Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Digital Dualism in the Electronic Frontier

[Content note: Sexism, racist slur, rape apologia]

From a Slate article about Business Insider's former Chief Technology Officer Pax Dickinson, who apparently has a history of tweeting sexist and racist statements:
"Dickinson may see the Internet as a freewheeling alterna-reality where he’s liberated to air his 'unpopular truths' about the ills of women’s suffrage and employment. But the Internet is also the workplace. It’s perplexing why Business Insider would employ someone as openly racist and sexist as Pax Dickinson is, but it’s positively mind-boggling that Business Insider hired a CTO who doesn’t even understand that the Internet is real life."
Some of Dickinson's Tweets include gems of Deep Thought such as, “Women's suffrage and individual freedom are incompatible. How's that for an unpopular truth?” and “In The Passion Of The Christ 2, Jesus gets raped by a pack of n[******]. It's his own fault for dressing like a whore though.”

A few months ago, I wrote of the digital dualism fallacy in which many people believe that what happens online is not authentic, especially compared to what happens offline. There, I noted:
I would contend that when people are rude online, they at least have asshole-y thoughts offline (and don't we all, really, to some degree?). Online venues merely give people an appropriate context to express those thoughts.
In fact, in some ways, social media and blogging enables many people to reveal our more authentic selves, through our writing, than face-to-face interactions do. The surprise to me isn't that so many people are mean online, but that so many people seem surprised that they might face offline for their online behavior.

Of course, I suspect that many Internet harassers know that on some level they can face offline consequences. While so many so-called trolls have no qualms about, say, running women out of Internet forums via rape threats, they howl in protest whenever they perceive their own precious "free speech rights" in any way constricted.

I've said before and I'll re-iterate. For all their talk of free speech values and inclusion of all viewpoints, promoters of Anything Goes forums cultivate their own hivemind, and it's a hivemind of intimidation, threats, and exclusion of those who in any way threaten their conception of what the electronic frontier should be like.

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