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Let’s just call it talking

Online harassment is a real source of serious problems. Jill Filipovic writes about her history as a target. It’s a very personal account, and this is what matters most:

“When people say you should be raped and killed for years on end, it takes a toll on your soul,” Hess quotes feminist writer Jessica Valenti as saying.

We want to believe that the Internet is different from “real life,” that “virtual reality” is a separate sphere from reality-reality. But increasingly, virtual space is just as “real” as life off of the computer. We talk to our closest friends all day long on G-Chat. We engage with political allies and enemies on Twitter and in blog comment sections. We email our moms and our boyfriends. We like photos of our cousin’s cute baby on Facebook. And if we’re writers, we research, publish and promote our work online. My office is a corner of my apartment, and my laptop is my portal into my professional world. There’s nothing “virtual” about it.

Once upon a time, using the internet was something “those kids” did, or “those academic nerdy people” did. It was something that was easy to dismiss as a strange activity that only others did, others who could probably use a good comeuppance. It wasn’t simply communication, like two ordinary people do face-to-face or over a telephone, it was mysterious weird and probably nefarious stuff. It was also probably undermining the family and traditional values.

But more people have grown up now. Online communication is everywhere. Families are keeping in touch with facebook, career people make connections with linkedin, everyone arranges dinner dates with instant messages, people skype rather than telephone, everywhere you look people are peering into smartphones, tapping away. It’s not just kids and college professors, either. It’s just about everyone.

It’s the norm.

You know that one of the key events in human evolution was the acquisition of speech — we are social animals, and we have developed wonderfully intricate mechanisms of communication that allow us to build and reaffirm the social structure, and to maneuver within it. This is what humans do. And of course once we built new tools that expand our ability to communicate, we have thoroughly integrated them into our everyday life.

Well, “we” meaning most of us. There are always sluggards who don’t quite get it (but have no fear, they will be assimilated). Right now, law enforcement is split; I think half of them are having orgasms over the depth of tech-assisted communication going on that they can exploit to keep an eye on the public, and the other half are australopithecines who don’t believe in anything more sophisticated than a grunt and a punch in the face, so all this information flying about is irrelevant. You still find Luddites whining that the children will be warped forever if they learn to communicate over the internet.

And of course, the worst of all, the parasites of the internet: people who see these tools as a way to avoid responsibility, who want to shirk accountability for what they say in a way that they could not do face-to-face, who want to disrupt rather than augment communication. The trolls of the internet are nothing but the heavy-breathing, gutter-slurring harassing phone callers of the 20th century, now given access to Photoshop and mountains of free internet porn, yet still mostly getting by on denigrating one-line hate texts sent to random women that want nothing to do with them.

Here we stand with the most wonderful tools for uniting humanity in a web of sophisticated communication, at a time when most people are able to find it socially acceptable and even desirable, and what’s holding it back? Emotionally stunted grownups, mostly man-children, who see the internet as a playground for abuse, sniping away from hiding and avoiding all consequences. They continue to propagate this idea that somehow the internet is different from other means of talking to people; that communication should only be one-way and anonymous; that words don’t matter, they’re only words.

But that’s what people are: words. You don’t know me except for the strings of words I throw around. I came to know my wife by the words we volleyed back and forth for years, sharing our histories and our cares, building a web of connections that tied us together. We don’t judge human beings by how they look, but by what they think and say, and by what they do…which we usually don’t witness, but see described in words.

When “people say you should be raped and killed for years on end”, it means something. It says volumes about the people who say those things. And what they say matters.

So let’s stop pretending that communication over the internet is something different and exceptional requiring new manners and rules, with extravagant liberties we would not grant anyone standing in the same room with us. It’s all just talking. And it’s all central to our social natures.

Comments

  1. unbound says

    …people who see these tools as a way to avoid responsibility, who want to shirk accountability for what they say in a way that they could not do face-to-face, who want to disrupt rather than augment communication…

    I’ve seen this argument (or a variation of this argument) many times, and I disagree. I have been to too many Board of Supervisor, School Board, and community meetings, and a number of people have no issues whatsoever being identified while they are saying things that are very shocking, rude, obtuse, and downright disgusting (and that includes my own father). Anonymity makes no difference in this respect.

    Another key aspect of those meetings is that you can clearly see that the majority are just sitting and watching (perhaps making a few comments to their friends quietly). You don’t get to see that so easily on the internet. We end up judging based on comments only…not on the readers that don’t leave any comments.

    The key difference, from my experience, between these meetings and the internet is that the internet allows the retched from all over the world to participate in your blog, send you e-mails, etc. It’s one thing to have a handful of the local idiots in your meeting…but when you amplify those handfuls by a thousand-fold, the effect appears much larger.

  2. mnb0 says

    “When people say you should be raped and killed for years on end, it takes a toll on your soul.”
    It very much is as Asha ten Broeke and Peter Breedveld, two Dutch bloggers, will satisfy (the latter usually receives threats against his children).
    There is one relevant difference though and I think PB has followed my advice:

    when it gets too much you can turn internet off only to get back when you feel strong again.

