Last week my employer and I were the victims of another Fox News-crowd-sourced mob of informational terrorists who threatened me, my home, my husband, my community, my colleagues and my students. The informational terrorists in question were whipped up into a white male genocidal froth by Pucker Carlson who took exception to one of my rage-filled Tweets about the misogynistic theater of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite several allegations of sexual assault which the administration chose to not investigate thoroughly. Pucker, whose own white ethnocratic preferences are well known, absurdly and slanderously accused me of advocating for white male genocide. My very white male husband, brothers, uncle and nephews were quite surprised to hear this.
The crowd-sourced mobs who are his rank and file cadre did not need to be told what to do: they already knew. The infrastructure that enables such swarms by hordes of rage-filled men, who feel threatened by our very existence and our refusal to be silent about the structural violence perpetrated against women and minorities by white, cis-male supremacy in this country has been in place, as I describe below, since 2014 and the emergence of GamerGate
This latest round of informational terrorism began similarly to the previous. First, a low-level bottom-feeding right-wing media outlet finds something to be outraged over and then assigns a college intern, apparently with no ethical or journalism training, to write a piece that will serve as chum in the bloodied waters for larger right-wing outlets, such as the Daily Failer or Faux News…or worse. This is how the rightwingnut circuit creates a news cycle that begins with feigned outrage over a liberal exercising her first amendment rights to call out the unending structural and actual violence against women and minorities and ends with a horde of attackers targeting her as well as her her place of employment using email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and every other social media platform available to the ratfuckers. (Yes. “Ratfuckers” is a bad word. And I don’t care. I also know they really hate being called ratfuckers, which makes me really pleased to use it. So..I will.)
However, I am a hardened target. I literally study terrorism for a living. I’ve met terrorists including failed suicide bombers. I literally wrote the book on Taliban suicide attackers. I do fieldwork in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan without a security detail. And I’ve been through this jackass rodeo before with trolls from the far-left (such as those commanded by Glenn Greenwald and his anti-American collaborators on al Jazeera) as well as the far-right and its endogamously-conceived sibling, the alt-right. The wingnuts of both spectra have pretty much learned that I am a hard target. Like the vagina I possess, I can take a pounding.
So, this time, they took a different approach. Instead of focusing the crowd-sourced mobs at me in hopes that I would break down and throw my keyboard into the recycling bin and head off for a spa-bortion brunch (with endless Mimosas) as a good “baby-hating libtard bitch” would do, they did what terrorists all over the world do: they threatened my community with violence to secure their political objectives of removing me from the classroom. And they succeeded. For now.
Bruce Hoffman of Georgetown University defines terrorism as “violence—or equally important, the threat of violence—used and directed in pursuit of, or in service of, a political aim.” Bruce Hoffman, Inside Terrorism
By focusing their efforts on my community–including threatening my students by doxxing my syllabus–my employer was faced with a conundrum: call the informational terrorists’ bluffs and wait it out or risk the possibility that one of these demented asshats would actually do something violent. (My employer is committed to free speech–even speech that offends–and staved off the numerous calls for my ousting.)
Nor could I write off such a possibility.
Long before I debuted on Twitter, on Tuesday, November 9, 2010, a man emailed me repeatedly about a typo in a piece I had recently published. After the first polite email explaining that he had to speak to the editor about this, I ignored his subsequent numerous emails. And then he called my office late that evening, at about 10 pm. I was there because my research methods class ended late. Because many of my students work during the day, I am willing to meet with them after class as late as they require so that they can avoid missing work or making another to trip to campus to meet during regular office hours. I assumed the caller was a student who could not get into our building and needed to be let in. That semester had many long Tuesdays.
But no. It was the typo sepoy. I politely but firmly explained reality AGAIN to the fellow and hung up. I was concerned when I left my office. Did he know where it was? Did he see the light on my office? I called my husband to let him know what had happened and to let him know I was leaving the office. I told him to call the police if I wasn’t home in 20 minutes.
The next morning I boarded an early train for New York where I was scheduled to discuss Afghanistan and Pakistan at Columbia University. When my panel was over, I noticed numerous phone calls from my employer’s security department. The crazy nutter actually came to my place of employment looking for me. After making an insane danger of himself, security escorted him off the premises. His picture was posted in our building. If he appeared, we were to call security immediately.
