Nice face you’ve got there

Let’s just throw out there that I am a straight, able-bodied white dude from a comfortable background who missed the time when Jewish people needed their own clubs to eat or play golf by a solid generation and a half. So I apologize in advance for pointing this out like I just discovered Brooklyn or something, but it seems important to observe once in a while why people take some kinds of insult more seriously than others. For no specific reason let’s start with this guy from the epic piece on cyber-misogyny from Amanda Hess. Bolding mine.

In 2012, Gawker unmasked “Violentacrez,” an anonymous member of the online community Reddit who was infamous for posting creepy photographs of underage women and creating or moderating subcommunities on the site with names like “chokeabitch” and “rapebait.” Violentacrez turned out to be a Texas computer programmer named Michael Brusch, who displayed an exceedingly casual attitude toward his online hobbies. “I do my job, go home, watch TV, and go on the Internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time,” he told Adrian Chen, the Gawker reporter who outed him. “People take things way too seriously around here.”

The comprehension gap, as Hess and Lizz Winstead and most other women who use their real names on the internet fruitlessly point out, is the difference between insult and threats. You get used to name calling on the internet. Anonymity lets the id out and most of the time you just roll with that. They knock your appearance, call you gay, they call Lt. Col. Robert Bateman a traitor and a crappy soldier, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Hess makes it perfectly clear that the line gets crossed with threats of violence. She ended up with a committed stalker who made enough anonymity slips to earn his own restraining order, but he was a rare exception. In almost every case you just have a thousand faceless people making you want to change your locks, carry heat and drive different routes to work. The police mostly shrug it off*.

Thus for a number of reasons** you cannot wave off a guy threatening a woman the way you can one dude threatening another to fisticuffs.

You can apply the same logic to the n-word. Rightwing morons always want to say it (why?) and it pisses them off when they can’t. Of course not knowing a damn thing about history is one of those privileges that we white folk can afford. The word identifies a class of person to whom the law is blind. For 90% of American history calling someone that word carried the literal, explicit message that you could hurt them any time you wanted. Protest and you might get beaten. Resist and get lynched (or get lynched just because). Fight back in any organized way, even symbolically by doing well on your own and making the neighbors look bad, and they will burn your neighborhood and kill everyone in it while police stand by in case any white homes catch fire. And that is after slavery. During slavery it just meant that even free folk could get a bag thrown over their head, sent down the river and that would be the last anyone hears of you.

Needless to say the threat has not so much disappeared as evolved to keep up with the times. Remind me again, what was Trayvon Martin doing that made George Zimmerman follow him in his car? Being white saved my stupid teenaged ass plenty of times while my black friends had a story every week about getting stopped and searched. Somehow I always got off with tickets, if that, and unlike them I (1) usually gave the cops a reason to pull me over, and (2) never got The Talk about speaking deferentially to police. Apparently not much has changed. And have fun driving while black in the rural south, or really anywhere. Just because the officials will not watch with a toothpick in their mouth while the town hangs you from a tree does not mean the system has no way of punishing you for being black.

A few years ago a gay friend explained to me the etymology of ‘faggot’: a bundle of wood used for kindling a fire. The implied threat is fading, not fast enough, but I remember when being gay in public involved a lot more physical danger than it does today. To give a sense of the speed of change, my cohort’s first presidential election was Bush/Gore.

And yes, before anyone points it out, rappers use the n-word (without the implied threat, obviously) and some also treat women like crap. Experiencing abuse or discrimination does not automatically make someone noble. It just adds to the burden of crap that a normal person has to put up with in their life. Whatever else happens a jerk will be a jerk.

(*) When you think about it, most of the time they have to. Best of luck asking an understaffed force for whom a keyboard and a desk is punishment duty to solve every actionable threat on the internet. And that sets aside what an absolute mess the internet has made of criminal jurisdictions.
(**) 1. Men are larger and stronger. 2. Most women experience sexual assault or the credible threat of it at some point in their lives. The threat is hardly imaginary. 3. Public victim-shaming is at its absolute worst when it comes to sexual crimes. 4. Prosecutors hate to bring rape cases. Making a case is hard work, the defense has a lot of ugly but viable plays and conviction rates are lower than the slam-dunk types of case that make their record look good.






60 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    Well. This went a lot of places.

  2. 2
    Patricia Kayden says:

    “Rightwing morons always want to say it (why?)”

    Yeah, kind of a weird obsession with conservatives. I have no use for the “N” word and don’t get why some Black people (rappers or otherwise) feel compelled to keep it in usage.

    Great post.

  3. 3
    Quicksand says:

    the time when Jewish people needed their own clubs to eat or play golf

    You use them like really big chopsticks.

