maymay:
Yesterday I posted Professor Kevin Westhues’ “Checklist of Mobbing Indicators,” and, as if by clockwork today I was mobbed on Twitter in a thread that matched 13 of the 16 indicators, point for point.

I’ve been the target of what Westhues describes as mobbing, which is evidently a sociological term that sometimes also gos by various other terms in other contexts like “bullying,” “group think,” “epistemic violence,” “gaslighting” and so on, for going on 3 years, now. As others & I have stated time & again, these mobbers’ unwillingness to examine history, and to re-write history so it begins at whatever most recent retaliation or refutation I make, is a constant theme. I’ve been discussing this on-and-off for as long as it’s been happening, but mostly in a detached, academic way. Others, notably unquietpirate, have written much more deeply personal accounts of the impact this has had on them, as well as on me.

Reading Westhues’ descriptions of the traumatic effects mobbing behaviors have on targets resounds very deeply and very painfully. But it is also an enormous relief. Finally, I can name this specific abuse I’m enduring with terms endowed with the magic cultural legitimacy of the academe, and even though I think academics are classist hogwash, I’m hopeful using the sociological term and framework may convince more people to step outside their “not my problem” bubble and pro-actively support me against this rather than remain uninvolved bystanders.

So, I am asking you for help.

  1. Please read about mobbing. I’ve just begun to do this, too. Maybe we can help educate each other. I’m currently going over the “Virtual Mobbing” article. It’s long and dense but obviously specifically relevant to my “workplace,” the Internet.)

  2. Help me find answers to “What to do about it”, which is a topic I’ve found mentioned but only briefly at the end of, “At the Mercy of the Mob.” If there are no solutions provided by the texts, help me imagine possible countermeasures and think through potential solutions, mitigations, harm reduction tactics, and so on.

  3. Send me notes of encouragement, tell me what you like about my work, about me, speak kindly to me, and perhaps even more importantly, speak kindly about me and do so in public. Here’s a simple example of how to do this.

I want to highlight number 3, in the list above, because this is one the things that people still don’t seem to understand about the Internet. One of the unique characteristics about “Virtual Mobbing” is that the Internet enables a kind of plausibly deniable stage whisper. This kind of talking about someone but not necessarily to them is one of the most pernicious and common tactics of cyberbullies and virtual mobbers, because of the scale, speed, and confusion at which the Internet amplifies fearmongering.

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Signal boost.

I would also like to introduce everyone who assumes that a person who is being cyberbullied or mobbed "must have done something to deserve it" to the following (very relevant to what Maymay is doing) quote:
Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by hitting back. --Piet Hein
maymay:
[This post and previous discussion truncated.]
since I make clear that they can not actually cripple me with self-doubt, they do everything they can to cripple others with self-doubt. This forces me and mine to defend not only against the infliction of direct challenges to our senses of self, but to (over-)extend ourselves to reach others for the same kind of defense. That’s not merely harder to do, it’s also not actually within our power to do. And even if it was, it’s certainly not ethical to do unilaterally.

They know this, which is why second-order attacks and whisper campaigns are so effective. That they would resort to these tactics without questioning who these whisper campaigns actually harm (i.e., that they harm survivors who have consistently shown a great self-motivated desire to have access to the anti-violence technology we build) reveals their abusiveness to anyone with even a shred of perspective on the matter.
[…]

I left this alone for a while because I needed to think about it. But something Unquietpirate said in the post you pinged me added a dimension I’d been trying to put into words. How much energy it takes a person to defend a thing they believe in, when doing so puts them in conflict with vocal, angry people, is not a fixed quantity. It’s something they can learn to do with reduced wear and tear (and less fear of wear and tear, as they develop confidence) and get less worn out doing. This is the specific skill that mainstream activism blocks people from developing, first by victim-blaming the people who are being most viciously attacked by the opposition, but overall by presenting burn out as totally normal, as opposed to … a thing that happens when you’re fighting really hard with no clue how to mitigate the effect of constant invalidation, opposition, and emotional abuse being aimed at you.

