Friday, June 19, 2009

Where is the Line?

In my last blog, I was talking about tolerance and respect between people with different viewpoints and opinions. The comments took a decided turn, after Melissa commented about the threats she and her daughter had received. Those threats were turned over to the police. There is a line between free speech and threats of violence. At first it seemed that those threats were isolated incidents, but more commenters came out saying that they too had received threats.

What constitutes threats? Is it ok to say you want to kill somebody if you don't really mean it? How much can or should we tolerate in the name of free speech? How should the D/deaf community respond when someone else threatens violence in the blog comments?

Please say your piece, but please be respectful while doing it. Thanks.


Anonymous said...

KL, I haven't been threatened so I can't speak from personal experience. I keep a very low profile specifically to avoid threats of any kind. I feel guilty about not speaking up in my community, because I know there is a "silent majority" who agrees with me and could probably use someone with common sense and credibility to speak for them. Suffice it to say that I have good reasons for not doing so.

A threat can be a subjective thing. It can be either explicit or implicit. There are degrees of severity. It depends on the context and the person. My friend saying "I'm going to choke you!" because I forgot our lunch date would be OK because I know he's not serious. Someone mentioning the movie Saw to me in the context of a controversial blog that I posted definitely would be perceived as threatening and scary. It's also illegal.

There's lots of good information on the web about cyberbullying and cyberthreats. I would contact the police when the threat is extremely harmful or upsetting, mentions harming me, family members, or my property, or the threatening person sends me obscene, violent, or harassing emails.

I think any v/blogger who gets a comment like that should delete it from his/her blog and report it to the authorities. I also think every v/blogger has an ethical responsibility to the community to monitor his/her own blog for harmful content. Different people might define "threat" differently, though.

Someone who disagrees with me or criticizes my ideas is not being violent. They can do it rudely or nicely, no matter. but when one guy says to another guy he hoped he'd sit on his infant son and squash him with his weight (boy, I'll never forget that one), that's beyond nasty. For the record, the person who said that has been banned from DeafRead, I hope forever and ever. But BEFORE he got banned, this very same person was voted DeafRead's first Blogger of the Year in 2007! He was and probably still is popular, just not on DeafRead. Meanwhile, Rachel Chaikoff was kicked off of DeafRead for no reason.

But I digress. I agree with what someone else said on your other blog, that it seems we are not allowed to publicly analyze or criticize each other, and especially not our deaf leaders, even when they royally deserve it, because that's dysconcious audism. We can criticize or make fun of the U.S. President and any public figure or celebrity, and we regularly do, and we're not very nice sometimes, but dissing other deaf people is off limits. Why? because deaf people are victims of oppression!

Sometimes I think the world is nuts.

kim said...

I wanted to make something clear. I said I had been threatened and stalked, but not by anyone on DeafRead. One of the stalkers was very recent. I won't go into the details. It was chilling.

Anyway Anon, I think you said it all.

Dianrez said...

It hasn't been my experience to be threatened either. Many of my posts have been strongly worded, though, and have attracted both pats and criticism.

There is a line that most of us avoid crossing: such as criticizing ideas not people, not using names, not using profane language or violent words. However, sometimes crossing the line is more subtle than that.

An example: crossing the line happens in too-enthusiastic CI blogs or in public outreach by AVT agencies. Some of their language directly impacts our Deaf integrity such as: gift of hearing, limited, dependent, isolated.

The core of the Deaf community is a fierce pride in our competence, a hard-won we-can-do-anything-but-hear psyche.

Still this doesn't excuse any threat of violence, even if only figurative. In ASL, colorful expressions suggesting violence aren't meant literally 99.9% of the time. However, when it translates to print in faceless cyberspace, it sounds more ominous.

There's ways to handle trolls and sickos: Deprive them of attention. Delete them. And report them to the police. It would be a good idea to compare threats to see if there is a pattern by a very few to be dealt with by authorities.

Anonymous said...

"An example: crossing the line happens in too-enthusiastic CI blogs or in public outreach by AVT agencies. Some of their language directly impacts our Deaf integrity such as: gift of hearing, limited, dependent, isolated."

DianRez, you can't be serious! "Too enthusiastic" is a value judgment and a personal opinion by you alone, and by no means is crossing any line whatsoever. I have never felt that some of the CI, AGB, AVT, or the ASL-centric blogs for that matter, are "too enthusiastic."

