Canlit, harassment, retaliatory defamation

Canada has had its own blow-up around Tarana Burke’s #MeToo–recently in Canadian literature academia, similar allegations of misconduct had been leaked and circulated despite being initially intended as an informal network. Emily Kellogg has a good review of the legal situation:

The consequences for going public with accusations like these varies. In her New York essay, Donegan writes about the toll administrating the list took on her mental health, as well as her professional and personal relationships. After publishing the essay, she faced online harassment, including threats of doxxing—in which trolls release private information, like someone’s home address or bank account information, online.

In Canada, Spry’s essay ignited controversy, especially from those who felt he glossed over his own complicity in perpetuating an abusive culture at Concordia. Still, both Spry and Koul’s pieces have started urgent conversations about sexual abuse in CanLit.

These can be difficult conversations to have, and, because of Canada’s strict defamation laws, going public can have serious legal repercussions—even if you’re doing so solely to protect other people from harm.

“Many women who have accused their perpetrators have had to face retaliatory defamation claims,” Dr. Constance Backhouse, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and co-author of The Secret Oppression: Sexual Harassment of Working Women, explains. “These are often brought with inflated dollar demands—for example, a claim for one million dollars in damages…  I believe it is very rare for these lawsuits to actually go forward, but they are certainly effective as an intimidation tactic.”

Read more about it here.


Suckered into unnecessary debate

“Due process” is often erroneously cited during sexual assault allegations as to how the public at large ought to respond to allegations of misconduct, especially sexual assault and harassment. Often this is to the benefit of the accused, with the implicit idea that we should mistrust the source of the allegations unless the process goes through criminal court.

The thing is, survivors of harassment and sexualized violence aren’t “against due process,” and framing the issue as such is a tremendous disservice:

The opposing view. I furrowed my brow trying to understand what they were asking. An opposing view to whether a reckoning on sexual harassment was healthy and overdue? An opposing view on whether each case is different and the accused deserve due process? I replied with a request to discuss further via phone.

I’d never interacted with USA Today before, so while waiting, I looked up the representative who had contacted me. She appeared to be a low-level employee who was tasked with putting stories together. It was unusual, as I’d almost always been contacted by editors directly when they wanted me to write a piece.

She called just a few minutes after I sent the email. I asked her to please give me more details about the editorial that they wanted me to rebut. “We are going to write about how we think it is a very good thing that women are going forward,” she began and basically repeated the same thing she had said in her email: individual cases…due process…etc. “Would you be willing to write the rebuttal to that?”

I paused for a second, thinking of how to best reply.

“No, I can’t write a rebuttal to that because of course I believe in due process,” I answered, deciding not to delve into the side discussion of how due process is a legal term that doesn’t usually apply to private employment, “But I’d be happy to write a response.”

I told her that I’d be happy to write about how the fixation on “due process” for these men was an attempt to re-center the concerns of men. How the question itself was absurd, because if there’s anything these stories show, it’s that these men in their years of open abuse were given more than just due process — but the women, many of whom had tried bringing this abuse to those in authority years before, were given no process at all. I said I’d love to write about the countless women whose careers were ended by coming forward with the abuse they faced, about the countless women whose careers were never able to get off of the ground because of abuse and gender discrimination. Due process. Women would love ANY process. They would love to even be heard.

Read more from Ijeoma Oluo here.


Oh, I have not self-flagellated sufficiently for The Cis, what monster am I

Back in the good old days of 2011 when Nazis were indisputably punchable and the President of the United States did not issue orders via Twitter, a fellow by the name of Paul Elam launched a website called “Register Her.” It was a domain dedicated to publishing the photographs, home addresses, phone numbers, routes to work and/or any other personal information folks could acquire–a practice commonly called “doxxing”–of women who have caused “significant harm to innocent individuals.” Alongside convicted female sex offenders and murderers were… women whose sexual assault allegations were defeated in court. Most feminists would recognize the problems immediately: How there exists a gap between morality and legality; how courts must convict with evidence that proves the defendant performed the deed “beyond all reasonable doubt;” how an acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean the action had not occurred. And that’s without taking into account the evidence that most law systems perform poorly when attempting to prosecute sexualized violence. The final, perhaps most critical detail, is that he wasn’t the sole contributor. His followers can and did propose their own profiles for the women who had, in their view, wronged them, and doxxing soon became a mainstay of online “men’s rights activism.” It became an assumption that if you were being filmed by MRAs, your face could end up on the darknet, and your details shortly thereafter.