  3. redwood says

    One difference is that if someone says something repugnant or awful in person, it’s easier to punch them in the face. A snappy internet comeback doesn’t quite have the same zing as a bloody nose. I’m not condoning violence but I suspect that the possibility it could occur affects what people say in person more than what they say online.

  4. says

    mnb0 @2, turning off the internet is no solution if the abuse is still waiting for you when you switch the internet back on again. That’s just leaving it to the trolls and goblins.

  5. chrisdevries says

    The internet certainly makes it easier for people to be hateful douchenozzles without fear of consequence, something that makes life worse for the targets of all the hate (not to mention for those of us fortunate enough not to be targets but empathetic enough to abhor this behavior); also, the internet has made it easier for assholes to congregate and praise each others’ hateful actions. But this technology doesn’t (necessarily) shape society, it just holds a mirror up so we see online the patterns of humanity, both good and bad, that are already there.

    That said, the optimist in me hopes that technology CAN shape society, that overwhelming disapproval and shaming of internet assholes, combined with a virtually limitless source of knowledge, could make some stop spreading their hate and others start reconsidering it.

  6. says

    Turn the internet off?

    Turn the internet off?

    Turn the internet fucking off?

    You didn’t read the article. Read it again, for comprehension.

    If someone was being stalked, would your recommendation be that they quit their job, leave all their friends and family, and go live in a hermitage somewhere? Why is it that every fool seems to think the solution is for the victim to make more sacrifices?

  7. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I met my partner, Ms Crip Dyke, online. I was looking for a book review. She mentioned it in a post, but didn’t go into detail. The details instead were about her. I thought she sounded delightful to know, even if she was in another country. Not a far distant country to be sure, but still, there are serious barriers to living life in a country without citizenship. And what did I know except that she writes well and that she’s interested in things that spin my brain?

    I dropped a note, thinking I might pick up a pen pal. In 3 weeks, without once seeing each other on Skype on even seeing videos of each other, we were beginning to say, “I love you.” What we had were words.

    Words gave me love. Words made me smile. Words sparked my creativity. Words got me hot and bothered. Words caused me to leave behind my country of origin, save to vote in its elections and read about its cares and conflicts online.

    To think that the death and rape threats I’ve received would have no effect because they are just words on the internet is an assertion so utterly bereft of appreciation for reality the only possible explanations for such statements are white lies told by friends who don’t know what else to say in the face of malevolence, and the machinations of evil that seek to avoid accountability.

    @unbound:

    The difference is time-shifting. Just as some shows became very popular to DVR, blog entries and blog comments are – by their nature – recorded for convenient playback. It permits apparent aggregation without the necessity (and inconvenience) of coordination.

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Holy heck, number two?!?

    If someone commits road rage the proper response is not for good folk to stop driving. (That’s the proper response to being unable to get a vehicle that emits less greenhouse gas than a bus passenger’s share.)

    The proper response to prank phone callers is not to have tobacconists’ give up their livelihoods (or at least stop keeping Prince Albert in a can).

    But the proper response to women getting rape threats on the internet is to turn the internet off until a time “when [women] feel strong again”.

    No big deal, women will just stop job hunting and talking to family and having community and earning a livelihood and working to make the world a better place. We won’t quit forever. Just, y’know, until we feel strong enough that men are free to post rape threats without having to deal with our inconvenient feelings about being threatened with rape.

    Because the alternative to women quitting the internet is men using the internet for everything they currently use it for except threatening women, and how can the internet be a free forum if men stop threatening women?

    Thank goodness for people like mnb0, who have the perspective to remind us of the important things in life.

  9. stevem says

    Did not people say the same things about telephones when they were first introduced; “talking on a phone distances people from each other, talking into this piece of bakelite is different than talking to someone’s face.” [etc. etc] Nowadays people complain just the opposite about telephones; that people spend all their time on the phone. Cellphones (“mobiles” to you euros) the biggest offender, people walking around everywhere with that box to their ear. While I disparage cell-phone-addicts, I blame the person, not the phone. Regardless, at least a phone conversation is person-to-person, the internet is one person’s thoughts for anyone to read at anytime. But how is that a bad thing? If someone wants to write and doesn’t care who reads it, why it it their fault if someone uses that as an “invitation” to stalk(harass)? Why does xe have to “turn off the internet”? Has this all come around back to victim-blaming, and blaming the tools that make it possible, not the perpetrators themselves?
    <getting offtrack. later>

  10. Onamission5 says

    @mnb0 #2:

    No, people cannot just turn the internet off. Not when their livelihood depends on internet access. Not when their email inbox is filled with vitriol and they have to wade through in order to find that one message they needed to reply to before the deadline. Not when that’s how they communicate with the world. It’s not like hate and violence just deletes itself from your inbox in your absence. It’s not like you don’t know what is sitting there waiting for you. That takes a toll whether you’re sitting there hitting delete over and over again or not.

    I had a phone stalker some years ago. Do you really think that so long as my phone wasn’t ringing I felt safe and secure in my home?

    People who receive threats have no way of knowing whether or not someone is going to try to make good on their offer to cause bodily harm. That threat doesn’t disappear just because someone is procrastinating going to work, because they are too weary to face what they will face as soon as they hit the power button.

