Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Poor Choices

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I want to preserve my right to be rude to the deserving

    Yes, I was trying to get that across in the post.

    But look at the stupid Polly Gillespie pile-on recently. Her dumb comment about the danger for foreign tourists of NZ beaches was stripped of its context (the Piha Rescue TV show) and people went nuts about it. After about two hours of it, someone I regard as quite sensible was calling her “scum”. It went way beyond “rude”.

    but deny anyone a right to issue death threats. The pileon is a nuanced phenomenon that in some cases is a legit protest campaign and in others a nasty exercise in ostracism and shame.

    I’ve seen friends hurt in the latter – sometimes by other friends, which I find particularly disconcerting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    The pileon is a nuanced phenomenon that in some cases is a legit protest campaign and in others a nasty exercise in ostracism and shame.

    And? who polices those cases? New world Order? The Human Race has always had an ugly side. We have just found more ways to exercise that freedom. Visually ,more ways to experience it , mentally, more ways to engage with it, but always has had an ugly side.
    I do believe though ,if and because it's so, we have computers in Schools, like swimming ,if you learn to swim safely, you wont drown.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Barnard,

    Certainly his & Russell’s response to the WJ JT thing was a world away from the kinds of shouting down via various ists, isms & phobes you often see.

    Yes. Gio was calmer than I was. Which is why all the shouting-down stuff that was pinned on him was so odd. He was just measured and effective.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But look at the stupid Polly Gillespie pile-on recently. Her dumb comment about the danger for foreign tourists of NZ beaches was stripped of its context (the Piha Rescue TV show) and people went nuts about.

    Even with the context, it was an unfortunate tweet, and she didn't help her cause in her responses to her critics. But suddenly it was like the rotational New Zealand twitter feed had become the New Zealand Herald or the TVNZ evening news, and Gillespie a powerful and influential media commentator who deserved to be taken down. It was a bizarre spectacle.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    That’s several steps beyond “rude”.

    Couldn’t agree more, but it’s a not-so-fine distinction some people find hard to draw.

    And before anyone calls me a hypocrite -- I've definitely been on the wrong side of that line, and am thankful to some people around here who "piled on" and expected me to be better. Hope I've turned out to be worth the effort. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I assert my right to snark, rant and be downright rancid about bad arguments and crappy attitudes contained therein. That far, no further.

    Although I wouldn’t like it, I think you in principle have a right to say “Stephen is a stupid dickhead” with obscene variations to suit your taste. I’m sure you could imagine a scenario where that would feel fully justified.

    It is problematic if many people start to join in doing so to the point where the target feels severe distress – where a single rude volley becomes mob bullying – and I’m interested in ideas that would prevent that.

    And again, I want to distinguish that from “Stephen, I know where you live and I’m coming for you.” In NZ I imagine that’s covered by s306 of the Crimes Act. The big problem online is that anonymity enables such threats to be made with little fear of discovery, and the kinds of solutions that remove anonymity in this case also remove it in other cases where it could be warranted. Some people have enough faith in our public institutions to entrust them with the power to strip away that anonymity. I am not sure that I do, but I also don’t think we can tolerate the way threats of violence are used to silence people through fear and disgust. For me this is a different (and much more serious) cateogry of thing than insult though.

    ANd on the third hand this all leaves aside the issue of the vulnerability of the target. Many people we think can cope with a bit of flak (or however we want to euphemise our behaviour to them) are in fact struggling with problems we can’t see and will respond in ways we didn’t expect. A thoughtful person will think about that but most of us aren’t that thoughtful most of the time.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I’ve definitely been on the wrong side of that line

    Me too. And while I try to be better, it's inevitable that sometimes I won't. I don't believe I deserve to be punished or judged too harshly for it either. I think there's a strong difference between normal people getting overly provoked sometimes, and some people gleefully, righteously, and above all repeatedly going after a victim.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    gleefully, righteously

    good clues, yes. intent does matter.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Has anyone linked to Michele A'Court's marvellous column today? I'd be honoured to buy her a drink sometime for that one.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Using the word 'I" seems to be helpful when responding to something like Charlotte's death. Yet that's a word we're trained out of using. I want to hear other people's experiences and know whose they are.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19686 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    intent does matter.

    It tends to be a hallmark of performative pile-ons to disqualify intent as a factor.

