Death Threats Roil Blogosphere
Kathy Sierra, a prominent technology blogger, says she suddenly canceled a talk she was supposed to give because of specific, sexually graphic death threats posted on her blog. Her remarks about the threats have sparked a debate online about whether women are especially targets of online threats simply because of their gender.
"I'm at home, with the doors locked, terrified," Sierra writes on her blog, Creating Passionate Users. Sierra's work is hardly controversial – she writes about cognition and computers. She doesn't know who is responsible for the threats, but criticizes "people like respected Cluetrain Manifesto co-author Chris Locke (aka Rageboy)" who founded one of the blogs that hosted the vicious comments.
"It's this culture of attacking women that has especially got to stop. I really don't care if you attack me. I take those attacks in stride," Robert Scoble blogs. "But, whenever I post a video of a female technologist there invariably are snide remarks about body parts and other things that simply wouldn't happen if the interviewee were a man. It makes me realize just how acerbic this industry and culture are toward women."
Kim Klaver agrees. "These are all vicious attacks on her - as a woman. Yes, anyone who has a point of view and expresses it in print will get disagreements and often, personal attacks. I've had them here. But death and sexual threats?," Klaver blogs.
Salon editor-in-chief Joan Walsh concurs that "misogyny grows wild on the Web."
"Attitudes toward women have improved dramatically just in my lifetime, but still the world has too many misogynists, and the Web has given them a microphone that lets them turn up the volume on their quavering selves, their self-righteous fury, their self-loathing expressed as hatred of women," Walsh writes on Salon.com. "And yet, mostly, women on the Web just have to ignore it."
In a response to Sierra's comments, Chris Locke responds that "it comes with the territory," adding that he was "certainly not out to 'target'" Sierra" on his blogs. "I think her response, as it pertains to anything I personally wrote, was unjustified -- but highly effective -- character assassination," he writes at Rageboy. "As a result, I'm sure I'll be explaining for years to come that I'm not really an ax murderer and child molester. Nice work."
The debate over online mysogeny and the threats against Sierra have made her one of the most searched people on Technorati for the past week. Many of Sierra's fellow bloggers have come to her defense, questioning the limits of free speech in the blogosphere.
"What Kathy is putting up with is totally unacceptable, and I'm frankly sickened at what she has had to go through. It is totally unacceptable to make threats to people. Period," Technorati's David Sifry blogs.
Many say the incident raises questions about what should be tolerated online. "It certainly raises questions about sexual equality on the web - as Kathy correctly points out if she was a man the threats would not have been posted. But it is still wrong that people can anonymously do this to someone," Ian Devlin blogs.
Some are calling for a bloggers bill of rights to encourage good conduct. But whether even that would work remains to be seen.
Watch out, CBS News. The Onion News Network has debuted, online that is. The satirical newspaper turned satirical news network entered the broadcasting world with three new videos on immigration, Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice and another about Civil War re-enactors serving in Iraq. The Onion plans to add new video clips every week.
On its Website, the Onion News Network proclaims to have "set the standard for globe-encompassing 24-hour television news since it was founded in December, 1892." It considers CNN and MSNBC its rivals. "Those are parody shows," Onion president Sean Mills told Variety. "This is serious news." Many advertisers are already on board – including Dewar's Scotch, Hyundai and Red Stripe Beer.The Onion News Network has set the
"This is awesomely hilarious," a blogger at L33TG33K writes.
"The production quality of the ONN videos available so far is quite high across the board. The writing is somewhat less consistent, but at its best it is wickedly funny stuff," Rick Albertson blogs at Democracy Cell Project. "If the early segments are any indication, they ought to be very popular among the politically-oriented viral-video cognoscenti with a sense of humor."
"The Onion News Network takes the approach of a network that's been in the game for quite some time, and in true satirical Onion style they mock, well, whatever they can," a blogger at 901am writes.
"I thought the clips were pretty consistent with The Onion's brand of humor -- we're not seeing real people being humiliated here, nor are we seeing a Jon Stewart-type personality deliver the news," Whitney Matheson writes at USA Today's Pop Candy.
But not everyone is a fan just yet. "ONN -- as of this writing, less a network than a Web page with four clips and a Dewar's ad -- finally takes that extra step. Its news items are, indeed, mocked-up rather than simply mocked," reviews New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer. "This means that both the anchors and the subjects are played, hammily, by actors, and the 'news footage' is as scripted as the banter around it. Sadly, though, it is not particularly well scripted, nor particularly amusing."
Baghdad Bound Blogger
Jane Stillwater, a 64-year-old California blogger, left for Kuwait last week in the hopes of ending up in Iraq as a blogger embedded with the U.S. military. The prolific blogger is being sponsored by The Lone Star Iconoclast, a liberal weekly based in Crawford, Texas, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Stillwater said she's going to Iraq to write about the war for "real people." She also wrote on her blog that she wanted to go to "Baghdad to write fabulous stories for YOU all about how our brave troops are doing a bang-up job over there despite the fact that their bosses in the White House are sadistic bastards, terribly inefficient crooks and totally nuts -- or I will spend three weeks wandering the streets of Kuwait City waiting for my flight home, searching for internet cafes and trying to sell bootleg Girl Scout cookies."
She landed in Baghdad on Sunday, and has been blogging about her trip. When she arrived in Iraq, she describes a conversation with an Iraqi reporter "who said that the market they went to was the safest in the city and several American reporters added that walking around in Baghdad without troops backing you up was suicidal and anyone who did something like that had a death wish."
Bloggers say they respect Stillwater's determination to head to Iraq. "Whether or not you agree with her, I hope you admire her moxie. We need more chicks with moxie," a blogger at Curbside Prophecies writes.
"This is one woman who has decided to live her life by not following the set rules that everyone thinks they are supposed to follow," Liz Folger adds.
But not everyone is sure it's the right decision. "I think this is cool, brave, crazy, dangerous, nuts," Tony Stubblebine writes at Stubbleblog.
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By Melissa McNamara