Some concessions about Twitter

I still despise Twitter as a platform, principally because it refuses to do anything about its infestation of Nazi shitheels. Twitter has, through its inaction, become an inadvertent hotbed of white supremacist recruitment in the North American context. I imagine similar extreme views have gained traction as a result elsewhere in the world, for the same reason.

The only way I’m even able to use the problem at all is by subscribing to a user-made function called block lists, which are exactly what they say on the tin–a list of users defined by certain parameters who can be added to your personal block list. I have a “Deplorable Blocker” and a “TERF Blocker” active. Of course, the administrators of these lists are human, and therefore imperfect, so in order to access this platform at all, I have to contend with the possibility of false positives on my block list, and most of them seem to be minorities who were added because the block lists’ code can’t account for context. Slurs, for example, take on a very different meaning depend on how they’re used and who they’re used by, but if you’re coding a spider to pick up user handles of everyone with a slur in it, you’ll sweep up everyone without that context.

It’s very frustrating. Even as I make a few concessions, I am still pretty pissed at Twitter’s lethal incompetence.

However, there are two benefits I’m now willing to admit, even with these problems:

  1. Last time I had work published, the paper’s platform combined with FTB gave me a respectable view count in the 1000s within a week or so. Since my average FTB post attracts about 600 pairs of eyeballs, many of which share the material, I considered this a smashing success. Now with my most recent published paper shared on Twitter, it got 25,000 views in under eight hours. As a promotional tool, it’s extremely effective.
  2. Lots of minorities use Twitter to self-promote, and as a result I’ve widened my reading material to include a lot of perspectives & data that I would otherwise miss.

I still desperately want Twitter to recognise abuse and do something–literally anything–about it. The blocklists are an imperfect solution, because abusive shitheels tend to run astroturfing campaigns under new handles that can weasel around them, but I now see Twitter’s utility in promoting material. I’ve only used it for a few months and it’s become the biggest source of new and, more importantly, consistent readers.

Then again some of them might be Nazis, so. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

-Shiv

Updated comments policy

Howdy folks.

In the interest of fairness I decided to spruce up my comments policy to be a bit more detailed and explicit. Regulars have more or less already been following these conditions anyways, but I also decided to explicitly document the Points Refuted a Thousand Times. This is to help make more available the myth-busting information, and also to point out that I’m under no obligation to repeat myself when my previous work stands, a demand which has occasionally cropped up in the filtered comments.

Everything below is listed here.


The first comment you post on Against the Grain is automatically sent into moderation. This is to bring your commentary to my attention. There are a number of things I have little patience for on this blag, detailed below, and if you run afoul of them your comment may be edited, filtered out, or your account banned altogether. Your participation is contingent on the following:

1. Stay on topic

If your first instinct is to change the subject, you’ll likely be called on it. If I start a conversation about the angles Jesse Singal employs in his trans-antagonistic journalism, braying on about this obscure murder committed 30 years ago by a trans woman is not relevant.

2. Make disagreements about the argument

Attack the argument. Question its premises, or question the logical construction. I am not generally fond of attacking the arguer as opposed to the argument. On a related note…

3. Definitely no hate speech

Ad hominems usually net you warnings, unless you employ language that singles out a person’s immutable characteristics as inherently inferior or undesirable, in which case I toss you out. This includes but is not limited to language demeaning gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability, sex, etc.

4. No Points Refuted a Thousand Times

My material on trans issues is occasionally repetitive because the opponents to trans rights offer repetitive discourse. If something was wrong six months ago, it remains wrong today unless new information has been produced. So no, I am not going to tailor-suit a refutation to something that has already been shown to be bunk nonsense, and reciting these points uncritically will not impress me.

Some PRATTs relevant to this blog include:

Yes, this tedious, fact-free nonsense tends to repeat itself.

Note that bringing up a PRATT doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from the comments, if and only if you can introduce new information that wasn’t discussed the first time.

5. Breaking these rules on other blogs on the network will also get you banned.

I regularly read the works of my colleagues, so even if you aren’t accountable to my conditions on their blog, you’re still subject to them when you come to mine. A history of violating the above conditions elsewhere will generally burn any goodwill I might otherwise assume when you pop up in moderation.

-Shiv

Commercial break

I’ve been preparing for Edmonton’s BECA conference for a couple weeks now, so I haven’t been keeping up the queue as diligently as I normally do. As a result, we’re back to business soon–just a few days to actually give my presentation, unwind, do things that are not rated PG-13–and the snark is on as usual.

Have some commercial break music:

[Read more…]

It’s my blagaversary

Happy blagaversary everyone. It’s officially been one year since I started on FtB. In that time we’ve fact-checked an irritatingly popular documentary, picked rhetorical fights with clueless media pundits, rebutted a histrionic U of T professor (several times), reviewed some really bizarre political theatre in Alberta, blasted shitty journalists, skewered Canadian Blood Services enough that they flew me in to consult on their LGBTQ donor policy, and got published in a genn-yoo-ine paper.

