On blogging, threats, silence, and what we can do about it

Originally posted on The Radical Housewife.

I know there are millions of posts that we blog addicts deem “must-reads,” but yesterday’s by s.e. smith on TigerBeatdown is one that truly earns that title.  In an essay called “On Blogging, Threats, and Silence,” smith writes about her experiences with online threats, opening her piece with the very startling revelation:

I got my first rape threat as a blogger when I was on Blogspot, so new that I still had the default theme up… someone really had thought it was appropriate not just to write this email to a complete stranger, a totally unknown person, but to send it.

Smith’s point is not just to reveal how very often this happens to women bloggers, but also to illuminate how often our concerns are minimized with the advice “don’t feed the trolls.”

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people…..this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it….when it happens to people for the first time, they think they are alone, because they don’t realise how widespread and insidious it is.

Regular readers of The Radical Housewife know about my resident antagonist, one Neal Krasnoff.  He’s been on my case since a 2008 Minnesota Women’s Press column in which I expressed support for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. At the time, he blogged under a pseudonym, Nachman, and the depth of his venom so rattled me that I did a little digging and discovered that his was typical of a million pseudonymous blogs in which the author assumes that “anonymity” grants carte blanche to express opinions that would never be tolerated in polite company.  Among Neal’s bugaboos were feminism, LGBT rights, and any support for Palestinian human rights, and in his blog he heaped scorn upon Twin Cities folks active in any of these civil rights movements.

But Neal wasn’t anonymous, really.  It took only a handful of Google searches to discover his real name and that he was, in fact, a local activist with the Minnesota DFL Party.

The DFL?? Minnesota’s Democratic Party? Really? Why, yes!  This is the party whose platform states opposition to “discrimination against any person on the basis of race, creed, religion, immigration status, sex, sexual or affectational orientation, HIV status, gender identity or expression, marital or homemaker status, disability or age.”

Huh.

Do you think Neal would allow his Nachman persona to speak aloud at DFL meetings?  Not likely.  Do you think Neal, like those who targeted s.e. smith, TigerBeatdown, and other bloggers, took advantage of this perceived “anonymity” as well as bloggers’ ongoing reluctance to talk about it?

This summer, I had enough.  Inspired by news of  the upcoming SlutWalk Minneapolis, Neal wrote as disturbing a piece of rape apologia as I have ever read, and he made sure the post included the name of its director, my friend Kim Sherva, in an attempt to rattle her as I had once been rattled.  I responded with a piece I called “To our male allies: a challenge,” in which I identified Neal by name.  And take it from me, friends: NOTHING TERRIFIED HIM MORE.

He closed up his blog for a time.  He officially resigned from the DFL Party.  He begged me to redact his name, to stuff the genie named Nachman back in the bottle.  Today, his blog contains the longest rant against me yet, with specific threats of legal action against me and veiled threats of personal harm in calling me  ”Shannon Drury (YM”SH).” For those whose Hebrew is rusty, this is apparently a curse that calls for the destruction of a person and her memory.  I’m not certain myself, so I think I’ll ask the rabbi with whom I’m meeting next week (I’m not kidding–I really am).

In the words of s.e. smith:

I’m still not going to shut up, and not just because I am bullheaded and don’t take kindly to being told to be silent or die. I don’t shut up for all the people who were forced to shut up, for the ghosts who drift through the Internet, for the people too terrified to leave their homes at all, let alone try to coordinate safety concerns to attend events, for the people who ask friends to open and sort their email because they can’t handle the daily vitriol. I don’t shut up for all the people who have been silenced, who did throw in the towel because they just couldn’t take it anymore.

I hope you, dear reader, will join me in accepting smith’s call to keep talking about this on our blogs,  our social media sites, and in our communities.

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