Thursday, May 29, 2014

Making The National Security State Work For Women, While Simultaneously Breaking It

Elliot Rodgers recently committed a mass murder in Santa Barbra. One of the most awful things about this was that it was entirely preventable. Rodgers' family alerted authorities before the incident, telling them they feared he would do something terrible.

The rage and violence that Rogers expressed online is socially acceptable. Men are allowed to act on their violent misogynistic impulse publicly and online. Nobody stops them. Nobody in a position of authority uses the United State's militarized police forces and surveillance state against angry young misogynists. The police sent to investigate him found something incredibly common... an angry young man who expressed his feelings of inadequacy and frustration by spouting off violent rhetoric  towards women. 

This is such a common thing that, in this case, and in many others, the police simply ignore it, even when members of the misogynist's own family try and intervene.  They ignore it when woman are stalked and harassed online. They ignore it when women are physically intimidated and harassed in person. It is ignored.  The inevitable result is dead women and girls. Women and girls are routinely not protected by the US's massive national security state. The culture of misogyny is so endemic that the US can't even protect its own female military service members from their male counterparts.

Prior to this shooting, the comics and science fiction community was confronted with an incident of online misogyny... a woman received thousands of ugly rape and death threats from men online, who feel confident that nothing bad will ever come of threatening to rape and kill a women for expressing her opinion online.  And this experience... of being a woman online and receiving ugly threats for daring to express an opinion happens with depressing regularity. The above case is not an exception... it's the rule.

As the Snowden leaks have demonstrated... there is no such thing as online anonymity.The surveillance state could easily find people who send threats over the internet.  The police state we live in has dozens if not hundreds of laws that already criminalize this type of behavior... But it is never followed up on because there is no institutional or cultural will to protect women from the violence of angry men.

For example... Most criminal terrorist statutes refer to "using the threat of violence in order to coerce someone change their views or actions." Everybody who sent a rape or death threat to Wendy Davis was clearly engaging in terrorist activities under this, and many other definitions of terrorism. Yet I have heard of no prosecutions of anybody for these threats... made against a state senator. If you can't get sent to jail for threatening Wendy Davis, certainly women with far lower social standing don't stand a chance to have their stalkers and harassers held accountable.

 Prosecutors from many jurisdictions often pile on in violent criminal cases, where any previous contact with a victim is considered a "terrorist threat,"as a way to increase pressure on the defendant, and to get more years if convicted... This happens in drug and robbery cases, and gang cases all the time. Generally though, there is little political will to use these kinds of broad prosecutorial discretion against angry young males who act out against women.

That has to change. Every online rape threat is a terrorist threat and should be treated as such. Every death threat sent to a woman for expressing her views on an issue in a public forum should be treated like a terrorist threat. And the full weight of our national security state should be brought to bear, bringing these cowardly bullies who think they are anonymous to justice. Because if week after week and month after month goes by, and nothing happens whens thousands upon thousands of angry young men send rape and death threats over the internet, over and over... it sends a very clear message.... Raping and killing women is okay.  That is the message that Elliot Rogers heard.

Lets talk about enablers. MRA's or Mens Rights Advocates are enablers of misogyny. They welcomed a homicidal young man into their mists and encouraged him.  Are MRAs any different than radical Muslim clerics who call for Jihad? Under the law, there should be no difference. But since most MRA's are white men who are in positions of societal privilege (ie they are not routinely stopped by police offers and asked what they are doing and why, and are not used to being held accountable by the government), they're are not held accountable for their actions and rhetoric in ways that other groups are.  Let me be clear... Online advocates of Muslim radicalism have been convicted and sent to prison for long periods of time for doing far less than many self identifying MRAs have done (acting along with others to gather personal information about women, like addresses and places of work, and posting said information online). Under current law, anybody who did as little as bought a sandwich for Elliot Rodgers after reading his manifesto could be charged with material support of terrorism, if there was the political will to pursue such prosecutions.

So in addition to using terrorist laws against the folks who actually commit threats and acts of violence, the government should be designating various MRA groups as hate groups and supporters of terrorism.

This needs to happen, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. The endemic culture of misogyny that is cultivated and allowed to thrive needs to be weeded out and destroyed... the same way one weeds out radical Islam:  By education. By outreach. By addressing the issues that radicalize people... and, in tandem with that, by bringing the full weight of the national security state down upon the heads of these demonstrably violent and anti social individuals and groups.

Some people do not approve of the excesses of the national security state. And I have to admit, I am one of those people. But these excesses will never be rolled back until the segments of society that feel protected by them start to feel their bite. As long as only Muslims and people of color are the ones prosecuted and oppressed for "Terrorism", these polices of excess will remain in place. But if you start sending young white men to prison for sending rape threats over the internet, there will be some push-back and reform.

So what I am proposing is a win, win solution. Angry and violent misogynists held accountable for their actions... and some serious undermining of the perpetual national security state might take place at the same time.

This needs to start at the local level. Contact your local District Attorneys and demand a zero tolerance policy when it comes to violence and threats against women. Contact your local police departments, and point  the failures of the Santa Barbara sheriffs department... DEMAND that existing laws are vigorously and enthusiastically enforced. Demand that federal anti-terrorism money gets spent on tracking down and prosecuting "anonymous" terrorist threats against women. Drum up local and national media to cover instances of Police and DA apathy.

If local officials aren't supportive of these measures, starting local for local district attorney, city council and mayoral candidates who are. STOP THE VIOLENCE platforms are always good political platforms.  Get people in positions of authority locally who will are willing to take threats against women seriously.  Start pursuing state wide politicians with the same tactics.

Progressive lobbyist organizations should start asking state and federal politicians to sign "zero tolerance" statements. Legislation and policy statements that clearly draw the link between rape or death threats against women, and terrorism should be pursued.  Try and find me one politician who is willing to go on the record in favor of a person's right to make rape threats...  There isn't one.

Start making the National Security State work for women. Change the world. One rape threat at a time.  Send misogynists to Jail,  one death threat at a time. Hold people accountable for their actions, even when those actions take place "online." Eventually the culture of misogyny will crumble, and so will the larger public support for national security state excess.