Category Archives: rage at the system

Online abuse: men are the worst, and right-wing white men are the worst of all

Content note: this post discusses online abuse, death threats, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and neo Nazis

The media discourse on online abuse has always been bloody dire, controlled by people from powerful platforms who are, briefly, wrested from their little grammar school debate club bubble. If you’re reading this blog, you probably feel this already. It’s a dangerous discourse, rooted mostly in bruised ego and utter obliviousness, but I cannot help but think that perhaps it serves a murkier function.

Yesterday, journalist Owen Jones tweeted a sample of the homophobic abuse he receives frequently from right wing men. If one scrolls down the thread, you will see that a certain Professional White Woman Expert On Internet Abuse™ begins yelling at him for pretending that right wing men are the problem, when the real enemy is left wing men and that Jones was derailing from this. In waded the boyfriend of a New Statesman editor to air his views that he was called a “dick”, just that day, by someone on the left (gasp!). Later, A Very Intelligent Man And Homebase Shopper decided to just pop in and go on like Jones was the one being derailing and disingenuous.

All Owen Jones did here was point out that online abuse from men on the right is disgusting, toxic and vicious. And he’s right. I think most of the demographic who read this blog would agree that right wing men are the worst abusers of all, and have at least once received a deluge of nastiness from the neo Nazis, if not a full-on campaign of hate. But in doing that, he challenged the mainstream model, and ranks closed as they felt their control on the narrative slip just slightly.

To the clique, the narrative goes like this: Nice White Ladies are the primary victims internet abuse. Misogynists are conflated with someone who disagrees with some of the frankly unpleasant and oppressive stances these people take. Secondary victims could include  melts being called melts. “Jolyon” and “cis” are apparently slurs on a par with the N-word (perhaps worse, given how silent this large media club remained on the horrific misogynoiristic abuse received by Diane Abbott). This post is abusive, because it’s written by a Not So Nice White Lady, features the word “melt”, mentions Homebase, and disagrees with them.

I mention obliviousness as an explanation of this behaviour, because it may be in part true. Imagine living your whole life in a small privileged bubble of being told you’re special, only to have it exposed that actually, most of the rest of the world think your hot takes are rubbish and wrong. That’d sting. And if you go through life without receiving much nastiness, on account of lucky accidents of your birth, it can make you feel like when you experience a bit of meanness, it’s somewhere on a par with the vicious racism and misogynoir which daily grinds at Black women and WoC; that your being called a slug is comparable with frequent bouts of open homophobia; that someone suggesting your latest newspaper column is shit, using the word “shit”, is exactly the same as when trans women are harassed, threatened, and put at risk.

However, it’s also true that these people receive less shit from the right than the rest of us. This is because they are not resisting right wing men. Men, all men, have pretty much two modes when it comes to relating to others: they like you, or they want to grind you to fucking dust because you haven’t given them their own way. White, right wing, cishet men seem to have the speediest hair trigger on deciding they want to destroy you. And if they don’t want to tear you apart, what are you doing to appeal to them?

The answer is that the particular media sect that likes to control the narrative are useful to the right–from the common-or-garden Tories to the outright neo Nazis. These groups share enemies in common. The TERFs are useful to the right for their hard work in doxxing and smearing trans women. The SWERFs, likewise, but in attacking sex workers. The media misogynoir and calls for a debate about Ordinary People’s Very Real Concerns About Immigration is very useful to the wider cause of racism and white supremacy. The hacks provide a nice, respectable face for the abominable views of the right and do great work in furthering it.

And, of course, any resistance can then easily be smeared as abuse. Perhaps, even, viewed through the lens of ignorance, it can be felt as abuse.

I am not saying here that men on the left are above reproach. Indeed, I’ve pissed off a fair few in my time by engaging in intra-community efforts to tackle misogyny, because it’s our struggle to have (not one for the slugs!). However, it is the right who are by far the worst perpetrators; and I think anyone who has gone up against them by the mere act of existing while opposed to their ideals will agree.

