Why, this just might be the best xmas present I’ve ever received!
[CONTENT NOTE: violent bigotry. lots of it.]
I am ashamed to report to readers that The Washington Post lured me into a time-wasting, life-sucking vortex with a clickbait headline:
I invited Ann Coulter to speak at UC Berkeley. Here’s why.
My group doesn’t agree with her, but we believe in free speech.
Ugh why. Because I AM WEAK, people, that’s why. Coulter’s appearance at Berkeley is not even happening, and yet still I could not just let this shit stand. Continue reading
Richard Carrier is suing the Freethought Blogs network, of which I am a part, as well as other groups and individuals (see below). Please help us cover costs and legal fees if you can, and share this post or the GoFundMe link on social media. Every dollar helps.
Thank you. ♥
Dr. Richard Carrier is suing us for reporting on his well-known allegations of misconduct. These allegations were widely reported on throughout the community, including by third-parties critical and sympathetic to him who are not themselves defendants.
This lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a SLAPP suit — a lawsuit filed to stifle legitimate criticism and commentary. The named defendants are Skepticon, The Orbit, and Freethought Blogs – as well as individuals Lauren Lane, the lead organizer of Skepticon; Stephanie Zvan, a blogger for The Orbit; PZ Myers, a blogger for Freethought Blogs; and Amy Frank-Skiba, who publicly posted her first-hand allegations against Carrier.
We need your help to keep our voices alive. All the defendants are represented by the same attorney, First Amendment lawyer Marc Randazza. Randazza is providing his services at a significant discount, but we are not asking him to work for free. Plus, there are thousands of dollars in “costs” for the case that don’t include legal bills, and there is no way to discount those. In order to continue fighting this lawsuit, we, the defendants of this case, have put together this campaign to raise money to defray our costs, some of which is outstanding. Donations will be used only for this case. In the event that the funds raised exceed our legal bills, they will be donated to Planned Parenthood .
We are pooling our defense costs with Skepticon, however as a 501(c)3 non-profit Skepticon is also conducting its own fundraiser where donations may be tax-deductible (ask your tax advisor). Skepticon cannot use donations it receives to help pay the shares of other individuals or organizations, though, and any excess funds raised via their campaign will go to the Skepticon conference fund.
We are confident that the court will uphold our First Amendment rights. But, through time, stress, and of course financial expense, every case like this has a chilling effect. Your support enables us to fight, and creates a warmer environment – not just for us but for others in the future.
Thank you for your support of freedom of speech, and may your new year be powerful and effective!
I vaguely knew of Barrett Brown. If you had asked me about him I would have suggested he’s someone tangentially related to Anonymous? Or maybe it was Wikileaks.
I could picture him from clips in documentaries, and I knew he had been prosecuted and imprisoned; for what, though, was never entirely clear to me. It turns out it was never entirely clear to the state either, but regardless, rather than face a Texas jury and a potential sentence of over 100 years [?!] for “crimes” that had journalists from all over the world shrieking in horror, Brown took a plea deal on lesser charges and is currently serving 63 months in prison.
Lucky for me (and now for you), I recently stumbled across some of his writing at The Intercept, and decided to dig a little deeper. Brown is an accomplished journalist, satirist and author; he co-wrote Flock of Dodos: Behind Modern Creationism, Intelligent Design and the Easter Bunny, a book comically skewering anti-evolutionists. He has written for the Daily Beast, Vanity Fair, The Guardian and other publications, and most recently The Intercept.
Also, this might be of particular interest to mah fellow godless heathens:
Brown served as the Director of Communications for Enlighten the Vote, an atheist PAC that provides financial and strategic assistance to political candidates that advocate strict enforcement of the Establishment Clause.
But while none of that was of particular interest to the agents in charge of protecting our Free Country™—with the exception of reviewing for The Guardian some rather revealing leaked emails— this most certainly was:
[Brown] founded Project PM, a research collaboration and wiki, to facilitate analysis of the troves of hacked emails and other leaked information concerning the inner workings of the cyber-military-industrial complex. Project PM aims to operate a wiki in order to provide a centralized, actionable data set regarding the intelligence contracting industry, the public relations industry’s interface with governments, the infosec cybersecurity industry, and other issues constituting what the project’s members regard as threats to human rights, civic transparency, individual privacy, and the health of democratic institutions.
