The reasons I switched from the program I’ve been using for years isn’t important. The interesting bit was what I learned after setting up one specific account in the new reader. It’s an email account that is on a domain I own. The sole purpose of this account is to be the home account of one of my side Twitter accounts. I have an twitter account in the name of one of the fictional characters in my novel series. At the time I set it up I had vague plans to promote the books through it. Anyway, the mail services for that domain are outsourced, and for various reasons when I set up my new email reader to pull that account, the junk mail filters at the outsourced place are being ignored. So ever single bit of spam coming to that account gets downloaded to my laptop. This account has never been shared with anyone other than Twitter. The email account doesn’t appear on any contact anywhere, I don’t believe that I have ever sent an email message from it. But still, it gets hundreds of spam messages every day — and at most one legitimate piece of email, because once a day Twitter sends a message to the account with “hightlights” from the people that the twitter account follows, or to tell me someone replied to a tweet, or whatever, right?
So this account is just getting flooded with spam, and you would expect that most of said spam would be Nigerian-Prince-style scams, right? Nope. Don’t get me wrong–there are some messages about “Get in on this 10 Million Dollar deal!” or “Regarding your credit account” or “We tried to deliver your package” that try to get you to click on a link and enter your password for a service they can hijack or get you to confirm credit card information. And there are the ads for Viagra or quack remedies for various illnesses, yes. But that’s less than half. The other half are emails with subject lines: “Obama treason confirmed!” or “Birth Control Makes Women Violent” or “Planned Parenthood Still Selling Infant Organs” “You Won’t Believe What the Gay Agenda is Pushing Now” or “Hilary Crimes Finally Proven” or “You Won’t Believe this Obama Outrage!”
That’s right, a half year since Obama left office and the sexual-predator-in-chief was sworn in, there are bots out there cranking out anti-Obama and anti-Hilary propaganda, and mailing it to millions of people. And clearly, someone must be clicking on some of these mails.
I already knew about the literally millions of twitter-bot accounts that retweat Donald’s nonsense or hate speech and propaganda from alt-right news sites. I knew about the millions of twitter-bot accounts pretending to be Bernie Bros tweeting out slightly more dog-whistling hate speech and anti-Hilary disinformation. I’ve included in recent Friday Links posts some stories about the role of algorithms and those bots in skewing the way the people see and understand the news: The Threat From Artiﬁcial Intelligence May Already Be Here and Maybe the AI dystopia is already here.
I had thought I understood what was happening. But it took seeing thousands of these spam messages from several months worth of spam to one account to finally connect a couple of dots I hadn’t been thinking about it. The various alt-right faux news sites, plus Fox, the millions of twitter-bots, and so forth function like spam in more ways than one. One avenue of success similar to spam is that only a fraction of a percent of any message needs to be seen by the targertted person for it to hit. Most of them aren’t seen by any individual because some are caught in various filters such as junk folders. But as long as some get through, the person is still exposed to the misinformation.
But another aspect of spam’s effectiveness we don’t think about is this: the less tech-savvy someone is, the more likely they are to see the misinformation. And studies have shown that the more educated a person is, or the more knowledgeable they are in a variety of subjects, the more likely they are to be liberal. Conversely, the less knowledgeable, the more likely they are to be conservative. So there’s an asymmetrical distribution of the misinformation, with more of the people who see it being likely to view those ridiculous headlines and subject lines as confirmation of their current beliefs, rather than react with skepticism.
The other aspect is contagion. Certain types of malware and scams depend on people forwarding them on to other people. We all had that one relative who always, without fail, used to click on every single chain email and so forth forwarded to them by anyone they knew, and who in turn would forward it to all of their friends and family (no matter how many times we tried to explain to grandpa that he was forwarding viruses half the time, right?).
The person who sees the false headline and believes it may share the false news link to all their friends by posting it on Facebook or forwarding the message or whatever. And many of the people they know are sharing similar bits of misinformation, creating the impression that everyone they know agrees with their worldview and/or validates the misinformation.
It’s not just that they live in an information bubble, or that they inhabit an echo chamber, its that they are surrounded my scores of overlapping misinformation bubbles that invade and reinforce each other.
