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March 27, 2007

Female tech blogger cancels keynote amid death threats

Sad news: Tech blogger Kathy Sierra canceled her scheduled keynote adress at ETech because she was facing a barrage of online death- and rape threats. Over the past four weeks Kathy has been targeted for a barrage of increasingly credible threats of physical violence. In her post, Kathy reports that she has contacted the appropriate authorities and that they are taking her complaints seriously. I'm saddened to hear that another woman has foregone another opportunity because of misogynist intimidation.

I want Kathy to know that her colleagues in the feminist/lib-left blogosphere are pulling for her. Thanks to zuzu and Dr. Sox for voicing their support.

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Comments

Thank you for posting on this. It's so repugnant, the intimidation and threats she has received, it makes me want to scream.

Sheesh... what could you possibly say on a tech blog that would inspire death threats? Sounds like some of these people need to move out of their parent's basement.

Not to be unkind, but unless you threaten or commit violence, "inspire" is the simply wrong verb to describe the inclination of a violent predator - physical or online - to make these sorts of threats against you. Kathy Sierra did not inspire rape or death threats. Neither did Amanda Marcotte. Neither did Melissa McEwen.

Speaking and writing without a license from some internet predator freak does not "inspire" rape threats and death threats. It might inspire controversy, or scorn or withering critique, since hard-nosed debate is the coin of the realm. But these women did not inspire rape or death threats; the rapist- and murderer-wannabes did not need inspiration, only a target to torture.

well, this is lamentable. but what I find also unfortunate is that you folks only seem to notice intimidation against speech when it involves someone you agree with. in Algeria, you can quite literally have your throat slit for watching TV. In Germany not so long ago, upper middle class leftists fantasizing about revolution killed people for being CEOs. In Moscow, I was threatened with violence by two writers who were frequently published in the Nation, and in Moscow threats of violence mean something quite a bit more than in, say, NYC. As for the other complaint you folks have, that those nasty people on the right mock womyn for their physical appearance, and how ugly that is, I see Ann Coulter constantly referred to on left leaning wenblogs as skeletal etc and Limbaugh as fat etc. By the way, I hate to say it, because a lot of what she says publicly is asinine and infantile, but I was in an airport a year ago killing time, and I leafed through one of her books in the airport bookstore. Much of what she writes is completely sensible. Jost one example: one of her more infamous comments was about 9-11 widows enjoying their husbands' deaths. well, if I recall correctly, this was in the context of criticising some of these women for insisting that Congress pay more attention to their views about terrorism because they had unique insights based on their status as widows. Well, that was an idiotic and self-centered stance to take, and Coulter reasonably found fault with these sanctimonious fools, when most people were too timid to say such because of the sacred 9-11 status these women. Sure, Coulter says some dumb shit, and I certainly disagree with a lot of what I read in a half hour of scanning one of her books. But you folks ought to consider than even your worst enemies might be right 10% of the time, and that even your worst enemies shouldn't be demonized. Eh, the right wing zealots do the same shit as you people, that's what makes America such a dreary unpleasant culture.

but what I find also unfortunate is that you folks only seem to notice intimidation against speech when it involves someone you agree with. in Algeria, you can quite literally have your throat slit for watching TV.

I agree with watching TV.

For the most part, the kinds people who are really going to hurt you will just do so. They don't taunt you ahead of time with scary anonymous notes.

The kinds of people who send scary anonymous notes, on the other hand, usually don't do much else.

This sounds like someone who is trying to frighten her with threats of violence. That's a crime, of course, but I don't think she's in much danger, unless there are scary details she left out.

But you folks ought to consider than even your worst enemies might be right 10% of the time, and that even your worst enemies shouldn't be demonized. Eh, the right wing zealots do the same shit as you people, that's what makes America such a dreary unpleasant culture.

1. Don't try to change the subject.

2. No, actually we don't act like Coulter or Malkin or O'Reilly. Lindsay has never advocated the killing of reporters but both Coulter and Makin have. The eliminationist speech in this country is almost all from the Right wing. Get real.

The attacks on Kathy Sierra seem very shades of that Autoadmit crap. Same lousy cowards pulling the same shit under cover of anonymity. What truly disgusting people. Hope the cops get them- at least this time the cops seem to be completely in Sierra's corner.

but I don't think she's in much danger, unless there are scary details she left out.

She cannot afford to share your naivete. Cowards like that will scare when they can, and if they could do and and get away with it I don't doubt that they would.

"No, actually we don't act like Coulter or Malkin or O'Reilly. Lindsay has never advocated the killing of reporters but both Coulter and Makin have. The eliminationist speech in this country is almost all from the Right wing. Get real."

