Some Thoughts on the Verge’s “The End of Kindness”

September 12, 2013 § 1 Comment

why can't i hold all these feels

Greg Sandoval’s article about weev and the cult of the angry young man has me juggling a lot of feels. First and most importantly, I’m relieved to see this article in print; as I discussed way back in March, I was dismayed to see the outpouring of support for weev post-conviction. Not because I agreed with the charges, they were clearly bullshit, but because the magical reframing of weev as American free speech hero was an even more insidious flavor of bullshit.

Sandoval’s article calls attention to this fact, and challenges the impulse to adopt as a martyr for FREE SPEECH (I have expressed my attitudes towards FREE SPEECH of the all-caps internet eye-roll variety here) the same guy who has for years stomped all over the speech of others, particularly women, and even more particularly Kathy Sierra. This is a weird, offensive, and ultimately counterproductive impulse — I can’t think of a better way to undermine arguments for a free and unregulated internet than by rallying behind a self-proclaimed anti-Semitic racist who likes to terrorize women on the internet. From a purely PR perspective, that seems like an odd move.

But maybe not so odd, given recent conversations about the cult of the bro within the tech space, summarized nicely by Nitasha Tiku in this Valleywag article. Maybe the reason weev is regarded by so many people as an American treasure is because so many people have internalized the idea that violence towards women, whether symbolic or directly physical, isn’t that big of a deal, a point Sierra reiterated in her interview with Sandoval. “His rise as a folk hero is a sign of how desensitized to the abuse of women online people have become,” she stated.

Just as importantly, weev’s case shows the gendered and raced one-sidedness of so many conversations about FREE SPEECH — I can’t remember a time I have ever heard a woman (qualification: who isn’t a bigoted Ann Coulter white lady type) or person of color hide behind the First Amendment to justify their speech. Much more frequently (and/or much more always, since I can’t for the life of me think of a counterexample) FREE SPEECH, at least the kind weev is celebrated for helping protect, is almost always deployed by precisely the people  whose speech has always been the most free to silence those whose speech has always been the most precarious.

So maybe, in the end, weev IS a free speech hero —  in which case, we had better rethink the politics behind that term. Because if Andrew Auernheimer is what we mean when we talk about FREE SPEECH  — well, I’ll let you fill in that blank for yourself. Personally I am inclined to say no thank you.

Monthly Update, or, On Adjusting to a New New Media Landscape

September 6, 2013 § 1 Comment

Marsh nathan chris

Chris and I have been busy of late settling in –or attempting to settle in– to our new home (the above picture was taken just up the path from our house). Arcata is a different can of worms, I’ll tell you that much, which in addition to being simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying has forced us to think about the things we’ve been wrong about, particularly in relation to social media. Which, as Chris explains in this blog post, doesn’t really exist out here, at least not in the ways we’re used to:

Soon after moving to Arcata, lots of old friends kept sending me invites to the new, private, hyperlocal social network The video made the idea seem perfect for our needs. I signed up and invited my neighbors to do the same. But they never did. They didn’t see the point when they already know each other and interact with each other face to face. The typical Arcata resident doesn’t consider their next door neighbors to be strangers. They don’t walk around avoiding eye contact with everyone they come in contact with. There’s no sense of anonymity when walking in a crowd because that crowd is made up of people that you have seen before and will definitely see again and again. I’m not saying it’s better this way. It certainly has its disadvantages too. But holy shit this experience has been teaching me that most of what I thought I knew is hardly even applicable in a place like this. And I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I wanted.

I’m also pretty sure this is exactly what I wanted, but it does require reexamining all of those assumptions that I have apparently been making for the last five years. Chris says it best:

Living and working in media in New York can give a person (read: a person like me) the sense that they have a better understanding of how the world works than most other people. After all, when you’re successfully supporting yourself within the highly competitive markets of the self-proclaimed capital of the world, your experiences become the authority. Maybe it’s because I’m a white man, but when I would make a universalizing claim about how “people” use the “internet” (read: the parts of it that I was interested in) I tended to feel confident that my perspective was at the very least well-informed. From where I sat, I could confidently say that the internet had become so integral to “our” daily lives that it was hard for “any of us” to imagine it any differently.

And I hate to admit it, but I’m similarly guilty. I have universalized. I have used that “we” uncritically. I feel a bit sheepish about all that (a common theme on this blog today).

On the other hand, this experience has definitely given me a new perspective on the work I have done, am currently doing, and will continue to do in the future — work that will take pains to avoid positing a “we” when actually referring to the behavioral practices of a specific affinity group, in this case people getting paid to do things on and say things about a relatively small sliver of the internet that may matter a lot to some people, but certainly not to everyone, the end.

I Know What I’M Wearing to Jason’s Party!

April 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s the whispered “fashhhhion shaaaaack” that gets me.

Review of HBO’s “Girls”

April 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

a rainbow of beige

Yesterday I wrote about HBO’s Girls, a show for and about white people that is either very smart or very dumb. Maybe both, but not for the reasons people might think.

