Trivializing Women’s Harms: The Story of Cyber Gender Harassment

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28 Responses

  1. Kaimi says:

    Two words: Male privilege.

    There’s a real lack of analog in the male experience. And so female harassment becomes something that it trivialized, in very problematic ways.

    It’s interesting because in some other arenas, womens voices online are such a big part of the discussion. In particular, there is a massive number of Mommy Blogs (many of them very well read) where women are able to find support and community in unique ways.

    But in traditional male-dominated areas like law, female-specific harassment is a really big problem.

  2. Paul Gowder says:

    Hear, hear. I think it’s also worth thinking about how the gendered nature of the behavior facilitates the pathology of the people doing it.

  3. Danielle,

    You say that “80% of the victims are women,” but I am not convinced of that. The sources in your law review article were a bit thin on this stat, but lets presume that they were accurate.

    Isn’t it more likely that 80% of those who *complain* about it are women? Men are more likely to either ignore it, see it as trivial, or engage in self-help.

    As far as women withdrawing from online discussion, this is something else I highly question. First off, there have always been less women involved in online discussion. I’d attribute this to the fact that online discussion is just now starting to get past its geek stage. However, the only forum where women seemed to withdraw was AutoAdmit… and frankly, given what it became, what self-respecting woman wouldn’t? On the other hand, when JuicyCampus was alive, it seemed that the vast majority of the perpetrators of online harassment were other women.

    Finally, lets be careful about trying to turn this story into a binary tale. The “personal information” about Ms. Iravani was the fact that her dad happened to have been convicted of fraud when she was 11. So, it isn’t really that “personal.” Nevertheless, the person who sent that information (who not surprisingly went by the moniker “lonelyvirgin”) was reprehensible for doing so. What purpose did it serve to send that information to the entire Yale faculty? None.

    But, you seem to be of the impression that all of the posters on AutoAdmit somehow condoned this action. Many condemned it, and others volunteered to help track down his identity.

    I really think you miss the point on two fronts.

    1) Lets be careful about who we accuse of “trivializing harm,” before we analyze what actual harm there was. Much of this “harm” has been either invented to make the data fit the theory or has been blown way out of proportion. Doing *that* trivializes the experiences of both women and men who actually suffer true harm.

    2) This is not a gender-specific issue. “Flaming” has existed since the first chat rooms and chat boards came into existence. I don’t defend the practice in the least, but to try and call this an orchestrated campaign to drive women off the internet is just ludicrous.

    Finally, I’d take a good look at that the walls and make sure they are not made of glass. Neither Margolick nor myself were trivializing actual harm. You don’t need to falsely accuse us of having an STD in order to make a false statement of fact that might cause harm to our reputations, and just because you are being cute or sly about it doesn’t make it any better than what the punks on AutoAdmit did to Heller and Iravani.

  4. Devin B says:

    Danielle,

    I think part of the difficulty in getting traction when trying to move on the issue is your characterization of it as a “gender” or a “woman’s” issue, although it certainly is.

    When confronted with workplace equality issues, the men of the establishment consistently ignored the problems brought to them because when you characterize it with ‘women’ or ‘men’, then the answers you will receive will be stereotypes that do not speak to a specific person.

    “Why is it fair that Mrs. Walsh gets paid 70% of what Mr. Thompson does?”

    “Because women need to care for their families, while men need to provide for them.”

    This is what allows Marc J. Randazza to say “Men are more likely to either ignore it, see it as trivial, or engage in self-help.” The implication being that men are more resilient where women are too sensitive to similar situations.

    If this is to be considered a gender-neutral issue (that is, always wrong, disproportionally affecting women) then it will be easier to find a call to action.

    The fact that people ‘made fun of her’ online is a fairly typical and juvenile occurrence, it happens to both men and women, as Marc pointed out. However, the gap begins when the stalking and the harassment crosses over into the real world. Comments about where she is, and boasts about emailing professors and possible employers, these are not mild attacks against her character, but very base attacks against her physical safety. These actions are heinous and reprehensible regardless of the gender of the victim.

