Sunday reads

Alison Chandra: I shared my toddler’s hospital bill on Twitter. First came supporters — then death threats.

I told our story the same way I always do, softening the hard edges of Ethan’s struggle with photos of the tender-hearted little boy who’s fought so hard to make it this far. I wrote about his medical team, about the surgeries and procedures and medications that he will rely on for the rest of his life, and also I wrote about his love for sticks and fireflies and his mama. I begged the people in power to look him in his big brown eyes and tell him to his face that his life was too expensive to be worth saving.

And then I put down my phone and went to sleep, never expecting to find out that the whole world was listening. The days to come would introduce me to the darkness lurking in the savage corners of the internet, and to the promise it holds for families like mine who so desperately need to find community.

No Pride in Prisons: Torture in New Zealand Prisons: A Briefing

This booklet draws together the findings of reports made by the Office of the Ombudsman in its investigations of four New Zealand prisons. Using these reports, No Pride in Prisons researchers provide an account, in plain language, of the ongoing abuse and mistreatment of prisoners. Contextualising this information within historical trends, they also tell the stories of prisoners who have contacted No Pride in Prisons, reminding us how this treatment is a lived reality for far too many people. Together, these accounts demonstrate the disturbing but undeniable existence of widespread torture in New Zealand prisons.

 

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Sunday reads

A few pieces that caught my eye this week.

Mark Brown: If you’re asking ‘What real poor person could be at Glastonbury?’ you’ve never been poor

Culture makes your world bigger. Beauty makes your world bigger. A night out, a cream cake, a trip to the cinema, a something that is yours and yours alone. Having things you love now makes it easier to live in a world that tells you it doesn’t love you. They make the days differ from each other. They make you feel alive. Being poor is a struggle to feel alive, to feel part of the world and all of the things it has to offer.

When you are poor you feel you are continually trying to steal and get ownership of culture that you can’t quite afford, knowing that eventually you’ll have to go back to where you came from and to the struggles you face. You have to blag and graft and save and sneak into culture when you’re poor. It takes years to feel like you have any right. You can never quite afford it but you do it anyway because otherwise is a kind of death. You scrimp, you save you blow your money because if you don’t you are only what they say you are: an animal that just eats and shits and wants only a place to sleep.

Katelyn Burns: The Strange, Sad Case Of Laci Green — Feminist Hero Turned Anti-Feminist Defender

[Content note: discussion of online harassment, trolling, misogyny, transmisogyny]

… that someone so influential in the progressive online space could make such a complete 180 has shaken the social justice community to its core. How could a defender of equality change so much, so quickly? And what does it mean for those who had come to trust Green’s safe space online?

The answers to these questions are chillingly incomplete — and raise questions anew about the safety of online spaces for those who routinely face harassment.

Katelyn is also well worth a follow on Twitter.

 

I say no to rape-promoting meetups in my city

[Serious content note for pick-up artist rhetoric, rape culture, racism, anti-Semitism, sexual assault and psychological manipulation]

6 February won’t just be Waitangi Day and Bob Marley’s birthday this year. It also sees – allegedly – a set of coordinated meetups for “neomasculinists” – adherents of the teachings/writings/bizarre YouTube videos of “Roosh V”, variously described as a “pick-up artist”, “relationship guru” and “incredibly creepy rape promoter”.

The Stuff article on the meetups planned in Australia/New Zealand provides a pretty good summary of the beliefs of Roosh and his fans. But it’s really easy to look at one paragraph with ridiculous concepts like “rape should be legal on private property” and shrug these guys off as a bunch of fringe weirdos.

It’s much worse.

Let’s put some numbers on this. RoK has 11,000 followers on Twitter, with 12,500 “liking” the RoK Facebook page. Roosh himself has nearly 18,000 Twitter followers. The Quantcast page for RoK’s January site stats show 1.1 million unique global visitors and 3.7 million pageviews. RoK’s advertising page suggests a sponsored post would garner “5,000 – 15,000 views”.

And immediate online reach isn’t where this ends. The attitudes and ideas promoted by people like Roosh V are tacitly reinforced by far too much mainstream culture. The dudes reading Roosh are telling their friends about it. They’re going out in public and putting Roosh’s teachings into practice. This can, literally, only end with women being psychologically bullied and manipulated and physically assaulted.

It still sounds a little extreme. But here’s a sample of what Roosh V and Return of Kings promote.

Roosh even has a crisis response strategy ready for the “inevitable”, i.e. one of his followers committing an act of mass murder.

Yeah.

The list goes on, and on, and on. That’s the thing. This isn’t a movement led by a guy who one time had a messed-up idea about when rape is or isn’t acceptable on private property. This is a full, active, insistent ideology.

It’s horrific. And now the kinds of people who idolize that kind of thinking are declaring their intentions to meet publicly in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

There’s a silver lining. I know many other people will be there too, to let them know that we oppose their violent, hateful ideology. We don’t even need to be angry. We just need to be men and women of all stripes having a great time together, in defiance of every Roosh utterance about roaming witch mobs forcing men into sexual servitude and the dangers of pussy inflation.

