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Trolling and Privilege

Julian Burnside writes a very interesting response to the problem of hate mail and the sorts of vicious comments which are made to people who stand up for causes in public in The Conversation today.

His response was (to put it bluntly) fascinating. He chose to engage with those people who sent him hate mail over the asylum seeker issue, treating them as reasonable individuals, seeking to find out why they felt as they did. Oddly enough, by treating these people as though they were reasonable individuals, he discovered the vast majority of them were reasonable individuals, able to engage in civil discourse, and discuss a position calmly and in a considered fashion.

Which is great, but before people go around recommending that (particularly) women who are harassed and abused and trolled on the internet make efforts to discuss things civilly with their tormentors in an effort to bring them back to the path of light and reasonableness and politeness, let's just consider a few extraneous factors in the case. Firstly, Mr Burnside is male. He's white. He's a lawyer who is well-enough off to be able to afford to perform copious amounts of pro-bono work. All of these things mean he has privilege in our society. He is, in fact, extraordinarily privileged, with a high amount of social status.

All of this means if Mr Burnside goes to the police with, for example, a collection of abusive emails all emanating from the same email account, he's going to get a different reception than I did when I tried it. He's going to be treated with a lot more respect if he brings a screenshot of a tweeted death threat than, for example, Caroline Criado-Perez was when she brought the torrent of abuse she was handed to the attention of police. He'll get a more concerned and sympathetic reaction to someone publishing his address and other personal details online than, for example, Kathy Sierra did. If he's assaulted physically, the police will take this much more seriously than an assault on someone who is, for example, indigenous Australian.

Plus, of course, any abusive communications Mr Burnside receives are coming at him from a different angle to the ones received by women like me.

The abusive emails and letters Mr Burnside receives are examples of what I'd call "shouting up" - shouting up at the windows of the privileged from the street. The primary goal is to be heard, and to be taken seriously. A white man who sends an abusive email to Mr Burnside is hoping to catch Mr Burnside's ear, to be heard. When Mr Burnside does listen, and does engage with them, they're polite - they've achieved their aim, which is to begin a discussion.

By contrast, people who are identified as women, or people of colour online are abused for an entirely different set of reasons. Generally, this abuse is what could be termed "shouting down" - an attempt to silence the persons speaking up against the power dynamic in our society. A white man who sends an abusive email to a woman, or a person of colour, will generally react with rage and escalated abuse if they respond by attempting to engage, because this is precisely contrary to the intent of their action. They don't want to talk to us. They don't want to even HEAR us. They want us to shut up and go away and stay shut up, and stay away - and they'll keep up the torrent of abuse and harassment until the point sinks in.

Or, to put it even more bluntly: Mr Burnside receives abusive email when he speaks up on disputed topics. Women and people of colour receive abusive email when they speak.

So Mr Burnside's solution to the troll problem, while fascinating in its particular context, is not scalable to deal with the larger issue.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/37710.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
An Open Letter to the People Defending the Steubenville Rapists

(Or indeed to anyone else saying any of a number of victim-blaming things about the young woman who was raped by the rapists in question).

I've been reading a bit about the Steubenville rape event in various blogs and articles. Not too much - I'm not really in a psychological space where I can take the stress at the moment - but enough to get an idea of what's being said. I'm hearing an awful lot about the victim of this rape - about things she should have done, things she shouldn't have done, attitudes she should have held, behaviours she should have avoided. Things she could have done to avoid being raped, and thus avoided this whole mess coming to light, and "ruining" the lives and careers of two young men who apparently thought rape was a permissible thing, and bringing to light an entire town subculture wherein being part of the high school football team gives a person social licence to act as though the normal rules of society are not applicable.

The young woman in question was going to a high school party where members of the local high school football team (who were local heroes, and from what I can discover, practically deified in the local area) were going to be present. I sincerely doubt she thought of herself in context as "a sheep among the wolves". These were people she went to school with. People she attended classes with. People she knew. She most likely thought of herself, if anything, as a human being among other human beings.

She thought she was safe. She didn't know she wasn't safe. She found out AFTER THE EVENT she hadn't been safe.

How the bloody hells was she supposed to have known she'd be targeted for this sort of thing? How was she to know nobody would be looking out for her? She thought these people were her friends. She thought, more importantly, she was their friend, that she mattered to them. She found out, sadly, she wasn't their friend, and they weren't her friends, in the worst possible way.

And victim-blaming strangers say "she should have known better than to get drunk in the presence of rapists". SHE DIDN'T FUCKING KNOW SHE WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF RAPISTS, YOU SELF-IMPORTANT FOOLS!. She thought she was in the presence of friends.

Now, I learned at a very young age I couldn't trust other people to be looking out for me. I learned at a very young age if someone said they wanted to be my friend, they were most likely either attempting to lull me into a false sense of security, or trying to trick me outright. I learned I can't trust other people to stand up for me, to stand by me, or to take my side.

I know I'm broken.

But I'm broken in possibly the only way that might have protected this young woman from what happened to her. If she'd been broken in the same way I'm broken, she probably would have been suspicious of an invitation to such a party. She would have either said no outright, or more likely she would never have been asked to the party in the first place (because the kinds of bullies who are adept at setting up victims get pretty good at recognising the ones who won't take the bait).

You know what? I wouldn't wish my brokenness on anyone, not even my worst enemy. But you seem to think this is a necessary and vital state for all young women who want to be able to avoid rape.

I'm broken. I'm unable to function as a social animal, because I can't trust people. I'm able to fake it for a bit, but I will never let people close to me. I'm broken, and I'm child free by choice, and I've made the deliberate decision that my line of brokenness stops with me, because I know I'm not capable of functioning as a parent or a caregiver. I'm constantly depressed, I'm constantly miserable. I wake up every morning and my first thought every morning is "oh damn, I'm still not dead".

And you seem to think my state is somehow a desirable and necessary one for other people to be in, so they can avoid being raped.

From the depths of my misery, I LOATHE you.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/36048.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: furious furious
Current Music: "Crucify" - Tori Amos
Alan Jones Goes To Journalism School

To be honest, I'm not surprised Alan Jones has had to go to Journalism school. What should be surprising people is that this man got a job as a broadcaster without having any journalism training in the first place. Mr Jones previous history (as per Wikipedia) is as an English teacher, a rugby coach, a parliamentary speech writer, and an unsuccessful conservative politician. There's indications he was very successful as a rugby coach (it's what he got his MAO for, after all) but aside from this, most of his paid employment since approximately 1974 has been as a result of his connections in the Liberal and National (formerly Country) parties.

