( or Why both Twitter & Journalism are in deep trouble )
Of course we aren’t sure how deep, but fairly certain that both are at an intersection where they need to reevaluate their choices and recommit to bringing quality & fairness to their respective platforms
BuzzFeed’s search for marginalized writers is progressive, not racist
On Saturday night, Koul deleted or deactivated her Twitter account. Koul, a woman of colour who writes critically about racism and sexism, was forced off social media for giving an ear to those who often go unheard. This should disturb any journalist, regardless of whether or not Koul returns to Twitter.
But the implications of the incident go beyond Koul, perfectly encapsulating a dangerous deficiency in understandings of racism.
+Commentary: Having read the comments, while remembering you should never read comments; remembering a southern upbringing also reminds you not to discuss politics, race, or religion. Nothing good ever comes from it. But what if, and this is crucial here, you are trying to change those things?
^^ It is worth reading the entire thread
When did ‘diversity’ or diversifying a workforce suddenly become anti-white? Seemingly, its critics would have us believe, it is in danger of a virtual genocide of white male jobs in an industry where they are overly represented? [ Hint: It isn’t] Nor is it eroding that vaunted free-speech debate either. What is? Targeted harassment at worse, or annoying mansplaining & white fragility at a barest minimum.
^^ goes doubly for her boss at Buzzfeed answering legal critics
Certainly, this hot button issue, which makes it the perfect discourse for Twitter, and one it facilitates easily, while also creating a concurrent toxic miasma which will quickly derail said discussions, and opens participants up to abuse & threats until it chokes any meaningful discussion in its cloud. Or causes someone to deactivate their account, that is key. Better than the fabled block most trolls are out here aiming for as a badge of honor. That they must screenshot & add to their wall of accomplishments.
Apparently, according to the men, mostly white, but some, even ‘a person of ethnic minority’ joined the clamoring for why she totally deserved it. Of all the comments however, this was my favorite & made it worth it reading the rest:
Moving away from the hottakes, and think pieces that this incident could easily inspire, let’s ask if this sort of thing is not what is both at the heart, and very foundation of, the problems that Journalism & Twitter face? Clearly to my mind, it is. You are free to disagree. Setting aside the rather specious argument that her tone mattered, her usage of twitter, her political affiliations or identity, her gender, or her race. Let’s assume a white man had tweeted out the same set of tweets. Let’s play Devil’s Advocate to this smarmy crew of embittered & easily aggrieved set of whinging men who wouldn’t apparently last a single day as a woman, or even a few minutes as Women of Color.
Argument for Argument’s Sake
They would feel beset on all sides by a myriad of obstacles, affronts, dehumanizing encounters enough to quickly run out of any energy. Then to find being in such a state of exhaustion, anything else utterly impossible to bear. Let alone have time to study the history of sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other marginalization that afflicts people. Or have the nuance to see that the law, has always been, and will always be to uphold the majority. Which is to say anything white and male.
So to take concrete action, to broadcast one’s intention, after reviewing the roster of freelancers that are going to be published on your site until June and finding that there is a deficit of marginalized voices, while alternately trying to reach out to your own personal network to remedy it, seems like a rather great stretch by all aggrieved parties to reach so hard as to make this an offense for which she should be sued, removed from her job as editor, or insert all the horrible hate filled remarks, death & rape threats, and “critical” responses. Those onerous replies, however, are not worthy of the exact same scrutiny? Got it.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that such attacks, from so-called reasonable people, who get to set the bar for reasonable, are part of the ruling majority. Frequently using it to exclude such things as Trump campaign rhetoric, online harassment, and every other thing that falls under their umbrella of ‘god-given rights’ —quickly turning this into a legal case and a referendum on modern life. You can’t argue with their logic. Had the actual ad, or their hiring practices reflected such discrimination, then it would be criminal. Yet taking offense at how she framed something, or her encouragement to what must be a disenfranchised group of applicants and encouraging them to come forward, even if IN ALL CAPS ANGRY MODE. This would still not call for the flurry of overarching misogynistic, yet all too common, knee-jerk, rapid-fire social media maelstrom responses and raises the sincere question: Why such a backlash?
Especially when that backlash comes at a harrowing cost.
Could it be that this is performative, and not terribly sincere (for had she broken a law,then report it, and be done), is instead a blunt instrument to pummel her with, until what has become all-to-common response, she deactivates her account, seems like overkill. That is however a much quicker outcome than seeking remediation through the courts, and the tedious process of actually having proof of any laws being broken. Or the actual heavy lifting of advocating for and engaging in activism that brings about true equality and free speech.