This transpired over his vexation with poor, fatherfucking copy editing. Let that marinate. It is toxic masculine jackassery like this that makes ignoring the hordes of informational terrorist wackadoons perilous. And the wackadoon terrorists know it.
In consultation with my employer’s security professionals, the leadership and I concluded that it was best for my students and colleagues to go on research leave and to publicize this fact to ensure that the violent mobs would mozy onto their next target.
That strategy worked in one sense: they stopped threatening my professional community. But the informational terrorists led by the CON-servative media–most notably the outrage factory at Faux Noise and its allied cesspools of misinformation–learned a valuable lesson: take soft targets like young adults as the hostage rather than the direct object of your ire.
In the wake of the fiasco, there were calls for civility of discourse. Oddly, these calls for civility come after a decade of efforts to bully, intimidate and silence women through online swarms backed up by the real threats we face in our homes, on the streets, in our offices, gyms, libraries, parking lots and garages and elsewhere. Is it a coincidence that calls for civility seem targeted at silencing women just when we articulate our rage at the fuckery that has engulfed this country?
No. It is not a coincidence. But it is a tired patriarchal command that women discipline our bodies, voice, and even rage to make men feel better. I won’t do that. The stakes are too high. Nothing will change until the rest of America understands our pain and rage and I cannot do this with expected formalities and civilities of language. I cannot do this with the grammar of comfort patriarchy prescribes, by abjuring the tactics it proscribes. I can only do this with the language my rage inscribes upon my tongue. Only then will society even bother hearing the rage much less try to understand it.
Rest assured: no one wants actual civility more than women and minorities in this country. But when appeals to civility do not include calls to endow us with equality under the law and before the law and to afford us equality in opportunities and outcomes, civility is but an empty promise for us while shielding the standard-bearers of white, cis-male supremacy from the discomfort of hearing about the hazards the rest of us endure.
Civility of discourse is possible only between equals. The CON-servative movement and the angry, white, women-hating men it has empowered (along with their largely white female enablers) denies us this elemental equality.
Without equality, I can only give you servility. That I will not do.
Bitches! Get off the Web
I am too old, too experienced and too cynical to countenance the horseshit anymore.
In the spring of 2004, I had recently arrived in Washington DC after leaving the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA. I was starting a new job at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). I had recently defended my doctorate at the University of Chicago while working full-time for reasons not of my choosing and was beginning the next phase in my life. USIP, like many so-called think tanks in DC, encouraged their associates to engage the media. And so, at a very early hour on Sunday, August 8, 2004, I made my way to C-SPAN’s studio to discuss America’s relations with its pain-in-the-ass ally: Pakistan. It was my first experience with national television. You can see in the video that I was initially awkward. I was not sure where to look. I blinked uncomfortably and often made goofy faces. (It turns out I still make goofy faces on and off camera.) I chose to dress conservatively: a black pantsuit, with a light green sweater and a fun necklace I recently bought on M Street. Looking at the video after many years, I can see that I am wearing makeup. I don’t recall whether this was done in the green room as I do not and have never worn makeup except when forced to as I am allergic to it and find the expense needless. As the show continued, I got the hang of it and began to feel more comfortable and even had fun.
Source: Source. Also, note how much I have aged. This was only 14 years ago. It feels like 34 years ago.
The elation was short-lived. As soon I left the building and had cell coverage, my mobile phone began to ring. As I’ve long worked at home, I forwarded my office number to my cellular phone. The caller was a man with a California area code, who must have been watching C-SPAN at 4 am, which is totally not normal for Californians. It was a marriage proposal.
In the car ride home, I called my then-boyfriend (now my husband) about the call. We laughed it off as a freak event. When I returned to the office the next day, I received an email from a viewer who complimented my sense of fashion. He liked the green sweater and the contrast created by the necklace. The following week, a letter arrived addressed to me in thick crayon in lilting handwriting. The letter itself was also written in crayon over many pages of thick-lined paper that we used in the first grade when learning to write. I don’t remember the content of the letter: only that it existed.
I wondered whether my male colleagues received such phone calls, emails, and letters. I asked. They did not. (By the way, they still do not. This nonsense is reserved for women.) Looking back, I learned my first lesson about being a female in the public space: no matter our credentials or level of demonstrable expertise, we are seen as women first. We are objects of the male gaze. We exist at their leisure and pleasure.
I continued to do national and international television news programs and continued to receive the episodic email from strange men. One fellow from Florida also emailed me to say that he would like to marry me. My husband and I Googled him. He was a soccer player for a local league, likely harmless. But we both puzzled over what kind of a jackass would do track down a woman on her employer’s email and send such a missive?