He used to be a columnist for the Sun-Herald (but lost the job after publishing a column which was pretty much a straight lift from a Frederick Forsyth novel without bothering to attribute his sources - the other staff at the newspaper campaigned to have him removed as a result).

Alan Jones was never a journalist. He was never trained as a journalist. He should never have been taken seriously as a journalist. He's a demagogue. Simple as that.

Sources and Resources:

http://theconversation.edu.au/a-very-naughty-parrot-acma-sends-alan-jones-back-to-school-10212 - The Conversation
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-18/alan-jones-ordered-to-do-journalism-training/4320534 - ABC.Net.au
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Jones_%28radio_broadcaster%29 - Wikipedia page on Jones
http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/business/media-2/alan-jones-greatest-hits/ - Independent Australian
http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_600069 - ACMA media release about the conditions they've put on 2GB.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/33727.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
R U OK?

It's R U OK Day here in Australia. It's a national day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues.

So hi, I'm Meg, and at the moment, I'm not OK.

I have chronic endogenous clinical depression. Chronic means this is long-term, it isn't something that's going away any time soon. Endogenous means there's no readily apparent "reason" for why I'm depressed. Clinical depression is the name of the mental illness I have, and as the previous two sentences point out, I don't just have this illness one day a year. It's for life, not just for today.

At the moment, I'm having one of my periodic "black" times. I'm dealing with a depressive attack, which means I'm displaying all the symptoms of depression. I'm feeling vulnerable, self-critical, guilty about long-past offences, unable to be cheerful, unable to find happiness, worthless, useless, hopeless, and I have recurrent thoughts about how I (and the world at large) would be better off if I were dead. Or in other words, I'm depressed. Again.

I've been feeling more or less this way for most of the past two weeks, and I'll probably continue feeling this way for at least another week and a half. I'm not doing much by way of housework, and I'm having to struggle to keep up with my university commitments. I have a lot less energy than I used to have, and while I'm feeling tired all the time, I'm also not sleeping well (I'm dreaming a lot more, and my sleep is a lot more physically restless than it used to be - I woke up this morning with my covers all pulled loose, which is a pretty good indication that there are problems). I'm irritable, and the person I'm most irritated with is myself.

How do I know all of this? I know it because I've been dealing with the depression since I first started going through puberty (my first real feeling of dealing with suicidal impulses was back when I was about ten or eleven, and it just kept going from there). I'm in my forties now, and I'll probably be dealing with this until I die. So I've learned to deal with it.

I've tried multiple anti-depressants. They don't work for me. Or actually, that's probably mis-stating things. Anti-depressants don't work to deal with the sort of depressive episode I'm dealing with now - they're not for acute short-term treatment, because even the most rapid-acting of them take about a couple of weeks to build up to levels where they're going to be effective. The other side of it is that for me, taking antidepressants on a long-term basis is analogous to walking around on crutches all the time just in case I happen to break my ankle again. The effects of antidepressants - the loss of libido, the anorgasmia, the feeling of losing about half my emotional range (yeah, I don't feel as far down... but I lose all the up, too), the mental fogging that comes with doses strong enough to actually stop the depression in its tracks - all of those are a bit too high a price to be paying for the dubious privilege of not being depressed for the year or so it takes my brain to figure out how to be depressed anyway.

I'm also a bit sceptical about anti-depressants in general as well, mostly because we don't know how they actually work to treat depression. By which I mean: we don't know how reduced serotonin or norepinephrine levels, or strange dopamine levels, or odd amounts of endorphins at the neuron level affects things to make depression visible at the cognitive and emotional levels. It's in the bit of neuropsychology which could best be described as "Step Two: ????". There's also no diagnostic tests available to check neurotransmitter levels in the brain - instead, they have to be guessed at from behavioural and self-reported cues. Which means that the medication-go-round with mental health issues is mostly a case of "well, try this and see whether it works", and if it does work, well, that probably meant your levels of whichever neurotransmitter that one was supposed to be targeting were out of whack. Or something. Probably something.

So at present, I'm back to the tried-and-true strategy which got me through from early puberty until I was about thirty: I just bulldoze through it. Because here's the crucial bit: I've been living with depression since I was fairly young. So I'm used to it. I've accepted it's part of my life. I am going to have days where I'm going to wake up and think "oh damn, I'm not dead. Now what?". I am going to have whole weeks where the most I want to do is sit in a corner and cry. I am going to have months where fun just isn't on the agenda, because I don't know how to have fun. I'm going to be living a life where if someone tells me "just cheer up", I'm likely to shoot back with "how?", and actually get a certain amount of sadistic enjoyment out of watching as they flounder. I'm going to be living a life where the "think positive" types are going to receive a quick rundown of just how useless trying to think about the positives in the middle of a depressive storm is - as I've said elsewhere, I've tried it, and what happens is I wind up absolutely positive that the world would be a better place if I wasn't part of it.

So I get up in the morning, think "oh fuck, still not dead," and carry on. I have routines set up. I have an alarm which goes off at 8.30am every morning to remind me to get dressed, and to take my thyroid meds. I set myself limits on what I'm expected to achieve each day, and those limits are low - they're set for what I can achieve in the middle of the worst of the depression. I'm prepared for the days where I don't want to do anything, and where all I want to do is hide, and I give myself permission to take days where all I'm doing is sitting and watching a DVD, because any other form of intellectual or physical effort feels like too much.

It's like the weather. The storm will pass. I'll feel fucking rotten while it's doing that, and any obstacle is going to seem impassable, but it will pass.

So yeah. I'm Meg, and at the moment, I'm not OK. But I'll probably be OK in a couple of weeks. So that's OK.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/33089.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: oh gods, read the fscking post oh gods, read the fscking post
Julian Assagne Does It Again

Does it strike anyone else that in seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, Julian Assagne is doing just about everything known to (highly privileged) humankind in order to avoid the consequences of his own behaviour?

I would hate to be in the position of the two women who reported his actions to the police in Sweden, watching as the man who violated their trust[1] twists and wriggles in every possible way he can to avoid having to answer for his actions. I would hate to be watching as he moves from one form of avoidance to the next, always trying to dodge the consequences of his behaviour. I would be as angry as all hell as one group of expensive friends after another comes to his rescue, offering monetary assistance, accommodation, legal aid, etcetera.

