Leading (technology) blogger Kathy Sierra has received death threats and sexual and violent intimidation both in comments on her own blog and elsewhere. As a result she’s pulled out of a speaking/training engagement – I can only hope that the people responsible are found, and that she can in time regain some normalcy in her life.
My reaction to this is horror, but as I think about it, death threats, intimidation and inciting people to take matters into their own hands – despite the law – is what the UK tabloid press does best. It’s awful that the blogging world has got to this point… awful, but perhaps not surprising.
I think people too often forget that the reason these things happen is that we are all people, and some people (quite a lot, as it happens) don’t really respect everyone else. (Indeed, it’s doubtful anyone ever respects everyone else.) That this hasn’t happened in high profile blogging circles before certainly doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened in blogs (there’s a lot that hides in the long tail); it has, after all, happened in one way or another throughout all of human history. We are mean people, and we do mean things.
Tim Bray, most often a fount of sanity and reasoned thought, calls for more information to be dug up, which while valuable still seems to fall into the trap of believing that blogging is its own society, and that we can police it internally. We cannot. Increasingly bloggers aren’t even a separate community; blogging has become too broad, too common, too intertwined with too many people’s lives – it is just another tool in the wider world. Saying that
something is badly out of control and needs to be fixed, urgently, as Bray does, suggests that this is something internal to the blogging community, which it absolutely is not. The demons came in with us, and they won’t leave until we leave: tackling them inside the small room of the web will at most damage the furniture.
If we want this to stop happening, it has to be tackled out in society, in the real world. I’m not convinced that this is even possible, although of course that doesn’t mean we should not try as hard as possible.
(Anyone find any women-at-risk charities in the United States? Google fails me…)