Sullivan provides an example for Sam

So Andrew Sullivan uses “SJW” as a sneer too. I know he’s very conservative, but I’m a little surprised he’s conservative in that particular style. Or maybe I’m not; he’s said plenty of absurd things before.

The SJWs Now Get To Police Speech On Twitter

Uh huh, and we get to steal your testicles, too!

Well, you could see this coming. Twitter announced last Thursday that it was teaming up with a left-feminist activist group to investigate gender-based harassment on the social networking site:

A group called Women, Action, and the Media, which advocates for better representation of women, is testing a new reporting process for gender-based harassment. The group developed a tool for reporting harassment and will forward confirmed reports to Twitter. “If it checks out, we’ll escalate it to Twitter right away (24 hours max, hopefully much less than that) and work to get you a speedy resolution,” says the group, which abbreviates itself as WAM. “But please note: we’re not Twitter, and we can’t make decisions for them.”

So not policing at all then. Not some generalized “policing” of “speech” but a tool to attempt to do a better job than Twitter does of dealing with harassment – not speech in general, but harassment, which is by definition targeted at people. If you stand under my window and shout insults at me for hours, I can probably get the cops to tell you to go away. You can still speech, you just can’t harass me. (Until tomorrow, when we can start over again.)

Instead of seeing the web as opening up vast vistas for all sorts of voices to be heard, they seem to believe it is rigged against female voices, or that women are not strong or capable enough of forging their own brands, voices, websites and fighting back against ideas they abhor with wit and energy and passion and freedom. Instead, WAM’s goal is to police and punish others for their alleged sexism – along the well-worn lines of contemporary and controlling left-feminism.

No, it isn’t. It’s to attempt to do a better job than Twitter does of dealing with harassment. It’s not to police and it’s not to punish; it’s to try to prevent harassment. It’s not to police and punish sexism; it’s to try to prevent harassment.

Here’s the mindset behind the project:

“I see this as a free speech issue,” Friedman said. She said she knew some would see the work WAM does as “censorship,” but that a completely open and unmoderated platform imposes its own form of censorship. It effectively prevents women, especially queer women and women of color, from getting to speak on the service.

How exactly? Does Twitter prevent women of color from using the service? Or is it simply that WAM believes that women cannot possibly handle the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech?

It’s not the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech; it’s harassment. And whether or not you think that people of type X can “handle” it, the point is that no one should have to. Nobody should have to “handle” an endless stream of racist abuse, for example; there should be no endless stream of racist abuse. Andrew Sullivan should try not being a callous asshole and see what that’s like.

I can find no reason to oppose a stronger effort by Twitter to prevent individual users from stalking or harassing others – but if merely saying nasty things about someone can be seen as harassment, then where on earth does this well-intentioned censorship end? Is it designed to censor only misogyny and not racism? What about blasphemy?

Who said merely saying nasty things about someone can be seen as harassment? Nobody I know of. But saying nasty things about someone forty thousand times in public, or saying nasty things about someone as part of a public dog-pile that goes on for weeks – that can be seen as harassment.

Here’s me saying something nasty about Andrew Sullivan: he’s a smug conservative-politically-correct tool.


  1. says

    There are countless social media sites and platforms through which to exercise the right to free expression, including hateful speech. Making it easier, on one site out of many, to prevent and protect from harassment is not even close to censorship.

  2. screechymonkey says

    Sullivan only seems to give a shit when it’s his ox being gored: George W. Bush was a wise and noble leader in his eyes until he implemented Rove’s “bash gay marriage” strategy in 2004. So here’s a dilemma for Sullivan:

    Some disgruntled asshole Chicago Bears fans have started harassing the head coach’s daughters on Twitter

    I say it’s a dilemma for Sullivan only because some of the harassing tweets use a homophobic slur; I’m sure the tweets that merely promise to rape the daughters are fine in his eyes. Silly women just need to toughen up!

  3. 4ozofreason says

    Yeah, it’s too bad feminists think women can’t stand up for themselves and fight back, maybe by creating a… a tool that would help force a social media site to enforce it’s anti-harassment policies.

  4. quixote says

    Why don’t any of these stalwart defenders of freedom care about women’s ability to speak?

    If a man, of any category, black, Jewish, gay, white, were hounded out of his home because he couldn’t “handle the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech” that would be okay, too, right? Taking away some people’s freedom to speak is just the price of freedom?

  5. rabidwombat says

    I’d find it super awesome if people would learn what the word “censorship” actually means. Here’s a hint. Has anyone from the government showed up at your house and tossed you in the gulag for what you said? Then, yeah, NOT censorship.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    If a man, of any category, black, Jewish, gay, white, were hounded out of his home because he couldn’t “handle the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech” that would be okay, too, right?

