Why I Cancelled My Pre-order for #NEWSFAIL

This isn’t a hit-piece on Citizen Radio or the people behind it. This is a post mostly for myself to collect my thoughts on what transpired on Twitter this afternoon.

Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein are the couple behind Citizen Radio, a weekdaily podcast dedicated to sharing, commenting on, and ranting about social justice issues. I don’t listen to it regularly, though I have heard several episodes and understand the vibe and tone of the show. I follow both of the hosts because they are important figures in the world of social justice in the United States.

The two also wrote a book that’s coming out in October called NEWSFAIL. I pre-ordered this because my girlfriend did so then we could have a similar experience reading it. I also pre-ordered because it’s a way of supporting independent, progressive media, even if it’s not totally my style.

Unfortunately our exchange on Twitter and their treatment of me today has severely hurt my appreciation of them, so I canceled the pre-order. I’m interested in being as fair as possible in my explanations and retelling. I’m not even sure if at the end I’ll still be on my own side.

First was this retweet from Kilkenny:(1)It’s worth noting to myself that in the writing of this post, I initially skipped the news article that is the subject of the disagreement. While this post is a mix of commentary on the news and the Twitter interaction, I take pause in considering the implications of forgetting its importance.

And her comment:

Which I replied to with this:

Here’s what I was thinking. I had just read an article from Something Awful satirizing Reddit users and their responses to the leaked nude photos of celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence. I’m becoming more and more distant from the site in part due to its long “hands-off” approach to managing subreddits with extremely objectionable content. It’s not a question of demanding “censorship”, but a personal preference: I don’t want to support a website that is not willing to take action on preventing demonstrable harm.

But after hearing the founder’s response to the issue of shitty subreddits on the Nerdist podcast, I’ve been wondering about the logistics of actually taking on that challenge. What stances do you take, and how severely do you moderate, for example? Of special concern to me is the idea of legal defense. A cop that has raped and abused people seems a cut-and-dry cancellation, but what about murkier situations?

I’m interested in what a realistic, practical implementation of what Kilkenny desires would look like. Are we asking for these kinds of sites to do the proper job of hiring people to analyze funding efforts based on a set of criteria they publicly post on their site? Or are we more accurately asking for them to just respond to the high-profile funding pages that people call for action on?(2)Someone did tweet an example of GoFundMe (or at least its payment processor) making a negative judgement on sex work.

I don’t mean to use a slippery slope to argue for inaction. I’m simply pointing out the significant effort that would likely have to go into a proper response on this issue, rather than a patchwork cancellation of this one fund.

It’s with all of this in mind that I tweeted the above. But all of those paragraphs? All of that thought? None of this context is available to anyone who reads my tweet. And I take responsibility for that. I also take responsibility for tweeting about this slight dissent in light of a significant issue of a rapist police officer.

But the fallout from this seemed really severe for those mistakes, and I disagreed with a lot of the characterization of what I tweeted. Chronologically:

That last tweet was to distance myself from others who objected to Kilkenny and to clarify in light of her response to me. I don’t believe “censorship” even enters the conversation, and in fact I have argued at length about its misapplication in situations like these.(3)Primarily on Facebook with a friend of mine, which isn’t worth linking here.

Then I was blocked:

This tweet, yet again, I felt was an oversimplification. I questioned what she said, specifically the simplicity to enact the change she was aiming for. I guess that technically puts me in-between her and her goal? But that doesn’t make me a rape apologist or asshole playing devil’s advocate.

I don’t know if it would have made a difference to preface my response with the fact that I want that funding page taken down. The fact of the matter is, though, that she was trying to enact change with GoFundMe, and I was questioning how likely and practical the change would be. I was pointing out the forces at play possibly preventing the page from being taken down.

At this point, I realized that I wasn’t really a fan of the Citizen Radio folks anymore. If Kilkenny is willing to turn on someone that quickly, I’m not comfortable supporting her or Kilstein by buying their book. It simply felt stupid to support them with a pre-order if I’m blocked by one of them on Twitter. This was also an attempt to say I didn’t have to be their enemy.

