Many of you are probably following this story, an offshoot of the insane outpouring of misogyny known as GamerGate. The latest news is that Anita Sarkeesian decided to cancel her speech at Utah State University yesterday. A news article from the Salt Lake Tribune explains:
A nationally known feminist media critic said Wednesday that “it would be irresponsible” to give a lecture amidst mass shooting threats at Utah State University, knowing that police would not screen for weapons at the door.
In a phone interview from San Francisco, Anita Sarkeesian said she canceled Wednesday’s lecture not because of three death threats — one of which promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” — but because firearms would be allowed in spite of the threats.
“That was it for me,” said Sarkeesian, who has kept multiple speaking engagements in the face of death threats, including one last week at Geek Girl Con in Seattle. “If they allowed weapons into the auditorium, that was too big a risk.”
She also pledged never to speak at a Utah school until firearms are prohibited on Utah’s campuses and called for other lecturers to join her in boycotting the state.
Wait–why would any sane polity or university let guns into a university lecture hall?
Oh, yeah: “USU officials also pointed to a 2004 state law preventing public universities from restricting guns. Sarkeesian said she asked for metal detectors or pat-downs at the entrance of the Taggart Student Center auditorium, but USU police said they could not prevent those in attendance from carrying weapons into the lecture if they had concealed weapons permits.” Right: people with guns have rights that people armed only with ideas don’t. So liberal concealed- and open-carry laws end up shutting down unarmed feminists and amplifying the ideas of people like this:
The most detailed threat, which has prompted an FBI investigation, does not identify as a GamerGate action but rather a USU student attacking feminism.
“We live in a nation of emasculated cowards too afraid to challenge the vile, misandrist harpies who seek to destroy them,” the threat stated. “Feminism has taken over every facet of our society, and women like Sarkeesian want to punish us for even fantasizing about being men. This is why I’ve chosen to target her. Anita Sarkeesian is everything wrong with the feminist woman, and she is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU. I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”
(Why are you “fantasizing about being men?” Are you not a man? What “punishment” do you fear? Can you not function as a man IRL? So what part of that is the fault of feminism in general, or of Anita Sarkeesian in particular?)
What a pathetic little $hit. His threats are probably as impotent as the rest of of him, but I completely understand why Sarkeesian cancelled her speech at USU. This is a prime example of how supposedly neutral liberal gun laws empower only certain people and silence only certain ideas. Because of the historic association of gun ownership with men, especially white men, in states like Utah and Colorado they now have the power to shut down women speakers whose ideas they dislike, especially feminist women.
As the kids today say: it’s a feature, not a bug!
9 thoughts on “Death threats plus liberal gun laws = no feminist speech allowed”
Ugh. My first reaction is to think that, even if police are required by law to allow guns into the lecture hall, that doesn’t prevent them from screening attendees, and creating very precise records of who entered with which guns, based on what kind of permit. It doesn’t even prevent them from assigning an officer to sit next to every gun-toting attendee (though that could get expensive). And none of the above would do much good if someone was determined to be an anti-feminist martyr. In fact, adding more people with guns (i.e. cops) to the mix might just add up to more bullets flying around, and collateral as well as deliberate victims.
She could always appear by Skype, or even speak from behind a bullet-proof shield, but it sounds like the threat may apply to her audience as much as to her, and neither of those solutions would protect the audience.
So, yes, it sounds like she made the smart decision. And the laws that forced her to make that decision are really dumb.
If the issue was the “right” of grain vessels with Agriculture Department permits to enter a harbor, and the government didn’t want them to, copies of the permits would have to be supplied in quintuplicate to five different offices, six weeks in advance, the originals would have to be deposited for some duration before and after the ship’s arrival, and dozens of other regulatory conditions would have to be met. Bingo, bango, boingo, some part of the problem goes away, or maybe stays away, pro temp. These guy hate the regulatory state for good reason; that it could hog-tie them in any number of ways, and for any number of perfectly good reasons. Sure it would provoke an endless round of litigation for the initiating party, i.e. the university, to deal with, but that’s the idea. And when the negative court decisions come down, you move to the next round of hurdles. The ideal way to run the polis? No, but better than the apparent alternative. Nothing that I ever read in the founding era about all amendments being created equal. The Supreme Court that delegitimized itself with the guns amendment decision might actually have to start working all year to deal with the writs and appeals.
The whole game-boy thing has always made me want to puke, anyway.
Sarkeesian has the right to free speech — as long as she is willing to tolerate fear, abuse, anxiety and death threats as the possible cost of expressing herself.
It’s also an interesting throwback (with guns!) to all the free speech arguments during the 190s feminist sex wars. Porn, of course, fell under First Amendment law, which was pretty robust by the early 1980s, but anti-porn fems argued that free speech for pornographers effectively silenced real, live women — both women acting in porn, and women whose husbands and boyfriends expected them to be porny in bed in the ways they were used to in magazines.
If in supposedly volatile situations, with important people like party convention delegates at potential risk, protesters can be relegated into distant, roped off “free speech zones” to exercise their First Amendment rights there, I can’t imagine why people who want to “carry” couldn’t be shunted by the University into what would essentially be padded, auditorium sized rooms with two-way television capabilities for the speeches or events, to exercise their subordinate Second Amendment rights there. The precedent is already in place for why constitutionally-protected rights–even ones that don’t exist–can be severed physically from the messiness (and convenience) of the rest of ordinary life, and still be said to exist.
I like Indyanna’s solution of a gun-rights-zone with CC TV. (hahahaha.) That Utah doesn’t do that pretty much tells you whose side they’re on.
The big fundamental gorilla in the mess, gun rights aside, is that it shows the consequence of interpreting free speech rights as a free-for-all. It gives the lie to the whole “marketplace of ideas” where the truth eventually wins because nothing is suppressed.
It means the real solution to the mess, in addition to getting sensible on the gun issue, will require understanding that free speech which silences someone else’s freedom must be controlled.
And that, of course, lands us smack in the middle of deciding who should be silenced and who can speak, which was what people hoped could be easily solved by avoiding decisions.
In the Founders’ day, there was automatic silencing by lack of resources. Now that everybody can express themselves all the time, we’re not going to be able to escape answering those questions sooner or later.
If I’m translating from Violent Misogynist Douchebag properly (and that language does involve tone and inflection), then “being a man” means “being violent and sexually aggressive without fear of consequences, because those things are privileges belonging to masculine identity. “Being a man” would mean something like “being James Bond,” or “being John Carter of Mars,” which is to a say a constructed vision of hyper-masculinity rather than an actual person alive in the world.
In the speaker’s mind, most of us with Y chromosomes are not “being men” most of the time. For example, my spouse is currently wearing shoes and is outside the kitchen entirely. The speaker equates manhood with anti-social behavior and with fantasies of anti-social behavior.
That he deliberately evoked the Montreal massacre of 25-years ago, and took that killer’s name as his pseudonym, is especially unsettling. That isn’t an incident that’s on the tip of every male geek’s tongue. The writer of this threat has clearly fixated on some dark, hateful things.
The entire point of concealed and open carry of firearms is to intimidate and silence people you don’t like. As you say, it’s a feature, not a bug.
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