  11. doublereed says

    I’ve always been interested in the way etiquette works in online games. Some games have high levels of etiquette, and some don’t. Like the XBox and CoD crowd is notorious for having poor etiquette.

    Fighting games, on the other hand, have stronger etiquette, because it grew out of face-to-face confrontations at the arcade.

    In Starcraft, “glhf” and “gg wp” are essentially handshakes before/after a match.

  12. Onamission5 says

    And also, what if someone never feels strong enough to use the internet again, what if she is driven off the internet and unable to network, to market her work, accept assignments, keep in touch with friend and family– is that acceptable collateral damage? Is that a personal failing on her part somehow?

    You might as well tell someone who is subject to street harassment on her way to work every day that she should quit her job and just stay home until she feels strong enough to get sexually harassed again.

  13. Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts says

    I’ve always been interested in the way etiquette works in online games.

    So have I. What has that got to do with rape threats being trivialised because they occur online?

  14. doublereed says

    It just has the to do with the idea of talking vs online talking. That’s all.

    Law enforcement has been impressively incompetent at dealing with this, but it seems to be changing recently.

  15. Sastra says

    Before the internet –even before the telephone — there were letters. Arguably the first novel ever written (Richardson’s Pamela) was an epistolary novel. And letters were considered deeply and seriously personal, with some famous correspondences becoming iconic symbols of the heights to which human relationships could aspire.

    Poison pen letters were if anything probably taken even more seriously then than now. Nobody in the 18th or 19th century, say, would have dismissed a written death threat with “let’s just call that writing” and argued that it wasn’t the “real” world.

  16. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @onamission5:

    You might as well tell someone who is subject to street harassment on her way to work every day that she should quit her job and just stay home until she feels strong enough to get sexually harassed again.

    Now, now. Let’s not go assuming bad things of people. I wouldn’t paint mnb0 as a hypocrite this way. There’s no reason at this point to think that mnb0 doesn’t say exactly the same thing to victims of street harassment that mnb0 says to victims of internet harassment. It’s unkind to imagine otherwise.

  17. doublereed says

    Poison pen letters were if anything probably taken even more seriously then than now. Nobody in the 18th or 19th century, say, would have dismissed a written death threat with “let’s just call that writing” and argued that it wasn’t the “real” world.

    That may depend on the time, though. When such letters first started appearing, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this is exactly what people and law enforcement said.

    There’s usually a delay before people start using the technology, and law enforcement understands the implications of it and its uses for harassment.

  18. John Smith says

    Shorter PZ: “Stop writing mean things on the internet! Waaahhhh!”.

    [Thanks for the nice illustration of how illiterate internet idiots get everything wrong. Now fuck off. --pzm]

  19. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Sastra, #15:

    Ah, but you’re talking about a time when only the elites wrote letters. Therefore writing was MORE important than speech, which any rag-picker with an intact larynx could produce.

    The rag-pickers these days are on the internet, therefore the internet is the communication you don’t take seriously.

  20. says

    Truth. The internet is a part of reality, not some MMORPG we aren’t supposed to take personally. The internet is also serious business, and despite the lolcat image that may bring to mind, I don’t mean that sarcastically or ironically. It is literally where many people engage in serious business ventures. It is one major way we make and keep contact with people we care about. It’s not some irrelevant fad or easily replaced hobby, like the Luddites claim, it’s an amazing communication tool we’ve rebuilt our society around.

    I remember one internet outage where I was left feeling much the same way I feel during power outages. Sure, I could still do stuff, but my primary means of socializing were abruptly unavailable. Single player games are good “me time,” but even introverts like me want to reach out and touch people on occasion.

    Something I tend to notice: The people who don’t understand or appreciate the social impact of new media tend to be people who don’t understand social anything outside their insular clique.

  21. corwyn says

    So let’s stop pretending that communication over the internet is something different and exceptional requiring new manners and rules,

    But it is and does. This should be obvious from the fact that the old manners and rules are insufficient to maintain the same civility that exists (to the extent that it does) in the new media as the old. That doesn’t mean that the old manners no longer apply, but there are definitely some new situations which require new manners. Spam is a simple example.

  22. viggen111 says

    It’s the norm

    I do not disagree with what you’ve said, but I think that it is bringing with it some unanticipated penalties. Some of these people who have bought so completely into these new tools of computer assisted indirect communication are also some of the worst at conventional communication. A big portion of communication face-to-face are signals of tone, inflection and body stance that are not necessarily audible and aren’t spoken or written, that define personal boundaries. For instance, you can’t always see irony in writing. You cannot always see in writing when someone’s hackles are raised and maybe you don’t know it when you actually do see, having spent all your time on a form of communication that doesn’t have it. These aspects of communication are not knowable by osmosis, they need to be learned and learning is assisted by experience and use. By buying so completely into modes of communication that do not have these other pieces, there are people who are losing the opportunity to become skilled at these very important aspects of face-to-face communication. You wonder why video game and hacker conventions are some of the biggest breeding grounds of sexual harassment… I offer to you this, some of these offenders simply do not understand what a woman who is uncomfortable looks like. You want to curb some of the these face-to-face problems, which is definitely a hot topic on this blog, maybe some of these people should be spending a little more time unplugged and learning what a screw-up is.

