Your weekly dose of privilege, bullying and generally missing the point
Posted by Richie on April 5, 2007
I hadn’t visited Something Awful since I wrote about RapeLay a couple of months back on Ye Olde Blogge. Prior to that I’d avoided it for several years, because… I’m not a teenager anymore, basically. About an hour ago, a friend told me that, against all odds, the site was now even worse than it used to be. I had to see this first hand, since I didn’t think it was possible for Something Awful to become more of a shitfest, even purely theoretically.
The “good” news is that the J-List banner is gone, so they’re not actively promoting the sale of RapeLay and pedophilic hentai anymore. But remember, they were doing it ironically. They’ve also changed “Hentai Reviews” to “Awful Anime”, even though it’s still entirely hentai. I don’t know if that means they’re going to stop
advertising reviewing hentai from now on or what; the fact they’ve changed it all now that J-List isn’t sponsoring them any more seems to imply that the section only ever existed to get money out of their misogynist fanbase. Or would, if I were cynical. Which I’m totally not or anything. All of this is basically irrelevant because I’m unlikely to be lured back for another year or so, by which time the site will just be a PHP script that randomly generates faux-ironic hatred for anybody who isn’t exactly like the target audience. TAKE THAT, WORLD!
There’s already been enough written about Kathy Sierra’s online harassment and the subsequent cancellation of her workshop at the ETech conference. Kathy herself writes about it here, there’s a Feministe post on it here, a Salon article here, and one on Computer World here.
Lowtax, the webmaster of Something Awful, has his own take on things. I was going to say “unique take on things”, but there’s precisely nothing unique about over-privileged fuckheads using their magic powers to dismiss and ridicule the experiences of others (ironically). I’m not going to link to it directly, for the usual reasons. The URL is http://www%5Bdot%5Dsomethingawful%5Bdot%5Dcom/d/hogosphere/internet-death-threat%5Bdot%5Dphp, if you want to read the whole thing. In both style and content, it’s the exact same kind of shit that made me close my old blog down and move somewhere with comment moderation. And completely different readers.
“wah wah, I’m a big baby and this big baby uses the internet”
Can somebody please explain to me how is this news? Is getting death threats from anonymous people on the internet some incredibly new and fresh phenomenon sweeping the globe by storm? Up until March of 2007, were all internet users kind, courteous, eloquent pinnacles of human perfection?
Nobody was murdered. No crimes were committed. The same thing that’s been happening on the internet for two decades has happened yet again.
You get the general drift. Lowtax repeatedly attacks Sierra for not just shrugging off continuous and increasingly brutal threats of sexual violence, since – hey! – Lowtax doesn’t let irate Insane Clown Posse fans get to him. Because, you know, obviously these two experiences are the exact same thing. He also attacks anybody who’s written about the incident for making a mountain out of a molehill, as if the thrust of the articles has been “Somebody told a blogger to die OMG!”, rather than, ooh, “An online campaign of coordinated sexual harassment, threats of violence and intimidation has forced a blogger cancel a public appearance because she genuinely fears for her safety.”
Oh Lowtax, Lowtax, you silly little thoughtless halfwit. There isn’t a single prominent female blogger out there who doesn’t get told she’s a whore who needs to die all the fucking time. They already have thick skin. It’s a minimum job requirement. Sierra wrote about the relationship between users, technology and the brain, yet still found herself the target of gendered abuse which was totally irrelevant to her actual arguments, simply because she was female. Keeping the content of Sierra’s blog in mind, it’s also massively disingenuous of Lowtax to say “But I get abuse too!”, since, although Sierra said some contentious things, Something Awful intentionally sets out to piss people off, and has sections like “TruthMedia” that only exist to generate abusive emails. His situation isn’t remotely comparable to Sierra’s, but why miss a golden opportunity for hypocritical bullying masquerading as social commentary? It’s what the fans want, after all.
But, no, the entire thing is the fault of Sierra and anybody who’s angry that, no matter what women do online, men are going to use the advantage of anonymity to undermine them – consistently – because they happen to be women. As far as he’s concerned, it’s a non-issue and a beat up, since it’s not going to directly affect him, his writers or his target audience. Does he even know what people actually said and did to Sierra, or did he just hear “blogger” and “death threats” in the same sentence and reflexively fire off the usual “satirical” salvo of derision, bigotry and ostensibly zany non-sequiturs?
I present to you old media idiots inarguable proof demonstrating that goofy bitchy broad has absolutely nothing to whine about in her blogoriffic blogorama. I give you an email death threat against my two-year old daughter.
“I can’t be insensitive about death threats because my daughter got one” lines up to join “I can’t be sexist because my girlfriend says I’m not”, “I can’t be racist because some of my friends are black” and “It’s not homophobic when I say ‘faggot’ because I know a faggot who’s totally cool with it”, amongst other passengers on the next train to Lame Excuse City, pop. seemingly limitless.
Collateral damage. Remember those words when I fly to Lee’s Summit, kick in your door, duct tape Lauren Seoul’s mouth, fuck her in the ass, and toss her over a bridge.
This was the latest death threat I’ve received, a little nugget of insanity written by “Mark Pomerantz,” a guy kicked out of the University of Colorado at Boulder, a man absolutely furious I banned him from our forums. Yes, that’s correct, somebody is threatening to rape and murder my two-year old daughter because he was banned from an internet forum. At the risk of sounding like a psychologist, I’m going to climb out on a limb here and claim this person isn’t exactly grounded in reality.