Oh, but he's lost so much, everyone says. He's effectively stateless, he's relying on the kindness of strangers, he's being persecuted by all these shadowy conspiracies, and besides, the charges aren't for anything serious so why should he have to answer them. To which I say: he chose to be where he is. He chose to start Wikileaks. He chose to poke sticks at a US government which had shown itself to be highly defensive, highly paranoid, and willing to go to extreme lengths in order to preserve what it saw as its rights. He chose to travel freely around the world (something not everyone can do) and to investigate any number of countries as potential new homes. He chose to rely on the hospitality of friends, and to abuse that hospitality.

Julian Assagne's current situation with regard to the US government is something he chose to get into of his own free will. He chose to poke a dragon with a long pointy stick. The dragon noticed.

His position with regard to the Swedish government is something he could have chosen to avoid as well. All he had to damn well do was keep his fucking dick in his fucking daks and not presume that all women exist in a permanent state of "yes, please!". He didn't do that. And he didn't do that in a country where the laws regarding sexual consent are different to the laws where he grew up - from what I can gather, the laws in Sweden presume that women (and men) don't exist in a permanent state of consent to sexual activity, but rather that consent is something which has to be explicitly granted each time.

Julian Assagne is not a martyred hero of the left. Julian Assagne is a highly privileged male who is trying everything he can think of in order to get out of accepting the responsibility for actions he chose to take. Julian Assagne's actions are not unique - there are countless other cases of privileged men fleeing justice in order to avoid being charged with and tried for rape. He's just one more highly privileged moral coward.

[1] I'm stating this as a definite because quite frankly, I doubt anyone would have gone to the same sorts of lengths Mr Assagne has gone to were they entirely innocent of the actions performed.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/29652.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

location: Same as usual
Current Mood: irritated irritated
Seems Like the Psych Research Unit is Doing Some Good

I was busy reading through a lovely little article on the ABC this morning about a group of doctors who have submitted a statement to the Senate enquiry into marriage equality here in Australia. The position of this group of doctors (about 150 in all, one of whom is a member of the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) is that "marriage between a man and a woman is the "basis for a healthy society"."

Their contention is that ""It's well proven that children who grow up with a mother and a father in a biological mother-and-father family do better than children who don't have the opportunity to grow up in that kind of family,"

Now, my immediate thought when faced with this was along the following lines:

Show me the research - This is always my response to ninety percent of these sorts of statements in news articles. I want to see the studies these people are pulling their quotes from, and actually figure out whether their justification is accurate.

teal deer underneath )

Really, if you get past the first page of their submission, it's just the same sort of small-minded, socially-conservative idiocy that you'd expect from the Christian (Always) Right - "Don't Do It Because We Don't Like It; Our God Says This Is EEEEVUL!!!"[4]. It's a bit disappointing that 150 doctors hold these views, but then again, so long as they don't let their views get in the way of their practice, I've no problems with that. They're entitled to hold opinions as private citizens. It's when they try to use their position as doctors to force those opinions on the rest of the population that I have problems.


Footnotes below )

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/28232.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: nitpicky nitpicky
From the News

Urgent call to increase the dole

ACOSS is asking the government to increase the dole (unemployment benefit) by $50 a week and to index it to wages. As someone who's on the dole at present (along with her partner), I stand by this request 100%. Here's why:

My dole payment per fortnight: $498.
My partner's dole payment per fortnight: $493
Our rent per week: $340
Our food and groceries budget per week: $100
The amount of money left over each fortnight after we pay for rent and food: $111

Out of that $111, we have to pay the electricity bill, the gas bill, the water charges, put petrol in the car (one tank of fuel costs approximately $50), pay for public transport fares, cover the costs of our internet connection, pay for our mobile phones, buy any medication we need, cover the costs of job search, and pay for any other incidental expenses which crop up (clothing, shoes, replacing household goods, car registration, car maintenance etc). Needless to say we're not doing so well, and the accumulated costs of living are nibbling away at our scanty savings all the time. We're now in a situation where one big bill is capable of cleaning us out financially.

Neither of us smokes. Neither of us drinks on more than an occasional basis (say, 1 drink every 6 - 8 months). We don't have kids, we don't have pets. Our entire recreational output is based around the internet, and the existing games and DVDs we own, because we can't afford new ones. We can't afford to go out either, so we're pretty much housebound. We go out to do the grocery shopping - that's our big excursion every week.

We've been living like this since about mid-January, and we're looking forward to living like this for at least another 3 - 6 months, because neither of us is the "ideal" employee, and as such, it takes us time to find new work. Now, the treasurer is busy saying that the government's aim is to get people back into work. Well, that's great. It would be even better if there were employers willing to employ us.

In the meantime, an extra $100 a fortnight each would help immensely with our situation. It would reduce the stress, and the constant dread of finding that next bill in the mail.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/26384.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: stressed stressed
Signal Boost: Marriage Equality in Australia

The Australian federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has an online survey up regarding marriage equality. If you're Australian, and interested in the subject (and you haven't already put in a response), have a look.

A few points worth noting:

* The committee has apparently been looking over this matter since 16 February this year.
* The survey expires on 20 April this year.
* As at 15 March, the majority of the 27,000 or so responses they'd received were in the negative.
* The first I heard of this survey (as a person who's in favour of marriage equality, but not passionate about the subject) was about half an hour ago, via Hoyden About Town.

If I were inclined to conspiracy theories, I'd say someone (or several someones) wanted to keep this survey under the radar. Hence my signal boost.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/26154.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
Reflections on the Internet blackout

News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch meanwhile accused the "blogosphere" of "terrorising many senators and congressmen who previously committed" to support the US legislation. - from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-01-18/wikipedia-goes-offline-to-protest-us-piracy-laws/3781382

Oh gods. How terrifying! How anarchic! How frightening!

Voters actually asking that duly elected representatives represent their constituents and listen to the opinions of said constituents rather than obeying their corporate masters without question!

The End Of The World (According To Rupert) Is Nigh.

Why, anyone would think the USA was a representative democracy, rather than a corporate oligarchy. And we all know that isn't the case...

More seriously and less sarcastically, I'd argue that anything Mr Murdoch publicly supports as a Good Idea these days is probably the option which is more likely to reduce the general public's freedom of speech and expression and increase the gatekeeping role of his family's media empire. News Corporation makes most of its money through being a media gatekeeper, through deciding who gets to be heard publicly, deciding which topics are "serious" and which aren't, and selling more and more advertising space surrounding the scant speech they're permitting through the gates these days. To Mr Murdoch's family corporation, I'm nothing more than a set of eyeballs, a bundle of demographic information (the most important piece of which is "how much discretionary income do I control?") and a wallet to be raided.