Online abuse narratives are fucked, and it is incredibly difficult to allow the truth of the situation to get out, since it is so controlled by those who would promote a conservative agenda. But the fact of the matter is this: those who talk most about it from their platforms are often the ones who receive least.

Related: How online abuse is politically hijacked, Owen Jones

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Tim Farron’s homophobic and anti-choice voting history, in easily-shareable format

Some of my followers asked for this, finding it difficult to share twitter threads or my wider post on why you shouldn’t be fooled into voting Lib Dem.

Now, Tim Farron has done a sterling job of masking his tendencies in his voting record, and votes against the interests of LGBT people, or anyone with a uterus, in a rather sneaky fashion. It doesn’t show up on those basic “this MP is in favour of equality” aggregators, because he covers it up by making himself scarce during key votes, or by voting on amendments. It took a bit of digging to pull the receipts here, and there may be some things I’ve missed. If you think I have, please leave a comment!

During the marriage equality programme back in 2013, Tim Farron voted for several homophobic amendments.

That last one, incidentally, is not dissimilar to a vote back in 2008, where Tim Farron voted to protect homophobic hate as “freedom of speech“. The list of things Tim wanted protected looked incredibly similar to the list of tactics religious homophobes like to use.

Now, let’s have a look at where Tim makes himself scarce. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act brought reproductive and fertility rights to people in same-sex relationships. Tim Farron mostly stayed well away from this, although we know he wasn’t on holiday or in a coma throughout the process, because he voted against laying out a timetable for the bill.

Tim Farron’s general policy towards abortion has been to make himself scarce and abstain or not turn up at all. That’s probably wise, because when he does vote, he votes for reducing the time limit.

So. Be very critical when you see journalists claiming his voting record is fine. They clearly haven’t bothered researching the topic adequately. Tim Farron did a reasonably good job in covering his tracks; to the extent that a follower of mine notes searches for “Farron” and “amendment” has hidden results under the right to be forgotten. Nonetheless, it’s there. And now you have the receipts.

Edit 22/4/17: Beth Granter has assembled a list, containing, more thoroughly, further evidence of anti-abortion and homophobic voting, including pre-abortion “counselling”, and yet more protections for homophobes. Oh, and documents his conspicuous absences on a lot of votes on women’s issues.

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It wasn’t “our side” platforming Milo that sank him

Content note: this post discusses child sexual abuse and Nazis

Over the last day or so, the far-right troll and supposed rising star of fascism, Milo Yiannopoulos (or Poundland Joffrey, as I prefer to call him), has experienced something of a very sudden fall from grace. His right wing friends are dropping away from him: within a 36 hour period, he was disinvited from CPac (a right-wing conference), had his incredibly lucrative book deal dropped, and colleagues at the far-right fake news outlet for which he occupies a senior role are threatening to walk out if he isn’t sacked.

It seems, to the far right, transphobia, inciting xenophobic and racist violence, virulent misogyny and being a literal neo-Nazi aren’t a problem, but defending child sexual abuse is a dealbreaker. Their moral compasses are perhaps a little peculiar, since all of this advocating for vulnerable people to die is also very bad. Nonetheless, it brings a small satisfaction to watch them tearing a man to shreds who, just hours before, was their poster boy.

It also gives me great satisfaction that perhaps we’ll no longer have to keep having the tiresome fight within our own side about whether or not to platform this dangerous Nazi. There have been people who claim to be with us–against fascism–who have been only too willing to play into the far-right’s hands, by inviting Poundland Joffrey to share his opinions, and then signal-boosting it as far as it will go. The rationale, they say, is to “know one’s enemy”. To give him “enough rope to hang himself”.

That didn’t really pan out. Instead, what it did was create an ever-bigger media persona around Milo. They were feeding the troll, making him stronger and stronger, his bad bleach job ubiquitous in photos at the top of articles, his hatred amplified and largely unchallenged. Even when lip service was paid, it went like “Milo is charismatic and interesting and here’s what he thinks about undocumented migrants, but that’s a bit controversial, I don’t agree with it personally but anyway let’s talk about why this guy is so phenomenally popular and it’s because he’s so cool and well-dressed.”

