More on harassment on the internet

So, the Angry Black Woman posts about an experience she had with a troll who, when banned, continued to harass her. The post itself is worth a read, but (oh so predictably) another troll shows up in her comments to start telling her how bad and wrong she was for informing the guy’s company of his actions online.

Now, I’m not here to talk about that, but rather to highlight two of the comments that came out of it because I think that they make very important points about the kind of harassment that occurs on anti-oppression blogs and why it’s important to not lie down and accept it in the name of “free speech” or “tolerance” that shouldn’t be just a footnote of another post.

The first one is by Nora about the difference between a normal troll and the racist, sexist, etc trolls that come to harass us:

Here is the crux of the issue: I just don’t think that initiating arguments with a troll is actually helping the social problems-
Wait, wait, wait. ABW does not go to these people’s blogs and make anti-racism speeches. They come here and start shit. So please remember — she’s not “initiating arguments” by any means.

The thing you need to remember is that this blog does not operate in a vacuum. Look at the links along the right side sometime. ABW is part of a vast and growing network of anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-other-oppression blog sites, and she’s only the latest in a long line of textual crusaders. There have been many others since the internet was popularized. Quite a few of the pioneering sites have died — enough that we’ve learned a few things about the tactics of racists on the ‘net. For example,
a) Racists are not ordinary trollers, any more than stalkers are ordinary annoyances. Racists aren’t just out to have some fun by pissing people off; harassment is not an end in itself for them. They’re trying to disempower others, using harassment as a weapon. This distinction is important, because it gives them great incentive to persist long past the time when a troll would’ve gotten bored and moved on.
b) Like harassment, persistence is also a racist weapon. Racists do not go away. When they realize they have free reign, they usually take encouragement from the silence. There are never as many of them as they want you to believe, but to make up for their small numbers, they never shut the fuck up.

c) Racists act out of fear. They fear the loss of their power; some fear the loss of their “racial purity”, some just fear change. Regardless, frightened people are irrational people, and irrational people are dangerous. Would you ignore an irrational person who was coming after you over and over again, and getting worse each time? I don’t care how Zen you are; that’s not smart.
d) All this has the side-effect of silencing the non-racists, who get tired/frightened by the ugliness.
And of course, d) is what kills blogs.

Then there’s ABW’s response, which talks about why taking steps to stop harassment is, you know, a good thing not a bad one:

One of the things we learn as children is that actions have consequences. the fewer consequences a child is subjected to in their early years, the more they get the impression that they can do whatever they want. Same works for adults. If a person spends their day being a racist troll and nothing comes of it, they learn that being a racist troll has no consequences and continue doing so. For minor trolls, the mere act of banning them is consequence enough. They go “Oh, no one likes it when I do that. Ah well, I’ll go away.” Hopefully they go away to be a better person, but my instinct says they go away to be a racist troll somewhere else. If so, my hope is that others will ban them and, finally, the consequences will mount up and either change that behavior or drive them into a small hole where they have no one to talk to but other racist assholes.

The bigger the entitlement, the harsher consequences must be. The guy who replied to my banning him with “I’ll just keep trying to harass her until I get to do it again” was obviously in need of harsher consequences. because he believed it was his right to continue being an asshole on my blog. Well, it wasn’t. This is why I took things to another level. not because I enjoy calling people’s workplaces and informing on them, but because otherwise, they won’t get the message that what they are doing is not okay. Consequences are important.
Sometimes the mere threat of consequences is enough to make people realize where they are in the wrong. or, at least, get them to back off. Michael sent me a note very soon after this post went up to say that he would not darken our doorstep again. He tried his own version of consequences by implying that I had threatened to expose his name and daughter’s name and address publicly (which I did not). He wanted me to take this post down. Maybe he was afraid his employers would see it. He was definitely afraid of me going to his HR department, that was clear.
In the end, I didn’t have to do any such thing. I just had to let him know that I meant business. Hopefully this post will serve as a similar deterrent to others. Now that they know the consequences, they won’t be so quick to think “I can just keep on doing what I’m doing.” That’s the problem with Internet trolling. people think they can do it without any consequences. I’m here to say: you can’t.