Unfortunately for Mr Murdoch and News Corporation, I tend to think of myself as a person, with opinions, tastes, preferences, and values, and as a being with more intrinsic worth than just my demographics and my income. I gave up on their products years ago, when I realised I wasn't going to find anything I considered interesting amongst them. I switched off the television, I stopped buying newspapers, I stopped listening to the radio, I stopped going to the movies, I stopped buying mass market magazines (my preferences are found more in the special interest areas these days) and I stopped attempting to participate in "popular" culture. Which means I've pretty much removed myself from their ambit.

I don't depend on News Corporation or Fox for my entertainment needs. I don't need to wait for the latest thing from Hollywood. I'm not hanging out to hear the latest "celebrity" gossip. I haven't spent money on new music CDs in months (and the last ones I bought were a couple of cheapish compilations from the service station nearest the university I attend). I'm choosy about my books and my magazine purchases. And I can afford all of this because I have the internet to supply a lot of the needs I have for text related materials, for entertainment, for news and for opinion fodder - and not much of what I'm reading online is curated and gatekept in the way Mr Murdoch would prefer.

I get my news via RSS feeds from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Pressenza, and Human Wrongs Watch. I get my community information via RSS from Shakesville, Hoyden About Town, Making Light, and a few other blogs I like. I don't use Facebook, or Google Plus; I've never seen the point of "web portals" when the bookmarks bar in Firefox works just fine, and my Twitter account is used very rarely. I blog on Dreamwidth (because they allow me to crosspost to my InsaneJournal, and they don't regard me as a source of content to use to sell advertising space - something which is positively refreshing these days).

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/24971.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: annoyed annoyed
Some thoughts on SOPA and PIPA from a non-US citizen

Firstly, may I say congratulations to the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector for creating one of the biggest showings of unity I've seen online in nigh twelve years of using the internet. Couldn't have done it without you guys, although I'm sure you're hating to see it happen.

Secondly: a word of warning to the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector, as well as to Mr Murdoch's News Corporation and any other group who thinks these acts are Good Things overall. Should they go through, SOPA and PIPA aren't going to reduce the amount of copyright piracy occurring online by one tittle or jot. Yes, they may black out sections of the web, temporarily. But the pirates aren't going to let that stop them - they get their jollies from working around things like this in the first fscking place.

I foresee a certain amount of revival for a few of the older internet communications protocols - newsgroups may see something of a resurgence, along with mailing lists, and other forms of communication which aren't hosted by a single site, but which rather exist as an amorphous entity of ever-changing data being passed around from host to host, like the prize in a gigantic online game of pass-the-parcel. Good luck dealing with those, guys; I seem to remember that the thing which eventually took down a lot of the alt.binaries newsgroups wasn't any effort from the MPAA and the RIAA, but rather that web hosting was cheap, readily available, and distributed file sharing networks could handle things without too much strain.

But hey, guys, feel free to try and take down global email using lawyers if you really fancy re-running the labours of Heracles. Try killing NNTP. Have fun. It'll keep you all busy for a bit.

As has been said repeatedly: the internet as a whole, as an emergent entity, interprets censorship of just about any kind as damage, and figures out ways to route around it.

Thirdly: even if the USAlien Media and Entertainment sector should get their will, and kill the internet deader than a dead thing in a graveyard, I still won't be connecting my television up to the aerial or purchasing a Foxtel subscription. I still won't be turning on the radio to anything other than the ABC. I still won't be going to the movies. I still won't be buying any Australian newspapers on a regular basis. I still won't be getting magazines from Australian Consolidated Press or the News Corporation stables. And I won't be spending any money on those things for the same damn reason I don't spend money on them now: I refuse to let my money go where I'm not welcome. The news and entertainment sector here in Australia doesn't want to cater to me as a viewer, listener or reader, they just want to sell me as a potential set of eyeballs to advertisers. As a person, I'm not welcome in their world.

This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/24751.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

location: Outside the USA
Current Mood: irritated irritated
USAlien Privilege - Unpacking an Online Knapsack

This is something which has been coming out of a bit of reflecting I've been doing about online culture, and about privilege and the nature of it. One of the more esoteric forms of privilege is what I'll call "USAlien Privilege".

I should define my terms. A USAlien (to coin a phrase) is a citizen of the United States of America who has never been required in their ordinary lifetime to deal on a day-to-day basis with anyone from a different cultural background to their own, or to interact on a regular basis with anyone who isn't a fellow citizen of the United States of America. (Fellow alumni of alt.fan.pratchett would probably recognise the term "Merkin" as a synonym).

USAliens tend to conduct themselves as though there is no other way of doing anything aside from the way that it's done in TheirTown, USA, and will also tend to regard any suggestion that other ways of doing things either exist, or might possibly be preferred by persons not living in the USA as either utter falsehood, heresy against any extant deity, or at worst, utter treachery (optional subtype: communist/socialist). They do not understand cultural references to anything other than the hegemonic aspects of US culture, and will tend to regard such references with suspicion at best, outright scorn at worst. Their knowledge of other cultures is rudimentary, to say the very least, but they will expect persons who have never lived in the USA to have a level of knowledge of US culture equivalent to their own (if not greater).

It's a frequently encountered form of online privilege, because the USAlien will automatically assume that they have the right to have everything repeatedly explained to them (often in tedious detail) rather than engaging in any active learning of their own. As a member of a non-USAlien culture, a person from outside the United States of America will be expected to supply this knowledge, in convenient bite-sized chunks, without query, and without any expectation of having any of the oddities of US culture explained in return.

Some little manifestations of USAlien privilege which can be highly annoying to those of us who aren't US citizens:

* The whole "everything revolves around the USA" mindset.
* "Everyone shares our holidays"
* "Our politics are the world's politics"
* "Our issues are the world's issues"
* Actually, the whole "we are the world" mindset in general is highly annoying, to be honest.
* "If it's done this way here, it's because this is the One Right Way of doing things".
* Historical context? Wot dat?
* If it isn't happening in this particular USAlien's back yard, it isn't happening anywhere.
* The entire circular gospel of US Exceptionalism (The United States of America is a special case because they are The United States of America because they are Special because...)
* Moderation is for wimps - everything happens at the extremes
* The idea of supplying an external frame of reference (for example, for timezone-specific data) just Doesn't Occur.