It spread far-right ideology further, and normalised it and the Nazis who spout it. And furthermore, it never managed to give Milo enough rope, no matter how many disgusting things they allowed him to publicly say.

What sank Milo was his own side, who manoeuvred away from him when he was no longer useful to them. It was not a comment of his in an interview with an ostensibly liberal television host that destroyed Milo, but something in his own domain: a far-right livestream with like-minded nerd-Nazis. Poundland Joffrey’s downfall came from within intra-fascist networks, not from “our side” falling over themselves to platform him.

The far-right is built upon fragile alliances. A gay man’s teaming up with homophobic conservatives was always somewhat delicate. I expect homophobia had its role to play within Milo’s fall from grace: in his comments, he was careful to confine his defence of child sexual abuse to within the gay community, which meant his erstwhile allies could gleefully dust off an age-old homophobic trope: the gays = paedophiles trope. I am concerned that this may lead to the LGBT repression that the far-right have been champing at the bit to implement; they have been presented with a tasty “think of the children” defence that might prove too tempting to resist. Milo has, perhaps, served his purpose, played the token “my gay friend”, and now become the shadowy nonce villian they need. Most of the far-right likely agree with the acceptability of child sexual abuse and support men like Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, heterosexual child abusers: but right now, homophobia is more useful.

If the far-right is so successful at tearing itself apart, what remains for us to do? Do we just sit, thumbs in arses, and watch their world burn? Of course not. These fascists are built on fragile fragile, that crack when pressure to the whole is applied.

We must be ready to resist what comes next: the probable turn towards anti-LGBT policy. All the while we must maintain a distinct lack of pity for Milo, who chose his path in siding with these people, and remains politically and morally aligned with them. He may fake a Damascian conversion, and we must not be fooled. We must keep challenging everything: the whole, not its constituent parts. We must reject their bigotry, their hatred: every last bit of it. All of it is repugnant, not just specific individuals, not just specific aspects to their beliefs. And we must not invite these fascists to spout their hatred to wider audiences: we must not normalise them, we must not signal-boost them, we must show they are unacceptable by refusing to be polite or even available.

If we keep fighting, the whole sorry shape of present-day fascism could crumble to dust, throwing each other under the bus one by one, then two by two, and more and more until they are all mangled figures in the axis.

They can and will destroy themselves. And we will give them nowhere to run to when they do.

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Tips for staying safe online if you oppose fascism

Content note: this post discusses fascists and their operating tactics

As fascism is on the rise, we are, thankfully, seeing resistance. People new to activism, new to opposing anything (let alone fascists) are seeing the need for action and taking it.

Unfortunately, some online actions can be very dangerous, given how fascists operate. Fascists like nothing more than to “expose” their opponents: doxxings are a very common tactic. Doxxing is when your personal information is shared online, in order to incite harassment against you. And recently, it has come to my attention that they have been creating honeypots to get the personal details of decent people who think fascism is bad. So this guide is for people who are new to all of this, and what you need to do to stay safe online.

Don’t sign e-petitions or sign up to mailing lists

Of the fascist honeypots I’m aware of, one is an innocuous-looking antifa website with a mailing list signup, and the other is a change dot org petition.

Change, even though it looks all official and nice, is fundamentally unsecure with your personal data. The petition starter can, for a small fee, access all the details of everyone who signed it. As for mailing list signups, whoever set it up can see everything. And even if they don’t (or Change changed their business model), your name still pops up.

My best advice is to not enter your details in these things at all. Likewise, don’t click “attending” on Facebook events, just to be safe. However, if you absolutely must…

Be sparing with your identifying details

Say you really, really want to sign up to a mailing list, for whatever reason, and you’re ignoring my advice above. Do not give them the email address that’s linked to your social media accounts, other personal accounts, or your phone. Set up a throwaway email address and check that occasionally. Don’t connect the throwaway to your phone. You might also consider using a fake name, or at least a name that isn’t your legal name (this is the story of how I receive emails addressed to Mr Ploppy McBumhead).

