The internet has drawn back the curtains on the human soul


In the news so far this week: In Australia, a man is convicted of attempting to commission the sexual abuse of a computer-generated virtual avatar called ‘Sweetie’ that was pretending to be a 10-year-old Filipino girl. In Westminster, the justice secretary declares that internet trolls are “poisoning our national life” and announces proposals that will quadruple maximum prison sentences for online abuse to two years. The National Crime Agency announces that many child sex offenders will escape punishment as the authorities flounder against the tide of 50,000 individuals regularly accessing child abuse images online in the UK alone. Meanwhile in Middlesbrough, a man is convicted of possessing illegal images of children – his collection of Japanese Manga-style hentai cartoons.

Just two decades after Sir Tim Berners-Lee unleashed his gift to the world, the web has brought us many wonders. It has also drawn back the curtains on the human soul in ways that might make even the most hardened cynic blanch. Oscar Wilde famously wrote that if you give a man a mask he shall tell you the truth. The internet has taught us that if you give a man (or indeed a woman) a mask, he or she may well threaten to rape and kill you.

Grayling’s proposals smack of kneejerk populism. It seems highly unlikely that someone prepared to risk a six month prison sentence for the sake of an abusive tweet would be deterred by the longer maximum term. Within that, the vagueness of the ministers attack on trolls should be considered deeply worrying. Threats of violence, harassment and stalking are criminal offences irrespective of the medium, and rightly so, but the law on malicious communications goes far wider.

A measure of the media hysteria around internet trolls can be taken in the tragic case of the so-called McCann troll. Brenda Leyland took her own life a few days after being “outed” by Sky News as a Twitter troll, an allegation that was repeated unthinkingly by virtually every journalist and commentator in the aftermath. And yet the archive of Leyland’s tweets revealed that she had never sent abuse directly to the McCann family, had never harassed anyone, had never threatened anyone. She was branded a troll for holding and expressing strong opinions about a prominent news story. It should worry us deeply that our government are hurling around unspecified threats to jail more trolls when the working definition of a troll includes people sharing unpopular opinions.

It used to be considered a cornerstone of justice that you can punish people for doing bad things, but not for being bad people. The internet is changing that. Throughout human history, our hate-filled or hateful thoughts, our strange and dangerous opinions, our sexual peccadilloes and perversions would remain safely locked in, shared perhaps with only a handful of close friends or intimate partners, if at all. Even professional writers and creative artists would have their output filtered through editors, publishers and agents.

Now our wildest fantasies can be projected to the world at the click of a button. Our erotic flights of fancy involving our favourite pop stars can find millions of readers (and lucrative book deals.) The most sick and sadistic urges, from incest to cannibalism, can find solace, justification, occasionally even realisation in like minds and accomplices.

Our political and legislative framework is playing a desperate game of catch-up, and losing. Two of this week’s stories may offer a guide to where the limits of criminality should lie. The paedophiles ensnared in the ‘Sweetie’ sting appear to have been trying to solicit the sexual abuse of real children. Had they not been caught, it is reasonable to presume they might have victimised real children instead. That makes them dangerous offenders and they deserve no pity or mercy.

In contrast, the man convicted in Middlesbrough appears to have had tastes and interests that were entirely restricted to line-drawn cartoons. While this should not necessarily be a defence, it is important to note also that the type of hentai anime he collected is freely available on virtually every mainstream pornography website and widely and openly shared on social networks like Tumblr. Whether or not we share the judge’s view that such images are “repulsive” it is difficult to imagine any scenario in which anyone, anywhere could be harmed by this man’s behaviour.

Of all this week’s news, perhaps the most disturbing is the revelation that the authorities are so overwhelmed by the extent of online offences involving the exploitation and abuse of children that they will not be able to prosecute all offenders. Perhaps one small first step might be to avoid wasting time and resources on protecting imaginary victims.

Comments

  1. says

    My issue with what we have been seeing lately on the internet is that its a shame free zone.

    Communities police themselves much more effectively than the authorities can with disapproval of transgressions, and the advantage of this is that the nature of what is trans normative changes quicker than the law does.

    The disadvantage of the internet is that someone who is disproved of by a community can easily change their identity and shrug off the shame.

    There needs to be a mechanism for shame to stick to a person. One of the funniest stories I read recently was of a woman who forwarded an internet flashers pictures to his mother.

    sorry if the above is a bit “fuzzy”. Its early and Ive woken up with a stinking cold. Will try harder later.

  2. Frank Fisher says

    Very good article Ally.

    Really must start writing again, far too many juicy subjects to be left to a load of Lefty cocks like you.

  3. StillGjenganger says

    Very true – and very brave. What are the odds you will be beaten up on Twitter for this?

    A good start would be to decide, clearly, that the laws on pornography are for protecting 1) real children (important) and 2) the peace of mind of people moving innocently in public spaces (less important, but worth doing). And NOT for getting at nasty people. Current laws as I seem to remember criminalise possession of normal holiday snaps and clips from mainstream films, if they are organised in such a way as to suggest the owner likes to look at naked children. And, as you say, line drawings. The very concept of criminalising ‘possession’ is borderline. You contribute to harming children by paying for content that was made by harming them – not by clicking on the wrong link and finding (after you have already broken the law) that having that web page now in your computer cache happened to be illegal to own. Criminalising possession might be necessary if it is otherwise too hard to prove that the accused did something that contributed to the suffering of children. But at least it should be limited to possession of pictures where a real child was harmed in the making.

  4. StillGjenganger says

    @Danny Butts 1

    The disadvantage of the internet is that someone who is disproved of by a community can easily change their identity and shrug off the shame.

    The experiences of Brenda Leyland, Anita Sarkeesian, and one or two politicians who sent intimate snaps to (as they thought) eager lovers, would suggest that there is more to the story than that.

  5. says

    one of my problems with ‘troll discourse’ is we end up weighing up individual ‘cases’ and deciding who is or isnt a ‘troll’ (e.g. Brenda Leyland).

    This in my view detracts from some much more pressing and important issues. e.g. The role of the use of the term ‘troll’ at all. I think it is used to stifle debate and discussion online more than anything else, which is partly why journalists in the national press like it so much. Threatened as they are by the onset of the hoi polloi being allowed to air their views in public online.

    And also the fact that the laws which criminalised a man for looking at anime and the ones which have put Peter Nunn and John Nimmo and others in jail, are in themselves unjust and we should be campaigning to have them removed from the statute books.

  6. Holms says

    The first case and sentence seems reasonable enough, seeing as the men were actively trying to solicit what they thought was a real human, but the others? Various shades of stupid to horrifying.

    My question is, who the hell does what is essentially a harm? Laying charges against that guy reeks of puritanism; ‘the idea of this style of porn disgusts me therefore it is bad.’

    #4
    @Danny Butts 1

    The disadvantage of the internet is that someone who is disproved of by a community can easily change their identity and shrug off the shame.

    The experiences of Brenda Leyland, Anita Sarkeesian, and one or two politicians who sent intimate snaps to (as they thought) eager lovers, would suggest that there is more to the story than that.

    The main difference being whether the real world identity is known.

  7. george says

    [DELETED BY AF]

    [Explanation: Regular readers will know I have a very high threshold for opinions and abuse here, but my limits are stretched by any comment that appears to normalise, validate or justify abuse, and especially child sex abuse. This comment crossed the line.]

  8. Thil says

    the story about the man from Middlesbrough truly astonishes me. even setting aside the fact that beyond disgusting strangers (strangers who choose to force their judgmental noses into his life) his actions have done no apparent harm to anyone, you can easily find naked pictures of naked cartoon children just by doing a Google imagine search with the safety off.

    I once found a picture of the Japanese power puff girls (yes there is an anime version of the power puff girls) drawn naked, by accident just as a result of searching the show’s name

  9. says

    Progressives are in a weird position.

    On the one hand, they want to prevent the threats that women like Wu etc face. To do that, they want the police and judiciary to go after people who issue them. Since rape and death threats aren’t protected by free speech, this seems okay. But to go after such people you need to give the police power to track people over the internet. A power they’ve been fighting to prevent the police form having, to point of celebrating completely encrypted phones and communications.

    Since I don’t care very much about privacy, my position is – “give police the powers; if you’re worried about abuse, make ’em get a warrant first.” I’m curious though – how do you (i.e. whoever’s reading this) reconcile worrying about privacy vs preventing threats?

