in the states, expanded definitions of imminence, for example, have rendered constitutional text which limits the power of the police to search without warrants almost a dead letter. I say this parenthetically because it isn’t on point, but it does show that writing laws is not easy.)

    So why aren’t armies of these young twerps lined up in the street waiting for the Magistrates’ Court to open? Because we don’t have the luxury of doing this on a level playing field. Just as very poor people and Black people tend, overall, to get a lower level of service from law enforcement so do women.

    I don’t fucking know. I’m not responsible for administering or bringing cases before the Magistrates’ Court, whatever that may be. The law is the law and it should be enforced on a level playing field, that’s the principal responsibility of government. Let me know how you’d like me to help you protest this and I will. (I can’t afford plane tickets though.)

    So let us return to Dr King. The lesson I took from that – reading it long, long ago – was that where an injustice can be seen to happen there is no neutral position. There is no comfortable bench on the sidelines where you can watch to see how it all pans out. Failure to do anything in not a non-action but an action in support of the abuser. From that there is no escape.

    So where do you stand now?

    That is indeed the lesson to be taken from it. This shows that you can read for comprehension, or at least you could then, so there is hope. I stand where I’ve stood this whole time: on your fucking side! I am not failing to do anything. I am not suggesting that we collectively should fail to do something. In a comment on Ophelia’s thread on the DrNerdLove article you mentioned I enumerate some of the things I am personally doing to stamp out this bullshit in a different realm of the geek culture, the one that I now inhabit. I am saying that one particular thing that some people have proposed has risks that should be weighed carefully.

    I actually had read all three links you mentioned. And for the millionth time I agree that the problem is very very serious and grotesque and that strong actions are needed. And I say again that it doesn’t follow that hate crimes laws are a good idea. If you want to talk about whether they are a good idea you need to do so, and not just keep pointing out that the problem is bad.

    But you apparently agree with me that hate speech laws are a bad idea, because you disclaimed knowledge of a movement to create them, which implies that you can’t be part of such a movement. Which raises the question: what exactly do you think you disagree with me about?

  29. Maureen Brian says

    So here we are again and, as an aid to myself, I am putting this sentence up front and centre.

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    Yes, the First Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified as part of the Bill of Rights, 1791. You will be aware that it protects your freedom of speech only from action by government. Yet you have laws to protect you from the effects of plagiarism, defamation, conspiracy to secure a benefit, perjury, etc. All of these are crimes of speech or publication and you have laws against them. I assume that some at least of those laws came along under the the provision which allows citizens to petition Congress.

    If the US is allowed to have new laws to deal with new problems then so, surely, is everyone else.

    So, Ed Brayton draws attention, as he does several times a week, to people deliberately misrepresenting that First Amendment – usually to hang onto power, money or a guaranteed audience. Then you find a wiki page with a list of all the countries which have laws against hate crimes. I am amazed that you were not alerted by the sarky tone of the introduction to the fact that the compiler has an agenda, that the tone rang no alarm bells.

    You demanded that I use the words of Dr King only to support the case you were making and for nothing else. You wanted me to do this even when I had said I saw no evidence for what you wanted me to condemn. Twice you did that so if it’s retraction you want then you pop off and retract yourself.

    Any system of law will only be as good or as bad as the people who operate it, as good as the civics education and the access to justice which the state provides, but there has to be a back-stop, a point – maybe well down the line – at which the citizen can call upon the state for protection against harassment, abuse and incitement to violence.

    An example – more than a year ago a very senior and highly regarded academic was a guest on a tv panel. Her answer to a quasi-political question was at odds with what a couple of others said. She was subjected to a campaign of abuse with included examples of her face photoshopped on assorted other people’s genitalia, among similar delights. The police were called and soon found a number of key abusers. Fortunately they were sufficiently perturbed by the police asking questions to stop. Note that the police were only able to act because there was a law there in the background which had possibly been broken. None of this ever came to court.

    (Talking of courts, Magistrates Courts exist in several jurisdictions. They are the lowest level court dealing with minor and simple matters and directing more complex cases to the appropriate higher court. You could have looked that up on google.)