    Ultimately, I feel like focusing on the 80% of victims will gain less *actionable* attention than focusing on the fact that this kind of harassment is intrinsically wrong 100% of the time.

  5. Devin,

    I didn’t mean to imply that men are more resilient, nor that women are too sensitive. (However, I can see how you would get that out of my comments).

    Men are taught (rightly or wrongly) that we are supposed to “take it like a man,” or “shake it off.” Accordingly, men don’t call the police as often if attacked, are far less likely to report a rape, and

    similarly, many men would feel embarrassment at complaining that “someone said something mean about me on the internets” — even if that “something mean” was a true threat.

    Case in point: I, myself, have received what I perceived to be true threats due to positions I took in the media on Constitutional issues. I did not call the police. I simply bought a nice, small, concealable hand gun. Was my response “better?” I don’t know. I’ll accept that it might not have been. But, I felt more secure with my Glock than I would have with a piece of paper.

    On the other hand, we socialize women to be more expressive. We socialize them to complain and seek support. I don’t know a single woman who supported my “get a better gun” response. On the other hand, every guy I know thought it was the better way to go.

    Where does this all come from? It is pretty easy to see when I watch the little kids on my street playing. When one of the little boys falls down, everyone tells him to shake it off. When he does, he gets praised for being a “big boy.” When one of the little girls does the same, the nearest adult gives her a hug. And I must admit, I never chime in that we might be reinforcing gender stereotypes.

    Perhaps this early childhood socialization is at the root of greater complaint levels at later stages in life. Perhaps they are bad things, perhaps they are reinforcing negative (or positive) gender stereotypes. But, this is what I was getting at — not that men are “more resilient.” In fact, perhaps when women complain more, they internalize the anger less. Perhaps the guy who is pissed off at something mean being said about him on the internet will take it out by kicking the dog when he gets home.

    What I’m getting at is that these “statistics” are not telling much of a story at all. If one wants to turn this into a black and white, binary gender issue, you can find or make up the statistics to turn it into one… but doing so solves nothing.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you where you say this:

    However, the gap begins when the stalking and the harassment crosses over into the real world. Comments about where she is, and boasts about emailing professors and possible employers, these are not mild attacks against her character, but very base attacks against her physical safety. These actions are heinous and reprehensible regardless of the gender of the victim.

    I 100% concur. If we focused simply on this, and got off the “someone said something mean about me on the internets,” and the patently absurd proposition that we should restrict some speech in the name of free speech, then you’re right — it wouldn’t be a gender issue at all.

  6. A.W. says:

    I don’t want anyone to think I don’t recognize how piggish and even a little scary this stuff is, but bluntly, we do have a first amendment, and I don’t see how any of this is not covered. It may not be the most important funciton of the 1st Amendment to protect guys doing the internet equivalent of writing on a bathroom wall, but aside from actual threats, what can we do without suppressing protected speech rights?

    Of course we already do suppress freedom of speech rights under laws that punish for “hostile environment” harrassment, at least when the problem is merely communicative. But i frankly think that kind of interpretation of the law has to go. I support the interpretation that bans quid pro quo harrassment, if nothing else because it is indistinguishable from solicitation of prostitution. But mere words as a violation of the law? no, the 1st amendment forbids that.

    Sorry but freedom is the right to do something we consider wrong–not because we want to see bad behavior, but because we don’t trust the government to recognize the difference in an appropriate fashion. And to a certain extent freedom means you have to “buck up” and take a few things that are morally wrong.

  7. DevinB says:

    I appreciate your clarifications of your argument.

    First a sidenote, I, despite being male, would not have recommended buying a gun. However, American culture is different than Canadian.

    While I agree that socialization has a huge part in this, I find that your parting comment, (perhaps your summary didn’t have as thorough a vetting process as the rest of your response) was glib and trivializing.

    We both agree that when online discussions turn to real world stalking, this is unacceptable. However your “someone said something mean about me on the internets,” is designed to imply that the person making the comment is childish and unreasonable.

