Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ophelia the Racist

Occasionally the Atheism+ forum generates some good points.

Most of the thought provoking posts come from little eureka moments, when the Atheism+ forum proles discover that their forefathers at FreeThoughtBlogs and their cousins at Skepchick are departing from the ten commandments of cyber social justice.

For example, it's inevitable that one of the Atheism+ crew discovers that PZ Myers' humor is often reprehensible. Likewise Skepchick often condones absurd abusive tactics in some support of no clear goals in particular.

More recently, Atheism+ has discovered latent racist biases in its own ranks.

The story's beginnings:

  1. A friend of Ophelia Benson's posts a picture of a "virginity test" conducted in Nigeria to Facebook
  2. Facebook axes her account because the image was very graphic
  3. Benson recounts the story on her blog and includes the photograph

Benson states:
[...] The problem is not Acharya posting the graphic image, the problem is what is being done to those little girls.
Acharya (the Facebook profile owner) is quoted: (emphasis added)
I posted the uncensored, shocking photo on Facebook because it is important to see the utter indignity these poor girls must suffer – this horrible abuse is now being done in the West. How can we battle it, if we can’t see what it is? As we can see from this Google Images search, the photograph is still there – is Facebook going to ban Google Images as well?
Benson adds:
Time to rattle Facebook’s cage again.

To describe the image so one not Google it and ruin their day - the photograph depicts a number of girls, barely clothed and lying beside each other on the ground in a setting that is not recognizable as anything at all resembling a modern medical institution, let alone a sterile environment.

In the photo several older women can be seen "examining" the girls with their hands. No instruments can be seen in the photo - not as much as a latex glove is present.

There can be little doubt that the scene depicts a crude test for virginity, as it's difficult to imagine something so strange and adhoc being a part of any necessary medical procedure. The girls are being abused - the practice must stop.

Meanwhile, back in our land of first world dramas... what happens next?

Atheism+ shows up.

The Atheism+ thread: [TW:rape] "Exploitation Porn" and Exposing Atrocity

AndyTheNerd writes:
I just had to see a graphic photo of little kids getting raped. Which of course is nothing compared to the horror of that actually happening, I am fully aware. I got no trigger warning, it was not hidden behind a cut, it was right there in my RSS feed. See, my feed reader (Feedly) takes the first image on the page and turns it into an icon along side a preview snippet of the text. Which in this case was said graphic photo. Thanks, Ophelia Benson. 
And what, pray tell, was the content of this post? How outrageous it was that someone else's Facebook account was permanently deactivated for sharing the uncensored photo for all to see. In my mind, sharing an uncensored video of child rape doesn't add anything to the educational value of the message being shared (exposing "virginity tests" for what they really are), nor does it add much shock value over what a censored photo would carry.
This isn't actually a rant, it's a question: am I completely off base here to think that Facebook is in the right and the sharer was in the wrong? Am I overreacting to think that people shouldn't have to look at rape? Am I off-base to think that these photos are actually exploiting those children? Or am I just worried about my little pristine sanitized bubble not being popped?

Kassiane adds:
For once facebook is right. Wow.
Onamission5 writes:
If it was the rape of my kids on public display for anyone to shockhorror or ogle over, I'd be beyond viciously traumatized, as would my kids. The rape of any child, anyone at all, is not shock fodder. I felt the same way about display of the Steubenville victim. How was reposting still shots of her rape on outraged blogs any different *for her* from passing them around her school?
ApostateltsopA writes:
Child rape porn on FTB. Disappointed and furious.
[...] At least I agree it is an atrocity. Jesus fucking christ on a wafer that is some sick, sick shit. Apparently if you get raped in Africa he images are anthropology. I called it dark anti-inspiration porn I can not believe what I am seeing.
armoredscrumobject writes:
That is indeed an outrageous state of affairs, but in this situation it's obscene to treat this like a standard let's-all-invoke-the-Streisand-effect situation and give Facebook top billing as the villain.
I can't wait until someone finds the photos my abuser has and posts them around to protest child sexual abuse. Anthropology!
Yeah I'm getting so much ageism and racism from this. They're brown AND young, so these aren't pictures of people being raped being posted without consent, it's a nature documentary featuring animals.