  30. dmcclean says

    Then you find a wiki page with a list of all the countries which have laws against hate crimes. I am amazed that you were not alerted by the sarky tone of the introduction to the fact that the compiler has an agenda, that the tone rang no alarm bells.

    To be honest I hadn’t read the introduction at all. I have read it now. I find the first two paragraphs to be straightforward definitions, except for the end of the second paragraph which reads “A website that uses hate speech is called a hate site. Most of these sites contain Internet forums and news briefs that emphasize a particular viewpoint. There has been debate over how freedom of speech applies to the Internet.” This I find to be a bit silly, because everyone probably could’ve extrapolated that for themselves, but it doesn’t seem snarky.

    The third paragraph, which begins “Critics have argued” is perhaps what you mean? “Critics have argued that the term “hate speech” is a contemporary example of Newspeak, used to silence critics of social policies that have been poorly implemented in a rush to appear politically correct.” I don’t read the tone of this as endorsing that position. Generally when you say “critics have argued” you aren’t endorsing what they’ve argued, and in fact I think that that combined with the selection of especially stupid things that critics have argued is snarky, but it’s snark aimed at critics, so I don’t see your grounds for complaint.

    At any rate, I was citing the article to rebut a claim that there was no movement to create such laws. As such, the tone of it’s introduction is irrelevant. The body of the article and it’s citations are entirely dispositive of the fact that yes, there is such a thing.

    So, Ed Brayton draws attention, as he does several times a week, to people deliberately misrepresenting that First Amendment – usually to hang onto power, money or a guaranteed audience.

    I’m sorry. I created this confusion and the confusion that led to the first amendment digression. I did a horrible job of curating the link that I gave to Brayton’s page. He does do what you say, and it’s a valuable service, and I agree with every word of it. He also does a good job of cataloging problems with hate speech laws, but unfortunately he doesn’t use tags, and he uses the word “speech” so much that it flooded the results. I scanned the top of the list and found one of the articles I meant, then I made the bad mistake of stopping scanning and assuming that my search had worked. It didn’t.

    For clarity I now provide some of the links I meant. I think the moderation limit is 3, so I’ll provide 3.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/06/12/canada-may-repeal-hate-speech-laws/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2013/01/30/confusing-intent-and-tactics/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/10/26/canadian-appeals-court-rules-for-boissoin/

    From the second I will draw a brief excerpt which doesn’t evidence my point that hate speech laws are bad, but which instead illustrates a reaction Brayton has often encountered:

    But I’ve still had people who disagree with me on whether there should be hate speech laws declare that I must be indifferent or insensitive, particularly to the plight of the LGBT community. Because it’s a lot easier to just declare someone to be morally deficient than to engage in a good faith substantive discussion of the issue. It’s a cognitive shortcut that allows us to dismiss our opponents rather than engage their arguments on their face. And again, sometimes that cognitive shortcut will be correct. But we should not assume such a thing without evidence if we care about being reasonable.

    And as in the case of several other similar posts I’ve written lately, I’m not just pointing fingers at others. I’ve done the same thing, many times. But it’s an intellectual lazy habit and it’s something we should all strive to avoid.

    More such links at your request, and again, apologies for muddying the waters with the link to the overly broad search results.

    You demanded that I use the words of Dr King only to support the case you were making and for nothing else. You wanted me to do this even when I had said I saw no evidence for what you wanted me to condemn. Twice you did that so if it’s retraction you want then you pop off and retract yourself.

    No, this didn’t happen. Quote the part of my words where you think it did. What I was saying is that the Letter was supportive of my position that the things I am suggesting have worked. It is supportive of my position that there weren’t hate speech laws enacted during the civil rights movement and King wasn’t an advocate for them. I agreed with you that, as your original reference to it said it’s “about giving cover to the enemy in the name of calm and good behaviour”, and I pointed out that as such it’s not relevant to the dispute between us. Yes that is bad. It doesn’t follow that hate speech laws are good.

