If everyone adopts the tactic of ostracising The Bad People rather than the far more difficult task of discrediting bad ideas, it’s not surprising that the culture wars become so toxic. It will inevitably devolved into witch-hunts and guilt-by-association. Getting somebody from your outgroup banned from a confererence or fired from their job may seem like a satisfying short-term victory, but does that really contribute towards making the world a better place?
Following on from the shadowbanning nonsense, Twitter have now suspended the account of an aggressively anti-feminist right-winger with 90000 followers, with no hint of exactly what it was he said that crossed the line.
I am not going to defend this man’s speech or opinions, he’s an unpleasant and misogynist bigot. But again the lack of transparency suggests Twitter has adopted a policy of suspending high-profile accounts “pour encourager les autres” in a largely ad-hoc manner. And that does raise all sorts of concerns over the direction in which Twitter is heading.
Twitter’s getting too Orwellian for my tastes. No fun. I’ll be damned if I stick around if they’re going to let the likes of Arthur Chu and Anita Sarkeesian decide who gets voted off the island.
It’s probably going to be a while before the speech of liberals is threatened. Precedents in other spaces suggest that if they succeed in driving off the wingnuts the next targets are more likely to be those on the wrong side of sectarian disputes within feminism.
But the mention of Arthur Chu is a reminder that my card is already marked. I’m on his shared block list along with 30000 other people because months ago I criticised something he said. While it would be monumentally stupid for Twitter to decide one morning to suspend every single account on that blocklist, their recent behaviour means that can’t be trusted not to be that idiotic.
First they came for the right-wing assholes. But I was not a right-wing asshole…
The aggressively right wing news site Breitbart has got itself into a lather over the apparent “shadowbanning” of notorious libertarians and neoreactionaries on Twitter including Milo Yiannopoulos, Vox Day, Mark Kern and others. It’s being claimed that some or all of their posts are not being shown to their own followers, and the accusation is naturally being raised that Twitter is involving itself in politically-motivated censorship
What is really going on? The truth is nobody outside Twitter really knows, but the lack of trust in Twitter’s management means the conspiracy theorists are going into overdrive.
Yes, Twitter does have a harassment problem, and individuals with substantial bully pulpits setting their followers on anyone who’s incurred their wrath is a big element of that problem. And yes, Twitter does need to so something about it.
But underhand not-quite-bans for crossing invisible lines enforced without any kind of transparency is not the answer. It only fuels suspicions of creeping political censorship.
If Twitter wants to impose stricter rules on misuse of “@” for the purposes of bullying, fine. Put something unambiguous in the Terms-of-Service and make it clear what is and isn’t allowed. Then enforce it consistently without regards to the offender’s politics.
Or better still, a relatively simple technical fix restricting the visibility of tweets tagging someone who has blocked the author of the tweet, so it can’t be used to set off dogpiles?
And if it does turn out that Twitter is censoring on the grounds of politics, then I hope enough of Twitter’s liberals remember the words of Pastor Niemöller. It might start with people few outside their own right-wing circles would wish to defend, but can you be sure it will stop there?. Will you wait until someone like Maajid Nawaz is silenced because he said something the Saudis don’t like?
It’s predictably depressing that some Puppies are defending his behaviour, while others are using the episode to suggest Requires Hate was unfairly monstered (click on either of those links at your own risk). And yes, hair splitting arguments over whether or not Antonelli is worse that Requires Hate are at best pointless wasted electrons and at worst attempts by people who are themselves part of the problem to derail justified criticism. It seems, yet again, that “Them and Us” trumps “Right and Wrong”. If you want to call out other people’s bad behaviour, then you can’t keep excusing obvious bad actors in your own camp and still claim the moral high ground.
A pox on both camps, I say. All it achieves is to alienate the ordinary readers of SF.
At this point things have become so polarised and so tribal that I wonder if there’s any possibility of bridge-building. Either the world of SFF will become Balkanised into multiple fandoms all of which view each other with mutual suspicion and loathing, or the whole thing needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt from scratch.
#FoxNewsFacts was a trending topic on Twitter a few days ago. The hashtag stated that the radical Islamist preacher pictured above controlled Birmingham, there was another dangerous radical cleric called Jaspur Q’rat, and people were being forced to study The Kerrang.
This was British humour’s response to the claim made by a talking head on Fox TV that the city of Birmingham was 100% Muslim, and non-Muslims were forbidden to enter.
I posted a few myself, stating that it was punishable by death to confuse Birmingham with The Black Country, but nobody outside the area knew the boundary, that the soccerball team “Wolves” were made up from werewolves, and that Prince Philip really is an alien lizard. Many of them got retweeted a lot, and a few people claimed the last of those might actually be true.
Steve Emerson, the soi-disant terrorism expert who told Fox News that Birmingham is a “Muslim-only city” where non-Muslims “don’t go”, has apologised for his “terrible error”.
That is to his credit, but Emerson will be a busy man if he is going to apologise for all his terrible errors.