You might also want to consider not using your real name on your social media accounts. You don’t have to go full Ploppy McBumhead; you could, for example, use a variant on your real name. For example, maybe use your middle name in place of your surname, or a shortened form of your first and last names, or go by your paternal grandma’s maiden name online. Alternatively, you could just use an anonymous pseudonym like “dongsmoker69” or similar.

Seriously though, don’t sign the Change petitions. Best case scenario, your throwaway email account gets spammed forever.

Check your privacy settings

This tip particularly applies to Facebook, who have a nasty habit of constantly changing their privacy settings. With your Facebook, make sure only friends can view your photos and posts, at the very least. You might also want to consider not letting certain other people view your content, such as racist relatives, people you went to school with and have never seen since, regrettable one night stands, &c., &c. You can filter them out of seeing your content by creating a friend list of these people (they won’t be able to see it) and then going into the Settings section and telling it not to let them see your stuff. Turn off allowing people to tag you in images. While you’re in the Settings section, you might as well only let friends of friends send you friend requests. And of course, be careful as to who you accept friend requests from. If you don’t know them IRL, it’s probably a bad idea to accept their friend request.

I’m being purposely vague here, because Facebook seem to change where all these settings are kept on a very frequent basis. I do a check at least once a month to make sure they haven’t changed anything. The tl;dr is to make sure only friends can see what you’re writing on there.

Pictures: be careful there, too

Giving them your name is one thing. Giving them your name and your face can really fucking suck. At best, if you’re a woman, you’ll get lots of memes about how ugly you are. At worst, your life could be actively endangered. Bear that in mind when posting pics, and weigh up the costs and benefits.

Try not to keep your legal name and your face in the same place, and make sure your phone camera isn’t using GPS tagging to show where your pictures are being taken. Also avoid taking pictures around your home, with any identifying details in place, for example, street names, particular landmarks, and so on. Try not to help fascists figure out where you live.

Don’t out your combabes

You’re proud that you’ve been doing stuff to oppose fascism, like going on a march. That’s great and I’m proud of you too. But be careful about outing others. If you’ve taken pictures on a demo, try not to have the face of anyone who hasn’t explicitly consented to being in the picture. You might need to be a little bit creative with image editing to blur out faces or crop before you post pictures, but that could save a life.

I hope it doesn’t need to be said, but for god’s sake don’t tag friends in photos. To be a decent person, don’t ever do it, but especially don’t ever do it with pictures of friends opposing fascists.

Also, don’t tag friends who have participated in antifascist actions in text posts or tweets about the action. Not without their explicit consent. Don’t make your friends a target for fascists unless they’re aware of the risks and have agreed to it.

Consider using a VPN

VPNs seem like the sort of thing only a cartoonish hacker who yells “I’M IN” while typing really fast might want to use. However, they’re incredibly useful and everyone who cares about their online privacy and security should be using one. A VPN hides your data: most importantly for these purposes, it hides your IP address (which can help trace where you live). VPNs also have other benefits and are quite cheap. This beginner’s guide to VPNs takes you through how a VPN can help you, as well as how to choose the right one for you.

If you’re innocent you’ve got nothing to hide is bullshit

That old adage is a pile of turds. Stay safe. Hide things you don’t want fascists to get at you about.

tl;dr

The short, sweet summary of everything I’ve said here is: be careful with your data, and treat everyone you don’t know online like they’re a potential phishing scam. Privacy is so important, and there are some nasty people out there–this is why we’re fighting. Be careful out there x

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A new hope?

Content note: this post discusses Nazis and contains a Rogue One spoiler. And, I suppose, a spoiler for Episode IV of Star Wars, too, but that film is 40 years old and you really should have seen it by now.

I’ll tell you what I wasn’t expecting to feel during the week of Donald Trump’s inauguration: hope. And yet, for the first time in months, I felt something like hope brimming up inside me.

