At the Intersection of Gamergate & Weevgate, Abusers & Their Knowing Apologists

A Misogynist Icon

A Misogynist Icon

[Editor’s Note: After noxious, not-so-crypto-fascist Andrew Auernheimer (aka “weev”) published a rambling, racist screed on a white supremacist blog – our community took several journalists to task for work they had previously done to obscure his odious, Nazi politics. OLAASM recently published our own exploration of the topic, focused primarily on our larger concerns: cynicism, opportunism and the white supremacy they both serve. However, all of this ignores the reality that “weev” was a well-known, misogynist harasser long before any celebrity journalists whitewashed his perfidious past and committed to making him an icon. The question remains: why? Did they not know or did they not care?

After we published our post, we got some attention of our own. Vicious trolls have emerged – committed to outing, smearing and even instrumentalizing our Twitter operator’s deceased parents as tools to misrepresent and shame him. And us. But we are undeterred. Because it has never been about us. That’s one reason why we don’t use our names. Not because we are afraid, but because we don’t want fame just for giving a fuck. We want more people to care, not to be exceptional for caring.

We got some good attention, too, however. Kathy Sierra, the target of “weev’s” long-storied but intentionally obscured abuse, sent us a very heartening, personal email. And amidst the stream of abuse we’ve taken over the past few days, that small connection and solidarity makes it all worth it.

Although Sierra asked that we not publish that short, personal note itself, she provided the following introduction and relevant excerpts from an email she herself sent to Molly Crabapple in May of 2013, a prominent artist and writer who emerged after Occupy as a formidable, political influencer. It’s important to note that Crabapple isn’t alone in having foisted “weev” up as some kind of celebrity rebel. Other journalists committed themselves to sanitizing “weev,” too. Hopefully, like Natasha Lennard, these influencers will reconsider why they did.

We at OLAASM support Kathy Sierra. Because we actually care. We wish Crabapple and other journalists who had the opportunity to support her could say the same. Instead, many knowingly chose to lionize him and ignore her. Again – Why? ]

—–

header from Sierra email

header from Sierra email

Since I have very little to lose at this point, I’m sending you the first part of the email I sent to Molly Crabapple. She never wrote back. But she did acknowledge recently on Twitter that she *did* get the email but didn’t have a chance to respond because she was in the midst of dealing with the sentencing (though a second tweet from her said that this was not an excuse).

I have good friends — people I know to be trustworthy, ethical “good” people — who were terribly conflicted about how to reconcile the weev-as-racist/misogynist-harasser with the weev they had come to feel not just support for but affection for, and so I still believe that with my friends *and Molly* it was less willful disregard and more rose-colored glasses that were too painful to remove.

That said, Molly is an extremely influential figure and represents herself as motivated by “the truth”. And I would hope this comes with a greater level of responsibility and a higher standard than not just other people commenting on the case but even most in the tech press. At the least, I wish she’d listened to these concerns, and perhaps did further research. Just the articles linked to on his wikipedia entry should have been enough.

She was of course not the only journalist/author I wrote to with essentially the same email — about the message they were sending by the way they characterized him (separate from the case, which we all supported him in that). Out of all of them, the *only* person who wrote back to say that she was going to think more deeply about, for example, whether her friendly conversations with him on Twitter acted as a tacit endorsement, was Gabriella Coleman. Nobody else.

/////// email below

[email below, dated May 15 2013]

Hello Molly,

Apologies for this unexpected email, but I am reaching out to well-respected, influential women known to the tech community who have been speaking up on weev’s behalf.

I would not expect anything less than the outpouring of support (and outrage) over what has happened to weev, but I feel quite strongly that the narrative of weev-as-hero-hacktivist is both inaccurate and, in some ways, damaging to the already-tough battle against misogyny for women in technology.

His case — or rather his conviction and sentencing for the AT&T iPad emails — is most likely a poor one. Virtually everyone I trust feels there is a serious problem with that case, and of course with the implications of CFAA in its currernt/vague form. But if we care about the truth, we should be able to decouple weev-the-person from the actual case. If this conviction is wrong (most likely), he should not need to be reframed and spun as anything other than what he is. His motives should not have to be retroactively fabricated to suddenly become about “social good” or “protecting privacy”. This is, after all, the man whose weapon of choice is… doxing.