  10. bruce bartup says

    If the esseential characteristic of a troll is falsehood, then consideriing trolls in their troling is not close to the core of the matter. As Ally said it is the window into what people really think, and how many think it, coupled with the knowledge of the degree of falsehood they are willing to engage in in pursuit of their beliefs and the degree of lasting permanent damage they want to do by using their falsehood, that is the disturbing realistion I get.

    It is not the form of what is consumed that is important,, cartoon, video game, video or writtten word. It is how ‘into’ it the consumer gets that is shocking. The way you know how people are gettting into something – is by comments and likes.

    The comments strip is that window into, in fact, thousands of souls. It’s a recrutiing seargeant, a false consensus builder, ,a bully pit, a training ground, and a tell-tale. If only the power of the directed advertising inferencing engines (the ones that scour our every click to give our lovely advertising messages) could be refocussed on following commentary patterns for potentially anti-social activity – and send an email to the parents of the child (or kidult) involved, not much police time would be used, I hope.

    Overseen on a comment thead recently – obvious ‘gentle’ enquiring falsehoods spoken to a complainant of sexual harassment, Checking their google+ channel what the same gentleman was saying about women to his friends was – not nice. I wouldn’t want the guy imprisoned. But I’d have no qualms about ‘outing him’ – doc dropping in the jargon.

  11. Jacob Schmidt says

    Of all this week’s news, perhaps the most disturbing is the revelation that the authorities are so overwhelmed by the extent of online offences involving the exploitation and abuse of children that they will not be able to prosecute all offenders.

    We’ve never been able to prosecute all offenders. Hell, one of the least convincing arguments for privacy laws is that so many people commits crimes; giving the government the power to violate privacy is basically giving the government the power to charge whoever they want. Now, I hate the argument, but the premise (that crime is incredibly widespread) is pretty much true.

    I think a fair amount of the unprosecuted criminals would vanish if laws were tightened up.

  12. Lucy says

    White men’s freedom of speech and expression comes at the cost of everyone else’s. Because they have loud voices, entitled personalities, discriminatory prejudices and hog the media and all the talking professions.

    So I find myself not giving a damn if they’re censored for poisoning our national life whether it’s justified by their current laws or not.

    Ideally they should all be censored completely for the next several millennia to let everyone else have a go. Who knows, they might then find the time to do half the housework.

  13. Bugmaster says

    @Lucy #13:

    Ideally they should all be censored completely for the next several millennia to let everyone else have a go.

    The cool thing about the Internet is… You can make it happen ! Sure, you personally won’t live “several millennia”, but if you build well, your legacy will live on. It would be pretty easy to build some sort of a social networking site that is limited solely to women (or even solely to women of color, if you prefer). The tools are there. The infrastructure is there, and, for smaller web applications, it’s free. When your site gains popularity, the money will surely be there, as well, since I imagine that women will be happy to donate some money to support your project. You don’t need to wait for someone else to create your Utopia for you; you can make it happen !

    So… what’s stopping you ?

  14. Archy says

    “Ideally they should all be censored completely for the next several millennia to let everyone else have a go. Who knows, they might then find the time to do half the housework.”

    Is this after their female counterparts pickup the slack in doing paid work too? Or do you want these men to work more than the women. #poorwomenzlifesohard

    I want to know how the judge can convict someone on a law meant to protect real human children….for drawings? By the same logic, surely anime would be all banned as it’s real depictions of violence? If I draw Kenshin cutting someone down, did I just become an accessory to murder???

  15. bruce bartup says

    “So… what’s stopping you ?” you are for a start. Since when is participation in the public forum a close equivalent to a whispered conversation in cloistered seclusion of a female echo chamber? If your use of free speech is so disrespectful of the freedoms of others it is appropriate morally to ask you to tone it down. There is a purpose to discussion and it is to seek consensus, Partly for the value of consensus, mostly for the value of a shared project and the unifying effect that can have between people. Part of the discipline such a search requires is that people must listen attentively to alternative points of view, some of which may be personally offensive. In respect of that duty being discharged a speaker has a duty to make his speech as pleasant as possible.

    If all voices heard are dominant, abrasive, excluding and brash – maybe time for some listening? If the forum becomes a contest ground where the loudest only are heard, the discussion loses the merit of the contributions of quiter people.

  16. says

    Bruce Bartop said: If the esseential characteristic of a troll is falsehood’,

    I dont think that is the ‘essential characteristic’ of a ‘troll’. I dont think trolls have essential characteristic as I think ‘troll’ is a word, a discourse, an insult not a description of real people. That the Ministry of Justice is now using the word ‘troll’ as if it carried real legal weight is worrying. There are no laws against ‘trolling’ currently but I wont be surprised if the term gets in the statute books. Just disappointed in our legal system

  17. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy 13
    What you are pushing is the war between the sexes. Two different groups, no common ground, we dominate you or you dominate us, and each fights for his own side. If that is the choice I shall be fighting for my sex, because I’ll be damned if I will fight against it. As you will surely do the same thing. The fact that the people in the tanks and the fighter jets are mostly male gives me some hope that my side might prevail.

    It does not sound like a fun way to live, though. I have always hoped that there would be a better choice available..

  18. Marduk says

    I’m sounding far more obsessed than I actually am now but JB has returned to the Graun from the Daily Mail/Spectator to write a pro Gail Dines piece about internet filth while taking a swipe (as predicted, by me, 18 months ago) at relatively new academic journal. It is not as Julie presents it. Dines is not a ‘leading academic’, she is a sociology professor at an obscure and tiny college that I think mostly does teacher training. Her books have been subject to scathing reviews in the academic press as they are essentially data-free rants. The academics (all in good legitimate standing as publishers of peer reviewed material) running the journal, referred to as “pro porn” are in fact empirical researchers and hence there is a problem in generating anti-porn arguments out of data that nobody has yet brought into existence. I’ve been here with Dines before, repeatedly asking her for data she told me existed and was ‘overwhelming’ but that I had to find myself (Zoe Williams also told me exactly the same thing). But alas, it could never be found! Whether it was me or someone else that eventually broke her down, Dines returned to the scene of the argument having suddenly decided that ‘science’ is bullshit and some things can’t be determined with data (the ‘overwhelming’ resource remains mysterious… perhaps in the vault of the Miskatonic University in Arkham?).

    Anyhow, a little semi- on topic commentary.

    Thing is, spurious claims aside, I don’t disagree with Julie that you can be against it without being pro censorship, that is good point to make and comes as something of a relief to liberals everywhere I dare say who by corollary find that whenever you have to defend free speech, it really means standing in a sewer finding yourself defending the worst of speech. I don’t defend free speech because I want porn, I defend porn because I want free speech. Its a price worth paying but it is a price to bear.

  19. redpesto says

    Marduk:

    Thing is, spurious claims aside, I don’t disagree with Julie that you can be against it without being pro censorship, that is good point to make and comes as something of a relief to liberals

    Actually it shouldn’t – largely because Bindel believes that her view that, ideally, pornography shouldn’t exist is pursued through strategies that amount to censorship (cf Minneapolis Ordinance). Her feminism shouldn’t blind one to the deep sexual conservatism and contradictory arguments at the heart of so much of her views of sexuality. The only way it appeals to liberals is if they’re too squeamish to protest when sex workers and others get thrown under the bus ‘because internet porn’.

  20. Bugmaster says

    @bruce bartup #16:
    You are wrong on two unrelated counts.

    Firstly, Lucy made it clear repeatedly that she is not interested in hearing the voices of men in any capacity. She believes that men and women are biologically different, to such an extent that there can be no common ground for communication between them. If this is true, then the only answer is total gender apartheid. Since implementing such a measure physically would be incredibly difficult (i.e. almost certainly impossible), an online version is the next best thing.

    Secondly, the rest of your comment essentially boils down to saying, “we must strive to silence the voices whom we don’t like”. That policy has been tried many times before. It doesn’t work.

    Sure, you might counter this by saying, “No no, we will only silence the really nasty loud people, not the nice friendly ones !”, but… who decides which people are nasty and loud ? Is it you, personally, or what ? Once again, historically, such policies have a very poor track record; the answer inevitably ends up being, “whoever disagrees with me is an obnoxious loudmouth who must be silenced”.

    The situation is even worse in your case, since you are proposing to silence the members of a privileged group, on behalf of an underprivileged one. The word “privilege”, though, is more than just a slur; it describes someone who has more power than you. If you work tirelessly to build the kind of society where silencing is the norm, then the people with more power to silence their opponents will inevitably win. The have the privilege, after all, and you do not.

