The New Discrimination: Invisible

While the post is utterly devoid of any evidentiary support for the vague and fatuous claim, lawprof Danielle Citron has come up with yet another avenue to justify her claim that anyone who says anything which, in her bizarre view, hurts a woman’s feelings on the internet should be criminalized.

From Concurring Opinions, where the quest for politically correct civility trumps any possibility for disagreement.

With the help of law and changing norms, invidious discrimination has become less prevalent in arenas like schools, workplaces, hotels, and public transportation.  Due to our social environments, anti-discrimination law is fairly easy to enforce.  Because leaders usually can figure out those responsible for discriminatory conduct and ignore such behavior at their peril, bigotry raises a real risk of social sanction.  So too hate discourse in the public sphere is more muted. 

Aside from taking credit for the absence of any new claims that support her position that the internet is a hotbed of invidious sex discrimination, Citron hasn’t let that quell her quest.  Instead, she now find the silence proof of “hate discourse,” even more invidious than the flagrant stuff.

But a new era is not upon us.  Instead, hate’s explicit form has, in part, repackaged itself in subtlety.  In public discourse, crude biological views of group inferiority are often replaced with a kinder, gentler “color-blind racism,” as sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva calls it. The face of modern racism is, in journalist Touré’s estimation, “invisible or hard to discern, lurking in the shadows or hidden.”

So if there’s evidence of it, it’s bad. And if there’s no evidence, it’s worse.  So much for any pretense to the intellectual high ground, as Citron’s position lapses into the tin foil hat arena.  It’s all a grand conspiracy to discriminate against women and stop their voices by hurting their feelings, even when their feelings aren’t hurt at all.  And men are shooting gamma rays at them to cause premature menopause too, right?

But the real insanity comes across in the comments to this post, where the discussion centers on Citron’s raising of the five year old claim that threats of violence to Kathy Sierra are rehashed. For those unfamiliar, in 2007, Sierra, a popular blogger, received comments that were extremely offensive and threatening, and as a result, canceled a speaking engagement because she feared harm.

Citron brought it up, for lack of much else to justify her ongoing foray into turning internet nastiness into cyber civil rights and criminalizing speech that isn’t vagina-friendly,  Seth Finklestein responds that while the comments were indeed horribly offensive, the “fear” and subsequent accusations without evidence were unfounded. 

Kathy Sierra responds.  Danielle Citron responds. This is where it goes:

Good god. This never ends. Seth, I am going to say this again: you do not know what actually happened. You cannot possibly *know* that it was *not real* unless you know exactly who did each part, and if you do, then you are withholding that from the law enforcement officials who investigated….

It is not lost on me that the third Google hit for your name, Seth, is a person accusing you of stalker behavior. Have you counted the number of times you have tried to edit my wikipedia bio? Or the number of comment threads like this one that you just keep finding? Are you doing Google searches on my name, still? Because you just keep showing up wherever I am mentioned in this context, and often dropping subtle references to libel and defamation, also perfect ways to keep victims from going public. It has been nearly five years, Seth, and I have not returned to my blog. Please STOP. You are being irrational and creepy about this and what the hell else do you want?


Ok, last time Seth: the Boulder county sheriff’s department was convinced there was enough to take seriously, enough, in fact, to take to the DA. The claim of “no rational person could be scared…” well, I guess that makes the law enforcement in Colorado irrational. That’s what you’re going with?

Because if the Boulder County Sheriff’s department says so, it must be true. To which Citron adds her “thoughts”:

First, let me say how sorry I am to Kathy Sierra that my post led to her being confronted by someone whose efforts to discredit her and deny her experience has silenced her. And despite the fact that Kathy told him so, in our comments yesterday, how he still continues in this comment thread is astounding.

All of this, sadly, proves my larger concern. Whenever people speak out about online harassment, they are dismissed as making it up–as Seth and Daily Kos founder suggested of Kathy. They are told it just a joke and that they ought to get over themselves, that it’s the blogosphere, stupid, so ignore it or turn off your computer. As we are seeing, one cannot write about the experience of online harassment victims without people trying to discredit the victim and somehow claim that those involved in the victimization are victims themselves.

While this would have been more than enough to bring my post to its conclusion, it doesn’t end yet.  Add lawprof Lawrence Cunningham’s voice:


Thanks for cleaning and clearing up all this invective. Your post is, characteristically, interesting and important, a contribution to civil discourse on the problem of cyber vituperation. The thread, though unfortunately polluted compared to this blog’s standards of civility, reaffirmed the urgency of the post, and of your book project.

I hope that further comments on the thread respect the mutual requests of the antagonists by hurling no further scorn over the merits of one of the several incidents you reference. The broader problem is real and requires civil discussion, not vitriol.


There is no shortage of threats to substantive free speech in our world, but these aren’t the tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists or the government security-at-all-cost law and order demagogues.  These are law professors.  These are individuals who are entrusted with young minds, whose vision of discourse is that it ends where it conflicts with their sexual politics or delicate sensibilities.

While most of us prefer to ignore academics because we consider them irrelevant, have no doubt that such ideas will be seized upon by those who want to shut the rest of us up, eliminate “incivility” from the internet.  And voices such as Citron’s will be their justification.  And the best part is that they won’t need any evidence of a problem because, as Citron argues, the absence of any identifiable wrong proves that its worse now than ever, because we can’t even see it.

This is insanity.  These are our lawprofs. This is about our right to free speech being sacrificed on their alter of hurt feelings masquerading as civil rights.


