The Internet certainly did not invent chauvinism, hatred, or hate speech. But it sure is a great platform for it. From the everyday ways that we’re inconsiderate and harsh toward each other, to the truly virulent Doxxing, DDoSing, Death Threats, and other horrors. Remarkably I’ve heard about THREE harrowing accounts this week alone.
Kathy Sierra’s horrifying 10-year odyssey of harassment and online abuse. It’s a bit long, but DO read, it’s as important as it is frightening.
Yesterday, long time critic of gender tropes in video games Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a Utah State University talk because of death threats and the Utah State campus police statement that even after death threats, carrying concealed weapons into a public lecture is perfectly legal in Utah.
In the wake of so much bad news, I finally took the time to listen to something with at least a bit of a path to a better future to it, Susan Benesch’s Berkman Center talk Troll Wrastling for Beginners: Data-Driven Methods to Decrease Hatred Online, from March of this year.
Benesch explains that Don’t feed the trolls is often not effective. She offers the promising idea of Counter-Speech. In the past chauvinistic expressions may have been made in private groups of like minds. The Internet puts these in front of everyone. This can be bad if it creates new, oppressive norms, but it also offers the opportunity to push back. The opportunity for Counter-Speech.
If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
— Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Whitney v. California, 1927
CONCEPT: Don’t Feed The Trolls!
Well, there isn’t really a concept yet. But certainly there’s an idea here that’s worthy of a Public Art work sometime in 2015. I look forward to developing the details and presenting this work.
I like the idea of a day spent in public niceness to strangers. Perhaps in the shadow of the horrors perpetrated against people like Sierra, Sarkeesian and others, this may seem small, yet I’m convinced that for us all to slow down a bit and appreciate the simple beauty and worth of the humanity we are surrounded by, is an essential step.