    Any system of law will only be as good or as bad as the people who operate it, as good as the civics education and the access to justice which the state provides, but there has to be a back-stop, a point – maybe well down the line – at which the citizen can call upon the state for protection against harassment, abuse and incitement to violence.

    An example – more than a year ago a very senior and highly regarded academic was a guest on a tv panel. Her answer to a quasi-political question was at odds with what a couple of others said. She was subjected to a campaign of abuse with included examples of her face photoshopped on assorted other people’s genitalia, among similar delights. The police were called and soon found a number of key abusers. Fortunately they were sufficiently perturbed by the police asking questions to stop. Note that the police were only able to act because there was a law there in the background which had possibly been broken. None of this ever came to court.

    Reading this bit made me want to jump for joy. Thank you. It is finally on point and suggests why hate speech laws might be good instead of just why the problem is bad. I agree that there should be a point where you can get protection from “harassment and violence”. And I agree with your point that laws providing for this exist and generally are not well enforced.

    I can’t comment much on the example without knowing what jurisdiction it was in, because that controls whether “the police were only able to act because there was a law in the background which had possibly been broken.” Here they can ask questions whenever they feel like it, especially if it is never going to come to court.

    Circling back to the first amendment, I won’t say much because it’s mostly off topic (again, my fault, since the link I provided was worse than useless).

    You will be aware that it protects your freedom of speech only from action by government.

    Quite. And quite rightfully so. That’s why I want Twitter and Facebook and so forth to be ruthless in going after these assholes.

    Yet you have laws to protect you from the effects of plagiarism, defamation, conspiracy to secure a benefit, perjury, etc. All of these are crimes of speech or publication and you have laws against them. I assume that some at least of those laws came along under the the provision which allows citizens to petition Congress.

    If the US is allowed to have new laws to deal with new problems then so, surely, is everyone else.

    Of course everyone else is.

    Of course, our laws against plagiarism and defamation are quite considerably narrower than those in the United Kingdom, and you might do very well to move towards ours because your defamation law in particular has had quite chilling effects. You can read Brayton on this too, but I can’t provide any more links in this post.

    Plagiarism and defamation are civil offenses that the wronged person must themselves bring a case against seeking damages, not criminal offenses for which one can be prosecuted. In general if we are going to broaden hate speech laws they should be of this latter kind (by all means if we do this we need to set up charitable organizations to help plaintiffs who, like nearly all of us, can’t afford the kind of legal assistance you need to win such a claim), and not of the Canadian (several other countries have it, just naming the one in the linked examples) kind. The reasons are that it is easier for plaintiffs to prove their case (here the standard is “the preponderance of evidence” instead of “beyond a reasonable doubt”, less chilling when misapplied, and the decision to take action lies outside the government and beyond the reach of the assholes in congress and the state legislatures.

    Yes we have laws against crimes of speech or publication. Yes they are fairly narrowly crafted, although that has been slipping a bit in recent decades. Yes if we have more they need to be narrowly crafted as well. Yes that’s why I tried to put up a yellow light on enacting more, and to point out some of the pitfalls we would do well to avoid.

    (Talking of courts, Magistrates Courts exist in several jurisdictions. They are the lowest level court dealing with minor and simple matters and directing more complex cases to the appropriate higher court. You could have looked that up on google.)

    Well yes, you can look up anything on google. My point was that as a person thousands of miles away, not subject to their jurisdiction, and who had never heard of them, I was not in a position where one could expect me to know why they had or hadn’t taken some action, or to have much influence over such a decision. If your local one isn’t doing what it should to enforce the laws you already have, and it sounds like it isn’t, then that is a problem.

  31. dmcclean says

    I want to come back to this bit:

    You demanded that I use the words of Dr King only to support the case you were making and for nothing else. You wanted me to do this even when I had said I saw no evidence for what you wanted me to condemn. Twice you did that so if it’s retraction you want then you pop off and retract yourself.

    I can’t tell whether you meant “support” or “oppose” the case I was making. If you meant “support”, then I don’t see what I have said that could be interpreted to mean that. If you meant “oppose”, then your claim that I asked you to use his words for that “and for nothing else” is a bit silly. Feel free to quote him until the cows come home about things which do or don’t oppose the case I am making.