    There is a sharp divide between childish comments online “dood ur gay” and things along the lines of “I would rape her” and “Take a picture of her next time you’re in the gym” Even in jest these comments are designed to be BEYOND a puerile discussion. The comments are trying to actively destroy her sense of safety and security. Furthermore, if such things had been sent to her by an anonymous letter. Or in this case, sent to everyone around her. There would be outrage. The internet is seen as harmless because the generation making the laws have never experienced it. The life being lead by students today is wildly different than the life being led by the students of 10 and 20 years ago.

    On the broader topic of protecting free speech, there are quite a few areas where we you can be punished for what you say. In fact, on of the Miranda rights is explicitly stating that anything you say can be used against you. The fact that you are allowed (capable) of saying certain things, does not preclude punishment for those words. Death threats are not protected speech. Blackmail is not protected speech. Slander and libel are not protected speech. Violent hate speech is not protected either. Free Speech is designed to curtail the ability of the government to tyrannize the people, it was not designed to allow the people to terrorize each other.

  8. A.W. says:

    Devin

    I am sorry, but it is not against the law to say “I would love to kill X” unless X is the President. So why is “I would rape X” against the law?

    And how exactly is asking to take a picture at the gym not protected speech, when in fact you can take a picture of her at the gym with no consequences. He is asking him to do something which he has the legal right to do.

    My God, we creep toward fascism pretty quickly in this area, don’t we? All in the name of proving how enlightened we are on women’s rights. But you can recognize the real and unfair damage done here and still say, freedom trumps.

    And this line was particularly lame:

    > In fact, on of the Miranda rights is explicitly stating that anything you say can be used against you.

    Sheesh, they are not telling the person that they could not speak freely. They are telling them that if they say anything that incriminates them in an actual crime, that it will be used as EVIDENCE against them in court. So if the guy says, “I would like to rape X” they aren’t going to lock him up on the charge of wanting to rape a person. But on the other hand, if it turns out that X was a woman who was raped and murdered, that might be used to prove he did commit that rape.

    > Death threats are not protected speech. Blackmail is not protected speech. Slander and libel are not protected speech.

    Well, I would like to kill X is not a threat that is actionable. The Supreme Court has said that. Blackmail is a different animal. And slander and libel are a different matter altogether. So if they said she was a slut, and she wasn’t, then you’d have something.

    > Violent hate speech is not protected either.

    Defined as what? I would think burning a flag would be hate speech, but the Supreme Court doesn’t allow punishment for that. (I would say don’t punish flag burning as speech, but don’t allow people to set things on fire as expression, period, if only because it is a fire hazard. As Jay Leno joked, you can’t burn a pile of leaves, but you can burn a pile of flags?)

    > Free Speech is designed to curtail the ability of the government to tyrannize the people, it was not designed to allow the people to terrorize each other.

    Well, you are right that the primary purpose of freedom of speech is to maintain democracy. But 1) it is not its only function and 2) such laws can be unevenly applied turning what is on its face a neutral law into a defacto political speech code.

    Sorry, bluntly we all just need to buck up. It is the cost of freedom.

  9. Devin,

    I accept that you might have the better view (regarding the firearm).

    And, I don’t disagree in the least with where you seem to draw the line. “dood UR gay,” is clearly not actionable. Neither is “I’d pour syrup on that.” “I would rape her” probably is actionable — as you correctly state that it is designed to place her in fear. I don’t think anyone sees the internet as changing the rules or being different. Well, actually, I would take a letter as more serious of a threat because that takes more effort — thus tending to suggest there is a greater chance of follow through. But, nevertheless, nobody reasonable would say that there is no problem with attempting to take action against true threats.

    However, we need to draw a line between warranted freak outs about true threats and irrational freak outs about “meanness on the internets.”

    On your broader view — you’re right on all except one: Violent hate speech is, indeed, protected (at least in the USA).

    I like your parting sentence, but it is too binary. Freedom of speech does not only mean freedom from the government, it also means freedom from your fellow citizens who want to use (or abuse) government systems (like the courts) to stifle free expression.

    I’m sorry if you thought I was being rude by being “glib and trivializing.” I was actually trying to be G&T, but not trying to be rude. What I was trying to do is point to one half of the problem and say “on this side, we have a real problem. On the other side, we all need to get a little real.”