It all gets a bit wearing, to be honest. Particularly since, as per the standard rules of argument vs Privilege, the less privileged person is automatically In The Wrong the moment they point out either that the privilege exists, or that the privileged person is talking from a position of privilege. I can expect to have my own country and my own culture 'splained to me by USAliens (and never receive even so much as a "sorry" in response, should I take it upon myself to correct them) and be expected to take it without comment. I can expect (and have received) a screenful of abuse as a result of offering an alternative scenario to a rather esoteric aspect of US culture, and I will be expected, again, to take this without comment, and often to apologise to the person who is abusing me for having offended them through my ignorance.

If at times I seem to be a bit overly-aggressive in waving my (non-US) nationality around, it's because I've learned to do so as a way of preventing such abuse.

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Current Mood: awaiting the incoming bombs
We're Doing Feminism Wrong ... AGAIN

Frank O'Shea has his knickers in a twist at Independent Australia: Feminists desert female Aussie PM

I'm not sure what to be more irritated by from that article - whether it's the accusations of a lack of groupthink on the part of feminists, the unstated (and inaccurate) assumption that all women are active feminists, the notion that being part of a minority grouping means you're part of a seamless association that never has internal disagreements (and the imputation of such status to both the Indigenous and Jewish communities - both of which, I'm pretty certain, have a lot of internal political wranglings which can get extremely passionate and divisive), or just the level of sheer bloody-minded wrongness involved in the whole thing from go to whoa.

So, back to Feminism 101 stuff again, for the benefit Mr O'Shea:

1) Not all feminists are women. It is possible to be feminist and not identify as being a woman.
2) Not all women are feminists. It is possible to identify as being a woman and not identify with feminist aims or goals.
3) There is no One True Feminism. There is no entrance exam to become a feminist.
4) As a corollary of the above, not all feminists share the same goals, or agree on the same ideals. About the only central, core ideals that the majority of feminists agree on are that firstly, there is no reason why women should be treated as different to men in a legal, moral, political, economic or financial sense; secondly, that this is happening in the world at present; and thirdly, that this should be changed.

So, addressing various contentions in Mr O'Shea's article as they land:

Mr O'Shea is upset that some women are campaigning (rather nastily) against Julia Gillard, decrying her lifestyle, her gender, and various other things. So, see my points 2, 3 and 4 above. The women who are raising these posters are under no obligation to support Julia Gillard (or any other female-identified politician) simply because she is female. We're under no obligation to all believe the same things, simply because we are female. To insist that this is the case is to insist on the existence of an essential point of moral and political difference between women and men (women must all think and vote as a seamless bloc; men are allowed to hold differing opinions). Which is contrary to the spirit of feminism.

To be clear: I don't agree with those women, Mr O'Shea. But I do agree they have the right to make fools of themselves in public, just the same as I do.

Mr O'Shea contends that surely Ms Gillard has a right to expect that feminists and organised feminism will come to her defence, and also contends that this isn't happening. Possibly Mr O'Shea isn't reading the same blogs I do. I found the link to his article on Hoyden About Town (an Australian feminist blog), where the contributor who posted the link to Mr O'Shea's article pointed out a list of eight articles which are tackling just this very matter. There's a further three of them in the automatically generated "Related Posts" section at the bottom of the article.

There are a lot of posts about this very matter on the Aussie feminist blogosphere, pointing out the nature of the problem, pointing out how very gendered it is, pointing out how very discriminatory it is and so on. However, for some reason or other, these sorts of articles don't seem to be making it into the mainstream media. Now, could this have anything to do with the "gatekeeping" function the mainstream media (and particularly the mainstream media in Australia, with its heavy concentration of ownership) tends to reserve to itself? That there aren't newspaper articles in the Herald Sun, the Australian, or the Daily Telegraph, written by prominent feminist writers, and blasting the editors of the Herald Sun, the Australian or the Daily Telegraph for their selection of material regarding the prime minister... why, that would almost suggest that the mainstream media are actually privately owned properties, with their own editorial controls, where a deliberate selection of material is undertaken in order to present a situation in a particular fashion. Yes, there are problems when this happens, but I'd argue the problem isn't necessarily one that feminism and feminists can be blamed for.

Feminists of many stripes, however, will cheerfully agree that the lack of feminist opinion in the mainstream media is a feminist issue - it's emblematic of the way that the kyriarchy (the interweaving of systems of oppression to ensure that the oppressing class remains in charge) manipulates the way the world is, such that contrary, minority, or dissenting voices are silenced and marginalised.

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Current Mood: sans coffee sans coffee
Rallying Cries

Whadda we want? "Different ancestors"

When do we want it? "A couple of hundred years or so back, when it would have made a difference"

Not the rallying cry of the century, is it? But that's what should be screamed up at the windows of Wall Street; it's what should be rattling the windows of the privileged around the world.

One of the dirty little secrets which isn't often aired about the upper echelons of the rich and powerful (particularly in the USA, where the myth that anyone can come from dirt poor to stinking rich in a generation is still a powerful memeplex, peddled by extremely powerful myth-building corporations) is that by and large, they got where they are now by building on the gains of their ancestors. They didn't get where they were from nothing. They didn't pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. They pulled themselves up using a rope braided from the bootstraps of many ancestors, over countless generations, on both sides of their families, and reinforced by the bootstraps of countless non-family members as well. In the ranks of the extremely powerful, there's often a certain degree of both metaphorical and literal kinship.

Another dirty little secret: the secret to getting rich quick is to get rich slowly, over three or four generations, and then explode on the scene, flashing the wealth in an obvious way. This isn't to say there aren't the occasional rapid accumulators - people whose financial, technological, scientific or marketing genius was in the right place at the right time, people whose cultural input hits the zeitgeist in the correct spot to send the jackpot rattling down - but they're as rare as the lottery millionaires or the ones who broke the banks in casinos. By and large, the ones who are at the top now are the ones whose ancestors have been accumulating steadily since the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.

It's different for the rich )

(Whadda we want? "Different ancestors"

When do we want 'em? "A couple hundred years ago, when it would have made a difference!")