Not Michael, this may offend your Zen sensibilities and I’m sorry for that. But it’s not as if I’ve actually physically hurt someone here. Also, even MLK and Ghandi brought consequences. they didn’t just stand around and yell that they wanted equal rights or a free India. they *did* something about it. that something was not war, that something was not physically fighting, but that something was NOT just turning the other cheek. It was refusing to meet violence with violence but instead with protecting one’s self and showing the futility of violence.
I could respond to trolls by just being nasty back at them and that would be the equivalent of meeting violence with violence. Instead, I show them the consequences of their actions. for MLK, it was to bring hundreds or thousands of people to the government’s workplace and to show them that injustice would NOT be met with silence and would NOT be patiently endured. That they were prepared to take action 9though that action would not have been violent). I’m doing the same (though not comparing myself to MLK or anything). Harassment will NOT be met with silence. I won’t come to your house and beat you up or anything, but I will use the resources available to me.

If you’re expecting some deep and thoughtful commentary, I’ll have to disappoint. I’m still technically on blog break. But, really, I think the comments above speak for themselves. Harassment is not okay, and cyberstalking — what Micheal was starting to do — is a crime, people. You don’t have the right to systematically harass another human being, whether offline or on. One would think that this would be common sense, but the 84 responses that the original thread has gotten would say otherwise.

So, in summary, stay in school and don’t harass people because there will one day be consequences that you probably won’t like.

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This entry was posted in Privilege, Racism, The Evil -ism's, The Internet is Serious Business. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to More on harassment on the internet

  1. Nic says:

    Sounds like Micheal really wants to be heard in a private forum. I can’t imagine why…

    But then I can’t imagine why she would give power to Michael’s words. That just empowers him, gives him the attention that he craves, validates his actions when he can see a reaction. Therefore… he will most likely continue.

    However I think it’s odd that according to Nora, the same principle doesn’t apply to the “anti-ism” crowd. In fact the common perception I have seen amongst similarly-minded individuals is that the inverse actually occurs – that reaction and acknowledging responses serve not to validate the importance of one’s own opinion but serve to quash it’s legitimacy.

    I think it’s a strange perception how it works one way for one’s own arbitrary group and differently for all others.

  2. tekanji says:

    But then I can’t imagine why she would give power to Michael’s words. That just empowers him, gives him the attention that he craves, validates his actions when he can see a reaction. Therefore… he will most likely continue.

    In most circumstances I would agree with you. I’ve actually had really good success with my moderation policy, and most trolls giving up once they realize that they won’t be published. Of course it’s also a pain in the ass to do moderation and it sometimes leads me to have stuff in the queue for weeks at a time.

    I know exactly why she did it in this case, though: to serve as a warning to other trolls that she will take whatever steps necessary to protect herself from online harassment.

    Also, it’s worth pointing out that in this case if Michael does not give up, he will be facing real life consequences such as his job being in jeopardy because most companies don’t think it’s good for business to employ harassers. There will also be a point that ABW can involve the cops because cyberstalking is a crime, and Micheal is only a few steps away from doing that.

    However I think it’s odd that according to Nora, the same principle doesn’t apply to the “anti-ism” crowd.

    Uh, what? I have no idea how you got that conclusion from what she said. Nora was merely explaining the difference between typical trolls and racist trolls, she was in no way, shape, or form saying anything about the “anti-ism” crowd. And, actually, I’m not sure what you’re accusing her of saying doesn’t apply to the “anti-ism” crowd.

    I think it’s a strange perception how it works one way for one’s own arbitrary group and differently for all others.

    While human nature is such that that sort of thing happens no matter what the group, you really have no business accusing Nora or ABW’s blog of such a thing, especially since I doubt you have read enough of their stuff to have an informed opinion on the matter.

