March 28, 2007

Teach Your Children Well

The Kathy Sierra situation has now been in full meltdown in the blogosphere for two days. I've been talking with Doc Searls a bit about why I'm so bothered by this situation.

I know that the people Kathy named did not themselves write the posts or comments that are most disturbing. But I have a lot of trouble with their inability to acknowledge that by participating, or hosting, or linking to two group blogs, Meankids and unclebobism, where their fellow posters wrote misogynistic and racist things, posted photos like the one with Kathy and a noose, and by fostering an environment that allowed the perfect troll to get out of control in the comments, they allowed a kind of condoning relationship to those words and photos. I understand Jeneane was in the hospital for the second blog's life-span, but she hasn't really said much about the first.

Chris Locke thinks you own your own words. I understand that as far as not censoring or editing those you host. But I think Chris and Frank Paytner had a responsibility to not just slink off, when the posting got rough, deleting the blogs altogether, but rather to acknowledge what went wrong and condemn it publicly, not condone it in its absence.

Some of those blog posts are still out in caches, out of context and without their full data attached. Earlier today I saw a post reprinted here attributed to Frank Paynter. In fact I think it was written by a "Rev Ed" who posted to Meankids (with links to Listics, Frank Paynter's blog) -- Bloglines has the cached version. It's a terrible, racist, misogynist post that should have been condemned by the rest of the bloggers on Meankids. And it may have, but with the blog deleted, we can't know that right now. I hope that Frank Paytner is keeping all the data about the activity and will share it with us. Or at least with someone like Doc who I would trust to make sense out of it and lay it out for us. But that needs to happen now.

In some ways, by having most of the blog posts "disappeared" we are all in a situation where we cannot go back to the evidence to look at it. Rather, we can only imagine what happened. Which I think leads to something far worse: people talking about something they can't see and judge for themselves. It's like having a Baptist preacher denouncing the Passion of the Christ in the news, and then seeing the movie and feeling disappointed because it wasn't so bad .. you know he disagreed, but frankly, it's not the end of the world. In other words, our imaginations can really run away with us, when we hear a generalized story. Which leads the the unknown taking on far more power than it should. Getting the facts right is really important here. It's not that I'm saying that Kathy didn't get some pretty awful stuff. She did, but I think we need to know what it is and who exactly did what to judge it correctly. Otherwise, we just imagine and conflate and get it all wrong.

So figuring out who spoofed Alan, who "Rev Ed" is, and who Joey is, would be very helpful, and knowing what they said and did specifically would be helpful as well. I'd really like to see the whole blogs, first hand.

I don't believe we should condemn the folks that Kathy names yet, but I do think we should look hard a why they didn't condemn the behaviors that took place right in front of them. That's what I have the problem with. I believe this lack of responsibility and leaderships is why we will continue to see people behave this way in online communities with no word from those around them. Until the leaders condemn it, and everyone else feels safe calling it out as bad behavior right when something happens, and we have established what social norms we'll tolerate that are reasonable, we won't stop this from happening again.

I'm also sorry to say that I had no idea that Michelle Malkin has had these sorts of things written about her, photoshopped around her, or directed at her. Because I don't read her, I didn't know. But it's equally as appalling as Kathy's situation.

It's time men and women in the blogosphere took back the network and repeatedly and publicly condemned this sort of behavior. Let's take back this power from cyberbullies. Andy Carvin proposes Stop Cyberbullying Day for Friday and I'm all for it.

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 28, 2007 12:24 PM | TrackBack

Good post, Mary.

None of the posts in Google cache had author's name so I pointed out "Frank" mentioned in a comment to the post, taking care to avoid assuming "Frank" is "Frank Paynter." But then I apparently wasn't careful enough to prevent people from drawing lines between two closest dots. My bad.

Yes, I am also interested in knowing who wrote that post. If Rev ED was Alan's account then that would absolve Alan. And I know Jeneane enough to take her words at face value.

Frank and Chris, however, are still responsible for conducting the symphony of hate. Having gone though the google cache, I know that members were encouraged to be meaner if they wanted the site to be successful and their success was measured by abusing other bloggers enough to post about the site. In short, their sites were troll caves designed to lure unsuspecting bloggers by their stench. Disgusting.

Posted by: Don Park at March 28, 2007 03:20 PM

Would you care as much if the target of the hate was a man?

Posted by: Gil Burghoff at March 28, 2007 03:33 PM

Hi Don,
I didn't do as much research.. and so I didn't see those encouraging words.

We really do need the full story here.


Posted by: mary hodder at March 28, 2007 03:35 PM

I stumbled upon your post through Michelle Malkin's blog, and I really appreciate your stance on all of this. While people are crying libel and folks like Chris Locke complaining about their damaged reputations, very few are seeing that even their association with sites like meankids and unclebobisms give a major endorsement to the kind of writing that took place there (and across the net). The leaders need to take charge and condemn this stuff, not put the blame on the real victims of this insidious speech like Kathy, Michele, and everyone else who has experienced this kind of thing. Just because a lot of people get death threats or put up with vicious attacks doesn't mean it's not a problem. Kudos to Kathy for speaking out about it. I, too, would like for the whole story to surface.

Posted by: Kevin M. Keating at March 28, 2007 03:37 PM

Hi Gil,
Absolutely. In fact, I think that most often women are the target of attacks and bullying. But take a look at the post on Don's site here:

It's equally nasty toward Robert. However, notice that the continuous sexually oriented attacks are mostly directed at Maryam, not Robert.

I don't agree with any cyberbullying. I don't care who it's directed toward.


Posted by: mary hodder at March 28, 2007 03:43 PM

Link to relevant cached posts:

See "Message from the publisher" and "Getting traction already" posts.

Posted by: Don Park at March 28, 2007 05:14 PM

BTW, Frank Paynter mentioned (in private mail) that he destroyed the database when he pull the site. So there is nothing to share I am afraid.

Posted by: Don Park at March 28, 2007 05:18 PM

As far as Malkin is concerned, and the reason why Kathy Sierra is different, is Malkin makes her living pissing people off, publishing half truths and actually publishing addresses and phone numbers of protestors.

None of the stuff she received -the threats and insults is justifiable by any means, its just as heinous as Kathys, but Malkin spews some dirty assed venom.Where as Kathy doesnt.

And Malkin is using this to forward her aganda.

Posted by: jeff at March 29, 2007 03:51 PM