Most people would agree, given this context, that if Paul Elam walks up to you with a video camera and you’re a woman, he’s engaging in an act of intimidation, because we know what he does with those images. Now the courts might say “it’s legal to film someone in public,” but, again, recalling our morality/legality gap, courts have also said upskirt photographs are legal too. Again, it’s not a particularly difficult analysis to perform–the law is behind most people’s conceptions for morality, so the argument “it’s legal” should be understood to be irrelevant when the actual discussion is ethics. It is, in essence, surrendering the argument altogether, though to those of an authoritarian bend it is convincing.

[Read more…]

Signal boosting: The limits of free speech and who gets thrown under the bus

FTB (or, PZ for the most part) periodically wanders into free speech debates that I find intensely frustrating, given that I am a member of several commonly targeted demographics for hate speech. It doesn’t help that avowed ‘pitters are stirring the pot, but even setting aside abusive troglodytes there is the matter of otherwise-liberal people defending the right of someone to incite violence against people like me under the auspice of “free speech.” Part of the problem is that these free speech defenders fail to actually consider speech to be a set of actions, and that Milo has used his speech to publicly call for the sexualized violence against at least one transgender student. Instead of recognizing this, they always fall back to generalizations.

Julia Serano takes it away from there: (emphasis added)

Rather, there is speech that we (as individuals, or as a society) are willing to tolerate, and speech that we deem to be beyond the pale. Every single one of us has a hard limit — a point at which we will exclaim, “I simply cannot tolerate that!” For certain Breitbart employees, the American Conservative Union, Simon & Schuster, and journalist Kurt Eichenwald (whose tweet initially inspired this post), that hard limit is apparently advocating (or seeming to advocate) adult-teen relationships.

I have no problems with any of these groups refusing to tolerate Yiannopoulos’s [pederasty] comment. And I have no qualms with their decisions to “no platform” him over this issue. But I do want to point out that, by drawing the line there, the American Conservative Union, Simon & Schuster, Kurt Eichenwald, and others, are implicitly saying that EVERYTHING ELSE that Yiannopoulos has done up until this point — his long history of blatant racism, misogyny, and transphobia, and his penchant for doxxing, harassing, and intimidating marginalized individuals online and during his talks — all of that is a-okay. Absolutely tolerable. Within the boundaries of normal discourse, in their eyes.

Read more of her here.



What happens in the US doesn’t stay in the US

The question of what America’s progressives are going to do next is a complex one. There are many US analysts attempting to dissect the bloated carcass of the 2016 election and for my part I’m probably going to take a while to really take stock in terms of action in the United States. I’ve started regular donations to Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union and I strongly urge you to do the same if you have disposable income.

The problem, of course, is that Trump is a symptom–and the disease which caused it knows no borders. Something I do have more direct involvement in is the politics of Alberta and Canada. There are only limited ways I can help in the United States but right here, at home, there’s hot iron for me and other Canadian progressives to strike–because all signs point to our next Trump, too. Most of us will only be indirectly affected by the disaster that is sure to be the Trump administration, but we’re afraid nonetheless. Ideas don’t stick to borders.

After all, I’ve been mocking our very own opportunistic climate change denying xenophobic forced birther Christians-can-do-no-wrong fuck-the-gay-kids alt-right posterboy grifter and conman. This is the same leadership hopeful of Alberta’s so-called “Progressive” Conservatives who got a pat on the back from Michael Gove of all people and who manufactured the niqab outrage in our last federal election. That’s like getting an endorsement from Emperor Palpatine.

The question, of course, is what does it mean for Canadians that the projected winner of the PC leadership, Jason Kenney, is a derivative of Trump-esque beliefs? Specifically, what does it mean for conservative Canadians–the “not sexist/racist” kind who support fiscal conservatism–when at least some of their big tent includes the “proudly sexist and racist”?

If you consider yourself a centrist or conservative in Canada, you are overdue for an honest introspection of who exactly sits in your “big tent.” Like American conservatives, the right-wing has enjoyed successes in the recent past by uniting many different voting blocs under a single banner; indeed, the big tent fracturing is likely one of the largest contributors to the left-leaning New Democratic Party’s (NDP) success. So if you’re one of those more reasonable centrist types, the voting bloc that seems to think Trudeau Sr.’s budgeting was bad but thought he was on to something when he said “the nation has no place in the bedroom,” then you have a problem. Because also sharing space in your tent of fiscal conservatism is, you know, the voting blocs that would put a self-admitted rapist in the White House and bring the government back into people’s bedrooms.

If you’re not convinced, you need only look at how the current race for the Progressive Conservative leadership is playing out. Two centrist candidates, Sandra Jansen and Donna Kennedy-Glans, ran for PC leadership on platforms that fit the bill of fiscally conservative but socially progressive: Jansen in particular was explicit about a woman’s reproductive right to choose and her support of the NDP’s environmental protections. In other words she was just the sort of reasonable voice a progressive could communicate with, since she was less concerned with towing the party line and more concerned with whether individual policies were effective and needed. I don’t think I would’ve voted for her but I wouldn’t be sweating below the collar if she got in.

