You may have heard about a panel on online harassment getting cancelled by SXSW because the conference was getting harassed about the panel. Not exactly a surprising turn of events. The anti-feminist brigade is constantly demonstrating to us why we need feminism.
The note went on to explain that “[f]or this reason, we have also cancelled other sessions at the 2016 event that focused on the Gamergate controversy.”
By “other sessions” SXSW actually meant only one other session, a putative discussion of “the Gaming Community” featuring a panel of Gamergaters.
The panel on harassment, while featuring Gamergate critics/targets Randi Lee Harper and Katherine Cross, was not intended to be an anti-Gamergate panel as such, but a wider discussion of harassment online.
If we’re just talking about the fact that they cancelled the panel, I understand that much. You get threats of violence against your conference, you might want to eliminate the locus of those threats, even if it means the terrorists win in the short term. Terrorism can be effective that way. That’s why terrorists keep on terrorizing.
Here’s where they go off the rails, though. It’s the statement they released to explain the cancellations:
[P]reserving the sanctity of the big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful. If people can not agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place that is free of online and offline harassment, then this marketplace of ideas is inevitably compromised.
Oh, it’s that “big tent” again. I’m all in favor of big tents, when implemented appropriately. But here’s the thing: there is no tent big enough to accommodate both harassers and their targets. The prevalence of online harassment has already established that some people are not interested in civil and respectful dialogue. There’s no “marketplace of ideas” with sufficient space for, say, feminist women writers, and those who think feminist women writers are scum who should be bullied off the Internet. There’s no middle ground between, “We belong here and we deserve a space to share our ideas,” and, “no, you’re garbage and we will keep on hounding you until you disappear.”
If your “big tent” is an enabler of harassment, then you need to take a side.