They responded like so:

No, and yes.

No because it wasn’t being told “don’t defend a rapist” that pushed me to cancel. It was being blocked by one of the authors after being strawmanned and having my argument warped. I did not wish to defend an rapist cop.

Yes because they did in fact “[yell] at [me] for defending a rapist”, in their opinion, even when I strongly believe I did nothing even close to that.

I didn’t cancel my pre-order because they have a progressive stance on women. They didn’t lose my support when they talked about women’s rights. They lost it in their interactions with me: from the first tweet to the last, it was severely hostile and unfair. Absolutism was at play.

Kilstein eventually blocked me after this exchange:

I sent a few more idle responses:

Those last few are important concessions I want to make. I did forget that I looked indistinguishable from an asshole in my initial tweet. Social justice activists, feminists, and especially women get tons of shit for talking about these issues, and signs pointed to me being more of the same. I have done it before and made amends.

It was also questionable to distract from the central issue of funding being provided to legally defend a rapist cop. I thought the conversation had moved to discussing change to GoFundMe, but it’s still the case that I chose to dissent with a minor issue, along a problematic angle, on an important topic.

Sometimes Twitter is not a place for subtlety and nuance, but I didn’t expect to be treated so harshly because of that.

Finally, Kilkenny wrote a Tumblr post about all this, including me:

Here’s what she said about me specifically, among others:

Here we have […] “outright threat for talking about ladies and yelling at someone for being a rape apologist” [variety]. (Jamie is tweeting the author of the threat, @Boss1000, in the above tweet, who said he was going to cancel his pre-order of our book)

Here at Citizen Radio we get these tweets ALL THE TIME whenever we talk about rape culture or women’s issues. These are the boys who luuurve when we yell at Blackwater or Wall Street, but recoil when we suggest maybe a crowdsourcing website shouldn’t support a rapist.

It wasn’t a threat. I was doing it. Maybe if we had a conversation in response, I would have re-pre-ordered, but that clearly didn’t happen. Again, I didn’t cancel for “talking about ladies”. I am a feminist.

Kilkenny charitably characterizes her tweet, but unfairly reports mine. She wasn’t “maybe suggesting” a GoFundMe change. She asked “wtf [was] wrong” with them. I wasn’t “recoiling”, but asking a question and providing a point that cast a small doubt on the likelihood and effectiveness of a GoFundMe response. Sure, I won’t blame her for reading an implication of further dissent in that, but her actions far outstretched a reasonable misunderstanding.

Then came the aftermath:

What pisses me off the most about all this is twofold, but centers on miscommunication. I don’t like being mischaracterized when I try to take great care to come to positions slowly and with great confidence when I do. When that is swept from under me by someone saying I’m anti-woman or a bad ally, that extremely frustrates me. It ignores and nullifies the effort I put in.

Yes, I should place that against the endless hate progressives receive, especially women and minority groups. To put that in context. But it’s the subsequent actions and stonewalling that kill me in this situation. I don’t know if I’ll ever make my case to them.

What saddens me further is that a false version of me is a part of their narrative, on Kilkenny’s Tumblr, in the subjects of tweets like the above, and throughout.(4)It may even be the case that this version of me they argued against got them another book sale, in fact.

I’m a blip on the radar for these two in the grand scheme, but for now I’m an example of something I never meant to represent. I’m a subject they can rant about on their show. I’m a false data point ever so slightly skewing their perceptions.

I left one last tweet giving the concessions I made here. I doubt anything will come of this, but it’s a coda I chose to potentially correct, even slightly, their view of me.

Though I guess I’m asking a lot, for a blip.

Notes   [ + ]

6 thoughts on “Why I Cancelled My Pre-order for #NEWSFAIL

  1. ResearchToBeDone

    I totally get where you’re coming from, but I find it hard to fault either side. Not because I think their characterization of you is correct, but because requiring them to never get that wrong when they get so many similar comments would make it way harder to do effective social justice work without getting utterly burned out.