And the fourth area comes back to that bit I said about not being able to convince my one grandparent to stop forwarding the bad stuff. After awhile I just had to give up and quarantine all of his emails. Similarly, it’s not just that the misinformation drowns out the good information, but we’re socially conditioned not to argue with some of the vectors of misinformation. And because we get tired of having arguments with all those racist cousins, so we simply mute them or whatever. Then they assume that because we’ve stopped arguing, that we now agree with them.
I wish I had a solution to this. It would be so much easier if the enemy were an army of Cylons coming at us. Instead, twitter-bots and the like are turning our neighbors and relatives into the army that is trying to take away our rights, take away healthcare, and so much more.
I decided not to make this news the topic of my Weekend Update because I couldn’t find any confirmation of those triumphant announcements. Only one of the news sites I checked even mentioned the fact that, technically, the group could miss their appointment, they could even call and cancel, but if they arrived at the office at 4:59pm with thousands of signed petitions, the state would have to accept them and begin the process of verifying signatures. And some of the folks involved in the push for the initiative have played fast and loose with the rules before.
Anyway, I finally did find confirmation: Election Rarity: No Initiatives Qualify For November Statewide Ballot In Washington. So didn’t show up at 4:59 with petitions. No one did, even though about 30 different initiatives were filed this time. There’s more good news besides the fact that for a second year in a row the anti-trans people were unable to get enough signatures to even turn them in and attempt to qualify. I’ll come back to that.
As late as Thursday morning, the anti-trans folks were sending out money-beg emails to their supporters in which they claimed they had more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but they still needed to fundraise because those evil queers and their nefarious allies were preparing to challenge the signatures. I just want to clarify that we were prepared to do more than challenge signatures. Evidence had already come forward that some of the signature gatherers were circulating two versions of the petitions that didn’t conform to the law: they didn’t have the official approved ballot title on the top (instead having a misleading one), and others didn’t contain the full text of the law on the back. Those of us following this case knew that, and the organization leading the Decline to Sign campaign (and preparing to run a No on I-1552 campaign if it made the ballot), had lawyers standing at the ready to raise that issue, among others. Signatures on petitions that don’t meet the legal criteria aren’t supposed to be counted, right?
Anyway, the didn’t have enough signatures, and so decided not to turn them in: WASHINGTON STATE: Haters Fail To Submit Signatures To Place Transgender Rights Repeal On Ballot and Transgender bathroom rule won’t be on fall ballot; group seeking rollback fails to get enough signatures. So that’s good news, for now. This is the second time this has happened. They claim to have collected more signatures this year than last. Because they were prompter to get filed and so forth this year, they had more time to collect the signatures. This time around a lot more Republican politicians and former politicians came out urger voters not to sign, though some waited until awfully late to do so.
But the other bit of good news is that none of the other initiatives filed on other topics turned in signatures, either. Some of them were quite worrisome. I’m very happy that perennial anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-well-anything-decent initiative filer Tim Eyman had a bunch of his usual garbage filed as of January and he was fundraising as usual right up until March, when the state Attorney General filed a lawsuit against him and one of his paid signature gathering groups for campaign finance violations including money laundering and Eyman diverting a lot of funds for his personal use: AG sues Tim Eyman for $2M, says he profited from campaigns. Suddenly, all of his fundraising efforts shifted to begging supporters for money to pay his legal fees: Eyman cries for contributions to counter AG’s ‘stunning witch hunt’.
The guy’s full-time job for a couple of decades has been running these shitty initiatives. He’s been having fewer and fewer successes as time has gone by, and previous disclosures have found a shrinking pool of people willing to donate. The bulk of the money coming into the campaigns and into his so-called political action committee has been coming from a single anti-tax crank millionaire for a while, now. And given the lies, distortions, and evasions he has engaged in over the years in the campaigns, it’s really a wonder he wasn’t charged with something sooner.
In the midst of so much anxiety-inducing news around the world, we need to remember to take the victories that we do get. Even if they’re only in the smaller battles just now.