Why on earth would *I* feel that my integrity as a deaf person was besmirched by someone else's "too enthusiastic" experience with CI/AVT? Just because someone had a good experience with CI/AVT doesn't mean another person cannot have a good experience with exposure to ASL from birth. One does not negate the other. Both can be successful.

When did it become our mission in life to tell hearing people what they should think or say about deaf people? We should try, as individuals and organizations, to present as positive an image as possible, so that others will perceive and be open to our contributions, not only to parents of deaf babies seeking answers, but to society at large.

That's not done by telling the CI/AVT bloggers, "hey, tone it down over there. you're offending some of us with weak egos." The CI/AVT parents can be as enthusiastic as they want to be. Why rain on their parade? You'd be "too enthusiastic" about your own kids too, and someone, somewhere, would say you're "crossing the line." puh-leeze.

When agencies like AGBell are throwing around words like "gift of hearing, limited, dependent, isolated," I KNOW they're not talking about me. I don't have anything to do with them. I don't need to. And I have no interest whatsoever in protesting the fact that they exist and do what they do whether I like it or not. Live and let live. Different strokes for different folks.

Anonymous said...


I quote your comment regarding too enthusiastic CI blogs or in public outreach by AVT agencies:

"Some of their language directly impacts our Deaf integrity such as: gift of hearing, limited, dependent, isolated."

Same could go for some Deaf people's insistent and/or strident language that impacts CI/ oral deaf's integrity such as: gift of ASL, limited, dependent, isolated.

Sound familiar?

I think all d/Deaf have a great pride in our competence, a hard-won we-can-do-anything...despite what hearing people think, period.

On the issue of threats:

I've never encountered online or email threats of violence, but I have been stalked in my personal life due to family estrangement matters which I'm not gonna go into here. So, yes, in some way I know what it means to be concerned for one's own safety and for the safety of your family members because of someone's stalking. No threat should be tolerated online or via email either. Unfortunately there will always be a few who don't understand what crosses the line and follow their impulses.

Exactly what that line is has yet to be defined in the v/blogging world. I'd regard a threat against your child as definitely a strong crossing of the line. Most threats against a v/blogger are idle threats, and that's where they usually stay-- in idle. It's true that some threats spelled out in sign are often in jest, poking fun, but when translated to written English can actually read as ominous. How does one distinguish the difference?

When it's a death threat like "I'm gonna kill you" or "you're going to regret you ever said such-and-such" or using Friday the 13th analogies, time to take that seriously and report such threats to the police.


kim said...

I wonder if there isn't a psychological aspect to this we haven't explored.

Let's talk about wooden face, :-) Hearing people are bad at expressing themselves visually. We've been taught to use our voices to express emotion, instead of our bodies/faces. But even should remain controlled to a certain extent.

The hearing have a saying, "Don't wear your feelings on your sleeve." meaning you shouldn't express all your feelings so openly.

But the Deaf DO wear their feelings on their sleeves. Their expressions are right out there and sometimes wild. Further, they are also blunt. These are not my personal observations either. It's a well known cultural difference.

Hearing people may attach more importance to expressions of anger because normally we hide our feelings. Someone who is obviously angry therefore must be super, super angry because he is having a difficult time hiding it.

But Deaf don't hide their feelings.

It was my daughter who pointed this out quite awhile ago when she had to help a guy her coworkers all nicknamed 'angry deaf guy' She was the only person who would help him because she understood he wasn't half as angry as he looked.

It's interesting. I was just reading in Psychology Today that researchers found a correlation between our bodies and the intensity of our feelings. For example, those who were asked to force a smile when looking at pictures rated them more positively than those who didn't smile. I wonder if the Deaf are equally affected or if their internal feelings are less impacted by their facial expressions since they don't repress feelings as much?

I don't know the answer, but I do wonder if this is why Deaf may tend to pass off an ultra insulting remark while hearing may take it much more seriously.

Hearing people are not comfortable with anger and excessive emotions and can feel far more threatened than you might imagine.

But because we don't show our feelings as openly, the Deaf may ignore our more subtle signs of discomfiture a hearing person would pick up on.

Add to the mix that we're all communicating in text, which is bad even between hearing people. Not all hearing express themselves well in writing, and surely many Deaf do not when it's their second language.