  4. 4
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Good post.

    I’ve always thought that approximately half of all the bad people in the world are female but we girls don’t make up half of the violent people. The guys are bigger and stronger.

    The threat of rape is real and the threat of violence to women is real. Peer pressure is often an effective deterrent. We need for everyone to push back against these jerks.

  5. 5
    negative 1 says:

    For the record, when dealing with anonymous threats most of the time the police can’t help until there starts to be a sustained pattern. We have received death threats here at my job, the police basically shrugged it off. It doesn’t make you sleep any easier, no matter how much in real life I joke(d) about it.

  6. 6

    You can apply the same logic to the n-word. Rightwing morons always want to say it (why?) and it pisses them off when they can’t.

    They want to say it because it is a very effective way to upset/anger blah people and libtards. It’s just a manifestation of Cleek’s law.

  7. 7
    Anoniminous says:

    White men don’t notice privilege because it’s just there. They do notice, and some get huffy-to-violent, when it is pointed out because it’s a threat to their commanding position. Examples: over the last year unsavory “stuff” has happened in the Atheist and Gamer communities due to some trying to maintain the ‘White Man-way or the highway’ Rule.

  8. 8
    Tone In DC says:

    That guy Brusch… someone, at some point in the near future is gonna give that ‘nozzle what he so richly deserves. He’ll probably end up looking like Mickey Rourke circa 2005.

    It’d be somewhat humorous if someone like Gina Carano or Shannon Lee ends up doing it.

  9. 9
    Tim F. says:

    @Quicksand: I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your waiter.

  10. 10
    Elmo says:

    @Quicksand:

    Choke splutter gurgle.

  11. 11
    JPL says:

    Your post’s timing is perfect, I just finished reading the article and hopefully many others will take the time to read the entire thing.

  12. 12
    kc says:

    @Quicksand:

    I’m laughing so hard I forgot what I was going to say.

  13. 13
    draftmama says:

    (**) 1. Men are larger and stronger.

    Which is why on the two occasions I was sexually assaulted, once threatened by a gun and on the second occasion not only threatened but cut by my own kitchen knife, I didn’t resist, and which is why the cops were reluctant to even take a statement because the rapist was someone I had previously dated a year before. Only when I went to court and got a restraining order did the Denver Police treat me as anything but a slut. At the time I was in my 40’s and had a professional job. Plus ca change and all that shit….. Fortunately I am now married to the best man in the world and harbor no bitterness, just astonishment that some men are so angry.

  14. 14
    Cacti says:

    but I remember when being gay in public involved a lot more physical danger than it does today and my cohort’s first presidential election was Bush/Gore.

    I’m from the same era, and in my high school in the early 1990s, a student being openly gay was simply unheard of, and would likely have marked them as a target for violence. Matthew Shepard happened several years AFTER I graduated.

  15. 15
    kindness says:

    Regarding the twitter threats I’ve read about today….twitter is not my favorite medium. Twitter can be cute and it can be vacuous. I am not a fan of twitter and don’t read them unless posted on the blogs I read.

    I fail to understand how the folks at twitter do not have to fork over data for those users who threaten others. Seems reasonable to me.

    @Quicksand: when I was growing up in the 70’s I used to caddie at the local country club. Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough NY. Extremely great golf course. Not one Jewish or minority member. And this is in an area of Westchester county that has a very high proportion of Jewish residents.

  16. 16
    Glocksman says:

    A few years ago a gay friend explained to me the etymology of ‘faggot’: a bundle of wood used for kindling a fire. The implied threat is fading, not fast enough, but I remember when being gay in public involved a lot more physical danger than it does today and my cohort’s first presidential election was Bush/Gore.

    I knew about the British slang for cigarette being ‘fag’ from reading novels, but I didn’t know where it came from.
    Now I do and it gives the slang term ‘burn a fag’ a much more sinister meaning

  17. 17
    gnomedad says:

    @Quicksand:

    the time when Jewish people needed their own clubs to eat or play golf

    You use them like really big chopsticks.

    Yes, but you have to use different sets for eating and golfing.

  18. 18
    aimai says:

    @negative 1: The kind of twitter threats that are issued online are a really different beast, as well. Because they are often crowd sourced, seemingly spontaneous, anonymous/pseudonymous, and often deliberately routed through a number of sources. But of course theres lots of real world violence and harrassment that more or less works like this–for this reason the police used to “read the riot act” or proclaim certain kinds of mob behavior illegal and then arrest the participants.