The tl;dr version: back in the ’70s and ’80s he was the Catholic official in charge of educational institutions and programs in a region of Australia that included the notorious St. Alipius Primary School, a place described later by investigators as “a pedophile’s paradise and a child’s nightmare.” When Father Gerald Ridsdale, one of the worst offenders at that place and similar places for decades before, was finally charges with sex crimes in 1993, then Auxiliary Bishop Pell walked with Ridsdale as he was escorted into court (in hopes that his appearance and support would get Ridsdale a more lenient prison sentence), which cemented in the minds of many his dismissive attitude about accusations of sex abuse.
Eventually Australian legal authorities began turning up more and more evidence of people who had reported the sexual abuse to Pell over the years. Pell conveniently was transferred to a job at Vatican City, and then when the Royal Commission summoned him to testify, he suddenly conveniently became too ill to travel. Eventually, bowing to political pressure, Cardinal Pell agreed to testify via video conference.Most of the allegations against him have been an all-too-familiar tale: Catholic official learns about priests or nuns sexually abusing children in their care, the situation is hushed up, the abuser is whisked away and given a job somewhere far off where they still have access to vulnerable children, the official denies any knowledge of the issue and takes other actions to protect the reputation and financial assets of the church, completely ignoring the victims. And, of course, said official continues in their own job, often rising to higher positions in the church: How Cardinal Pell Rose to Power, Trailed by a Cloud of Scandal.
Finally, it seems, Pell’s past is catching up with him: Police statement: Cardinal George Pell charged with multiple sexual offences – video and The charges against Cardinal George Pell – explainer.
So, we don’t yet know what the charges are. It’s possible that the criminal charges are for not taking action when crimes were reported to him (at least one occasion of which he admitted to during the video testimony). We’ll have to wait and see. Personally, I hope he spends the rest of his life in prison.
While we’re on the subject of officials behaving badly, former Congressman Aaron Schock (of whom I’ve written about a few times) has recently asked, once again, that the court throw out the 24-count indictment for corruption against him. While continuing to proclaim his innocence, he filed a 44-page brief which basically boils down to a claim that House Ethics Rules aren’t laws, so the fact that he violated them can’t be prosecuted. That’s right, he says he’s innocent, and then he says that he did the things but because of legal technicalities he shouldn’t be charged: Schock Rips DOJ, Urges Toss Of ‘Defective’ Indictment.
There is so much I could say about this, but I think this time I’ll give the final word to the Editorial Board of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, who observed:
“Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria, once known for his six-pack abs and $5,000 office chandelier, is due in court next month on 24 criminal counts, including theft of government funds, fraud and making false statements.
The German word, schadenfreude, meaning to take joy in the misfortune of others, must have been created for this. It was hard to like Schock, 36, who flaunted the good life, allegedly achieved by treating government and campaign funds as a personal piggy bank. He gaudily redecorated his office to look like “Downton Abbey,” modeled for the cover of Men’s Health and charged thousands of dollars to his government-funded office account for such things as private flights, new cars and tickets to the Super Bowl.
Schock, who was the youngest member of the House when he went to Congress in 2009, resigned on March 31, 2015, immersed in scandal.”
None of the groups who previously organized bus trips did so this year. And the crowd, as the headline says, was tiny. One non-attendee who sort of live tweeted the event said that she counted the entire crowd: “47 if you include the babies.” The speeches were the typical anti-gay fare: how letting queers marry is destroying society, et cetera, et cetera. Then the not-quite four dozen people apparently marched down the street and glared at the Supreme Court building.
The downward spiral of this particular anti-gay hate group has been going on for years. I’ve written before about their tax and fundraising shenanigans. The tl;dr version: small donors stopped giving to them several years ago, so they are supported by a very small number of anti-gay millionaires (most of whom demand anonymity), and have had to resort to taking multi-million dollar loans from their associates religious “charity and education” non-profit to shore up the political side. They’ve skipped filing required tax documents since then (again), but I suspect when they are finally forced to disclose again the situation will turn out to be even worse.