    Electronic communications are an important and unavoidable part of our world, but they are also by no means the only important kind of communication and you can lean on the first at the expense of the second. You’re an educator: you should realize that learning requires time and time not spent on a topic means topic not learned. There’s an unavoidable equivalence. Our loyalty to our different modes of communication should be balanced enough that we can manage all of them without inadvertently harming the people in the world around us by misusing them, including total strangers.

  23. ragarth says

    It’s not clear in what you wrote, PZ, but I got the feel that you were lightly arguing against internet anonymity. Let us not forget that the heightened anonymity of the internet over other forms of communication not only benefits the trolls and scum of the internet, but also the downtrodden and stepped upon. The same mechanisms that have allowed the MRA’s to come together are the same mechanisms that have let the Atheists and GBLT communities organize. That anonymity may not protect you from the government, but it can protect you from your employer.

    Yes, anonymity is a double edged sword, but there’s got to be a better way to dull one side of it other than shattering the whole thing, because while it has caused significant suffering, its also caused significant good.

  24. Onamission5 says

    @Crip Dyke #16: You’re right, I was being quite unfair.

    The whole notion that women could have anything important–personally or professionally– they need to do outside of their own homes and heads and a time frame in which they need to do it, totally not a consideration of any weight for the “turn it off” folks. We could just turn the computer off. We can also stop answering the phone, opening our mail, going to work, walking, driving, using the gym, going out with friends, because no harm can possibly come from women having to choose between living with constant threat of abuse or not participating fully in society. We can just quit and wait until we feel better! That job will wait for us, those groceries will buy themselves, the kids can walk home alone, it’ll be fine.

    This meme that we can just turn off the internet is grounded in the misguided assumption that A) women are using the internet for trivial reasons, not anything that has real value and B) trivial reasons aren’t good enough to be free from abuse if you’re a woman.

  25. woozy says

    I think nmb0 @2 didn’t express himself well and those responding are overlooking the clause “get back when you feel strong again”.

    There are differences between harassment by telephone, by letter, to your face in your workplace, to your face in a public place, to your face in your house, etc. Some you can punch the guy in the face, some the harasser can hide, some the harasser can amplify, some you can defer the harassment for an hour or so, some you are pinned between your bedroom and the dining table by the harasser in an immediate now. And in all cases it is harassment. Some cases it’s harassment grinding at your soul but not immediately physically threatening and other cases its fear for your life at this very moment.

    I don’t think “virtual” vs. “real” makes much difference in how we ought to handle or think about the concept of harassment. There are practical differences in each instance and even general differences (online harassment is is less immediate but more amplified in general) but I don’t think the medium of the harassment makes for exceptions.

  26. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Onamission5

    women are using the internet for trivial reasons, not anything that has real value

    Well, duh. Women are trivial, not people that have real value, don’tcha know? It’s not like people with real value would actually notice if women stopped participating in work, life, and general communication online.

    :sigh:

  27. Onamission5 says

    @woozy #27:

    And you are participating in the meme that what women do on the internet isn’t of any importance. That we don’t network, have jobs, deadlines. That we can just step away because it won’t impact our lives in a negative manner to do so.

  28. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @woozy;

    I think nmb0 @2 didn’t express himself well and those responding are overlooking the clause “get back when you feel strong again”.

    No, we’re not overlooking it. we note that mnb0 is failing to advocate for an end to harassment, and is instead advocating for women tolerating rape threats and death threats, with a bit of a pat-on-the-head in the form of, “But you can take a break from the threats if you’re not feeling strong enough to tolerate the rough-and-tumble world of freeze peach, little ladiez!”

    Toughen up until you can take the threats so threateners don’t have to stop threatening is an idea worth mocking.

    The idea of coming back when women feel strong isn’t overlooked: it’s central to what’s deserving of mockery.

  29. says

    I think that this post presents one of the issue of our time: how do you filter out the harmful and antisocial elements within a communications medium that is by far the most efficient system ever devised? I have been amazed at the ability of the web to group together like-minded people whose ideas might otherwise never gain expression. It builds confidence, creates networks and, in the case of problems like sexism and sexual assault, can empower marginalized groups and even save lives. Just consider those people having experienced traumatic experiences who might have committed suicide had they not heard caring words from an anonymous person. Conversely, consider those in such a fragile state of mind that they commit suicide when they are driven back with hate in their attempts to reach out from their isolation.

    My hope is that threats of violence are taken more seriously and filtered more heavily in the future. To wish rape and violence upon a person is certainly terrible, and the person who made this statement may be using the fact that they have not directly threatened to commit the act as a cover. At the very least, I would hope that such statements are tagged in the future, with web services letting the person know that they are banned and their threats logged for security, and also letting the people that such threats are directed at know that they are safe from harassment and their free expression protected.

  30. says

    woozy #27
    The problem that you and mnb0 both seem to be failing to understand is that telling the victim to do something is not a fucking solution. No matter how it is couched, how it is phrased, it effectively constitutes victim-blaming and is fundamentally useless ranging to actively harmful. Solutions involve things that will cause the harassers to stop.

