[ETA: IB has taken my comment on board and edited his post.]
Damn, IB. I was hoping you’d not join the ever-growing list of Standard writers to throw around words like “loon” and “batshit crazy” to describe someone whose actions you simultaneously want to ascribe to logical, “sane” causes.
Yes, rightwing extremism is a problem. Yes, violent hate speech should be challenged whenever possible. But either those two statements are true, and there’s a societal problem which society needs to confront, OR certain people are just obviously crazy and dangerous and therefore should be pre-emptively locked up because we can all tell they’re not stable, amirite?
It’s probably obvious I’ve got an axe to grind in this fight, but here’s the thing, it’s two axes. One about casual fucking ableism which makes the lives of people with mental illness shittier than it has to be, and one about the sheer fucking laziness of writing off violent, terrorising extremists as “nutters”. If we allow that people like Breivik or Jared Lougher are just irrational/mentally ill/crazy/insert slur here, we deny ourselves the right to call that shit out, because the extreme Glenn Beck types who egg them on will just say “Oh, but they’re craaaaaaaaazy, it has nothing to do with my continual eliminationist rhetoric”.
So I’m going to get on my soapbox and plead with y’all. You’ve got an opportunity to deny hate-speakers an excuse to ignore the consequences of their actions, and you get to make the world a better place.
Seriously, people. I know we on the blogging left like to get all high and mighty about how awesomely smart we are – what kind of idiot votes for National because they like John Key’s smile, right? Who seriously watches Fox News [unless it’s for awesomely cool hipster lulz, y/y?]?
But it seems like we lose sight of the fact that the people who do vote in a way we don’t like, who do trust news sources we scoff at … are still people. People probably getting just as, if not more, fucked on by capitalism as the rest of us. People who don’t have the privilege of time and spoons for political awareness and sarcastic bloggery.
Those people are not insane. I mean, do I even have to say that? Apparently.
Because it’s not insane to be raised in a culture with ideals and memes about journalism and the news, and believe what the news tells you.
And it’s not mentally ill to accept that politicians who get elected to office, or people who write books which become bestsellers, or people with big fancy letters after their names, are people we are meant to listen to, or people who are assumed to have integrity, or people whose status indicates knowledge and entitlement to lead.
And maybe if it’s not insane to watch the news, to trust journalists, to listen to politicians, in general terms … it’s probably not insane to end up with a general sense of unease and distrust and xenophobia. It doesn’t take mental illness to become convinced that basic democratic principles are under threat wherever one may be, and it’s not subnormal to be swayed by rhetoric and propaganda techniques developed over fucking centuries and which societies have become pretty good at using to perpetuate their own values and avoid change.
It certainly doesn’t require an assumed lack of intellect or cognitive function to gather that we are at war with [Muslim] Eurasia and have always been at war with [Muslim] Eurasia.
It’s not batshit to watch any action film produced over the last thirty years and pick up the idea that lone operatives who are the only ones who know the truth and must struggle against a conservative/ignorant/bought-and-paid-for-by-The-Man authority have to take matters into their own hands and will be proven right some day.*
It’s not a cool idea to play with, people, but we live in a world in which it is simply not illogical or utterly irrational or obviously nuts for someone to come to the belief that [insert political demon] is a threat and [insert political authority] won’t do anything about it and [insert way of life] is getting destroyed and oh, did we mention that pop and folk culture are full of awesome heroes who Made A Stand, usually with lots of guns and frequently for nationalistic purposes?
Either that, or everyone’s fucking insane and the label has no fucking meaning any more, so stop fucking using it to dehumanize people whose actions you want to pretend are inexplicable and incomprehensible (especially while also claiming that they are completely explicable because, um, you ran out of fat jokes to make about Cameron Slater).**
We might sit at our ivory fucking keyboards feeling all high-and-mighty because we never grew out of our adolescent punk/goth/anarchist/general period of saying “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” to the world, but we are in no fucking position to pass socially-twisted pseudomedical judgment on the vast majority of the human race. Judgment which has shitty fucking consequences for people who do experience mental illness or neuroatypicality, and judgment which destroys our own credibility in challenging extremism.
It’s not fucking hard.
**And since 1 in 5 people experience some mental illness in their lives, there’s going to be overlap between People Who Do [Thing I Want To Blame On Mental Illness] and People Who Have Mental Illness, but until someone works out that whole “correlation ain’t causation” thing you are welcome to blow yourself.
[Trigger warning: links include discussion of transphobia, mainstream Feminist silencing tactics and more than your recommended daily intake of cis/white women’s tears.]
I think if we’ve learned anything from the internet it’s that when white cis feminists on “mainstream”/large/established blogs commit massive fail, it only gets worse when they try to apologise (admittedly, a large number never get to the apologising stage, so hey, points for effort!)
Thus it is with Julie’s “apology” (yep, scare quoted it) at The Hand Mirror, where those commenters who didn’t get to show their own pantlessness in the original debacle decided to make the most of their second chance.
