Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mysogenist Murderer's Critics Too Generous

Emily Lindin, founder of an organization dedicated to combating misogynistic sexual bullying, wrote this of the murderer whose lengthy manifesto touched off the #YesAlWomen hashtag:
Rodger and others like him believe that sex is a reward to be earned, not a consensual activity between adults who respect each other, and that women are prizes to be won, not actual people with the agency to make decisions about their own bodies.
"In Killer's World, Victims Get Blamed" at
It's too generous.  The killer seems to give no indication the indulgence he demanded for his whims needed to be earned in any way from those he chose to kill.  He illustrates instead a culture of entitlement, in which his disappointment in sexual wish fulfillment is all the justification he needs for unchecked violence.  He doesn't think women have the right to expect him to earn their attentions at all: he feels entitled to be indulged by women and entitled to commit violence against them when his demands aren't met. There's certainly a place to criticize males who are less outrageous than Rodger, but when dealing with such blatantly misogynistically entitled thugs we ought not sugar-coat the depths of their distance from civilization.

Civilization, unfortunately, is what epidemic violence against women exposes as a myth: we as a species haven't much of it, apparently.  Today's news from Pakistan shows that although local law allows violent crime victims to derail prosecution by "forgiving" their assailants, the effect of this doctrine on intra-family violence against women is stark: women's murderers go unpunished as a matter of course because the perpetrator's families "forgive" them for killing their female relative. In this instance, the murdered woman was killed while headed to court to testify that her chosen husband hadn't abducted her (an allegation made by her rejected suitor and their shared male relatives). Of all the attackers, only the woman's father was even arrested.  He admitted the whole thing, expressing no remorse – fully entitled to murder a woman who didn't submit to his demands. The legal and social environment surrounding the gang-beating makes men feel safe to murder their female relatives for exercising agency in their lives instead of acceding to their sexual demands.  This, in a country with laws, police, and courts.

This isn't an American problem, it's a global problem.  It's not be worst in the U.S., but it exists in the U.S..  The problem needs real thought.  Like drinking-related highway deaths, the solution is surely not after-the-fact investigations but social reform to change the cultural acceptance of the target behavior.  We need to get cracking now.  The anti-bullying work I see in schools is a start, but it must intensify.  Bystanders must not accept or condone victimizing conduct.

This doesn't mean we can't have due process for accused attackers, but it does mean we can't accept vicious assaults on victims whose reports expose them to unchecked ridicule.  The #YesAllWomen hashtag offers a look at the range of concerns included in the topic.  Most of those alive are women; this is a problem that, improved at all, will improve the world.

UPDATE: The story in Pakistan is even crazier than originally reported.  The man whom the victim intended to marry admitted he'd murdered his previous wife to make himself available to marry the woman murdered by her refused lover and his cousins.  Moreover, the intended husband had provided 80,000 rupees and gold jewelry to the victim's father to secure his approval for the marriage.  Read about the craziness here.  Apparently in Pakistan fathers take money for permission to marry their daughters.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Information Protocols and the Surveillance State

Just in case you thought Snowden's exposure of a secret spy program against Americans is okay because it centers on metadata rather than on message content, listen to what General Michael Vincent Hayden – former director of the NSA and the CIA – says eighteen minutes into this Johns Hopkins Foreign Affairs Symposium: "First of all, David's description of what you can do with metadata … is absolutely correct, okay? We kill people based on metadata."

This casts into better light the decision of the Internet Engineering Task Force in RFC7258/BCP188 that pervasive monitoring is an attack and that protocol designers must work to mitigate it.