As my c.v. attests, until about 2009, I did not engage in social media or requests for online products with very few exceptions. I preferred to write traditional editorials in conventional newspapers, peer-reviewed journal articles, monographs, and other peer-reviewed products. This was partly due to the nature of my employment. However, after 2009, I reluctantly entered this space writing mostly for Foreign Policy and the then “Af-Pak Channel.” I later expanded to other blog venues to discuss America’s foreign policy dilemmas in South Asia.
Blogs that permitted commentary were festooned with crude sexist commentary variously asserting that I was “anti-Pakistan” because a Pak Army officer fucked me in various places and then dumped me. I was “pro-India” because I suck Indian cock. (These are their words–not mine. I was a “presstitute,” or a Mossad whore. Comments on my You-tube videos were hewed along similar lines. My analyses were frequently reduced to a proposition about my sexuality, that I was attractive when I was younger or hideous as I’ve aged. (For the record, I have never had any paramour in any foreign armed forces although I have dated several gentlemen in the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Sorry, Coast Guard. I missed you. If I thought I could get by on my looks like Melania or Ivanka, I wouldn’t have bothered getting a Ph.D.) I began saving emails received in specially-designated folders.
Then Came The Deluge of “Male Hate”
According to my personal email account, the first actual instance of “hate mail” (or as I prefer to call it “male hate,” arrived on December 27, 2008. (Unfortunately, I did not have a way to save my archives of such missives from past employers’ email accounts. And after my current employer switched providers, I lost many such emails from 2009 to October 2014.) It came from a person referring (likely) to himself as “Defender” with the email address:
Lickme@youareabitch.com apparently was angry that my cookbook, Cuisines of the Axis of the Evil and Other Irritating States, included Israel. (Oddly, the author did not repine that it also included the United States, for which I actually would have expected to be called a “traitor.”) While the poorly drafted email was mostly incoherent, the final line was not despite its lack of craft and attention to detail:
“Hope you choke I [sic] die on some kimchee. traitor”
I saved Lickme@youareabitch.com’s parsimonious epistle because it was so novel then. I still save such missives which now number in the thousands across different accounts and platforms even though they are no longer curiosities; rather, quotidian and expected expressions of entitled male rage that span continents, races, and religion.
Now I save them as evidence in the event that something happens to me.
In 2011, I received the below email from a Pakistani male in which I was threatened with gang rape by an entire regiment. ( The most pressing question for me was: Infantry or cavalry? Pakistan’s cavalry attacks from behind and they tend to get out of shape pretty quickly. Infantrymen tend to be hotter, more fit, but less cerebral. So the answer to that question inveighs urgently upon both my qualitative an quantitative gang rape experience. )
Then who can forget this charming email? On January 5, 2012, at 11:06 PM EST, I had just published an opinion piece on Pakistan in Foreign Policy, called “Pakistan’s Slow-Motion Coup.” Within minutes I received this email addressed to my work account, with a time stamp of Thu, 5 Jan 2012 18:41:23 -0800 (PST). While the email was empty, it had the header “Your article on Pakistan inspired me to bake these…”
It contained a file named “tiny-cookie-vaginas.”
Needless to say, the title was erroneous: these were cupcakes. Not cookies. (Apparently, this misogynist does not know his baked goods.)
The image depicted a 7×5 array of clitorises in a combination of fondant, frosting, and sprinkles. Each was ethnically distinct. Some had vaginal discharge. (No. He is not a master baker: he found this online. It turns out genitalia-themed baked goods is a niche thing.) I had an awesome response email:
“Dear Sir: I’m going to a bris. Can you do this in foreskins.”
Then there are the understated emails such as this one: it contains a clever gun image made by arranging characters in a specialized font and the subject line “loving you.”
My soul has callouses. You can say what you want to me. I have the skin of a velociraptor and a heart of coprolite towards trolls.
GamerGate and the Rise of Crowd-Sourced Terrorism
As I was learning the cost of being a woman in the public space, others were learning it too. Amanda Hess wrote a very thought-provoking essay titled “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet” in January 2014. She detailed the experiences of numerous other women from a cross-sectional of diverse professional backgrounds and we were all experiencing similar things to varying degrees. (My own online harassment pales to that which she experienced. It was sobering.)