Let’s start with Scuba Nurse, who is totally sure they don’t allow abusive comments, and then happily conflates “abuse” with “disagreement”:
Offensive comments: As far as I know, we do allow comments as long as they do not personally attack anyone, are abusive or demeaning.
We have allowed several people making some comments I found exceptionally offensive because of my personal viewpoint on their beliefs around abortion, women’s clothing choices, racism etc etc. The trans-phobia discussions are certainly not the first time we have had differing opinions debating.
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: Commenters stating “I refuse to consider calling a specific trans woman a guy transphobic because I don’t think it is” is simultaneously personal, abusive and demeaning! Pretending that “”guy” is just a gender-neutral word!” is a matter of “differing opinions” which exists in a complete vacuum unaffected by cisgender privilege is douchey!
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: This is hardly the first fucking time transphobic shit (not to mention misogyny, rape apologism, abuse apologism or general lack of moderating) has come up on The Hand Mirror. You had your chance to figure this shit out [and as demonstrated below, you’ve got a pretty fucking clear commenting policy which should have provided you all with a damn clue]. Instead you chose personal comfort over calling out a cis woman’s massive disrespect and triggering behaviour of trans women. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.
George returns! Can you smell the fail already?
Don’t beat yourself up Julie. No one made any personal swipes at anyone, no one defamed anyone…quite frankly I think it was a huge misunderstanding based on the lack of voice intonation and body language on the internet.
TURN UP NEXT TIME EVERYONE! That’s the lesson here. 🙂 If you want a say in the kaupapa of an event, then come along and be part of it.
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: You know what, George? That nice apology I snipped out of the middle of your comment would’ve been marvellous if it weren’t bookended by the above assholery, in which you declared your version of how things occurred (guess what? The women you were an asshat to probably disagree! But gaslighting is so much easier when the thread is conveniently no longer visible …), continued to tone argument people, and finished off with a good ol’ tip of the hat to “if you don’t participate you can’t complain!”
People don’t actually have to show up to events which they find problematic and which because of you they do not feel safe at in order to express their opinions.
Julie clarifies that actually she wasn’t even apologising for the thing she should have been apologising for:
I haven’t addressed it because that wasn’t how I was thinking of it – as a stuff up involving transphobia – I was thinking of it as a stuff up of moderation. However I can see from this discussion that that was a mistake on my part – the stuff up is intrisincally related to the subject matter of the thread. Again, another useful aha moment for me, thanks.
Of course I think I’m not transphobic. I imagine Enoch Powell didn’t think he was racist either. And this has been a case where I’ve been blind to my own ignorance (of trans issues) and blind to my own prejudicies (of assuming cis as the default and not even seeing that I was choosing sides that lined up with cis versus trans until someone pointed it out).
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: Your self-education could also involve a 101 primer on ableist language, Julie! As for Enoch Powell? Probably entirely aware he was racist, actually, just probably didn’t see a problem with it. That’s how a lot of racism works.
I can tell this seems a lot like I’m having a go at Julie. That’s because I am. I really, really struggle with the notion that a person who has been part of one of the oldest, best-established feminist blogs in New Zealand, who is politically aware and internet savvy and has had the issues people have with The Hand Mirror’s moderation brought up to her on multiple occasions, is meant to be given a pass because she’s so busy, she chose to moderate while in a bad mood, she totally didn’t mean to thank people by saying she appreciated their efforts and found their contributions really useful, she thinks she totally moderates blatant transphobia but oops, maybe her definition of blatant is different to others’ because she’s so new at all this.*
Not buying it, sorry.
But the supreme award for fail simply must go to Stef.
I missed the details of this bust up (yet again) but I feel that comments that THM needs to be this that or the other thing fucking obnoxious as I do bitchy comments that it’s only a blog about cupcakes and THM doesn’t do feminism properly. Seems to me part of this (not scar’s comments) is about new bloggers trying to get a rep and followers by picking on one of the big players and THM is so mainstream yada yada that it needs to be taken down a peg or two. Seen it happen in far too many online communities to give it much more thought than that. *yawn*
QoT’s Words of Wisdom: Are you twelve fucking years old, Stef? “They just hate us ’cause we’re so cool, mm-hmm, pass the fruit-scented lip gloss, omg I’m so, like, over this whole thing, right, they’re like, so jealous, omg.” is your actual argument? With bonus passive-aggressive not-naming-names-because-they’re-only-doing-it-for-attention?
For those unable to see the original post, Stef is probably talking about Octavia and Scar. They’re either two Kiwi women with relatively newish blogs who think transphobia is fucking awful and should be called out, and aren’t afraid to go into spaces they perceive as inherently unsafe and call out blatant misgendering and privileging of cis women’s opinions and feelings, and an acknowledged moderation method based on Who Is Annoying Julie Right Now, where it is acknowledged that moderator comments thanked and privileged people who were being silencing and personal and transphobic …
… or they’re just, like, totally ~desperate~ for ~attention~ and can’t handle that The Hand Mirror didn’t invite them to the after-prom party.
I find the latter to be a completely convincing argument.
But it’s their blog, their rules!
