Many in the blogosphere may be aware that Kathy Sierra was recently attacked on her blog by some of her contemporaries and competitors. These “men” used the anonymous comment feature to send her sexually abusive and, in some cases, death threats. One of these men includes “Cluetrain Manifesto” co-author Chris Locke, author of the Rageboy blog, which as a result of this incident should be boycotted (note that he is not linked). I won’t recite the quotes here, but I will say that the comments were absolutely frightening.
Is this about Kathy, or is this about men behaving badly? I definitely think the latter. The Washington Post summed this up succinctly yesterday, and cited Salon editor Joan Walsh. I went online and read Joan’s opinion article, which is fabulous, and reveals quite a lot about our “anonymous” culture. Here are some quotes from the Salon’s piece:
- “…when I first read Sierra’s complaints, my knee jerked with my conditioned reaction. I focused on what seemed to be her over-the-top response, quoted above, as well as her decision not to attend the Emerging Technology conference this week in San Diego because of the threats. I thought: If you curtail your activities or your speech, Kathy, the bad-boy terrorists have won. And then I read the graphic, threatening posts on Sierra’s blog and elsewhere, and I felt a little less sure of my reaction.”
- “Ever since Salon automated its letters, it’s been hard to ignore that the criticisms of women writers are much more brutal and vicious than those about men — sometimes nakedly sexist, sometimes less obviously so; sometimes sexually and/or personally degrading.”
- “The fact is, in my nine years here, I’ve learned misogyny grows wild on the Web.”
To me this Sierra event and the Salon article were pretty eye-opening. Who would have thought that women have to deal with this kind of thing online? And how messed up is that? I mean, aside from the actual event (which was horrible, and I feel bad for Kathy Sierra who is now in temporary reclusion), it’s quite sickening. It makes you realize that no matter how much we clamor for social progress, our society ultimately reverts back to base instincts and acts in medieval fashion (hello Iraq).
Men who participate in this kind of abuse should have their ISP connections turned off for at least a year. Is this harsh? Is it harsh to take away a gun permit from someone who shoots innocent people? An unfair metaphor? I think not. A criminal is a criminal. And e-abuse is still abusive. Period.
Many people have been decrying the anonymous comment tool as a result of this controversy. I think this is probably a little overblown, but I do heavily believe in comment moderation. If you are afraid to show who you are, God bless you. Speak your mind, but if you are going to abuse anonymous commenting for a personal attack, then I’m sorry, your comment deserves to be deleted. And ignored. Period. Manners and etiquette still have a place in this world.
I’ve received a few tasty pieces of anonymous email from some of my less pleased business associates in the region. These are always from people that I’ve walked away from, that I refused to tolerate their business behavior. You know what? I love these little pieces of e-hate. They don’t get published, but I keep them. Maybe I’m twisted, but I use them as motivation. Like Michael Jordan, they sit on a blackboard in my mind, and I look at them thinking about how I am going to absolutely succeed in spite of these attacks. Because I am a winner. And I realize that when there are winners, there are also losers. Sometimes there are sore losers.
Most importantly, I forgive these people, too. I realize they are sick. In a zen sense, enlightenment for some only comes through the journey of pain, and people who engage in petty commenting and personality attacks are definitely hurting inside. I won’t tolerate this behavior in my life, but at the same time, retaliation is not necessary, nor is it worth giving energy to these people.
In fact, it’s better to walk away and succeed. Ultimately, they want what you have. Maybe they’ll get the message and do what you do.