November 7th, 2014

inverarity

Accountability and anonymity II: I was wrong (Musings about online identities)

I recently posted about the outing of 'Requires Only That You Hate' as up-and-coming Thai SF writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

In that entry, and in previous posts about RH/acrackedmoon/Winterfox/Pyrofennec/all-her-many-previous-handles, I was still somewhat sympathetic to her, in that I thought she was a jerk, but didn't deserve to be "outed" and made the target of an Internet auto-da-fé.

I had, in fact, participated on her blog, been cordial with her on LJ back when she was Winterfox, and allowed her to influence my opinion of many other writers and Internet personalities. We did not always agree, but I'd managed not to trigger her attack reflexes, and I can be lumped into the group of her enablers/defenders who dismissed a lot of her worst behavior as "performance rage."

SF author Laura J. Mixon (who also writes as M.J. Locke) has just posted a very extensive summary of the damage done by this individual. The post is long, and the comments are now in the hundreds, but they are illuminating too, and include a lot of testimonials by recognizable SF authors. There are links to posts from other authors and victims, many of which are also lengthy. I just spent quite a lot of time reading it all.

To put it briefly: "Requires Hate"/"Benjanun Sriduangkaew" (it's been reported from a couple of sources who claim knowledge that that name is certainly a pseudonym as well) has apparently been involved in a long, extensive campaign of deception, harassment, and covert attacks on other writers. Not just her public ranting, violent threats, and "trololol" tweets, but whispering campaigns to editors and publishers and con committees, targeting of enemies for exclusion and harassment, collection of extortion material, etc.

Her behavior, always cloaked in the language of "Social Justice," has been cynical, exploitative, and malicious.

I regret ever being even a peripheral part of her "support network." I didn't join in any of her pile-ons, I was never part of her inner circle, and she has nothing on me, but I did laugh at her cruel reviews and some of her snarky tweets. No, I still don't think that hyperbolically calling for an author to be skinned alive and set on fire should necessarily be treated as an actual physical threat, but in light of her pattern of abuse and vicious character assassination (much of which was apparently happening in back channels), I no longer think such violent rhetoric should be taken so lightly, either.

I used to be a lot more sympathetic to the cause of "Social Justice." I still am, in the abstract sense, in that I still think racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., are bad things and should be opposed. But RH, and her many supporters (some of whom are still standing by her and calling her the injured party) no longer have my sympathies, and I have become extremely cynical about SJ activists in general. (In fairness, RH is only a small part of that.) It's an environment that says insults and excoriating personal attacks are always okay as long as you're "punching up," that the merits of an argument can be determined by where the person making it sits on an "axis of privilege," that allowed a cynical, exploitative predator like RH to recruit so many useful idiots to her cause, some of whom (according to those linked reports) are now literally fearful of publicly breaking with her.

I wish no harm on whoever the person behind the persona may be. I'd like to believe some elements in the two apologies she posted (in two of her guises) are sincere. I have no idea what the professional future may be for the writer known as "Benjanun Sriduangkaew." But I will be far more mindful about my online interactions in the future. I will not endorse snark, flaming, or dismissive identity-based arguments.

Mostly unrelated to this particular issue, I am tempted to out myself just so I can wander the Internets as myself and not care about whether people know who I "really" am. I don't deliberately maintain multiple identities for purposes of deception - I just started writing fan fiction as "Inverarity" because it was a little embarrassing to be a middle-aged guy writing Harry Potter fan fiction, and I didn't want that to be the first thing that pops up if someone Googles my real name. But now Inverarity has become something of a secondary identity for me as well, and it's a little cumbersome to remember who I've interacted with under what pseudonym. And yeah, I have an Internet history going back years, and a few long-time... well, "enemies" might be too dramatic, but people with whom I have had run-ins, and who might find it amusing to splash some of the more intemperate things I've said in my younger days around.

I haven't said or done anything that would cause me great shame, certainly nothing that anyone could hold over me by threatening to "out" me. But I am coming around to believing that, while some people have good and valid reasons to maintain a cloak of pseudonymity, the best and most honest way to conduct yourself online is as your real self.