I wouldn't bother debating with that person, they live in a different reality from the rest of humanity.

in Algeria, you can quite literally have your throat slit for watching TV

And your point is...?

that's what makes America such a dreary unpleasant culture.

Gee Mark, I'm sorry we have bring your high spirits down like that. I wonder why you try to talk to us when we are such dreary, unpleasant people. Perhaps you are trying to bring us up to your high-living level, Mark. Yes, that's it! And, I really appreciate that- your sense of Noblesse Oblige drives you to slum with us loser Americans. What a mensch you are Mark!

But here's an idea Mark, since we bring you down so much, why don't you simply avoid us? Yes, I think it would be to your own emotional advantage if you would stop associating your high-living foriegn ass with us. And lord knows I care about your emotions, Mark. So, purely in your own sweet self-interest, why don't you get out of our face and find your own blog?

WALL OF FUCKING TEXT IN THIS THREAD

Vile, but nonetheless protected.

BRANDENBURG v. OHIO, 395 U.S. 444 (1969)
http://laws.findlaw.com/us/395/444.html

"Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action. Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 , overruled."

Mark - if the writers for the Nation threatened violence, you should name them.

The Marcotte/McEwan smears started me thinking that bloggers need a Hollaback type of arrangement where abusive emails and comments can be kept for viewing by potential future associates of the haters. I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if some of the same names, pseudonyms, or IP numbers showed up multiple times. Those are the ones who most need the sterilizing light of day.

I'm sorry to sound dismissive, but this lady would be in practically no danger at all in a public place.

The perferable response to intimidation like this is ignore it.

Again, I'm sorry to sound dismissive but the correlation of death threats to actual murders is tiny - so much so that the drive to the venue is more dangerous.

Since I don't follow Kathy Sierra other than the few posts I've read today about this situation, I wish someone would explain why all of those people hate her so much. I find it so odd and incredibly disturbing that someone who works in artificial intelligence and writes tech books could cause such vitriol.

The capacity for rational argument correlates fairly well with the capacity to paragraph, though, interestingly, not with spelling ability.

There are many more threats of violence made in the world than carried out. Anyone, however, who says that such threats shouldn't be taken seriously, or that stalking violence is rarely preceded by this kind of harassment is simply talking out of their ass.

Also, threats of violence against a specific person don't qualify as protected speech. There are prosecutions for this in domestic cases all the time.

How many of the people blithely recommending that Kathy Sierra ignore the threats have ever received a death threat themselves, I wonder?

My co-author received over 20,000 death threats when the Florida recount was declared (election year 2000). Those e-mails and phone messages were turned over to the FBI for investigation. She had constant 24-hour police protection. Regardless, she was determined to finish the recount despite these threats because, in her mind, nothing less than American democracy itself was at stake. In my book, my co-author is a genuine American heroine.

Kathy Sierra should NOT have canceled her keynote address at Etech. Yes, it is scary and intimidating. Yes, it takes courage to stand up to bullies and thugs. But quitting means letting them win. And if that happens, then all of us loose. I hope she changes her mind.

Very easy for y´all to say her decision is wrong, you were not in her shoes. I respect that she got scared, especially the picture was sick.

Mike Nuckols' jeremiad would make more sense if Sierra were a political blogger. She isn't. She's a technology blogger, maintaining a blog in support of her profession.

This isn't about scoring points in a blogospheric rugby scrum. The only way that comparing Sierra to Coulter or Malkin are pertinent is that all three are women. And in fact, as well as taking much-deserved heat for what they actually write, Coulter and Malkin wind up being targets for a lot of misogynistic hate speech.

MK, if the bullies and thugs succeeded in shutting down Bean, or Pandagon, or the Snake Goddess, or Majikthise, and anyone else through threats and intimidation, where would go on the Internet and what would you read?

My co-author is now in her 70s looking back on those events that shaped her life. Wherever she goes, there are women of all generations who approach her say “You were our role model, thank you.”

My co-author is now in her 70s looking back on those events that shaped her life. Wherever she goes, there are women of all generations who approach her say “You were our role model, thank you.”

That's wonderful that your co-author has not bended to pressure of threats, don't get us wrong. But at the same time, it doesn't mean that people who are scared into changing their behavior by death threats and other threats are 'weak'.

I certainly don't feel I can judge Sierra. MK is right, those pictures are chilling. Consider the point-of-view of someone who spends a lot of time researching, and putting together pictures, in order to intimidate someone. I am not conviced that such a person is always a harmless prankster.

From ianqui: "I wish someone would explain why all of those people hate her so much." Because Kathy Sierra writes about artificial intelligence and tech subjects is probably damn good at what she does. That is why there are others who are jealous of her ability and accomplishments and seek to defile her.

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