Surely one could explain the current state of affairs, both in the US & Canada as representing an existential crisis for the typical white male. They must feel beset on all sides by some nefarious plot to do away with them and all the things they hold dear. They are shrinking demographically, and yet still disproportionately in control of all the power. That even without them the system of patriarchal white supremacy would continue unabated by their actual physical absence. This is clear to anyone who has studied the decolonization process of any number of countries after the collapse of most of the world’s empires. This isn’t new, nor is it particularly novel or noteworthy.
Delete. That. Tweet. | Delete. Your. Profile.
What you have in an ever-changing world, with seismic demographic shifting and lurching pivots towards new economies of thought, being, and presence is the rigid reinforcing of the old orders of things. Trying to retroactively fit them upon new expressions of power. Make (North) America Great Again, or at least the internet. Which is why in a crumbling newspaper empire, and the attention economy, finding ways to channel those things that challenge you, your beliefs, or your vested power is so scary to so many white men.
We can debate who is responsible for comment trolls, or take issue with the platforms themselves, as no less than Anil Dash did recently, and Tim Berners-Lee, or we can start to examine all the ways in which these behaviors impact the user, your retention and user churn, call for more studies, or simply see that something is broken and in need of fixing immediately. Every day some website seems to be announcing that they are suspending comments, experiencing problems with them & hashtag usage, or even abandoning them altogether. It seems terribly naive to continue to throw up our hands & say there is nothing we can do about it. Users will be users.
Who among us hasn’t had a spat on Facebook (or other social media) with a close friend or family, a mere acquaintance or distant relation, only to have it end in heated words, blocking, and in extreme cases reportage of the offense(s). It is all too common, and not as some would have us believe an indication that life has become less civil. No, it seems to point towards something altogether different, but you’ll have to read on to see if perhaps you can survey the deeper issue.
When The Telegraph decides it is better to farm out the comment section to these very same social media platforms, that may eventually ruin them and their website, then we might have a bigger problem than has been recognized before. Yet one could also argue that this is the most natural course of things, and could result in a win-win for everyone, provided that these platforms then seriously take up the issue of harassment, threats, and abuse. Providing better tools, that encourage, not discourage reportage. For a great deal of the harassment that happens online is not reported.
If free speech is protected, and it is (against Government malfeasance or obstruction against its citizenry) then ideas we may find distasteful or against public policy are almost always permitted*. Which in this reading we want to exclude the repulsive opinions of the white male constituents, or exclude them for a reading of what this actually means to marginalized groups, like the ones that founded this country or upon whose back & lands these countries were created.
* but open to ‘reasonable restrictions’
Imagining as it were, or inverting the common conception that it is the freedom to offend. What is more offensive to the group we’ve placed to the side? Those in power? (Be that personal or political, for the personal is always political for the marginalized) What if the unpopular opinion that needs protecting is that women are in fact equal, that they shouldn’t be harassed just because men find this a sign that if they have haters they are doing something right. That is a defacto stance, it proves you can indeed put up with it, and toxic masculinity says you should never let them see you sweat, and remember big boys don’t cry.
This is absurd, completely. If these were real people standing in a square, encircling the person and hurling epithets and threats of violence, we’d feel morally compelled to do something. Not stand by, let it happen and invoke the Kitty Genovese ‘Bystander Effect.” Not wholly indistinguishable to a great deal of global sociological inquiry post-WWII that asked how a country could devolve into fascism & genocide without the implicit knowledge of, or (conscientious) reaction to it by a modern citizenry.
You have Zimbardo’s Stanford Experiment, in the age of peace & love, hippie-central, and they turn into bootjack thugs in under 24 hours. So it doesn’t take much for a piling on, and to lose our sense of civility, but again, this seems to stem from a lack of civics. An absence of a true interconnectedness to both our fellow citizens or those around the world. It should bother everyone in a flattened earth, with worldwide reach, that what is good for your users is also good for business. That is Business 101, in 2016.
This, if using history as our guide, is no different than a rise of evangelical nativist movements prior to and escalated during the depression; or Fascism’s global embrace. When you have a stratifying of the haves & the have nots, then it seems to default to an us-against-them paradigm is natural. To see the ‘other’ as wholly undeserving of reasonable & humane treatment. To confuse criticism with outright abuse, or even subtle harassment is no different than arguing “religious liberty” as a right to openly and unlawfully discriminate based on bigotry. That is what happens in social climates, be they wholly imagined or real, a backlash, a regression to the default power structure. The much less reported on byproduct of disruption theories of any industry, or moreso in technology.