  10. Devin says:

    Marc,

    Thank you for clarifying. I agree with everything you’ve said, and I also agree that my parting statement was too binary, but it was meant to be illustrative, and you did a good job of making it more specific.

    The letter is a much more serious threat, but I am worried about the matter of degrees. We are moving to a much more digital culture, and email is rapidly becoming the prevalent form of communication. Therefore, as more and more of our days are lived on the internet, our laws must begin to recognize that online speech needs a keener eye than it has been given before. I’m not saying that they are the same, in fact there are many very fundamental differences between anonymous forums, and written letters. But these differences are used to trivialize what it happening in those forums. I’m not saying you are doing it, I’m saying that the general consensus of society is that anything that occurs on the internet is less serious. However, with facebook, and twitter, and other such networking tools, it should be noted that a few sentences on a website somewhere, have the power to completely obliterate someone’s life, and that power is something which needs to be noticed.

    That argument is a little more abstract than the issues of this particular case, but I’m simply saying that this case should be taken seriously because internet speech should be taken more seriously in general. And, it will be in another few years, once the internet generation have become judges and lawmakers themselves.

    Thank you for a thoughtful discussion =D

  11. Bruce Boyden says:

    Thanks, Danielle, for this post. I think it might be worthwhile to separate a couple of issues out here.

    Let’s separate out gender issues for a second (maybe that’s not possible, but let’s pretend). What we’re left with is a loosely organized but persistent and highly visible mob of insulters and harassers. There are at least three knotty issues just with respect to the activities of such a mob. One issue is the actual harm caused by their speech. A second is whether it is legally cognizable. These two issues are related, and there are at least some reasonable people who say that speech by strangers that does not give rise to a (current) cause of action should not really be considered harmful. I think that’s wrong, as I’ve argued in the comments section of this blog before, but I also think that we should avoid slippage the other way: just because something is harmful does not mean that it fits neatly into one of our existing legal categories.

    In particular, while there was some speech on Autoadmit that appears to be garden-variety defamation, and other activities that might qualify as stalking (intentionally engaging in a course of conduct that places someone in reasonable fear of physical injury to themselves or family members), a lot of the harmful speech in question doesn’t really fit into these boxes. It might give rise to an IIED claim, except that I would expect that the requisite level of psychological damage is probably lacking–the strong-willed have a difficult time proving that claim.

    The third knotty issue is whether this is the right result — or whether there should be an additional cause of action here. I’m very troubled by instances of spontaneous mob harassment; in a debate here with Paul Ohm, I listed it above snooping by ISPs as one of my main privacy concerns. What particularly concerns me is the ability of large groups of strangers to quickly self-organize into a campaign of harassment, in which the collective result is very disturbing to the victim but each individual action seems relatively minor. I think this is a situation without real parallel in history, given that there were previously very few opportunities for a large group of strangers impervious to social sanction to organize in this fashion.

    But defining some sort of cause of action that wouldn’t reach your average flame war, and would be consistent with the First Amendment, would be difficult. You can factor gender back in at this point, and I’m sure gender dynamics are relevant, but I don’t think you need them to explain why someone might be hesitant to expand their view of the legally cognizable harms here.

  12. A.W. says:

    Marc

    > “I would rape her” probably is actionable — as you correctly state that it is designed to place her in fear.

    First, on its face, it doesn’t look like they expect “her” to even know they are saying it. That is why it is a third person pronoun and not a second person pronoun.

    Second, look at what you can say. Here’s what a Klansman said in Brandenburg v. Ohio, among other things: “We’re not a revengent organization, but if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken.”

    Expressing a desire to do something bad is protected. Advocating that others do it, is, unless it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” And “imminent” means very soon. And while I am not a slavish follower of the Supreme Court, especially the Warren court, I think they got it right; if anything they enabled too much restriction of speech.

  13. A.W. says:

    Marc

    > “I would rape her” probably is actionable — as you correctly state that it is designed to place her in fear.

    First, on its face, it doesn’t look like they expect “her” to even know they are saying it. That is why it is a third person pronoun and not a second person pronoun.

