Truth. Reconciliation?

This isn’t about me. This isn’t about you.

And it is about me. And it is about you. And it is about all of us.

I’m one of the people who thought Requires Hate’s reviews sometimes had a point. Her rhetoric rode the barest edge of arguably acceptable, and crossed over that line as often as not, but anger is a powerful tool. And often, a useful force for change.

I didn’t know, then, the history of her trolling, or the extent of her abusive behaviour.

Anger is a tool, but it is also a trap.

Even advocacy in good faith cannot justify abusive behaviour.

It may surprise you, but I don’t want to believe the worst of anyone. Except, maybe, at this stage Benjanun Sriduangkaew (and perhaps Nick Mamatas). It is very tempting to believe the worst. It’s easy.

I distrust easy things. But what appears from the public evidence* is that the person presently published under the name of Benjanun Sriduangkaew has engaged in trolling, abusive, damaging behaviour online under a variety of handles for a long stretch of time, and has manipulated the narrative to deflect blame and avoid taking responsibility for doing much, if not all, of that harm.

Some of that harm was done in the guise of advocating for social justice.

*Informational note: Comments at link contain language ascribing RH’s behaviour to mental illness and occasional dehumanising language, which the moderators attempt to shut down.

In some ways, life was easier before I had friends.

I consider Alex Dally MacFarlane a friend.

She has hurt people whom I respect.

These statements exist together. Both are true. I cannot reconcile them.

It is our responsibility, as human beings, to act to minimise harm.

This is one reason why social justice advocacy is difficult, because harm happens across multiple axes and is often invisible to people who aren’t affected directly. (And often, addressing those harms causes perceived loss – of status, of benefits, of self-image – to people who benefit from the existence of said harms.)

Abusive behaviour is often invisible to people who aren’t its targets.

As human beings, we ought not let abusive behaviour go unmarked and unchecked.

As human beings, we ought not let ourselves become complacent in addressing systemic abuses.

The language of social justice advocacy has been used to harm and to manipulate.

It isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last. In some form, in some measure, it happens every day. Whenever advocacy fails to acknowledge and address the intersectional nature of harm and prejudice, for example; or when someone uses past behaviour as a shield for present wrongs, or holds out present behaviour as a reason to forgive past sins.

Good acts and ill ones don’t cancel each other out. It’s not a matter of addition and subtraction. The scales don’t balance that way, if they balance at all. People can learn and people can change. People do good things and bad things. People are complicated.

This does not prevent us, as human beings, from carrying on in working for more justice. Building better and more welcoming communities. Deconstructing our assumptions. Acknowledging abuses wherever they happen. Looking beyond ourselves.

Trying to be kinder, better people.

I want to add my voice to Elizabeth Bear, when she says:

What I would like is for our community to take this opportunity for positive action. I believe that the people Bee/RH has harmed should be given as much support and aid in healing as practicable. I believe that potential future victims should be warned. I believe those who may feel trapped by her should be protected. I believe those whom she has abused should be helped to connect with one another as they desire.

I believe their voices should be listened to, if and when they choose to come forward. I believe that the people who have been silenced by this campaign of bullying should be given as much space to speak as they would like.

I believe that, on an ongoing basis and pursuant to our dawning understanding as a community of the need for harassment policies and a pro-active stance against bullying, we–the established members of the science fiction and fantasy community–need to make safe spaces where people who have been bullied and harassed can come forward and find strength and solace, as well as safety.

I believe we need to respond to this series of events in our community by making more space for marginalized voices, and promoting young writers, women writers, and writers of color.

… Moreover, we owe it to our emergent writers to create a space where bullies cannot silence them, police their writing and their identity, and make them feel unsafe. I’m not just talking about the RH/Bees of the world here, but the Jim Frenkels as well.

We need those safe spaces. And we need that space for marginalised voices. And we need to build communities that refuse to participate in systemic abuses, and that do not welcome people who engage in abusive behaviour.

That’s hard work.

But we need to do it.

Acknowledge the past. Live with the present. Work for the future.

7 thoughts on “Truth. Reconciliation?

  1. Pingback: RequiresHate/Winterfox/Benjanun Sriduangkaew Linkspam » Rants and Ramblings By An Old Bag

  2. Pingback: A Case Study in Trolling | File 770

  3. Oh, well-said. Like you, I’d thought RH to be angry and insensitive, but never saw the trolling, the destruction of communities, the attacks on the authors. That doesn’t mean we are complicit, only that we have a responsibility to the victims now, to help them recover. Knowledge is one form of power, and we can use it to cleanse our communities of hateful behaviors, trolling, and the vileness that RH exhibited.

    As an imperfect human being, I can only try to be better. As you say, for the future.

  4. I don’t think RH is anywhere as bad as Vox Day, who once admitted to harvesting social security numbers.

  5. And as for you idiots on According To Hoyt who think what I said is slander, here’s a direct quote from Vox.

    I now have the home addresses, telephone numbers, and even social security numbers (or the foreign equivalent) of most of the regular trolls of this blog. I’ve been doing this for two years, long before I warned them, so they didn’t know to cover their tracks.

  6. @Ginger:
    I underestimated the effect RHs words had on the people she targeted – I had the privilege of viewing them as mere hyperbole, whereas others had – because of the context (and because of behind-the-scenes harassment that I did not know about – to wonder whether other actions would follow. (I’ve also changed my mind on the tone of discourse in the light of how the internet has developed in general.)
    But I remain annoyed at the way in which everybody who commented on the blog or engaged with her on Twitter, everybody who quoted her and said ‘here are things that made me think; this is worth reading’ was knowingly enabling harassment or that they enjoyed watching people get bullied. (Have I edited my memory when I remember her saying things like ‘[item] is at [link], but don’t go over there and be an arsehole’? Because if I’d seen ‘go there and pile on’ I would have disengaged.]

    I see my responsibility as understanding where I’ve fucked up, and hopefully never fucking up again in this manner; I hope that I can make a contribution to help others to spot red flags where I didn’t. At the same time I am not ashamed of engaging with people over the internet or expressing sympathies when they felt under attack; and I have my reservations about how the whole situation is playing out.

    ‘Not as bad’ is difficult to judge. Legally, someone who ‘only’ goes around and posts nasty words as supposed to someone who collects real-world infomation and plans to use it or to use it as a threat probably won’t count as ‘as bad’. But when you read the impact on the victims – people who were traumatised by specifically-targetted campaigns – one starts to question that statement.

  7. I agree with Elizabeth Bear. B.S is perhaps an awful troll, an extremist activist with hateful speech and inacceptable behavior, she is also a gifted writer with an interesting prose. In France we have ton of freaks who have a place in literary republic and few have detestable ideology or inappropriate behaviors but editors go on to publish them.

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