    But that would never happen, because a MAN® would be able to handle it. /sarcasm.

  7. Decker says

    At the risk of being embarrassed, could someone please tell me what the acronym “SJW” stands for.

    I’m kinda outta the loop.

  8. tuibguy says

    when an SJW is referred to online it is used noe to poison the well. it generally refers these days to feminists who don’t agree with the sexist proposition that sexism is a thing of the past, to women in the frontiers of gaming, atheism and online male-dominated areas of social media who are saying ” curry out the fuck out” to misogynists.

  9. tuibguy says

    When will I learn not to comment from my phone? “Ornery make dominated areas” should read “online male dominated areas.” We deeply regret any confusion we may have caused.

  10. Decker says

    I understand how harassment of women is a serious matter, and though I never use social media, I can see how it’s easily misused to target the vulnerable.

    However ( but?), sometimes attempts at policing speech often lead to disastrous consequences. For example, what if religious groups, after claiming to be vulnerable, go after people for making statements THEY deem blasphemous?

    And on Sullivan’s blog, there is an article ( to the right) about some pretty orwellian legislation the UK is getting set to pass, and its legislation with a scope so wide and all encompassing as to be quite worrisome.

    That said, I grasp that this initiative does NOT amount to policing, but I fear nonetheless that if could be used by more sinister elements in a thin-edge-of-the-wedge manner to bring real policing about.

  11. John Horstman says

    We should start a project to inform Andrew Sullivan about the realities of harassment. He has clearly already stated that he thinks an expectation that people “handle the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech” is entirely appropriate, so he could not possibly object to everyone forwarding every single harassing e-mail, comment, tweet, etc. that they receive to him. It’s not harassment – he’s said so himself, freeze peach – it’s just informing him of the reality of many people’s lives online. I urge everyone to forward every single instance of harassment you encounter online to Andrew Sullivan, with the following appended, “Hi Andy, here’s some of ‘the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech’ I encountered today.”

  12. qwints says

    If you stand under my window and shout insults at me for hours, I can probably get the cops to tell you to go away.

    That’s very likely to be untrue in the US unless they’re stalking you, making threats or violating some other law while doing so (e.g. trespassing or a noise ordinance). Broad harassment statues have been found unconstitutional in several states. See e.g. Long v. State, 931 S.W.2d 285, 290 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996). People v. Golf 2014 NY Slip Op 03426 (NY 2014)

  13. says

    The funny thing about Sullivan complaining about “policing the rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech” is that he won’t allow commenting on his blog. So “policing” is just dandy, in his opinion, when he does it.

  14. johnthedrunkard says

    I’ve never been able to stomach Sullivan in more than homeopathic doses. As a publicly out gay man, does he have any excuse for lack of sympathy around harassment and threats? Bigoted hate speech does have some protection. No one arrested Fred Phelps, though there were plenty of OTHER reasons that they should have.

    His ‘no comments’ policy is probably even more hypocritical than I thought before I began typing.

  15. screechymonkey says


    As a publicly out gay man, does he have any excuse for lack of sympathy around harassment and threats?

    I suspect that Sullivan is once of those folks who, having endured a lot of harassment and abuse himself (as well as, of course, a ton of legitimate and well-deserved criticism), has come to the conclusion that “hey, if I had to put up with it, so can you!” rather than the more reasonable “nobody should have to put up with that shit.”

    I’m reminded of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s great response when the panel he was a member of was asked about women in science. Analogizing from his own experience, he said (I’m paraphrasing roughly from my memory) that while he was sufficiently crazy gung-ho about science to make it through the obstacles and the lack of support he experienced as a person of color, the lesson he drew was that it shouldn’t be that hard.

  16. Brony says

    The current use of SJW as an epithet is bullshit. It is not intended to mean an extreme or illegitimate social justice as is said by the people using it. Rather it is used to shut down debate on ANY social justice that the user dislikes for any reason.

    If they wanted an honest term they would have gone with “social justice extremist” or something else that indicated what they said. Instead it is a general term because a warrior simply fights. What they fight for and the worthiness of the conflict is context left out. I have yet to get anyone to be specific about what they refer to when the use the term. Getting them to tell me who said what argument on what issue and why it was wrong is like pulling teeth. It’s always emotional characterizations that are non-literal and useless.

    The term can be taken. Since the word is general and the use dishonest owning it just takes people actively not caring about it when they hear it and agreeing that is what they are. Some of the confused might even get curious about why people wanted to take it. I’m already doing that.

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