Alex Blaze

My $.02 on the Bilerico/death threat controversy

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 26, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: gay men, Matthew Shepard Act, oppressed, privilege, transgender

Since this is turning into an all-out blog war, and is pretty unfair to Bil, I'm responding to the whole death threat controversy. After the jump, though, since most of you probably don't care.

For the record, I'm responding to this, this, this, this, this, and this.

Where we are

I'll be the first to say that Bil's blog post was poorly-worded and that Bil doesn't seem up to speed when it comes to the criticisms directed towards him. That's probably because many/most of them are so ridiculous and divorced from the reality of what actually happened and who he is that it's pretty hard to actually accept it as good-faith criticism.

I mean, people are saying that he is calling/has called the police (um, no), stalking people (the hyperbole might have been satisfying at the moment, but "following" someone on Twitter isn't "stalking," and, as someone who's been literally stalked by an ex-lover, I'd appreciate it if people would not just randomly accuse people of it just to... well, be mean), that he doesn't understand police violence (sit him down and talk to him about that one day, because when I read that I just thought "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"), that the police have always been on his side, that he's "rich" (we can call that one "rich" as well), that he sits on a mountain of privilege in every way, etc.

You see, when folks are lying about you to dramatize a situation, it's really, really hard to pay attention to substance. Just sayin'.

What happened

The conflict started when a commenter who went by "lyssa" posted a comment to a guest post by HRC's Samir Luther (a gay POC) threatening to cut his head off and demanding it on a platter. It was deleted, because that's a TOS violation. Sorry, folks, if you want to make comments like that, start your own blog and deal with your own legal problems.

Someone from HRC asked Bil for this person's identifying information, and, per our privacy agreement, Bil said he'd only give it out if presented with a court order. He emailed me about this before he posted last week, and I was actually surprised that he was pretty forceful with them about protecting this individual's privacy.

So, in other words, he protected lyssa's information from being given directly to the police.

Then Bil posted about this and, admittedly, didn't really explain the full situation. He just wanted people to know what comments weren't acceptable here on Bilerico, and that was one of them.

Would I have done the same thing in his place? Probably not, because I don't think posting the absolute worst comments people make on TBP to the front page does justice to this community. I also don't think that making it into its own post does much to relieve tensions or solve any problems.

And it didn't, of course. The over-100 comments on that post, plus posts all over the blogosphere have been quick and very problematic. What do people want Bil to do should he be presented with a court order for lyssa's personal information?

I suppose he could defy it, hire an attorney that he can't afford, go into debt, take it to court, lose, and go to jail.

Or he could just say no and go to jail directly. At least he'd save some money.

Because, even though we'd love everyone to stick it to the police, obstruction of justice is a crime even for folks in the media sitting on someone's personal information. Just like Dana Milbank found out a few years ago, it's a crime that carries jail time. But, unlike the Washington Post, Bilerico doesn't have a team of lawyers willing to take up a case like that. We would also assuredly lose, so that means the threat of prison is in Bil's court.

For all those people talking about what a position of privilege someone like Bil is in when it comes to prison, let me just say that, from what I know about prison, it isn't a country club for anyone, much less a young, gay, disabled, somewhat femme (IMHO) man with a small frame.

Whether or not his experiences in prison would be worse than lyssa's is besides the point. I don't see why he should have to go because lyssa couldn't control herself. And, yes, that's what we're talking about here: someone who wrote something that people should know by now not to post on the internet. With all the infantilizing of lyssa going around saying that she was just too angry to control herself, well, she could have, just like almost everyone does even when they're filled with rage or anger. They talk it out. They think bad thoughts. They organize. But they don't write down a threatening comment that can be easily read as directed towards one specific person, in a forum open to the whole world.

She's an adult, this is an adult forum, and she can be expected to behave like one. And since she apologized, I think she understands that.

Because, believe it or not, it doesn't matter if you all have known lyssa for years, if you know she's not a threat, if you think she's a stand-up person. All I know about her is that she said she wanted someone decapitated on the internet, and that that person posted a face-shot and that the address of his place of work is easy to find. And you can't expect a person to simply shrug something like that off, because, guess what, Samir doesn't know her. And, should he pursue this with the police (I have no idea whether he will), they're not going to know that she's not actually a threat.

Do you think that a gay person who can easily be read as coming from Middle Eastern descent or Muslim, post-9/11 and War in Iraq fervor, wouldn't feel threatened when an unknown person calls for him to be decapitated? I know he works for the Evil Machine, but don't you think that someone who has his real name, face pic, and work address posted on the internet (which lyssa does not, and, as far as I know, the people criticizing Bil don't either), who may have experienced homophobic and/or racist violence against himself (don't pretend like you know Samir's experiences with violence) might feel threatened?

Either way, though, none of that is here or there. Bil comes into this if and only if he's presented with a court order, and if you think he's willing to or should go to prison to protect lyssa's identity, then you all better mentally prepare yourselves to do the same. Because one day you might be in the same position, with someone posting something threatening on your site, and you'd better be ready to take it so someone else doesn't have to.

