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.



Spouses are more dangerous than terrorists

Content Notice: Sexual assault.

There’s this obsessed guy who runs around on every political article that pops up in my feed screaming at the top of his lungs about “rapefugees.” It’s an immediate red flag–I noticed a long long time ago that most people can’t be arsed to give a shit about the violence committed within their own communities but holy shit what changes when the perp is brown!

This is where it is useful to lean back and look at big picture statistics. Sexual assault is sexual assault regardless of who does it to whom, so if our justice systems weren’t massively flawed we would expect roughly the same outcomes across the board in terms of what is reported and what is prosecuted. Except with sexual assault, when you look at the big picture, you see a pretty big gaping hole between reporting and prosecuting under certain specific circumstances.

A ridiculous proportion of sexual assaults are accounted for with these three components:

  1. Targeted an acquaintance, not a stranger;
  2. Used alcohol rather than force or drugs;
  3. Denied allegations of sexual assault should they be raised;

YesMeansYes breaks it down further: (emphasis original)

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Words matter: Trans woman murdered after father calls for her death on TV

Content Notice: transmisogynistic murder, misgendering

I want to show this to the “sticks and stones” crowd, the free speech absolutists whose whining about pushback to denigrating trans people remains blissfully unaware of the violence we actually face because of trans-antagonistic attitudes.

A Russian woman was brutally hacked to death mere days after her wedding after her father called for her death on TV because she is transgender:

A transgender Muslim woman in Russia was hacked to death only days after marrying the man of her dreams.

Raina Aliev’s own own father had gone on television publicly called for her murder.

‘Bring him here and kill him in front of my eyes,’ Alimshaikh Aliev had told a local TV station.

‘Let him be killed, I don’t want to see him. Bring him here and kill him in front of my eyes.’

Aliev, 25, had gender confirmation surgery in Moscow and married a man named Viktor, according to the Daily Mail.

The victim had informed law enforcement authorities about the threat but to no avail.

The circumstances of her murder and where the killing took place have not been revealed. But it is known that the body was cut up and unrecognizable.

It’s the deadliest year on record to be transgender, with every country that tracks demographic-specific hate crime reporting massive spikes in anti-queer and anti-trans violent crime.

And all you can get cis folk to talk about is fuck mothering pronouns.


Random musings on the so-called defamation of Trump

“Rigged.” It’s the word bandied about irresponsibly by the Trump camp to describe the election. Yet when you look at some of the specifics of the claim, all you find is Trump himself.

They want to say the media is covering him unfairly, but don’t seem to realize that most of the media’s coverage has just involved handing Trump the microphone and letting him speak. Make no mistake, there’s no quote-mining or cherry picking. All one has to do to “defame” Trump is quote him in his entirety.

Which just means his status in the polls reflects that most of us realize how fucking awful he is. The New York Times pisses me off routinely with some of their ignorant editorial choices regarding trans folk, but I think they had a point when they countered Trump’s lawsuit threat by pointing out he has no reputation to defame by virtue of his own words. And indeed, this was one of Clinton’s attack ads. She simply strung together what Trump himself has said, and Trump, in a stunning lack of awareness, said it was “nasty.”

No shit, dude.

Trump wants to engage in the incredibly dangerous act of suggesting the media is “rigging” the election. All the media has to do is plug in a microphone and hit record. Trump will take care of the rest. If that’s “rigging,” then the election is rigged by none other than Trump himself.

I’m sure this will be of small consolation to the first journalist to be murdered by one of his unhinged fans.


89 million views for videos of trans women being assaulted classified as “entertainment”

Content Notice: Violence, hate-motivated assaults.

In a report called Capturing Hate, a non-profit organization by the name of Witness has collected some statistics on the disturbing trend of “shock videos” as they pertain to trans women and gender nonconforming people. In most of these videos, the victims are being verbally harassed or physically assaulted, with participants on the offending websites advocating for further violence. Most of these videos are posted without the victim’s consent, a few of which have gone on record to say that these acts also sabotaged their careers.

Oh, and these shock videos aren’t even just being hosted by fringe websites feeding on a sadistic viewership. They’re on YouTube.