I just literally can't get my head into a place that agrees with the identity and other protections offered to western victims, admittedly highly imperfectly, and the brazen unedited image posted on FTB. How does someone hold onto that level of cognitive dissonance? "Anthropology" my ass.
oh this isn't the first time Ophelia's had major issues with stuff that isn't feminism -- which, we should all be reminded, usually means "liberation for well-off able white cis women and fuck everyone else" in practice.

That comment thread is an absolute train wreck. I can't believe that people are actually saying those things, particularly Acharya S. People who disagree with her support child abuse? Reprehensible. 
The "thread" is the comments back at Benson's blog, where the Facebook-poster of the photo is defending her choices:

it is not difficult to understand how an ANTHROPOLOGICAL IMAGE of a RELIGIOUS and COMING OF AGE RITUAL is different from the trash people keep fixating on. The photo in question was in a magazine story about a initiation ritual performed in Africa. These virginity tests are described graphically on Wikipedia and elsewhere. They are done PUBLICLY and with great pride by an entire CULTURE, not filmed in a back room by a bunch of pedophiles. Honestly, where IS your mind at?
Moreover, this invasive procedure is now being done increasingly in the West, and entire governments such as the Canadian are now having to deal with this issue. I can guarantee that the doctors dealing with this issue are seeing much worse than what is in this photo – they are undoubtedly also reading medical and anthropological literature with many such images in them, possibly dating back decades, as this CULTURAL PRACTICE is very ancient.
As I’ve stated repeatedly, I was raised on National Geographic magazine. I have read many anthropological stories, while it appears the barely literate critics are ignorant of the world at large.
The people making vile comments are displaying their own psyches, and I do not appreciate these disgusting remarks and insinuations – again, they reflect your own minds. And such abuses of persons trying to expose these practices and prevent them from occurring in our lands will only help this tradition to flourish.
If we allow such ugliness chase activists from the stage, there will be no voices for the millions of women and children who are at risk for this invasive and abusive practice. SHAME ON YOU for trying to bully us into silence with your nasty interpretations and myopic vision.
In the meantime, Ophelia and I are actually trying to HELP these poor females, while you with your perverse mentalities are standing in the way. Again, for shame! I would also bet that the people making such foul comments are misogynists and sexists in significant part. I reject this mentality and will continue to fight for females globally not to be oppressed by this intrusive practice. An entire state in Indonesia wants to make this abuse MANDATORY for ALL schoolgirls, and you’re going to sit here giving us flack? Disgraceful and disgusting.
It’s ugliness like this practice that needs to be banned, not those who expose it. Whose side are you on? That of the abusers?
Indeed, she actually did bold the word misogynists to describe the Atheism+ critics.

As no discussion would be complete without the Nazis, Benson brings us back to war:

Hey, you know who else didn’t give consent to being photographed naked and abused? The piles of corpses being bulldozed into mass graves after the Allies liberated the death camps.
You know another? Kim Phuc, the nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running naked down a road screaming in pain from the napalm burns on her back. She appeared on the front page of the New York Times.

Who is correct?

Perhaps neither.

Benson's mention of Kim Phuc brings up a good point. Sometimes photographs of truly evil events help many understand the gravity of the situation.

It's easy to read of a bomb ripping apart a building and killing some number of the 7 billion individuals on the planet. It's not quite as easy to dismiss witnessing the events rendered as something other than sterile English sentences on broadsheet.

Enter Diane

Thanksgiving of 2013, an interesting story appeared on Twitter. It was the story of Diane, a lady who allegedly became absolutely irate about a late flight and harassing airline staff. Diane apparently made a huge fuss about not seeing her family, not quite understanding that the audience did not care as they were experiencing the same distress.

Elan, the Twitter author of the story, traded notes with Diane. The notes sent to Diane were generally designed to provoke, insult and shame Diane. The notes were received were in character, painting Diane as angry, assertive and humorless.

Ophelia Benson wrote several lengthy posts about Elan's story, first picking up a story that Diane may have had cancer. When it was not apparent the cancer story was true, Benson (fairly) argued that Elan's behavior was out of line.

The wrap up of the story was Elan admitting that Diane did not exist and the entire story was fabricated.