A few more thoughts on privilege

What also bothers me about these discussions, besides the lies and the people who think they know what they're talking about but don't, is the facile understanding of privilege.

Let's start with a few facts (and if this isn't directed at you, don't make it about you):

  • Not everyone in a group of oppressed people or a minority feels oppression the same way or equally.
  • Not everyone who is in the majority or powerful group along an axis of identity experiences or feels privilege the same way or equally.
  • Not everyone in a privileged group is rich, just as not everyone in an oppressed group is poor.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the indicator "brown" isn't specific at all. It's a term that can include, depending on whom you ask, Alberto Gonzales, José Padilla, Dana International, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rigoberta Manchú, and me. Now, if you're going to tell me that all those people have the same experiences with oppression and/or the police, I'm going to have to excuse myself to laugh.
  • Not all gay men, even the white ones, are rich or even middle-class. Some are working class. Some are poor. Some are homeless.

Which is part of why hierarchies of oppression are ridiculous from the start. Categories like "trans" and "gay" and "brown" aren't monolithic. And just because someone who might share an identity with you disagrees with you doesn't mean that that person is "self-hating," "kissing [insert privileged group] ass," or "delusional." Sometimes it just means that they disagree and you're going to have to deal with that.

About hate crimes legislation

One thing that could be read as ironic in this situation is the support that many of these critics who oppose even dealing with police have for the Matthew Shepard Act, which is a bill that would greatly increase police power to investigate, arrest, and imprison people. Belledame222 and queenemily both posted calls to support said legislation.

And by "ironic" I mean "short-sighted." Because while the legislation is written ostensibly to protect oppressed groups, it gets used against other oppressed groups. And just because you may think that your group is the most oppressed group ever (it's tiring when white gay men say "We're the last group that it's OK to discriminate against!" as much as it is when people want legislation to throw other minorities in prison longer for hurting them), it doesn't mean that you suddenly can just get away with wanting to throw other groups of people into jail.

And, no, the MSA doesn't get rid of trans-panic or gay-panic defenses, as demonstrated by California. It doesn't include diversity training for police generally. Yes, by getting rid of the restriction to only six crimes to which hate crimes legislation can be applied at the federal level, it effectively increases sentencing. And I'm going to put myself down as "highly skeptical" that the threat of a few more months or years of prison will noticeably affect the rate of hate crimes (I say "highly skeptical" because I could very well be wrong there).

So, in that spirit, I'm hoping these folks who criticized Bil for saying that he'd cooperate with a court order in a possible investigation of a threat of murder directed at a gay person of color will now denounce the Matthew Shepard Act.

Something tells me I shouldn't hold my breath....


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Alex,
This was a very intense piece to have to write. You did it justice, in my opinion.

And, speaking as a violator of the Bilerico TOS on many occasions, I understand the fine line people try to walk here. The closer to the line you get, the more chance you have of violating it.

Advocating physical violance is not something I could ever approve of, regardless of the issue or the person. If a person does do something to others, such as what HRC has done to the trans community, then I fully expect karma to catch up with them. In HRC's case, the karma came back to them in the form of decreased donations even before the economy crisis kicked in. You see, karma works, and their new announcment is the result of that karma.

I am not a contributor here at Bilerico because of my comments in the past. Some of the contributors probably strong-arm the Editorial team in not accepting me as one. It is the karma I have to face because of my past indescressions. Karma works. (But, some contributors have done worst then me, such as telling someone to "fuck off. Their karma awaits, too.)

So, we don't need to resort to physical threats to make a point. It will harm the person who makes those threats more than anyone else.

I'm sorry, but this isn't a "fine line". It's a pretty goddamn thick line the width of Rhode Island. (Which is pretty small for a state, but pretty thick for a line, when you think about it.)

Don't threaten people. Don't say you want someone's head on a pike. Don't put your host at risk for the sake of hyperbole.

Because whatever else anyone thinks of Bil, a commenter put him at risk. It has nothing to do with LGBT issues, it has to do with, oh I don't know, the proposed victim potentially taking Bil to court for hosting threats against his life.

DUH.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 26, 2009 10:36 AM

Although "sticking it to the police" is not a universal goal I certainly agree with your call for people to be responsible adults. Threatening anyone with violence of any type or assisting the argument of others to so do is reprehensible.

There has been much chatter on AIG for instance including many veiled threats against their employees on this site. I think it is important to keep in mind that a secretary going to work in an AIG office should not have to look over their shoulder starting a block away from the office door, worry about their family or home because they are employed by a corporation in any fashion. Class envy distinctions should be eliminated from the back of our minds and the front of our keyboards. There are consequences to words we all must face and own up to, or not state them at all. Directly or indirectly by labeling people we make it easier to discriminate against them.

