13 January 2011


I don't want to specifically discuss the horror of what happened in Arizona on the 8th. Already people are pretending that this should be a knee jerk of one side defending itself against (justified) charges that it has embraced polarizing discourse.

Instead, I want to think aloud about the state of public discourse.

A few days ago I posted some thoughts on the New Year and one of those thoughts was that I needed to remove certain people and attitudes from my atmosphere. I talked about how individuals, empowered through the internet, were increasingly using ad hominem attacks and how glad I was that the bullying could not become physical because I live in a civilized society.

I spoke too soon. Or the USA is not civilized. At least here in Germany the likelihood of someone attacking me with a gun is vanishingly small and my odds of surviving other physical attacks is much greater. The verbal attacks are, to a certain extent, forbidden by law. And those in the internet which I find intemperate or uncivil, I have removed from my view.

But the question is why individuals feel entitled to act in such a manner? So I'm going to look at three specific examples in the past year that have either silenced me or forced me to curtail my activity and active exchange of thought.

The first was earlier this year. Another expat blogger posted an ad campaign that she found amusing. It was a British campaign and I found it sexist and as such, a bit misogynistic. Some other commenters saw my point and some thought it was funny in spite of that and some did not see my issue.
That's not the point: what happened as the result of my comment was. Another blogger attacked me, took a post from my blog to say that I myself was sexist, posted it on his blog with commentary and without telling me or permission. Then another of his friends told me that I had no sense of humor, suggested that I needed to have sex more frequently to give me a sense of humor and used common misogynist language to belittle me. His wife told me that being told I "needed to get laid" was neither an insult to me nor to my husband (whom they had both met). She assured me that she had taken feminist studies and therefore knew that this language was not sexist or misogynist. I didn't point out to her at the time, but will now: I understand that we all tell ourselves stories to live with the unbearable. Telling a woman that she has no sense of humor about sexism and misogynism, that she needs to have sex enacted against her, that her ideas and opinions are formed by her hormone levels: this is indeed the heart of misogyny. Let me direct you to Feminism 101 and more specifically to this.

I removed these people from my blog reader.

The next issue that arose came in the context of the removal of Elizabeth Moon from the Guest of Honor position at Wiscon 35. Wiscon is a science fiction convention concentrating on issues of feminism. This is their statement of intention:
Wiscon is the world's leading feminist science fiction convention. WisCon encourages discussion and debate of ideas relating to feminism, gender, race and class.
Moon was "dis-invited" as the result of an interview that she gave wherein she stated that Muslims in the US have the same responsibilities as all Americans.

This is a small quote:
...I can easily imagine how Muslims would react to my excusing the Crusades on the basis of Islamic aggression from 600 to 1000 C.E....(for instance, excusing the building of a church on the site of a mosque in Cordoba after the Reconquista by reminding them of the mosque built on the site of an important early Christian church in Antioch.) So I don't give that lecture to the innocent Muslims I come in contact with. I would appreciate the same courtesy in return (and don't get it.) The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom. It would be helpful to have them understand what they're demanding of me and others--how much more they're asking than giving. It would be helpful for them to show more understanding of the responsibilities of citizenship in a non-Muslim country. (And the same is true for many others, of course. Libertarians, survivalists, Tea-Partyers, fundamentalist Christians, anyone else whose goals benefit only their own group. There's been a huge decline in the understanding of good citizenship overall.)...
Leaving aside whether one disagrees with what Moon said, I see nothing against feminism here: in fact, it stands up for women against a religion which when followed as Islamists do, is misognistic. This ( from Reclusive Leftist) is a good discussion of that aspect.

However, I personally agree with what she said. I am a member of a religious minority and I want the country I live in to protect me from other religious groups. I am a woman and I want my country to protect me from groups and individuals that seek to curtail my freedom as a tenet of their religious faiths. I am afraid of Islamists and I have every right to be so, as I pass through gates guarded by policemen with machine guns on a daily basis and know that in India, people just like myself were sought out by Islamists, to be murdered, for no other reason than their religion or their visiting of a place associated with my religion.

When I said that, I was attacked personally for my beliefs. No one explained why my fear was wrong, but I was told that I was racist (it's tough to not have a word for fear of religious extremism or one for hatred of a specific religion or cult, I know– that's why Jew haters are called antisemites although they really only hate Jews). Someone who I had been corresponding with for years told me that she was "afraid of me".

Here we see the concept of the Big Lie. Here are some specific words of Hitler from Mein Kampf, where the phrase originally arose (and was used specifically against Jews) and was then used by Göbbels:
All this was inspired by the principle--which is quite true within itself--that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.
Was my acquaintance afraid of me? No. We go to conventions together– does she feel in any danger from me? No. Does she feel that any of my actions will damage anyone's freedom or speak negatively against a single individual? No. But when I say that I am afraid, she says that she fears me. Now the emphasis seems to show that my saying that I am afraid (we won't discuss lack of action) has engendered a sense of danger in her.

That's the same type of lie where Sarah Palin says that when the world looks at her "attack map" with gun sights and says it helped to create an atmosphere of rancor and acceptance of violence, that: it's a blood libel. Does she even understand the Jew hating context of that phrase? This type of appropriation is often part of the big lie, as when the above blogger takes my fear for her own and dismissed mine in its entirety.

Lastly is the reason for my New Year's post, after which I determined to continue to rid my environment of people who think that attack is a replacement (or synonym) for debate or discussion. Another blogger had posted a list of posts that had the most viewers this year and one was a discussion of the way some parents fear allowing their children to go to school alone, in relation to commuting. I mentioned that the same morning I had heard, on the BBC, the statistic that 2000 children in the US go missing every day.

