Internet, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.
So, it turns out Andrew ‘Weev’ Auernheimer, whose trial and subsequent release on computer ‘crimes’ I have mentioned before….. is a fascist. Not a figurative fascist. An actual one.
It’s unclear whether he always was, or whether he made the jump to full-on swivel-eyed swastika-tattooed hatemonger in jail. I don’t actually know the guy, I didn’t know till today how sincere Weev’s beliefs were, and I absolutely distance myself from his abhorrent politics. I did so back when I thought he was merely a sexist, racist prick, like a lot of the other sexist, racist pricks I have had the misfortune to meet in my dealings in the sewer-system of internet debate, rather than a card-carrying neo-nazi.
Let me be totally clear, here. I apologise for anything I’ve said which might have suggested that, in opposing Weev’s imprisonment on charges of ‘computer fraud and abuse’, I agreed with anything else he has ever said or done. Weev has always been a prick of the first order. I knew a little about that before I ever tweeted #freeweev. I know he harassed a woman until she was forced to uproot her entire life just for suggesting comment moderation. I know he’s an anti-semite. He regularly tweets anti-semitic abuse at me, although today is the first day he’s actually told me I deserve to be in a gas chamber. Twice.
And I still oppose totalitarian laws. Even when they’re levelled against people whose politics I despise. People who wish me dead, along with people I love.
If I believed in jails, I think Weev would probably belong in one. Just not for the crime he was actually imprisoned for.
The existence of laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act do untold damage not just to activists on the frontline, many of whom do not abuse women and minorities for sport, but to everyone who believes the internet can and should be a tool for liberation rather than just a network of state and corporate control.
From some of the posters, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all of the people who risk their freedom, mental health and personal safety in the cause of keeping the internet free and safety are white dudes. This, as many people, including my friends and comrades Jillian C York and Morgan Marquis-Boire, have pointed out, is not the case.
I don’t think anyone- ANYONE- deserves to be in jail merely for using a computer to access information the state would rather they didn’t see or distribute. Not Aaron Swartz, not Chelsea Manning, not Jeremy Hammond. Not Julian Assange, about whose refusal to answer charges of rape and sexual assault I have also written at length, earning myself some common or garden accusations of being part of the global feminist anti-freedom conspiracy in the process. And not Weev.
I believe in a free internet. I continue to believe in it even though a handful of its figureheads are truly awful people.
There are some people out there within the net neutrality/digital security spectrum who seem to believe that ‘freedom’ really only means ‘freedom for people like me.’ I suspect Weev is one of them. He certainly talks like one.
There are also people out there who will use any opportunity to tear down a woman’s politics, to attack her career, to harass and humiliate her. People who exploit other people’s real, urgent concern about the rise of neofascism on- and offline in order to shit all over whichever young woman they’ve decided to hate this week. It turns out rank sexism is not the exclusive preserve of neonazis, neoliberals, libertarians and basement-dwelling fantasists. Who knew?
I believe that it is not too late to fight for the internet as a free and radical space – not just by opposing unjust laws, but by opposing those who use the web to attack minorities, women, LGBT people, anyone who dares not to be white, male and Anglo-Saxon, in this brave new world that sometimes seems to be doing its damnedest to import the politics of the cowardly old world, with a healthy handful of panopticism for extra bite.
I believe that keeping the internet free means keeping it free for everyone – and that’s why I will continue to stand for the rights of women, LGBT people and people of colour online and against censorship and surveillance. If you think that sounds exhausting, I agree.
Right now, internet politics are full of scared, hurt, angry people, and scared, hurt angry people can be extremely unkind to one another. I’ve been burned, and I’ve burned out. I’ve received the kind of harassment you wouldn’t believe if you didn’t read my twitter feed, and I’ve come back time and time again, because I believe this fight is worth it. ALL of this fight.
If I didn’t believe this fight was worth it, I wouldn’t be here. I believe that it is not too late for kindness and decency online, as well as freedom. I believe it because I still see it every day, although some days far, far less than others.
Fuck fascism. Fuck racism, homophobia and misogyny. Fuck the surveillance state. And fuck anyone who thinks you have to choose.
That’s all I’ve got to say.