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Being ignored: silencing at SXSW

kat · 1 · 8173

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Offline kat

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This past weekend and subsequent week is SXSW (South by South-West) a 'cultural festival' where all the 'cool kids' gather to talk music, art, tech and stuff. Part of the occasion this year included a controversial Online Harassment Summit, a series of round-table talks and panel discussions covering issues of online harassment and what to do about it.

On Saturday (12th March), 15 panels were held to almost universally empty rooms (estimates are that all 15 talks pulled in a total attendance of around 100 people, the equivalent of the average seating capacity per talk), a fact that was Kafka-trapped to mean "women were being ignored" by news outlets covering the summit - a strange claim to make considering how much coverage it did received[4].

Given this contradictory fact then, what could possibly account for such a poor turn-out, particularly considering the apparent seriousness of the subject, one that, readers are told, should be taken more seriously.

[  ] Was it the distance from the main venue[1].
[  ] Was it the costs associated with getting there[1].
[  ] Was it the topics covered[2].
[  ] Underlying/institutional [select option]-ism.
[  ] None of the above.

The correct answer is "None of the above".

Simply put the poor turn-out was a consequence of the involvement in the event of several high-profile and extremely toxic individuals whom have poisoned the well at every opportunity, hijacking the cause for their own self-serving gain, forcibly injecting themselves, though use of their own brand of threats and harassment, into positions of power at as many of these ConFabs as humanly possible. Such a thorough job has been done by these few vociferous individuals that NO-ONE in a position to actually do something about the cause itself, wants anything publicly to do with it or them - the exception perhaps being those already part of the well-connected clique, or those ever desperate to be part of it, or nihilistically serving as obedient and expendable foot-soldiers. All too frequently these anti-ism/ist groups appear at these 'happenings' telling anyone and everyone within earshot to shut-up, sit-down and be told. Speak up, about, to, or on, the topic of discussion at these venues (online harassment in this particular instance), especially when any combination of the aforementioned 'classes' of individuals is present, at ones own risk.

Is it really any wonder then why so few sat in on any of the talks[3], and/or express little interest in being facilitators of these toxic talking-heads and their self-serving 'opinions'. Why would they when those seated at the tables spend all their time, on and off stage, indignantly impugning all men, and many a contrary woman, as pathological, serial, violent abusive harassers, a proposition bolstered through data misrepresentation, and amplified through hundreds of thousands of favourable, non-critical news items, articles and Op-Ed's[4].

Why on earth would anyone want to sit through being lectured at by such divisive individuals; to have accusatory fingers pointed in their collective direction; be patronisingly told some ephemeral 'privilege' somehow negates anything they might have to say or do; be told everyone should "do more" without "more" ever being defined, or when it is defined, being told that 'more' is not enough, or the wrong type of 'more'; that the hard work people put have put in is "not good enough", or their doing so is actually "not doing anyone any favours"; or that basically, they should just "get out of the way" ("set [themselves] on fire") whilst simultaneously demanding the treasure chest be opened and the hard-won booty handed over[5], or else.

And this is never minding the fact those whom might have been inclined to show up sure as heck surely wouldn't have been foolish enough to ask off-piste questions, or dared say much beyond agreeing with whatever the theme of the presentation was at the time. Why bother asking contrary questions and run the risk of being subject to Kafkatrap-ist/ism accusations and threats of being tossed from the balcony/room[6].
"Kafka-trap (also "Kafkatrap")"
Using an individuals denial of an (often unfounded) accusation as proof the accusation is true, i.e. Luise denying she's a racist only confirms she is to Tina and her friends.

So no, this isn't a question of being ignored[4], it's one of people not wanting to have anything to do with the few self-serving radioactive individuals that have bullied their way to the pulpit/front of stage, making everyone around them, or interested in openly contributing, fearful of career-terminating backlash from them and theirs. These events, staffed/occupied by a small vociferous cabal, are just too toxic to touch. Oh the bloody irony.

[1] SXSW provided free shuttles between the summit and the main SXSW venue.

[2] The Online Harassment Summit was set up as a day long event specifically to allow for the topic covered to be discussed. For those interested in the actual timeline of events; the Open Gaming Society lobbied and gained a panel slot ("Savepoint") at this years festival to cover some of the topics and subject of interest to the group. When it was discovered revealed one such topic was essentially "gamergate" related, prominent vocal opponents of the 'movement' complained and the panel was shut-down only to be reborn later to included an 'opposition'. When it was discovered this might mean "gators gonna to be in the same building", several complaints about 'safety' were expressed, pressuring SXSW to hastily reorganise a larger 'summit' on "Online Harassment" that included a dozen or so panels on the topic, and the original Savepoint panel, scheduled for the same venue but on different dates to address/alleviate previous concerns over safety.

[3] A live stream was available but no numbers were displayed during broadcast, or appear to be available at time of writing.

[4] The claim that SXSW Online Harassment Summit was/is being ignored is demonstrably false. Searching Google using "SXSW Online Harassment Summit" itself returns c.25,000+ results (set to display results for the relevant week covering the Summit weekend). Searching (the same time period) for "SXSW summit ignored" returns c.5,000+ results. Searching for references to an AP article released to coincide with the Summit using the first line "Nico Deyo, a 33-year -old e-commerce specialist from Milwaukee" returns c.2,300+ iterations of the same content listed using one of a dozen different titles for the same article. (returned results vary based on region and search history. Suffice to say one has to ask how much positive coverage constitutes NOT being ignored). Further to this searching "online harassment of women" returns 103,000 results whereas "online harassment of men" returns just 8 (again results may vary as per the above).

[5] It's worth noting on this point that demands are made and booty is handed over, societal and individual rewards and benefits (of perceived privileges) are rarely ever expressly taken, rather they are received as a conclusion of an action based on coercive/coerced 'voluntarism' - usually instigated through threats of public shaming or threatening the individuals job security. In this way those arguing for benefits can justify their threats and actions with (relatively) clear conscience.

[6] In common with #5 above, whilst the vocal few seated at the table command a position that affords them making, what to anyone but them, are threats or passive-aggressive coercion, it befalls upon the loyal foot-soldiers, the minions of the social trenches, to carry out the actual 'kill', to 'die' for their worshipful leader, thus saving them the fall from grace (or simply getting the hands dirty and being culpable for their actions). [EDIT 16th Mar] As an example of this in action. Since going live with the above article it has transpired that one of the Savepoint panelist dropped out of the event of their own volition. At face value this seems uncontroversial until it's understood the individuals action were a response to SXSW, whom had themselves been pressured by a participant of the previously "ignored" Summit - they had read a number of unfavourable Tweets authored by the Savepoint panelist, taken exception and complained to SXSW who then issued the 'remove or be refused access' ultimatum - a chain of events, it should be noted, that happened after the panelist had publicly announced they had jumped on a flight and were already inbound (at their own expense). The employment of this special brand of bullying is a considered tactic because it is discrete and indirect and makes good use of other people, especially those in authority, to positive effect, whilst simultaneously granting the instigator plausible-deniability; as they never directly speak, or have anything to do, with parties concerned, or whatever happens as a result of their activities, that is always on the head of the person(s) or organisation(s) that act, seemingly of their own free-will, upon "complaints" (instigating complaints are never perceived as, or acknowledged to be, coercive acts, rather they are considered the passive actions of a 'victim' of others). The tactic is further bolstered by granting the instigator Kafkatrap immunity; any criticism or comment relating to the individuals apparent or alleged behaviours become proof their actions were justified and warranted in the first place.