Trying to make your allies stand with you no matter what would be impossible and/or abusive. But making them aware of ways to develop the strengths you have isn’t.

Tagging idlnmclean on this because I want their input. I have misgivings, but my impression is that most people who abuse this kind of power already have ample access to it. And people with marginalized identities tend to be so caught up fearing that what they do might make them just like their abusers (if they switch to less self-doubt and more effective tactics) that few of them deliberately learn how to fight without sacrificing their spoons and emotional well being in the process. And IME, you self teach or you don’t learn, because no one is talking about this. Thoughts?

Tags: discourse, changing things, gaslighting, psychology, security, advancing despite stop energy, distributing power and fire, idlnmclean
maymay:
The reason I am ruffling so many feathers is that my critiques of the BDSM’ers are not at all similar to the ones coming from people who know nothing about BDSM and thus make outlandish, obviously false comparisons to chicken fuckers or whatever pathetically weak arguments they tend to make. (See, for instance, this Twitter thread.) I am not saying BDSM’ers are pedophiles—it is actually BDSM’ers themselves who are comparing me to pedophiles, in the exact same way anti-SM 2nd wave feminists famously compared me to pedophiles and sex traffickers years ago, ironically—what I am doing instead is pointing out how ubiquitous and mundane rape in their spaces has become. And that is a much more dangerous existential threat to both their self-image and their cultural legitimacy. That much is clear; we all know this.

Yeah. I’ve said this before, but it’s abundantly clear to me that the people who’ve called you a pedophile are throwing the worst accusation they know in your general direction. They’re hoping it will scare potential allies away from you and distract attention from what you’re actually saying. To date, they don’t seem to have a good response to any of your points about the BDSM community facilitating abuse and silencing/victim blaming survivors.
That being said, I would not be surprised to learn that BDSM spaces do harbor “the really stigmatized stuff,” because there is literally no better place for such stuff to hide—see, for example, FetLife’s relatively recent attempt to “cleanse” any controversial material, for this exact reason. But the important point to make here is that “the really stigmatized stuff” is stigmatized even within BDSM circles. That doesn’t mean it’s not there. It means it’s stigmatized.

I know a lot of spaces that periodically kick people out because they don’t want to get a reputation for harboring unsavory stuff. I don’t tend to give them credit for evicting pedophiles, so much as willingly participating in a moral panic.

But … hmm, point taken.
Finally, I appreciate the distinction you’re making between “most normal people” and “people who are uncommonly invested in shutting you up.” This is the exactly the correct way of thinking about it, I think, and it’s precisely why you’ll see me say “kill yourself” to people who I think are probably not that invested in shutting me up, and why I will doxx the people who are. The two tactics are different because the target of those tactics are different. And, of course, doxxing someone doesn’t actually shut them up; shutting them up is not my goal, anyway. (My goal is to get them to leave me and my spaces alone.) What they do instead, then, is begin gaslighting the people socially proximal to me and trying to ensure I am isolated and my work is censored. But that is an indirect attack, rather than a direct one, and given that I do not yet know how to defend against indirect attacks, I would rather be forced to endure only those than to endure both types.

I’ve been looking for countermeasures for those for a while, because I’ve known people who are a lot more easily gaslighted and disheartened than you who also have this problem. Even though they didn’t do anything wrong, having a few people constantly insinuating that they did and hissing hate in their friends’ ears affects them on an emotional level. The experience has made them paranoid about getting to know strangers or trusting at all, because they’re very aware that certain people will go to great lengths to hurt them. And, as I understand it, their pool of potential friends has contracted as a result, because the Just World Fallacy is a thing. I.e., most people assume that if anyone is that mad at them, they must have a good reason to be. They wouldn’t just lie and bad-mouth them everywhere for no reason, right? Which is to say, the ignorance of people who have never been on the receiving end of that kind of malicious whisper campaign results in a kind of victim blaming.
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