    Second, look at what you can say. Here’s what a Klansman said in Brandenburg v. Ohio, among other things: “We’re not a revengent organization, but if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken.”

    Expressing a desire to do something bad is protected. Advocating that others do it, is, unless it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” And “imminent” means very soon. And while I am not a slavish follower of the Supreme Court, especially the Warren court, I think they got it right; if anything they enabled too much restriction of speech.

  14. A.W. says:

    dang it. sorry for the double post.

  15. Kaimi says:

    I don’t see why “We’re not going to let that bitch have her own blog be the first result from googling her name!” would not give rise to a claim for tortious interference with contract / business expectancy.

  16. A.W. says:

    kaimi

    First, what contract is interfered with. Second, in what sense is google-bombing a wrongful interference.

    Sheesh. Ya’ll need to get it in your head. They have a certain right to be a–holes. Okay? the fact they are creeps, the fact that they wrote this about them, the fact that some people might be stupid enough to pay any creedence to this digitized version of scribbles on the bathroom wall, or catcalls at a construction site, is unfortunate, but it is not cause to infringe on the 1st amendment.

  17. DevinB says:

    No one can google what’s been catcalled or written on bathroom stalls. People who are google-bombing are actively trying to interfere (read: destroy) someone’s life in a way that Bathroom Stall literature has no way to do. This is not innocent teasing, nor even malicious childishness. This is a mob mentality desecration, they get caught up in the fun of attempting to mutilate a person’s sense of self.

    Tell any black youth to ‘buck up’ when facing a lynch mob of KKK.

    An extreme example, but the point stands. Buck up makes sense when you are being too sensitive about something impersonal. But people who are after your livelihood, people who are trying to physically intimidate you (which they were, when they started posting about what she wore at the gym.) There’s no ‘buck up’ response to that. It’s either take action (which she did) or leave. Those women chose the stronger option.

  18. A.W. — you make a good point, and I could be persuaded to your side. But, for the time being, I’m over with Devin and (I think) with Bruce… but I’m not all the way over with Danielle.

    You put it well when you said that we have the right to be assholes. However, we have a choice to be civil. The problem is when well-meaning people, usually left-wing academics (which I consider myself to be), try and remove that choice and take away that right — as if we’ll all be civil if we lose the right to be an asshole. We won’t. In fact, we’ll probably be more assholish.

    Nevertheless, it is a fair way to analyze this that there *might be* something more involved in an organized (or even disorganized) google-bomb-online-swarm. For example, a false statement on this blog that I “trivialize harm to women,” is one thing. But, what if she got 50 people to put that in the header to blog postings, on comments all over the place, etc. It would certainly harm me in my teaching career — especially in a field so lefty-dominated.

    However, one statement in a vacuum probably wouldn’t do that. Repeating the lie again and again, even by anonymous sources on questionable message boards (I’m not calling CO that!), might eventually create the impression that there must be something to this.

    Accordingly, there truly is something worth exploring here — but I think it needs more creativity of thought, less of a reflexive jump to push the censorship button, and it also needs more intellectual honesty in the exploration. The OP’s premise fails. To boil it down, it seems to be “Mean boys say mean things about girls, therefore, we need special rules to apply to girls in the name of equality. Those special rules should be to suppress free speech in the name of free speech.”

    I think that the comments have fleshed out the discussion in a way that even you, who seems to be a strong-willed free speech absolutist, should be able to give some credit to the other side of the debate: That there *just might* be something in this parable that shows that we need to come up with something to cure the ill.

    Of course, I would like to see more of a focus on combating negativity through positivity. Some campuses reacted to Juicy Campus by putting up a “nice wall,” where students were asked to write nice things about one another and to pledge to boycott Juicy Campus. I don’t know if it solved the problem, but it did a lot better than any lawsuit against JC ever could. It at least had more thought behind it than “lets create new torts.” Another creative way is shown here, where a restaurant reacted to bad Yelp! reviews by simply adopting the statements as their own.

    Neither of these solutions might help an individual who gets netswarmed — but these solutions at least should light up pathways that don’t lead to restrictions on freedom, which seem like a great idea at the time, but always turn into uncontrollable hydras. Also, neither of these solutions require us to adopt Orwellian redefinitions of words like “freedom” and “equality,” nor do they require us to create a gender war where there is none.

