The Free Speech Problem

Most everyone agrees that online harassment is a major problem in need of an immediate solution, but in the hunt for trolls, some are too quick to dismiss legitimate concerns about free speech.

(Cross-posted at Medium)

In the wake of the GamerGate blowup, most of America is aware of our epidemic of online harassment. Unrepentant trolls on Twitter, Facebook, and similar services exploit anonymity and the ease of creating sockpuppet accounts to stalk, threaten, dox, and torment victims, even driving some to the point of suicide. But while activists rightly raise alarms about the problem, their proposed solutions often carry the risk of limiting the free speech and expression that make the Internet so powerful.

Writing at Boing Boing, for example, Glenn Fleishman explores Twitter’s problem with serial offenders, known trolls who have been banned but then return thanks to Twitter’s failure to enforce their own policy against serial accounts. Roughly two-thirds through the piece, Fleishman leaps abruptly to a rather dramatic conclusion: “the fight for anonymous speech ends when promotion of it is inexorably and demonstrably linked to enabling harassers.” [Read more…]

Friday First Amendment Roundup: Nov 14 2014

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but if Europe can land a robot on a comet then by God I can read my Google alerts and present my little Constitutional digest. As we end a week in which TIME magazine suggests banning the word “feminist” and a celebrated emerging sci-fi author is revealed as one of the Internet’s most nefarious trolls, it seems appropriate to take a look at what’s happening worldwide with the rights to speech, assembly, and expression:

  • Writing at CNN, Rupert Abbott of Amnesty International raised an alarm about troubling restrictions on free speech he says are sweeping southeast Asia.
  • Following the swift response to his racist and misogynist Twitter screed, comedian Artie Lange has found few defenders. Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon and Katie McDonough at Slate wrote particularly strong takedowns of those who would defend Lange. [Read more…]

Tsar Bomb First Page (Fall First Page Blog Hop)

This is a bit unusual for me, folks, but Michelle Hauck is hosting a critique blog hop at her site. It’s a neat idea (thanks, Michelle!) and I’ve decided to participate–so here’s the first page of the book I’m pitching, Tsar Bomb, an adult paranormal thriller.

If you’ve happened here from somewhere other than the blog hop, please feel free to post your review in the comments!

Preston reached for his toes and tried to ignore the pain in his back. He stood and pulled his right foot up toward his bottom, squeezing his white running shoe in one hand. The bulge of his belly peeked out beneath his tee-shirt, and Preston looked to make sure he was alone. He stretched the other leg, shook them both, and then bounced on his feet.

The day was going to be a scorcher, just like yesterday and the day before. The morning air still smelled like rain, though the sun had burned away the clouds and now pressed his skin like a hot iron. The street was a fresh asphalt ribbon. Preston lurched forward into a run.

His back flared immediately. Ignore it, he thought. The doctors said you can do this. His stomach was next to complain, and it was more persuasive, sending up a warning shot of morning coffee and stale beer. He’d run through hangovers. Once upon a time, he’d run through anything. But that was before.

He told himself to stop thinking, that it hadn’t been that long ago. A stitch settled in his left side like a dagger. His calves were tight as fists. He hadn’t made it three blocks yet.

Then again, how could anyone tell? There weren’t actual blocks in Florida, just street and trees and grassand the canal, of course. Preston wondered if there were alligators that morning, and whether an alligator would eat a jogger.

Ten Things I Learned from the Genesis Documentary, “Sum of the Parts.”

  1. Tony Banks says “The Lamb Lies Down on Broaday” was his least favorite thing the band ever did. His favorite is “Duchess,” from the album Duke.
  2. Please read #1 again.
  3. “Duchess” is, ironically enough, about a washed-up former music star reflecting back on her glory days.
  4.  Tony Banks did not like Peter Gabriel wearing costumes on stage, and would not have allowed it to happen if he’d known about it in advance. He is clearly still quite salty about it.
  5. Tony Banks very openly resents Phil Collins solo success, and makes a point of letting everyone know that Phil “never played ‘In the Air Tonight’ for the band” before putting it on his solo record–Phil claims otherwise.
  6. Oh hey, please go back and read #1 again.
  7. The band apparently performed “Whodunnit” live in concert in the 1980s. So there’s that.
  8. Peter Gabriel says “The Lamb” is about “letting go of one’s self in order to make room for a new self.”
  9. Tony Banks feels that “Land of Confusion” was a powerful political statement.
  10. Mike Rutherford just seems happy that people remember he was in the band too.

A Coen Retrospective at the Atlantic


Over at the Atlantic, Christopher Orr has been celebrating 30 years of Coen Brothers movies by revisiting one Coen film per day. I don’t have much to add here, I just want to recommend that you go read it, because it’s great. And thorough.

As big a Coen fan as I am, I realize I’ve only seen about half of their movies. I may be having a little Coen film fest of my own in the near future. This will not stand.

Photo from Flickr user Tom Francis, used under Creative Commons license