Perhaps the most jarring discussion of what can only be called crowd-sourced informational terrorism manifested in the so-called GamerGate in 2014, which in the words of Molly McKew was an
an internet culture war sparked when a group of women exposed what they saw as inherent misogyny in the production and culture of videogaming and argued for greater inclusivity.
Thus, what began as a legitimate discussion about race and gender soon became overtaken by an organized swarm of male
militant gamers who resented this intrusion into their sandbox and set out to prove they were not misogynistic by relentlessly attacking and harassing the women and anyone who supported them. The women were doxxed and threatened in graphic terms with rape and death, and some fled their homes.
Katherine Cross observers that GamerGate was a “deliberate effort to purge women and people of color from the fledgling world of independent gaming criticism through harassment and accusations of fraudulence.”
While GamerGate and the women and people of color it silenced and drove into submission passed from the public eye, crowd-sourced terrorism perdures because the structures once created stand ready to mobilize such mobs comprised mostly–but not exclusively–of CON-servative males who are outraged that women and people of color want equal rights. These boorish troglodytes harbor the unenlightened view that rights ate like a lousy Papa John’s pizza: more for others means less for them. And they are angry about it.
What is “crowd-sourced terrorism,” you may ask? McKew in her piece identifies many of the nefarious personalities from
the sewers of the modern far-right disinformation metropolis…[who comprise] an operational unit of information terrorists helping to transform the way Americans consume news in the age of Trump—some of the central nodes that give order to the information deluge and around which bot armies and human amplification networks can be organized, wiped out, reconstituted, and armed for attack. Because that is what they do: attack.
As anyone who has experienced this knows, the result of this informational terrorism network is a swift escalation of attacks as swarms of frenzied angry men assail you through every means possible. In my case, the pressgangs of poltroons have lasted anywhere between two weeks and two months. Others experience longer-term harassment as detailed by Cross, Hess, and others.
Following one very serious crowd-sourced mob of crazed racist, Islamophobic misogynists in November 2016, I began microblogging with the aim of providing all details of those persons (mostly men) who harassed me during and between these campaigns of crowd-sourced informational terrorism. I do not include those persons those contacted me simply to say that they disagree and are generally reasonable about it. I also have removed one person (a woman) who expressed contrition and remorse. However, if they are abusive or exude any modicum of creepiness, they end up on #ShitMenSay where I provide all the information I can find about the person. I literally have more hate-filled missives than I have time to post to #ShitMenSay, given my numerous other professional and scholarly commitments. I upload the filth when I have writer’s block or am stranded at the in-laws in a snowstorm. I literally need a minion to upload the bottom-dwellers and their information to this forum.
Absurdly, a right-wing (female) troll-cum-journo-bot sought to cultivate sympathy for what she calls my “victims” of #ShitMenSay. (I’m not sure if she is best described as an Aunt Lydia or Mrs. Serena Whaterford? It’s a conundrum. I can go either way. In any event, for a mere $100(?)an article, she is willing to hold women down as men assault us online.) I could only laugh at Mrs. Waterford’s risible column. First, the men she claimed to interview opined that they were harassed and that they were frightened. She provided no evidence for the poor booboos’ trauma, by the way. But if they were harassed (by whom?), perhaps they now understand what it feels like to have random people seek you out and oppugn you using the most heinous language possible. Second, and I shit you not, the men outed on #ShitMenSay lugubriously opined that #ShitMenSay stifles free speech, which is exactly what these asshats sought to do to my free speech in the first instance. I can only wonder what career trajectory this woman imagines for herself. No. I actually can’t and I am not going to try.
Patriarchy only succeeds with female enablers like her and there is no short supply of such cheaply-sourced collaborators.
And Back to Civility of Discourse…
The fact of the matter is: women and people of color have been denied any modicum of civility of discourse or other forms of dignity or equality in this country from our origins. In contemporary American, our online and offline presence is consistently under attack and under threat simply for having the audacity to exist. And now that we are finding our couRAGE and our voice, we are being told to voice our anger in decorous prose for men’s comfort.
No one wants civility of discourse more than women and minorities. We are literally dying for this much-praised civility. But it is not ours to give. Without granting us equality, it is not civility you request; rather servility which you command.
In the meantime, to quote Robin Sokoloff:
I don’t want to give you hope. I want you to wake the fuck up…
shut up, kike.
Just some quotidian anti-Semite. Yep. This rubes exist and the rocks from which they crawl don’t miss them.