SXSW turns tail and runs… [Rejoice SXSW Organizers Weren’t Civil Rights Organizers] Troll Police

SXSW turns tail and runs, nixing panels on harassment by Lisa Vaas.

From the post:

Threats of violence have led the popular South by Southwest (SXSW) festival to nix two panel discussions about online harassment, organizers announced on Monday.

In his post, SXSW Interactive Director Hugh Forrest didn’t go into detail about the threats.

But given the names of the panels cancelled, there’s a strong smell of #gamergate in the air.

Namely, the panels for the 2016 event, announced about a week ago, were titled “SavePoint: A Discussion on the Gaming Community” and “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games.”

This reaction sure isn’t what they had in mind, Forrest wrote:

We had hoped that hosting these two discussions in March 2016 in Austin would lead to a valuable exchange of ideas on this very important topic.

However, in the seven days since announcing these two sessions, SXSW has received numerous threats of on-site violence related to this programming. SXSW prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas.

However, preserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful.

Arthur Chu, who was going to be a male ally on the Level Up panel, has written up the behind-the-scenes mayhem for The Daily Beast.

As Chu tells it, SXSW has a process of making proposed panels available for – disastrously enough, given the tactics of torch-bearing villagers – a public vote.

I rejoice the SXSW organizers weren’t civil rights organizers.

Here is an entirely fictional account of that possible conversation about marching across the Pettus Bridge.

Hugh Forrest: Yesterday (March 6, 1965), Gov. Wallace ordered the state police to prevent a march on between Selma and Montgomery by “whatever means are necessary….”

SXSW organizer: I heard that! And the police turned off the street lights and beat a large group on February 18, 1965 and followed Jimmie Lee Jackson into a cafe, shooting him. He died eight days later.

Another SXSW organizer: There has been nothing but violence and more violence for weeks, plus threats of more violence.

Hugh Forrest: Run away! Run away!

A video compilation of the violence Hugh Forrest and his fellow cowards would have dodged as civil rights organizers: Selma-to-Montgomery “Bloody Sunday” – Video Compilation.

Hugh Forrest and SXSW have pitched a big tent that is comfortable for abusers.

I consider that siding with the abusers.

How about you?

Safety and Physical Violence at Public Gatherings:

Assume that a panel discussion on online harassment does attract threats of physical violence. Isn’t that what police officers are trained to deal with?

And for that matter, victims of online harassment are more likely to be harmed in the real world when they are alone aren’t they?

So a public panel discussion, with the police in attendance, is actually safer for victims of online harassment than any other place for a real world confrontation.

Their abusers and their vermin-like supporters would have to come out from under their couches and closets into the light to harass them. Police officers are well equipped to hand out immediate consequences for such acts.

Abusers would become entangled in a legal system with little patience with or respect for their online presences.

Lessons from the Pettus Bridge:

In my view, civil and respectful dialogue isn’t how you deal with abusers, online or off. Civil and respectful dialogue didn’t protect the marchers to Montgomery and it won’t protect victims of online harassment.

The marchers to Montgomery were protected when forces more powerful than the local and state police moved into protect them.

What is required to protect targets of online harassment is a force larger and more powerful than their abusers.

Troll Police:

Consider this a call upon those with long histories of fighting online abuse individually and collectively to create a crowd-sourced Troll Police.

Public debate over the criteria for troll behavior and appropriate responses will take time but is an essential component to community validation for such an effort.

Imagine the Troll Police amassing a “big data” size database of online abuse. A database where members of the public can contribute analysis or research to help identify trolls.

That would be far more satisfying than wringing your hands when you hear of stories of abuse and wish things were better. Things can be better but if and only if we take steps to make them better.

I have some ideas and cycles I would contribute to such an effort.

How about you?

One Response to “SXSW turns tail and runs… [Rejoice SXSW Organizers Weren’t Civil Rights Organizers] Troll Police”

  1. […] SXSW turns tail and runs… [Rejoice SXSW Organizers Weren’t Civil Rights Organizers] Another Word For It. A call for the Troll Police. […]