    Now, do I have a proposal? I do!

    I have started posting on AutoAdmit and BigLawBoard myself. I post under my real name. I hope that when I find threads where incivility is ruling the conversation that I can perhaps inspire more civility. There was one thread where a woman was being referred to as “whiny.” I expressed the true opinion that I admired her. A few more chimed in that they did too. Next thing you know, the post was pretty balanced. I wish that more of my peers would do the same — because sometimes you can achieve civility through leading by example. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, for example, thought provoking and civil discussions like this one could begin squeezing out the nasty stuff over there? Anyone want to join the experiment and try?

  19. DevinB says:

    Marc,

    I think you’ve made a bunch of strong points that I feel the need to highlight.

    I felt like your first post was not an accurate portrayal of yourself. You were reacting against what you perceived as an ad hominem attack against your person, and your remarks were not as tempered as your later, more debate-like responses. I now feel like I unfairly judged you based on very limited knowledge, and I’m happy to say you’ve gradually changed my mind.

    But it does prove my point. Firstly, that you saw misinformation about yourself on an internet blog and immediately felt the need to correct it. You felt like it could affect your academic career. Not because those were your actual opinions, but rather because random readers might BELIEVE that those were your opinions.

    I, also, misjudged you. You first post seemed defensive, and all I knew about you was what she had posted. Which was, of course, her own opinion based on the forum (radio programme?) you and she had participated in.

    Over a few posts, I came to appreciate your point of view more. But it took time to overcome the initial reaction. Now consider a forum just filled with the negative speech, and none of the positive speech. Humans are very susceptible to the opinions of others, especially groups, and anyone who views those pages would believe them.

    No one would believe that she’s a heinous beast-monster like she is implied. But the belief would persist that she must have done something to deserve this. This is why these kinds of forums are incredibly dangerous, even if no individual sentence is particularly atrocious. (Side note, many of the things said in this case ARE particularly atrocious.)

    I think that your response is the correct one. When you see hateful things, counter them. As you did when you saw what Danielle wrote, and I did when I saw what you wrote, and even A.W. when he saw what Danielle wrote. The only way to achieve civility is through discussion. But at the same time, social suggestion can only go so far, and i believe there should be some mechanism (I cannot think of anything appropriate that would work) that could curtail the people who go too far.

    Asking people to become advocates for the victimized only works to a point, because they risk becoming victimized themselves.

  20. Devin,

    I hereby hug you back! :)

    And.. well, you are right that asking people to stick up for the victimized creates the risk that they’ll turn the locusts on you.

    I’m willing to put myself out there as a potential victim to stand up for those who might be unpopular. For example, had I been posting on AutoAdmit when the attacks started I certainly would have posted my criticism of the attacks. Would it have helped? I don’t know… I really don’t. In fact, my posting on AutoAdmit might backfire and turn into the biggest nightmare of my life.

    However, I’m willing to try.

    And that is what I beg of anyone who reads this — lets try everything before we try redefining important terms like “freedom” and “equality,” and lets try everything before we restrict either one.

    Perhaps, and I hope not, but perhaps we do need to circle back one day and go down that road. However, we’ve not yet even tried more creative solutions. And we can try them simultaneously with the bad ideas. But with all these collectively brilliant people in the legal academy, why don’t we have more voices calling for more creativity? I guess that “binary” is my new word, but it is the one that comes to mind. This whole issue becomes so much more of a better drama if it becomes “us versus them” or “sexist pigs versus innocent women” or even “freedom versus censorship.”

    Now of course, I’m asking for positive-mob-mentality in a world where sometimes people don’t even help, in “real life” when they see someone being attacked. Perhaps my faith in mankind is too deep, but well, that’s me.

    I can’t come back to this discussion only because I’m spending too much time on it! But, I have absolutely loved it. Thank you all for the mental provocation. Please don’t ever hesitate to email me directly if you’d ever like to knock this kind of stuff around.