From the report:

Our analysis of the engagement with those videos — including ratings, comments and how the videos are captured, titled and described — proves that abuse and discrimination against transgender people is widespread and undercounted. And, the content condones, or even encourages, violent acts against them. The existence of these videos and the volume of hateful engagement pose a direct threat to gender nonconforming people and compromise a positive and empowered representation of these communities.

We studied viewer engagement only with videos that captured physical assault and we analyzed data from four very different sites. We included YouTube, where we found the most videos, but the content represents just a small segment of the platform’s total offerings. World Star Hip Hop and Fly Height are “shock” sites that solicit and promote these videos to drive traffic and to monetize as part of their business models. And, Live Leak, a video aggregator that promotes itself as a cutting edge news outlet known for breaking particularly gruesome content (e.g., the execution of Saddam Hussein).

Significantly absent from this study is the viewer engagement data from eyewitness videos hosted on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Vine. In our URL harvests we found thousands of video links on these platforms matching the search criteria, and tens of thousands of Facebook “likes” from platforms we did analyze. In test studies we found that most videos were uploaded to a hosting platform then shared to social media platforms furthering viewer engagement. Capturing and analyzing that data exceeded project resources in both cost and capacity.

Even with this small sample size, LGBTQ advocacy organizations we consulted were surprised by the number of eyewitness videos of violence against transgender people and stunned by how widely viewed and favorably rated they were. Most alarming are the vitriolic comments that are ongoing. We found videos posted years ago that are still being engaged with today.

Have some of their statistics:


of total videos analyzed were found on YouTube
Despite policies that explicitly prohibit content that incites hatred or promotes violence against individuals and groups based on race, sexual orientation and gender identity, we found more videos on YouTube than on all three other platforms combined. We do not, however, know how many videos of this kind have been removed for violating these terms.


of YouTube videos categorized as entertainment or comedy
The most popular category was the default “People & Blogs” at 42%.


of total ratings were “likes”
Viewers gave the content favorable ratings — e.g., liked, LOL, thumbs up, hilarious, etc. — overwhelmingly more than negative or critical responses.


of total views were on World Star Hip Hop
Shock sites World Star Hip Hop and Fly Height hosted fewer videos, but dominated viewer engagement. Several of the most brutal were viewed by millions on these platforms.

For trans folk, none of this really comes as a surprise. Even as we attempt to report our mistreatment to police, we are often treated as punchlines instead of victims. Most of us are already aware of the intense disdain expressed by violent trans-antagonists. And while it’s true that most people don’t deliberately seek out material of trans women being assaulted and murdered, it is also true that there are people who do–explicitly for the purpose of celebrating the violence depicted.

89 million views. 99% approval.

This is what trans & gender nonconforming folk are up against.



Signal boosting: Make America White Again

Most of us have noticed the parallels between 1930s Germany and the situation in the United States today. But if we are willing to call the German obsession with the so-called Aryan race a form of white supremacy, it is curious that the designation largely slips past mainstream media when discussing Trump’s campaign, including his supporters.

I suppose it’s easier for a foreign paper to publish it. Content Notice: Paris attacks, not quoted here, but present in the rest of the article. (emphasis added)

Gallup’s goal was to create a profile of Trump supporters, describe their social and economic circumstances and locate them on the map of America. It collected more than 87,000 responses over a year ending this past July.

The resulting analysis is a dry read, some of which confirms what we already knew: Trump supporters are more likely to be white, older males; less likely to have a higher education; more likely to be Christian and to say their faith is important to them.

But the thing that is new and important is how the data upends what many thought was the economic and social experience of Trump supporters — namely, the belief that they are the people most deeply affected by a failing economy and rising immigration rates.

According to the Gallup results, those who support Trump are slightly better off economically and employment-wise than people who don’t support him. While they are likely to live in areas that have suffered economically, they are also likely to be better off than their neighbours, and to have been spared the worst effects of the 2008 recession.

They are also significantly less likely to live in communities where there is a substantial immigrant population. In other words, Trump supporters are less likely than other Americans — and less likely even than other Republicans — to have regular personal experiences with immigrants.

