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Archive for the 'The Gentle Art of Making Enemies' Category

The Dish’s Feminism Problem

If you read Andrew Sullivan’s website, The Dish, you might be familiar with his latest controversy over feminism and SJWs. In short, Sullivan thinks that Twitter working with activists imagesto clamp down on threats of death and violence will lead to censorship.

Sullivan isn’t exactly known for his championship of women’s rights, or really, the rights of any minority group, despite being a member of the LGBT community himself. As many libertarians do, he claims his opposition to support such endeavors is because he doesn’t support:

“…identity politics that seeks to remove structural oppression by forcing others to say things they may not want to say, or do things they may not want to do, or by ostracizing people for whatever-ism they are found guilty of”

Because somehow Twitter working to stop death threats is an affront to all speech everywhere.

He does, however, support the freedom of what he describes of “rough and tumble speech” online. (I wouldn’t describe threats of death and violence as rough and tumble.) Yet, as this writer points out, doesn’t allow commenting on his own website.

Sullivan defends himself by claiming it is the readers who don’t want comments and that he publishes dissents on the site (like the one I just linked to) all the time.

As a reader of the site, I don’t believe for a second his first claim. If you don’t want to read the comments, you do. I never read, what I refer to as, the bottom half of the internet. It’s a cesspool of humanity that I don’t want to get involved with. Any reader who doesn’t want to read the comments could easily ignore them. It’s the owners of the site who don’t want to moderate comments. And I don’t think that Sullivan is afraid of criticism of him in the comments. I think he’s aware that the commenters will attack each other. Possibly with death threats. Which is bad for discourse. And he will be responsible for moderating that.

The second point is actually more irritating though. Sullivan wants us to believe that the dissents published on his site fairly and accurately represent all the dissent he gets. There is no objective way to verify this. Further, he, himself, gets the opportunity to respond the dissent (which he does in the piece I’ve linked to) without offering the opportunity for the original dissenter to do the same.

I don’t think this is censorship. I think Sullivan is allowed to do whatever he wants with his own site and that not being allowed to comment on a private website does not constitute censorship.

But I also don’t think that working with Twitter to make it harder to make death threats is censorship either. Threats aren’t “rough and tumble” and they aren’t “part of the discourse.” They don’t add to the conversation. What that do is bully people into silence.

People are forced into silence. The muzzle is threats of violence and death and rape. At least if you’re muzzled by Twitter you can appeal. Or, ya know, won’t be threatened with death.

The Inefficiencies Of Fascism

A few weeks ago, Radiolab ran a story on translation and the issues with translating. One of the segments talked to an Ethiopian reporter who, during a press conference, had asked Secretary of State John Kerry a question that had some translation issues.


Monet. Image from Radiolab

The story, later, followed up with the reporter, who said that he had received some threatening phone calls and repeated hang ups and was now considering leaving Ethiopia. As the story discusses, Ethiopia is not a country that is always friendly to journalists, especially those who question the regime, as he had done.

Intimidation of the press is, obviously bad. But what struck me is the vagueness of the threats. I have no doubts that this man legitimately feared for his own life. What if this guy had also pissed off a neighbor during a property dispute? Or had a crazy ex? Or just a regular old psychopath? From the vague threats he discussed recieving, it could have been anything.

How was he supposed to know it was the government that was after him?

I’m not questioning the legitimacy of his concerns. I am pointing out the absurdity of fascists governments, wherein their efforts to keep citizens inline can’t be differentiated from a crazy ex.

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