Steve Emerson not an expert on terrorism as such. His mission is not to inform but to spread propaganda. He’s a professional charlatan, a “court prophet”, who has made a successful living telling whatever his sponsors want the gullible to hear.
His “terrible error” was not being wrong about Birmingham, but not stopping to think that such an obvious and easily-disproven lie would escape from the Fox News media bubble. Birmingham should throw his insincere false apology back in his face.
Years ago, the most unpleasant and intolerant Internet wingnuts tended to come from the hard right of the political spectrum, typically motivated by Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, reactionary forms of religion, or old-fashioned racism. But in recent years more and more of the worst wingnuts seem to come from the authoritarian left, using the rhetoric of social justice to demand censorship of art and media, and ostracism of people that they don’t like.
Is this is a consequence of positive social change, in that things like gay rights and feminism have become increasingly mainstream, and have attracted the sorts of people who, had they been born a generation earlier, would have gravitated towards cultural conservatism?
Or is it just an illusion, a consequence of social media filter bubbles? Does the shift from subject-specific forums to people-specific social media platforms means that there are just as many conservative wingnuts out there, but they are no longer as visible on an impossible-to-ignore basis? Have the leftist wingnuts always been as common, but just never had much of a presence in online spaces I used to inhabit a decade ago?
It is very difficult to tell whether We the People Fight Tyranny Game is intended to be a serious board game, or whether the whole thing is an elaborate parody of the world view of the all-American wingnut.
It purports to be both a “fun game” and an educational tool about American history, liberry and tyranny.
This is a sample of one of the cards in the game, which gives a flavour:
That one card really does speak volumes.
The website is filled with boilerplate rightwing screeds, but gives very little away about the gameplay. But it leaves the impression that the game is a cross between Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly, two of the very worst board games in all history.
So combne two games which put people off board games for life, then marinade the whole thing in heavy-handed ideological propaganda.
And you wonder why it looks like an elaborate parody.
The United States of America is trying to run the applications needed to support a modern nation on a 200 year old legacy O/S with far too many unpatched vulnerabilities.
So it’s not surprising that a group of black hats called “The Tea Party” have taken the whole thing down.
And it’s all because the far-right hates Obama’s healthcare reforms
Their supporters and useful idiots prattle about self-reliance versus dependency, but I suspect one of the big reasons the right hates these reforms so much is that they threaten to weaken the essentially feudal relationship between employers and employees. When healthcare is dependent on continued employment, employers have far more power over their staff, and nobody likes giving up power.
I’ve heard plenty of stories of people trapped unproductively in jobs they hate, because pre-existing conditions make personal health insurance unaffordable. Surely that’s a drain on the economy just like the vastly inflated costs due to the inherent inefficiency of the present system.
Sadly those who profit, directly or indirectly, from the present system can afford a lot of lobbyists and media pundits.
Yes, it’s true that the party keeps sacking these candidates. But as soon as they do, another one pops up, and another, and another. It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole. It does leave you with the impression that the party is awash with Uncle Jimmy characters, and they’re not even remotely good at screening out these wingnuts as election candidates.
It does leave you with the impression that these racist, sexist numpties represent the party’s base.
The way the Norwegian authorities have given terrorist Anders Breivik a very public trial has generated a lot of controversy. I have read a lot of people arguing that it’s giving him a platform for his poisonous ideas. The counter-argument is that showing him for what he is will serve to discredit everything he stands for.
Breivik may or may not be insane, but it would be far too convenient for some people to dismiss his “Crazy Talk” as the ravings of an isolated madman who’s actions took place in a vacuum. But that doesn’t wash. Too much of what he says had been common currency in far-right circles for years. It’s not just from openly fascist or crypto-fascist fringe groups on the internet either, but, as I’ve previously mentioned, from semi-respectable columnists in large-circulation national newspapers too.
And there are a frighteningly large number of people who think like him. Just look at how they’ve overrun the comment sections of many online articles about the trial.
Like it or not, Anders Breivik’s terrorist atrocity was the 9/11 of the Freepi.
The rightwing press are predictably attempting to scapegoat video games to deflect attention from just how extensively Breivik cited their own columnists. Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a comprehensive takedown of their attempt at a distracting moral panic. Meanwhile Breivik’s closer online confederates on both sides of the Atlantic are desperately flailing, citing his copying of Al-Qaeda’s methods in an entirely unconvincing attempt to prove this despicable act of terrorism has nothing to do with them.
This really ought to serve as a wake-up call on the threat posed by the far-right, who have been gaining strength in recent years, especially now we’re in a deep recession. They have an increasing transatlantic dimension, with the openly racist faction of the “Tea Party” forging closer and closer links with various European neo-Fascist groups. A few right-wingers predictably complain that the left are trying to politicise the tragedy. But when faced with a terrorist atrocity that was a clear and deliberate attack on European social democracy, what is anybody supposed to do?
Anarcho-Fascist – A conflation of “Anarcho-Capitalist” and “Crypto-Fascist” I originally used to describe a particularly loopy blogger and troll a few years back. Today it seems an appropriate descriptor for anyone that runs an Islamophobic hate site with a name like “Atlas Shrugs”.