RoK attendees at Saturday’s meetups are to perform the sign/countersign “Where is the nearest pet shop?” / “The pet shop is here.” So I think we’ve got our theme song.

My thanks to the tireless work of David Futrelle at We Hunted The Mammoth, the internet’s premiere documenter of men’s rights activist douchebags.

If you intend to turn out on Saturday, do keep yourself safe. It’s laughable that the RoK FAQ for the meetups has attendees worrying about being identified and doxxed when their own guru has actively encouraged the doxxing and harassment of his critics. Be aware that these are vicious, vindictive dudes. Your safety is more important.

Comments sections

Tauriq Moosa linked to a 2014 article of his on comments sections after making this tweet:

His current handle being “end comments sections” which may give away the punchline a little.  He says at The Guardian:

Some find great value in comment sections and one feels almost obliged to say “Not all comment sections”. They are, like the internet itself, tools: we don’t discard wrenches because of a few accidents. Yet, if people start using wrenches to mostly beat each other with, maybe it’s time to radically rethink whether they should be allowed at all.

The precious way comment sections are viewed as a kind of right – by site owners and commenters – needs to change. At best, they should be heavily moderated and shut off without apology, viewed as gifts; at worst (?) removed altogether. No one is shutting off every open blogging platform and internet forum in the world where commenters are free to take their opinions.

It’s about time we combated entitlement by prioritising safety, solidarity and quality (as places like CreepyPMs do) over so-called “free speech”, that benefits only the loudest and usually most vile.

Or you know: shut them off altogether.

He’s mainly addressing comments sections on major news sites, which are admittedly the whole Mos Eisley rather than the mere cantina of Twitter.

true love star wars

But I think the same points apply to comments on blogs, chiefly: you may not make the comments, but they are part of your site. Reading them is part of the experience many visitors will have when they open a page you have created and published for the world to see.

I’ve had this argument a time or two with leftwing blogs, though it’s best represented by the wide-eyed, “who me?” defences offered by David Farrar every time some slut-shaming/genocide-advocating/homophobic/bigoted/hateful crap goes down in the comments at Kiwiblog. Most recently, one leftwing blogger lamented that comments from notorious rightwing agitator Redbaiter always slips “right through” the spam filter.

When we run blogs, we’re responsible for the content we host. We may do this in our free time, and I’m speaking from a position of hardly ever having to moderate comments because Boots Theory may be amazing, but it isn’t a Top 10 on Open Parachute kinda operation. Heck, one reason I’ve not been blogging at The Standard is avoiding the shitfights that occur when multiple moderators have very different views of what’s appropriate to publish.

But these spaces are ours, big or small. Right now, I have four username/email combinations set to automatically go to moderation (a ridiculously small number). All first-time comments need to be manually approved. It’s a single tick-box in WordPress. It’s that easy. Bad stuff may slip through – and the solution is to edit, delete, ban or auto-moderate as need be, not throw our hands up and say “oh well, I guess I’ll just let this horrible pile of dogshit sit on my doorstep then.”

That’s how I like to run a blog. It’s not about deleting everything that I disagree with – you can look for yourself, and stop using that tired old “echo chamber” line while you do. It’s being proactive and conscious of the kind of content I am in charge of – even if someone else wrote it and hit the Submit button.

After all, it’s a big ol’ internet out there. Anyone can go start their own blog and say literally anything they want on it (barring a few of the classic no-no’s like “making death threats against the President of the United States”). And other people will judge them by the company they keep, and the conversations they nurture, too.

QOTD: Andrea Grimes on what men can do

From I Made a Joke About Guns and a Man Threatened to Assault Me at RH Reality Check:

I don’t need men to individually and personally step up to protect me. I need them to collect their fellow dudes and actively work, every day, to end widespread cultural misogyny and to improve the lives of non-cisgender-dude people the world over.

Good dudes of the world, please hear me out: Not actively being a sexist shitbag as an individual is not enough. Because somewhere, somehow, the guys who dedicated themselves to harassing me—many of them under their real names on Facebook—have brothers, dads, uncles, golf buddies, tennis partners, co-workers, favorite bartenders, and an entire universe of dude friends and acquaintances, all of whom have failed to make it clear, either through their words or their actions, that this kind of behavior is not OK.

Hat-tip to friend-with-locked-account on Twitter.

When someone brings up sexism (or racism, or any form of oppression) the response is so frequently personal: “Well I’m certainly not sexist (or racist, etc)! How dare you call me sexist! You’re the real problem here!”

The problem about pervasive, ingrained prejudices and systems of power is they’re like the Force: invisible, inside all of us,* binding us together. This makes it easy to brush off: “Look, he didn’t call you a bitchslutwhore, so you must be reading the sexism into his statements!”

But sometimes sexism really, really isn’t invisible, and the least you can do, dudes, is challenge it when it’s right in front of you.

 

*The Star Wars expanded universe ysalamiri can shove off.