Jonathan Rothwell, a senior economist at Gallup, says that Trump has been misleading his flock.

Intuitively, I’ve been skeptical of any connection with reality concerning the “economic anxieties” line that’s often dropped when discussing Trump’s campaign. I understood that this was the perception, but tried to root around for numbers to substantiate it. The Gallup poll discussed here seems to indicate that while everyone was hit by the Great Recession, Trump supporters took the least of it. If Trump supporters are perceiving economic threats, they are missing the broader picture of who is actually shouldering the burden of the recession.

As is often the case. I refuse to believe that Republican supporters are simply “stupid,” and there had to be a reason they were so prominent among majority demographics.

They’re not rich by any means, but they’re well-off enough that the Republican’s assault on social services won’t generally affect them. That’s why they can support the racist and xenophobic policies of the GOP, policies bundled with a vicious assault on those living in poverty: As a demographic, they ain’t in poverty. By process of elimination, that largely leaves one motivating factor–racial anxiety.

You’re shocked, I know.

Many months ago, I sat down with Matt Heimbach, the leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party. He seemed calm, articulate and determined to sound reasonable — although that was before a YouTube video popped up showing him violently shoving a black woman out of a Trump rally in Kentucky.

I asked Heimbach what Trump meant to his movement.

“I’m not throwing in and saying I want Donald Trump to even be the president necessarily. What I do want is for him to keep saying these things, because it offers us a kind of political cover to be able to say, ‘Well, Donald Trump says it, we’re not that radical.’ It’s moving the discussion toward the right, towards nationalism,” he told me.

“He’s made immigration a topic here in America. He’s making the very question of what’s an American a question.”

That seems true. Trump has given broader license to the kind of political conversation that not long ago was relegated to the alt-right.

In my first chat with Ed Hunter, I asked him whether the people who supported Trump were mostly white people who resented having lost the power they once had in America.

“Well, they should be,” he jumped in, adding that they are struggling for “self-preservation.”

Man, I wish I could self preserve this aggressively. I’d go to jail, for a long time at that. The justice system is brutal to trans folk, trans women especially. That’s why I’m a pacifist–not out of any ideological aversion to hurting someone trying to hurt me–but because I have a better chance fighting a deadly assault in the hospital than I do a murder charge in the courtroom. But I mean, sure, let’s classify roaming lynch mobs in the making as “self preservation.”

“You know what they want more than anything? They want to be left alone.

Again, that’s an odd idea of being “left alone.”

They don’t want to be fighting off hordes and hordes of people from foreign cultures that are utterly changing their country to the core.

“You go into any airport, any public building, any public school and you look at what it is now compared to what it was 30 years ago, the level of security needed, the constant surveillance, the constant police presence.

“That’s not the America we grew up in. We didn’t need that. What changed? Who did they bring in that makes everybody so afraid?”

Immigration to America, both legal and illegal, has increased over the last generation. But crime has not. In fact, violent crime, including rape, has decreased steadily, and in some cases dramatically.

So what is it, really, that “makes everybody so afraid?”

Trump knew from the start.

Again, those pesky statistics can’t survive the lens of fear. It doesn’t matter to Trump supporters that the actual fact of violent crime is decreasing, they perceive it to be increasing and that’s good enough.

Read the rest here.


Alt right rallies behind U of T prof who refutes his own argument

When you blow the dog whistles, the dogs will eventually come. Or, so tenured University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson will hopefully learn.

In doing the homework for this piece I scratched my head with around 40 windows open, most of which were articles uncritically framing the issue we’re about to explore as being a fundamental case of freedom of speech vs. censorship, because that’s the debate Dr. Peterson claims he wants to have. In every single one of these articles, a mob of anti “political correctness” commentators floods the article with anything ranging from blatantly incorrect statements as to how free speech works to openly advocating for violence against the protesters criticizing Dr. Peterson. One of the articles even predicted this effect weeks before it would swamp other websites. Al Donato over on the torontist wrote with seeming clairvoyance “Let’s be real. Writing this is a trap. There’s no winning when critiquing U of T professor Dr. Jordan Peterson plays into what he wants: proof that “political correctness” is something insidious and the “social justice warriors” are out to get him.

