Somebody is wrong on the Internet again, and it might be interesting enough to check out. It involved PZ Myers, Isis the Scientist, terrifiedtabetic, Stephanie Zvan, a few commenters, and it is all about Peter Watts getting beat up by border guards while crossing into the United States. I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure not everyone is aware that this was the Canadian border.
So this Watts guy was arrested and assaulted by US border guards at the Toronto border. I’ve been to that border. It’s tough. A lot of science fiction writers try to sneak in and out across that border.
At some later time, an outraged PZ Myers wrote a post about this outrage.
There is no defense of their actions. Watts is a big nerd, not a violent thug, and any provocation he might have offered would have been physically non-threatening, and the border guards should be constrained by the law and by an expectation of civility.
Then a some bloggers got mad at PZ because PZ’s defense of a privileged white d00d was … whatever whatever:
I am completely unsurprised that border guards would rough someone up and treat them disrespectfully. I am also unsurprised that another arrogant white dude seems shocked that people are mistreated by law enforcement officials.
No wai! A white writerly d00d was disrespected by the police??? For no good reason??? I am totes writing my congressperson to complain that the border patrol is wasting time and energy that they could be using to rough up dark-skinned folk!!!
Many of us in the blogosphere quietly chuckled because this thing that happened to Watts, horrible and unjustifiable as it is, happens to brown people all the time.
It cracks me up when privileged white Ivory tower dudes get all outraged over treatment that the poor and nonwhite experience with frequency
and so on.
(As an aside I find Isis and Drugmonkey’s sense of humor inappropriate, but I suppose that is part of their on line persona. Maybe someday they will get their foot stuck in a hole and break their legs like an old horse. HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!!! But I digress.)
The best commentary I’ve seen on this so far is that by Stephanie Zvan at Almost Diamonds. Stephanie blogged about this several days ago but was not fallen upon by the Kliqueons, and in this regard she notes:
…because I have close ties to the online science fiction community (and Dr. Watts participated in last year’s run-up to ScienceOnline), this was the opportunity that got pushed across my screen. I grabbed it, hoping to push it into another sphere and make people who haven’t been paying attention as outraged as I am. And yes, I looked at it and chuckled to myself, “Yeah. Just try to do your oh-they-must-have-been-asking-for-it-cause-they’re-somehow-scary dance on this one, jerks. Time to face up to the fact that this problem can bite you too.”
I totally agree with Zuska, Isis and Drugmonkey that when a nasty thing happens to a white blond girl or a middle class white d00d or whatever, and that get all newsed-up, but when a similar thing happens to anyone of color, less privilege, etc. etc., and that gets all ignored, there is injustice. This is serious, it is not something to laugh about, and it is not something to take lightly.
When I first read about this incident, here, I did not think this was about privilege or race. Certainly, that is now how anyone was characterizing it at the time. Nor should talking or writing about it have been restricted or seen negatively because of issues of privilege or race. Personally, I saw this as an issue of increased bully behavior by the usual suspects (INS, first responders, other police, etc.) in the wake of the Post 911 New World Order in which security trumps civility, and anything that happens even near a border is a security issue.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that is how most people see this particular incident.
Stepping back and observing this whole internet maneno from a distance, as objectively as I possibly can, I think this may be a case of Kliqueons not having anything better to do, and needing some blog traffic. It does not matter that it is unfair to accuse PZ of being insensitive to issues he is not even addressing in a particular post. It does not matter if there really may be a real issue here (having to do with OTT Post-911 security) that is totally unrelated to what they are whinging about. It does not matter that voices of dissent in this unfair world lose their credibility when they scream at windmills. All that matters is the hit count.
Or am I giving the Kliqueons a hard time for no good reason? They are well meaning, after all. They just are not very good at it. Not very good at making allies, not very good at making their point. That may be because they live in such a privileged world that they lose track of what the real problems are. Or perhaps because they spend too much time ….