As I noted recently, believing that “freedom of speech” is a cherished principle in these United States, or that the rule of law operates here, or that the US is a democracy, or that the permanent power factions in DC (i.e. the deep state) even value the concept of democracy for anything other than the ease with which they can exploit it, is a mistake. A really big mistake. And in fact, I doubt Barrett Brown believes any of that himself. But I’ve come to believe that he very much values those principles, even if America’s Owners demonstrably do not.
That alone would be a very good reason to read his writing of course, but there are better ones: he is brilliant, fearless and really fucking funny.
Brown’s official statement following his sentencing will give you some idea of his smart-ass wit:
“Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. — Wish me luck!”
And some assignment it has turned out to be. Throughout his incarceration Brown has produced a series of hilarious and eloquent missives documenting the lawless shenanigans, petty tyrannies and farcical buffoonery presently manifest in every facet of our injustice system. He pulls no punches on the judge, prosecutors, FBI investigators, prison guards, wardens, DOJ officials, or indeed any agent of the state involved in his case or imprisonment. Brown doesn’t entirely spare himself, either. He is candid about his neurotic foibles and quixotic obsessions, his history of drug addicion and mental health problems, and the explicitly non-violent though “admittedly ill-conceived” threat he made in a YouTube video to investigate and dox the FBI agent who, in an attempt to coerce Brown into cooperating with the Feds against Anonymous, threatened to indict Brown’s mother for obstruction of justice (and eventually did).
Of another charge related to the video, Brown said:
A separate declaration I made to the effect that I’d defend my family from any illegal armed raids by the government, while silly and bombastic, was not actually illegal under the threats statutes. To judge from similar comments made by Senator Joni Ernst, it would not even have necessarily precluded me from delivering the G.O.P.’s recent response to the State of the Union address.
But Brown isn’t quite as tough on himself as his critics are—and I don’t mean the DOJ.
Brown is a complex and problematic figure. He is not accepted by traditional journalists who don’t agree with the lines he blurred by participating in digital activism. Nor was he ever fully recognized by some members of Anonymous who resented his attention-grabbing public persona. They called him a “famewhore” more often than not, and Gawker’s Adrian Chen has called him a “a megalomaniacal troll.”
Unlike the Aaron Swartzes of the world, Brown is not a sympathetic character. It is difficult to martyr him. He’s been accused of being egomaniacal, paranoid, and stubborn. He is a recovering heroin addict. He chain-smokes more than the average Russian Bond villain. He’s unapologetic.
But if Brown is convicted, the ramifications for digital journalism and information sharing could be significant. The case raises serious questions about what we can legally share in the digital space, and where the government is willing to draw a line in the sand. Brown’s case could also set a precedent criminalizing actions like linking, which the New York Times, The Guardian, the Washington Post, and any other outlet that links to stolen files would be guilty of as well.
Even Chen, one of Brown’s most outspoken critics has said, “the charges against Brown give me shivers as a journalist.”
Of course it is not necessary to like the guy personally to appreciate his work and the sacrifices he has made on behalf of it, willingly and otherwise. Frankly, the fact that “traditional journalists” renounce someone is nothing short of a resounding endorsement, given what passes for our esteemed Fourth Estate these days. But even his most dedicated haters agree that Brown’s prosecution should be terrifying—and not just to media types either, but to all citizens of the Free World™. And to hear Brown tell it (and you should, you should definitely go hear Brown tell it), we don’t even have the whole picture.
But what should worry Americans most is not that the various frightening aspects of this case can fill a rather wordy article. What should worry them is that this is not even that article. The great bulk of the government’s demonstrable lies, contradictions, and instances of perjury are still sealed and thus unavailable to the public. Other matters are just now coming to light, such as the revelation, two days before my sentencing, that the D.O.J. had withheld from my defense team sealed chat transcripts from the Jeremy Hammond hacking case which contradicted its key claim that I was a co-conspirator in the Stratfor hack. And there are still other aspects of all this, such as the F.B.I.’s seizure of my copy of the Declaration of Independence as evidence of my criminal activity, that I blush to even commit to print, lest I not be believed, even despite the F.B.I. itself having now confirmed it.
