Since this is turning into an all-out blog war, and is pretty unfair to Bil, I'm responding to the whole death threat controversy. After the jump, though, since most of you probably don't care.
My $.02 on the Bilerico/death threat controversyFollow alexblaze
Where we are
I'll be the first to say that Bil's blog post was poorly-worded and that Bil doesn't seem up to speed when it comes to the criticisms directed towards him. That's probably because many/most of them are so ridiculous and divorced from the reality of what actually happened and who he is that it's pretty hard to actually accept it as good-faith criticism.
I mean, people are saying that he is calling/has called the police (um, no), stalking people (the hyperbole might have been satisfying at the moment, but "following" someone on Twitter isn't "stalking," and, as someone who's been literally stalked by an ex-lover, I'd appreciate it if people would not just randomly accuse people of it just to... well, be mean), that he doesn't understand police violence (sit him down and talk to him about that one day, because when I read that I just thought "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"), that the police have always been on his side, that he's "rich" (we can call that one "rich" as well), that he sits on a mountain of privilege in every way, etc.
You see, when folks are lying about you to dramatize a situation, it's really, really hard to pay attention to substance. Just sayin'.
The conflict started when a commenter who went by "lyssa" posted a comment to a guest post by HRC's Samir Luther (a gay POC) threatening to cut his head off and demanding it on a platter. It was deleted, because that's a TOS violation. Sorry, folks, if you want to make comments like that, start your own blog and deal with your own legal problems.
Someone from HRC asked Bil for this person's identifying information, and, per our privacy agreement, Bil said he'd only give it out if presented with a court order. He emailed me about this before he posted last week, and I was actually surprised that he was pretty forceful with them about protecting this individual's privacy.
So, in other words, he protected lyssa's information from being given directly to the police.
Then Bil posted about this and, admittedly, didn't really explain the full situation. He just wanted people to know what comments weren't acceptable here on Bilerico, and that was one of them.
Would I have done the same thing in his place? Probably not, because I don't think posting the absolute worst comments people make on TBP to the front page does justice to this community. I also don't think that making it into its own post does much to relieve tensions or solve any problems.
And it didn't, of course. The over-100 comments on that post, plus posts all over the blogosphere have been quick and very problematic. What do people want Bil to do should he be presented with a court order for lyssa's personal information?
I suppose he could defy it, hire an attorney that he can't afford, go into debt, take it to court, lose, and go to jail.
Or he could just say no and go to jail directly. At least he'd save some money.
Because, even though we'd love everyone to stick it to the police, obstruction of justice is a crime even for folks in the media sitting on someone's personal information. Just like Dana Milbank found out a few years ago, it's a crime that carries jail time. But, unlike the Washington Post, Bilerico doesn't have a team of lawyers willing to take up a case like that. We would also assuredly lose, so that means the threat of prison is in Bil's court.
For all those people talking about what a position of privilege someone like Bil is in when it comes to prison, let me just say that, from what I know about prison, it isn't a country club for anyone, much less a young, gay, disabled, somewhat femme (IMHO) man with a small frame.
Whether or not his experiences in prison would be worse than lyssa's is besides the point. I don't see why he should have to go because lyssa couldn't control herself. And, yes, that's what we're talking about here: someone who wrote something that people should know by now not to post on the internet. With all the infantilizing of lyssa going around saying that she was just too angry to control herself, well, she could have, just like almost everyone does even when they're filled with rage or anger. They talk it out. They think bad thoughts. They organize. But they don't write down a threatening comment that can be easily read as directed towards one specific person, in a forum open to the whole world.
She's an adult, this is an adult forum, and she can be expected to behave like one. And since she apologized, I think she understands that.
Because, believe it or not, it doesn't matter if you all have known lyssa for years, if you know she's not a threat, if you think she's a stand-up person. All I know about her is that she said she wanted someone decapitated on the internet, and that that person posted a face-shot and that the address of his place of work is easy to find. And you can't expect a person to simply shrug something like that off, because, guess what, Samir doesn't know her. And, should he pursue this with the police (I have no idea whether he will), they're not going to know that she's not actually a threat.
Do you think that a gay person who can easily be read as coming from Middle Eastern descent or Muslim, post-9/11 and War in Iraq fervor, wouldn't feel threatened when an unknown person calls for him to be decapitated? I know he works for the Evil Machine, but don't you think that someone who has his real name, face pic, and work address posted on the internet (which lyssa does not, and, as far as I know, the people criticizing Bil don't either), who may have experienced homophobic and/or racist violence against himself (don't pretend like you know Samir's experiences with violence) might feel threatened?
Either way, though, none of that is here or there. Bil comes into this if and only if he's presented with a court order, and if you think he's willing to or should go to prison to protect lyssa's identity, then you all better mentally prepare yourselves to do the same. Because one day you might be in the same position, with someone posting something threatening on your site, and you'd better be ready to take it so someone else doesn't have to.
A few more thoughts on privilege
What also bothers me about these discussions, besides the lies and the people who think they know what they're talking about but don't, is the facile understanding of privilege.
Let's start with a few facts (and if this isn't directed at you, don't make it about you):
- Not everyone in a group of oppressed people or a minority feels oppression the same way or equally.
- Not everyone who is in the majority or powerful group along an axis of identity experiences or feels privilege the same way or equally.
- Not everyone in a privileged group is rich, just as not everyone in an oppressed group is poor.
- Contrary to popular belief, the indicator "brown" isn't specific at all. It's a term that can include, depending on whom you ask, Alberto Gonzales, José Padilla, Dana International, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rigoberta Manchú, and me. Now, if you're going to tell me that all those people have the same experiences with oppression and/or the police, I'm going to have to excuse myself to laugh.
- Not all gay men, even the white ones, are rich or even middle-class. Some are working class. Some are poor. Some are homeless.
Which is part of why hierarchies of oppression are ridiculous from the start. Categories like "trans" and "gay" and "brown" aren't monolithic. And just because someone who might share an identity with you disagrees with you doesn't mean that that person is "self-hating," "kissing [insert privileged group] ass," or "delusional." Sometimes it just means that they disagree and you're going to have to deal with that.
About hate crimes legislation
One thing that could be read as ironic in this situation is the support that many of these critics who oppose even dealing with police have for the Matthew Shepard Act, which is a bill that would greatly increase police power to investigate, arrest, and imprison people. Belledame222 and queenemily both posted calls to support said legislation.
And by "ironic" I mean "short-sighted." Because while the legislation is written ostensibly to protect oppressed groups, it gets used against other oppressed groups. And just because you may think that your group is the most oppressed group ever (it's tiring when white gay men say "We're the last group that it's OK to discriminate against!" as much as it is when people want legislation to throw other minorities in prison longer for hurting them), it doesn't mean that you suddenly can just get away with wanting to throw other groups of people into jail.
And, no, the MSA doesn't get rid of trans-panic or gay-panic defenses, as demonstrated by California. It doesn't include diversity training for police generally. Yes, by getting rid of the restriction to only six crimes to which hate crimes legislation can be applied at the federal level, it effectively increases sentencing. And I'm going to put myself down as "highly skeptical" that the threat of a few more months or years of prison will noticeably affect the rate of hate crimes (I say "highly skeptical" because I could very well be wrong there).
So, in that spirit, I'm hoping these folks who criticized Bil for saying that he'd cooperate with a court order in a possible investigation of a threat of murder directed at a gay person of color will now denounce the Matthew Shepard Act.
Something tells me I shouldn't hold my breath....