The problem with targeted violence

The problem with targeted violence

I haven’t said a whole lot about the sudden and frankly puzzling (to say nothing of stupid) firing of Lisa LaFlamme. Mostly because enough people are rising to defend her and I don’t like pile-ons or crowds. 

For the record, I’m against her firing. 

It’s obviously clear why she was let go. She’s old… like late 50s old. And she has grey hair. That’s just unacceptable. I mean, doesn’t it make a journalist less credible? 

Someone should ask Peter Mansbridge. I hate to describe people physically, because it doesn’t matter what they look like, but — how to put this delicately — there is no denying that Peter Mansbridge’s hair is mostly non-existent, and what there is, isn’t auburn. Yet he only retired in 2017 (at his convenience, I presume), when he was nearly 70 years old. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single person anywhere in the entire country who thinks he wasn’t trustworthy because of his hair or his age. 

But Lisa LaFlamme’s grey hair was the kiss of death.

As infuriating as this is Lisa LaFlamme has enough support on her side to get major companies to change their campaigns, logos, and for serious mucky-mucks to purchase two full pages in the Globe and Mail in her defence. 

In sharp contrast, when women journalists of colour complained of a systematic and targeted campaign of violent hatred against them, we shrugged. Well, OK. First we tsk-tsked. Then we mostly shrugged. There isn’t a single company tweeting anything about Erica Ifill being called a “chimp” or having her name changed to “Apefill” or about Fatima Syed being threatened with Afghan-style execution or about Saba Eitizaz being called a Paki bitch

There is more, and much worse (no, really), that has been sent to these women along with a few others including, notably, Global’s Rachel Gilmore that is clearly, obviously, targeted, hateful and evil. Also? Not only illegal but criminal in nature. 

You’d think that when you have evidence of someone engaging in criminal behaviour you’d get the attention of the police in charge of arresting people who commit crimes. 

You’d think wrong. 

When these journalists who are women of colour complain to the authorities, for some reason there’s nothing that can be done. When they write about it and share their stories, they’re being diminished. To the point of being told they’re the target of a prank. 

A prank. A fucking prank. 

This is nothing new. I’ve been in this racket for over two decades. I have received my share of gross, violent, sexual threats. Nothing can ever be done about it. I wrote substantive legal pieces about the issue of online hate twice in the last 18 months or so. One about the extraordinary research and work by LEAF to deplatform misogyny, and one about the failure of the federal government to get its shit together and enforce laws against hate speech and online violence. 

I have studied this issue long enough to know that this online violence affects many people — including some men. But it predominantly affects women and in particular women of colour and even more pointedly women of colour who are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community. 

What do you think cunt-licker means? 

Yeah, I hope you’re shocked to read it. Imagine receiving it. 

You can listen to the women reading emails directed at them on this podcast. It’s graphic and disgusting. But not rare. The problem is long standing and it keeps getting worse. For one Lisa LaFlamme, there are dozens of lesser-known victims of systematic, violent hate. And it affects minority women more than anyone else. 

I’m more than happy to see support for LaFlamme reach epic proportions. I just want support for all the others, too.