Again, lunatics flaming you with “I’m going to rape and murder you / your family” is the standard experience for most prominent female bloggers, and they don’t even have to ban people to “deserve” it. No, Mark Pomerantz probably isn’t going to rape and kill Lowtax’s daughter. He’s just a frustrated troll. This isn’t what happened to Kathy Sierra. Even if this was what had happened, why does “Everybody on the internet does it” make it a non-issue, precisely? Threatening anything female with sexual violence is OK because all the other kids are doing it, and most of them don’t really mean it? If she takes it too seriously, it’s her fault for being thin-skinned, but if it turns out to be genuine, then I’m willing to bet it’d still be her fault for ignoring the warning signs.
So how is some “blogger” receiving a death threat national news? This isn’t anything unique or revolutionary or even interesting; your position as a public figure is directly proportional to the amount of people who will despise you. Some folks loathe me because I earn money running a comedy site containing the greatest writers and forum members on the internet. Such jealousy forces people to lash out in any way they can, desperately trying to hurt or get under their target’s skin any way possible, as long as it does not require leaving their chair. The result? Yet another internet death threat.
It’s easy to shrug off hate mail if you’ve got an army of drones hanging on your every word and buying your merchandise. It’s easy to be thick-skinned about what you do if your site gets millions of hits and your writers get invited on TV shows. It’s easy for men to ignore threats of sexual violence, because men don’t have a 1 in 4 chance of being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Other people don’t have these things to fall back on.
Lowtax, every time you blame the victims for reacting to online abuse in a way you wouldn’t, you condone and encourage what people did to Kathy Sierra, and what they’ll continue to do in the future. Considering this is how you make money, I’m not at all surprised. Just cut the bullshit and stop trying to take the moral high ground.
What happened to Kathy Sierra wasn’t flaming born of jealousy, and wasn’t a bunch of trolls making fun of her. She already had that happening. What she went through was a coordinated, deliberate campaign of abuse, occurring on other tech blog sites with a similar profile. They put real effort into it. They described raping, beating and suffocating her, in detail. They Photoshopped her head next to a noose and said they were going to hang her. They said they were going to slit her throat. They mocked up an image of her being suffocated with her underwear. They worked on this together as a community. An entire community dedicated to intimidating and demeaning her. They also published her social security number and home address. She, meanwhile, had no idea who any of these people were.
This is not the same thing as getting flames like “I wish you were dead” or “I’m going to kill you, faggot” because you said something bad about Dragonball.
These were real threats. Even if the men on the other end never planned to go through with them, they were still real threats.
In Kathy’s words:
I now fully understand the impact of death threats. It really doesn’t make much difference whether the person intends to act on the threat… it’s the threat itself that inflicts the damage. It’s the threat that makes you question whether that “anonymous” person is as disturbed as their comments and pictures suggest.
It’s the threat that causes fear.
It’s the threat that leads you to a psychiatrist and tranquilizers just so you can sleep without repeating the endless loop of your death by:
* throat slitting
and don’t forget the sexual part…
I have cancelled all speaking engagements.
I am afraid to leave my yard.
I will never feel the same. I will never be the same
Of course, none of this matters on Planet Lowtax. As far as he’s concerned, the issue here isn’t what Kathy Sierra went through, or that many, many other female bloggers have gone through the same thing, it’s that “old media idiots” are CRITICISING HIS INTERNETS!!!, specifically the parts where people enjoy casually throwing around hate speech. Like, you know, Something Awful.
Until I can precisely determine why a person receiving an internet death threat has been deemed “news,” I’ll continue to roll my eyes at the media’s fascination and confusion with the internet.
I wonder, Lowtax, if there was a group of anonymous guys Photoshopping pictures of your daughter asphyxiating, and describing in detail the way they’re going to murder her, over and over again, and those guys knew your address, would that only be worth rolling your eyes at?
I’ll give Kathy the last word on this.
Do not put these people on a pedestal. Do not let them get away with calling this “social commentary”, “protected speech”, or simply “criticism”. I would never be for censoring speech–these people can say all the misogynistic, vile, tasteless things they like–but we must preserve that line where words and images become threats of violence. Freedom of speech–however distasteful and rude the speech may be, is crucial. But when those words contain threats of harm or death, they can destroy a life.
EDIT: No, wait, I’ll give the last word to Something Awful’s forum.
If they just say “I’m going to slit your throat and jerk off into your throat hole” it’s just words.
Jesus, I’m thinking about killing her myself!
I think the main reason the media picked up on this, and I’m just saying this because I think so lowly of the media, is because she’s a woman.
Because nobody would have directed this kind of behaviour toward a man in the first place, maybe? NOPE! It’s because the media is just so biased toward women.
This comment, incidentally, came from Lowtax himself, who was just upgraded from “thoughtless halfwit” to “insufferable self-pitying contemptuous waste of flesh” in my personal estimation. Congratulations.
Try the “men who hate women on the web” link – these militant little people see sexism wherever they look, and frankly it’s absolutely disgusting.
This truly is amazing. A bunch of men threaten a woman with sexual violence, Photoshop her gagged with women’s underwear, repeatedly call her a slut, then threaten to tear off her head and cum in the wound. The only people who think sexism might be involved in this are, apparently, “people who see sexism wherever they look”.
Seriously, this deserves some kind of award. NASA should study it. We could eliminate fossil fuels if we learned to harness stupidity of this magnitude.