Molly, I am writing you because people I care about have such respect for your work — and you. And many people I know are experiencing cognitive dissonance right now over the weev-as-hacktivist vs. the weev they know… the weev who willfully, gleefully destroyed my life for reasons that are as far from social good as it gets.

His own words, in the document about me, “she fought the lol. The lol won.” and “she squealed like a stuck pig” and of course, the long-standing culture of “personal ruin” were how he described his reasons for doing this to me. I know I am just one individual, but I know many of his other individual victims, including many women who he did not Dox, but threatened to as a way of controlling and suppressing their actions. With me, and again, I realize nobody besides my family and myself really care about this — he managed to damage, forever, the lives of my two daughters. Because he artfully constructed a part fact, part fiction bio that described my time as a struggling single mother (true) working as a prostitute (false), living in my car (false), victim of domestic violence (true, but how the hell did he figure that out?). He of course posted my actual social security number, home address, and a call for others to send things to me to express their feelings.

He dragged innocent family members into the document. He made sure it would be distributed everywhere, instantly, and could never be removed. He tweeted a link to it just weeks before he went to prison, to the UNredacted version that still gave my social security number.

But even if nobody cares specifically about my personal individual damage from him (or any other personal individual’s damage), consider the impact that document had on other women in technology. Whether I liked it or not, I ended up being a reluctant role model for many women. I was a programmer, I wrote the top selling programming books of the past decade, I was the opening keynote for SXSWi (I think that was the year before weev, for me), and one of the few women presenting at tech, start-up, open source conferences, etc.

[snip from the middle]

Again, I am reaching out to women who speak out for him not because I don’t feel they should, but because I hope they can be more nuanced and separate the case from the person, rather than spreading what has now become a consistent set of talking points around him as a person and his personal motives that are… Fiction.

A journalist has been speaking with me recently that has spent time with weev, and asked him about me recently. The journalist told me, “I don’t think he considers you an actual person.” that is when I decided to write to people, especially women.

Because I actually am a real person. With daughters. And a husband. And he ruined our lives with a casual wave of his hand, a few clicks of his keyboard, and not a moment’s thought about what it meant for us. No, I take that back, he does think about it — because it continues to provide lulz.

In a few months I will be giving free public speaking / presenting workshops to women who have never spoken at a tech conference, as part of LeanStartups attempt to encourage more women in technology. Only a few will have not realized what happened to ME as a result of the great crime of speaking out (one post) about severe harassment… Harassment that also happened for the great crime of simply being a women technologist.

In summary, he destroyed my life, for lulz, and you, personally, are propagating his mythology.

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7 Responses to At the Intersection of Gamergate & Weevgate, Abusers & Their Knowing Apologists

  1. srogouski says:

    Reblogged this on Stanley W. Rogouski and commented:
    Kathy Sierra wrote Molly Crabapple in May of 2013 about Weev’s attempts to destroy her life. Are feminists going to continue to defend Molly Crabapple for her lionizing a known anti-Semite and misogynist?

  2. Anonymous Reader says:

    This is a good and useful intervention. Thanks for posting it.

    I saw you had Tweeted a link to Sierra’s recent piece on weev and troll/anti-troll dynamics (http://seriouspony.com/trouble-at-the-koolaid-point/), and found it a little strange. When I read the post, the situation it seemed to me most obviously to describe are the related campaigns against Molly Crabapple and Sarah Kendzior, in which you have participated (though, it must be admitted, much less viciously than some of your Twitter comrades).

    I say this not in an accusatory, ‘gotcha’ kind of way. As I have watched the battles that have circled around Crabapple and Kendzior – and in some cases, it can fairly be said, instigated by them – over the past year, my sympathies have remained with the side you have done much to articulate. Both of them have repulsive politics, questionable connections (Kendzior, in particular–though I’m not as convinced as some of y’all that they’re taking part in a campaign directed and financed by anyone larger than themselves, not that I rule it out), and ultimately exercise a malign influence in some spheres of online, “left” identified discourse. I think it’s also fair to say both of them have acted in grossly dishonest ways, once again Kendzior more obviously, frequently and maliciously, and Crabapple if only in order to cover her ass (about her relationship with weev in particular).I therefore support any effort to argue with them, disagree with their writing, tweets etc. And I think it’s fair to draw on their larger public histories in order to do so. That’s not harassment, but good politics and good analysis.

