Saturday, May 26, 2007

Some More Reasons to Worry about the State of the World

Wide Web, that is.

I was just paging through some of my friends' bloglists, and I came across a blog about new media and rhetoric. The blogger, a professor at ECU, posted links to three different articles about women and the web--all of them about the psychotic threats received by different female bloggers. "Sexual Threats Stifle Some Female Bloggers" is just one of them.

Now, honestly, I think Michelle Malkin is a racist, homophobic, classist waste of fashionable shoes. And I LOVE arguing with people who can bring it--this is why, this is why, this is why debaters are hot.

But (and you may call me old-fashioned, if you like) I don't think that the process of bringing it should include red herring, mean-ass death threats.

Another of my dear friends, who is currently working on a monumental tome about "Eyes on the Prize," was talking with me the other day about the portrayal of violence in discussions of the American civil rights movement. The tension between force used by the downtrodden and force used by the powers-that-be, she says, are clearly major concerns of those who document the history of civil rights heroes and martyrs. I mean, today at the gym, I was sort of watching some special (I did not catch the name of it) about black American heroes--the people buried in Arlington, memorialized on the Washington Mall, etc. Joe Louis was mentioned prominently, as was the first black man to become a four star general. Those violent black men were totally acceptable to American history and culture. But notsomuch with Fred Hampton and other Black Panthers murdered by the police. There is quite a bit of debate about the meaning of "free speech" and "appropriate use of force." Is it OK, for example, when the cops come to your door (unprompted and without PC) to meet them with the same kinds of weapons that they carry? How much political and social work gets done when protesters of various ilk get beaten on--again and again? When is it OK to turn the guns around?

These blog threats seem to demonstrate an intriguing (and techy) facet of that old chestnut--who gets to talk, what do they get to say, when, and why? It is a fucking shame, though, that the same people who are more likley to suffer physical mistreatment on the street are now getting mentally and psychologically abused by keyboard-bearing sadists. And add to that the physical potential of these threat, and we're not really so advanced as we think we are... regardless of increasing Internet-fu.

Makes me want to quit school and watch the "The Wire." Actually, most of the time I want to watch "The Wire," so these phenomena may not be causally linked.

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