    A phrase that Emma uses here -- "read kindly" -- seems important to me. Reading what the subject has said in the worst possible light rarely ends well. Assuming good faith is better.

    Another characteristic is the narrowing of terms of an acceptable apology. Sometimes this is a reasonable expectation. Sometimes it's just laying bear traps for the subject who offers the wrong apology.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    And while I try to be better, it’s inevitable that sometimes I won’t. I don’t believe I deserve to be punished or judged too harshly for it either

    Sure, we all fuck up, get up and all too often do it all over again. And all of us hope that our darkest days and worse moments aren't what survives us.

    But too often I think that very human need to be forgiven can go into a really bad place where we demand people we've wronged give us what we want and "get over it, and move on." A really good principle of recovery is "make direct amends to those you have wronged, except when to do so would injure them or others." While it might salve my conscience, it's actually pretty abusive to impose myself on people who've made it clear they want no contact of any kind -- and have perfectly good reason to do so, considering what a nasty piece of work I used to be when drunk.

    And yes, there's people I've really harmed with my behaviour online. It's way above my pay grade to tell then when, or even if, their pain goes away or how they view me as a result. And it works both ways -- I'm never going to get over the resident Kiwibog troll who repeatedly accused me of condoning paedophilia, and Farrar's complete inaction. Yeah, it was seven years ago and I'm probably the only person on earth who remembers (let alone cares). It didn't harm my reputation with anyone whose esteem I'd care to have. But it still makes me sick to recall, and it's not going away no matter who else thinks it should.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It tends to be a hallmark of performative pile-ons to disqualify intent as a factor.

    Weeelll... I thought Rachel Smalley's rant on mainstreaming special needs kids last week was deeply offensive. By countering that it wasn't her intention to offend, she thought that this was sufficient to change the meaning of what she has said. And I find this deeply problematic.

    You may not mean to be offensive, but sometimes it just means you can't see that what you're saying is offensive. And someone needs to tell you. And you need to be open to hearing their reasons.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    At what point did it become a pile-on? What made it okay, if it was okay?

    There isn’t a magic boundary, but certainly we can recognize clear examples of a pile on, and Willie and JT got one. Quite a few people did not think it was OK. But it was actually quite hard for them to express that, I think. And being on the other side, one of the pilers, I felt powerful. I don’t regret it in that instance, but I wouldn’t make a habit out of it personally.

    Months later, no consequences at all have found their way to the actual Roastbusters, other than the pile-on they got, which does show the limits of the effectiveness. On their Facebook pages, I was rather shocked, TBH, and I’m not easily shocked by abuse. But there were quite literally thousands of people saying that they hoped these guys would get raped and murdered, usually with the writers own sick rape fantasy inserted for variety. But they’re shitheads who don’t give a toss, so all the abuse served only to give them more attention, which they were after in the first place, and also some sympathy.

    On the flipside, though, they organized pile-ons themselves, on their victims. And that has been so effective that they haven’t actually suffered any legal consequences for the alleged crimes even now, years later, and after all that public controversy.

    There’s no rules for pile-ons, which is probably part of the attraction. Like the Murder on the Orient Express, no one is the killer, and everyone is.

    ETA: Presumably that's the attraction of firing squads and stonings as forms of execution too. No one knows who threw the killer stone, and who clean missed. It's the crowd that killed you, not any individuals.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    that point can be made without slighting references to his weight or appearance, calling him a fag or wishing a painful and violent death upon his head.

    That’s several steps beyond “rude”.

    I don't think of Brownlee fat jokes as bullying per se -- I doubt he feels bullied -- so much as the kind of speech that normalises bullying.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Months later, no consequences at all have found their way to the actual Roastbusters, other than the pile-on they got, which does show the limits of the effectiveness.

    Oddly enough I was told today that Beraiah Hales' claim that the police weren't doing anything isn't true. Detectives are out detecting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    On the flipside, though, they organized pile-ons themselves, on their victims. And that has been so effective that they haven’t actually suffered any legal consequences for the alleged crimes even now, years later, and after all that public controversy.

    Damn right. There has been huge pressure put on victims and witnesses via social media.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I don't think of Brownlee fat jokes as bullying per se -- I doubt he feels bullied -- so much as the kind of speech that normalises bullying.