At the same time Canada was curled up into a ball and crying into its knees as the results of the US election came in, revealing some 60-odd million who actively supported Trump and another ~180 million who didn’t seem bothered enough to vote against him, Jansen and Kennedy-Glans were entering their resignations from the PC leadership. Their reason? Their nomination forms had been returned with misogynistic slurs and rape threats written all over them. I’m sure it’s total coincidence that this sexist harassment coincides with Kenney’s bussing in so-called Bible-boys and signing up youth en masse to PC membership so they can vote for the candidate who just not-so-subtly “incentivized” them. Which, by the way, is breaking the PC charter–you’ll note the PC executives don’t care. All this, by the way, paid for by Kenney’s “charity” dedicated to himself, so he could skirt around election oversight.

Kenney’s playing dirty, and he’s slated to win.

Conservatives of Alberta, this is your big tent. For decades you’ve been able to put respectable conservatives front and centre, courting this other Trump-esque voting bloc implicitly through the use of dog whistles, banking on the fact that the respectables would be able to sit on the trembling Pandora’s Box.

Well, America just demonstrated that the deplorables in Pandora’s Box can break free, and we have the early signs right here in Alberta that the respectables don’t weigh enough to keep the lid on: Kenney just broke a charter rule which requires members to be members for at least 7 days before they can vote, and just had hundreds of youth bussed in from rural Alberta to vote for him after signing them up the same day; he keeps characterizing the NDP’s changes to the education curriculum as “social engineering”–surely you agree the basics of “gay people exist” is not a radical revelation for our rusty and creaky curriculum; Kenney has a long, long track record of voting to erode a woman’s right to choose; women in politics are regularly receiving rape and death threats from his supporters; and he has a soft spot for regressive Christians routinely violating public policy despite pocketing public funds in public contracts. Is that your idea of “fiscal responsibility”–letting scammers who steal from the public purse off the hook because they mumble something about Jesus? How about Kenney grifting national taxpayers to finance his provincial leadership bid? Is that fiscally responsible, too?

You need to soul search, because it’s rapidly starting to look like the fiscal-conservative-socially-progressive types aren’t going to have a party in the next election. Kenney is slated to win the PC leadership and he has been very, very open and forthright about his intention to absorb the Wildrose back into the fold. The problem is that it isn’t the respectables at the helm anymore. It’s the deplorables. The ones who are serious about being socially reactionary. The ones who think death and rape threats are a legitimate vehicle of criticism. The ones Brian Jean has been trying to contain like a beleaguered dog-owner pulling back on the chain of his rabid pup: You know, the ones making targets of the Premier, mocking victims of domestic violence and the assassination of labour-rights politicians, and publicly approving denigrating posts about gay politicians, because there’s apparently not enough policy to criticize?

We have about 3 years to see what damage the deplorables will do under the Republican big tent before our next provincial election. I seriously hope you pay close attention, because here in Alberta the women, trans folk, queer folk, immigrants, people of colour, students, youth, poor, sick, and disabled are all going to be at the mercy of your big tent whose presumed-leadership intends to grind us into dirt. Some of us are even fiscal conservatives ourselves, but our political calculus is tainted by the fact that the party which potentially agrees with our economic policy is bolstered by a highly controlling voting bloc, one that wishes to make life difficult for us “deviants” through a climate of explicit legal and social hostility.

And yes, to head off the accusation that the Left has its own brand of deplorables: It’s true that we have our lunatic fringe as well. The difference is that our Greens bagged 0.49% of the popular vote. Our Communists bagged 0.01%. Neither has a penchant for doxxing their critics, something I can’t say of the right-wing deplorables. Let’s not pretend that radical leftists in this province have a voice. If Kenney succeeds in the creation of another big tent conservatism, that’s well over half the province throwing their weight behind him: And it’s the social regressives at the steering wheel. Your lunatics aren’t a fringe sequestering themselves in Pandora’s Box anymore. The handler’s grip on the leash is slipping, and we’re slated to watch the rabid dog break loose.

There’s two voting blocs this post isn’t addressed to: the capital-P Progressives, and the socially-conservative Conservatives. If you’re the type that has already been convinced by Kenney’s rhetoric that respecting trans kids constitutes an “experiment,” I’m not sure how to communicate with you. We are working with very different data sets and at this point might as well be speaking a different language. This language problem I have no solution for, though if you’re willing to communicate without hurling insults then so am I. We can give it the old college try. And if it fails, you can at least take the liberty of looking me in the eye that my wellbeing matters so little to you that you’d support a reactionary candidate like Kenney. At least be honest about it.

