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Monday, November 17th, 2014 08:35 pm
[WTF are you on about?]

One of the comments I see frequently repeated in order to defend/excuse the past behaviour of Benjanun Sridungkaew/Requires Hate/Winterfox/[various other aliases] online is "she was punching up, or at worst sideways". This, to me, comes across as disingenuous behaviour at the very least. The argument is that because she was attacking some people who were perceived as having either more social power than herself, or the same amount of social power, these attacks should be excused. Because Social Justice.

My position is this: firstly, in meatspace, punching in any direction is regarded as a form of inter-personal violence. While mass violence is unfortunately one of the more effective ways of making a change in the world (witness any amount of history), interpersonal violence of the type she modelled and encouraged is widely regarded as being socially deplorable. That she is a person of colour and a non-heterosexual person does not alter the social deplorability of her actions. The same sorts of standards ought to apply online, in a textual environment.

Secondly, what she did doesn't quite resonate in my mind with "punching" - indeed, a lot of her threats were much more graphic and elaborate than a mere punch, and in some cases, clearly chosen in order to cause the greatest amount of upset, distress and trauma to the recipient. Maybe a better analogy would be to what's called "king hitting" here in Australia (a one-punch attack aimed at the area where the spinal column enters the skull), or to a knife or cudgel attack. I don't see her attacks as defensive in the least - they're straight-out offence all the way, and they're intended to cause the maximum amount of damage to her target that she can, in the minimum amount of time. Again, that she is a person of colour and a non-heterosexual person does not excuse her actions online any more than it would have excused her actions had she carried them out in meatspace. Her behaviour is reminiscent of the bully who goads their opponent into throwing the first punch, then uses this punch as an excuse to either beat their target to a pulp, or to sic the authorities onto them.

Privilege should be understood to be relative, rather than absolute, particularly in an online setting. The person behind the personas named above gathered a large amount of followers by exploiting a notion of privilege as an absolute quality - because her personas weren't white, weren't male, weren't straight, weren't Western, her actions weren't put under the same degree of scrutiny she applied to others. She used this to gather a coterie of followers (a form of relative online privilege, where the person who has the largest audience/"gang" wins handily), and she then used this form of online privilege to harass and bully persons with whom she didn't agree. As has been pointed out elsewhere, at least some of this bullying smacked a little of a person trying to kneecap their potential competitors to thin out the field.

My third point is this: the person behind all the identities listed above appears to have gone to a great deal of trouble to delete their history of past behaviour, and cover their tracks. They've removed items from blogs, removed comments from forums, deleted things from google caches and from the Wayback machine. This is not, to my mind, the action of a person who believes their behaviour is in any way justifiable, reasonable, or defensible. Instead, it strikes me as the action of someone who wants to bury the past and pretend it never happened, or who wants to destroy the evidence. They apparently have a history of doing this, across personae and across forums, and over a prolonged period of time, which argues not only a behaviour pattern which isn't considered defensible, but also a profound reluctance to face the consequences of their actions.

To be blunt: if you're wanting to be taken seriously for making points about social justice, you need to be willing to stand by your words and your works. This person clearly isn't.

Finally, while she may have been "young" (nineteen is the age we're given by her supporters) when this started, the fact remains this was over a decade ago. This would make her at least twenty-nine now, and given we've seen the behaviour continued until about last year, the excuse of youth doesn't really cut it. I'd also point out a majority of cultures now recognise people of the age she was when she first showed up online as legal adults (Thailand sets the age of legal adulthood as twenty). In addition, most children learn unduly threatening and nasty behaviour is not socially acceptable in the majority of societies by the end of their pre-teen years - it's one of the consistent parts of childhood indoctrination across cultures because it's a necessary part of the process of creating a workable civil society. Again, her erasure of her past history does not imply she's willing to own to what she's done - instead, it reads very much like a revisionist editing of history to conform to her wishes. This person doesn't wish for others to know she's been bad, so the history must be changed to reflect her self-image.

Do I think she shouldn't be published? I think that's a decision made by the publishers, and I'd point out there are equally scary characters out there who are and aren't published for a variety of different reasons (mostly to do with the quality of their work). If her work is of a quality the publishers think is appropriate for publication, then certainly they shouldn't refrain from publishing it purely on the grounds of her past history. Publishing, particularly science fiction and fantasy publishing, has a long history of glorifying dunghill blooms. The reading public can make their own decisions about the artistic or other merits of her works.