A very interesting read Alex, thank you.

Excellent post, Alex. Spot on. Good for you, and good for Bil.

Amanda in the South Bay | March 26, 2009 11:33 AM

Again, if any of you actually believed the original comments were...serious, credible threats, you seriously need to get out more. I understand the knee jerk response because of liability, but grow up folks, and stop trying to claim the moral high ground here. Being a blog owner or admin of a forum doesn't grant you good judgment to throw silly commenters over to the police.

No, but being a judge grants someone authority to throw silly blog owners and admins of forums to the police if they don't comply.

No one has been thrown to the police here, so that's a red herring. If there's any police/TBP interaction on this, it's them coming to Bil, not the other way around.

Oh, just read the nice comment you left about me over at questioning transphobia. Thanks, but this fuckwad/dumbass doesn't need moral high ground to point out the truth.

Alex;
You are neither of the epithets thrown at you. We seem to be in that narrow deadly space in the middle ground of a meltdown/batle over trans-issues beign played out in multiple combinations and over multiple issues.

Also, did anyone read what Alex said? The author so criticised by lyssa's original post felt threatened. The HRC made a request. Bil did not comply.

And then Bil set a bar for hostile expression on the blog, he drew a line of acceptablity that as blog owner he is empowered to do.

That was all that happened but the thing escalated out of control and spilled onto other blogs with the following battles resulting:
Trans v Trans(various affiliations)
Trans v. Feminist Lesbians(or their memory, since they were pronounced already dead)
Trans v. Gay Men
Trans v. HRC

Is this a useful outcome, just as ENDA is coming up and gender expression has been dealt a recent defeat in a state legislature?

And when any of us object to this ongoing debacle, "cis-priviledge" is hurled into our faces in an attempt to de-llegitimise and silence our concerns.

You know what? I just got done reporting death threats made to someone in blog comments. (It wasn't here, and it wasn't me who was threatened.) The man's workplace, upcoming whereabouts, and picture were shown in the blog post. JUST LIKE SAMIR.

The comments were "He would look good with a bullethole in between his eyes." and "This Queer pervert should be shot in some alley." Both comments were made semi-anonymously by two people who didn't include a link. JUST LIKE LYSSA.

More likely than not, nothing would have or will come of the comments. More likely than not, it was just stupid bigots who prefer hyperbole to rational conversation. JUST LIKE... never mind.

But--and here's the point--WE CAN'T TAKE THAT RISK. Not WE as in LGBT people, but WE as in citizens of the internet. I'll be damned if I'm going to hesitate on the chance that they might not be serious, and frankly, neither should anybody else.

"He would look good with a bullethole in between his eyes." and "This Queer pervert should be shot in some alley."

But how could you think those were death threats, Matt? Don't you know they're just expressions and literary allusions?

This darn privilege keeps getting in the way!

Scott Kaiser Scott Kaiser | March 26, 2009 3:33 PM

Amanda-

It does not matter if you or Bil consider the comments a "serious, credible threats." As long as even one person could interpret them that way (esp. the person who the comments were directed at), then Bil could be liable. He did the right thing in pulling the comments. As someone who used to run a couple popular blogs that often had controversial comments posted, I fully understand the position Bil had to take.

Just as joking about a bomb in an airport must be treated as a credible threat no matter how obvious it is that the person is joking, so must a comment like lyssa's be taken seriously.

I have to agree with Alex's assessment of the situation. Lyssa and the other commentors need to realize that there are consequences for their actions, even if it was meant without malice. Being able to anticipate the possible consequences of our actions in advance is called maturity and makes us adults.

I thought the MSA also allowed federal agencies to intervene where local agencies will not. This might be helpful in states like Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.

But, yeah, people seem to be keen on bullying Bil. I chalk it up to countenance. I suggest that his avatar be changed to having a Rottweiler instead of puny little canine.

I thought the MSA also allowed federal agencies to intervene where local agencies will not.

That's one of the many things it does, and that'll increase people in prison.

I'm not saying whether it will be helpful or not, although I doubt it will be. What I am saying is that the people here who are saying that it's always always always wrong to involve the police in conflicts between people of color and white people should maybe reconsider their support for an expansion of the prison/industrial complex. Hate crimes legislation is prone to the same inequities that the criminal justice system spawns.

You know, intellectual consistency is what I'm asking for.

Yeah, I wasn't saying it would be good. Not being very well-versed in the legislation, I was concerned that it had been toned down to merely increase some resources, but not guarantee intervention if bias on the side of local police is shown.

The police I dealt with in Miami Dade County was not very receptive to the gay community; and at times, I wish our community centers had been able to contract federal intervention in cases where the local police brushed off gay bashings.

Thanks for defending Bil's stupidity. I suppose it was needed. Personally, I feel no sympathy for him since he volunteered for this firestorm by making a post he didn't need to and then poorly wording it (as you admit). Bil has shown a continuing tin ear for dealing with trans people and issues.