One might wonder, as I do, whether Barrett Brown is either exceedingly foolish, or principled and, you know, brave. Truth be told, I have often wondered where that line exists, assuming it even exists at all. Maybe he is a megalomaniacal attention-seeker, and none of us could stand being in the same room with him for ten seconds. But even that would not preclude him from being exactly what he appears to be: an extraordinarily gifted writer and observer whose sole aim is to provide the rest of us with edifying dispatches from the darkest crevices of the sick and dying empire in which we find ourselves. (Lard knows Tom Friedman ain’t gonna do it, people.) Maybe it’s so exceedingly rare any more that we encounter the kind of adversarial journalism necessary to sustain a functioning democracy that Brown’s work stands out like a blinding beacon (if you’re like me and would prefer to know the truth about the state), or a big red bulls eye (if you’re the state and would prefer that no one know these truths). Either way, reading him is such a delicious pleasure that I have collected links to much of his work here, for the infotainment of us all.
The Guardian (Dec. 2010 – Jul. 2013)
Vice (Aug. 2013 – Dec. 2013)
D Magazine (Jan. 2014 – Jun. 2015)
Daily Beast (Jan. 2015: one article, immediately post-sentencing)
The Intercept (Jul. 2015 – present) Incidentally, Brown just won the National Magazine Award for his column in The Intercept. On February 1 when the award was announced, he was being held in solitary confinement, and not for the first time.
For more about Brown’s case and/or to contribute to his legal defense fund, go to freebarrettbrown.org. You can also write to him:
Barrett Brown #45047-177
FCI Three Rivers
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 4200
Three Rivers, TX 78071
If you’d be inclined to send him a book his Amazon wish list is here (though it doesn’t appear to be updated as of this writing). But for fuck’s sake people, whatever you do, do not send him any Jonathan Franzen novels.
IRIS ♥ BARRETT BROWN.
[CONTENT NOTE: harassment.]
This really should require no further explanation whatsoever. But since I’m snowed in because of a motherfucker of a blizzard, and my WIFI still seems to be working (so far…), I think I’ll spend a few minutes expounding upon “No.”
Anti-abortion activists should not be allowed to harass preschoolers.
Anti-abortion activists should not be allowed to harass anyone, and no one should be allowed to harass preschoolers.
No one should be allowed to harass anyone.
Jeezus, those winds are howling, and the view from my window is a complete whiteout:
LIVE! FROM NEW YORK! IT’S…WINTER STORM JONAS!
I have a nice hot pot of coffee and a temporarily content kitty (is there any other kind?) so…hey, what the hell?
A new Planned Parenthood clinic is currently under construction in Northeast DC, right next door to a school.
Over the past several months activists opposed to the clinic’s construction have been “purposely and aggressively menacing” school children as young as 3 years old with graphic images and language, causing “severe emotional stress,” according to a lawsuit filed in DC Superior Court by the school in December. Teachers have had to keep students inside at recess, and…with a larger crowd and a number of prominent antiabortion figures expected on account of the annual March for Life [sic], administrators decided to cancel school altogether.
The school closure cost [Bill Harper, parent of a 5- and 7-year-old students] $80 in extra childcare fees, but he was most angry about how the recurring demonstrations have disrupted the day-to-day educational experience for the students. “The whole school is focused on preventing the children from being terrorized. They’ve had to redesign the community,” he said, gesturing to black cloth draped across a fence to hide a playground. He told me that teachers sometimes have to take students on a long detour to reach the gymnasium across the street without encountering protesters. To Harper, they aren’t just a nuisance but a safety concern: One of the defendants named in the lawsuit, Robert Weiler Jr., was previously convicted of plotting to bomb an abortion clinic and shoot doctors in nearby Greenbelt, Maryland.
Why this particular terrorist wasn’t locked up for lifetime is perhaps a subject for another post, but I would be remiss if I did not make a few points about the d00d here.
“From all indications, it appears he was acting alone,” said Gregory K. Gant, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s Baltimore field division.
He’s a white terrorist, you see. And as we all know, white terrorists operate in a cultural void, and in any event they are uniquely impervious to violent rhetoric and ideologies. Also, we must be careful not to implicate a white terrorist’s race, nationality and/or religion in producing such terrorists: he is simply “Lone Wolf” No. 194,801.