I should mention that in the previous years some of those buses who brought people to the march were paid for by NOM. The story I linked says “groups,” but that’s another bit of chicanery. Most of the other non-profit groups that they used to like to list as supporting them were little more than shell companies of the main National Organization. People who were board members of NOM were each listed as the president of one of the smaller groups, and the individual groups didn’t do any serious fundraising, they were supported by the national organization (in turn relying on those aforementioned anti-gay millionaires). You may infer what you wish from the fact that most of those organizations have been dissolved and there were no buses bringing folks to the march. Can’t pay for buses without money, right?
I assume that if there is another event next year, that it will soon look like the pathetic ex-gay pride event four years ago: literally the only attendees were nine employees of the organization trying to sell ex-gay therapy, and about four internet news people covering the so-called rally. Note by that point, even Fox News was unwilling to send someone to cover the event.
While it’s tempting to take some delight in the downfall of some professional anti-gay people (seriously, peddling anti-gay hate is how people like Brian Brown make a living), this hardly means that no one hates us anymore, or that there aren’t plenty of anti-gay groups out there supporting politicians who are passing laws to take away our rights. All it means is that on the topic of marriage equality we long ago passed the tipping point where a majority of Americans think queer people should be allowed to legally marry if they want. And it means that before then we also got to a point where a majority of people believe sexual orientation can’t be changed.
But there are some nuances. Polls have shown that about 10 percent of the people who think marriage equality should be legal, also still believe that queer people are either immoral, or mentally ill, or some other category of “less than” —they don’t approve of us, they don’t approve of our relationships, but they don’t think their objections rise to the level of justifying legal prohibition.
There is a more disturbing segment (but I haven’t been able to find any surveys that have asked the right question to quantify these folks; I’ve just read a lot of their opinions in various places) of people who agree that sexual orientation can’t be changed, and therefore ex-gay therapy is a fraud, but they also believe that we are irretrievably broken, or otherwise inherently flawed. So again, it’s not that they approve of us or support all our rights, it’s that they’ve come to the conclusion that therapy can’t fix us.
The war isn’t over, it’s just that the battle lines have changed. We may have won the battle for legal marriage, and the battle against ex-gay therapy, but there’s still plenty of fight to be had.
And some people seem to be most hung up about the fact that we have parades and festivals. Especially the parade seems to bug them. They are always quick to say that they don’t have a problem with gay people, but the truth is that what bothers them is us being visible. When they ask us why we have to flaunt who we are, what they are really saying is why can’t he be quiet and stay hidden and not remind them that anyone who is different than they exist.
And you know how you can prove this? Ask them if they have ever raised the same objections to St. Patrick’s Day parades. The earliest St. Patrick’s Day parades in colonial times were about Irish Nationalism, since all of Ireland was under British rule at the time. By the mid- and late 1800s the St. Patrick’s Day parades were about Irish equality in the U.S., since anti-Irish and anti-Catholic sentiment was quite high, and yes often encoded in laws and government policy. While the anti-discrimination purpose of the parades has faded away, the parade is still about taking pride in one’s Irish heritage. If a person doesn’t object to Irish pride parades (which is exactly what St. Patrick’s Day parades are), but they do object to LGBTQ+ Pride parades, the only logical reason can be that they object to the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans, and all other Queers in particular, and not the idea of a parade celebrating identities in general.
I can pretend that the question isn’t a passive-aggressive exercise of bigotry and give you some simple answers. Why do we need Pride?
- We need Pride because people are still trying to kill us.
- We need Pride because religious leaders are still cheering on the people who kill us.
- We need Pride because people show up at memorials for murdered LGBT people with signs saying they deserved to die.
- We need Pride because people still target gender non-conforming children in schools, and now adults aren’t just making excuses for the bullying and discrimination, they are writing it into law!
- We need Pride because it’s still legal to fire us just for being gay in 29 states.
- We need Pride because some lawmakers and governors hate queer people so much, that they don’t just pass laws to hurt us, but spend huge amounts of taxpayer money to defend that discrimination in court.
- We need Pride because people are more offended at the idea of selling us a wedding cake than they are about queers being murdered.
- We need Pride because people get angry when other people acknowledge our existence.
- We need Pride because U.S. religious leaders demand that we be prosecuted simply for asking for equal rights.