Here’s the good news: I still love doing this, and I still have a lot of will to continue the long-form fact checking, debunking, and essay writing.

Here’s the bad news: This shit takes time, and I need to make a living. To that end, I want to ask two things of readers who think they’d like to support me.

  • Support The Establishment. They have smaller donation options as well as a store from which to buy swag! Although several publications have given me tentative acceptance for long-form work that I’ve taken to them, only The Establishment offered any kind of compensation. I’m not doing this shit for free, yo. (cough cough Huffington Post)
  • Consider supporting me through Patreon. To be confirmed soon–I had hoped to navigate the financial bureaucracy before March 14th, but alas, bureaucracy takes its sweet time. Look out for my Patreon announcement and consider chipping in as little as $3 USD/month to help make my Serious Business writing a reality.

At any rate, thank you all for your participation and support. I look forward to doing it again another year!

Cheers.

-Shiv

 

Free speech for me and none for thee

As is likely well known at this point, FtB is being sued by Richard Carrier for defamation. While I’m quite confident our case will be won, it is nonetheless pressuring the network to recoup the legal costs. Mark Randazza is working at a discount, but there are other aspects the defendants have to pay for, and we could use your help.

Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting  on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.

This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.

We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding. Donations will be used only for this case. In the event that the funds raised exceed our legal bills, they will be donated to Planned Parenthood .

We are pooling our defense costs with Skepticon, however as a 501(c)3 non-profit Skepticon is also conducting its own fundraiser where donations may be tax-deductible (ask your tax advisor). Skepticon cannot use donations it receives to help pay the shares of other individuals or organizations, though, and any excess funds raised via their campaign will go to the Skepticon conference fund.

We are confident that the court will uphold our First Amendment rights. But, through time, stress, and of course financial expense, every case like this has a chilling effect. Your support enables us to fight, and creates a warmer environment – not just for us but for others in the future.

Thank you for your support of freedom of speech, and may your new year be powerful and effective!

-Amy Frank-Skiba
-Lauren Lane
-PZ Myers
-Stephanie Zvan

Please consider chipping in a few bucks here.

-Shiv

Ask me anything (no, really)

I had to make sure I wasn’t in some kind of quasi-Twilight-Zone-dream when, for the first time, more than one person has asked to pay me to make an appearance to talk about trans stuff.

While there’s no shortage of information pinging around in my brain at 12,429,231 km/s, I’m not necessarily equipped to know what y’all weirdo cis people actually want to know about. I have forgotten what it was like to not know.

So, in the context of “people are throwing modest sums at me to talk about trans stuff,” what kind of trans stuff would you attend if it were being offered at a conference?

Don’t worry about asking offensive questions since offensive questions may be a topic unto itself (that’s a content warning, trans readers).

-Shiv

Regularly scheduled programming

The blag will have no updates for a few days as I follow through my bestest xmas present ever: an eviction notice.

Packing is the worst. Then there will be some anxiety about money. Then, eventually, unpacking.

See y’all in a while.

-Shiv


 

Have some “we are currently experiencing some technical difficulties” waiting music:

2016 Canada Primer

I love stats, although certain applications of it are a bit rusty on my end because it’s been a few years since I left university. Nonetheless, my stats say I’ve been steadily gaining regulars from the United States over the past year and received some fair feedback concerning my coverage of Canadian politics–chiefly that it’s a bit hard for outsiders to follow, and secondly that Americans don’t seem incentivized to follow it. Canadians don’t seem to need much incentive to click on these types of articles–y’all already do it.

I figured that as 2016 comes to a close that I would do a small series covering the background of some clowns politicians & lobbyists that even Americans might be interested in watching with me. If nothing else, many of you seem to enjoy my thinly veiled contempt for the reality-denying chucklefucks hanging on to the right-wing of democratic society like a gangrenous limb. Unlike a dingleberry like PBog*, whose inanity is largely painful only to those who are tragically exposed to it, a lot more is at stake if these people win or retain power.

So there are four objectives for the primer that I hope serve my readers:

  1. Introduce the history & context of movements and the consequences their successes have had or are likely to have on Canadians;
  2. Argue for the global relevance thereof (i.e. why non-Canadians might care, other than empathy).
  3. Give information for Canadian voters to cast informed ballots.
  4. Paint targets for proactive, progressive resistance in Canada.

For the most part, influence from the USA in particular tends to bleed into Canada, rather than the other way around. But if nothing else, appreciate the solidarity of knowing the USA does not have a monopoly on political parties composed entirely of clown cars filled with reprogrammable Randroids masquerading as people. Yay?