    I can see how difficult it is to prosecute this kind of anonmyous, group threat/harrassment if the model is the actual, lone stalker. But there is no reason that twitter can’t/shouldn’t heavily moderate and eliminate threats of racist or misogynistic violence. I’ve been on boards that are heavily moderated–people who post too fast, too frequently, or who violate terms of service, can be banned or have their posts removed. If we stopped pretending that “boys will be boys” and that threats are a normal part of doing business in public spaces we’d be able to begin tackling this issue and preventing swarming harrassment of women and, well, everyone, online.

  19. 19
    the Conster says:

    @Anoniminous:

    Even my liberal white male friends don’t really want to hear about it, but will uncomfortably acknowledge that maybe, but only just maybe, they might be beneficiaries of a game rigged in their favor.

  20. 20
    KSE says:

    I just want to chime in and say that the “faggot” thing is a myth, though a sadly widespread one. The word does refer to a bundle of sticks, yes, but it was also used as a derogatory term for an old woman. Even that association does not appear to have anything to do with burning at the stake or anything along those lines – the intended implication is that the referent is dried-up, brittle, useless, and unpleasant to look at.

    So the word evolved from an insult to old women to an insult to men implying they were acting like old women… Not a threat of violence, but rather a more run-of-the-mill insult to one’s masculinity.

    Anyway. Not that this in any way diminishes your overall point, I just figure the world’s horrible enough without having to make stuff up.

  21. 21
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    (2) never got The Talk about speaking deferentially to police.

    I gave that talk to both my sons because poor white trash is just that, trash.

    And yeah, white privilege is something we all take for granted, until it’s not there. Then we begin to stutter.

  22. 22
    MikeJ says:

    @kindness:

    I fail to understand how the folks at twitter do not have to fork over data for those users who threaten others.

    I’m sure they will with a subpoena. Loudon Co VA used to have a full time person who did nothing but work with AOL serving subpoenas. They’re pretty easy to get.

  23. 23
    Alexandra says:

    @aimai:

    Here in the UK, after a bunch of death and rape threats via Twitter:

    John Nimmo, 25, from South Shields, and Isabella Sorley, 23, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, pleaded guilty on Tuesday at Westminster magistrates court to abusing Criado-Perez online. Sorley was remanded in custody and Nimmo was bailed, both until 24 January, when they will be sentenced….

    The district judge Howard Riddle warned that she would “almost inevitably” be sent to prison when he passed sentence on 24 January.

    http://www.theguardian.com/soc.....iado-perez

  24. 24
    Linda Featheringill says:

    @draftmama:

    Congratulations on your survival and your recovery. Give your sweet hubby a hug for me.

  25. 25
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @aimai:

    If we stopped pretending that “boys will be boys”

    Dog how I hate that phrase and the implied “it’s only a phase” consent.

  26. 26
    scav says:

    @Alexandra: The Defence of the male was also charmingly creepy:

    The court heard that he was a recluse whose only social interaction was online, on Facebook, Twitter and computer gaming. “The only time he leaves the house is to empty the bins,” said Paul Kennedy, defending Nimmo. “He sits in the house with nothing to do, he claims benefits. He sits with a laptap, tablet and phone within touching distance at the end of the sofa.”

  27. 27
    Anoniminous says:

    @the Conster:

    An analogy may help* …

    Do you go around thinking you are privileged because you are right handed? Unless and until it is thought about and contrasted to people who aren’t … you don’t. And when it pointed out maybe, but only just maybe you’ll think you are are a beneficiary of a game rigged in your favor.

    * or not if you are left handed :-)

  28. 28
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Is there a point to this stupid and self-absorbed post written by a hack?

  29. 29
    Belafon says:

    @ranchandsyrup: Actually, it’s just that the don’t like being told they can’t do something. Kind of like their attitude toward gun laws.

  30. 30
    kindness says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Clueless. Look in a mirror.

  31. 31
    Cacti says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Is there a point to this stupid and self-absorbed post written by a hack?

    His or yours?

  32. 32
    Mandalay says:

    @aimai:

    If we stopped pretending that “boys will be boys”

    Without disagreeing with your general points, we shouldn’t be pretending that it’s only boys either. See post #23 for a real world example from earlier today.

  33. 33
    kindness says:

    @MikeJ: When I wrote that I was thinking about one of the articles linked to today where she actually called the cops and they refused to take a report. They didn’t know what Twitter was and didn’t seem to care.

  34. 34
    scav says:

    @Cacti: The unintentional “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” whooshing noise was a little hard to miss.

  35. 35
    Woodrowfan says:

    the comments on the Bateman piece are chilling. The commentators are the type who’d happily shove other people into a gas chamber and think they’re doing God’s work. The rightwing has spent the past 40 years driving these people into such a frenzy of hatred I don’t see how we’ll ever get them free of it.

  36. 36
    MomSense says:

    @draftmama:

    Just want to say how happy I am for you that you have emerged whole and happy.