Also, this whole thing about there being a death threat? Debatable. I know I wasn't the only person who read the comment as a disgusting, violent fantasy but not a death threat.

Also, some factual correction. Bil did not say he would hand over information when presented with a court order. He said he "would gladly hand it over to the authorities". Period. If Bil meant he would only cooperate with a court order, he should have said that. Mean what you say and say what you mean. So, you'll pardon me if I greet your claim that he would only do so under a court order with some skepticism. If he meant that he would have said it, seeing as he's a competent writer and all.

And, if you take out the bit about the court order, your whole post reallly isn't relevant to the situation of how Bil would cooperate with authorities against a trans woman of colour. (BTW, when faced with a court order that seems injust, maybe a call to the ACLU or such for legal help might be in order; just sayin')

Thanks for responding.

As for the court order stuff, I was surprised by the controversy generated because just a day or two before he posted he sent me an email with a copy of his apologies to HRC about not being able to give info w/o a court order. Then I reread the post and noticed he didn't mention that fact, maybe because he didn't think it was relevant.

As for the ACLU, I don't think they'd take up this case. The chance of winning is pretty low, and they don't take up every case presented to them. Especially if the free speech principle on the line is rather hazy - I can easily see how someone would interpret this as a death threat.

Also too, we're talking about a trans woman of color, as you point out, but how in the world was Bil supposed to know the color of her skin without a photo or other information?

He may not have thought it was relevant, but the court order stuff is incredibly relevant since it's the difference between being forced to do something or not. By instead saying he would gladly cooperate with authorities, he set himself up for the criticism of siccing the police on someone (even if he didn't personally call them). This would be part of why I referred to Bil's stupidity (I still think he's more a privileged, ignorant idiot than a malicious wanker).

The ACLU may or may not take up such a case. Certainly won't if they're not asked, though. But it's kind of irrelevant since Bil made it clear he wouldn't want to fight a court order in such a case.

As to knowing lyssa was a trans woman of colour, that's where privilege comes back into play. It's privilege that makes everyone on the Internets white, instead of allowing that people of colour are here, too. I suppose it's some sort of backhanded "compliment" to allows people of colour to pass for white here. Obviously the best thing to do would be to not assume that everyone here is white and act in accordance with that, but to do that one has to consciously fight one's privilege.

I agree with your last paragraph, although you weren't asking bil not to assume, you're asking him to positively know this person's racial/ethnic background. I'm still not clear either other than the word "brown," which, as I wrote in the post, doesn't have much meaning. Alberto Gonzales aided in legally justifying the torture of Jose Padilla, and they're both "brown."

Which, when it comes to not making assumptions, you should probably watch the way the term "privilege" is thrown around. You don't know all of Bil's experiences, and not many people here know all of yours. And that's part of the problem with these internet conversations, we don't really know and maybe we could hold off on pretending to.

Privilege is a lot more complicated than "He is privileged; she is not." I'm getting the impression that a lot of people commenting assume that Bil spends his days sipping cocktails on the deck of his mansion in Palm Springs with his buddies, talking pop culture, sex, and 19th century British literature.

As for the court order, he probably didn't mention it because it wasn't relevant to his post. The original post wasn't a response to the criticism he's received. He was more upset (we've talked about this) that someone would leave a comment like that at all and wanted to say that advocating violence is never right (I disagree with him there, completely, but that's another story).

As for the ACLU, I still don't see why he should have to go through something like that. Would you be willing to, as a blog owner? If someone left a comment on your site and the police, with a court order, asked for that person's identifying information, would you hand it over?

I think it's a relevant question, and should be debated. There is definitely space on either side. But before one asks Bil to fight it, they should be willing to accept that challenge themselves.

I was going to follow up on your hopefully-not-willful misunderstanding of privilege but I think Marti schooled you rather well on it. The only difference is that I would talk about intersecting axes of privilege and oppression rather than hierarchies as I see hierarchies expressing a too-static way of looking at how privilege and oppression work.

Getting back to the court order business. I bothered to go back and read the original post by Bil along with its comments. And, funny thing, he specifically addressed being presented with a court order. What he said in comments on March 20, 8:29PM was:

"If HRC called the cops to report a threat against one of their staffers (or God Fordbid, an act of actual violence), I would have two choices:

a) Turn over the information
b) Fight it and require a subpoena

Normally, we never release any identifying information about any Projector. In this situation, if the cops came a'calling I'd turn it over immediately."

Did you catch that, Alex? He said he wouldn't need to be presented with a court order. So, this whole question about whether should try to defy a court order is moot. He'd cooperate with the police straight up. And, just in case it wasn't clear in that one comment, he repeats this multiple times. He never says anything about changing his mind. Bil is on record as being willing to cooperate with the police without being forced to do so. So, the whole court order thing you've written about and the question of whether any blog owner should defy one? Red herring.