There’s also a secondary goal, which is to identify those actors in politics who bear nothing but contempt for democracy. While we can debate until we faint over which specific stripe of Authoritarianism is manifesting in any particular movement, I’d like to equip my readers with a few red flags when Canada comes to visit you. Depending on who is visiting, you may want to pay real close attention to what they’re saying, the way Alberta collectively needed a barf bag when Ann frickin’ Coulter came to town on Trump business. I don’t particularly care which breed of dickhead we call them, only that you recognize the necessity of resisting. Ideally peacefully**.

Posts on the Primer to follow soon.

Remember: You can’t take care of the Resistance if you can’t take care of yourself.

-Shiv


 

*Thanks Bruce.

**Bearing in mind that there is a significant gap between what I consider ideal and what I consider realistic.

Mistakes were made: An apology

For a brief time, you may have noticed this cute little button below my “About the Author” widget.

About the same time that I was going to announce that I had been added to a progressive blogging aggregate feed, I realized I was sharing space with at least one TERF.

I don’t know who clicked on the little Progressive Bloggers button–I know I drew a few readers from the PB feed but I don’t have enough data to confidently say they stuck around. Regardless, when I sought out an invitation to be added to this feed, I should have vetted the existing participants more thoroughly.

Alas, my posts briefly appeared next to a self-styled “gender abolitionist,” and my sigh was drawn out enough to warrant a concerned glance from my roommate’s cat. Regardless of whether or not anyone from FTB noticed the material in question, I nonetheless feel responsible for associating, even unknowingly, with the nauseating tripe that is Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism. My trans readers know as well as I do that preparation is often needed for us to confront these materials and if even one of you was exposed to it, unprepared, that is on me.

I am sorry, and you certainly should expect better of me.


 

Now, to PB’s credit, their administrator responded very professionally to my nastygram requesting AtG’s removal from the network. I don’t want to reproduce those communications without permission (in part because I don’t want to actually identify the offending TERF blog for a number of reasons) but I’ll paraphrase part of their response. They gave a brief throwaway line about how the network “had disagreements” on it before and that it was okay to “criticize” each other.

While the response was professional, it is nonetheless a demonstration of how supremacist bigotry is normalized. TERFs don’t “disagree” with me. They’re a form of Cisgender Supremacists. When they’re not denying I exist, they’re making the argument, without hesitation, that my needs are less important than theirs and that the conditions which would culminate in my suicide are an acceptable loss for their comfort. This isn’t a “disagreement.” Disagreements are for arguments over which animal makes the best house pet. What happened here would be like telling the Jews they just needed to “hash it out” with the fucking Nazis.

We need to start recognizing that trans feminists endure abuse when we dialogue with TERFs, and we need to stop minimizing trans feminists when we say that this is an activity we can only do on our terms because of the emotional labour involved.

We do not “owe” our abusers understanding, nor am I obligated to start a pissing contest with an ideologue who would sooner see me dead.

PB has also received an apology from me for wasting their time, and that’s about the last I wish to hear concerning this momentary lapse in judgement.

-Shiv

Thoughts from Vancouver: Stigma’s role in discrimination

In a little more than an hour, I will be participating in a consultation with Canadian Blood Services. They drew my ire after a stunt earlier this year in which their media correspondent made a number of stigmatizing and regrettable remarks about gay men and trans women. Without going into specifics–I’m not sure what boundaries on reporting will be placed–the planning for this consultation likewise included a lot of stigmatizing language, and I was at times left agape by the phrasing of CBS’s correspondents.

Nonetheless, despite being openly critical of their policy on the grounds of the research they claim supports it (it doesn’t), CBS has brought me here to Vancouver to lay it out for them.

I’ve long lamented that the real crises affecting trans women, especially trans women of colour, are related to things like discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare and public accommodations. These prove to be veritable landmines for trans people and the difficulties these areas pose cannot be understated. These things do need to be fixed, but the other part of making more people willing to donate is tackling the stigma that made people hesitate to support the cause to begin with.

And no doubt, CBS’ announcement was brutally stigmatizing. They know they are party to this. I told them.

After I’ve collected my fee, I intend to donate it straight to Safe Accommodations for Queer Edmonton Youth (SAFQEY). I know I’ve been asking folks to fork over money for charities but if you’re at all familiar with my exasperation at the bullshit coverage of trans people that hits the mainstream when there are more pressing needs than motherfucking pronouns, you’ll understand why I value a queer-inclusive youth shelter.

Canadian Blood Services serves as an ideal example of responsibility: They are flawed, yes, but they are also willing to dialogue. And I don’t think they’d be spending money on this if they didn’t think it was worth something. That willingness to listen is in short supply these days, and perhaps I can help steer CBS in a more constructive direction moving forward regarding QUILTBAG donors.

See y’all later. I’ll be busy this weekend, too, volunteering at Taboo.

(Speaking of which: Let’s play a game called “real news or fake news.” Without using Google, is the headline “Topless women now allowed at Albertan sex shows” real or fake?)

-Shiv