  21. AnarchCassius says

    @bruce bartup “you are for a start. … If your use of free speech is so disrespectful of the freedoms of others it is appropriate morally to ask you to tone it down. There is a purpose to discussion and it is to seek consensus,”

    I don’t really think Bugmaster is stopping Lucy from doing anything for one. For another Lucy’s participation has been anything but respectful or interested in consensus. She has minimized the existence of male victims by cherry pick statistics (http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/09/26/when-is-it-acceptable-to-ask-but-what-about-teh-menz/ comment 139 and response 141), disregarded the experience of male rape victims (http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/09/08/quick-update-on-cdc-sexual-victimisation-stats/#comments see 54 and responses to it), falsely implied violence against men is a gay male problem (http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/08/05/throwing-domestic-violence-victims-to-the-wolves/ see 70 and responses to it). She typically doesn’t respond when called out and shown hard data demonstrating the falseness of her claims.

    Her use of absurd blanket statements and blatant misinterpretation of data honestly have led me to wonder if she’s actually an anti-feminist trying to give the movement a bad name. I’m not sure why you rush to condemn the relatively inoffensive statements of Bugmaster and have no response to Lucy’s own abrasive, excluding and brash words.

  22. says

    Archy

    “Is this after their female counterparts pickup the slack in doing paid work too? Or do you want these men to work more than the women. #poorwomenzlifesohard”

    Sure, they can work more than women for the next several millenia too. Why not? Won’t kill ’em. Do it for free, give it a whirl.

    “I want to know how the judge can convict someone on a law meant to protect real human children….for drawings? By the same logic, surely anime would be all banned as it’s real depictions of violence? If I draw Kenshin cutting someone down, did I just become an accessory to murder???”

    Because art affects people. The only reason anyone does art is because they know that. It’s the only reason people defend the right to free expression.

    Sure why not. Ban all of men’s deranged poisonous scribblings and works of art. The world won’t lose anything. Nobody will die. We’ve all already seen it all and heard it all. We’ve got enough bullshit spewed from the imaginations of the self-entitled, cocooned from its results to last us to the sun’s dying days. It’s not important. It is valueless. They can safely shut up now.

  23. says

    StillGjenganger

    “If that is the choice I shall be fighting for my sex, because I’ll be damned if I will fight against it. As you will surely do the same thing. The fact that the people in the tanks and the fighter jets are mostly male gives me some hope that my side might prevail.”

    My side can reproduce by itself. Your side will kill yourselves in under a hundred years.

    “It does not sound like a fun way to live, though. I have always hoped that there would be a better choice available..”

    Genetic engineering. It’s obvious what’s going to happen. In a thousand years this problem will have gone away.

  24. Bugmaster says

    @AnarchCassius #22:
    FWIW, In this particular case, I don’t find Lucy’s words particularly offensive… maybe I’m just desensitized. Personally, I’m fairly sure that she’s some kind of a Poe, but so what ? If her ideas can provoke interesting discussions, I don’t care if she’s sincere, as long as she’s consistent (and passes the Turing test).

    That said though:

    @Lucy #23:

    Male online terrorism.

    Can you elaborate ? I’m not sure what this means, nor do I understand how male online anything could have any effect on your (putative) female-only network. If you’re worried about DDoS attacks or some such, there are ways of defending against them. Granted, some of them require more money than others, but since you are catering to 50% of the world’s population, presumably money won’t be a problem…

  25. mildlymagnificent says

    Bugmaster.

    Male online terrorism is a real thing you know.

    The world doesn’t change just because someone you’re not impressed by happens to say that the sky is blue or that bicycles have two wheels or that … many women online have been terrorised right off the net and/or out of their homes. All three of those statements are true regardless of who makes the statements.

  26. Bugmaster says

    @mildlymagnificent #27:

    Male online terrorism is a real thing you know.

    I didn’t say I wasn’t real, I said I didn’t know what those words meant. And I still don’t. What is “male online terrorism”, and how is it different from the regular kind ?

  27. Archy says

    @Lucy, women are such saints. They never threaten rape or death on others, I guess that woman threatening death to Chris Cornell was just another male doing male online terrorism.

    Sing along with me, “Women are wonderful yay”……But seriously, are you trying to stir people up with your misandrist views? Do you truly believe men to be as bad as you seem to portray in your comments?

    @MildyMagnificent, none of those tweets have been proven to be male, so it’s impossible to say it’s male online terrorism. People can guess that it is but that’s just a guess. If you know their true identities, the F.B.I would love to know.

  28. StillGjenganger says

    @Lucy 25

    Looks like we understand each other.

    But seeing that you are here, let me come back to a question you have never answered: Granted, for arguments sake only, that men and women are totally different, that the entire world we live in was created by men, and that world created by women would have nothing in common with this one. Do you think that your all-female world would ever have discovered sanitation, the vacuum cleaner, or the internet – or would you just be living from peaceful subsistence agriculture and dying before you turned forty? And if you think so, what on earth do you base it on? Give us men at least some credit for what we have achieved.

  29. Marduk says

    redpesto

    But that isn’t what she says here and why its noteworthy, she seems to have changed positions:

    ” But none of the anti-porn feminists I work with would advocate state censorship, rather they call for better sex education, and awareness-raising about the harm caused by porn.”

    And in particular:

    “Rather than look for a direct causal link between viewing porn and sexual violence, we should be looking at the culture of misogyny that porn arises from and contributes to. ”

    For me though its always been a case of being entitled to your own opinion (which is what Julie has) but not your own facts. I think I’ve advocated more or less directly this position; tell us why you don’t like it but don’t tell us its harmful if you can’t provide the evidence. People are entitled to their opinions but they are not entitled to their own facts.

    Something interesting has happened here and its to do with the ‘Porn Studies’ journal. Julie is presenting this in a very partial way but she isn’t stupid. Although they won’t admit it, I think the “anti-porn theorists” have come to have to accept that they can’t beat the “pro-porn empiricists” on the same battlefield which is a big change after years of “I have thousands of studies that prove I’m right but I can’t tell you about any of them”.

  30. Holms says

    Oh my god, how did I not catch this…

    #6 Holms i.e. me:
    My question is, who the hell does what is essentially a harm? Laying charges against that guy reeks of puritanism; ‘the idea of this style of porn disgusts me therefore it is bad.’

    Completely redoing that first sentence:
    My question is, who was harmed by the guy masturbating to animated porn? Even if it depicted children, it remains a solo activity. Laying charges against that guy reeks of puritanism…

    #13 Lucy
    Ideally they should all be censored completely for the next several millennia to let everyone else have a go. Who knows, they might then find the time to do half the housework.

    Obviously preposterous, but hey well done on giving the usual suspects some more ammunition. Now they can point to you when they claim that feminism is all about ‘man hating feminazis’ or whatever.

    #15 Archy
    Is this after their female counterparts pickup the slack in doing paid work too?

    Oh my god, this crap again. Nice job with the qualifier ‘paid work’, it almost went by unnoticed.

    #24 Lucy
    Sure why not. Ban all of men’s deranged poisonous scribblings and works of art.

    In which you assume that no porn artists are female. You don’t like porn, therefore no woman does!

    #25 Lucy
    My side can reproduce by itself. Your side will kill yourselves in under a hundred years.

    Jesus christ, are you satirising yourself or something? This is just too silly to bother with.

    #29 Archy
    @MildyMagnificent, none of those tweets have been proven to be male, so it’s impossible to say it’s male online terrorism. People can guess that it is but that’s just a guess. If you know their true identities, the F.B.I would love to know.

    You are being disengenuous. The harassment campaigns are male dominated and there is no point playing coy.

  31. bruce bartup says

    Bugmaster, 21, Anarchssius, 22
    “If your use of free speech is so disrespectful of the freedoms of others it is appropriate morally to ask you to tone it down.”
    Morally. IE no physical compulsion, no legal duty

    The duty to use only ‘fair speech’ automatically arises if you accept that poltical right of free speech comes with a purpose to enable political discussion and anny action taken thereon (campaign, lobby, democratically overthrow a government)
    Because all citizens must be able to raise any matter of concern
    There is a moral duty to listen to the political statements of others (for example lucy) without catcalling abuse personalities etc that might place an emotional lolad on lucy to the extent that she excludes herself from participation
    IF that moral duty is observed THEN
    The speaker saying something unpopular (lucy) has a moral duty to restrict the level of offence to a minimum
    The moral relationship iff followed thus ensures full partipation, full discussion, fair argument, consoliation of relattionships and occaisionally political acton taken on a basis of consensus.