    Spot on. And largely the reason why I felt compelled a little while ago to tweet this. (I'm not actually all that concerned about Slater's feelings per se.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    By countering that it wasn’t her intention to offend, she thought that this was sufficient to change the meaning of what she has said. And I find this deeply problematic.

    And maybe it wasn’t a certain person's intent to be hideously offensive by opining that rapes wouldn’t happen if women just stayed out of places like Albert Park after dark, but here’s a not so modest proposition. There might just be a rape victim in the room who’s too fucking busy crying and reliving the worse day (and week and years) in their life to parse his intent, or really give a shit about it. Especially when he'd been asked repeatedly by the site owner (that would be you, Russell) to let it go and move on.

    Yes, Emma, is totally right about “reading kindly”. But there’s a point where intent ends up being a lot less important than context. I’d probably have been a lot less spiky towards Deborah Coddington in the wake of that story if she hadn’t been expended so much time and effort imputing epic bad faith (and a not so small dollop of flat out personal malice) to Keith and Tse Ming’s patient and detailed critique of what was a pretty shabby piece of work published in a mass market magazine. My tipping point was when she used her Herald on Sunday column to well and truly jump a very ugly shark and land face-first in a bucket of manure. (I’m not going to link to it directly, but Russell’s take down is here.)

    I am genuinely sorry for offending those members of the Asian community who are not engaged in criminal activity and who felt discriminated by the same stereotypical brush.

    I never set out to upset them and I can’t undo that hurt. I’ve been reminded of the salutary lesson – words have consequences and you can’t take them back.

    So far so good, but she just couldn’t leave well-enough alone…

    But my apology doesn’t extend to those bandwagon jumpers who used the article to excuse their media equivalent of gang rape. These sadists, I suspect, will never be happy.

    Perhaps I’m a terrible human being, but I still can't find a kind reading for that.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    I don’t regret it in that instance, but I wouldn’t make a habit out of it personally.

    I've dwelt on it quite a bit. Also don't regret it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Weeelll… I thought Rachel Smalley’s rant on mainstreaming special needs kids last week was deeply offensive. By countering that it wasn’t her intention to offend, she thought that this was sufficient to change the meaning of what she has said. And I find this deeply problematic.

    For sure. There's not much ambiguity there. She's said what she's said. Or rather, written what she's written.

    I liked your blog in response more than your tweets. And you yourself quoted Autism and Oughtism to good effect:

    I don’t think Smalley means harm, even though her article does harm. I don’t think she set out to misconstrue reality, I just think she did inadequate research into autism, special needs, and the state of the current education system. I would like to think that when we engage in the debate that she calls for – about mainstreaming and special needs children – that people like her will hear our arguments and realise that moving towards inclusion really is in the best interests of all students; that our children are not a threat, they are an opportunity for everyone’s betterment.

    Which does not, of course, exclude explaining to Smalley why her argument was offensive.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    My tweets had the virtue of inviting her to tour an inclusive school. Her response was to unfollow me. And the critical comments appended to her post were removed. So engaging in good faith doesn't always work either.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Sue,

    Sue, I value your presence here so much. You are so smart and brave. Arohanui.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Sacha,

    intent does matter.

    Intent does matter. Intent is not magic. These things are both true.

    There is a world of difference between somebody hitting you deliberately, and somebody hitting you by accident. But you'd still want the person who hit you by accident to say, "Oh god, I'm sorry, are you okay?" and not, "Well, you shouldn't have had your head there." Intent matters very much, but it doesn't make your face, or your heart, stop bleeding.

    A phrase that Emma uses here – “read kindly” – seems important to me. Reading what the subject has said in the worst possible light rarely ends well. Assuming good faith is better.

    Again, this is true, But Also. Reading kindly doesn't mean excusing everything anyone says. Sometimes the best possible light is still pretty fucking dark. It also doesn't mean not being able to criticise - constructively. It's still okay to say, "Did you mean X? Because it kind of sounds like you might mean Y." (Which is also a great way to deal with people who are dog-whistling.)

    And this is where Twitter - which I love very dearly, and which has been a life-savingly supportive environment for me - falls down. It doesn't allow space for nuance. The character limit pushes people to telegraph things

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Which is to say, basically, that I agree with pretty much everything everyone is saying here. Bless.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

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