Not because a president was elected whose inauguration honestly felt like the opening sequence of a particularly heavy-handed dystopia movie. But rather, because it looks like perhaps resistance is possible. I’d almost forgotten what hope feels like, and forgotten how to articulate such feelings: forgive me, therefore, if this post is somewhat incoherent, and just enjoy the pictures.

Inauguration day in London started with a series of banner drops as part of the Bridges Not Walls campaign. Each of London’s bridges–and many others up and down the country–carried a message of solidarity from activist groups. There was representation from numerous groups, bearing messages representing transfeminism, Black Lives Matter, welcoming messages to migrants… and there was this, over Vauxhall Bridge.

vauxhall

Activists stand on Vauxhall Bridge holding rainbow smoke bombs. A banner beneath them reads “Queer Solidarity Smashes Borders”

When I first saw this picture, it brought a tear to my eye. It is a simple message, so simple. Queer solidarity smashes borders. Four little words, lighting the way beneath a rainbow. It is infused with hope of undoing the violence we face. Of course it isn’t all that needs doing, but it is heartening to see those words prominently against the middle of London, and cropping up all over the news.

I watched the inauguration in a pub, me and a friend agog in horror. But then later, an even bigger cause for hope rose up. Everything kicked the fuck off. People rioted. People protested. People made it abundantly fucking clear that they didn’t accept the legitimacy of a far-right president, elected through dubious means, and neither were people particularly keen on the rich, white men in charge of the world.

limo

A limo is burned at the Washington DC inauguration day protests. Sprayed on the side of it is the words “We the people” and the circled A.

None of this compares, though, to the ultimate cause for hope which erupted on that day. It was, I think, a Destruction of the First Death Star Moment. I am talking, of course, of…

lol

Nazi Richard Spencer gets punched by an anarchist, then looks really fucking wounded. It’s hilarious.

I have not yet grown tired of watching this. The punch is funny, and the look of wounded pride on that Nazi’s face afterwards as he tries to fix his fucked-up is better still. I am utterly delighted that this punch from an unknown hero has become the first major meme of 2017 (a few of my favourites–honestly I don’t think anyone should stop until it has been set to every piece of music ever recorded). I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the response from the more liberal side of the left. I’d had hatches battened down, defences ready for having the tedious argument as to why political violence is absolutely a necessary and valid tactics, and maybe they should ask their grandparents about the ethics and efficacy of physical violence against Nazis. However… I didn’t really need it. Even liberals seemed to agree that it was broadly all right to punch Nazis, and deeply satisfying to watch.

I also like to think of how pissed-off Donald Trump must be. Such an arrogant and self-centred man must surely be spitting feathers at the fact that an anarchist upstaged him on his Big Day, by clocking a Nazi right in the jaw. I expect he’s been sulking ever since Friday.

It turns out that punching a Nazi in the face is more effective and less resource-heavy than instigating no-platform notices against fascists. Since the punch, Spencer has said he is afraid to leave the house and that he feels he will require more security at public events. This suddenly makes him a far more expensive speaker to book, which will likely prove detrimental to his lucrative rent-a-Nazi-guest career, and severely impact the number of platforms he is given. If every Nazi got a smack in the mouth, we could probably staunch the rise of fascism pretty darn quickly.

The opposition continued over to the next day, when it was estimated that millions of women were marching against Trump, all over the globe. There was a march on every continent, even Antarctica. Everyone, it seems, is invigorated against the man whose name is a fart.

I am in no doubt that the way forward–even the way to hold ground and stay alive–will be rough. I am in no doubt that we need to maintain the solidarity that feels as though it is being built, to expand and build links. I am in no doubt that the problem extends far beyond Trump, and cannot be solved merely by strategic punches and public symbolic actions.

And yet, my low and jaded expectations have been surpassed already. There is more resistance than I anticipated, more passion, more rage. 

As Princess Leia points out at the end of Rogue One, what we have been sent now is hope.