  32. Bugmaster says

    @Lucy #30:
    Ok, so hyperbole aside, you are concerned that your female users will be harassed by men online. However, since no man would be able to access your social network in any way, I’m not sure how men will manage to accomplish this harassment. If a an ever tries to impersonate a woman and harass someone, you could simply revoke his security key.

    Once again, no one is stopping you from implementing this. You can download Eclipse right now and start hammering out some code on your laptop. Men won’t know what hit them !

  33. Archy says

    @Holms,
    “Oh my god, this crap again. Nice job with the qualifier ‘paid work’, it almost went by unnoticed.”
    Thank-you. Generally both genders work the same hours as I am sure you’re aware but for others men do slightly more paid work, women do slightly more unpaid work (childcare, etc) but gain more of the alternative benefits where a family unit shares a man’s income with her and the kids where it’s needed, making the whole paid work issue quite complex in the so called nuclear family. In my own family, dad earned more but didn’t get to spend more, mum would divvy up the finances and pay off bills where needed and both of them got a fair amount each. A big issue is superannuation, although family courts can split that up but stay at home parents, home-makers don’t get super. Is that good enough of a qualifier?

    “You are being disengenuous. The harassment campaigns are male dominated and there is no point playing coy.”

    Yes, the harassment campaigns probably are male dominated, but there’s no proof that the threats were made by men. Yes I would guess they are, but until there are culprits found and outed then one cannot claim it to be from men. It’s disingenuous to claim the culprits are men as a FACT.

  34. universalanimosity says

    @13
    Yes, let’s punish children who don’t even exist yet because of supposed (though not quantified) actions of their remote ancestors. How oddly biblical of you. I also fail to see how punishing future male children will function as “payback” for future female children. These future female children, not having been wronged themselves, would have no need for such “payback.” How exactly would exacting revenge on innocent agents in order to payback wrongdoing to people who never had any wrongdoing committed against them actually work? Besides, revenge is only one theory of justice, and no theory of just revenge would countenance taking revenge against an agent innocent of the wrongdoing which motivated the desire for vengeance in the first place. Not a single coherent philosophy of justice could possibly make sense of this. It’s utterly nonsensical and clearly the product of a diseased mind.

    This is apparently what passes for the humanities these days. It’s so sad that academia is infected with this kind of rot. At least it tends to stay out of science. Political ideology acting as a substitute for empirical evidence scares me. I’d hate for another Lysenkoist scandal to happen. The only difference is that this would be driven by cultural, as opposed to economic, Marxism.

  35. universalanimosity says

    @25

    I know you’re an ideological extremist, so this probably goes outside your capacity to understand, but “your side” is not all women. It’s not even most women. Rabid puritanical gender ideologues are the very fringes of the feminist movement (also the fringes of the MRA’s), and only ~20% of women even consider themselves any kind of feminist.

    “Your side” consists almost entirely of damaged people with deep issues who are too self-centered to realize that their inability to cope with reality is not everyone else’s problem. This goes for both uber-misogynist MRA’s and whackjob extreme feminists. Both exhibit the psychology of someone with severe trauma projecting their own personal problems onto everyone else.

    My side consists of sane people, people who are generally able to function in society. We include men, women, straight, LGBTQIABCDEFG, and whatever else. We include people with various temperaments and beliefs, people with various psychological profiles, etc.. The only people we don’t include are extremely damaged people with an inability to cope with reality. We also tend not to include very many young people, because young people, lacking in life experience, tend to be stupid. However, my side has a much larger population and will be fine on its own. Both radical lesbian feminists and basement-dwelling MGTOW autists annoy the shit out of us, and neither group is part of “my side.”

  36. StillGjenganger says

    universalanimosity 38

    “Your side” consists almost entirely of damaged people with deep issues who are too self-centered to realize that their inability to cope with reality is not everyone else’s problem. […] Both exhibit the psychology of someone with severe trauma projecting their own personal problems onto everyone else.

    That may well be true – but frankly it is not up to you or me to comment on Lucy’s motivations. She presents a coherent case, sticks to the topic, and never goes into personal insults (which is more than many others can say). That being so, she has a right to be dealt with for what she says, not for what we choose to think about her mental state.

    I do not think her opinions are either nice or reasonable – and if Lucy and friends ever got close to achieving what she wants I should happily work to have her interned or shot – but meanwhile she is a good contributor to the debate, and deserves respect as such.

  37. sheaf24 says

    She presents a coherent case, sticks to the topic, and never goes into personal insults (which is more than many others can say).

    Are you kidding me? She almost never responds to more direct criticism of her arguments, has a habit of making responses that are not really arguments but vague insinuations and has insulted me and lied about my motivations n the past. The most charitable interpretation is that she s a troll, but not even this is consistent with her habits.

  38. Ariel says

    From Ally’s explanation at #9:

    my limits are stretched by any comment that appears to normalise, validate or justify abuse, and especially child sex abuse.

    I haven’t read the deleted comment and my aim in quoting Ally’s words has nothing to do with the comment in question. I want also to add that I fully share the sentiment expressed in these words.

    The real reason why I quoted Ally has to do with this single but crucial word: “NORMALISE”. What does it mean to normalise abuse? If we are against normalising abuse (as I assume we all are), what is it exactly that we are against?

    Consider the words of judge Tony Briggs, justifying the verdict in the case of the hentai cartoons collector:

    This is material that clearly society and the public can well do without. Its danger is that it obviously portrays sexual activity with children, and the more it’s portrayed, the more the ill-disposed may think it’s acceptable.


    Compare also the following words of Fiona Elvines, uttered in the context of the debate over the proposed ban on rape pornography (even played out by consenting adult actors). After stressing that “We do not suggest that watching rape pornography makes men rape”, Fiona Elvines adds:

    We see the harm of rape pornography in the ways the material assists in normalising offending for perpetrators, helping them legitimise and strategise their crimes, as well as overcome internal resistance.


    It seems to me that both cases have a lot in common. In particular:

    1. In both cases the opponents claim that there is no harm involved: no child is harmed in the cartoons; no one is really raped in staged pornographic materials.
    2. In both cases the defenders claim that such materials bring the “normalising” effect – and that it’s exactly the normalising of abuse that makes it harmful.


    I must add that I have yet to see a good and deep discussion of what it means to “normalise” something and how the normalising effects should be measured.

    Just for complete clarity: I don’t care in the least that Ally deleted a comment which (in his opinion) “normalised sex abuse”. I think in fact that bloggers have a right (both legal and moral) to such decisions. But as soon as the idea of locking real people in real prisons for normalising abuse is taken seriously, we clearly move beyond the point where we can be satisfied with ‘normalising abuse’ as a loose and unclear notion. In such a context asking for more comprehensive explanations is *not* nitpicking any more.

    In effect let me just repeat: what does it mean to “normalise” something? And how these normalising effects should be measured? Any ideas? Any good links?

  39. redpesto says

    Marduk # 32: Bindel ‘seems to have changed positions’ – sorry, but not buying it. She appeared to have ‘changed positions’ on transgender issues (but hadn’t really). Similarly her statement that “Rather than look for a direct causal link between viewing porn and sexual violence, we should be looking at the culture of misogyny that porn arises from and contributes to. ” ignores the way in which anti-porn feminists such as Bindel and Dworkin kept insisting there was a link, even if it meant conducting junk ‘research’ in order to ‘prove’ it.

    Moreover, the fact that the ‘antis’ lost the arguments on evidence simply meant that they’ve switched the rhetoric to ‘testimony’ – they just ‘know’ porn is ‘wrong’, so they’re not going to bother with anything resembling ‘evidence’ or ‘data’ in order to pursue the same aims of sexual conservatism and social purity politics that they’ve always done Bindel might recognise the importance of better sex education in schools, but that’s just another pretext to pursue an anti-porn agenda by another means. It’s a shift in tactics, not position.

  40. Marduk says

    Redpesto

    I hear what you are saying, and I agree, it is a deliberate tactical change. .
    But for me at least, its one I’m ok with and in some ways tbh, probably advocated several times.

    An argument without data must be considered on its own merits and that is fine, and look, this doesn’t mean the empirical studies have vanished or anything, its just one side is now taking a feather duster to a fencing duel.

