Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Poor Choices

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  • Phil Bilbrough,

    I think that there is a social media disease the exhibits "one better" or "one worse" symptoms. A tweeter aims to get into a conversation and to do so takes the strategy of amping everything up. I don't believe that the tweeter would be committed to his or her words - its about tweeting something to get attention. School playtime playground rules. I think that celebrities are sometimes used as leverage or a segway into that discussion. They perhaps don't see themselves as trolls or even nasty people, yet whatever their motivations and possibly they use the speed of twitter as another excuse, I still seem them as trolls. Regardless of the social media vehicle, a person is responsible for the words that they write.

    Wellington • Since May 2009 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Emma Hart,

    At the least I would say, don't do it while the death is fresh, and don't do it if it's someone you don't know and never met.

    Don't do it without the most affected people's consent. I've seen family members wrest some purpose out of their loss by making sure others don't make the same mistakes - it's powerful and valuable and their call to make, not a stranger's.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Some of the responses to Goldberg's essay really did prove her point too. She was immediately vilified and demonised.

    Really don't want to reopen the whole discussion on Golberg's piece, which I found very poor, but the reaction proves no such thing, insofar as a lot of people felt vilified and demonised by her framing of the issue, and were entitled to say so. We should be careful not to excise the right of criticism when expressing our distaste for pile-ons, nor to lump all reactions to the lowest trolling denominator.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    don't use someone else's death to make your point

    Yes but ...

    Sure don't use a specific person's death and their specific details to make a point

    But we use death to make a point all the time, and rightly so. The key is to use generic issues around death not specific issues about the person.

    In this case you could use Ms Dawson's death to talk about depression and the possibility it played a part in her suicide. You could use the incident as a leaping off point for a productive discussion about the impacts of depression. Or even as a discussion about the suicide problem we have in NZ.

    Oh and the golden rule, with due respect to Michele A'Court, she's wrong. the rule on the internet has been and always will be
    Don't be a dick

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Certainly one problem is the tendency for online debate to be reduced to a kind of moral policing, in which what's said isn't challenged but merely condemned along with whoever has said it.

    Once someone has threatened rape or violence, or repeatedly made comments that are defamatory or in the nature of harassment, interventions that go beyond mere moderation will sometimes will be required.

    There are lots of ways in which people degrade public debate without committing actual crimes (the Daily Mail's attack on Ralph Miliband and climate change astroturfing by fossil fuel companies come to mind as examples) and in my view people are right to criticise this sort of conduct in purely moral terms.

    You could say that using social superiority to opportunistically humiliate someone is a dickish thing to do, or you could say that the comments made on The Great Debate were unethical. If that's moral policing then I suppose I'm mostly comfortable with it.

    Since Nov 2006 • 784 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sue,

    I suspect i’ll delete this post

    Please don't. It might just help someone else to know that other people have those thoughts.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol, in reply to Barnard,

    The hounding of Liz Shaw got quite disturbing at one point, especially as it involved people who’d probably see themselves as compassionate right on types.

    Liz is quite extraordinary. She's been a target of derision for people on the internet for a very long time. 10 years or more. I don't know how she's withstood it.

    I spoke to her on Discourse a few years ago (s2e5) when she decided to run for Auckland Central. Now this might come as a shock, but she's actually a human being. She had some reasonable things to say about homelessness and alcohol and social services and public transport and she seemed pretty honest. (And also rambly and naive, but I'm in favour of both traits.)

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 313 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Really don’t want to reopen the whole discussion on Golberg’s piece, which I found very poor, but the reaction proves no such thing, insofar as a lot of people felt vilified and demonised by her framing of the issue, and were entitled to say so. We should be careful not to excise the right of criticism when expressing our distaste for pile-ons, nor to lump all reactions to the lowest trolling denominator.

    Yeah, it's perhaps not the time to go over it all again, but I was surprised you had such a low opinion of the Goldberg essay, which I thought took on a difficult topic pretty well, but directed me to two responses to it which I felt verged on the despicable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    We should be careful not to excise the right of criticism when expressing our distaste for pile-ons, nor to lump all reactions to the lowest trolling denominator.

    Aha! This explains what I wanted to say. Not every reaction can be characterised as just part of an unthinking pile-on and, indeed, there may be a core of really cogent criticism in the midst of all the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It's a question of signal to noise ratio.

    FWIW, I sit on the fence quite a lot on various Twitter-provoking issues, and I find all the pickets kind of uncomfortable.

    This was alarming, gendered and weirdly abusive.

    I - the lucky abusee! - have actually been called worse, but not much worse. Although the general smallness of NZ does, oddly, make things a bit scarier. Being abused in America pretty much guarantees the person will never see you; this guy made some noises about tracking me down. (He probably could have used my husband's incandescent rage as a beacon, come to think of it.)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But we use death to make a point all the time, and rightly so.

    Indeed. This whole thread is using death to make a point. Even if the point is not to do so, that's still a point.

    the rule on the internet has been and always will be
    Don’t be a dick

    The entire point of there even being a rule of law is because that golden rule does not work in large groups.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Barnard,

    My point about moral policing is the tendacy to go way beyond what any reasonable person would deem abuse or harassment and to attack people for expressing ideas that are deemed beyond the pale (often ideas that outside certain online bubbles are probably held by a lot of people) via a refusal to consider context or even to stop & consider what someone might of meant. The only thing that counts is your subjective interpretation & subsequent outrage, which you'll express not with a better idea but with 'How dare you even think it's ok to say that, shut up' × 1000 people piling on.