To quote you in this post:

"You see, when folks are lying about you to dramatize a situation, it's really, really hard to pay attention to substance. Just sayin'."

I suggest you go back and read what Bil has actually written like I did and then correct your post. As it is, between that and your problem in understanding privilege, your post is misinformative and revisionist.

My comment about lying still stand. Lots of lies all around.

And he's on record as saying he'd only give info w/ a court order. He can clarify himself if he wants to, but I know for a fact that he hasn't given it out to the police so far and I'm guessing it's unlikely to happen unless something comes of this situation.

As for Marti "school"ing me on privilege: oh, puh-leeze. Being a gay man with lots of money is different from being a gay man without much money, as is being any type of person with money versus that type of person without money.

Yes, money is important in this world. It doesn't eliminate other forms of privilege/oppression, but it can add/take away from that.

Yeah, lies on all sides apparently. Let's cover this again.

You say Bil is on record as only turning over information with a court order. I quote him as saying the opposite and point out that he continues to say that. You now respond that Bil is "on record" as saying he'd only give info with a court order. Where is this record that supposedly contradicts what Bil has said repeatedly in public in the other thread? Because, I'm obviously missing it.

What the heck does money have to do with any of this? I didn't say Bil has money, I said he has privilege. If you think privilege == money then you have no understanding of what privilege actually means in this situation. The axes of privilege in this case are Bil being a cis white man, meaning he has systemic advantages associated with that, including, apparently, a faith that the police will do their jobs without abuse of power and causing unintended consequences, if you will, to him while in custody. Unlike the axes of oppression felt by a trans woman of colour who has reasons to fear the police and what will happen in custody such as getting beaten or ending up dead from an unexplained blow to the head during a "courtesy ride". That's not hierarchies, that's intersectionalism.

This isn't all about money. I didn't make it about money. What I said about money in the post was:

Not everyone in a privileged group is rich, just as not everyone in an oppressed group is poor.[...]

Not all gay men, even the white ones, are rich or even middle-class. Some are working class. Some are poor. Some are homeless.

Which I'll stand by. Money isn't the only aspect of privilege, but it's definitely a form of privilege and often a result of it as well.

Re hierarchies, the ones I was arguing against are the ones I've been reading: "Trans women fear police brutality but gay men have the police on their side." Which, again, is an over-simplified view of reality. If you didn't say that or want to argue that it's true, then there isn't much to discuss here.

As for Bil and the police, I don't really know what you want anymore. He didn't give over her info, he didn't call the police, and it's unlikely at this point that he will because it doesn't seem like HRC is taking action here. He said "a'calling," which to my knowledge isn't a specific legal term. I don't know the context either, and I'm not going to go back and read the entire thread.

I do have an on-record email he sent out to a few of us saying that he'd only give out info with a court order, reiterating the site's privacy policy, after HRC requested it.

Lucy;
How about race being simply irrelevant in this instance?

If I respond critically to a post, do I need to inquire about race of the poster first? I hope not, because that would be a return to "Separate but Equal." And as my KC and later QC barrister grandfater once opined on American Segregation in a decision that he wrote in Ulster "It was separate but it was never equal"

Exactly Alex.....

Bil got blindsided by a pulling of the tranny victim card along with the race card. Absent someone being well known and having a pic up somewhere or out and out telling you, race should just plain not be an issue. Further, this over the top reaction by almost everyone trans here and elsewhere escalated in to very nasty anti-feminism, anti-gay men and pretty much anti anyone "cis".....which is a direct result of this newfound tranny as ultimate victim garbage. It sickens me. Further, it almost seems like these people inflaming this WANT to provide justification for leaving trans out of ENDA again because they sure as hell are providing ample reason to do so.

"Which is part of why hierarchies of oppression are ridiculous from the start."

I suggest you're in error. Simply because mapping a complex system is complex does not make mapping it ridiculous or impossible.

They are more complex with more gradations and intersections from the start yes. Ridiculous? Nope. Otherwise it wouldn't be so obvious that on average straight white cis male christians are better off. Yes exceptional people can move up.. but only so much so via greater effort and excpetionally incompetant or unlucky can move down most of the way down, but even at lower levels will often still be higher in the lower pecking order they settle at.

But yes, there are hieracrhies of privilege. Complex ones but ones nonetheless.

Also might I add that wanting someones 'head on a pike' and 'head on a platter' are possibly merely historical referances and turns-of-phrase. They can easilly be read as metaphors rather than literal threats (and more easilly so I would suggest, heads on platters and pikes are rare these days compared to many other forms of more practical violence)

Origins: Head on a platter. See John The Baptists head, Salome's platter.. the Bible (and GLBT referance as there was a film on the subject with Salome being played by a TG or DQ.. I saw it many many many years ago and so am uncertain of the details but I'm sure someone else could find them. I think the film had Oscar Wilde watching the production of the play Salome?)