In response, Benson writes:

So it was comedy, staged for the world’s entertainment.
What genre of comedy? Humiliation comedy; public shaming comedy; hipster guy taunting an unhip woman in unhip jeans comedy, with the pretext that she was self-absorbed and slightly rude to a flight attendant. That kind of comedy. “Edgy” – which is hipster-speak for mean.
I see it as more of a Milgram experiment than a witty short story. Much more. The fact that so many people admired his reported self-righteous bullying tells us a lot, whether that’s what Elan Gale intended or not. Way too many people pushed the dial all the way up, merely because the guy in the white coat hipster hair told them to.

This sharp criticism of the game of public humiliation is a rare sight on "social justice" blogs. Usually public shaming is the unquestioned norm. That it took a fake story about a woman to potentially change this says a great deal.

But it's interesting also in the context of the "exploitation porn" in the earlier discussion.

If a "social justice" blogger shares a humiliating photo under the banner of potentially preventing further victimization, then that is easily explained as necessary. Presumably it's also fine if the only apparent result from the share is the "activist" feeling good about themselves and raking in a bit more ad revenue.

At the same time, creating a fictional comedy based on an angry old white lady getting a piece of someone's mind is apparently taking things too far.

Angry women on US Airways flights need space.

Girls in developing nations need to be followed around by photographers.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Don't Talk About Suicide

Apparently PZ Myers believes suicide gets too much media coverage.

In a post titled, "Robin Williams brings joy to the hearts of journalists and politicians once again", PZ writes:

I’m sorry to report that comedian Robin Williams has committed suicide, an event of great import and grief to his family. But his sacrifice has been a great boon to the the news cycle and the electoral machinery — thank God that we have a tragedy involving a wealthy white man to drag us away from the depressing news about brown people. I mean, really: young 18 year old black man gunned down for walking in the street vs. 63 year old white comedian killing himself? Which of those two stories gives you an excuse to play heart-warming and funny video clips non-stop on your 24 hour news channel? Besides, the real story in Missouri is that businesses have been damaged by angry black people — no one is going to trash the Family Dollar in rage over the death of a popular comedian. Mike Brown’s death is confusing — the police say he was a shoplifter struggling to get a gun, while no stores reported a shoplifting event, and Brown was unarmed and shot while raising his hands in surrender. Where’s the moral clarity? We’re supposed to want to believe the police, you know, yet all the evidence points to their status as a gang of militarized thugs. That’s very uncomfortable.
Boy, I hate to say it, but it sure was nice of Robin Williams to create such a spectacular distraction. [The rest of the post is redacted as PZ doxxes a woman making racist comments on Facebook and subjects her to his vigilante hate machine]

There are many things that are reprehensible and tone-deaf about Myers' statements.

But the most offensive thing is PZ Myers failed spectacularly at his half-assed attempt at making points already made by a black comic.

Enter Patrice O'Neal:

It's clear why Robin Williams is dominating the headlines. He's Robin Williams. Pretending he's just another wealthy white dude is to insult his contributions and erase his status as an icon. Any ultra rich white male Fortune 500 CEO could kill himself tomorrow and nobody would bother taking notice.

The point O'Neal brings to the table is this - many white women are household names simply because they have been victimized. If Myers is really interested in the logical path he's on, he should really find himself the courage to ask why we know the names Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart, Amanda Knox.

Consider the position that many "feminist" social justice bloggers find themselves in when criticizing coverage of Robin Williams. Many of them only have exposure because their own trumped-up victimization took precedence over what someone could say were more pressing events of the day. Every little thing said to them can turn into a drama that keeps their online community busy for days, if not years. "Microaggression" is a word often used in a serious manner. The same "social justice" community of white folk in the orbit of Minnesota also finds themselves rationalizing their fears of black men in enclosed spaces. Does this sound odd?

Williams' death should give some focus to the fact that ninety people commit suicide everyday. Hopefully we can have this discussion as well as question why so many black men are being shot and killed. Ultimately black men have to face both issues - speaking as if one is obscuring the other is pointlessly argumentative and derailing.

Among all this, Robin Williams' daughter is receiving abusive messages. How many of them are from FTB readers?

PZ Myers is just another nasty troll.