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.