Head on a pike: See English Monarchs executions of traitors and displaying their heads on pikes. Often used metaphorically to refer to, or calling to have people, publicly shaming someone with their misdeeds. Not literally violence when I've heard it used.

Now whichever was said and how it was meant in this case I think we should consider the danger of disallowing common symobols metaphors and turns-of-phrase into imediate assumptions of literal threats of violence (thanks my lucky stars I haven't said "I'll have your guts for garters" in any flamewars despite it being a relative of mines favourite phrase).

Yes, those phrases can be said literally and meant literally and its important to consider that possibility.

But blow me down, strike me pink, slap me silly, stone the crows, murder a racehorse and the jockey too for a bite to eat, fix for bloody murder, slice the bastard from arsehole to breakfast, been beaten black and blue, shredded down to blood an bone... as an Australian who has grown up in the bush and rural towns heads on pikes and platters really are tame compared to large portions of colloquial english! (not one of those is made up! Those are all genuine phrases that were fairly commonly used in towns I have grown up in during my childhood! Particularly Central Western New South Wales And none were used to describe actual violence, they range in meaning from being surprised to being tired from hard work to having a disagrement or verbal fight or dealling with a particularly annoyingly hard to shear sheep.)

In fact violent metaphors are probably 20% or more of the writing of Banjo Pstterson one of Australias most loved poets!

Oh, definitely need to keep distinctions when it comes to privilege in mind to maintain some perspective.

I was responding more to the "Black people have it worse than women" style hierarchies of oppression. Which are ridiculous because they're overly simplistic.

As for the language, I think the fact that it could easily be read as a threat, and very, very easily taken as one, should at least have given her pause. Like someone mentioned above, it's like joking about a bomb when you're passing through security at an airport.

But i'd say it was worse, since this was directed at a specific person. We can read what we want into those words, but the point is that you've never made a comment like that, I've never made a comment like that, 99.99% of people here don't make comments like that, because we all have an understanding that when someone has a whole lot of identifying info on the net and someone else has none, most of our ability to read abstractly goes out the window.

Also good reading on this topic, Mercedes:

http://dentedbluemercedes.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/there-is-no-community/

Would I have done the same thing in his place? Probably not, because I don't think posting the absolute worst comments people make on TBP to the front page does justice to this community. I also don't think that making it into its own post does much to relieve tensions or solve any problems.

Yet, here you go doing it AGAIN. Obviously this is no different than the time Bil put up the naked photos and a lot of people bitched. All press is good press, right?

As far as privilege goes, your judgments on other people's knowledge on the subject seems rather ironic. You seem to suggest that other people don't know what having privilege means, but in your post you tie wealth to privilege and that has NOTHING to do with it! Alberto Gonzales is a perfect example. There are a lot of people in this world that have no idea about who he is and they will judge him as a "brown" person. They will make judgments about him based on his ethnicity in a way that a white person wouldn't be judged, no matter how much money he has. Just because someone is gay and poor doesn't mean that they lack privilege. Your framing of this reminds me of how mens rights activists stating because men don't have a choice in abortion, that they are discriminated and oppressed too. It's a bullshit argument that shows that you don't have a firm grasp on what privilege in the context of "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" actually means.

In the end, the post was nothing more than an attempt to stir the trans-pot, which Bil's pretty adept at doing. For someone that claims to be the friend of trans-people, the continued condescension to us from him is a sign he just doesn't see us as equals. But don't feel bad, it's something that's pretty common.

There's a huge distinction about the comment itself. It wasn't a death threat. A death threat is "I'm going to kill you" or "you're going to die tonight", and not an expression of hate and outrage. Did anyone think she was saying she had intent to do these things? Calling her words a death threat is basically akin to calling the SCUM Manifesto (by Valerie Solanas), a call for genocide. If you view it as such, you miss the point of it entirely.

While I do not have the same rage as she about HRC, I do understand it. Even now they come out and say that they support an inclusive ENDA and try to repackage it as something new. The fact of the matter is they won't OPPOSE a bill that doesn't include us, so there's no new news there.

But yay for you and the staff of Bilerico for ringing out this "controversy" for all that it's worth. I'm sure it's boosting your visits and that's what it's all about, right?

Oh and Alex, when you go trying to clean up other people's messes that's called co-dependency/enabling. It seems quite the rage for those around Bil. I'm glad I no longer have to do the same myself.

in your post you tie wealth to privilege and that has NOTHING to do with it!

Thanks for the laugh, Marti. I needed it. :)

I don't buy it, Marti. I agree with Alex that the post was a bad idea. I also agree with your earlier comment on Bil's post in that there are better ways of dealing with this kind of thing than how Bil handled it.

I do not, however, believe for a second that Bil was motivated to make the post in order to get hits on the site. Of course, traffic is always something you want to increase however you can, but I don't think that post was hit-bait. You and I both know what hit-bait looks like and that wasn't it. If Bil were truly trolling for hits with that post there's no doubt he could have done a much better job.