    -Marc

  21. A.W. says:

    Devin

    > People who are google-bombing are actively trying to interfere (read: destroy) someone’s life in a way that Bathroom Stall literature has no way to do.

    But in the context of interference torts, irrelevant.

    > This is not innocent teasing, nor even malicious childishness.

    And the fact I don’t want to repeal or significantly limit the first amendment doesn’t mean I think it is innocent, or merely childish.

    > This is a mob mentality desecration, they get caught up in the fun of attempting to mutilate a person’s sense of self. Tell any black youth to ‘buck up’ when facing a lynch mob of KKK.

    That’s what the courts said when the Nazis wanted to march in Skokie, more or less. Buck up, being offended is the price of freedom. We cannot end freedom of speech with the veto of the offended.

    If you want to look at what an Orwellian path this leads us to, I only refer you to the “human rights” trials of Mark Steyn and MacLean’s. Among the charges against Steyn, for instance, is that he quoted an imam who compared Muslims to mosquitoes. You get that? He quotes an imam, a priest in their faith, talking about the faith, and he is hauled before a court. Ezra Levant had a similar experience and he and Steyn have documented instances where a man was pulled in by an openly anti-Semitic imam, because he said there was a lot of anti-Semitism in Islam. Steyn has said, more or less, the only thing they won’t tolerate is your intolerance of another person’s intolerance.

    Marc

    > It would certainly harm me in my teaching career — especially in a field so lefty-dominated.

    Not all harms are actionable. Giving an opinion is not, even if it is mean-spirited and unfair.

    > who seems to be a strong-willed free speech absolutist

    Pretty close to it.

    > That there *just might* be something in this parable that shows that we need to come up with something to cure the ill.

    Not really. I would offer her police protection because she has a right to be scared. Oh, and I am a strong believer in the second amendment, so there is that, too. But ultimately we should not punish a person for mere speech, even really piggish, creepy speech. There is a line, and they are close to it, but they have not gone across it as far as I know, and I am not interesting in innovating the law to knock them back.

    > Some campuses reacted to Juicy Campus by putting up a “nice wall,” where students were asked to write nice things about one another and to pledge to boycott Juicy Campus.

    And that is another point. The best answer to bad speech is good speech.

    Oh, and maybe we need to keep people out of the public domain more. if memory serves, the university posted their photos online. Bad idea. The combination of a pretty girl at an elite school is a recipe for resentment among certain underevolved people.

  22. A.W. says:

    Speak of the devil, Ezra Levant is publishing a book on how free speech is being suppressed in the name of the right not to be offended. click on my name to see an amazon link to the book.

  23. Ok, one more… A.W., you’ll like this (about First Amendment rights in the context of the KKK)… and probably this (about Ezra Levant’s inquest).

  24. A.W. says:

    Marc

    Actually that is where i part ways with you some, on the first link. The cop can choose to be a klansman, or a cop, but not both. First, the Klan is not merely a political organization. They are a terrorist group.

    Its like if someone wanted to be in Special Forces and al Qaeda at the same time. Not going to happen. Or, well, I hope it won’t.

    And even if this cop only joined a racist but peaceful organization, “mere speech” can impair the ability of a police officer to do his job. If a South Central LA man says, “all N—–s are crooks” and then puts on a police officer’s uniform, he is going to be useless in his job. Every crime scene involving a person of color will be tainted, in the eyes of the jury, by this unreconstructed racist. to this day, i believe that Mark Fuhrman caused a wife-murderer to go free in the OJ case.

    And i don’t dismiss easily the idea that certain people have to be able to “tow the company” line when it comes to government service. A cop should stand up for justice, which is supposed to be colorblind. if he is a klansman or just a racist, that fatally undermines the message he is rightfully required to send.

    You have a right to speak freely. But you don’t have a right to a government job. And let’s hope and pray that we never get to a day when the public sector is so large that such a doctrine completely deprives the unpopular from making a living. And to the extent that the SC doesn’t agree with me on that, I don’t care what they think.

    Which is not to say that the government should impose heavy off-time speech restrictions on the police. but we are talking about constitutionalism, and there is no serious argument to be made here that you cannot, as a matter of law, politicize an office. The shift away from the political patronage system to a apolitical civil service model is a modern phenomenon, unknown in the days of the founders.