    It's illiberal, intolerant & a terrible way to convince people of your position.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2012 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    her framing of the issue

    I found the piece badly flawed. She repeatedly refers to pile-ons, or call-out culture, as "intersectionality". She may as well call it "cow" for all the sense that makes. Intersectionality is a thing, it's a word that has valuable meaning, and it's the only reason I have anything to do with feminism. I loathe call-out culture, but it's not unique to feminism, let alone third-wave feminism. And I know she makes those points in that column, but she goes on calling it "intersectionality".

    I have an acquaintance I hugely admire, because she goes and gets shit done. Her activism is active. And every time she does something, she has to take the flak from a dozen, or a hundred, keyboard warriors who nit-pick her on not being inclusive enough. Now, sometimes in there are grains of legitimate criticism, but man, the temptation to just walk the fuck away...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But we use death to make a point all the time, and rightly so. The key is to use generic issues around death not specific issues about the person.

    Yes, exactly.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Really don’t want to reopen the whole discussion on Golberg’s piece, which I found very poor, but the reaction proves no such thing, insofar as a lot of people felt vilified and demonised by her framing of the issue, and were entitled to say so.

    And in the story itself (on the last page, BTW), African-American feminist blogger Mikki Kendall made this point that gets lost an awful lot in these kind of discussions:

    “If you look at the mentions for me, for @BlackAmazon, for @FeministaJones, for a lot of other black feminists, it’s hard for us to see this other stuff as bullying, I’ll be honest with you,” she says. “Because we are getting so much more than ‘I don’t like your article.’ And we’re getting it all day. I had someone who spent four hours last week dumping porn images into my mentions. I’ve had people send me pictures of lynchings. So then when somebody says, ‘Oh, this article is terrible,’ and a bunch of people talk about how terrible an article was, and you say that’s bullying—I’m going to side-eye your definition of bullying.”

    So, yeah, I’ve learned the hard way that if I fling myself into a Twitter convo or a discussion thread on a blog without getting myself up to speed on where the discussion is at, or “taking the temperature” of the room, perhaps it’s not all about me when I raise someone’s hackles. And it’s entirely possible that it is all on me if I’ve been tone-deaf or flat out arseholy, so take the ticking off and try to learn something from it rather than demanding everyone else parse my intent and educate me!

    That’s still a work in progress from a human being who still fucks up with monotonous regularity, but I’d like to think I’m getting better at it.

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

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Sue,

    Would it not be great if this time was used to tell those stories, to teach, to learn and to help.

    Yes please. And thanks for sharing, which is horribly hard. You have a lot to give :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle MacDonald, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Yeah the obvious bullying, is well obvious. But it's the bullying someone through excessive critique or ad hominem attack, because of what they believe that is harder to define. In part I think it's a symptom of the kind of "siloing" that tends to happen in online communities, and perhaps it's more chronic in our little corner of the world. But it can make it feel like the thought police have descended...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    And in the story itself (on the last page, BTW), African-American feminist blogger Mikki Kendall made this point that gets lost an awful lot in these kind of discussions:

    Again, let's not rationalise one form of bullying by citing another.

    As much as Kendall is keen to wave it away, shitty and damaging things happened to women on the other side of those battles too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Emma Hart,

    And I know she makes those points in that column, but she goes on calling it "intersectionality".

    The attacks on intersectionality for what it never was - including from my political corner - are increasing at an alarming rate.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah, in reply to Kyle MacDonald,

    Yes, sustained criticism can be difficult and hard to manage, and yes, it can amount to bullying. But frankly, being threatened with rape in the most vile way (words so vile that I can't bring myself to copy them here), and being told that what I need is a 2x4 to my face to shut my fucking yap is quite different.

    I strongly suspect that Charlotte Dawson received e-mail like that too, and I also suspect that the female reporters and TV presenters who read out some of the threats they had received just censored out the rape threats.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Again, let’s not rationalise one form of bullying by citing another.

    There is a pretty big qualitative difference between sending a bunch of "you're a crappy feminist" tweets and *sending a black person pictures of lynchings*. Holy shit.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    And I know she makes those points in that column, but she goes on calling it “intersectionality”.

    The attacks on intersectionality for what it never was – including from my political corner – are increasing at an alarming rate.

    Perhaps it might be better to say "undesirable things that are sometimes said and done in the name of intersectionality."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Barnard,

    But the point of Goldberg bringing up Intsectionality in relation to the absurd 'call out' culture is that much of the basis of that culture (within elements of the radical left) is from people purporting to practice intersectional politics. Surely youur beef seems to be with people supposedly misusing the concept rather than someone picking up on how the idea's used in practice as opposed to what you see as its real meaning.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2012 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    Isn't a lot of bullying somewhat "in the eye of the beholder" - it's hard for any given person (the proposed bully) to know what another person (the bullyee) may take to heart.

    I've unwittingly said some very hurtful things to some people entirely unknowingly and unintentionally.

    Ultimately would a Charlotte's Law have done anything to prevent Charlotte's death?

    I don't really understand depression as I've never suffered from it, but what I am fairly sure about is that it doesn't really obey the simple rules of logic and reason that we'd like to imagine it does. If Charlotte were not the subject of abuse and ridicule on Twitter and in the media, would that have necessarily changed the outcome for her, or would her mind have taken over in their absence?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Danielle,

    Again, let’s not rationalise one form of bullying by citing another.

    There is a pretty big qualitative difference between sending a bunch of “you’re a crappy feminist” tweets and *sending a black person pictures of lynchings*. Holy shit.

    People in Goldberg’s story talked to her about being scared to say anything, for fear of ostracisation. Kendall seemed to relish her own reputation as a bully.

    It’s not saying they’re the same thing, or equivalent, to feel that one does not warrant the other. Or that one does not matter because the other does.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Emma Hart,

    I taught Georgia McCarten who was killed at the age of 4 by a car driven by a young man. This was almost 10 years ago. The media tried to turn it into a thing about Asian Drivers. Her mother would not let them.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report Reply

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