    I’m pretty sure I already pointed you in the direction of the links on my sidebar under the “Privilege 101″ heading, but I’ll recommend them again. I’ll also recommend the male privilege link at the Feminism 101 blog because it includes a short introduction to how the system of privilege works in general.

  3. Nic says:

    There are no accusations here, Tek. I’m just stating an observation on this.

    What I read into Nora’s statement was that Persistence is a weapon. Yes, all successful people don’t quit when they’ve heard the first “No”. (And please don’t twist that into something else as I’m sure some will attempt to do so.) If any positive/negative reaction occurs because of Michaels deeds, then it empowers him. In fact, many Christian fundamentalist/evangelical/dominionist groups operate with the same mentality. If they are facing resistance, then it validates that their path is the “right” one.

    So, I ask, if Nora seems to think that harassment (Arguendo: resistance) “kills blogs”, why does not the opposite happen as in Michaels case? If you harassed Michael, do you think he would stop or continue? And why do you think so?

    Yes, I read. I’ve read most of what one can read here. It is not that I am not informed or uneducated, it’s just that my life experience tells me otherwise. Please don’t talk down to me simply because we don’t see things in the same way. What I read here contrasts starkly with what I see in the world. It is for that reason I find it fascinating, and I value that. Might I support your antithesis by recommending Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers. And while I am not a feminist, I am very much pro-woman. I beg you to see that there is a difference there.

  4. tekanji says:

    Nic said:

    So, I ask, if Nora seems to think that harassment (Arguendo: resistance) “kills blogs”, why does not the opposite happen as in Michaels case? If you harassed Michael, do you think he would stop or continue? And why do you think so?

    Because no one is harassing Micheal? The only time that ABW ventured into territory that could be considered his “space” was to inform his company of his actions. Her actions aren’t comparable with him coming onto her space, continuing to try to post after being banned, and then e-mailing her to continue his abuse when he realized he wasn’t being published.

    From both your posts, I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. ABW’s post wasn’t a continuation of the situation; it was a statement of its end and how she concluded things. It was a statement of her saying that harassment wasn’t going to be tolerated, even if she had to take it to real life to get it to stop. She isn’t rampaging after Micheal and trying to hurt him; she is simply doing what it takes to make him go away and stay away. And, as far as I know, after one last e-mail from him she hasn’t heard from him since, so it appears that it worked.

    It is not that I am not informed or uneducated, it’s just that my life experience tells me otherwise. Please don’t talk down to me simply because we don’t see things in the same way.

    What you don’t understand, though, is that you are creating a problem every time you post on a thread that isn’t devoted to Privilege 101. You’re ignoring the frame that is being put on the subjects simply because you disagree with it, and therefore you’re forcing me to go back and explain to you the same concepts over and over again because that is the context in which my post is taking place.

    If you know and understand, then work within that frame. Working within a frame doesn’t mean you agree with it, but it does mean that — at least when you post here — that you are respecting me and my space. But continually putting your frame onto my conversations translates into you disrupting conversations because your interpretation of what was said has nothing to do with the actual content of the conversation.

  5. Thanks for linking this, tekanji. It’s just the kind of boost I need when I’m dealing with trolls myself – so I can see that yes, trolling behavior is wrong, and yes, I have the right to stop it when it invades my space.

    It also shows just how far entitlement goes, in people like Michael. *shudder*

  6. Nic says:

    From both your posts, I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. ABW’s post wasn’t a continuation of the situation; it was a statement of its end and how she concluded things.

    Odd. I didn’t hint or assume that the situation was still continuing. I was merely commenting on it and asking your perspective concerning it. And again, there are no accusations.

    What you don’t understand, though, is that you are creating a problem every time you post on a thread that isn’t devoted to Privilege 101.

    Quoi?

    So, I’m a problem if I voice my opinion without adherence to the concept of “privilege”? I certainly don’t have to believe in Jesus Christ to speak or relate with Christians, and I’m certainly not viewed as a problem by them because of my differing beliefs. You might want to be a little more flexible on this one as well.

    If you know and understand, then work within that frame. Working within a frame doesn’t mean you agree with it, but it does mean that — at least when you post here — that you are respecting me and my space.