    Of course i am talking only about the Federal Constitution. Individual state constitutions might have a different doctrine.

  25. I’m with Randazza on this one. (Except for the Glock part; I prefer revolvers, but am tolerant of the Tactical Tupperware folks.) Although he’s a nicer guy, as is his right.

    Back when I was first getting rather unambiguous anonymous death threats (“Stay away from the wite (sic) women or yur (sic) a ded (sic) jew” — hey, at least he spelled “Jew” more or less right) I felt perfectly comfortable in calling the cops, as well as getting the carry permit and the gun.

    But that was pretty straightforward, particularly given that some of the other threats were rather a lot more precise as to what supposedly was going to happen, and when.

    The folks who want to try to fix more ambiguous wrongs (and, sure, all of the mean stuff quoted in the original article is wrong) might want to consider that among the laws that simply can’t be violated is the Law of Unintentional Consequences, and as the Canadian experiment has demonstrated pretty conclusively, attempts to legislate away pretty scummy speech have pretty serious unintended consequences.

    At least, one would hope that they’re unintended.

    I hope nobody will think me too terribly insensitive if I suggest that the chicks offended by this stuff should just man up and get a pair, but, hey, that’s kinda the way it goes, and not all hopes are fulfilled.

  26. A.W. says:

    Joel,

    Dude, you made me laugh, especially “at least, one would hope that they’re unintended.”

    And i very much know what you mean about the anti-semitism. I am not jewish, but my first name is considered “jewish” and sometimes i use my first name online. So i know how vile it can get. And that isn’t even getting into the category where i am actually a minority.

    Btw, the conversation has moved to a new thread. maybe you want to share there, too.

  27. Joel,

    Revolver is actually much better for personal protection. I carry one of those at times too. A little S&W .38 with recessed hammer. Reliable and makes a kaboom like the Illudium Q-36 Space Modulator. Not too accurate at much of a distance, but if you’re far enough away to have that as a concern, you’re far enough away to flee and avoid shooting someone in the first place.

  28. DBW says:

    This thread has long died down, but in case anyone wanders back here, I have a couple of possibly naive questions, both having to do with some specifics of the AutoAdmit situation.

    First, AutoAdmit is, by its own description, “The Most Prestigious Law School Discussion Board in the World”–where participants presumably share information and advice about attaining a professional degree and gaining employment. Given the nature of this environment, is it possible to understand the negative postings to be subject to Title VII? That is, federal law explicitly prohibits speech that creates a hostile or offensive work environment not only for employers but also for employment agencies and labor organizations. Are professionally oriented message boards a 21st-century equivalent?

    Second, does the anonymity of the posters have any relevance here? That is, “they have a certain right to be a**holes” as A.W. said, but is it wise to let them be anonymous a**holes? It seems that anonymity leads very quickly to the ugly mob attacking a scapegoat under the cover of night. This is most likely an ethical question rather than a legal one … but setting in place some safeguards that could lead to anonymous creeps who post such material being “outed” seems like a good way to impose restraint and might actually result in some civility. (I guess this would mean that forums and service providers need to keep records of IP addresses and not dump them in an attempt to be a “safe haven” for all free speech, regardless of how reprehensible.)

    Speech can have both good and bad effects; I for one think that a public discourse that continually humiliates and intimidates a group of people (whether female law students or African-Americans under Jim Crow) inevitably has a chilling effect on the productivity of that group–and thereby harms us all. Yeah, it would be great if we could all just buck up and get on with it, but humans don’t work this way, which is exactly why insulting, offensive, and dehumanizing speech persists. It’s intended to be harmful, and it is.

    We foster the good consequences of speech by ensuring that it’s free and unfettered. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also take measures to limit the negative ones–so, for example, we don’t have to permit employers to make unwanted sexual remarks to employees. If the AutoAdmit speech is worthy of being protected, shouldn’t the authors of that speech be required to be accountable?

    As I said, this most likely isn’t a legal question … Just an idea for how to have the best of both worlds.