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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

I learned about this from Robert Scoble, who is disgusted and/or distressed enough about the vileness of this episode to swear off hi top-rated blog for a week as his personal protest against "stalking" netwise. Not funny when this stuff victimizes someone you know.

Atheist, I am not judging Kathy, it is the thugs I judge and deplore. Once emboldened, they are likely to keep tormenting her, and that is unacceptable. The available data is not about what Kathy has or has not done, it is what we know of antisocial behavior. For the moment, if you try to access "meankids" or "rageboy," you will get a 404 error. At least, this is a step in the right direction. Please consider: This is more than stalking; it is also a hate crime. Prosecution is justifiable.

Please consider: This is more than stalking; it is also a hate crime. Prosecution is justifiable.

Absolutely Swampcracker. You and I are in substantial agreement on this.

It is true that 99% of death threats are meaningless. However, it is foolish to ignore them, because a very high number of actual murders are preceded by death threats. Dave Niewert of Orcinus has documented well and thoroughly how violent rhetoric leads to violent acts. Bullies often precede violence with threats and abuse.

There is a similar concept in the field of health, safety, and environmental protection: the near miss. If you want to prevent accidents and environmental disasters, study the near misses. They tell you where the dangers lie.

In other words, it's unwise to ignore threats, until you can be confident that they are empty threats. Kathy Sierra states in her own blog that the things she posted about were merely the tip of the iceberg, and that the abuse had been going on for a month.

It is very easy to stand on the sidelines and impugn someone's courage or tell them they are over-reacting. But to be a woman and to be threatened with sexualized violence is no joke. If she had remained silent, she was leaving the abuser(s) free to continue the abhorrent behavior.

Mark has shown he's just a troll, and needs to be banned, imo.

People got on Melissa McEwan's case about "caving in" and "not standing up to bullies," too, but the people giving her shit about quitting the Edwards campaign didn't have people blocking their driveways and pounding on their doors.

Admonitions to just suck it up are cheap when you're not the target.

Chris Locke answered an e-mail query from Liz Tay of Computerworld Australia with respect to the Kathy Sierra matter. Here is his answer: “Surely I've seen hateful stuff about women online, and when it is directed at women *because they are women,* I am disgusted by it. I have a 17-year-old daughter whom I love very much and I would not ever want to see her subjected to such Neanderthal views and behavior.”

So Mr. Locke would not want his own daughter subjected to such torment. One might almost accept his statement at face value, but then Mr. Locke added this: “I do not like Kathy Sierra. I like her even less after her post of Monday. If she is waiting for me to apologize for something I did or said, she is going to have a very long wait.”

It seems Mr. Locke suffers from an “elastic variant” of foot-in-mouth disease. Just when he extracts the foot, it snaps back inside. Fwap!!

Fwap, indeed.

What's his beef with Kathy Sierra? Not that it matters wrt threats.

Still, I'm curious as to what preturbed Mr. Locke's delicate sensibilities.

zuzu says, quoting me:

meanwhile, there are people who are in reality being raped, killed, assaulted. so some random women gets creepy and threatening emails or whatever. Not nice, but not a big deal either.

Right, because threats just never, ever escalate.

God, you're a twit.


### well, let's examine this assertion. Sure, threats can and do escalate. And I think you mean to say they escalate into action. But what percentage of threats made on-line ever eventuate into an actual act of violence. Sadly, the internet makes it awfully easy to sling around vile and even threatening language. Well, assuming one's verbal assailant to be in the US, it is still overwhlmingly likely they would face a day's travel to even get near you. That's a pretty high barrier for most people. Look, I think this sort of thing is a serious problem, but it's far down the list of more serious ones. How about prison rape? Who knows how many prisoners are raped every hour? A lot, I suspect. I don't see anyone all weepy about that. But I don't think our justice system includes being raped as a part of paying your debt to society, yet it's tolerated (I'd say even encouraged, but for reasons to complex for you to understand). That's one of about 1000 things more troubling than online harrassment and threats, without more.

As recent debates surrounding torture, certain wars, and other things prove, there is in fact nothing short of cannibalism (?) that will cause certain people to summon any kind of outrage. No matter what it is: it isn't that serious; they had it coming; I have a hard time feeling sympathy for -- (well, why not stop the sentence just before "for"?)