Agent Gant also said this:
“In some ways, it could have been a bigger threat because it wasn’t something we were tracking, and we didn’t see it coming.”
Surveillance state: FAIL. While the state is quite keen on deploying counterterrorism tactics to infiltrate and monitor citizens opposed to U.S. economic policy, immigration policy, harmful trade agreements, union-busting, racial profiling, the death penalty, Israeli violence against Palestinians, endless wars, etc., white terrorists operating on US soil just aren’t people law enforcement would ever thinks to track. I mean, gosh, how could anyone possibly ever see anything like this coming?
But I digress. Back to the Forced Birth Bozo Brigades.
The lawsuit describes the protests as a form of coercion, intended to draft parents and administrators into a campaign to block the clinic from opening next door. The antiabortion activists “have promised they will ‘be back every week’ if the students and parents do not take action against the Planned Parenthood health center,” the complaint alleges. Protesters have shouted at children to “Tell your parents they kill kids next door.” In November, an activist named Jonathan Darnel sent an e-mail to school administrators that read, “I am not threatening you. Nevertheless, if you are failing to challenge Planned Parenthood, I feel a moral obligation to alert the community (including the parents of your students) myself…. I’m sure you don’t want to see me, my antiabortion friends and our graphic images any more than we want to be in your neighborhood.”
Defendant Larry Cirignano was at the protest on Thursday, wearing a banana-yellow tie stamped with the words “choose life.” I asked him if he was at all concerned for students who were disturbed by the images and messages he and other demonstrators present to them. “I’m worried more about the kids who are in the pictures,” he responded. “It’s sad that the school and parents didn’t think they should get involved.” Gesturing at the group waiting to hear [Dvideo campaign intended to take down Planned Parenthood] speak, he said, “Most of these people aren’t from around here.” Cirignano said he’s being represented by Mat Staver of Liberty Council, who also represents Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis.avid Daleiden, the shitweasel behind the recent deceptive
These are just fantastic people: respectful, kind, informed, tolerant, exactly the kind of community exemplars you would definitely want to have around small children.
What to do about it.
As the lawsuit winds its way through the courts, it is worth remembering that the US Supreme court struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law around women’s clinics—ones that were already open and operating, not construction sites. The justices so ruled from the safety and sanctity of their very own buffer-zone protected place of work.
As I noted at the time, that decision was unanimous—thus rendering the entire Supreme Court as currently constituted not just a bunch of flaming hypocritical @$$holes, but complicit in providing material support to terrorists.
As that’s how the state of affairs stands, I propose a simple strategy of tit-for-tat. To wit: picket the schools where the protesters’ children attend. Hold up giant posters picturing women killed and imprisoned as a result of anti-choicers—most prominently the photo of Geraldine Santoro taken at the scene of her death from a self-abortion attempt.[WARNING: extremely graphic violent image, NSFW.] Shout in the kids’ faces “Your parents want to kill mommies!” “Your parents like killing poor mommies!” “Your parents want to put poor mommies in jail!”
Stop when they stop.
Why no one will do this.
Because it’s fucking horrible, that’s why—even though it is, apparently, legal. Pro-abortion activists like to think of ourselves as better people than our enemies. And of course we are, demonstrably so: you don’t see us going around firebombing right-wing churches and shooting anti-abortion ringleaders, do you? We are certainly “above” directing such reprehensible tactics at innocent children, or frankly at anyone at all.
And therein lies our dilemma. Just think for a moment about what it actually takes for conservatives to change their minds, and not just about this issue but about anything. Global warming, for-profit healthcare, creationism, gun access, immigration, the unbroken record of failure of right-wing economic policy and governance, take your pick. Evidence is not enough. Epic calamities are not enough. Personal calamities are not enough. Experts who know what they’re talking about are not enough. These people cannot be reasoned with, and yet they are winning. There is no denying that their tactics, however reprehensible, are nonetheless effective.
It’s quite the conundrum, no? It certainly leaves me contemplating whether I ought to rethink that “No.”
I hope this edition of Ask Iris has been helpful.
Have a nice day.