    What I was saying, and here’s the excerpt:

    I challenge you to excerpt something endorsing the approach of jailing people for using the n word, which would be analogous to what we are talking about here. It doesn’t have to be that specifically, any endorsement of the use-state-power-to-make-assholes-shut-up approach will be sufficient. But you won’t find it because it isn’t there.

    What I was saying is that the Letter agrees with both of us where we agree. It is silent on the point I am making, which is that hate speech laws are a bad idea. And that it disagrees with you on a point that you were making, namely the first sentence of your first post:”Is there any evidence from recent history, dmcclean, that this approach of yours has ever worked?” The Letter gives an example of a time when it did, which I excerpted. And the civil rights movement itself is another example of such a time, though of course the victory is far from complete.

    I challenged you to find a part where the Letter agrees with you but disagrees with me, because I thought that you must have believed that such a part existed or you wouldn’t have raised the issue. Evidently that was not the case, and you just wished to emphasize a point on which we agree, namely that there’s no neutral ground? Quote away.

  32. Maureen Brian says

    Thank you for clarifying your understanding of Ed Brayton. I agree that he and I would come down at different points on the compass on this one but very definitely in the same quadrant – pro free speech, pro a full-throated and open discussion of any contentious matters but also sensitive to the need to protect individuals from the irrational ideas and abuse of power of others – see his note today on the firing of an Ohio schoolteacher.

    The case of the academic is this one – http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jan/26/mary-beard-question-time-internet-trolls – and if you’ve time I recommend her blog A Don’s Life, to which there’s a link in the piece.

    I can’t accept that there is a campaign to deprive people of their right to free speech because I know that each country on that wiki list has its own history and its own reasons. Austria has these laws because they needed to slap down those who tried to revive fascism while the ruins of WWII were still smouldering. South Africa has them as part of the new settlement, the constitution drawn up to replace a society powered by the tensions of racial difference where brutality was the order of the day.

    England has laws against hate speech, at least in part, because of incidents in the east of London in the 1930s and 1940s. Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists would organise huge marches through poor areas with narrow streets and a high proportion of Jews in the population. The police understandably wanted to prevent trouble but discovered that the only law they had was the one which protected the free speech and assembly rights of the fascists. So you ended up with the amazing sight of platoons of uniformed thugs, there to intimidate, protected by equally large platoons of uniformed police officers – rather crackly video is here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AQDOjQGZuA – and take the commentary with a pinch of salt – there are more credible versions of this story, some of which I have heard from people who were there.

    In Scotland, though, the sectarian dimension is entirely different. As some of my genes come from Scotland via Northern Ireland I see that there the “religious tensions” are an overspill from the sometimes desparate attempts of the Protestant majority in NI to maintain their hegemony in a changing world. A key tactic of such campaigns anywhere you look is to paint the less powerful community as uncontrollable: in Glasgow you do that by starting a fight at a football match, confident that the other side will fight back with gusto.

    That heritage also makes me sensitive to just how simple it is to dress intimidation up as tradition. Things are more reasonable now but if you had ever been in Belfast just a few decades ago on 12 July – Battle of the Boyne, 1690 – you would understand. From before dawn you would hear the Lambeg drums, massive war drums capable of 120dB, sounding from various parts of the city and bouncing off the surrounding hills. A single steady beat, soon in unison, pumping adrenalin through those whose big day it was and creating fear in those whose turn it was to stay well out of the way. This was not an emotional reaction but straight physiology with the beat held just marginally slower than the human heart is comfortable with. If you have a sound system then you could test this for yourself.

    So we are agreed, I think, that there have to be lines in the sand and sometimes a written law is a better place to draw them than a windswept beach. We are also dealing, remember, with hate – an emotional reaction to conflicting pressures, not a political position – where the easy way is sometimes to abuse and other rather than challenge your own inherited stereotypes. That would often mean open discussion and, as your links to Ed show, it is more often conservatives with a small c – Canadian legislators, university administrators, whoever – who are more keen to shut down the discussion than crotchety old lefties like me.