- We need Pride because people get offended if we mention the gender of our significant other in casual conversation.
- We need Pride because religious parents still kick their queer children out onto the streets just for being gay, and it isn’t considered child neglect or abuse to do so.
- We need Pride because people will go to great lengths to take away any rights we managed to get.
- We need Pride because queer kids are born everywhere, not just into families and communities that love and accept them, but often into families where they are bullied (sometimes bullied until they kill themselves) and they need to know that they aren’t alone.
- We need Pride because the world tries to make us hate ourselves, tries to make us be ashamed to love, and most importantly tries to convince us we are utterly alone.
None of those reasons apply to straight people. No one bullies straight children just because they are straight or gender conforming. No parents kick their straight children out on the street because they are straight. No one is targeting sports bars to kill straights because they saw a man kiss a woman somewhere. No preachers are going on the air to say that straight people deserve death. No one is passing laws saying gender conforming children aren’t allowed in public school bathrooms. No one is passing laws trying to ban straight people from adopting children or getting medical benefits for their partners. Straight people and straight people’s sexuality (ever seen a romantic comedy?) is the subject of at least 99% of all movies, television shows, et cetera. So straight people don’t need pride. But if you really think you do, no one is stopping you from organizing your own parades (though I’ve argued before that you already have those, too).
The reason queers like me have been able to stand up and be ourselves is because other queers before us were brave enough to be out and brave enough to protest when necessary. Be it staging sip-ins to protest laws that made it illegal for a bartender to knowingly allow two homosexuals be served in the bar, or fighting back when police raided a gay club, or picketing in front of federal buildings, or boycotting industries whose spokespeople lobbied for laws to take away our rights, or protesting laws making it a crime for us to be intimate with the person of our choosing, or marching in the first ever Pride event in June 1970. Those of us who can stand up for ourselves now owe a debt to those earlier generations of queers. We can’t pay them back directly, so we have to pay it forward. We do that by standing up and being counted and being visible for all of the people (especially kids) who can’t safely be out themselves, yet.
We need Pride not because we’ve come so far, but because there is still a long, long way to go.
The killer’s own father said that his son had been ranting for weeks about how angry he was to see gay men kissing each other in public. He spent weeks using a fake profile on a gay hook-up app quizzing gay men to determine which gay club would have the biggest crowd and which night of the week it would be busiest. It was an anti-gay hate crime. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t also terrorism, because that’s what all hate crimes are: the intent is to instill terror in the targeted community by singling out individuals for bashing or worse.
I wrote shortly after the massacre to explain why this crime hit me so hard even though I live on the other side of the continent and don’t personally know anyone killed. My whole life I’ve lived with the fear and knowledge that there are people who hate queers enough to attack me and kill me, but I haven’t often had to think of that hatred being a danger to those around me. The killer’s father isn’t the only one who talked about what had enraged his son. Others who knew the killer have talked about his increasingly angry outbursts about gay people. Seeing two men kiss made him go kill 49 people in a busy gay nightclub during Pride month.
It’s one thing to know that bigots hate me enough to kill me. It’s much worse to be shown that some hate me enough to commit a massacre.
And it’s upsetting to know that some people who claim to be friends—and relatives who have said they love me—are unable or unwilling to understand that this killer’s actions are a symptom of society’s messed up attitudes about queer people and about guns.
That is what people who claim this is just one lone nut, or that it isn’t really about queer people, or that there is nothing society can do that will make these crimes less likely to happen are actually saying.
One year later, it’s still a gut punch.
It leaves one wondering what we can do.
- There are organizations you can donate to: Scissor Sisters and MDNR honor Pulse victims with ‘Swerlk’ lyric video: Proceeds from the song’s sales and royalties will be donated to the Contigo Fund which, “offers financial support to organizations working to heal, educate and empower LGBTQ and Latinx individuals, immigrants and people of color, as well as those working to end all forms of bigotry in Central Florida”.
- We can attend memorials: Thousands Expected At Pulse Memorial Events In Orlando.
- You can commit to acts of kindness and urge others to: Elected officials on Monday announced that June 12 officially would be dedicated as “Orlando United Day — A Day of Love and Kindness.”.