NYC Cops Prove They Aren’t Really Needed. Lindorff, D., The Greanville Post (Jan. 2015). (“If this job action keeps up, and the city doesn’t descend into a spasm of crime and mayhem, maybe Mayor deBlasio should live up to his early billing as a former radical activist and start sacking the protesting cops.”) [Good luck with that. –Ed.]
46 examples of Muslim outrage about Paris shooting that Fox News can’t seem to find. Halper, K., Raw Story (Jan. 2015).
Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter. Editors, The Frederick News-Post (background: Delauter to The News-Post: Don’t use my name without permission. Jones, P.) (Jan. 2014). [h/t Kel] [OMFG LOL. –Ed.]
FBI says target in Colorado Springs bombing unclear. Loveless, C., KRDO.com (Jan. 2015).
Linda Tirado: ‘It was insane. I got 20,000 emails in a week’: The author of Hand to Mouth on the shock of going viral online, being vilified by critics, and now being able to afford to have her teeth fixed. Cooke, R., The Guardian (Jan. 2014).
Study: White people see “black” Americans as less competent than “African Americans”. Lopez, G., Vox (Jan. 2015). [Behold the power of words. –Ed.]
Charlie Hebdo, Bill Donohue, and the freedom of thought. Seidel, A.L., Freedom From Religion Foundation (Jan. 2015).
Coward Donohue doesn’t understand liberty. Seidel, A.L., Freedom From Religion Foundation (Jan. 2015).
[IRIS ♥ ♥ ♥ FFRF’s ANDREW SEIDEL. –Ed.]
As #LeelahAlcorn’s mom talks to CNN, Leelah’s Reddit posts come back to haunt her. Williams, C., Transadvocate (Jan. 2015). (“there is an effort to swamp trans-specific helpline call centers [STRONG TW] with bogus calls on the off-chance it will prevent a trans person from accessing help and result in their suicide”) [TRIGGER WARNING: death threats, dehumanization, epic assholery, abuse—especially at the embedded link.]
Anti-vaccination update: How the measles crisis struck Disneyland. Hiltzik, M., The Los Angeles Times (Jan. 2015). (“Disney isn’t at fault in this outbreak–heedless parents leaving their children unvaccinated are.”)
Guys Need Pap Tests, Too: A Trans Man’s Guide to Visiting the Gyno. Kellaway, M., Everyday Feminism (Jan. 2015).
A Drone Flew Over A Pig Farm To Discover It’s Not Really A Farm. It’s Something Much More Disturbing. Berman, R., Upworthy (Dec. 2014) (with VIDEO: “Spy Drones Expose Smithfield Foods Factory Farms” by Mark Devries.). [h/t Don Ardell]
I’ll Bet You’ve Put Yourself In A Really Bad Position Without Even Knowing It At Least Once. Willard, L., Upworthy (Oct. 2014). (with VIDEO: “Lost in the Fine Print,” narrated by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, created by Alliance for Justice.) [h/t SJ]
The U.S. has more jails than colleges. Here’s a map of where those prisoners live. Ingraham, C., The Washington Post (Jan. 2015). [#priorities –Ed.]
The community of the potentially mockable. Salty Current, Butterflies & Wheels / Freethought Blogs (Jan. 2015).
In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism. Canfield, J., The Hooded Utilitarian (Jan. 2015).
What Stalled the Gender Revolution? Child Care That Costs More Than College Tuition. Straus, T., California Magazine (Winter 2014).
Sheets: Christians Must Take Back Government In 2015 Because ‘We Are God’s Governing Force On The Earth’. Mantyla, K., Right Wing Watch (Jan. 2015). [If this is the kind of ape it wants in charge, wow this god is a huuuuuge asshole. –Ed.]
The right-wing domestic terror plot you didn’t hear about this week. Jilani, Z., Raw Story via AlterNet (Jan. 2015).
I find that the biggest fans of imperialism are the folks who thought of it first.
–Kent F. Hell-Dweller
Ugh “what if you aborted the person who’d have cured cancer?”
“No, what if you made her raise a baby at 15 instead of going to med school?”
-Beatrice (@MissObdurate) via Sally Strange
I’ve learned throughout my journey that perfection is the enemy of greatness. Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable.