No, I just think, hey whattaya know? Bil's human. He was no doubt angry and upset and he probably posted before he really took the time to think through what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it.

Of course I have no idea if this is true or not. Thing is, based on what I personally know about Bil and the kind of person he is, it just doesn't seem likely to me that he's quite as cold and calculating you make him out to be.

Having been in similar situations as a moderator/editor/sysop in the past, I know what I would have done with lyssa. Instant perma-ban. Not only was what she said a direct violation of the TOS but even the possibility of some kind of liability or legal entanglement is best avoided.

It's better by far to deprive one person access than to take on that level of risk. Let's not forget that even though there are ads on this site, TBP is a free service for everyone who uses it. It's unreasonable to expect Bil and Jerame to shoulder that level of possible liability risk for something they aren't making a correspondingly large profit on.

Maybe that sounds cold, but too bad, it's also reality. When you have something like TBP, or my show, or your show, or TA you know you sometimes have to act to protect it from those who would do it harm, regardless of whether it's intentionally or unintentionally. That's how I see this situation.

Even if it's highly unlikely a site like TBP would be held responsible for the behavior of one of its users, there's no guarantee. Even if there was a guarantee, lyssa's comments were bad form, unpleasant, and ugly and therefore has no place in (relatively) polite discourse.

There are times, hopefully not all too often, when protecting what's yours has to come before all other considerations. This is one of those times.

Adults know better than to talk like lyssa did online. Those who don't probably aren't people we really want to be here anyway.


jayinchicago | March 26, 2009 3:01 PM

Do you people ever read for comprehension? She didn't threaten ANYTHING. That's a willfull misreading of what she wrote. And I think it's perfectly reasonable hyperbole to describe a reaction to the antimisogynist and transphobic actions of the HRC.
I'm taking this blog off my reading list--I do not want to contribute anymore hits to this sort of villainization of a trans woman of color.

"antimisogynist"? Is that an actual word? And if it is an actual word, does it make any sense in this context?

Jay, if you're still reading, get over it. No one's villainizing anyone. lyssa made herself look bad, as she herself acknowledges. Mistakes were made, definitely. That doesn't mean there was intent.

Well, I suppose that it is Becky. I am certainly anti-misogynistic. And proud of it.

Chitown Kev | March 27, 2009 11:59 PM

Alex, as someone who has read all of the various posts on the threats and, especially, for you nuanced discussion of privilege...

Thanks!

I was directed to a blogsite by a friend where Lyssa and Lucy were trying to get people to come over here and to mock me and to accuse me of opposing trans-women's use of the restrooms, which I have never, ever done.

I hope that if they choose to persue this action, that they are at least honest about what they accuse me of

And how is race relevant to what Bil has done, which is a simple admonishment, or to handing over info on court order? I'm an attormey and I do not see the racial component of violating court orders, Lucy. Bil has no compelling or overriding legal ground upon whuch to refuse such an order.

Thanks for pointing that out, Maura. I'm not a lawyer, but I was even wondering "why would any judge let TBP off the hook on this one?"

I'll wade in only to say you might want to actually listen (as least internally) to accusations the original post was "hit-bait." Maybe it wasn't. But with the track record you (and I use "you" as the whole blog) have established, you can certainly concede why some might make that determination. For examples, I am referring to articles in papers on how to make money from a blog and posts that are stated to be posted only to draw more hits.

You can poo-poo my statement all you want. The fact is, even before this incident, lots of people have been chattering in private about the blatant self-promotion of this site-promotion that at times seems to place a premium on promotion over dedication to facts, instead existing merely to get hits and a reaction from those in the MSM.

Trust me, I understand promotion, and even appreciate self-promotion. My hope is that perhaps you use this as an opportunity to do a cost-benefit analysis.

Take it for what it's worth, your milage will obviously vary.

Not really. Rebecca's right - there are certain things one can do to increase hits to a post. They include having naked pics, putting sexy words in the title, and posting breaking news. Bil's original post didn't even go after the jump, so it's pretty unlikely it was meant to entice people to click on it.

If you want to see the posts that get lots of clicks, I put them up on the site at the end of last year:

http://www.bilerico.com/2008/12/top_bilerico_project_posts_of_2008.php

As for the "dedication to facts," please cite examples before making an accusation like that. I know that I recently said that Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas were the only states with covenant marriage, and it was pointed out that I was wrong (Arizona has them too). While I made a mistake, it wasn't to promote the site - it was an honest mistake.

I'm sure there have been other factual errors on this site, and, sorry, we don't have a team of fact-checkers here. But, to my knowledge, no one's lied here in order to get pageviews.

That's fine, like I said, I expected you to poo-poo my thoughts. It's your blog.

And for the record, I never said those chattering about your "dedication to facts" were being correct in their assertions-I only said they were saying it. But as you well know, reputations are not always based on reality, merely perception.