  31. says

    viggen111:

    Some of these people who have bought so completely into these new tools of computer assisted indirect communication are also some of the worst at conventional communication.

    Oh, let’s not have the “hey, some people are socially awkward” excuse, okay? Because it’s bullshit. The people who delight in sending threats and harassing people, often for months and years, are people who are perfectly conversant in social niceties. They know what they are doing, and they know the effect they will have. Sending a message like “you should be bound, gagged, and gang raped” is not a social faux pas. It’s not a socially awkward moment.

    Since elevatorgate, I have come to loathe this easiness of putting everything off on “socially awkward” people. Fuck that noise. People who are uncomfortable in social situations or those who have difficulty reading social cues tend to be extremely careful in what they say, do, and write. I have a fair amount of moments when I’m unsure of what someone has written. What I do is wait and see how others respond, then figure it out from there. Or I ask.

    The asshole flaming doucheweasels who send threats and harass are easy and comfortable in what they are doing. They seek out the company of others who indulge in the same behaviour, so they have the comfort and protection of the mob. If they are ever called out on their behaviour, they have a wealth of excuses, and talk and talk and talk their way (read: write paragraph after paragraph after paragraph) out of any responsibility for what they have done, demonstrating their social ease and facility with communication.

    Short form: stop making excuses for these assholes, and stop slurring people who have honest trouble with social cues.

  32. says

    Woozy:

    Some cases it’s harassment grinding at your soul but not immediately physically threatening and other cases its fear for your life at this very moment.

    And of course, being harassed daily, while harmful to one’s soul, has no impact on a person physically, and it’s stupid to worry, ’cause everyone knows virtual stays virtual, eh? The stupid is just oozing out all over here. When Aquaria was a regular here, we used to compare notes about something which happened to both of us – an online stalker showed up in our afk lives. Don’t go assuming this sort of shit never goes critical, and don’t go assuming that’s superduper rare, either. FFS.

  33. says

    Corwyn:

    but there are definitely some new situations which require new manners. Spam is a simple example.

    Oh for…no, spam is not new. I’m 56 years old, and remember the constant plethora of door to door salesmen, receiving chain letters like you wouldn’t believe, the beginning of what is now called junk mail. No, spam is nothing new under the sun.

  34. Storms says

    @Crypdike #7 – beautifully written, thank you.

    If online chat = talking (which I generally agree with) then the solution is the same one we use for talking.

    For light offences, public shaming and demanding an apology.
    For moderate offences, exile from the social community (restraining order) or law suit for defamation.
    At the extreme (rape and death threats): assault charges and prosecution.

    A problem here is that the same anonymity that encourages fearless debate gives the trolls and open field of fire. Two solutions I can think of, of course their may be better ones:
    1) We need a system by which law enforcement can locate offenders and prosecute them, and law (local and international) that supports them in prosecuting online communications as if in person.
    2) Or a system of internet Karma that allows posts and individuals to be shamed and silenced (as implemented on some sites.)
    Unfortunately both approaches require and distastefully authoritarian response.

    Ultimately the answer is what we’re working for, changing the culture to be intolerant of trolling even anonymously. Given the nature of human bias and behavior, I have little hope of this happening quickly.

  35. woozy says

    Hmm, time for me to try again. Since I gave the impression of the exact opposite of what I believe.

    My point is that I agree with the original statement that there’s no distinction between “virtual” and “real” life. We live in both of them and harassment is harassment in both of them.

    A few people have pointed out differences. In “real” life the possibility of getting punched in the mouth; the “amplification” of a few fringe weirdoes seem overly representative, you can walk away from the internet for an hour or two but you can’t walk away from a co-worker at work or your spouse in your home.

    The entire point I was trying to make was that while there are legitimate differences the differences are individual cases and not an exception between the virtual and real world. There are equal differences between harassment at work, home, on the street, via phone, “in person”, via post and the differences doesn’t make one harassment and another not. And that there isn’t a virtual/reality divide.

    @32. No, i do not think telling the victim to do something is a solution. I was simply viewing the suggestion as difference between real/virtual life is the same sense that punching the guy in the mouth is a difference between real/virtual life. Thus as a thought experiment I considered the same threat of harrassment (someone threatening to kill and rape you) coming from a person on-line, a co-worker, a stranger on the street, a member of the audience in a city council meeting, one’s husband and whether it occurred “face to face”, via phone, on the internet, via postal letter, etc. Although there are obvious differences I don’t think there are any exceptions.

  36. says

    woozy:

    you can walk away from the internet for an hour or two but you can’t walk away from a co-worker at work or your spouse in your home.

    I take it you don’t work via the ‘net. What makes you think someone who does can just up and walk away for an hour or two? What makes you think you can just slam the ‘net closed on a co-worker, boss, meeting, or client?

  37. says

    Missing the point, missing the point. I think part of the reason for all of the missing the point is that people don’t fully appreciate how fundamental a human right it is to be able to use public spaces unmolested–both physical and virtual.

  38. says

    SallyStrange
    And also a failure on the part of many (more privileged) people to genuinely understand how much harassment actually goes on in said public spaces. This has definitely included me in the past, although listening when people less privileged than I talk has helped me get a grip on it.

