Calling Out, Collecting Receipts, And The Line Between Creepy and Conscientious

Receipts

In the midst of the discussion around Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s outing as Requires Hate, I had several conversations about the Internet “community” Fail Fandom Anon (FFA). I had to explain to people why I didn’t trust any of the anonymous commenters in the threads even though my default position is to believe the victim, even if the victim won’t reveal their name or full identity. I’m unfortunately too familiar with the tactics of the anons that hang out in FFA and the people like them. Tactics that include pretending to be a person from a specific identity in order to add more credibility to what they have to say and discredit their mortal enemy, the SJW.

FFA isn’t just about the community/meme, they also have a wiki where they collect receipts on the people they hate most in order to catalog all the reasons why they are The Worst. Requires Hate has an entry there, as do several other writers and fans in our community.[1] I’ve glanced through several of them and even went through the Cat Valente one in detail, clicking on every link. And there are a lot of links.

Why did I do such a soul-crushing thing? I wanted to know whether or not any of their grievances had a basis in fact.

I have a surprise for you: most don’t.

Claims are made about a lot of bad behavior and unnecessary whining and evil appropriation and just plain wrongness. But when I clicked through to the original sources I either didn’t see what the anons saw at all, saw the situation distorted, or saw people desperately trying to fit words or actions into a pre-determined narrative based on an existing hatred. There were some situations represented fairly (by my own view), but they were far outweighed by the other stuff.

That was a couple of years ago. I had a deja vu moment earlier this year when I did the same thing with a call-out post about the blogger behind MedievalPOC. Once again, there were several accusations of lying and appropriation and bullying and terribleness, all allegedly backed up by a list of receipts. I started clicking and, lo, I did not see a lot of evidence to back up these assertions. What I did see was people engaging in grudgewank, uncharitable and distorted readings of situations and words and intentions, and statements of “She did X” when I very clearly saw her doing Y.

The call-out post and the entries on the FFA wiki come across to me as disingenuous in a generous reading and creepy and terrible if I’m not being generous. It’s not the collection of links and context that bothers me, because that’s never all it is. The MPOC post included deep speculation on the woman’s racial and ethnic background based on pictures and amateur analysis of skin tone plus invasion of privacy-style sleuthing into family history. The folks who contributed to Cat Valente’s wiki entry spent time going back through something like 10 years worth of LJ posts in the hunt for evidence of her awfulness. I’m sure some of them just remembered things they found irritating, but there’s a level detail there that smacks of creepiness.

These aren’t the only examples of this. They’re just the ones that have come to mind of late. I’m sure plenty of you have examples of your own. It’s not as if this stuff is uncommon.

As much as I am against the kind of nasty, mean-spirited, stuff that goes on in the FFA Wiki, I can’t outright dismiss the need for comprehensive receipt collection[2]. Two recent occurrences have prompted me to ponder the validity of doing so.

A little over a year ago I became aware that a woman I’ve known for several years (I’ll refer to her as SL) was dating two other people I know (a married couple — this is a poly thing)[3]. Based on some things said on social media, I had a gut feeling that this relationship would not last long and when it ended, it would end badly. SL has a pattern that repeats regularly and she was about due. This spring things went boom in a very public way. I and others who’ve known SL as long or longer expressed little surprise. We’d seen it all before.

At the time and in the months since, I’ve had people ask “Why didn’t you/others say anything?” and “People should have warned us about her!” Part of the reason is assumptions — folks in this community tend to assume that the dramas and flareups that consume their corner of things is also known to the wider group. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes it isn’t.

How many people outside of Harry Potter fandom knew about the Cassandra Clare/Claire plagiarism thing before the long expose/explanation showed up on Bad Penny and angry fans valiantly tried to ensure all the pro writers knew about it? How many people reading this still have no clue what I’m talking about? But to the people embroiled in it, and the people who knew the people embroiled in it, that shit was major. It tore whole communities apart. They are genuinely surprised when others don’t know.

Same with SL’s behavior. In certain corners of the community her pattern is well known and even documented. I’m sure there are people who would be surprised that the couple SL hooked up with didn’t know about her long history in various fandom and poly communities.

For my part, I didn’t feel it was my business or my place to say anything. The couple involved are folks I’m friendly with, though not close to. People don’t always react favorably when you point out that someone they like or even love is a problem. And anyway, it wasn’t MY relationship.

Then I wonder: what if there had been an FFA Wiki-style post detailing all of SL’s past public behaviors with links to LJ posts and screencaps and emails and chat logs? What if, whenever I or someone else saw that SL was integrating herself into a pocket of the community or starting a relationship, that link magically appeared in an inbox, or a social media post, or an IM? Is that being creepy or protecting the people you care about? Maybe it’s And.

How about a less personal example:

The other day Karnythia tweeted this Storify pointing out how Gamer Gate harassers are the same people who harassed Fem Frequency years ago. Same names, same tactics popping up over and over.

It’s not so surprising, right? If you’re spending your time saying ridiculous and hurtful things and engaging in harassing behavior and you didn’t just log onto the Internet for the first time yesterday, chances are you’ve been involved in this kind of thing before.

The same names tend to pop up when you poke your head into RaceFail, GropeGate, SFWA Fail, MammothFail, and other related terribleness. But that’s not always evident unless you remember or someone keeps track.

It’s almost to a point where one might want to put together a dossier so that when the same old assholes pop up to spew the same old shit in all new places you can immediately dismiss or call them out or warn other people. Because it’s really easy to forget.