    I think more progress is achieved by accepting that these mistakes will be made than by requiring that they aren’t, because I think the latter sets a near-impossible standard for people who publicly talk about social justice issues. It sucks that it has to be that way, but I think often it does. No perfect solution. Related: http://researchtobedone.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/id-rather-ten-guilty-trolls-go-unbanned/

  2. ResearchToBeDone

    Incidentally, on the GoFundMe thing itself, I actually think I disagree with your characterization of what deciding to stop that fundraiser would represent. That is, I don’t think it would represent GoFundMe “stepping into that arena” of fuzzier lines between acceptable and not. They are already in that arena. They have already decided times before to cancel things based on their own judgements of what corresponds to their guidelines and what doesn’t. The difference here isn’t, IMO, that they’re entering a more subjective space, it’s that they already were in that space, but systemic racism means that this particular decision feels more subjective to many of us than the others. All of their decisions about what to cancel are essentially going to be subjective, and there will certainly be more disagreement on some than others, but the line between “subjective” and “objective” isn’t just short of this particular fundraiser.

    That’s my instinct, anyway. Be curious to hear what you think.

    1. Ross Post author

      So first of all, I hope I didn’t imply that I felt they were entirety to blame. I tried to make numerous concessions where I made mistakes. As I am wont to do, if I were to quantify it, the proportional blame would be between them and me. Somewhere.

      What hurts more though isn’t just being blocked and misunderstood, but it’s being a false justification for action/ranting based on what I didn’t say. It’s the dozens of RTs and favs popping up all around me to things that mischaracterize me.

      On GFM specifically, one of my notes was that I was reminded of a time when GFM did police a fund related to sex work. I was not aware of them doing anything like that at the time, and so to take initial action I wanted to point out was not as trivial as taking the 50th action.

      1. ResearchToBeDone

        It totally makes sense that that would bother you. And no, I don’t think you implied that the blame was all on them.

        I guess there are two discussions here, and I’m not sure if you’re meaning to have both or just one of them, or if you’re just in the process of figuring that out yourself. The first discussion is on how this all felt, and the second discussion is on whether or not anyone should have done anything differently.

  3. Tranceravings

    You conceded that you looked indistinguishable from misogynistic assholes in your initial tweet, despite you having completely reasonable concerns. To me, this doesn’t excuse their initial response a bit, and you really shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for dissenting or not providing sufficient context for your dissent. Your point stands on its own, and needs to be addressed independently of how potentially assholish they may have believed you to be. This is a huge problem with (humanity at large, but I will here focus on) the progress movement in general. People are far to quick to strawman, make hasty assumption, and generally fall into gross (and frankly, offputting) intellectual laziness. I can personally attest to being anti-feminist for a number of years because this was the level of discourse that I’d seen from that camp. While I’ve been won over, it sure wasn’t because of shit like this. And that’s only considering how they responded to you *INITIALLY* . Once you’d actually explained your thoughts in more detail, whatever thin veil of excuse a very charitable interpretation of their actions might be able to afford vanishes. This was simple intellectual laziness on their part, and is the type of thing that gives their real enemies ammo (imo).

    I will say though, posting on twitter that you were cancelling your pre-order seems kinda petty. Though I’m on your side with the cancellation.

    1. Ross Post author

      Thanks for the comment, and not just because you’re agreeing with a lot. I view what Citizen Radio does as not often winning over converts as much as being an outlet within the progressive community. I’m an atheist and listen to a podcast called the Non Prophets, which is a show about atheism, for atheists. They cut corners and don’t cater to or make tons of concessions on what they say at times. That’s okay to me. We all have conversations where we generalize a little more than we would with a stranger. But they don’t do it to nearly the degree that CR does. And their tone is more jokey and critical than outright hostile.

      The cancellation tweet was in part to signal, “Hey, I’m not some random asshole here” as well as to say hey, here’s a potential consequence to treating me this way. I made sure to say that if they didn’t care, then whatever. Maybe it was petty, I don’t know.


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