  39. woozy says

    @38. No, you can’t slam the internet for the boss, co-worker, meeting, or client.

    And no, in cases where you can actually walk away, walking away for an hour will not actually solve anything nor make the harassment not have occurred.

    (Neither will punching someone in the mouth).

    My only point is different media and different instances may have differences but they aren’t exceptions. The virtual world and the real world are both the real world and harassment in either is harassment.

  40. says

    JJ831:

    Seems fitting for trolls.

    This ^ is major part of the problem, people handwaving it all as “hey, trolls.” Harassment is a crime, it’s not play, it’s not just trolls. This is a social problem we all have to deal with, and I’m beginning to see that dismissing this sort of thing with troll is simply another way of othering harassers and stalkers, a way to put this behaviour at a remove. The No True Human fallacy strikes again.

  41. carlie says

    The only way to deal with terrible people is to make them stop being terrible. At this point I don’t care one bit whether trolls actually learn the ethics of why what they’re doing is wrong. I don’t want to have someone teach them how to be nice. I want them to stop doing what they’re doing. The way we deal with every action in society that we don’t want to have happen is to make it socially unacceptable to act that way, and to back that up with punishment if the action is harmful enough. Handwaving it away as if trolling is a force of nature we can’t do anything about will not do anything to make society better. Causing enough negative consequences to trolling to make people stop trolling will make society better.

  42. doublereed says

    Yea, I’m with you Caine. I don’t think the term “troll” fits when we’re talking about harassment and violent threats. The connotation of “troll” is harmless, annoying behavior. The term for this kind of thing is harasser, stalker, or y’know, criminal.

  43. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Cough cough. Methinks the uber-troll doth protest too much.

    Methinks you don’t think to much. Or pay attention to what PZ says how he conducts his classes.

  44. doublereed says

    So, you moon-faced neckbearded concern troll, do you regularly engage in thoughtful communiques such as “Fuck the Pope” in your daily interactions with your fellow Minnesotans? Do you often break into churches and trample the host in front of aghast crowds? Whilst teaching your classes, do you refer to your religious students as “wackaloons, idiots, kooks, weird, and uber-kooks?” Do you refer to your elected officials as “congressvermin” when you meet them at university (excuse me, community college) graduation ceremonies?

    Cough cough. Methinks the uber-troll doth protest too much.

    ….dafuq are you talking about? The answer to all of those things is “Obviously, no.”?

    It doesn’t make sense to use hyperbole if you’re phrasing it like that, because then the answer is simply no, they never did any of that.

    You completely failed at whatever you were attempting. What are you doing????

  45. says

    doublereed:

    What are you doing?

    Taking an opportunity to whine and moan about PZ, while ignoring the actual topic here, which is harassment. Harassment is unsolicited and unwanted attention of various types. Naturally, having a blog and expressing your opinion in it doesn’t meet the definition of harassment, but hey, whiners gotta whine.

  46. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You poor, poor degenerates.

    You must be an MRA fuckwit. You sound that stupid.

  47. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Gotta sneer at the stupidity of someone who doesn’t understand the difference between sending e-mailing threats to people, and posting on your own blog where people come voluntarily, which isn’t in anybody’s face like the e-mail. Utter and total ignoring of the real facts. But typical of those who fallaciously try to paint PZ as a hypocrite, showing their own hypocrisy in the process.

  48. chigau (違う) says

    You poor, poor degenerates.

    Oh my. Yes.
    I’m heading for my bunk.
    Anyone care to join me?

  49. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You must be a female. You *are* that stupid.

    Sorry, an old bald-headed man with intelligence and an understanding of context. Unlike you.

  50. says

    @Cain 43

    I apologize, I don’t mean to equate rape threats trolling. I guess that’s whole point of the post- dismissing such threats as trolling just because it’s on the internet. I should have chosen my words better and rethought that post.

    RE: The Internet as Reality
    It’s very, very real. I am a Unified Communications engineer. My life lives and dies by the internet. My whole career is based off the fact the internet is a suitable medium for real communication.

  51. says

    JJ831:

    I apologize, I don’t mean to equate rape threats trolling. I guess that’s whole point of the post- dismissing such threats as trolling just because it’s on the internet. I should have chosen my words better and rethought that post.

    It’s cool. It’s a hard habit to break, assigning such things to trolls. We all do it, it takes work to get yourself out of the habit.

    I am a Unified Communications engineer. My life lives and dies by the internet. My whole career is based off the fact the internet is a suitable medium for real communication.

    Interesting career, that. Yes, it’s real, very much so. I do a fair amount of work via the ‘net, and that’s all serious real to me.

  52. says

    JJ831:

    RE: The Internet as Reality
    It’s very, very real. I am a Unified Communications engineer. My life lives and dies by the internet. My whole career is based off the fact the internet is a suitable medium for real communication.

    Y’know, this does make me wonder just how many people there are who don’t understand, at all, just how many people rely on the ‘net when it comes to working, as well as socializing.

  53. carlie says

    I thought about sending an alert, but funfunfun hasn’t even risen to the level of deserving any attention yet. Darling, you’ve got to try harder if you want PZ to look at you.