As for Albertan Progressives, I’ll have more detailed plans as we near the 2019 election. There’s too many variables to commit to any given plan just yet, but I am confident I can give you something thorough after the lines are drawn. I know several Pride centres across the province working together with several BLM chapters across the province, so progressives are already teaming up. Start there while we wait for the dust to settle.

To close, here’s the homework for conservative Albertans and Canadians: If it truly matters to you to make a fiscal conservatism that doesn’t deliberately single out minorities for mistreatment, you need to make that clear as your political parties take shape. Albertans, there’s still time to make Wildrose the respectables–Kenney appears to be more-or-less confirmed in taking the PCs hard to the right. And federally? The Conservatives agreed to axe their “one man and one woman” policy on marriage. Push for more of that.

Tonight I attend a federal Liberal party gathering. I intend to raise the spectre of reactionary successes and how the Liberals will almost certainly do what the Democrats did and take the progressive vote for-granted in their next election. Results of that coming soon.

We all have a responsibility to cast informed ballots in our upcoming elections and there’s far too much at stake for minorities to have the respectables become complacent as the deplorables take charge of the conservative apparatus. If you want to be branded as the politics of personal responsibility, then make sure your tent doesn’t have deplorables in it. Denying they exist and are in your tent is anything but responsible.


Trump’s alt right goons prove how not threatening they are by issuing deluge of threats

Pretty much anyone would feel a bit touchy if it were suggested they were the scum of human society. Nobody likes being called that. When we’re talking about the alt right, a cluster of beliefs exhibiting anything from White Supremacy to anti-suffragist sentiments, it’s hard not to point out that they advocate for a lot of harm. Except a detailed description of the harm in question is a feature, and not a bug. They want to hurt you.

However, the alt right is uniquely predictable in that calling out alt right beliefs as being dangerous will inevitably result in you being doxxed and swarmed by rape and death threats, as if this proves how reasonable advocacy for the alt right cluster of beliefs is.

Cue a Canadian university where this is exactly what happened.

[Read more…]

Edmonton Mayor on the racist cycling incident: “They should be doubly ashamed”

The cyclist who was subject to racist harassment in Edmonton from two white motorists has spoken with the Edmonton Mayor, Don Iveson. According to Mayor Iveson, the cyclist raised points about the scarcity of bike lanes as an exacerbating factor:

“I can’t tell you how frustrating it is having been a cyclist and a cycling advocate for years and that we have taken steps backwards as a city on this,” he said, adding that better infrastructure is shown to reduce conflict on the road. “I think council is ready to make some investments in our downtown.”

Iveson said the issue of infrastructure was raised by Bashir Mohamed during a discussion with city staff following a racist incident.

I was about to chastise Iveson for a seemingly tone deaf response (blaming the incident on the lack of bike lanes), but Iveson does point out the racism in the incident was unacceptable regardless.

“My staff met with him a couple of days ago and I understand it was a good discussion,” Iveson said. “(The incident) shows the very bad behaviour of a motorist who should be ashamed of himself … but the even worse behaviour as a human being using language like that.”

“This individual should be doubly ashamed of themselves,” he added.

Mohamed had requested a meeting with the mayor to discuss the issue, which Iveson said he is more than happy to do.

“I’m appalled to hear Mr. Mohamed had that experience in our city,” he said. “Any incident of racism or discrimination in our city has to be unequivocally challenged and condemned.”

Needless to say, this still leaves the cyclist with no legal recourse. As far as I can tell, the police have not recanted on their statement that the cyclist would be charged with “something” if he were to press charges on the drivers, despite following all laws. Meanwhile the white racist rednecks carry on with their lives, and all they’ve received are strong words.

I’m still not terribly impressed. Talk is cheap, Iveson.


Edmonton Police: As useless as tits on a nun

On today’s issue of “Dispelling the Myth that Racism Isn’t a Thing in Canada,” we have an incident where I take back everything good I have said of the Edmonton Police Service.

In yet another unbelievably straightforward case of crime, Canadian law enforcement fucks it up. An Edmonton cyclist, who had the audacity to stop at a red light, was honked at by a pair of white folks in a pick-up truck, who yelled at him to get off the road–this despite Albertan traffic laws dictating that the cylist’s bicycle is the type that must be on the road and not on the sidewalk. But we get a picture of what the actual problem was–not merely that this person committed the unthinkable crime of “using a bicycle in accordance with the laws that govern both him and his equipment,” but rather that this person had dark skin.

Content Notice: Virulent racism.

[Read more…]