It's different for the working-class )

Another dirty little secret of the rich and powerful: not many of them have had much exposure to people outside their social class in a context which isn't employment-related. So when they speak of the lives of ordinary people, it's usually from a position of profound ignorance. Marie Antoinette, when she said "let them eat cake" (or more accurately "well, why don't they eat cake instead?") was speaking from a similar position of ignorance - the ignorance of the very possibility of a reality where both bread and cake weren't in ready supply. So when they speak of how "simple" it is to make money, or stay debt-free, or whatever, it's because they really aren't aware of the full context of what's going on here. They've never had to learn that context, and for many of them, unless they absolutely have to face it, they never will learn that context.

They had the right ancestors, you see. Simple as that.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music: "Born At The Right Time" - Paul Simon
Some Thoughts from a Non-Economist regarding the Global Financial Crisis (Ongoing).

I'm starting to suspect what's needed is a global "Jubilee Year" - in the Old Testament sense. A single date, where everyone's debts are zeroed out, where all transgressions are forgiven, and where everyone starts again with a clean slate.

The banks will, of course, scream blue bloody murder at the slightest hint of this notion being taken seriously.

I also think that the way debt is thought of has to be restructured as well. A loan has to stop being a business asset for the banks, something they can trade from one person to another. Instead, it has to be an arrangement between two parties, to be maintained between those two parties until the loan has been paid back. So instead of trading loans as assets, businesses will be required to retain them as a mutual loss on both sides until the debt is paid back in full. No matter how long that takes.

The banks will, of course, scream blue bloody murder at the slightest hint of this notion being taken seriously.

There also needs to be a recognition that high interest rates and freely offered credit are inherently inflationary. They effectively increase the money supply, but devalue the money which is circulating, making the money earned by working people effectively worth less. So credit and high interest have to be heavily regulated, rather than offered on an "open slather" policy.

The banks will, of course, scream blue bloody murder at the slightest hint of this notion being taken seriously.

I'm also thinking the old Hebrew and Muslim thinkers who put up the religious prohibitions on lending at interest were actually onto something. Possibly they'd seen what happened in other societies when such things are permitted to flourish without restriction - the way it acted as a temptation toward bullying and thuggery. "The love of money is the root of all evil" as the wise man said.

Further on the whole "love of money" thing, I also feel there should be an absolute ceiling on profits - particularly the sorts of multi-billion dollar profits which aren't re-invested in the company or the community. I mean really - what are these companies doing with that money? They're not spending it. They're not turning it into bullion and stacking it under the back patio. They're not filling a swimming pool with banknotes so their executives can play Scrooge McDuck (or maybe they are and we're not hearing about it?). No, it's just being accumulated for the sake of accumulation. So maybe there needs to be a ceiling on profits, too - a 10% profit is fair and equitable (that being 10% gross return on investment), but after that, it needs to be either re-invested in the company, or taxed heavily (with the taxes being paid each financial year or face punitive fines).

And if that one ever gets taken seriously, not only the banks, but the entire business community will go up in flames.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Signal Boost: Death Threats and Hate Crimes, Attacks on Women Bloggers Escalating

Read the full article at http://ittybiz.com/death-threats-online/ - if you get a 503 error, try reloading, because this one is getting a lot of different boosts here and there.

My position on the whole mess is simple: I don't know what the original argument is, was, or might have been about, and quite frankly, I don't give a damn, either. Death threats are bullying, pure and simple. Stalking is bullying. Threatening someone else with death, or grievous bodily harm, or mob action is bullying. And any form of bullying is abhorrent to me, as a bullying survivor.

I also think that the negative experiences described in this post: http://glutenfreegirl.com/warm-brown-rice-and-grilled-vegetable-salad/ are a form of bullying. I find them just as abhorrent. I find them just as disgusting.

I am not a "free speech" campaigner. I believe in the idea of responsible speech - that we are all responsible for our words, for the ideas we espouse, for the things we say. I believe words have power, and we are responsible for the words we choose to express our thoughts. We cannot say that "words will never hurt you" and expect laws to have meaning. We cannot use "but I didn't mean it" as an excuse and expect our religious texts to retain their power to convince. We cannot excuse hatred with "it was just a joke".

Words have power. Words that express the spirit of mean-mindedness, words that threaten, words that are meant to be harmful, words that are meant to break someone's spirit, to pain them, to hurt them; those words have just as much power as words which are meant to help, to build up, to elevate, to make things better. I don't feel the first type of words have a legitimate place in any discussion, and quite honestly, I don't care how damn politically or socially incorrect that makes me.

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Current Mood: infuriated infuriated
An Open Letter to WA Senator Michaelia Cash, regarding the Carbon Tax

Dear Senator Cash,

My partner recently received your lovely little screed in the mail - the one about the carbon tax and how this is going to cost local employers and local industries vast amounts of money, and leave them vulnerable to excessive competition from overseas interest. You cited a total of ten companies which employed people in the electorate of Brand (or, more specifically, on the Kwinana industrial strip) by name. Curious, I decided to do a little bit of research on the internet.

Of the ten firms your leaflet mentioned by name, precisely two are actually based and headquartered here in Western Australia (Wesfarmers and Coogee Chemicals - both of which are fairly large companies). Of the rest, six are owned pretty much entirely by multi-national corporations. The other two are Australian-based, but one is based in Queensland, and the other is based in Melbourne.

To give you a quick run-down of the rest:

* BHP-Billiton is a joint Australian-Dutch company (so no, it's no longer the Big Australian, and you'll notice BHP-Billiton doesn't use that slogan any more);
* Alcoa is an alumininum mining and refining multinational firm, with the overall headquarters for the company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;
* Tiwest is a joint-venture between two Australian subsiduary companies of two different multinational firms - Tronox Incorporated (USA) and Exxaro Resources Limited (South Africa);
* BOC is part of the Linde Group, a large German-based multinational corporation;
* Air Liquide is part of the Air Liquide group, a multinational corporation first incorporated in France, and headquartered in Paris;
* Bradken (while having a wholly Australian company name) is actually owned by a combination of Castle-Harlan Australian Mezzanine Partners (a subsiduary of Castle Harlan, a US-based private equity firm); ESCO Corporation (US owned and based multinational) and Bradken Management (as minority shareholders);

Forgive me for seeming sceptical, but aren't these multi-national corporations exactly the sorts of international competition that your leaflet is implying our local industries and employers will be attempting to match? Given this information, I doubt they'll be having huge amounts of trouble.

(Incidentally, finding all this information took me approximately thirty minutes all up. It's amazing what you can find out from the internet. The information was on the websites of the companies concerned - all it took was a few seconds on google to find each one).