A final point a lot of the defenders are bringing up is “HDU tell the Hand Mirror writers how to moderate their blog! They can do what they want!”
And this is a very valid point. God knows I’m a huge fan myself of telling people to fuck off and make their own blogs if they want to do [insert obnoxious behaviour].
But here’s the problem.
The Hand Mirror does not anywhere state, “This is not a safe space for trans* people and gendered language and silencing tactics will not be moderated.”
Their commenting policy does say abusive comments or links to abusive posts will be deleted – yet moderators basically encouraged people to continue posts at their own sites,which was read by at least one commenter as saying “you have to go deal with [commenter who was accused of transphobia] at his own blog where he will probably continue to be transphobic at you but we don’t care about that.”
The commenting policy does say, “Disagreement should be written in a manner that does not demean either party.” But this was clearly not interpreted by anyone at the Hand Mirorr as do not refer to a trans woman as a “tough guy”, nor do not tell trans women that they shouldn’t be offended because “guy” is a totes gender neutral term.
And the explicit stated purpose of their comment policy is:
We want this to be a safe space for women, and indeed for those who are othered in an internet (and political) culture dominated by white heterosexual men of comfortable income and right-wing politics.
Scar and other commenters aren’t actually holding The Hand Mirror to any higher standard than The Hand Mirror’s writers have already set for themselves. If The Hand Mirror team want to clarify that no, they aren’t going to police transphobic language and no, they aren’t going to firmly moderate on any other basis than “I was tired and anyway you’re a troll” then now is their chance to make that clear to everyone.
Going on what has happened, and how they have followed up? It’s pretty clear to me.
*In case I haven’t repeated this slightly key point enough? “Blatant transphobia” apparently doesn’t cover referring to trans women as “internet tough guys” and refusing to accept that others find that offensive!
[TW: ableism and ableist language used with vicious sarcasm]
Oh, who would’ve fucking guessed it: it’s actually complete and utter bullshit to assume that violent people are mentally ill or that people with mental illness are more likely to be violent.
Or, just in case this isn’t clear, it is simply impossible to watch someone’s YouTube channel and psychically diagnose them with paranoid schizophrenia.
I assure you, dear readers, I am wearing my shocked face right now.
Rather than looking at individual cases, or even single studies, Fazel’s team analyzed all the scientific findings they could find. As a result, they can say with confidence that psychiatric diagnoses tell us next to nothing about someone’s propensity or motive for violence.
But you know what? This is a lot like an issue which comes up in fat acceptance when people are discussing studies showing this or that.
It actually doesn’t fucking matter.
It’s not actually fucking relevant, because even if there were a clear connection (just to repeat for all the douchebags clinging to stereotypes to justify their douchebaggery, there isn’t) you would still be a gigantic asshat to make assumptions about people’s mental health based on their actions and your prejudices about how humans are meant to act.
For those who are still refusing to get it:
You do not get to make the call about someone else’s mental state unless you are that person, or their duly appointed medical practitioner.
You do not get to assume that “only a craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy person” would do xyz.
You do not get to whinge that “it’s obvious” and at the same time pretend that you’re using words like “insane”, “craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy” and “nuts” in some kind of Totally Nonjudgemental Clinical Way, especially when you are operating in a linguistic culture that frequently uses those words in entirely non-clinical ways.
Right now you may think that this is just some over-sensitive crap from someone with obvious triggers around mental illness, and you, Marty G, may somehow sincerely believe that that statement is not in of itself buying into prejudice around mental health, is not full of nasty little implications*, is not inherently gendered.
You’re fucking kidding yourself, dude.
You also, Scott, don’t get to say “maybe this guy did this thing in a vacuum because he’s insane.” Guess what, folks? People with mental illness strangely have this thing where they still live in our society, they still receive societal messages about things, and they still get influenced by “normal” stuff just like you.
You don’t get to imply that none of the prevalent language of violence and hatred and freaking gunsights over people’s homes might just all be nothing to talk about because hey, we all know that mentally ill people just randomly shoot people because they’re craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy. And somehow this isn’t you buying into demeaning stereotypes?
Could someone please explain that one to me again, and try not to just repeat “But I watched his YouTube channel and he’s clearly craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy” because I’m just not sure how that’s meant to be any kind of argument against you being a judgemental asshole with no qualifications to make that call basing your opinions on ableist stereotypes.
Less-ranting related reading: Discussion of an assassination: ableism & the failure of sociological understanding, just in case my obvious triggers and oversensitivity totally harsh my cred.
*I do just want to deal with this one directly; Marty, you see, just thinks I “have strong reactions over anything to do with mental illness and [he doesn’t] know or care what the root cause of that is“. Fuck off, Marty. If I say “Marty obviously has some issues dealing with stroppy women who won’t fellate his intellect” I’m not going to whinge that I’m totally not calling you a sexist pig, I’m just, you know, observing a pattern of behaviour and I don’t care what the reason is! Your implication is obvious. Have the fucking spine to own your assumptions when it’s someone you [vaguely, internet] know and not just the Progressive Bigotry-Scapegoat of the Week.