PLZ NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual. See, e.g., the linked pieces by J. Canfield and Salty Current regarding Charlie Hebdo: both are thoughtful, provocative and persuasive—and utterly irreconcilable.
For those inclined toward clicktivism, here is a petition (via Avaaz) you can e-sign that reads:
We stand united in support of the march for Fraternity, Equality and Liberty. We are not afraid, and we will not be divided.
As of this post there are 626,469 signers. They’re aiming for a million.
We have arrived home safely from our journeys to the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, where we stayed in Grand Case on the French side. Naturally, news of the terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo rocked the seaside town, and many flags remained at half mast.
The Palace is likewise flying French flags at half mast until further notice.
I am sure Loyal Readers™ have a pretty good idea where I stand on many of the issues implicated in these events, e.g. religion in general and fundamentalist Islam in particular, free speech and freedom of the press, satire and mockery vs. terrorist violence as political acts, the inevitable right-wing blowback in the West including more—and thus more ineffective—mass surveillance. I may have more to say about some or all of that later. For now, I will just leave you with just a few things that resonate with me.
A timely reminder from my friend that people in the U.S. have much, much more to fear from our own homegrown jihadists than we do from Islamic terrorism: Terror From the Right: Plots, Conspiracies and Racist Rampages Since Oklahoma City. (See also.)
These lines from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, written a thousand years ago:
But yours the cold heart, and the murderous tongue,
The wintry soul that hates to hear a song,
The close-shut fist, the mean and measuring eye,
And all the little poisoned ways of wrong.
[h/t Adam Lee]
by Iris Vander Pluym
oil on canvas, 30 ft. x 50 ft.
[TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of sexist, racist and other problematic language.]
[UPDATE: cross-posted at Secular Woman.]
Friends, I am sorry to report that FREE SPEECH™ is, for all intents and purposes, dead. And not just in Dawkinsland either, where Richard and his fellow…what’s the word?… “rationalists” I believe they call themselves, are at this very moment cowering in abject fear of no exaggeration witch hunts, actual Inquisitions and literal Orwellian Thought Police. As I’m sure we can all imagine, that is exactly what it is like being rebuked for saying factually wrong or long-debunked shit on Twitter—or worse, being informed that you’ve just said something harmful to people who are not you. Can you even imagine? Thankfully, Dawkins & Co. keep on bravely fighting the good fight for FREE SPEECH™ for all of us, by brilliantly deploying the tried-and-true tactic of repeating rape culture tropes that have plagued sexual assault victims for millennia. THOUGHT EXPERIMENTIN’! BREAKIN’ TABOOS! PHILOSOPHIZIN’! ‘SPLAININ’ LOGIC! If that doesn’t make feminists shut the fuck up, surely nothing will. I mean, what is the point of even having FREE SPEECH™ if other people are going to actually criticize things you say?
But this terrifying campaign of violent censorship has now gone far beyond even that. Andrew Sullivan, “conservative-libertarian” columnist, reports with alarm that “The SJWs Now Get To Police Speech On Twitter.” For the uninitiated, “SJW” stands for Social Justice Warrior, i.e., a person who advocates for equality and against bigotry and oppression with respect to race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. (Believe it or not, SJW is actually meant as derogatory slur.) So what exactly are these jack-booted thugs doing to end FREE SPEECH™ on Twitter?
Well, a group called WAM! (Women, Action & the Media) has just entered into a pilot program in collaboration with Twitter intended to address the epidemic of gender-based harassment and abuse plaguing the platform. The purpose is to “learn about what kind of gendered harassment is happening on Twitter, how that harassment intersects with other kinds of harassment (racist, transphobic, etc.), and which kinds of cases Twitter is prepared (and less prepared) to respond to.” WAM! will work with Twitter to track the data and improve their responses. The way it works is pretty straightforward: if you’re being harassed on Twitter, you fill out this form on the WAM! site. Once they verify your information, they escalate it a.s.a.p. directly to Twitter, and try to get you a quick resolution. WAM! makes clear right on the form that they can only advocate: they have neither the authority nor the ability to make decisions or take any action on behalf of Twitter.