I took a look down the rest of the list of "facts" you provided, and noticed you failed to mention the various tax offsets which were planned (an important part of the carbon tax package) in order to compensate average Australian householders for the increased expense. Since these offsets and compensation are being introduced at the same time as the carbon tax, not mentioning them seems a little disingenuous, to say the least. Particularly since energy bills (both domestic and industrial) in WA have already risen by at least 10% thanks to the actions of the (Liberal) state government.

You failed to mention whether carbon emissions will continue to be rising by the same amount under a carbon tax package as is currently forecast. You failed to mention whether overall carbon emissions per capita will be rising, falling, or remaining steady (and whether there are any changes expected in the size of the Australian population between now and 2020 as well). You fail to mention whether the rise in carbon emissions overall between now and 2020 (from 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes) will be a greater or lesser rise than the equivalent period between 2002 and now.

Your leaflet also fails to mention anywhere (a grievous omission, given your final "fact") that you, in fact, represent the political party which gave the Australian political environment the terms "Core" and "Non-Core" promises. It was the Liberal Party of Australia, under John Howard as Prime Minister, which made it excessively plain to the Australian people that the majority of political promises made by them during an election campaign were in fact "Non-Core" promises - or in other words, outright lies made in order to get elected.

I therefore find it somewhat hypocritical, to say the least, that it is the Liberal Party of Australia who are now harping non-stop on a single "broken" promise made by a member of the ALP.

(Again, this internet thingy is amazing.)

Having said all of this, here is my statement as a voter living in Brand, and a voter living in Western Australia.

I support the carbon tax as an overall good not only for people Parmelia, not only for people in Brand, but for people in Australia, and people the world over. Global climate change is occurring, and we here in the south-western corner of Western Australia have been seeing the effects of it for the past thirty years or more. Something needs to be done to at least begin to tackle the problem. The carbon tax may not be the optimum solution to the problem, but it's better than nothing.

I find the highly negative style of advertising, polling, and campaigning used by the Liberal Party of Australia to be highly offensive. The Liberal Party of Australia has a strong tendency to provide such negative statements particularly surrounding policy areas where their own solutions are lacking either in detail or in existence (I checked your party's website - the last constructive thing I can see about a climate change policy is dated almost a year ago - all the more recent stuff is basically slinging off at the ALP, without offering constructive solutions). I'd be more willing to at least listen to your side of the argument if your party showed any signs of willingness to either fish or cut bait. Instead, the Liberal Party of Australia gives the strong impression of a bunch of whiny toddlers who are sorely in need of being put down for a nap while the grown-ups get on with business.

Sincerely,

Meg Thornton (Ms)

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Current Mood: quixotic quixotic
Current Music: "NPWA" - Billy Bragg and the Blokes
A Persistent Earworm for the Last Few Weeks

The song is "Where Ya Gonna Run To" by Redgum. Lyrics below the fold. File available here at sendspace (2.31MB, .wma format)

Lyrics below fold )

I get the second-last verse running through my head quite a lot lately - particularly when I'm reading about things like the rioting in London, and the way the USA is turning out. I grew up under the shadow of the Cold War, and the terror of the Reagan years, when it seemed I wouldn't make it to thirty. I'm forty now, and I wonder whether fifty is on the horizon. It seemed to be this time last year. This year? I don't know - and that makes me angry, terrified, and sad. Angry, because things were supposed to get better. Terrified, because I don't know that they will. And sad, because I'm not the only one who believed things were supposed to be better, and I'm not the only one who is probably feeling betrayed because they aren't.

There's nowhere to run to. I just have to make my stand here.

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Current Mood: furious furious
Current Music: You figure it out...
Triggered by Strossblog - Reflections on The Grand Goal Of Getting Things Done

First up, have a read of this entry and the comments thereupon.

Next up, we pause for a note on context and perspective - that of a chronic perfectionist with an anxiety disorder to show for it, plus chronic depression which feeds into the anxiety and vice versa.

Those two things considered, might I offer an alternative path toward the great goal of Getting Things Done.

TL,DR - Years of strategy below the fold )

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music: The slow cooker lid rattling away
Further Philosophising on the Idea of Monetarizing (dreadful word) Fandom

There's been a fair bit said lately about how making money from fandom isn't the aim of people who are in fandom. I'm going to burble for a bit about what I think might be the reasons why.

Effectively, it boils down to there being three main types of people. There are makers - people who make things, whether this be through material creation such as cooking, sculpture, tailoring, rebuilding an old car body into a working car, etc, or through intellectual creation such as computer programs, writing novels, and yes, fanfiction. Makers make things because that's how they get their psychological satisfaction - they can point to things and say "I did that". Makers make things because the making itself is psychologically rewarding - a maker would be making things if they were living in luxurious splendour in an isolated compound in the middle of nowhere with no connection to the outside world.

The next group of people are the breakers. Breakers destroy things. They take them to pieces with no intention of putting them back together. And yes, they get psychological satisfaction from this. An extreme breaker is a force of entropy, and they're the type of person who'd be destroying the raft which is protecting them from the sharks. They're not necessarily bad people - I regard them as being a necessary part of the universe, since if you allow makers to make things unrestrained, the universe rather rapidly becomes cluttered.

Finally, there are the takers. These are the people who take things and use them. They don't destroy it - they may take it apart and put it back together in a slightly different order, or repaint it - but they don't make anything new, either. They just use what's available, without making any major alterations to it. They can do making and breaking activities, but they'll do them out of necessity, rather than out of any particular passion - it's the difference between cooking yourself a meal because you need to eat, and cooking a meal for friends and family because you want to share your enjoyment of the food.

Everyone has bits and pieces of each of the three types in them. We all have a bit of maker, a bit of breaker, and a bit of taker within us, and our various maker, taker and breaker facets reveal themselves differently concerning different fields. But generally one facet tends to predominate. If a person is a majority maker type, they'll get their psychological fulfilment from maker activities - the creation of something new, something different. If a person is a majority breaker type, they'll get their psychological satisfaction from breaker activities - the destruction of existing structures and items. The problem arises when a person is a majority taker, because taker activities don't really come with an inbuilt measure of psychological satisfaction. A maker can point to all the stuff they've made, a breaker can point to all the stuff they've destroyed. So majority takers tend to use money as a scorecard (note, they're using money - they've not created the idea, they're not destroying the structure, they're just using it within the framework available) to measure what they've done.

This tendency to be using money as a way of keeping score leads to majority takers being mainly interested in ways of boosting their score (or their supply of money). To them, this seems to be the only legitimate activity, or the only legitimate reason for involving themselves in making or breaking activities - if I'm not getting paid for it, they think, why bother?

