On blogging, threats, silence, and what we can do about it

 

 

I know there are millions of posts that we blog addicts deem “must-reads,” but yesterday’s by s.e. smith on TigerBeatdown is one that truly earns that title.  In an essay called “On Blogging, Threats, and Silence,” smith writes about her experiences with online threats, opening her piece with the very startling revelation:

I got my first rape threat as a blogger when I was on Blogspot, so new that I still had the default theme up… someone really had thought it was appropriate not just to write this email to a complete stranger, a totally unknown person, but to send it.

Smith’s point is not just to reveal how very often this happens to women bloggers, but also to illuminate how often our concerns are minimized with the advice “don’t feed the trolls.”

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people…..this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it….when it happens to people for the first time, they think they are alone, because they don’t realise how widespread and insidious it is.

Regular readers of The Radical Housewife know about my resident antagonist, one Neal Krasnoff.  He’s been on my case since a 2008 Minnesota Women’s Press column in which I expressed support for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. At the time, he blogged under a pseudonym, Nachman, and the depth of his venom so rattled me that I did a little digging and discovered that his was typical of a million pseudonymous blogs in which the author assumes that “anonymity” grants carte blanche to express opinions that would never be tolerated in polite company.  Among Neal’s bugaboos were feminism, LGBT rights, and any support for Palestinian human rights, and in his blog he heaped scorn upon Twin Cities folks active in any of these civil rights movements.

But Neal wasn’t anonymous, really.  It took only a handful of Google searches to discover his real name and that he was, in fact, a local activist with the Minnesota DFL Party.

The DFL?? Minnesota’s Democratic Party? Really? Why, yes!  This is the party whose platform states opposition to “discrimination against any person on the basis of race, creed, religion, immigration status, sex, sexual or affectational orientation, HIV status, gender identity or expression, marital or homemaker status, disability or age.”

Huh.

Do you think Neal would allow his Nachman persona to speak aloud at DFL meetings?  Not likely.  Do you think Neal, like those who targeted s.e. smith, TigerBeatdown, and other bloggers, took advantage of this perceived “anonymity” as well as bloggers’ ongoing reluctance to talk about it?

This summer, I had enough.  Inspired by news of  the upcoming SlutWalk Minneapolis, Neal wrote as disturbing a piece of rape apologia as I have ever read, and he made sure the post included the name of its director, my friend Kim Sherva, in an attempt to rattle her as I had once been rattled.  I responded with a piece I called “To our male allies: a challenge,” in which I identified Neal by name.  And take it from me, friends: NOTHING TERRIFIED HIM MORE.

He closed up his blog for a time.  He officially resigned from the DFL Party.  He begged me to redact his name, to stuff the genie named Nachman back in the bottle.  Today, his blog contains the longest rant against me yet, with specific threats of legal action against me and veiled threats of personal harm in calling me  “Shannon Drury (YM”SH).” For those whose Hebrew is rusty, this is apparently a curse that calls for the destruction of a person and her memory.  I’m not certain myself, so I think I’ll ask the rabbi with whom I’m meeting next week (I’m not kidding–I really am).

In the words of s.e. smith:

I’m still not going to shut up, and not just because I am bullheaded and don’t take kindly to being told to be silent or die. I don’t shut up for all the people who were forced to shut up, for the ghosts who drift through the Internet, for the people too terrified to leave their homes at all, let alone try to coordinate safety concerns to attend events, for the people who ask friends to open and sort their email because they can’t handle the daily vitriol. I don’t shut up for all the people who have been silenced, who did throw in the towel because they just couldn’t take it anymore. 

I hope you, dear reader, will join me in accepting smith’s call to keep talking about this on our blogs,  our social media sites, and in our communities.  Refuse to be silenced.  Demand accountability.  Speak out!

 

 

4 Responses to “On blogging, threats, silence, and what we can do about it”

  1. I spoke out against the Slutwalk and am still receiving telephone threats and hate speech. We are living in a dangerous time when many see contrary opinion as a personal assault or threat – and retaliate. I’m staying clear of the women who called me the “c” word, threatened my girl-children with rape and demanded I “apologize” for my opinions. These are tough times. Be careful out there.

    • Shannon says:

      Kristine, my problem was never with your opinion, it was with your behavior.

      I respect and appreciate that you have made your position on the SlutWalk movement public and unequivocal. If you are indeed experiencing threats of this kind, I urge you to make them public as well.

  2. The cloak of anonymity emboldens a type of person and the way to find out if the attacker is that type is to demolish their shield.

    This morning I have been thinking about the spirit of the current liberation movement. I see the 60′s as one that is rather religious for example – born in Latin America – fostered in Nicaragua & Catholics in particular. Today, moving at the speed of light, it has erased global borders and is more available than ever before. Today there is a collective gospel which says, “enough.” It is born from personal courage and has stood on its legs, like never before, because it has a voice, a picture, a video of justice that ignites those even in the furthers regions of the planet. Ugandan queers find unity with people around the world; SlutWalkers reach right through bits & bytes and encourage strutters in every language; depleted workers filled with volition occupy the town squares and discover their numbers (the greatest fear of the 1%).

    I stop myself and ask have I gotten too lofty or philosophical and the answer is no – I am just lifting off high enough to see it is humanity in all respects that is calling for an end to oppression. It is the next evolutionary step – that we SEE it is not natural; we do not have to live at the expense of one another. If you want a piece of pie too – we just have to make more pie.

    The truth telling which exposures the anons, the haters as we so euphemistically call them, is the process. Bloggers, marchers, occupiers, all those who use social media as the fast track to truth, collective truth are the movers. Thank you for the risk, the example, the insistence, the nerve, the courage you manifest every day, Shannon. The movement moves through you. We all feel that. Most of us are grateful.

  3. Shannon says:

    Hi Shannon,

    Thanks so much for writing this and expanding on TigerBeatdown’s post.

    As a new blogger, I got my first anonymous hate-email and one nasty anonymous comment last week after I wrote a post that expressed my anti-war beliefs and concerns about militarization in the US. I had been nervous about publishing it at all because I expected some type of negative reaction (really, the mere fact that I expected a backlash at all is profoundly sad). But even then it took my breath away. And even though I didn’t want these negative things to bother me, they made me pause – made me question not only what I had written but the very act of writing them and making them public. I’ve since decided that, of course, I have to ignore it and keep writing, because sometimes the things that make people the most upset are precisely the issues that need to be pushed and examined. It is so nice to hear your thoughts on situations like this, and to have your encouragement not to “shut up.”

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with hate email/comments. Way to stand up for yourself and call him out!

    Thanks for keeping up the good fight,
    Shannon

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