Just to be clear: we are not talking here about hurt fee-fees because somebody tweeted something mean at me and now I haz a sad. We are talking about relentless threats of violent rape and gruesome death, some credible enough that recently at least three women have been driven from their own homes. We are talking about violations of federal law under 18 U.S. Code § 875(c), which provides that “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” In New York State, we are talking about a class A misdemeanor under § 120.50(3), or depending on the circumstances, possibly a class E or D felony. In a case like Zerlina Maxwell’s, we are also talking about a hate crime subject to enhanced sentencing. And more to the point, we are talking about violations of Twitter’s own terms of service, which Twitter itself has proven unable to enforce.
This is the FREE SPEECH™ hill that Andrew Sullivan is prepared to die on.
If you think about it, it’s actually kind of shitty that a nonprofit like WAM! has to step in and do this work for Twitter (to say nothing of local, state and federal law enforcement). But to Twitter’s credit, this certainly represents a step in the right direction, and one with the potential to lead to in-house reforms.
But not for Andrew Sullivan. Oh, no. He is filled with the foreboding sense that this unholy alliance between WAM! and Twitter portends the end of FREE SPEECH™ as we know it. In his mind, “Twitter has empowered leftist feminists to have a censorship field day.” And Sullivan does not like these lefty-feminists one bit, no siree! So much so that he imagines—naturally based on no evidence whatsoever—that WAM!s actual Sooper Seekrit Agenda™ is ultimately enforcing “gender quotas for all media businesses, equal representation for women in, say, video-games, gender parity in employment in journalism and in the stories themselves.” Gender quotas! LOL! Also: simply stating the demonstrable fact that straight, white males have overwhelmingly dominated public discourse is disparaging straight white males as a group. And sure, WAM! may say their mission is to advocate for the inclusion of more diverse and historically marginalized voices in media, but Andrew Sullivan ain’t buying it: “WAM can get to advance their broader ideas about policing the speech of white straight males by this legitimizing alliance with Twitter.” WAM!’s real goal, he knows, “is to police and punish others for their alleged sexism.” Never mind that, again, WAM! cannot censor anything, anywhere (except their own web site). Twitter is “handing over the censorship tools to a radical activist group bent on social transformation.”
Obviously, if these terrible lefty feminist censors are not stopped pronto, next thing you know straight white men will be the ones fleeing their homes in fear for their lives. Just like Richard Dawkins.
Seriously, though, the whole rant is wildly entertaining. “Instead of seeing the web as opening up vast vistas for all sorts of voices to be heard,” he writes with comical cluelessness, “they seem to believe it is rigged against female voices.” D00d. In case the fourth paragraph of this very blog post did not adequately demonstrate for you that the web is quite clearly “rigged against female voices,” a recent Pew research study found that (a) women overall are disproportionately targeted by the most severe forms of online abuse, (b) 25 percent of young women have been sexually harassed online, and (c) 26 percent have experienced stalking.
And guess what else? Queer women, women of color, trans women and women with other marginalized identities are especially targeted and abused. Sullivan quotes WAM!’s Jaclyn Friedman:
“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.
Behold, his insightful retort:
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?
Yes, that must be it: it’s feminists who believe women are delicate flowers who cannot possibly handle the “rough-and-tumble of uninhibited online speech.” Like routine rape and death threats, doxxing (releasing private information such as home addresses, phone numbers, employer, etc. in order to get people to harass women offline, too), libel, hate speech, revenge porn and all sorts of other “rough-and-tumble,” “uninhibited online speech” Sullivan is apparently so invested in protecting. FREE SPEECH™, y’all.
Then he says:
I can find no reason to oppose a stronger effort by Twitter to prevent individual users from stalking or harassing others –
Okay! That’s fantastic. We’re all on board, then.
if merely saying nasty things about someone can be seen as harassment,
It can’t. Because that’s not actually what the word “harassment” means.
then where on earth does this well-intentioned censorship end? Is it designed to censor only misogyny and not racism?
No, dear. It’s designed to curtail harassment and abuse. And it’s starting with misogynist harassment and abuse, albeit with an intersectional focus (racism, transphobia, etc.). FYI, the group is called Women, Action & Media.
What about blasphemy?