However, given the way she's effectively poisoned the well she's trying to drink from, I doubt she's going to find it easy to find reviewers willing to risk her works (and thus give her the publicity she'd need to build a readership). The problem reviewers will face is this: knowing who this person is, what she's encouraged in the past, and how she's behaved previously, how objective and honest can a review of her work genuinely be? Favourable reviews will always get the taint of "oh, they're just scared of Requires Hate", while unfavourable reviews will have the taint of "they're just getting back at Requires Hate" associated with them. If there are few or no unfavourable reviews, it'll be because she's scared people into not publishing them; if there are few or no favourable reviews, it'll be because there's an organised conspiracy to put her down. The only response which is really likely to be "safe" in such a context is to refuse to review her work at all.

Do I think it's fair to "out" her? Well, given she's been effectively terrorising the writing and fandom communities for a long time under a variety of aliases, and that as a published writer she now has privileged (author) access to those very communities where she's been causing harm, I think it's fair to let the people she has harmed know who they're dealing with. I don't feel doxxing her, stalking her, or otherwise persecuting her are either necessary or rational responses to what's happened. (Linking her various online personae together is not, to my mind, "doxxing". I tend to reserve that term for the online revelation of the sorts of private details which would conceivably allow identity theft to occur).

Do I think her apologies are sincere? To be honest, no I don't. For a start, as apologies they read a lot like fanfic requests for comment and recommendation ("if you were hurt by what I did, tell me; if you weren't, tell all your friends!"). Also, no matter how sincere the apologies are, when they're accompanied by the sort of wholesale revisionism she's practising in editing her online history with an axe, they look like the actions of a predator. One of the clearest markers of the online wrecker, to my mind, is their absolute determination to avoid facing the consequences of their actions - whether by morphing identities to avoid online shunning; by decrying things as "just a joke" to avoid censure; by playing the victim card and blaming other people for picking on them when they're being called to account; and oh yes, deleting the evidence and pushing the "pics or it didn't happen" line to try and muddy the waters over the longer term.

Secondly, I feel if she were genuinely remorseful about the attacks and the tactics, and everything else, she would have linked those two apologies to each other, and mentioned her Winterfox persona in each of them - acknowledging her wrongdoing in a concrete manner. Instead, in order to understand the apologies in context, you need to see them both; you need to see them both in the context of the current mess; and you ideally need to see them both in the context of knowing this particular reviewer/author was also one of the big name fanfic/fandom wreckers, agitators and toxic personalities across a number of forums in the years leading up to Race!Fail.

So my suspicion is we'll soon see her back to her old tricks again (if indeed she's even stopped them).

[Context, relative privilege and bias notes: I'm white Australian cishet female. I am not a professional writer, or even a big name fan. I've never been a target of this person, although I did spend approximately thirteen years all up a bully target, first in school - both primary and secondary - and later in a workplace. My views on bullying and the people who carry it out are therefore influenced by this past experience. I am mentally ill with chronic endogenous depression.]
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
Monday, November 17th, 2014 06:12 pm (UTC)
Have you read this post? I found it thought-provoking.
Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 11:30 am (UTC)
The most interesting thing to me was the comments actually - that there is at least one named (white) bully who is known for being horrible to nonwhite people, and they get a lot more allowance from the general sf community than (nonwhite) RH / BS is doing now.

My response isn't "Laura Mixon shouldn't have documented the behaviour of a non-white bully" but "so who is going to document the behaviour of the white bully and draw attention to them in the same way?" (I can't, not now, but even just being made aware of the other person's behaviour in outline is helpful)

The commenting/moderating at Mixon's piece left a lot to be desired. After saying it was for targets to share their experience, there was a lot of patting-on-backs and being-vicious-about-RH/BS. A few people did point out that yes, this was one missing stair, but the system that let them get away with it was wrong, but even then no-one said "and the system is letting X and Y get away with similar stuff right now". And several people took attacks on "the system" to attack the idea of mentioning racist and sexist behaviour at all.