    It was the whole nature of the rhetoric of “harms” and the underlying dishonesty that really annoyed me and how calculated it was because I knew they didn’t have anything, they knew they didn’t have anything and they knew I knew but still argued it the same way. Report after report filled with sneaky dishonest language to try to hide a lack of evidence and this was allowed to go on. Its very clear these people don’t fight fair and don’t see why they should either, I’m reminded of L.Ron’s “fair game” doctrine.

  41. bruce bartup says

    @all
    I don’t think it is entirely an accident that Ally started with two issues combined (changing customs of privacy and use of authority to suppress self expressions) and that we’ve kind of circled back to two parallel questions (standards of discussion and what to do if these standards are not met)
    There are apparently a number of people who are
    Willing to have a feminist excluded from the community by moral force because of what she said
    and
    Willing to be very supportive of men who have special viewing interests

    At the risk of pulling us back on topic, what if instead of making an argument Lucy had posted
    #killallmen
    or a manga/anime cartoon of grisly and incitement to grievous deeds towards a blog commenter?

    The first might raise a chuckle, But the second prompts the thinking that :
    A cartoon isn’t just a cartoon, if it’s on the net. It is not just a window into a soul. It is, stated or unstated, call to arms, a statement that certain things are permitted desirable and fun. That is, perhaps a picture (cartoon or live action) validates the activity being depicted by sharing the social status of the network it is published on. A sex cartoon published without condemnation in the guardian might be worse than a restricted private viewing on the web, for example.

    Possibly It is not the direct effect of viewing the image that is important. It is the associated effects of passing on either the images or the permission to pass on similar material. Thus creating sharing networks for rare forms of sexual and other abuse online. Networks which would not have otherwise existed, each with its own potential for growth and for doing damage to a victim and for learning how to do more damage..

    I think this may be a ‘culture of abuse and a network of normalisation’ – specifically of misogyny

    Which could be extended to a similar culture and network for killallmen,

    And to the same for conversational intolerance and abusive debating tactics

    The worst forms of human behaviour are supported and normalised. Best pro-social personal practice is, by comparison, ousted, isolated and neglected. Because pro-social activity isn’t fun you can have easily online. And real life social fun doesn’t create such large self normalising online networks – only large numbers of interpersonal small ones.

    Thus all forms of abusive attitude while rare in society are seen as more common and approved of (normalised) because they are prominently and dramatically and popularly exemplified online. Maybe?

  42. StillGjenganger says

    @Ariel 41
    I did read the post, and it did sort of validate and justify child abuse. The general tendency was that it was not always that bad, and that children of certain ages were competent and willing – not that explicitly maybe, but enough you wondered how the writer could possibly know, unless he ‘had experience’ with child abuse.

    You make a very god point, though. Maybe it would be better to remove the ‘normalise’ criterion altogether, and stick to ‘validate’ and ‘justify’? That would let us avoid discussions like whether Hannibal the Cannibal normalises cannibalism, or whether Dirty Harry (etc.) normalise police brutality and vigilantism.

  43. StillGjenganger says

    @Bruce Bartup 44
    You should not forget that there are lots of good, progressive, people who are

    Willing to have a [political enemy] excluded from the community by moral force because of what [s]he said

    . That is exactly what the campaigns against misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia etc. are all about. If you argue that this is wrong in principle you put yourself in a very fragile position. Instead of condemning the goal, you would be better off arguing that it is the tactics (doxxing, rape and death threats, etc.) that are unacceptable.

    You do have a point that

    A cartoon isn’t just a cartoon, if it’s on the net. It is not just a window into a soul. It is, […] a statement that certain things are permitted desirable and fun.

    (I removed the ‘call to arms’ because I think it is an exaggeration). But, as you say, it does depend on what community is publishing and accepting the material, and you can protect common public spaces without making it illegal for bad stuff to exist at all. . It is one thing to prohibit obscene behaviour on the high street, it is another thing to extend that prohibition into people’s bedrooms. Admittedly the nature of the internet makes the distinction harder, but as the ‘GIrls (Scream) Aloud’ case shows, at least UK law accepts a distinction between what you can put on the internet for everyone to see, and what you can make available in more secluded corners.

  44. Marduk says

    @44

    The problem is that there is a huge evidence gap there.

    The idea of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ is so deeply internalised that there are many in the social sciences who take it as foundational, it is after all hard to have cultural theory without strong ideas about the nature of culture and its propagation.

    Unfortunately, while nearly universally believed in as a fact, it is from a scientific perspective barely even a respectable hypothesis. It is easy to claim something has been normalised but you’re going to run out of road as soon you try to correlate that to observable reality.

    Largely unsupported by psychological science. The casual observer might feel otherwise but the reason people publish papers about the influence of attitudes/values on behaviour is that its so hard to find. If it was an iron effect, they’d only look at the times it doesn’t work, which is in truth nearly all the time. The forms of learning described by the behaviourists were strong enough to become technology, a technology in practice we don’t really trust, what the cultural theorists come up with is puny and barely even existent by comparison or we’d be using it constantly. Like the undoubted ill-effects of porn (which nobody has ever found), it is strongly and vociferously *assumed* to not merely exist but be overwhelming as an empirical reality. It simply must be the case! Problem is, the cupboard is barer than is commonly understood.

  45. bruce bartup says

    @47
    I am not looking at a ‘do’ cupboard but at a ‘view, like, share’ cupboard. That is, the behaviour of a surfer arriving at an abusive site will not reflect the common disapproval of that abuse opposed by the abusive desire. But that disapproval minus the anonymity he/she enjoys, minus the false consensus effect, minus the false consent effect, minus the tacit approval of the victim, minus the effect of the reputability of the channel or source the material was found on.

    The behaviour being no more than view, like, share – which affects the search engine prominince. Thus giving an ‘inflated’, certainly a distorted picture of reality, as ‘ abuse is everywhere’. So internet cartoon abuse porn consumptiion would show up not in dead bodies but on a much bigger profile than could otherwise be explained of everyform of tin hat texter, loo-loo commenter, kerrrazeee killer talker, or verbal abuser on misogynistic lines that you can imagine. And there should be a positive correlation for that one, I hope. If anyone has done the research.

    @46
    Respectfully, i disagree. Campaigns against misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia etc. are exactly that, campaigns against attitudes and belief systems. Systems which may be expressed in thought, word or deed as ‘private joys’ as a child might. But campaigns form part of public speech, the purpose of which is the maintenance and development of democracy as a system to defend all possible freedoms of expression including private joy including those enjoyed by minors. I mention in passing that because political free speech protects and advances and maximises private expressiveness, political free speech takes priority if there is a clash.

    I think our current model of free speech is oversimplistic – and thus false. As used in discusson here I see the current model is of one right, unaccomppanied by moral duty, private, individual, indivisible and essential in every particular without discrimination. I believe that a right to private enjoyment of expression stands in some relationship to the leal right and moral duty to political freedom of speech.

    Using (what I believe to be) a false moral model of free speech to morally permit engagement in abusing, harassing, cold shouldering or in any way ‘freezing out’ an advocate of some public political campaign or other (misandrist and misogynist) is abuse and acts against political free speech. So it is unaccountable, illegitimate political abuse – tyranny, writ very small but tyranny none the less. Free speech tyranny. Free speech bullying. Free speech discrimination. Free speech used as a blackjack or a wet towel, if you will, to exclude some voices and bias the conduct of discussion. A form of tyranny over the mind of man. With consequences, potentially, for the public life of the nation.

    The tendency for us to fall into the ‘fallacy of popularity’ and additioinal false consensus that inevitably follows an inflated and distorted picture of the ‘normality’ of every form of abuse – if present from the mechanics I explained above – would act to increase any and every such effect on every form of speech. Including the political and the private all over the net in general.

    So false perception of permission to transmit a cartoon, or a porn clip, or celebrity nudes, or child abuse porn converts to permission to conduct all kinds of viewing, liking, sharing and verbal abuse online including abuse of discussion of politics in the public forum – that is, poor standards of debate. If all my speculative links were real.

  46. StillGjenganger says

    @Bruce Bartup 48
    I cannot follow you here – you operate at such a high level of abstraction that a mere science PhD is nowhere near enough to qualify me to understand you. I do think you are saying that in order to defend, and indeed maximise, free speech, we must have some strong limits on what people are allowed to say. Which does sound a bit paradoxical. If you want to convince me you would have to be much clearer about what can be said and what not – and especially about who gets to decide. It does seem strangely one-sided that the political freedom of porn opponents is deemed to require that people who do like porn be forbidden to share, view, or argue for the things that interest them.