    I don’t see how speaking outside the given context is somehow not respecting you and your space. If there’s a miscommunication, I’ll help to resolve it (like earlier when you said I was accusing others) but don’t assume I’m disrespecting you or invading your space. I’ve shown great undue respect so far despite the disposition. However, limiting my thoughts and words for the sake of context would mean limiting the understanding between one another. I now assume only like-minded individuals can post here?

  7. tekanji says:

    I now assume only like-minded individuals can post here?

    You know, if that’s what you got from my post then by all means run with it.

  8. Minna says:

    I never liked the ‘don’t give ‘em the power’ approach. I got that from people all the way through school, and you know what? Ignoring bullies didn’t do jack shit. And if after six months it isn’t doing jack shit, then maybe it’s time to actually support the person who’s being harassed, instead of just telling them to ‘ignore it’, and ‘not give them the power’. Why the hell should bullies and trolls have the protection of no consequence for their actions?

    If it’s that easy to find out where he works, then he’s reflecting badly upon his company, and his company has the right to know the sort of shit that he’s attaching to their name. Props to ABW for refusing to just let it slide.

  9. tekanji says:

    Minna said:

    Why the hell should bullies and trolls have the protection of no consequence for their actions?

    Exactly! All it does it teach them that they can get away with harassing people, which only encourages them to do it more.

  10. littlem says:

    I’m gonna guess, from the “tenor of entitlement” in the phraseology, that Nic just happens to be an American/Western white male.

    “Might I support your antithesis by recommending …” The implication being that whoever he’s doing the “recommending” for isn’t as well-read; we haven’t heard of those authors. (Not that we might have read them and *gasp* disagreed with the paradigm he recommends! OH NOES111!!!1)

    “It is not that I am not informed or uneducated, it’s just that my life experience tells me otherwise.”

    “What I read here contrasts starkly with what I see in the world.”

    Mmm hmmm. Sounds JUST like NotMichael. If they didn’t/don’t see it happen, it didn’t/doesn’t exist.

    To Tekanji: I really enjoyed the fact that the first part of the last sentence of your post says “Stay in school.”

    Reading is Fundamental!

    Hee.

  11. Nic says:

    Nic just happens to be an American/Western white male

    You’ve got two out of three there. I’m not “white”.
    Not that that would really tell you anything about me, but judging by demographics seems to be the norm around here.

    that we might have read them and *gasp* disagreed with the paradigm he recommends!

    Disagreement is fine. But ignoring the conclusion based upon that kind of research is tantamount to shooting yourself in the foot when you talk about “feminism”. I don’t have all the answers nor do I claim to have them, but searching for them is always a worth while pursuit. Just remember that if at any time, you disregard a contradictory piece of research against your theory and you don’t change your theories then you aren’t really seeking answers. Then you’re just seeking justification for your views.

    Judging from tek’s response, I see that validation of personal views is more the purpose for this blog rather than evaluating any theoretical application or social science discovery.

    My bad…

    Sounds JUST like NotMichael. If they didn’t/don’t see it happen, it didn’t/doesn’t exist.

    Right, just like you, and everyone alive…
    A tree falls in a forest. You don’t care, it’s not in your neighborhood and it didn’t kill anyone you knew. That’s just how people work.
    Our individual awareness rarely ventures beyond a given time or space.

  12. tekanji says:

    Reminder to everyone: This is not the place for personal attacks. I’ve let comments slide because they were borderline and the rest of the content had a purpose, but that’s going to stop now.

    Nic: That’s the second time you’ve insulted my blog. If that’s what you really believe then stop commenting. It’s as simple as that. But I’m getting rather tired of your attitude and your lack of respect for me and my blog. I’ve continued publishing your comments so far out of fairness, but it isn’t fair to me — or my commenters, or the purpose of using this blog to facilitate dialogue — to continue giving a voice to someone who holds my opinions in such contempt. So this is your last warning: play nice or you won’t be allowed to play at all.

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