Today I did a thing here on Okazu that I have not had occasion to do very often – a post has been removed.
It’s not something I have to do often because this is my blog and obviously, most of what I say here is mine to stand by or not as I desire. But this was different, because it put me in a situation I sincerely have never before been in and one for which I had only a theoretical plan of action.
Anyone interested in popular culture right now can see that we are at some kind of crisis point with abuse, harassment and stalking conducted online. But that problem did not start here and now. It has been pervasive since the early days of online chats, Usenet, BBSs. Essentially, any communications tool ever created by humans has been used by some humans for abusing others. These targets are often women, children, LGBTQ people, people in marginalized communities,like folks in queer or disabled communities, people of color or ethnic minorities.
Every day in the news, we can read about “nice guys” that “everyone knew” who have a long string of victims of harassment and predatory sexual and emotional behavior. In fact, this very week, the news has two such situations – one on the larger national political scale and another in the blogging/online magazine world. It takes a lot of effort, shame and publicity to get publishers and donors, academic institutions and employers to cut their ties from people they like, or who are successful, even after repeated stories of abuse are uncovered.
Like me, you may have read one of these stories and said, “Just fire the creep.” I have always said that, as I think most reasonable people might.
Equally, I expect most of you know I have been targeted for online abuse on and off for decades, beginning with my time on USENET and 4chan’s years-long love affair with me. ^_^ I’m fairly impervious to trolls, attempts at harassment and abuse, but I understand others have had a different experience and people can be severely emotionally traumatized by online harassment.
This week I learned that one of our guest reviewers has a long, documented history of online abuse. I was, as you can imagine, horrified that I had given that person a place here on Okazu. To that end, Benjanun Sriduangkaew‘s post has been removed. You may click the link to read why on her Wikipedia page. I trust that she is a different person than she was – and certainly she was a completely different person when she presented herself to me – but I refuse on behalf of myself and all of you, to become part of this story without our consent or knowledge. Had she been an employee, she would have been fired. I will not be one of those employers, publishers or institutions who make excuses for her good work, no matter how good.
Online behavior ought to have consequences – this may be a small one, but it is the one I can do. This is the complicated part: One may be a changed person, but one is still obliged to do one’s own reputation damage control. One must make amends or at least attempt to do so. Others cannot be responsible for removing the toxicity built up over years of bad behavior…or, honestly, in a perfect world this would be true. We see other people doing that all the time. “They were nice to me, though.” “They are a good writer/salesperson/producer.” Yes, but that’s not the point, is it. The point is, the abuser gets to move on and grow and let go of the abuse, but the victims don’t. They are holding the ball of anger and fear. It is wholly up to the abuser to make amends and only then should we say “fine, we’ll give you a chance.”
I apologize to all of you and going forward I will do better research when people I don’t know directly seek to write for Okazu.