Full article here.

[and/or full text after the jump]

« Read the rest of this entry »

Marry Me, Tumblr Profile

March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

The internet is a magical place

Some genius created a Tumblr profile featuring people crying on cam. Grade: A+

Reading Rainbow

January 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Just stunning!

My girl’s at it again! Via the Daily Troll.

Also here.

Also hey look, German hackers are auslookin to build their own open-source internet!

In unrelated white people news…


Not to Sound Racist, But……[twirls hair]

January 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Also, yes, “shit [category of people] say” has been around for YEARS in internet time (a month), and I’ve not posted any because most of the early ones weren’t very funny plus would have made Richard Dyer eat his own face (“shit girls say” should have been “shit upper middle class white asshole girls say”). But this one wins because of HOLLER.


Spoiler Alert!!!

November 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

Once upon a time some shit happens and as a result this scowling teenager named Bella decides to marry the ghost of Cedric Diggory. Their wedding is presented in real time and is as boring and overdone as weddings are in real life, which is a nice touch. Then this werewolf shows up and gets real mad because Bella is going to make sweet love to her messianic corpse, probably that night! Even though they’re married now, this is still very upsetting, because of Repression. The wolf runs away and the two happy lovebirds (not really, Bella seems constipated) leave for their honeymoon.

When they arrive in the SECRET LOCATION (Brazil) there are brown people dancing all around, which is how we know it’s sexy there (foreshadowing)! But that’s a PSYCH you guys, the ghost of Cedric Diggory has another plan, they’re actually going to this island! On the island there is a house, and in the house there is a bed, and that’s where Cedric does it so hard to Bella that she nearly dies! He vows never to make rough animal whoopie to her ever again, and for the rest of the honeymoon they awkwardly play chess and occasionally blink at each other. This goes on for nearly twenty minutes of screen time! But OOPS, I forgot this is a Mormon fairy tale, so of course Bella is pregnant! That’s what consensual sex in the missionary position is for, when you’re married. DOUBLE OOPS, the baby is a demon, which the housekeeper can sense because BROWN PEOPLE ARE SO INTUITIVE.

Unsurprisingly, the demon child starts to eat Bella from the inside. Somehow the werewolf finds out, and even though his family keeps telling him to get over it, Bella is Cedric Diggory’s wife now, just find a new girl to imprint on already, jesus, which apparently is how werewolves mate (this will be important later; see :45 mark above), the werewolf doesn’t care. He’s like, “no Bella needs me,” because as far as I can tell Bella ALWAYS needs someone. So he shows up, and this pisses off the rest of his pack I guess, and also pisses off Cedric Diggory’s family aka the ashen-faced housemates from Real World: Three Forks, since historically vampires are all totally racist against Native Americans/dogs (in this movie they are the same thing!). At first Cedric Diggory is weirded out when the werewolf goes full whiteknight, but then he changes his mind because there’s just no talking to Bella when she gets like this, you know??

Eventually the vampire king feeds Bella some human blood, and this makes her start dying a bit slower. Everyone is still super worried about her unborn fetus though, or as her Pro-Life vampire roommates call it, “the baby.” Haha it’s not a baby it’s an abomination! At least that’s what the werewolf’s family thinks, and they come to kill everyone, but the werewolf –they tell me his name is Jacob– is like NOT ON MY WATCH! And while he’s defending the castle, the vampire king is able to sneak out and get more blood for everybody, especially Bella who just takes takes takes.

And as soon as the house is under siege, Bella goes into labor because DRAMA QUEEN. The plan is to wait till the demon child is delivered, then turn her into a vampire so she doesn’t die from the strain. “The baby” is taking forever to shit out though, and Bella is fading fast, so Cedric Diggory has to gnaw his wicked progeny out of her womb, with his teeth! It’s a real mess. But real men love their women every day of the month, so good for him. But then Bella dies, which is sad. At least everyone thinks she’s dead, and while Edward is busy injecting her with his “venom,” Jacob goes to kill the baby that killed the love of his life! AND THEN IT HAPPENS, he takes one look at the baby (whose name is “Renesmee?” WHY), decides he should take a seat, and BOOM he’s mated for life! Which is fortuitous because werewolves can’t kill the future wives of their brethren, even if they’re only 20 minutes old. That sure was close! And then Edward’s all like, hey Jake, thanks for looking past all the afterbirth and blood that’s still caked to my infant daughter’s head, she has a great personality!

Around this same time Edward’s  “venom” finally starts working and ugly old Bella morphs into the most beautiful white person on God’s blessed earth. She opens her eyes and they’re all red and wizened and THE END, see you kids next time!

I’ll “Race” You to Cyberspace LOL

November 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

Here is a video of white people (possibly) pretending to (possibly) pretend to emulate what is assumed (facetiously?) to be coded as black, which begs the question of where exactly the joke is hiding, and/or if the joke itself is the joke, or one layer of the joke, because who exactly is under this microscope, white people for being/seen as stereotypically white or black people for being/seen as stereotypically black, or white people for thinking black people are funny, or white people for thinking white people who think black people are funny, are funny? Who can even tell these days, on the internet!


Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet (2002) 

The Internet is dead long live the Internet! In this post-Internet world (“post-Internet” = annoying PoMo way of referencing the 90s dot-com bubble), it is important to consider the racial contours of the ongoing cultural transformation ushered in by CYBERSPACE NETWEB. It is possible to explore these questions through the examination of cybertypes, images and performances of racial identity necessitated by the digital medium. i.e. the human layer interacting with the machine layer, i.e. how race emerges where there are no (physical) bodies (in the representations themselves).

This book explores the various rhetorical and technological spaces where this process unfolds, and posits a kind of neo-liberal Dyer-ing ideological effect (the default avatar is presumed white; everything else is Other; this Other can be exotic, but never the norm). You’ve got your bourgie lamer identity tourism and/or explicitly racialized avatars on LambdaMOO & graphic chat textholes like Club Connect! Your marginalization of brown and black bodies in the fictions of/about/surrounding cyberspace! Your weird contradictory messages about how awesome it is that the Internet collapses racial and national boundaries, except there’s actually no such thing as either, because it’s the Internet! Your check-box-for-phenotype auto-racing interfaces, complete with clever niche marketing strategies! In conclusion, race happens online, whether or not you’re looking for it!  So what do we do? The territory is fraught, people! Due to! CAN THE MASTER’S TOOLS EVER DESTROY THE MASTER’S HOUSE? This, ultimately, is the question. And the answer is…maybe?


George Lipsitz, “Introduction: Bill Moore’s Body”

August 31, 2011 § 1 Comment

Of course you are, sweetie. It's hard out there for a pimp.

Lipsitz opens with a brief rundown of what it means to be white in America. Whiteness, he argues, is about options and access. It means being part of a system that works, and is designed to work, for you, or at least is weighted heavily in your favor. It means that the Man –embodied by the legal system, the housing market, accepted employment and educational practices– is, ultimately, on your side. In itself this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that the more whitey gets the less is available to others; white supremacy is thus defined as the willful allocation of resources, the depletion of which has a direct and directly negative impact on those who weren’t born into the same strata of privilege — a far cry from the hood-wearing racism of yore, which was as conspicuous as it was destructive. Indeed, this so-called possessive investment in whiteness isn’t necessarily a mean-spirited or even a conscious act, making it all the more insidious. Lipsitz goes on to describe the murder of white civil rights advocate Bill Moore. A postman, Moore somewhat cutely decided to “deliver a letter” to Mississippi’s Governor Barnett, who had just refused a court injunction demanding the desegregation of Ole Miss. Moore planned to walk from Chattanooga to Jackson and really give Barnett a strongly-worded piece of his mind, but didn’t make it past Alabama. Because of course he didn’t, jesus. Moore became a martyr for the cause, and had a huge influence on the then 15 year-old Georgie Lipsitz. In fact he describes his own book as an effort to “deliver Moore’s letter” after all these years (annoying). The rest of the chapter chronicles the aftermath of Moore’s death, and argues that more white people need to choose not to be racist — the implication being that it’s as simple as flipping off a light switch.

There’s something kind of odd to me about this selection. For one thing I’m writing this at 4:30 in the morning, but it’s more than just that. I suppose if I had to pin it down, really barf up a nutshell version, I’d say that this introduction emits the slightest whiff of liberal white knight bullshit. It’s pretty clearly addressed to a white audience, and feels more than just a little self-congratulatory — it’s as if the reader (not to mention the author) is prefigured as some kind of culture hero just for thinking that racism is bad. I’m reminded here of Walter Benn Michaels, who argues in The Trouble with Diversity that the neoliberal and entirely well-intentioned equality fallacy –which posits that race is only skin deep and that ultimately all people are created equal — sure sounds great (I mean what self-respecting liberal would be caught dead claiming the contrary) but has the unfortunate side-effect of equating perceived inequalities with a failure of imagination. Unlearning prejudice thus becomes synonymous with eliminating prejudice, making the solution to inequality thought, not action — an outlook that tends to distract people from actual, material inequality (not a criticism I’d necessarily apply to Lipsitz, since he does address a number of structural issues).

More significantly in the context of this work, especially given Lipsitz’ weird assertion that racism and/or white supremacy-slash-privilege is something one can choose to cast off, just like that, the equality fallacy results in the –again, well-intentioned– belief that thinking nice things about them, whatever form this “them” might take, is a political action in itself. It’s not not a political action, but as Benn Michaels argues, thinking nice things about minorities is as far as most white liberals take their liberalism. This is the danger of the equality fallacy — not due to the sentiment it expresses, but because the sentiment it expresses is, more often than not, all it ever manages to accomplish. Status quo thus maintained, white people can go about their business convinced they’ve done their racially-sensitive deed for the week. Which isn’t to condemn Lipsitz, not exactly. More a recognition of the slight wariness I feel whenever I encounter white people giving themselves a big thumbs up for having the courage to read books.

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