- We can remember the victims: Orlando Sentinel Marks One-Year Anniversary of Pulse Nightclub Massacre: In print, a special 16-page section; online, free access for all.
- We can try to help the healing process: Faces of healing, one year after the Pulse Nightclub massacre.
Mostly, please just recognize that this was a hate crime, fueled by our society’s abhorrence of gay people and helped by our irrational obsession with prioritizing gun rights over human rights. It wasn’t an act of anti-american terrorism. It wasn’t merely the actions of one disturbed individual. It is a symptom of very American dysfunction. It is a hate crime, and all hate crimes are meant to instill terror in the hearts of the targeted community. If you are a straight person who still insists this wasn’t an anti-gay hate crime, please answer this question honestly: was this crime a gut punch of terror for you? Was it?
I have been relieved that most of the coverage of this crime focused on the victims. Too often the coverage of mass shootings focus so much on the perpetrator that it’s as if he’s a hero, instead of a despicable excuse for a human being. I think I have managed, despite writing about this incident many times, never mention to the name of the killer. Instead, we need to honor the memories of those slain: Orlando nightclub shooting: Read about the victims.
Edited to Add: Several people have written very eloquently about the day:
I’ve mentioned before that I collect images and memes and such as potential illustrations for Friday Links posts or political commentary, and I’m always collecting more than I wind up using. So every now and then I’m going to do a post like this where I just publish a bunch.
Michael and I saw the movie last night at a theatre near our new place and the movie is very good. It’s a lot of fun. Wonder Woman is heroic and human and uplifting and… it’s really good. Go see it! You don’t have to just take my word for it: ‘Wonder Woman’ Review: Gal Gadot Lights Up The Screen In Comic-Book Gem That’s Funny But Not Campy. And it looks like audiences are happy: ‘Wonder Woman’ Breaks Glass Ceiling For Female Directors With $97M+ Debut; Earns ‘A’ CinemaScore.
And let’s talk about some real-life heroes. I had a bunch of stories yesterday about last week’s hate crime/white nationalist terror attack on a Portland train. The quick sum-up, an angry man started yelling at two teen-age women of color on the train, three guys tried to intervene, the angry man stabbed all three guys, two of whom died at the scene. Angry man is in custody and at his arraignment was screaming white nationalist slogans. People have donated a lot of money to funds to help the families of the two men who died and help cover the medical expense of the survivor. I covered all of that, yesterday.
Today we have: Portland stabbing victim Micah Fletcher calls out “white savior complex” in response to attack. Fletcher doesn’t want us to forget that the victims in these crimes are not the guys who try to stand up for the targets of hatred, but the people initially targeted:
“We need to remember that this is about those little girls. I want you to imagine that for a second, being a little girl on that MAX.This man is screaming at you. His face is a pile of knives. His body is a gun. Everything about him is cocked, loaded and ready to kill you. There is a history here with this. You can feel that this has happened before, and the only thing that was different was the names and faces. And then a stranger, two strangers, three strangers come to your aid. They try to help you. And that pile of knives just throws itself at them. Kills them.”
And while people like Micah are standing up, others are not: Trump misses opportunity to reassure U.S. Muslims after Portland attack and Will Donald Trump Ever Say the Words ‘White Supremacist Terrorism’?
It’s June! Queer Pride Month. Did you see yesterday’s Google Doodle: Google honors Gilbert Baker, late rainbow flag designer. And you really should go here and watch how the artist made the doodle. It’s cool! Gilbert Baker’s 66th Birthday.
Speaking of Pride Month: Netflix And FilmRise Separately Acquire Transgender-Themed Documentary Films. One of the documentaries is The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson; Johnson was one of the trans heroes at the original Stonewall Riots, and is often credited with being the actual person who threw the first brick that night.
I keep saving various images to possibly use to illustrate a Friday Links post or a political commentary, then wind up using only a fraction of them. We have another busy weekend of hauling things to Value Village and cleaning out the old place, so no time to do much writing or commenting on anything that’s happened since I put together this week’s roundup of links, so, here are some of my recently collected images/memes/what-have-you: