“The gap between writing with hatred and writing with mindfulness and altruism is really wide.” A discussion of the nuances of that gap.
On Wednesday we had an attack by hackers on our Facebook page. For a few seemingly endless hours we had been taken over, unable to access our account, and watching in horror as the hackers posted a series of posts each more sexually explicit and titillating than the last. Five hours later, the hackers were ousted, we were back, and all was good. But what was especially uplifting was the way our community responded. 99% of the people seemed to know it was hackers right off “That couldn’t be The Good Men Project posting!” And people in our community came out of the woodwork to tell us how important the conversation was, how
It reminds me a little bit about an article on Gawker about Reddit. As you may or may not know, Gawker is a gossip site about all things internet / pop culture related, and Reddit has been fondly called “the cesspool of the internet”.
Ellen Pao had been the CEO of Reddit. She was the subject of an enormous trolling attack where people asked her to step down or be fired. And she finally did. And she said the same thing we did—-that as horrible as it was, the people in the community who did step up, who recognized what she did and what she stood for, made her think it was almost worth it.
But let’s talk for a minute about why the “mob” at Reddit decided to go. The public reason was that a woman in charge of a popular section at Reddit “ask me anything” had been fired. But it turns out—Ellen Pao didn’t fire her. One of the original founders, Alexis Ohanian, had allegedly fired the woman in charge of AMA according to Gawker and others.
But apparently Reddit, didn’t really care about facts—they wanted Pao to go because Pao was trying to cut down on things like harassment and abuse on Reddit. For instance—-if someone posted a picture of their naked girlfriends—without the girlfriends permission, mind you—so that other guys could jerk off to it—that part of Reddit was shut down. Seems reasonable for a business that is owned by Conde Nast. Or shutting down a section of Reddit that was created for the sole purpose of shaming fat people. The idea that a woman (gasp) could come in and tell a so-called community of people that there are certain things it could not say or do was unfathomable. Here’s how Gawker puts it:
“Ellen Pao could have taken Reddit public or negotiated a merger with Exxon—nothing would’ve negated the fact that she was an Asian American woman who took her former boss to court for sexual discrimination, placed in charge of an unruly mob of mostly white, mostly male users unable to countenance the idea that anyone could tell them how to behave. Pao was toast from day one.”
The article concluded with this:
“Without cleansing itself a little, Reddit will continue on its current course: a petri dish for the web’s dullest, dumbest impulses, a lowest common denominator clearinghouse of lazy memes, stolen porn, casual racism, a recruiting ground for hate groups, and an overall bummer. Because Reddit is a place for cowards, run by cowards afraid to take responsibility for the machine they engineered, populated by cowards who won’t reckon with the adult world around them.”
One of the reasons we started The Good Men Project was to say—there is a better way to act than that. Men are stereotyped as acting that way—but they don’t have to be. It’s not men, it’s a small group of individuals who will need to change as the culture changes. It’s why we are looking at men, and social change, and how it works, and how it affects us all. It’s important.
The second thing I want to talk about seems—at first glance—to have nothing at all to do with Reddit and Gawker and trolls and hackers.
But believe it or not—I do think it’s all related and I hope to connect the dots.
There were two articles at the top of The New York Times today. One was that a gunman killed 4 marines in Chattanooga—which officially makes it another mass shooting. A mass shooting defined as 4 or more deaths in a single shooting incident.
When I wrote about the patterns of mass shooting in May of 2014, there had been 70 mass shootings over 32 years. I don’t know what the final number is—but I do know this. There were 70 mass shootings and only 1 was not by a male. And that number has increased but there is still only one mass shooting not by a male.
And so the second NYTimes article is also about a mass shooting. The article was about James Holmes—the guy who killed 12 people and wounded 70 in a Colorado movie theater during the playing on The Dark Knight—James Holmes was found guilty of his crimes and not innocent by reason of insanity, which is what defense had argued.
If he had been found innocent, it was reported that he would have gone to a mental institution instead of jail, and he would have been treated for his insanity and then there would have been the potential for release. So to say there was a collective sigh of relief in the courtroom from the families of the victims is an understatement.
But there is another reason this is important. As a society, we have a tendency to view white male shooter as “insane”. You know the popular memes going around—a white male who is a mass shooter is insane, a black male is a thug, a brown male is a terrorist. And so—I think this was a big thing—to say that no, he was not insane in the eyes of the law. And because of the way we see killers of different color I think it would have set racism back a whole lot if he HAD been seen as insane.
An, last point: I was talking to someone who called me up after he had read my article on mass shootings when it got reprinted in Salon.
One of the things that came up in our conversation was the line between reality and not reality—video games, the fact that wars are now being fought with drones and robots (which makes war and killing even more like video games). There IS a blurring of fantasy and reality. And if even so-called “normal” people can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality, where does that leave us? What is mental illness but a blurring of reality?
So when I go back to the idea of those guys on Reddit, who have found a way to get enough power to oust a CEO from an online forum—a CEO who is telling them they have to stop sexually harassing people, or shaming them, or creating hate speech. There’s a power that you get from controlling people online. I love technology, and I love the ability to connect through social media, and I love the ability to create positive change. But I also recognize the dark side to that power.
I’d like to open it up to the group now.
Dixie Gillaspie: Especially for writers, it is important for us to be looking at the difference between free speech and responsible media. On someplace like Reddit, or anywhere, you have a responsibility in participatory media for what you say. The way I like to think of free speech is “You can say what you want to say in the place where you are allowed to say it.” If someone in my house says something I find offensive, I have a right to ask them to leave and or never invite them back. So we have to think through the way we control the personal space. And finally, I’d just like to mention that a threat to an individual is real, but that ideas can be threatening too.
Rick Gabrielly: I’m a wanna-be writer and contributor who would like to contribute on a higher level. Sometimes I feel two responsible in what I write about. I’d like to take more risks. I am finally realizing I can rely on the editorial team to help and guide me. Each of us can take freedom of speech in a different way. And some of us might need to have the truth pulled out of us.
Lizz Furl: I believe in ruffling feathers in order to say something important. I agree we never want to hurt people intentionally. But making a piece of art that ruffles feathers is a risk I think is worth taking. I want to be able to say “Let’s challenge this idea.”
Cynthia Barnett: I’d like to point out motive in writing. It seems to me our motive should be to not harm—-but to point out harmful ideas. The people who might be offended are those who want to perpetuate those harmful ideas. Writing can be challenged with “what is our motive?” I live in Raleigh, where we’ve seen the Confederate flag go up and down. Now there is a question of statues. Who has the right to take statues up and down? And if we think about our motives, maybe we decide it’s not so much about taking statues down but putting up others.
I sense that the people here are in that unselfish and uplifted path.
Celeste Davis: I do wellness coaching with my husband. And he was the one who started speaking directly about the elephants in the room. And once he did—so many more people started reaching out to us. For example, he started addressing how anger and resentment and bitterness slow down wellness.
Chris Shneck: I want to talk about if or when motive is really enough. For instance, the flak David Brooks is getting over his latest article in the Times. Can he have a voice in the narrative about race?
Lizz Furl: I would say there absolutely is a place for a white person to be a part of a black narrative. The more voices we have, the better.
Chris Shneck: The gap between writing with hatred and writing with mindfulness and altruism is really wide. The problem is—it’s difficult to determine the authentic voices.
Keith Delano: I make my living going into schools and talking about racism, hate, cyberbullying, cutting, etc. The young kids are clueless as to the harm they can cause with words. I was drawn to The Good Men Project because the hope is that one day we can speak to the fathers and they can speak to their sons to create lasting change. I’d like to address the speaker who wanted to know if as a white person he could speak to people of color about race. When I go into the schools, I’m often the only white person in the room. But people trust me because I’ve had years of experience doing this and people recognize I am not only doing it with compassion but I am there for the long term.
Chris Shneck: I also work in inner-city schools, but I don’t have three years of experience proving my compassion.
Cynthia Barnett: I saw a quote by Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” We can only be who we aer. It’s ok for David Brooks to weigh in on race as long as he is humble and mindful and himself. As for the hacking—people were coming to the rescue of The Good Men Project because they were able to see the authenticity—and therefore able to spot the fact that the hackers were counterfeit.
Mark Sherman: I’d like to point out what I see happening in colleges which really does seem like a restriction. When I was in college< in the early 1960s the conversations seemed very open and it seemed like you could talk about everything. What I find disturbing now is that there is a feeling that certain ideas are prohibited from discussion—ideas I don’t see as hateful, just worthy of discussion. Sometimes when speakers want to come to colleges to speak there are protests. My belief is that if diversity of opinion is discouraged, students are really not getting a good education. And this is not just on college campuses—a lot of people feel concern for stating a dissenting point of view.
Kathryn Streeter: We have teenagers, and we allow them differing opinions but we always ask them to speak to those differing opinions with clarity and kindness. That is the foundation for good disagreement. And as I write, I always try to keep those two things top of mind. Am I improving the lives of readers, or just putting a complaint out there?
Lisa Hickey: That reminds me of something we do here, among the Editorial staff. Even here, we have disagreements—and we talk about a lot of provocative subjects so the discussions are difficult. But what I tell my Editors is: The moment you stop wanting the other person to succeed is the moment you stop being professional. And hate speech is all about stopping someone you don’t think is worthy from achieving success as a human.
Dixie Gillaspie: This is why we’re about ideas and movement. There can be ideas we don’t want to succeed, but we still can value people as humans.
|But Where Do Men Go From Here?||The Man-Box is Inherently Traumatic||How Storytelling Changes People||The Supreme Court is Helping to Break Down the Man-Box|
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Photo [Main]: Christopher Brown / flickr