Then also, it's ironic how the Deaf seem to glom onto certain words such as 'gift of hearing" audism, Deafhood, 'impaired' and attach greater meaning than what was ever intended. I'm sometimes confounded by the seemingly endless analysis and debate over the definitions of words such as 'audism' and 'deficit thinking'

It's well know that most words have several meanings and can be used creatively to establish new meanings over time.

Just mulling this over. . . not excusing threats or insults of any kind, and I certainly do not mean to sound critical in any way. I'm only trying to promote understanding.

Regardless it's never OK to tell someone you want to kill them or to wish them dead.

Candy said...

There's all kinds of threats. Usually when I see someone say that they have been threatened, and then they do not provide more details, there's not much we can do since we don't know WHO threatened the person and we don't know the context of the threat.

Someone mentioned to me - threats such as having one's employer being contacted. But, my take on this is, these kinds of action usually does not fall under 'threat' since typically an employer is contacted before the employee finds out about it.

I tend to think of threats being more of a violent nature - physical harm. However, it can be any premeditated action plan made known to the targeted individual.

When it comes to someone contacting another person's employer, usually it is done unawares until after the fact. I don't consider that in the category of "threats" most of the time.

When someone makes threats such as meeting the person face to face. No one has any idea how real it can be. One could take it to mean that the person felt that if she met him face to face, she might be able to see his reasoning more than this medium. Then again, it could be real. We have no way of knowing it. Law enforcement has more experience with these kinds of things, they can determine if the threat warrants action.

The best way to handle threats is to contact law enforcement. That should be the first step. And, then make it known (in this situation, make it known in the blogosphere.) If it was me, I'd make the person's name and any other pertinent information known too. Tough luck if the perp doesn't like it, at this point the perp lost his/her right privacy, especially if we actually have evidence that will back us up.

We have had people speaking out against threats in the blosphere in both camps in the past. Usually it isn't in an uproar reaction. And usually one does not say anything if the threat was towards their opposition, for example. And for the most part, I would like to think that people in general in both camps do not condone threats. We shouldn't just sit back and say nothing when it happens to someone with a different view on certain issue than yours. We should speak out against it, regardless who the target of the threat was intended for.

And, lastly, from my experience most deaf people tend to act and/or talk big by way of threats. It's not to say that, we shouldn't take it lightly. I'm just amazed that the person who makes threats are so stupid to think that the long arm of the law wouldn't get them.

I'm just kind of curious, what do most of us really expect when we're threatened? What do you want done?

The way I look at it, Law Enforcement is the best approach.

And, then for our part, we need to confront these people online if they actually made threats for all of us to see.

There's all kinds of threats and individual comfort level with these threats. Some of us might take certain context more seriously than others.

K.L. said...

Good points being posted here.

Kim, I think you have hit on an extremely important point. Deaf people have commented in the past as to how unemotional hearing people can be. (seem). They tend to see that as a weakness. Hearing people are sometimes taken aback at how emotional Deaf people can be. It is a cultural difference that many people don't make enough connection to. It is a big difference, and needs to be taken into account.

We can't change how we were raised, but we can be more understanding of each other's differences if we can more easily recognise them.

Dianrez said...

"from my experience most deaf people tend to act and/or talk big by way of threats."

Candy, that's a generalization like many others that have been expressed here. I'm just as guilty of such.

Not in my experience, specifically, that Deaf people TEND to act or talk big in terms of violence. What you mean, Candy, is that Deaf people aren't given to violence, and even then, it's usually talk, not action.

In the counselor's office, I have heard clients blow off steam plenty of times and it can include wishes to pound their boss or coworker into the wall, but it is meant as an expression of frustration, not intent. Speaking it usually doesn't see it happen.

Whenever I heard of violence being committed by a Deaf person, it is without warning and after the fact, unfortunately. We need to teach how to vent appropriately rather than take action, starting young.

Oh, and point well taken that the oral/AVT people can feel just as hurt by Deaf peoples' words. I was specifically talking about the PROMOTERS, agencies that try to influence public opinion or funding agencies.

Candy said...


That's my perception growing up in the deaf community in Chicago. A lot of time, people say things in the heat of the moment. However, we shouldn't take that to mean nothing will happen. Still need to take precaution and still need to remind the deaf that, it is not an appropriate way to deal with things. But, most of all, we should not just sit back and pshaw threats made by people that we relate well to.

"Deaf way" sometimes needs to be modified because for one, many were not taught appropriate behavior.