  54. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    His own bigotry and bullying are cut from the very same cloth however – cowardice, internet-tough talking, and trolling.

    In order to troll, he has to post elsewhere, say at vatican sites. Show said evidence, or YOU are caught lying and bullshitting. One can’t troll his own site.

  55. says

    Cain

    We all do it, it takes work to get yourself out of the habit.

    It’s one of the reasons I frequent this blog, and the comments . I rarely comment here (I usually don’t have much to add) and there have been multiple times when I’ve been called out by you, for pretty much the kind of thing – bad habits (good intentions, bad habits). I’ve appreciated it every time. Often it’s hard to realize you are doing such things.

    Just the other day there was that post about rape in South Africa. I wasn’t one of the people who commented, but I had thought “I’m not going to read that article, too depressing”. Going though the comments, I noted you and a couple others calling out others who were saying what I was thinking. I went back and read the article. It was as painful as I thought it would be (well more so, actually), but it needed to be read.

    OK, going back to lurking as to not disrupt the thread anymore.

  56. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh how delightfully quaint.

    How stupid to think so.

    You really buggered yourself on that one. Oh, and take your “request for evidence” and jam it up your ass with a cactus.

    Ah, evidenceless assertions, that can and will be dismissed as utter fuckwittery. As you know you have nothing, and we know you have nothing but flatulence.

  57. says

    JJ831:

    I went back and read the article. It was as painful as I thought it would be (well more so, actually), but it needed to be read.

    Yes, it did. Wasn’t easy though, had me shaking something awful.

    OK, going back to lurking as to not disrupt the thread anymore.

    I don’t think anything you post would be disruptive, we seem to have a Cupcake covering that. And while lurking is good, please remember that your voice is as important as anyone else’s, and your perspective on things may be the one that gets through to others. So, at least post once in a while!

  58. Onamission5 says

    @JJ831 #69:

    Brief derail– I am very glad to read your comment about the South African rape thread. Thank you for reconsidering your view, and thank you for saying here that you did so. For me, speaking up comes at an emotional cost, and it’s hard to keep on doing it without this kind of hope giving feedback. /end derail

  59. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    funfunfun is a disgruntled former poster.
    Which one?

    How many MRA’s flea before PZ wields the banhammer, and how many sockpuppet to post again….

  60. carlie says

    Jeez, it’s like you’re not even trying. At least try to make the insult match what’s going on! You’re acting like one of those noise keychains that say random phrases when someone pushes a button.

    Of course, what funfunfun is actually trying to do is divert all attention to himself, so that we don’t talk about the actual problem of harassment on the internet and that it’s bad.

  61. says

    Carlie:

    Jeez, it’s like you’re not even trying.

    Seriously. You, as Suzie Gaschamber? I don’t think so. Either Funcake is utterly clueless or they just weren’t paying attention the first time around.

  62. says

    please remember that your voice is as important as anyone else’s, and your perspective on things may be the one that gets through to others

    Will do! I usually don’t think I have much to add and late to the party (stupid job!). But I will, and if for nothing else to get a gauge on what ideas I may want to adjust. Also, I enjoy watching the cupcake(s) getting ripped to shreds.

    @Onamission5 (I’ll derail a little more)

    Thank you for reconsidering your view, and thank you for saying here that you did so

    Thank YOU as well. You were one of the others that really made me go back and read it. Wasn’t fun, wasn’t easy. But most of the important things aren’t. I “knew” what the article was about, and knew the gist of it. “That’s enough to understand”. Well no. I don’t think I can ever understand fully, but I understand a whole lot more.

    ^I guess that applies to the thread as well. I can put myself in the shoes of someone who experiences such harassment as much as possible, but empathy only gets you so close to what it actually is like. Especially because I can turn off the fear. Real threats you can’t just turn off

  63. carlie says

    Caine – I’m not even sure what it means. I like gaschambers? I think other people should go to them? I’m Hitler? I’m Eva? Or I’m supposed to be in one? Am I the boy in the striped pajamas? Questions that will never be answered.

  64. says

    So we shouldn’t be calling funfunfun a troll then? Coz that’s all that he or she is doing here.

    Way back @1:

    I have been to too many Board of Supervisor, School Board, and community meetings, and a number of people have no issues whatsoever being identified while they are saying things that are very shocking, rude, obtuse, and downright disgusting (and that includes my own father). Anonymity makes no difference in this respect.

    I would disagree. There are undoubtedly choleric jerks with anger management issues in Chris Christie fashion out there who will swear at, threaten or yell at people at times. But what we are talking about here is intimidation and attempts to silence by threats of rape or violence. And those are not generally committed by non-anonymous people. And if so, then by accident. I don’t think you can compare these things.

    @9,

    Did not people say the same things about telephones when they were first introduced

    Sorry, but I really think that is a completely false analogy. What did the phonebook say about you, compared to your facebook profile or the info on you that may be found all over the net, easily available to a harasser or stalker if you haven’t been particularly careful?

    If a harasser dials your phone number, you have to pick up the receiver to enable them to do anything. On the net, whether in chatrooms, on blogs, places like FB or G+, anyone can send you anything anytime. No phone number needed.

