Creating Change and Conflict 2016

Going to Creating Change 2016, an LGBTQ+ leadership and organization event, I expected a rainbow-hued peace festival where we come together to bang out the last kinks in the social justice movement. And while there were plenty of rainbows (and many, many interesting hairdos) the message of the LGBTTQQIAAP “community” was a muddled one.

In every corner of the conference, a different call for change rang out. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, Islamophobia, sex-negativity, capitalism, white-privilege, cis-privilege, the prison-industrial complex, police brutality, rape culture; each problem was brought forward to be drowned out by a dozen others. And while the general position on these issues was harmonious, the solutions and the precedence of a particular issue was a contentious topic between conference members from the first day of the conference.

The leadership of the conference itself was not above scrutiny. From their questionable invitation to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to their Israeli focused breakout session, to the course affectionately named “Getting to Know Your Popo” the leadership of the conference seemed deaf to the possible friction that these situations would cause within the conference for those opposed to these groups and their treatment of racial and sexual minorities. Although the leadership was wise enough to cancel their invitation to ICE before the conference, the other two sessions were both subject to stout protestation and, in the case of the Israeli session, ended in police and hotel management becoming involved.

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Hey hey! Ho Ho! Pinkwashing has got to go!…”

2, 4, 6, 8! Israel is an apartheid state!…

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!…”  -From the Israeli session protesters

Black folks! Take up space at this conference! Do not  let yourselves be small!” -Group who took to the stage after the “Racial Justice Institute” in protest of the earlier, aggressive actions of a white man during a breakout session

   “Consent is mandatory, a process, active, informed, educated, communicated, mutual, sober, voluntary, guilt free, unambiguous, enthusiastic! Yes, yes, don’t stop, oh god, RIGHT THERE!” -Speech on consent in “Practicing Kink: Let’s Get Visual” workshop session

We have nothing to lose but our chains! Ashe!.. We out!”  -”Getting to Know Your Popo” protesters

But how could it be any different? The basis of a community is the assumption of shared experience, shared ideals, and shared goals, but for the LGBTQIA+ community the reality of individuals runs the gamut of human experience. The life of a well to do white gay man could not be more different than that of a poor, trans POC. And as certain parts of the queer community become more and more accepted into mainstream society this disparity only becomes more pronounced.

So how is progress to go forward with the focus of its members pulled in infinite different directions? How are the warriors of social justice to combat the multi-headed hydra of injustice, for which every victory seems to expose only more issues? The answer came to me in the form of tall, beautiful, black lesbian woman with an affectionate laugh and an easy smile.

She told me if I took anything away from the conference, it should be this. While some come here to hook up, to bicker, or just to check a box in “minority awareness,” the movement was real. She stated that even if the fight isn’t yours personally, you must be ready to give your time, support, and aid because when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. From there the movement is better positioned to take on the fight you care about. The issue is not if we can overcome these injustices in our society, it is whether or not we can stand together to do so.

So whether you are a part of the queer community, some other minority, or simply a college kid not ready to spend most of your life in debt, the fight is for you. 
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Hacking Harassment

Has anyone said something mean, or degrading to you online? It’s happened to me, and I know I’m not alone. Countless people experience Internet harassment. It’s not something to be embarrassed about. Today, needless bullying is common online. People pass everything off as a joke, or claim an off-the-wall remark was sarcasm. It’s okay to be mean, because it’s always a joke, right? In my opinion, that’s the wrong idea.

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The right ideas on YouTube’s press event stream

Such a mindset has woven its way into gaming culture where I seldom don’t see some kind of harassment—where bullies hide and perpetrators pass ridicule off as jokes behind online identities. Why? There’s no reason for ridicule, and no warrant to be a troll. Still it happens, but trolling is bad. Furthermore, such malignant behavior definitely shouldn’t be a substantial part of the gaming industry. Bullying must STOP.

I attended a CES press conference where Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation partnered-up to form a new initiative to stop Internet harassment, Hack Harassment. 

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“40% of Internet users say they have personally experience online harassment” (hackharassment.com)

In a study conducted by Intel, Vox Media, Re/code and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, “eighty-four percent of technology professionals believe there is real life-risk and emotional impact being harassed online.” (Intel News Release)

“Online harassment is pervasive and can be vicious,” Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich said. “If we’re to truly succeed in a smart and connected world, we need to remember that behind every device, game, sensor or network is a real person with real feelings and real needs for safety.”

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Logan’s interview with Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich. Image by Intel’s Karen Schinzel.

Everyone has the basic human right to feel safe and respected online.

Can you tell I’m passionate about this? Here’s why. I once interned with an acting troupe, S.O.S For Youth. We traveled all over the Mid-West putting on shows that focused on teen-issues like suicide, depression, drug abuse, bullying and Internet harassment. S.O.S For Youth is based on peer-to-peer education, and it works. I spent 4 years of my life and  hundreds of hours helping kids make a difference.

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S.O.S. For Youth positively changes the lives of its actors and students (sosplayers.org)

HackHarassment works to solve the problems of Internet bullying, by getting the word out so people start to realize how bullying behaviors harm people. They will host online hackathons to generate awareness, implement accountability, and work to develop advanced anti-harassment technology solutions. Most importantly, Hack Harassment is about creating positive change.

The idea is to crowdsource help from the public to make a difference. After an S.O.S. show, we had talk-backs and breakout sessions that involved actors talking with students. This is how we made contact. They brought their problems to us, and we found help for them. The shows created a feeling to which they they could relate and use. Getting a conversation going really made a difference. Hackathons employ a similar idea.

Now, if you’re reading and feel the issue of cyber-bullying doesn’t affect you, remember we all live in a digital world. Online harassment effects everyone whether you know it or not. It can change life in a blink. It affects friends, family members and yours truly. Don’t sit by, act.

The online harassment problem is widespread and more volatile than ever before. It is an accepted norm to which we turn a blind eye. It is gamer culture.

I listen to people insult, harass and bully in the name of trolling. But what does trolling do for the world? Why do some people  tear others down just to do do it? This behavior contributes nothing, but it does infect others like the Plague. This problem matters. It makes me angry, and it should make you angry, too. It’s not something that will just go away. It won’t, if we do nothing.

Everyone needs to hack harassment. Every Internet user must work to change it, because everyone deserves to feel safe and respected online.

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There’s a difference between hate speech and free speech. (recode.net)

If you are reading this, I assume you’re online. If not, get online, stop reading this and go HackHarassment. That means everyone. Join the discussion #hackharassment.

We inhabit an ever-evolving digital world, a frontier we need to make safe in every generation.

Tune in to this week’s Geekwave Podcast where we’ll #hackharassment. You can also catch my interview with Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich.

-Ollie,  Social Activist (Takes a swig of H2O from his water bottle, and takes a nap he’s so worked up)

#HACKHARASSMENT