    I don’t want to start a new fight but, please, ask yourself why you regard it as perfectly reasonable for me to be aware of your Constitution but not part of your responsibility to google a phrase from mine.

  33. dmcclean says

    Very well said.

    Sadly there are various campaigns. Not so much one unified one. The closest thing to one unified one is the saga summarized at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation_of_religion_and_the_United_Nations, but there are others of various degrees of consequence. (For humor value, not because it is especially serious, here in the US we have a running one about whether or not you can burn the flag. Every ten years or so someone runs out of useful things to blabber about in the two minutes hate on cable TV and decides on that one, maybe because they already used English-as-the-national-language and food-stamp-recipients-are-lazy-moochers that week. I’m really not saying this as evidence of anything, just because it is hilariously stupid.)

    Another serious one here is that strategic lawsuits against public participation have become a lot more common in the last two decades. Some jurisdictions have adopted rules to try to keep them under control, but it’s still an issue because of the inherent power disparity that comes with our pay-to-play civil justice system. It isn’t technically a free speech issue, really, just closely related and led by the same forces for the same reasons.

    Earlier I was looking through his old blog before the move, and the search engine there is a lot better. If you search for hate speech on that one the search actually looks for the two words being together and not just in the same article, there are a lot more examples.

    Brayton’s being sued by some asshole who he’s repeatedly called out on his asshole-ness. I can’t find the link to the details. Depending on nitty-gritty details we could make it a lot harder for people like him to defend against such suits than the costly annoyance it is now. He was following the guy on social media and posting naughty words about him repeatedly. I fully realize that it’s not the same, but if the courts are going to start adjudicating it on the basis of how naughty the words are and how repeated it is, it’s going to be a whole new ballgame and there are reasons to think it won’t play out the way we would want it to.

    At lunch I think I remembered the case that is literally exactly on the line. There was a campaign a while back to satirize the tendency of a US, umm, let’s say television personality (he can’t be called a news presenter with a straight face), Glenn Beck, to Just Asking Questions about various baseless allegations and then expecting his targets to prove a negative. Some people decided it was a good idea to do this by asking (not accusing) whether he committed certain atrocious crimes in the last decade of the 20th century, building Google page rank for a joke website that inquired about this hypothetical incident. (I’m phrasing this carefully to avoid participating in it, is why I didn’t say the year, or the crime, or the website.) This was undoubtedly a case of social media harassment. And it was clearly defamatory in the plain language meaning of the term, though not meeting the standards required to make such a case in the US because of its satirical nature and Beck’s status as a “public figure”. (But that “public figure” bar is set really low.) I think the case could easily be made that this in fact was an unethical thing to do, is why I think it might be the exact location of “the line”. Brayton made a post that you could argue participated, just to give one example among many. In comments it was many many times more. He’s got gigabucks. Hell, he’s got so many gigabucks that even though he would’ve lost quickly in US court, he lawyered up and asked the international arbiters of domain name disputes to decide that the satire site’s domain name violated his copyright, which was ridiculous, and he did lose.

    I think, here, in the US, if we wrote a rule that said that harassing people on the internet (in the absence of direct threats, which I think we can figure out how to ban), that it would essentially be a popularity contest when it came time for the jury to actually decide. Because we have a culture that treats law and the courts as a big word game, a tactical game of rules and counter-moves, without much of an eye on the strategic bottom line or on justice per se. Procedural due process ye shall have, but pretty much only that. And I think that that would only work to the advantage of the entrenched interests and even of the misogynists. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong by the goodness of people, but that’s what I think would happen.

    On your last sentence, and not by way of fighting: I totally get that that is the rap on us Americans, and we deserve it. But I’ve always been a nerd about comparative systems of government, so of course the very first thing I did after reading your sentence was to google the magistrates’ courts and read the wiki article. (The main one is uninformative to say the least, but since you had mentioned taking your friend to Yorkshire I knew which link to follow for more details.) I responded as a did to rhetorically emphasize my lack of influence over your local government, and lack of knowledge of it’s day to day follies and sins of omission. I remember on the first day of a political science class when our professor handed out a Venn diagram of the political and geographical subdivisions of the United Kingdom and of the British Isles, and told us not to be like all those other Americans who didn’t have a clue. :)

    That said, I think you’ll admit that your constitution, such as it is, is infinitely less googleable than ours. Your ships do have cooler names, though, so it all balances out.