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Why I’m not supporting individual associate EU membership

One of my short twitter rants, which I’m linking here because honestly I can’t be bothered individually having this argument with everyone who supports it.

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Why World Toilet Day is far more important than International Men’s Day

Content note: this post discuses suicide, transphobia, and racism

Each year, we have a little giggle that International Men’s Day happens to fall on the same day as World Toilet Day: teehee, November 19th is all about being full of shit! Now, I hate to be the humourless killjoy, but, yes, IMD is pretty much a load of rubbish but World Toilet Day is actually rather important and meaningful. Sadly, only one of these awareness days is trending today, and it’s not the important one.

World Toilet Day matters. The UN have shared some vital statistics about the nature of the problem. 2.4 billion people in the world do not have access to the improved sanitation facilities that we in the West take for granted. Up to one in ten people in the world are still forced to defecate out in the open. Diarrhoea–a fairly unpleasant inconvenience for those of us lucky enough to live in developed countries–is still a killer, with over 300,000 children a year dying from diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and a lack of access to clean drinking water.

This year’s World Toilet Day theme is toilets and jobs (stop giggling at the back). Did you know that poor sanitation and access to hygiene facilities is one of the biggest workplace killers? 17% of workplace deaths around the world are caused by this, and yet toilet access seldom features when we discuss workers’ rights.

Toilet access is a driver of gender inequality across the world, too. A lack of access to a place to pee privately keeps girls out of school and women out of work. The privacy alone is an issue, although it is exacerbated for those who have periods, and have nowhere to safely, cleanly and privately change menstrual dressings.

Even in the West, where the sanitation itself is highly unlikely to kill us and the worst we’ll encounter is one of those weird French toilets where you have to squat (I know they’re better for you, but I still find them pretty terrifying to use), there are still bog-battles to be won.

In the workplace, around the world and the West included, some workers are unable to access toilet breaks. A recent expose of Asos warehouses found that workers were forced to meet with ridiculous targets or lose their jobs, and so were unable to take toilet breaks–and if they did, they were searched on their way in and out of the loo. And this is taking place in a developed country where the toilet facilities are a short distance away and physically present in the workplace!

Toilets are a site of social exclusion for many, preventing some people from leaving the house. For example, fear of being “caught short” stops elderly people from going out, leading them to feel as though they are “tethered by a bladder leash” (H/T @stitchandsow). This is, of course, exacerbated by mobility issues. Despite regulations surrounding toilet access for disabled people, a lot of the time, while nominally fulfilling duties, disabled people are still unable to access the toilet. Again, these are issues in countries which supposedly have laws allowing access to toilets, and hit far harder where such laws do not exist, and such physical access is even harder.

As well as being able to physically access the toilet, issues surround a more social pressure. This article on the history of toilet access being used to exclude people from public life is an absolute must-read. To summarise, though, when public toilets first became A Thing in the 19th century, toilets were used to exclude women from working life. During segregation, public loos were a battleground. And now we have the latest iteration, as the right wing attempt to ban trans people from using the right toilet facilities for their genders.

There are so many important conversations to be had about the toilet, and yet instead of having the space to discuss them, we are once again constrained by men taking up space. International Men’s Day is a bit of a joke, broadly marked by misogynistic professional victims, and definitely without a flavour of internationality, focusing mainly on privileged white dudes playing at being oppressed. Even the key talking point–men’s suicide rate–is perhaps better discussed elsewhere. After all, while men have a higher proportion of successful suicides, women attempt at the same rate and may even think about suicide more. So maybe it would be better if we talked about gender and suicide without centring entirely around men: there’s Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th!

So from now on, I won’t be mentioning International Men’s Day any more, and on November 19th, I’ll be talking about a key issue affecting people around the globe: the humble pisser. World Toilet Day is an awareness day where we all need to be more aware.

Everyone has a right to piss and shit in dignity and privacy, yet too many people are denied this. We must fight for access for all–and this needs to start with actually talking about it.

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