Threats like these are weak, the people who make them are not in any way real men (who on earth can lift their hand, or threaten to, against a woman, and call themselves a real man?), and it makes the people who offer them look like morons. Too bad. I hope that Kathy Sierra reconsiders leaving her blogging, and continues blogging as the necessary conversation it is, with people who don't live in the gutter. Good luck to her.

Tomorrow is the day to post in solidarity with Kathy Sierra. I plan to.

"Finally, anyone who thinks that this is “no big deal” and that clubbing seals is funny should re-read “Points of justification” item (1)."

Oh clubbing baby seals is hilarious. And bloody thirsty cannibals are fun too. I guess you never saw my website eathufu.com, but boy was that good fun, marketing tofu textured and flavored to resemble human flesh, baby seals, pandas. Our last product was written up by the Harvad Crimson: Underprivileged Child.

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=510180

Have the misogynists ramped up their activities in recent weeks, or did we just notice it? Kathy Sierra, and AutoAdmit, and this:
http://goatdog.com/blog/archives/hateful_little_bastards.html

I had an online death threat once, and didn't take it very seriously. But these cases seem to go beyond garden-variety misogyny. Whether or not any of the recent threats result in actual violence, they create an environment in which threatening women with rape and murder just for being women is assumed to be normal not only by these writers but by their readers. And these writers and readers have real-life lives.

Sure, threats can and do escalate. And I think you mean to say they escalate into action. But what percentage of threats made on-line ever eventuate into an actual act of violence.

So why do you keep whining about being threatened by two writers from The Nation who you refuse to name?

By your own standards, you should just suck it up. Because men are being raped in prison, after all. What are you complaining about!

Sure, threats can and do escalate. And I think you mean to say they escalate into action. But what percentage of threats made on-line ever eventuate into an actual act of violence.

So why do you keep whining about being threatened by two writers from The Nation who you refuse to name?

By your own standards, you should just suck it up. Because men are being raped in prison, after all. What are you complaining about!

Let me share this with y’all without comment. It comes from Spockosbrain.com.

“The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and private sources, suggests that an aversion to hurting others is hard-wired into the brain. I'll repeat it again: The default normal health brain is the one with empathy. The brain that lacks empathy for others is the sick brain.”

Seven Questions About Empathy To Ask Yourself
. Which political party represents a lack of empathy for others?
. Which group of people in public promote their lack of empathy for others?
. Who mocks empathy?
. Who sees empathy as a "weakness" instead of the normal state of a healthy brain?
. Which people not only don't have an aversion to hurting others, but encourage hurting people and joke about people who are hurt?

Let me share this with y’all without comment. It comes from Spockosbrain.com.

“The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and private sources, suggests that an aversion to hurting others is hard-wired into the brain. I'll repeat it again: The default normal health brain is the one with empathy. The brain that lacks empathy for others is the sick brain.”

Seven Questions About Empathy To Ask Yourself
. Which political party represents a lack of empathy for others?
. Which group of people in public promote their lack of empathy for others?
. Who mocks empathy?
. Who sees empathy as a "weakness" instead of the normal state of a healthy brain?
. Which people not only don't have an aversion to hurting others, but encourage hurting people and joke about people who are hurt?

Apologies for the double post ... it was a Typepad error.

Lindsay, re your question about Chris Locke's beef with Kathy Sierra, I've been poking around a bit in the technoblogosphere, and best I can tell at this point, he thinks some of her theories are wrong-headed or misguided.

To my mind, that doesn't really explain his obvious animosity toward her, but that has been the extent of what I've been able to find thus far.

The Los Angeles Times has an article about the Sierra/blog/threats thing. Subjects about which people wax hysterical enough about to send death threats: Apple Inc. music sales and the future of advertising. Apple Inc. music sales!?? Seriously, WTF?

Regarding the debate on this threat over the actual danger these threats represent, one has to assume that someone foaming at the mouth over such absolutely inconsequential dust motes, is capable of anything. It’s sad to see that the blogosphere may wind up self-censored because of a few frenzied crackpots working themselves into a sweat over nothing.

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