Content note: this post discusses violence against women
In news that is pissing me off today, the Twitter is inherently abusive line is out in the media again. This time the victim is Stan Collymore, who was sent racist and threatening tweets. The police are, of course, interested and investigating.
Now, of course, it is unacceptable to send racist and threatening tweets to anyone, but I’m getting a little concerned about how much of an interest they are showing in rude tweets. This isn’t the first time they’ve swooped in to help out Stan Collymore: late in 2012, a man was arrested for sending a racist tweet to Stan Collymore. Indeed, arresting people for tweets seems to be a new top policing priority, in sharp contrast with how they deal with violence against women.
Let’s look at Stan Collymore’s record. He violently attacked one woman, including kicking her in the head three times. As far as I can discern, the police didn’t get involved at all. He then went on to threaten to kill his wife and burn down her parents’ home. This time the police took the matter slightly more seriously, and charged him for a threat to destroy property, because apparently the structural integrity of a building is the most important thing here.
So why are the police far more gung-ho in going after internet trolls than perpetrators of domestic violence? Ultimately, it boils down to two things.
Firstly, they don’t really give a flying fuck about violence against women. This is why so few of us report our rapes. This is why we don’t trust the police to keep our violent partners away from us. We’ve seen their record, and we know that they’ll violate any trust we put in them. And many women, particularly marginalised women, have themselves been victims of violence perpetrated by police, because that’s their job: to beat us into submission. The role of the police is to keep everything as it is–and this includes protecting a structure which enables violence against women.
Put more charitably, the police are a product of a broken society, born and raised in it, and then paid to enforce this broken society. Is it any surprise that they reflect and enforce patriarchal control of women?
And secondly, democratised communication scares the shit out of the establishment. It is a way people can get messages out, outside of the controlled circumstances in which we may usually have a platform. Things get out that threaten the system, and that frightens them. Of course they will instrumentalise the very real experiences of misogyny and racism in order to try to clamp down on their own real enemy: their critics. It is important to remember, when thinking of police interventions into online abuse, to remember this. Twitter was blamed for the riots, while simultaneously lauded for causing the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These are the same mechanisms at work in both cases, and basically the state would rather keep such uprisings further away from home.
It is hardly a surprise that tweets will be policed more heavily than kicking a woman in the head. It is an inevitable reflection of how things are.