Laurie Penny writes:
The attacks on Mary Beard, however, have focused public attention on just how viciously misogynist the internet is getting right now – particularly British-based sites, and particularly to women who are in any way active in public life. It doesn’t matter if we’re right-wing or left-wing, explicitly political or cheerily academic, like Beard. It doesn’t matter if we’re young or old, classically attractive or proudly ungroomed, writers or politicians or comedians or bloggers or simply women daring to voice our opinions on Twitter. Any woman active online runs the risk of attracting these kinds of frantic hate-jerkers, or worse. I’m not the only person who has had stalkers hunting for her address, and last week I needed a security detail after several anonymous trolls threatened to turn up to a public lecture I was giving. I could go on.
It’d be nice to think that the rot of rank misogyny was confined to fringe sites populated by lunatics. Unfortunately, not only are men like White clearly at least minimally sane enough to hold down desk-jobs, their school of misogyny has become an everyday feature of political conversation online, particularly in the UK.
I think if anything Penny understates the issue — and certainly it’s not just the UK. Misogynist trolls are the reason I turned on comment moderation here at Technoccult. Every post that mentions women’s issues or focuses on a woman gets drive-by hate-spam. This thing sort of thing has been happening for a long time — remember what happened to Kathy Sierra — but it seems to have gotten much worse in the past year or so. There are apparently people out there who monitor the web for mentions of feminism so they can swoop in and post this sort of bile. I’m guessing the rise corresponds to the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian.
Another point from Penny:
These people talk unironically of their right to free expression whilst doing everything in their power to hurt, humiliate and silence any woman with a voice or a platform, screeching abuse at us until we back down or shut up. They speak of censorship but say nothing of the silencing in which they are engaged. I have even been told, with apparent sincerity, that using the ‘block’ button on Twitter to prevent anybody who has posted threats of violence against me is actually an attack on the troll’s freedom of speech – no apparent distinction being made between the right to express your views and the right to have your ugliest half-thoughts paid attention to.
That opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms of about the nature of free speech that I won’t go into here, other than to say that in the U.S., and to a lesser extent the UK, state censorship of media isn’t much of a problem. Here what we see more of is marginalization of dissenting views, and increasingly harassment and shouting down of people.