    It is a perfectly objective question if someone is “excluded from the community by moral force because of what [s]he said“. It makes no difference to the facts – or to the experience of the victim – if the people doing the excluding are part of a “campaign against attitudes and belief systems” or claim that they are trying to “protect and advance and maximise private expressiveness“. You may be able to justify this kind of exclusion, but no amount of sophistry will make it disappear.

  47. bruce bartup says

    It isn’t a question of excluding anyone. I am working from the (obvious?) premise that political free speech should include everybody , even if what they say is offensive, especially if what they say is offensive. Just so you are reassured.

    I’m an MSc MBA, Hi PhD.

    For example in the USA. Minors have free speech. If the logic of moral political free speech I am prposing holds then:
    Minors have no moral duty to participate politically. Therefore while a 17 year old kid might be encouraged to argue (for examplein favour of porn) in a politial forum he would not be obliged to do so. An adult, in resprect of his development might be kind to hear and comment n the boy’s or girl’s argument. But would not be obliged to do so.

    However a full citizen must be ready to hear any case (from a newspaper, a government paper, or a comment on the freethought blog) that purports to have some bearing on public life and the issues of the day. This folows directly from the assumed purpose of political free speech,, which is as a tool to enable democracy to run. No argument with an impact othe life of the state should go unheard and unassessed, or unconstructed or unspoken. Everyone must have a voice, and recieve an audience. But only on political matters. The public forum is not the place for enjoying porn or receiving commercial advertisements. Thoseare the private joys whose presservation is the chief care of democracy, but is not the substance of democracy.

    It is the moral duty of citizens (on their own judgement) to avoid use of such material while an argument is put. nNor should a citizen engage in mockeries, jibes or other indulgences of speech and distractions while a discussion is held.

    It is especially the moral duty of a citizen to ensure that every relevant argument is put and heard. Specifically that no one should be silenced who wishes to speak or excluded because of some needless and manipulative insult perpetrated by another. Unnecessary offence must be avoided. It is necessary to offend at points. But offensiveness per se is not the measure of freedom of speech. It is the inclusion of everbody and the hearing and assessing of all relevant business that is the performance indcator.

    if say, porn consumption led to sharing and commentary, so as after several cycles to falsely normalise abusive conduct of all verbal kinds. That is if porn results in a general permissiveness. If this permissiveness including permisssion to be routinely casually verballly abusive in public then an impacton the character of public discussion can be foreseen.

    Thus those who advocate wide latitude in the enjoyment of porn have this case to answer, Is it compatible with political rights? That is if porn creates a climate of permitted abuse of that specific pornographic kind (alegedly and is part of a culture of abusiveness in general as the norm) then the following may occur. That abuse may enter public discussions n (for example to ignore or cold shoulder a commenter or to mock or rib a contributer) . May become popular. May become accepted a normal. Bad discussions may then dominate the processes used to protect democracy.

    I hope that reads more clearly.
    Who can speak ; everybody should
    What can be said : anything a speaker wihes to say on a public matter, but not for private enjoyment or for use to exclude another
    What cannot be said: anything found to be damaging to political free speech (specificaly gratuitous offence)
    Who decides: in the first place the citizen decides on her own, then in relation to the other citizens, arguing out each case as it becomes necessary, attempting to reach consensus, settling amicably where possible, agreeing ‘not to murder each other just now’ for the remainder.

  48. Bugmaster says

    @bruce bartup:
    I can’t really understand most of what you’re saying; your posts read like they were generated by some sort of a Markov Chain engine.

    That said though, I believe that all policies should be based on evidence. Before we decided whether we should regulate porn, or cat videos, or any other type of speech; we must clearly demonstrate that this type of speech causes (not merely correlates with, but actually causes) some sort of a net negative consequence. It’s not enough to just sort of squint our eyes and say, “yeah, I can totally see how this could be bad”.

  49. StillGjenganger says

    @Bruce Bartup 51
    This one I understand well enough to answer.
    And you are quite right – our respective degrees give us neither wisdom nor authority outside our profession and are generally irrelevant boasts in this context. I just thought that it illustrated how high-level and hard to understand your prose can be.

    So, I can see the distinction between public debate and private enjoyment. And I accept that we do need to make sure that public debate can flow and everybody can participate. The obvious way to do that would be to police only the form of the debate: you can say anything you want, as long as it follows the rules of politeness (essentially). That is what I advocate, but even that has a couple of problems:

    For one thing, rules for normal debate are not neutral between groups. It is well established that men try to interrupt and speak over women, and many see this as dominant patriarchical behaviour that should be eradicated. Deborah Tannen noticed that men equally speak over and interrupt other men – and, more to the point, that New York Jews tend to interrupt and speak over most other social and ethnic groups in the US. She understandably refused to accept that this was a sign of hegemony and dominance. The problem is a matter of different group styles. Some groups accept that you can interrupt, speak over and challenge – everybody does it and everybody end up getting their say. Other groups believe in holding pauses and waiting for the slow and silent to speak, and again everybody get their say. It is when you mix the groups that the debate works less well. The thing is that choosing which group style should prevail is a matter of whom to give preference – neither men nor New York Jews would appreciate if they were forced to adopt a way of talking that suited female southern Christians but was alien to them.

    Another point is that there are lots of ways to exclude others, and groups from all sides use them in different ways. To a conservative one of the most exasperating is the progressives habit of describing their opponents with words like misogynist, racist, homophobic, … All words that describe people as irrational, evil, and borderline insane. The logic is that anyone who has a non-progressive opinion on these particular points is by definition a misogynist (e.g.), therefore evil and irrational, therefore wrong, therefore should be excluded from public debate, leaving the field to those nice progressive people with the right opinions.

    But the big problem with your position is that the ban on “anything found to be damaging to political speech” is actually being used to ban not just ways of talking, but a broad swathe of opinions, and even to control what people are allowed to think. Before you protest: The problem you quote with e.g. pornography is that it leads people to think in the wrong ways. Banning it for this reason means that you claim the right to control the way people think – only in the interest of free debate, of course, the fact that you are suppressing ways of thought that you do not like is a mere coincidence.

    So you end up contradicting your own principles on two points:

    You are not limiting yourself to banning things that are found to damage political speech. Your whole case against porn is a long chain of if’s and hypotheticals. As Bugmaster points out there is no actual evidence. So when you say that “Thus those who advocate wide latitude in the enjoyment of porn have this case to answer, Is it compatible with political rights? ” you are effectively putting the burden of proof on your opponents. Which translates as “There is no way of deciding anything for sure, therefore we will take it for granted that I am right until you do the impossible and prove me wrong

    Finally, your protection of the freedom of debate is used in a lot of important debates to keep one side from speaking – which is the opposite of free debate. Here are some opinions that tend to be excluded under your principles:
    – “Heterosexuality is the normal and natural way of things, so we should let gays do what they want in private, but different sexualities are NOT equal and we should not dignify their activities by letting them marry.
    – “Your sex is defined by your body and upbringing, so somebody with a male body and a male childhood does not become a woman just because he says he is.
    – “If somebody is willing to have sex for money and someone else is wiling to pay money for sex, that is a perfectly reasonable deal that leaves both sides better off.
    – “An influx of foreigners with different customs and willing to work for peanuts is bad for people like me. Anyway, this is England, and people whose culture and religion belongs in Pakistan should not have an equal say in how we do things here.
    – “Islam is a religion prone to violence and intolerant of having to accommodate other cultures
    – “Children as young as 12 are perfectly able to manage their own sex lives, and indeed they often seek sex with older men

    These opinions would all be found obnoxious by many. As you can see, there is at least one that I strongly disagree with and that I think should be banned from public spaces. You may intensely dislike all of them. But many of them are held widely, some maybe by a majority, and apply to important social and cultural questions. If you ban expressing these opinions on the grounds that they damage free debate, you are closing down some big important debates, and taking the right to be heard away from large groups of people. While, by pure coincidence of course, ensuring that your own opinions can win unopposed.

    As you see, I do accept that some opinions should be excluded. But I admit openly that this is a case of the majority imposing its opinions on people who disagree, and because this is such a drastic thing to do, I would limit it to the most extreme cases only.