Just don't be surprised when your blog finds itself struggling for relevance. There's plenty of other blogs out there doing or starting to do what you are doing, and several of them do so without the seemingly crass self-promotion.

I originally posted this to Tobi's post on the meaning of "violence" a few minutes ago and thought I'd put it up over here too. While this thread is longer, I hope folks can continue the civil dialogue this thread has spawned as versus the vitriolic posting on the 1st thread.

This post rings very true - and a lot of what Tobi brings up did go into my thinking on the comment section.

Thankfully since this hasn't devolved into the flame war the other post did, I'd like to explain my thinking:

1) If someone threatened violence on Bilerico Project and it actually happened in real life, I would never survive the emotional torment of knowing I might have contributed to the violence.

2) I've objected to every war the US has entered for as long as I've been alive.

3) I've survived physically violent relationships - including one where the fight turned so severe I broke his arm and he held me to the floor with his teeth so he could smash a lamp into my face.

4) I've been harassed by rednecks, raped while homeless and beaten severely with a crowbar by homophobes.

Advocating violence - especially in my own "home" - is not something I'm willing to tolerate. Period.

There is a difference between telling someone to DIAF (which I had to look up!) and literally saying, "I'm going to kill you now." However, in today's world we are connected to people we don't know any more than screennames on a computer screen. Violent shootings and attacks happen daily around the world and several lately were announced on the internet beforehand. You simply can't know what's really going on in the person's head.

As in Tobi's case, the police though the threats against her weren't serious enough. Tobi, obviously, thought otherwise. By castigating the police as ineffective and uninterested, in the same situation that caused this post, I'd be the police while the guest contributor would be Tobi. Why is it horrible not to ensure Tobi's safety (as should have happened) but would be okay not to ensure the guest blogger's? It's not two faces of the same coin, it's the same coin.

Saying I would assist a police investigation if someone committed violence and announced it here first is the same as calling the cops after someone is gay bashed. In this case, I had no idea the commenter was a person of color and this has been used a red herring to accuse me racism, etc. The simple truth is all races, genders, gender identities and sexual orientations are quite capable of committing violence against each other. I don't care the qualifier, if you're advocating violence I'm not going to approve the comment.

I know it smacks of privilege, but as it's my blog and I've so often been the one to receive the attacks, this is where I've drawn the line. I refuse to implicitly condone violent acts against someone.

I am of two minds about this all.

Firstly, I think that the HRC asked for the information of lyssa after her somewhat dubious 'death threat' is just silly. Come on kids, I've been playing on the internet playground for a while and I think that we can all understand the difference between one burst of venting rage and systematic hints or statements that indicate that someone might actually be contemplating IRL violence on another person. I think it's fairly clear that lyssas comment fell into the first category.

And secondly Bil's morality police act was just pleading for a flame war. It is his blog, he can approve/disapprove whatever comments he likes, ban people...whatever. But to write a post dedicated to threatening a member of the trans community with handing over her information to the cops in response to her attack on HRC is just beyond stupidity. You say that he has actually taken a stand against doing so but that is certainly not how he portrayed the situation.
However I don't feel like this outcry of 'transphobic oppressor' is necessarily very useful. I seem to remember that transphobia means targeting someone because they are trans, and that certainly doesn't seem to be what happened. And just because/if? Bil is 'cis white well off' doesn't mean that he is some completely privileged log cabin jack-off who wants to cut down all the queers by the ankles. Apparently he has history with being imprisoned, which makes his threat even weirder, but people do not experience oppression or privilege the same across the board based on their identities (even their intersecting ones). I think it's fair to call someone on their privilege for knowing so little about the institutionalized fuck over of trans people that they wouldn't consider what calling the cops means to that particular group. But I would like to think that wasn't the case in this incidence, I think that Bil might be just a little...unthoughtful.

Where I think all this RAGE and attention should be directed is to the question of why any queers think it's ok to call the cops on any other queers. Or any p.o.c. or homeless people or ANYONE. State violence is just as fucked as interpersonal violence. HRC has a history of calling cops on queers and I want to know WHY THE FUCK THEY THINK THATS OK. Its the same as the LGBT center calling the cops on Gay Shame or Rich white gays in the castro directing the police towards hustlers.

I'm not calling for solidarity, because when the fuck is that going to happen, but seriously queers need to stop thinking of the police as something we can use against one another.

Lets say that the cops were called on Lyssa...are they going to lock her up? That wouldn't be forever and I'm guessing wouldn't make either her or the trans communities anger any less. Are they going to serve a TRO against her? TRO's don't provide a magic shield around the person they are supposed to protecting, someone can still hurt them, then that little magic piece of paper means nothing except for larger punitive measurements against the perpetrator. Are they going to follow her around, spy and stalk her to make sure she never causes anyone any damage?

No. They will do nothing. Cops don't do anything until violence has already occurred and then it's too late.

DON'T CALL COPS ON QUEERS IT'S JUST BUYING INTO THE BULLSHIT.