For those who are following the despicable situation that led brilliant blogger Kathy Sierra to take a break from the blogosphere, Dan York has complied a list of links to bloggers and mainstream news sources weighing in and reporting on the situation. [Edit 4:22 p.m.: to this list, I'll add Violet Blue's excellent column as well].
When I checked this morning, there were 1,165 comments to Ms. Sierra's blog post explaining the situation. I didn't check every comment, but the first 500 or so were overwhelmingly positive and supportive, not a negative comment in the lot.
There is much to say about this. At the moment, I'm vastly furious on her behalf. The type of language and threats that she was subject to were heinous to begin with, but the fact that they were overly sexualized simply because the anonymous commenter was attacking a woman and not a man is disgusting.
First, there are trolls everywhere. This does not mean that they should always be allowed to speak, and we should hold them accountable for when they do speak inappropriately or illegally. The general rule for my own blog is to treat participating in it as if you were invited to attend a party with my friends in my home. Feel free to disagree respectfully. Have a lively debate. Be yourself. However, if you want to use obscenities, I will ask you to leave politely. And if you want to start a fight, take it outside. And by no means is anything illegal (threats of violence) allowed in my home or on my blog.
Second, I'm appalled by the nameless nature of the attacker. The comments and posts are anonymous, which is the refuge of cowards with more mouth than guts. In several of my blogs, I do not allow anonymous comments. Why? Because while I welcome disagreement, I insist on knowing with whom I'm disagreeing. You just have to tell me who you are so we can talk as people, not as Heidi Miller to anonymous blob.
And finally, the sexualized nature of the attacks say a lot about the commenter. I doubt that if this anonymous guy were attacking another man, he would have incorporated a thong or other sexual images and language into his attacks. This was an attack on a woman, and it should not be tolerated in the blogosphere any more than it would be in real life.
And I'll disclose that on my personal blog, I've been subject to similar attacks. I've been called similar names and have been at the receiving end of some venomous postings attacking my character with a similar violent and sexualized overtone (I won't repeat the language here, but you can guess the gist). In my case, however, I was able to track down the attacker, who happened to belong to a group that I was a member of. Since the attacks violated our by-laws, the attacker was requested and (under great protest) agreed to remove the posts.
And I'll admit that it was a difficult decision, in my case, to make the group directors aware of the situation. I felt, as it seems Kathy did at first, that this was just words and not a real threat and that I should be able to be thick-skinned and handle the conflict on my own without publicizing it.
In the end, I'm glad that I did as Ms. Sierra did and made the authorities aware. In fact, I'm ashamed that I even considered tolerating that kind of language and behavior as acceptable or dismissable. Name-calling and threatening language should simply not be tolerated--there is having thick skin, and then there is taking responsibility for one's own self and for making the blogosphere a safe place for everyone to talk.