  50. Ariel says

    StillGjenganger #45

    Maybe it would be better to remove the ‘normalise’ criterion altogether, and stick to ‘validate’ and ‘justify’?


    In the context of the law, I tend to agree with this (unless some *really* good account of “normalisation” is provided). I’m torn about all the rest. Let me sketch below two positions. Taken together, they produce … well, they produce a difficult and strained standpoint. My problem is that I’m attracted to both positions.

    Let’s start with normalisation. Wikipedia defines it as “social processes through which ideas and actions come to be seen as “normal” and become taken-for-granted or ‘natural’ in everyday life”. This is not very precise but I will stick to this for a while. And here are the standpoints.

    1. There are many phenomena which I (we?) don’t want to be taken for granted in everyday life. Violence and abuse are obvious examples, together with racism, sexism, and various other sorts of discrimination. Presenting them as “natural” is a particularly pernicious way of sustaining them: it’s actually *much easier* to oppose validating or justifying arguments! With arguments, you have at least a clearly defined opponent; here often you don’t have one and you are left with the feeling of fighting against the mist. Nevertheless, normalisation is real enough and in some cases we can recognize the typical techniques serving the normalising aim (with the famous “boys will be boys” coming immediately to mind). The crucial part: I don’t see any reason for treating normalisation as somehow ‘more acceptable’ or ‘safer’ than validation and justification. If anything, it’s just the opposite.

    2. The talk about normalisation became so popular that it produced its own pathologies. In particular, there is a danger of the “normalisation” arguments becoming a standard narrative in debates about law. This is dangerous indeed, because in such debates – with concrete consequences and sanctions against real people being at stake – arguments are needed which are as concrete. However, the normalisation narrative became so … well, it became so *normalised*, that it’s just very easy to forget that in many cases we don’t have such concrete arguments and when pressed, we can show only this: a narrative, without the support of measurement techniques permitting us to assess the consequences of an act which we want to criminalize and penalize.

    As I said, I’m attracted to both of these standpoints. Even if strictly speaking they are not contradictory, there is a tension here which makes my own approach to the normalisation narrative somewhat tenuous and uneasy. Did the narrative become so “normalised” that it should be opposed on a regular basis (because of the dangers)? Or should the first standpoint on my list prevail? These are for me the basic questions and the answer is not always easy to find.

  51. Fluppe says

    [Deleted by AF]

    [Explanation: Another comment from someone who either can’t or won’t accept that an image doesn’t have to be depicting actual rape or violent sexual abuse in order to be considered a child sex abuse image. Publishing and sharing images for sexual gratification of children either naked or involved in sexual acts is, by definition, an act of child sex abuse. This debate ends here. AF]

  52. bruce bartup says

    @StillGjenganger 52

    Thank you for sticking with me. I can illustrate with a pairo examples
    I think this October, and every October, should be punch a bitch month….slammed repeatedly into a wall until she says sorry, Then made to clean up the mess.
    Paul XXXXX is a misogynist asshole, if some one burned his house down with him in it it would be good job, and I wouldn’t cross the road to piss in his ear if his brains caught fire.
    So I said to this feminist ‘Excuse me sister (or brother, brother/sister, sister/brother, self identify, refuse gendered speech, object, other please specify, abstain, N/A, whatever)’ I said…

    Of these three examples only the third would fall outside the criterion of moral political speech. Because it appearrs to be gratuitous. The others seem extreme even desperate and therefore maybe necessary. If on further questioning you believe that statement 1 was gratuitous but statement 2 was not. Then speakers 1 & 3 would be spoken to quietly and shown their errror. And ignored. But welcomed to speak again. There is no banning. This is a moral mattter , not a legal one. The only impact is – not to have the privilege of political free speech to demand an audience and to cause offence to that audience.

    Now for porn.The one thing I think we can agree on is that porn is repetitious. Therefore if it is offensive at all it is gratuitously so. Porn is offensive to some people. Therefore it is not political free speech. But that does not justify a ban. This is a moral matter not a legal one. The only impact is – not to have the privilege of political free speech to demand an audience and to cause offence to that audience.

    Now for the argument that porn should attract the status of political free speech. As long as the argument is continuously developed and is not repetitiously or otherwise gratuitously offensisve this would qualify as poitical free speech as would any pornography that accompanied it by way of exemplification.

    Misogyny and misandry: Both camps MRM and Radical feminists produce and distribute to their subscribers materials whcih are known to be offensive to their opposite numbers but are inteneded only for consumption by their own ‘side’ . VoiceforMen being a prime example. As it is gratuitously repetitious and offensive this cannot be political free speech. But there is no question of a ban. The only impact is – not to have the priveledge of political free speech to demand an audience and to cause offence to that audience.

    Non-political free speech. This moral right is a difficult area which needs constant discussion with political free speech. But certainly if no harm can be demonstrated, it is moral. However, one form of harm that can be demonstrated, is that constant calls for one form or another of pornography to be considered as political free speech damages poliical free speech by inflating away the currency, wasting time, etc. But there is no question of a ban. The only impact is – not to have the priveledge of political free speech to demand an audience and to cause offence to that audience.

    If you are still interested I could write more in a day or two.

  53. StillGjenganger says

    @Bruce Bartup.
    I am still with you, just in a tearing hurry.
    If your point is that pornography has no right to be part of actual political debate I think we could agree. But the argument I thought various people (including you) were making is that pornography should be banned because it normalised offensive speech,and therefore indirectly damaged political speech. That is the one I disagree with. Till another time.

  54. AndyWilkinson says

    #25 Lucy

    My side can reproduce by itself

    Bloody hell. This kind of thing used to be echoed around RadFem Hub as an aspiration, yet here you’re stating it as fact.

    (For those who never had the pleasure,,RadFem Hub was to equity feminism what Stormfront is to celebration of diversity. IIRC the hub’s doors closed after they password protected the site and kept revoking logins from the ideologically impure until the only person who could get in was the site admin).

  55. Marduk says

    57.
    Ah the memories! “PIV”, “terror-bonding”, “pregnancy is rape”! I don’t know about reproducing by themselves, they seemed to be of the view reproduction was unnatural?

    The truth about what happened is funnier (in view of their self image): http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/r-i-p-radfem-hub/

    XX.
    Censorship always leads to a Streisand effect of sorts. The Shosshana Roberts video maker edited out white men from his video. The Guardian, overdoing the praise and the importance from the off is now in all kinds of trouble because they have to pretend it isn’t racist propaganda having already asserted its excellence as feminist filmmaking several times. As a result, this is all anyone can think about even though its not that relevant in the end to the point being made. Graun moderators are chasing their own tails so badly they’ve basically deleted all the anti-racist comments condemning it and left alone all the racists who at least agree with Valenti it shows men being horrible (albeit only black men). What a clusterfuck.

    Huge mess and more evidence that nobody, however talented, can bang out that much product in a week and not cock up. Terrible and lazy editorial decision making at the Graun, they seem completely out of control in recent months.

    Hanna Rosin (who whatever you think of her is a proper journalist’s journalist and made her bones in Washington political reporting before moving into comment) nails it while the Graun is still hoping to tough it out instead:
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/10/29/catcalling_video_hollaback_s_look_at_street_harassment_in_nyc_edited_out.html

    If you used to like Graun, I recommend reading Slate, its where about half the CIF crowd get their ‘inspiration’ from anyway.

  56. bruce bartup says

    @StillGjenganger56

    To my descripition of a category of non-political speech as including porn add :- advertising, trolling statements, ‘crosswords’, sports pages, docudrama, opera, flower arranging manuals : all other communication which is not political. That super set should not attract the priveliged status of ‘free speech’. It is only pemitted by default (do as you will but hurt not). It should not be constitutionally protected. It is a liberal commitment. Not the essence of a state.

    Political speech (true free speech) is essential to democracy, is non-gratuitously offensive, limitlessly offensive (if it is necessary) and therefore is not repetitious . Political free speech can demand to be heard, demand to have an audience, and to offend that audience.

    Now look at Ally’s central passage

    It used to be considered a cornerstone of justice that you can punish people for doing bad things, but not for being bad people. The internet is changing that. Throughout human history, our hate-filled or hateful thoughts, our strange and dangerous opinions, our sexual peccadilloes and perversions would remain safely locked in, shared perhaps with only a handful of close friends or intimate partners, if at all. Even professional writers and creative artists would have their output filtered through editors, publishers and agents.