So since Peterson’s many proponents seem to think that any criticism of his argument constitutes a “mischaracterization,” and since we have about 4 week’s worth of evidence that you will swarm any article critical of him, I’ll start by getting one thing out of the way: My comments policy. Specifically:

So what gets you filtered?

  • Making a point refuted in the post you just opened.

Remember this when you’re railing against The Gods in the deplorables trash bin.

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Death threats and doxxing: The rent we pay for our rights

If you search “Jordan Peterson” and “University of Toronto,” you’ll find nothing but stories about his freeze peach being suppressed by counter-protests following his remarks that he would refuse to respect the gender identities of transgender students. Suspiciously absent from the reactionary hand-wringing over non-existent “privacy concerns” and “thought crime” is that the protesters responding to Peterson’s remarks were doxxed, have received death threats, and fled their homes for their safety.

The threats come as the university grapples with controversial comments made by Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor who refuses to use gender neutral pronouns and been critical of efforts amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include protection for gender identity.

One Facebook message shared with Metro by Lourenco appears to threaten an attack.

“There will be a time when the Western world wakes up from its shackles and smites down people like you … It won’t be tolerance kindergarten-land tomorrow. There will be blood. Be very afraid,” reads the post sent to Lourenco.

Lourenco said other posts have revealed trans students’ addresses, forcing them to leave their homes.

“We are working closely with University of Toronto Campus Police, Toronto Police Service, and the UofT Community Safety Office to support the individuals who have received these threats. The situation is being actively monitored,” the university said in a mass email to students Friday.

Lourenco believes the threats are related Peterson’s case, and he criticized the school’s administration for not taking a stronger stand against the professor.

This is why we have the phrase “freeze peach.” Reactionaries are quick to stand up against “political correctness” yet suddenly vanish in a puff of smoke when threats of violence are used to silence people who disagree with them. This hypocrisy we mock. You are not in favour of free speech if you tolerate the publishing of private information expressly for the purpose of issuing threats of violence.

That is vile. That is fucking terrorism. And I am frankly sick of the way so many media outlets are spinning this as an assault on the free speech of the professor when it is the transgender protesters receiving death threats for expecting the most basic of human dignities to be extended to them.

Unbelievable bullshit. I am sick of the false equivalency. I am sick of the hypocrisy. I am sick of being called a rape threat, a totalitarian, because I support laws that redress the crushing rates of discrimination affecting my community.

And I am sick that doxxing and death threats are the rent we pay for our advocacy.

Peterson and his supporters are ignorant and fractally wrong. Suck on that fucking free speech.



A football athlete stands up against institutionalized racism and his fans burn jerseys, he loses his job, and white people everywhere freak out.

A football athlete is caught on film assaulting his wife or raping teenage girls, and…


Nationwide study: “Heartbreaking” levels of violence against Queer youth

It’s tempting to respond to this article with a scathing “you don’t say” but it is, at least, contributing to a body of data which confirms what anyone woke is already aware of. It’s an American study that reports on violence trends against Queer youth, and the outcomes aren’t pretty.

The first nationwide study to ask high school students about their sexuality found that gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers were at far greater risk fordepression, bullying and many types of violence than their straight peers.

“I found the numbers heartbreaking,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, a senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a division that administered the survey.

The survey documents what smaller studies have suggested for years, but it is significant because it is the first time the federal government’s biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the gold standard of adolescent health data collection, looked at sexual identity. The survey found that about 8 percent of the high school population described themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, which would be about 1.3 million students.

These adolescents were three times more likely than straight students to have been raped. They skipped school far more often because they did not feel safe; at least a third had been bullied on school property. And they were twice as likely as heterosexual students to have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.

More than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey. The percentage of those who used illegal drugs was many times greater than their heterosexual peers. While 1.3 percent of straight students said they had used heroin, for example, 6 percent of the gay, lesbian and bisexual students reported having done so.

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