23 comments on “The New Discrimination: Invisible

  1. Anon Lawprof

    There are few things a male scholar fears more than being labelled a misogynist. The pressure to conform to is overwhelming and there is no support for saying anything that challenges orthodox neo-feminism.

  2. SHG

    So you would rather sacrifice your intellectual integrity, not to mention whatever is lurking below your belt, so that no one calls you a mean name? 

  3. mirriam

    I’ve been called a misogynist by both men and women. I don’t think it is entirely true because I feel remarkably pro woman, but not pro-sissy. Maybe that’s the difference?

  4. SHG

    From what I can tell, the theory is that all women are sissies (or delicate teacups, a I prefer) and cannot possibly survive mean words (or rotten words, as you prefer) on their own.

  5. BL1Y

    The problem is that it really takes no evidence to brand someone a misogynist.

    Just look at the constant posts on feminist law profs blog about journals not publishing articles from female authors. There’s absolutely no attempt to gauge how many female authors submitted articles, and whether the staff uses a blind review process. Nope, just label them sexist and move on without another look.

  6. PM

    You’re being too nice, Scott. This isn’t just political correctness. It’s a product line.

    In her bio, Citron crows: “In December 2009, the Denver University Law Review devoted an entire conference to her work on cyber harassment entitled Cyber Civil Rights: New Challenges to Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the Information Age.”

    Any claim of relevance depends upon keeping the issue alive. She’s simply a politically fashionable mercenary, and this is what keeps her within the Elite 1%.

  7. SHG

    I have no problem with accountability. Live by the sword, die by the sword. As long as it cuts both ways.

  8. BL1Y

    Adding to the theme, it’s now a “privilege” to worry less about being assaulted (burp) even if you’re statistically much more likely to actually be assaulted (fart).

    I think a good sign of how far a society has progressed is how much its critics have to grasp at straws.

    [Edit. Note: See how much better your comment is with those nasty links deleted? You’re really going to have to come to grips with my no links policy if you want to comment. Even when one of the link leads to a fav blog of mine, feminist law profs.]

  9. Marc J. Randazza

    Danielle Citron is not only one of the most intellectually dishonest “academics” ever to stain that title, but she’s also a bald-faced liar and a hypocrite.

    Evidence: She writes: AutoAdmit by no means turned on website operator immunity. The students sued 39 posters of defamatory and otherwise damaging content. The only reason its educational director was included because it seemed he wrote abusive posts. He was dropped from the suit once the plaintiffs thought otherwise.

    Either a) she’s simply making things up, or b) she knows it is a lie and she doesn’t care.

    The fact is, and it is well-documented, that the educational director (GTO) was targeted because he did not heed the plaintiff’s demands to delete posts from Auto Admit. Of course, he had no right to do so — and if he had such a right, he would likely have exercised it to remove the very abusive and defamatory posts about him having sex with his mother.

    The plaintiffs in that case never even raised the thought that GTO authored any defamatory posts. If you look at the complaint and the amended complaint, there is never so much as an allegation that any posts were made by him. Every allegation against him was for his failure to heed their commands to do something that he had no authority to do.

    Citron is entitled to her own opinions – as idiotic as they are. She is not entitled to her own facts, and should get her hands off of her keyboard if she either lacks knowledge of them, lacks the ability to read public documents that support or debunk her version of the facts, or lacks the ability to be honest once she knows the facts.

    But such ethical behavior is not worth much currency in the feminist law professor world.

  10. SHG

    Intellectual integrity can’t get into the way of the struggle. AutoAdmit is one of the primary examples used in every effort by Citron to claim gender hegemony over the internet.  So what if it’s a lie?

  11. Danielle Citron

    Scott, You obviously did not read the post. I did not say it was invisible. Just the opposite: hate’s explicit, in your face form — from rape threats to calls for people to rape women along with their home addresses — now appear online, while offline public discourse is more muted (because there is a real of social sanction). Online posters get to make threats, stalk people, post their SSNs, and the link behind the veil of anonymity. It is cowardly and harmful. I will soon be posting about the extent of the problem, but suffice it to say for now that the Bureau of Justice Statistics finds that over a million people have been stalked (which includes online harassment and threats). And that’s just the beginning because we know that 60 percent of people don’t report it (with MEN and WOMEN equally likely to underreport) because they don’t think it will be taken seriously. Anyway, it is always clear you are not game for real, fair discourse. Instead, you sling around obnoxious barbs, equating me with my vagina. Sad and pathetic.

  12. SHG

    The last thing I do is equate you with your vagina. What I equate is your facile conversion of every hurt, real or imagined, into gender discrimination. You find a misogynist under every rock and demand that we kill the rock and whatever it is you want to call a misogynist at the moment.

    You pound on the couple of examples that support your case, then bootstrap a load of nonsense to support your cause. Someone says a woman is an idiot on the internet and its a hostile environment that prohibits their freedom of speech. Some calls a man an idiot and it’s nothing.  But your solution is to shut down speech that doesn’t pass your muster.

    Sorry that all men aren’t willing to lop off penises, starting with their own, to show how their world revolves around fragile teacups so no woman’s feelings are ever hurt again.  Sadly, I’m pretty attached to mine and plan to keep it, and my tolerance for the over-sensitive, whether man or woman, is limited. 

    By the way, when millions “claim” they are stalked, it doesn’t mean it’s real or credible. There are real crimes, and crimes that exist only in the minds of delicate flowers. You diminish the real ones by your tireless emphasis on the nonsense.

    And notice I didn’t call you “obnoxious?” That’s because I’m a gentleman.

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