However, it takes a certain kind of stamina to do this work. Crawling back through post after post of triggering, upsetting, harmful, hurtful material and compiling it is rough work. As someone pointed out to me not long ago, there’s a reason why Racefail historians and link gatherers burned out and stepped back for their own mental health.

There are those who would take glee in doing such a thing. You can find a lot of them in Fail Fandom Anon. There are those who would claim that they don’t take glee in it, but in their heart of hearts they know the task energizes them. If I found that to be true, I’d be worried about myself in such a case.

There has to be a balance between ensuring that important information is not forgotten or swept away or allowed to fade. The recent resurgence in interest around the case against Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley illustrates this well. There is a website with all the publicly available information about Breen’s predatory behavior toward young people and Bradley’s complicity in it. Yet it was a super surprise to many when this came up again. Maybe it matters less because both of them are dead. Or maybe it doesn’t–a question Moira Greyland might have an answer to.

Figuring out where to draw the line between creepy and conscientious is not easy. I’m sure there are many who struggle to navigate those waters all the time. I don’t know how to do it, for sure. I just know what side of the line I want to be on.

Footnotes

  1. If you decide to go look this wiki up, take note of how many people who have dedicated entries are women. Curious that….[]
  2. For the uninitiated, Collecting Receipts and Showing Receipts is the colloquial for citing your sources with screencaps and links and such.[]
  3. You’re probably wondering at this point why I am not just naming the people involved. There’s no need to. Also, there are already too many posts linking the three people’s names together in a way intended to cause harm. I’m not in the mood to add to the Google juice.[]

Comments

  1. says

    I agree there are a lot of unsubstantiated claims about Sriduangkaew’s actions. There’s a lot of bad faith out there. And, frankly, its not needed. She spent six months of last year bothering–nay, harassing–a rape victim online. It’s hard to forgive and it certainly doesn’t need decorating with imaginary crimes. Ultimately though she deserves our pity, hard as it can be to forgive: clearly her theory of mind doesn’t stretch to percieving people on the net as fully living, breathing humans. She essentially admits as much in her apologies and I’m glad she’s facing up to it.

    Despite everything I wish her luck as a writer. Blackballing her would be the wrong way forward and would only make her infinitely worse. My issue is with the people who encouraged and celebritised her aggression, people who should have known better. The lesson I take is that we all allowed our social justice values to calcify into cant. No one applied their individual moral intellect to the problem for fear of being outed as retrograde and conservative. I can understand why everyone did that: its easier to let an abstract system do the driving.

    But, if the RH situation proves anything, its that social justice, diversity and true multiculturalism can’t really be directed from above with fashionable terms and one-size-fits-all philosophies: abusers can learn all the terms and game it, use it as a shield. No, it rises from the street and the factory floor (nothing brings multiculturalism to life like people working together) and from our hearts, our better instincts. I hope progressive SF fandom heads toward that truth. And I think it will.

  2. says

    Some things:

    1. This post isn’t the place to hold yet another iteration of the “What’s wrong with Sriduangkaew/Requires Hate” conversation. That’s not what this is about (and there are plenty of venues for that conversation already).

    2. I take issue with the assertion that “No one applied their individual moral intellect to the problem for fear of being outed as retrograde and conservative” because it’s just plain wrong. The people who didn’t hate and/or were on friendly or polite terms with RH (I count myself among them) weren’t afraid of being seen as conservative. She spoke a lot of truth. Her style wasn’t mine, but the substance I agreed with many times. I wasn’t on autopilot, wasn’t intellectually lazy, wasn’t not paying attention. I’m sure that’s true for many.

    3. There’s a whole rant to be spawned from your last paragraph, but this isn’t the place for that.

  3. James Worrad says

    I apologise for point 1 there. Your house your rules and I respect that. And I’m certainly not singling you out: I was speaking in general terms. I believe the failure was collective and, as a fandom member, I’m included in it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these anti-sj people, really I’m not. I just want a Social justice that works properly. In this instance the framework fell apart: someone who, by their own admission, couldn’t prevent themselves from aggression on the net was left unchecked and caused a fair deal of mental anguish.

    The social justice fandom narrative is not a static law of nature, rather it is a process, a fluid abstract thing created by humans and subject to flaws and oversights, oversights we can fix if only we face up to them. We can make it better, stronger, more recognising of individual human dignity over rhetoric. If we don’t debate about the fallout of the RH debacle and develop new guidelines we’ll never improve and all of this will occur again. If we can’t build a better fandom anywhere but on the backs of her victims, if it requires any kind of collateral, than none of it is even worth it. The foundations will be rotten. And we can do better than that, in fact I know we can.

    I really think we’re on the same side here.

  4. says

    I think we are. And I think part of that process you speak of involves the collection and dissemination of pertinent data, which these link/screen posts provide. But then there’s a tipping point and it becomes about being hateful or harming.

    But it is one way to check a person. And one of the few ways I’m comfortable with. I’ve said before in other situations: I’m not the behavior police. I’m not everyone’s mother.

    I don’t see the overarching problem as one of valuing rhetoric over people. For me, anyway. I can see how it looks that way.

  5. says

    So many facets of online interaction would be a lot less annoying if anyone actually bothered to click links and/or read what is in them. Sadly, If I posted “this is a link to a picture of a cat”, but the link clearly shows a picture of a bear, 80% of people will tell everyone else to go look at the picture of the cat. I wash my hands of that 80%. Really, what else is there to do? /shrug