So a majority taker will tend to be bemused by a majority maker's tendency to create new stuff and not sell it. Or to create new stuff and just show it off to their friends. Or just to create new stuff, without any notion of whether or not it can be sold. Or creating new stuff that they know they can't sell, that it isn't legal to sell, where selling it can never be a priority. They sincerely do not comprehend that makers do things for the love of making. To be fair to them, the majority taker will also be completely overwhelmed by the majority breaker's tendency to saw off the branch they're sitting on, or to destroy things simply because they exist - again, there's the whole "if you're not being paid, why bother?" thinking to deal with.

Bringing this back to specifics, and in particular the specific case of Mr Mander and the LOTRFF archive, I get the strong impression that Mr Mander is primarily a taker, rather than a maker or a breaker. His resume doesn't actually list any making hobbies (he's not a cook, a musician, a programmer, an artist, a sculptor, a writer) - instead, he lists things like advertising, poker and magic (which are about manipulating your audience) and lucid dreaming (which is about manipulating yourself). He's stepped into a primarily maker culture (that of transformative fanwork) that he really wasn't aware of previously, and its his particular misfortune that he's stepped into a very active, very noisy, very old-established part of this primarily maker culture. His previous two ventures have been into less active, or less established parts of the fandom world, and he really wasn't prepared for what he was confronted with.

So, for Mr Mander, and any other primary takers out there: trust me, maker cultures are gift cultures. We get our satisfaction from the process of creation - we make things because that's what satisfies us (and heck, we don't even have to finish making the things to get the satisfaction, she says, looking at the large pile of unfinished fic on her hard drive). We don't want to sell it; however, we'll readily share. We aren't interested in the money because by and large, we don't really need it to feel happy about the process of creation. This doesn't make us stupid, it just means we have different priorities to your good selves. What we primarily want from our places where we display and store the products of our making is that they exist, and that they remain in existence, even if nobody profits from them; even if nobody likes what we've done.

It's worth noting: copyright law is a taker's way of understanding makers - it puts a monetary value on the results of creation, so that a taker can understand what's so important about intellectual property. But fan fiction and other such transformative works are still part of the same maker mindset as literary, musical, or artistic creation, so often there's an understanding between the two groups of makers - so long as the fans don't attempt to profit from their works (generally they don't want to anyhow), or deliberately bring those works to the attention of the IP creator (because then they have to take action) they're allowed to carry on making them, and the original creator will feel somewhat flattered by all the stuff their stuff has inspired.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Responsibility

The scandal over the phone message data theft in the UK is terrible, and one of the questions which is being asked is "who is responsible?". Who is responsible for this terrible thing happening? Who should take the blame? Who should we punish?

Well, from one angle, the Murdoch family and their News Corporation bear at least some of the responsibility, for creating a news climate where such things can happen, where they can be tried, and where they can be covered up with such success that the true depth of the scandal is only starting to become visible five or six years later. This means everyone in the chain, all the way up from the first journalist to pay the PI for information, right the way through the corporate hierarchy to Rupert Murdoch himself. They profited from the misery of others, and they haven't paid the price. Some of the responsibility is theirs.

From another angle, some of the responsibility lies with the advertisers, who are always seeking the ideal vessel to purvey their product - they want something which will attract a lot of people to see or hear their ads, but they don't want their precious product associated with anything bad. So the advertisers play their part in this, through demanding both the high circulation that the News of the World achieved, and through also demanding the cover-up of sources, and the hiding of illegal behaviour. They were willing to accept the high circulation figures, without asking what was done in the name of achieving this circulation. So some of the responsibility is theirs, also.

From a further angle, there's the responsibility of the telephone companies to provide education and data security for their users. In a large part, the crime of hacking into the message databases was caused by the lack of knowledge on the part of people who owned phones - they didn't know the pass-code existed, didn't know they could use it, didn't know they could alter it. So the pass-codes were left at their default. A simple procedural change, such as ensuring that the account was locked to external access should the user not attempt this within a month of opening their account, would have secured the vast mass of this data. That there was a back-door left not only unlocked, but practically gaping wide open, is not decent data security. So the phone companies bear some responsibility, too.

The journalists who paid for the stolen data bear responsibility, because they knew this data wasn't coming from kosher sources. They knew they weren't respecting the privacy of the people involved. They knew they were effectively breaking the spirit of the law, if not the actual letter of the law, by using this data in order to create their stories. They knew they were encouraging further breaches of the law by paying for the data.

The private eye who figured out how to hack into the phone message banks, and then sold on the data to the News of the World, also bears responsibility, as the one who committed the crime. According to reports, he was paid 100,000 UKP for his services.

There's the politicians who permitted the Murdoch family to purchase so much of the world's news infrastructure (the world's largest news gathering organisation is a privately owned family company). There's the police, who didn't understand the magnitude of the crime when it was presented to them (not to mention the police who were bribed into silence). There's the various managements and journalists of other news organisations, who let their concerns about their own profitability over-ride their interest in the privacy and rights of the people they purport to represent. All of these people are responsible, and all of them will probably be mentioned in articles regarding the whole scandal.

But there's one responsible group the news media won't mention. One group who will be allowed to skate by scot free. One group who won't ever be expected to look their responsibility in the face and name it for what it is. And that's us.

If you've ever bought a newspaper, if you've ever clicked on a link to a news site, if you've ever listened to news radio, or watched the news on television, you bear some responsibility for this as well.

As viewers, listeners, readers, we create the demand for news articles. As viewers, listeners and readers, we've fed the Murdoch machine, given it the money it needed to create a monolithic view of the way news "should" be, a monolithic view of "what sells newspapers, what sells advertising space". We have allowed our news to become tawdry, cheap, nasty, vicious, invasive, insensitive. We have allowed this, because we haven't spoken up and said no. We have allowed this because we've purchased the products the advertisers sell. We have allowed this because we've bought the papers, listened to the radio stations, clicked the links, watched the programs, bought the magazines. We have allowed this, we have facilitated this, by demanding more and more and more and more from the news media; by not criticising it enough; by continuing to feed the maw.

If you feel sickened by the actions of the News of the World; if you feel angry about the actions of the Murdoch family; if you feel self-righteous about the way the advertisers are fleeing the sinking ship, remember: we asked for it.

We asked for it. Now we have it.

Maybe we should start asking for something different.

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Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
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