Let’s see. I just tweeted this:
Of course no one wants to prevent Andrew Sullivan or anyone else from embarrassing themselves on Twitter. I mean, what would we do around here all day without conservatives providing a steady stream of hilarious blog fodder? Unfortunately, how these nefarious evildoers at WAM! will accomplish all of their evildoing by forwarding misogynist harassment complaints to some people at Twitter is left unstated by Sullivan. But I’ll definitely be bringing it up at next week’s regular meeting of the White-Straight-Man-Hating Social Justice Warriors For Censorship and World Domination™.
A piece by Alana Semuels and Maria L. La Ganga in the LA Times this weekend documents the coat hanger lobby’s template in Louisiana, the same state-level strategy it has been using to successfully shutter abortion clinics across the nation, most recently and devastatingly in Texas. While the article will likely offer nothing new to Loyal Readers™ here, it does offer up a fresh slate of involuntary organ donors, i.e. those would happily force others to donate lifesaving organs without their consent. Since they feel so very strongly about this principle, it is of course only right and fair that they live (or die) by it. Just think of all the lives we will be saving by extracting a kidney and maybe some skin grafts from each of these principled Americans:
- Charmaine Yoest, president, Americans United for Life
Qualification: says of the successful state-level strategy of forced childbirth, “There wasn’t much opportunity on the federal level, so pro-life [sic] Americans said, ‘We are going to make a statement with the government that’s nearest and closest to us.'”
- Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, Republican.
Qualification: “has been so consistent in his opposition to abortion that the state is celebrated as the most ‘pro-life’ in the country by Americans United for Life.”
- Bill Shanks, anti-abortion protester and member of fundamentalist Christian group Operation Save America.
Qualification: “This is like a victory celebration. Last time we came here, there were 10 free-standing abortion clinics. One by one, they’ve crumbled.”
- Benjamin Clapper, executive director, Louisiana Right to Life Federation.
Qualification: well, he is the executive director of the Louisiana Right to Life [sic] Federation…
- Gene Mills, Christian pastor and head of the Louisiana
FamilyMisogyny Forum (founded by fellow involuntary organ donor Tony Perkins).
Qualification: publishes antiabortion scorecards on Louisiana legislators, distributes them to churches and encourages pastors to unconstitutionally speak out about elected officials in violation of their tax-exempt status: “We want to let [pastors] know that it is not the government’s right to limit your free speech even when you stand on the pulpit.”
- Katrina Jackson, Louisiana State Representative, Democrat.
Qualification: Sponsor of Louisiana’s TRAP law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals: “I look forward to the day abortion is not legal in this country.”
- Warniesha Berry, garden variety asshole.
Qualification: “if you close them down and there is no possible way to get an abortion, you’re going to think twice about having unprotected sex.” Hahaha nope.
Everyone, and that includes our new involuntary organ donors from Louisiana, knows these things:
- Abortion bans do not stop abortions: we either have safe and legal abortions or unsafe and dangerous abortions. “No abortions” is not on the table, except perhaps under a religious, totalitarian, fascist regime—and nobody wants that. Well, nobody except religious, totalitarian fascists…
- Pregnant people die when abortion is banned.
- Abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth—and that is just fatalities.
- An estimated 1.7 million pregnant people in the U.S. yearly suffer adverse health events related to pregnancy, ranging from nausea & vomiting to severe back pain, high blood pressure, hemmorhoids, sleep disorders, mood disorders, incontinence, permanent loss of dental and bone calcium leading to cavities and osteoporosis, higher lifetime risk of developing Altzheimer’s, broken ribcage and “tail bone”, hemorrhage, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia/eclampsia (convulsions, coma during pregnancy or labor, high risk of death), pelvic floor disorder (occurring in as many as 35% of middle-aged former child-bearers and 50% of elderly former child-bearers, associated with urinary and rectal incontinence, discomfort and reduced quality of life), seizures, fractured pelvis, infection and much, much more.
- Being denied abortions increases risks and rates of domestic violence by tethering pregnant people to violent partners.
- When people who want them are denied abortions, they are statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line.
All of those who find themselves today unwilling participants in our groundbreaking involuntary organ donation program are well aware of these facts: these are features, not bugs, in their ideology and the laws spawned from it. Unlike our donors, we take no pleasure in enslaving and violently harming people. We do, however, take some small measure of satisfaction when justice is served fairly and equally to all people. Pregnant or not.
Welcome to the Abattoir, shitweasels.