    The internet is a qualitatively new medium, that poses completely new challenges when it comes to protection of privacy, as the other side of the coin of enabling and revolutionising how people can communicate with each other.

  65. carlie says

    rorschach – trolls get a rise out of people though, right? This guy doesn’t even have the skills to do that. He’s like a bad troll understudy.

  66. ledasmom says

    Caine, Fleur du mal @ 33:

    Oh, let’s not have the “hey, some people are socially awkward” excuse, okay? Because it’s bullshit.

    Thank you for saying this (and the rest of your comment too, of course). Apart from all the other points you raised, there are plenty of people – me, for one – for whom socializing online is the major form of socializing we do. It allows one to mull one’s words over in the way one might like to do when face-to-face, but cannot. It allows one to be at the party without having to carry a drink around all the time to cover for one’s not knowing how to get into the conversation. It isn’t low-stress socializing – for me there’s no such thing – but it’s much easier than face-to-face.
    People acting horrible online cut down on the options for people like me, quite apart from the basic loathsomeness of what they do. I have been lucky enough not to be harassed online. I do wish people would realize that, even for those of us whose online time is not work time, the loss of that time would be damaging. Fun time’s important too, and for some of us online is where we get our fun social time.

  67. says

    Carlie:

    Caine – I’m not even sure what it means.

    I’m not totally sure myself. As it came after your “I thought about sending an alert”, I rather assumed that Funcake, like many idiots, thinks you have the ability to wish them into the cornfield.

    ledasmom:

    Apart from all the other points you raised, there are plenty of people – me, for one – for whom socializing online is the major form of socializing we do.

    Yep, I’m one of them.

  68. =8)-DX says

    [..] and mountains of free internet porn,
    [..]
    Here we stand with the most wonderful tools for uniting humanity in a web of sophisticated communication, at a time when most people are able to find it socially acceptable and even desirable

    Widely available internet porn – one of the most wonderful uses of the internet in uniting humanity – a universal and easily available outlet for sexual tension removes one of the great dividers we have always had. I’d say it’s comparable to universally available contraceptives in effect (though not importance).

  69. unclefrogy says

    I was thinking how did the “manners” we use when interacting develop in the first place?
    I myself learned as a child that I had to watch what I said because people got angry or they got their feelings hurt. I also learned that sometimes some people took what I said the wrong way and misunderstood what I meant, they still do that. Some will probably do that now.
    I also learned that there are some people like to hurt other people. I do not know why but they do.
    That is the way it is face to face or on-line now in the future I do not know.
    If I am getting involved in something I do not feel I can handle just now I feel no need or obligation to continue. If I withdraw from any people or situation I do so on my own terms. No it does not “solve the problem” sometimes that can not be helped. Some situations are not “winnable” at this time and withdrawing until some time later makes more sense.
    uncle frogy

  70. Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive] says

    This is largely unsubstantiated rambling, so fair warning.

    I was thinking about how (as near as I can tell) 90% of the persistent abuse that goes on online is directed at less privileged folk by privileged folk, or casting aspersions on a privileged person by implying that they aren’t privileged.

    I had a thought: the internet’s great strength is that, at its best, it is leveling. It is a powerful agent of uplifting the downtrodden and knocking the mighty down a peg or two. And that fact pisses TPTB off mightily. So they lash out at anyone who isn’t one of them by reminding them of their inferior status. The effect is twofold: the ones who are chased out cease to pollute the internet with their lesser presence (therefore challenging the hegemony of their betters); the ones who remain are (potentially, at least) cowed and reminded that they are still lesser.

    ‘Course, us lesser folk have started talking to each other and organizing, and calling out the power of the abusers.

    And that makes them mad. Witness the hue and cry over the hashtag #solidarityisforwhitewomen, for example, for daring to call out racism in white feminists. So you get cries of “abuse!” and demands that we be “inclusive” (i.e. not trample on the precious fee-fees of the privileged by pointing out their privilege) and “civil.”

    Because it is just as bad!! to be called “racist” as to be subjected to racism. Also, a plurality of white Americans think that “anti-white racism” is more prevalent and worse than anti-POC racism, so those uppity POC need to shaddup about race and be more grateful. More servile, too, probably.

    (The above can be repeated with replacements of “women” and “LGBT folk” and “poor folk” and so on).

  71. latsot says

    I was with some friends over Christmas and tried to make this point. I said that there are some people I count as friends who I’ve never met in person. They laughed. They thought I was joking or at least being flippant. I wasn’t: I was trying to point out that relationships can be different now. This was in the context of a parent banning offspring from using the Internet as a punishment. I was trying to explain that although it was surely a punishment, it wasn’t the punishment this parent thought it was.

    But the point didn’t get made because these six people thought it was hilarious that someone might have friends they’ve never met in person. I pointed out that I’ve spoken to each of them online more often over the last couple of decades than I have in person, but it didn’t help.

    I get a small amount of abuse online. I can ignore it if I want to, not everyone is so lucky. But it’s where I live. People I’ve never met in person have been exceptionally, heartbreakingly kind to me, from time to time. Others have been complete shits. Both types of interaction matter as much to me as ones with faces.