The same expat blogger from my first example told me I was wrong. Now, he didn't say the BBC was wrong, so the implication was that I lied. In a few seconds, I looked up and supplied the link from the interview where the pertinent information can be seen: "An estimated 800,000 children are reported missing each year – more than 2,000 children every day." This information is sourced from the FBI and the Department of Justice.

But the blogger told me that I was wrong, that statistics lie, that my unwarranted fears and these lies were responsible for the atmosphere of fear in which people live. He also said that the organization lied and made up a bunch of statistics to prove that the numbers were not possible.

Here we see misdirection: he was shown the source for what he called a lie, and now has no direct response (because he won't apologize). Another commenter posted that many of these missing children would have been taken by parents: absolutely. With a little Google-fu one can discover within moments (also from the FBI and DOJ) that many kidnappings are guardian or non-custodial parent(although that certainly does not make them less tragic to the child or parent/guardian, although one could at least hope that in those cases the children were not being harmed). This same magic of research comes up with 7000 children "permanently" disappearing a year: still quite a lot, but not 800,000. Not pertinent to my original comment of having heard an interview, but would have been useful if mentioned later by someone commenting.

I do look forward to seeing the FBI and the Department of Justice change their statistics in response to the blogger's off the cuff analysis.

I didn't respond, because responding to individuals who attack in this unreasoning way leads one to be attacked by them and their friends but as I understand (and do not know because I don't read this person's blog) he has discussed this at length on his blog and once again attached a link to mine: I see this because individuals I don't know are coming to my blog through his. That's what stats view allows. These individuals are attacking and I have moved to comments moderation as a result.

And that's what silencing is about. (Or as wikipedia calls it, suppression of dissent.)

What's been happening in the US is remendous stridency and usage of terms of violence and hunting terminology from the Right, but whenever anyone mentions this atmosphere, the right responds that the left does it as well.

Well, they really don't. But many normal individuals just can't deal with the violent rhetoric and in your face behavior of the new normalized wacky Right, and we give up.

Here's a look at the Insurrectionism Timeline put together by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (which one would have hoped was non-partisan, even if it isn't to the wackos).

That's sad and that's dangerous.


lettershometoyou said...

There's a good Slate Explainer on the subject of the 800,000 missing children every year. Here's the gist:
It's true that 797,500 people under 18 were reported missing in a one-year period, according to a 2002 study. But of those cases, 203,900 were family abductions, 58,200 were nonfamily abductions, and only 115 were "stereotypical kidnappings," defined in one study as "a nonfamily abduction perpetrated by a slight acquaintance or stranger in which a child is detained overnight, transported at least 50 miles, held for ransom or abducted with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed." Even these categories can be misleading: Overstaying a visit with a noncustodial parent, for example, could qualify as a family abduction. Some individuals get entered into the database multiple times after disappearing on different occasions, resulting in potentially misleading numbers.

The article is here: http://www.slate.com/id/2157738/

G in Berlin said...

I can make it even simpler and use the original source: How Many Kids a Year Are Abducted?
Answer: Missing children overview:

* Of the 837,055 missing persons reported in 2001, an estimated 80 percent were children.

* About 99 percent were found within hours or days by usual law enforcement response.

* More than 7,000 children nationwide were missing for prolonged periods.
(Sources: FBI, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

Nonfamily Abductions

* In 1999, more than 50,000 children and adolescents were taken by nonfamily members by physical force or coercion for at least one hour.

* Ninety-one percent of nonfamily abductions lasted less than a day, with 29 percent lasting two hours or less.

* Classic nonfamily kidnappings pose the greatest risk of death or serious harm. About 100 children were kidnapped by nonfamily members in 1999.
(Source: U.S. Department of Justice National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children, 2002) Family abductions

203,900 children each year are victims of family abductions, where the child is taken by a noncustodial parent.

24 percent of these abductions lasted one week to one month. Police were contacted in 60 percent of the cases.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children, 2002

I could add this, from the same article you are quoting:"But in other ways, the NCIC may understate the figures. Many missing persons aren't reported at all—a 1997 study estimated that only 5 percent of nonfamily abductions (in which a nonfamily member detains a child using force for more than an hour) get reported to police. Some police departments may not even bother filing a report when a kid runs away from home for a few days. It's also easy to lose track of abduction cases, since some of them get filed away under associated crimes, like homicide or sexual assault."
But none of that would have anything to do with the response I got when mentioning an interview I heard on the BBC. And I think non-custodial parent or relative kidnapping is not so blithe a matter either: in the US, it sometimes preceded that parent murdering the children to keep them from the other parent: permanently. Or leaving to other countries with them.

lettershometoyou said...

So are you saying we should live our lives in fear of our kids being kidnapped, driving them everywhere, never letting them out of our sight? Because that's what it's come to, and there's a backlash happening in the free-range movement. We're saying: enough, already.
Another way to look at the stats for missing children is how many deaths or injuries result. I'd bet it's a fraction of the number killed or injured in traffic accidents every year.

G in Berlin said...

No, actually. I was saying that I had heard an interview on the subject that morning. I don't think I had included any judgment at all in what I was commenting on. In my case, I will of course continue to drive my 4 and 7 year old the 8 km to their school. I doubt anyone has an issue with the thought that they should not walk on the autobahn to get there. This wasn't a personal comment- although in person I would be happy to discuss what I think is rational and what is not. I will say that if anyone thinks my children should walk the 8 km+ on the highway, in the dark in each direction, that I think that person is more than irrational and into mentally ill.