  34. Maureen Brian says

    Ah, now I see!

    The push for more and better rights – to include more people, to make the rights achievable in fact, to include and to understand those previously treated as outcasts or as less deserving – has not been a total success but we are in a better place now than we were a century ago.

    The struggle to achieve this better place has thrown up heroes on the politico-theoretical side (Eglantyne Jebb, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frantz Fanon), heroes physically in the front line, some of whom we have discussed, and both academics and writers of quality fiction tracking the progress.

    No individual campaign has been predictable in its timing and sometimes progress appears from an angle you weren’t watching – like the legal recognition of the Hijra community as a third gender in India – http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/apr/16/india-third-gender-claims-place-in-law

    Of course there have always been Jeremiahs shouting their thoughts from the sidelines. There have also been regular if more sympathetic predictions of a backlash.

    The mullahs and the cardinals trying to manipulate the UN into depriving women of full human rights are part of that backlash, as is Glenn Beck, as are platoons of US State legislators.

    So, two campaigns in direct opposition to eachother. It would be a pity to confuse them, just because they both use the word “rights” or see some use for written-down law.

    ———————–

    In the interest of seeing things from a different angle, may I recommend this – http://www.ted.com/talks/martin_jacques_understanding_the_rise_of_china – not too long and timely, given where your President is at the moment.

  35. dmcclean says

    I think your last bit is being snarky, but it actually hits it quite nearly on the head.

    So, two campaigns in direct opposition to eachother. It would be a pity to confuse them, just because they both use the word “rights” or see some use for written-down law.

    There’s little enough danger of confusing them, that I can see. Most thinking people can tell the assholes apart from the human rights crusaders, even the assholes. The danger is that the legal architecture needed (against the background of United States law) to arm the crusaders for good with this particular weapon, namely a law making hate speech illegal and/or making a very broad definition of the crime of harassment (to include following someone around on social media/blogs repeatedly saying depraved bullshit about them, as opposed to threatening them with violence) has great potential to backfire and be a supremely useful weapon to the assholes. As one commenter noted upthread, it will be “opposite day”. It may well be more useful to them than it is to us, because I expect they will be ruthless in their attempts to employ it and we will be reasoned and measured.

    It may well be more useful to them than to us because it may turn out to just not be that useful to us. Have, e.g., Germany’s laws really done much to hold down white supremacists? My relatives there have told me that the answer is not really, but I haven’t looked at studies. (The unique nature of these laws in a lot of places that you mentioned upthread might make it difficult to study comparatively. Maybe longitudinal studies that look at conviction rates or attitude surveys of generation after generation?)

    This thread is full of people assuming that it will be a silver bullet. One of your early comments even suggested (implied by comparison with my approach of not doing this) that it would end this problem in your lifetime. Is there any particular reason to think this is true? Because if so, that would probably sway me.

    Twitter and Facebook and their ilk could probably end the Twitter and Facebook dimensions of this problem in two years if they put their minds to it. Not just start to shrink it, but really end it. That plus aggressive action on actual threats by email, or by phone, or encouraging people to harass someone by phone seems like it would get 90+% of what a hate speech law would get you. The rest is more about punishment than it is about change. I agree these people deserve punishment. But if we have to empower them to get it, it’s worth thinking about whether getting change is good enough and their punishment can be watching women flourish in the public square instead of a month or two behind bars. We also have in issue here in the US where the prisons are a breeding ground for white supremacists and the like, which might be a reason to think about fines or civil damages.

    It would be a pity to confuse them. But it isn’t us or even them that you have to confuse, and there’s little chance of that. It’s the courts. And I think that they will have an easy time of confusing the courts (again, here in the states), because our courts are built to be confused.

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