    But there’s a vicious personal tone to much criticism of these figures, including yours–and vigilance in the attention to their every move, every tweet–that I think it is fair to call “obsessive”, even recognizing the way that charge can and has been leveled to marginalize political passion of any variety. Does not the below, from Sierra’s post, resemble the dynamic of many of these interactions?:

    “I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed.

    From the hater’s POV, you (the Koolaid server) do not “deserve” that attention. You are “stealing” an audience. From their angry, frustrated point of view, the idea that others listen to you is insanity. From their emotion-fueled view you don’t have readers you have cult followers. That just can’t be allowed.”

    I know the response to this will be to highlight Crabapple and Kendzior’s influence and reach, to argue that their micro-celebrity gives their words a prominence in “left” political discourse that demands a hearty to counter the vitiating effect they might have, or seek to have, on sturdier Communist or Anarchist analyses. Perhaps you might add that the repetition and aggression of your campaign is a result of the limited effect its having: Kendzior and Crabapple are still writing, still exerting influence, and if you seek to have the intended effect–to alert a less sophisticated or experienced readership to the pitfalls of their brand of politics–you need to be vigilant.

    Even granting all that, it’s difficult to dismiss the charge that there’s something more personal, something built on a less politically defensible kind of resentment, to the tone, frequency and character that much tweeting about/at SK and MC has become. I realize that’s subjective. But even if you’re perfectly confident in the righteousness of your approach, in the full scope of your motivations, doesn’t it trouble you–even just on tactical terms–how closely Sierra’s description of misogynist trolls maps on to the methods you and others have used to battle these fake-left pseudo-celebrities? Do you not recognize yourself in that piece at all?

    Even as just a spectator, I see myself there. And, as a man, I don’t feel comfortable fully adjudicating which of my impulses are rooted in an unconscious misogyny and which don’t. That doubt shouldn’t, of course, be used to obscure the real political stakes of the disagreements with Kendzior and Crabapple, but it does, I think, mean that the current approach needs to be examined more thoughtfully. I think it’s very easy–and completely understandable, beyond larger questions of political/class orientation–that a woman not paying attention to every last of these fights’ quickly disappearing details to see your efforts in the light Sierra describes.

    • That’s an interesting performance.

      “Even granting all that, it’s difficult to dismiss the charge that there’s something more personal, something built on a less politically defensible kind of resentment, to the tone, frequency and character that much tweeting about/at SK and MC has become. ”

      You repeat this a few times but fail ever to get around to saying why you object to this or why it should surprise, irk or concern you that there are people who really hate fascists, racists, imperial aggressors, torturers, murderers, slanderers. Of course you are one of these people who will say yes its possible to deplore mass gassing but still find Rudolph Hess a charming and interesting guy who should be treated with respect and listened to. But of course you know there are people who really _hate_ the mass murderers, plunderers, conquerers, and their dishonest, mercenary pr people as much as those pr people pretend to hate the Empire’s target of the month and his supporters.

      So what are you getting at? Do you think that there shouldn’t be a personal hatred of fascists, racists, slanderers, rapists, torturers, death squad leaders and their apologists? Why not? And why should people who hate this ruthless ruling class and their unscrupulous servants not express it as much as they please?

  3. Of course we are. Have you met us? (Sigh)

  4. Observer says:

    It’s no mystery why Molly was one of Weev’s biggest advocates until he “crossed the line” by using the exact phrasing of admitting he’s a *Nazi*, rather than merely laughing about he hates nonwhites and thinks the holocaust was funny. The Weev adoration was just a way for Molly to raise her profile (as an artist always in search of generous benefactors) among nerds who have a lot of money to spend. Weev was what the nerds wanted, so Weev was what she would sell them. Giving a shit about Kathy Sierra, women being terrorized, and doxing certainly wasn’t going to fund Molly’s fancy bohemian lifestyle in New York City. Lionizing Weev was.

  5. Pingback: Remembering Gary Webb | The Rancid Honeytrap

  6. This is even more interesting in light of the events of the past few days. Someone hasn’t learned.

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