    Free speech is a moral matter. Even if the intent is unknown to others, it is known to the journalist, editor, government department, or private citizen who writes it. And if the intention is to say something non-political, to cause offence, and to get away with it (as though it was normal, acceptable) then the writer/commentater/commenter knows it. Therefore, if morally challenged to give reasons for causing offence, and if the writer withdraws the statement then that is an indication that normalisation is real. And the moral challenge of the form, ‘I will publicly identify you if you do not withdraw this offensive statement of private expression.’ should put the genie back in the internet trolling bottle. Trolls could not claim ‘free speech’ protections and therefore not anonymity.

    For example, an equable and reasonablle but barbed ‘…go and start your own channel, who is stopping you?’. That is not political speech. It is also exclusionary. Therefore it is offensive, private expression, said only for self gratification, not in duty to public life. Therefore a citizen should say ‘I morally challenge the perpetrator to withdraw the remark.’

    But if the argument is semi-coherent, incandescent, hard to follow and illogical that could indicate a positive need for attention. Take for example such a staement complaining about how white men dominate discussion. That is an example of politicai speech, and all citizens in eye-shot of such a statement have a duty to hear the protest out, help to express it, understand it and comment on it”s merits. In the general case that would include, passing on the concerns to police, newspapers, your MP, what have you.

    So defining free speech as having a purpose in a democracy, namely to maintian that democracy provides grounds for acting against specific intances of offensiveness. That moral challenge repaeted many times, could produce evidence that an intent to normalise and normalisation of offenciveness have existed. But no ban of porn or other private non-political expression is suggested. That is unnecessary.

    Thus all the problems listed in Ally’s original article 1st paragraph can be largely solved. Redefining free speech as purposive deprives any non-political purveyor of offensive expressions of a ‘free-speech’ defence against moral disapproval. But only this subtle change in the psychology of producers (private individals, channels, blogs, podcasts, stations and the rest) is needed, no ban.

    I hope that is clear now. If not, I’m not sure I can say it all again.

  57. StillGjenganger says

    @Bruce, 59
    Interesting, and a nice try to get an objective criterion for what can be said. I do not think it will fly, but it will take a lot of thinking before I can come up with an answer. Till (much) later.

    @Ariel 53
    You are on the same ‘have to think hard’ list.

  58. Ally Fogg says

    marduk

    Censorship always leads to a Streisand effect of sorts. The Shosshana Roberts video maker edited out white men from his video. The Guardian, overdoing the praise and the importance from the off is now in all kinds of trouble because they have to pretend it isn’t racist propaganda having already asserted its excellence as feminist filmmaking several times. As a result, this is all anyone can think about even though its not that relevant in the end to the point being made.

    I agree it is a clusterfuck but not quite sure I agree as to why.

    I could be wrong, but I think it is unlikely that the director deliberately edited out white harassers because he was racist.

    I think what would be much more likely is that they just walked around poor areas of Manhattan all day filming, and then when they came to edit realised that they’d gathered 100 instances of harassment and all the guilty faces that could be seen were non-white. Now it is easy to conclude that this means white people don’t do street harassment, but I think is much more probably down to the demographics of Manhattan – poor people tend to be black and Latino, wealthier people tend to be white. I suspect if they’d gone across the water to Trenton or Atlantic City they could have gone to other areas where poor, drunk, stoned, high, bored white guys were hanging around and made a video that looked different in that respect.

    I think Hanna Rosin basically nails it in that they just fucked up in their choice of areas to film in, accidentally created something with a pretty nasty racist subtext, and rather than reshoot some of it they just invented some excuses about having to edit out all the white guys due to sheer bad luck. Which seems pretty unlikely to me.

  59. Marduk says

    I really don’t disagree Ally. I just think 20 years ago people would have known what was wrong with that film immediately and I’m concerned it had to be pointed out.

    I think Jon Ronson’s forthcoming book on shame and the internet may be about some of the things you flag here although there is a difficult issue in as far as what is so wrong with the trolling is exactly what is wrong with persecuting trolling. Its a bit hard to explain but what Leyland is supposed to have done might be punished for the very reason that what actually happened to her was so wrong and cruel. Maybe what is hard to grasp here is something to do with the mass element of the internet. In isolation saying “Joes Blogg is a right idiot” barely registers, its unkind, not very civil, even un-Christian but nothing more than that, most would say fair comment if that is what you think. 20 million people calling Joe Blogg an idiot is utterly cruel beyond belief…only we’ve just said its 20 million individual fair comments. How Weev in the article below sits against Leyland as an opposite is an interesting question.

    http://www.theschooloflife.com/blog/2013/05/jon-ronson-on-humiliation/

  60. bruce bartup says

    @sheaf24 63
    I’d say that’s as much reasonable evidence as can be needed to say that offensiveness has been normalised. That this team scrambled up this ‘evidence’ against a charge of harasssment (which it corroborates) inside of a day, which shows a guy being partially homophobically abused, partially mocked and harassed as a ‘gorgeous boy’ and genuinely approached with a pick up line (can I get your number, with a pen and paper in hand) shows three things.
    1. Misogyny affects men too (boys, homosexual men, disabled, anyone ‘vulnerable’ ie feminine) will get a measure of the same or similar abuse. Next vid should be ‘walking around NYC as a homeless street-sleeper’
    2. The video makers are apparently unaware of the difference that women’s internal subjective experience makes to the situation, the man is fairly physically secure, a woman is scared. The woman must rely on her ‘6th sense’ being on stalks. Her emotional radar sweeping the area , interpreting every nuance and tone. Overinterpreting potential threat is the only safe mode of thought she has. He can’just walk’. She walks on razor blades.
    3. The misogynists (let’s not split hairs) are dumber than a bag of hammers.

  61. Marduk says

    And out of nowhere and very on-topic comes the best article on porn the Guardian has ever published:
    http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2014/nov/01/ethical-porn-fair-trade-sex

    Long(er) form, proper journalism, nuance, two sides to a story and featuring actual research. Remarkable.

    And again, the belated acceptance of what data exist and don’t exist:
    “And the key argument, that it causes male violence, I don’t buy; what we watch might influence the way we behave, but not in obvious ways that you can map.”

    As per Bindel’s piece, it passes off without further comment but I have the distinct memory of going several rounds with the ZW BTL on this very subject and she was having none of it at the time. I can definitely respect people for looking into something and changing their minds though. Has there been some sort of memo?

    At the end of the piece is a discussion of the same question asked above, should ‘dark’ fantasies see expression in pornography? Hartley says yes, JB says no! ZW concludes: “you have a right not to be ashamed”.

    The terrain is certainly shifting here.

  62. Bugmaster says

    @bruce bartup #64:
    Another way to look at it would be, “hot people walking in New York will get catcalled, regardless of gender”. I think this is an easier explanation than what you’re proposing, which is something like, “women are misogynists and that’s why they are propositioning this attractive man”.

  63. bruce bartup says

    @Bugmaster66
    Somehow I can’t see anyone acting the part of a good looking mobster getting many cat calls. This man got the majority of ‘attention’ from other men. Because he was in a vulnerable positon, I think. Hot, and in among many men. This was either a response to exclude ‘competition’ or abuse, I don’t know.

    My expectation is, that a homeless person would get a different kind of abuse but similar. For a woman to run to a man and seriously attempt to flirt is one thing, that’s low power to high power, safe. That is it would be safe for the girls if they weigh up the situation correctly. Saying ‘hi beautiful’ to a woman 10 yards away without stirring a mucscle is a diferent story. Or perhaps you find it hard to empathise to that extent. No offence meant. Some can, some can’t.

    Either way, we’re off topic now. Maybe? Except for the abuse and abusive trolling commentary and death threats the actor got.

  64. mark999999 says

    Ally, according to this Boko Haram has kidnapped more boys and men than girls:

    “In addition to the 219 abducted and still held from the raid in Chibok on April 14, it is important to note that many hundreds of other Nigerians – primarily boys and young men but also including young girls and young women – have been abducted over the past five years by the group, some co-opted as members, others whose fates are simply not known.”

    http://africacheck.org/factsheets/factsheet-how-many-schoolgirls-did-boko-haram-abduct-and-how-many-are-still-missing/

    I have been unable to find another source for the claim and it does not say wether more boys than girls have been kidnapped or if you need to add young men for them to be a majority. Since you seem to be very good at digging up sources I thought you might have more success than me in finding something about this.

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