  37. 37
    Woodrowfan says:

    @KSE: didn’t it also then mean a male of lesser status who had to serve another male, usually an older one at an all-boys school.

  38. 38
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Anoniminous:

    As just one example, try using a hand can opener with your left hand. G still doesn’t get why I have to have an electric can opener (hint: it’s ambidextrous!)

  39. 39
    Ash Can says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: What brought this on?

  40. 40

    @Belafon: or both plus some other dumb reasons?

  41. 41
    RareSanity says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    Yes, there is.

    Coincidentally, you may be a personification of it.

  42. 42
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Yeah, to p!ss you off.

  43. 43
    Betty Cracker says:

    @the Conster:

    Even my liberal white male friends don’t really want to hear about it, but will uncomfortably acknowledge that maybe, but only just maybe, they might be beneficiaries of a game rigged in their favor.

    True, and while it’s obvious to the people who are rigged to lose the game and understandably maddening when that’s not acknowledged, failing to recognize one’s own privilege is a very human failing, I think. Especially for people who feel like they’re getting screwed — they don’t feel “privileged,” even if they are.

    Also, group dynamics and history are inextricable in the discussion, and individuals resent being lumped in with a “vilified” group when they’re sincerely convinced that they themselves are not responsible for / do not perpetuate racism / sexism / homophobia.

    None of that is to say it’s not really important to talk about privilege and acknowledge it. There are ways of doing so that are effective, and ways that eliminate all possibility of learning and understanding. We will almost surely see examples of both in this very thread by and by…

  44. 44
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Ash Can: I tried reading the post but when I got to the part about insults and name calling, I just snapped and had to get in on that sweet action. It’s like eating ice cream in front of a fat girl. We can’t be held responsible for what happens.

  45. 45
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Especially for people who feel like they’re getting screwed —

    I like to ask them if they’d rather be a gay black man.

  46. 46
    Tim F. says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: That’s how I interpreted it. I did just make a point in the original post about sticks and stones.

  47. 47
    the Conster says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    That’s exactly right – they feel like they’re not the bad guys, and they aren’t, so they just don’t want to hear they’re part of the problem, but, it does really need to be pointed out to them how many assumptions they can make before they leave their house every day – they don’t have to think about their clothes, or that they’ll be accepted where they’re going, etc. etc. so that they can start to SEE. It’s like explaining water to fish.

  48. 48
    draftmama says:

    @Linda Featheringill: Thanks :)

  49. 49
    draftmama says:

    @MomSense: Thanks to you too :)

  50. 50
    Anoniminous says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Great example. (I plan on stealing it.)

  51. 51
    sparrow says:

    @the Conster: Not hard to understand. It’s easy to admit that “on average, yeah, there are injustices, but *I* earned everything I got!”

  52. 52
    jon says:

    @ranchandsyrup:

    What those white conservatives want is not to say “nigger”. They can. They know they can. It’s a complete lie to say they can’t. What they want, and what riles them so, is that when a white man says that word, he is judged differently than when it is used by a black man. The argument ignores history, logic, and basic common sense, but to accept the notion that they “can’t” use that word is to start to accept their fallacious worldview.

    I can say any of a host of words, but there are consequences based on timing, place, and context. And it’s fair, even if it doesn’t allow my whiteness to remain judgment-free.

  53. 53
    A Humble Lurker says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:
    Yeah that explained it.

  54. 54
    Fred Fnord says:

    @gnomedad: Only if you plan to eat dairy products and hit a birdie or an eagle.

  55. 55
    kc says:

    @kindness:

    They didn’t know what Twitter was

    I wish to God I didn’t know what Twitter was.

  56. 56

    @jon: Good point, Jon.

  57. 57
    different-church-lady says:

    Rightwing morons always want to say it (why?)

    Because, just like a 3-year-old, they always want to do anything you tell them they can’t do.

  58. 58
    different-church-lady says:

    @kc: “It’s where you go to win a conversation that nobody’s having.”

  59. 59
    MoeLarryAndJesus says:

    I follow Lizz Winstead on Twitter, and the endless barrage of bullshit thrown at her by violent, stupid RWNJs is sickening. And I have a very thick skin. I admire her for fighting back and exposing so many of these maggots for the lowlifes they are.

  60. 60
    Groucho48 says:

    @KSE:

    My understanding has always been that the term goes back to English public schools. The upper grade boys had lower grade boys assigned to them to do chores and such. One of the chores was fetching faggots (of wood) for the fireplace. So, fagging became a term for doing subservient chores. Also, English public schools being what they were, it was not at all unusual for sexual stuff to happen between the upper level kid and his fag.

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