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BLOG JUSTICE ON THE WEB?

I just got a polite email from someone saying, in part: "I read your comments in the Austin Chronicle regarding the racial demographics of bloggers, and I can't believe you are surprised that black people blog."

Ugh! Here's the article. The writer, Courtney Fitzgerald, contacted me over email for an interview but it never happened. I am incensed, and don't think I can stomach this right now. If you looked me up after reading the article, I direct you to this post: Do Blogs Represent? And for the deep researchers, race at SXSW was discussed extensively here.

When I never got any questions from the writer, I was afraid of precisely this scenario: an article quoting me and painting me as a racist. Having a conversation with me that never took place. I wouldn't have given her permission to use those quotes. But - does she need permission? I think, legally, Danah owns the post and the comments on her blog. So I would think she at least needs Danah's permission. But it's also a public (or public-ish) conversation, so maybe it's only polite to ask for permission and nothing more. Does anybody know?

*** MORE THOUGHTS... ***

I *never* said anything about being surprised black people blog, although you might just assume that reading this article. Here's something I said, that gets quoted, and I stand by 100%:

Let's face it, bloggers are a tight-knit, mostly white, mostly affluent bunch.

Notice I don't say all white. MOSTLY WHITE. It's true! That doesn't make me a racist, sorry. If anything, the opposite. I'm pointing this out as a problem. It doesn't mean I don't see or value all the non-white bloggers, some of whom are my favorites. Here's a quote from Anil Dash on the SXSW thread:

I had conversations with a number of people about the fact that it is a remarkably white crowd, that it is overwhelmingly skewed towards traditional privilege. But I *do* know the people who make the platforms and tools of personal publishing, and every single one agrees with me: It ought not be this homogenous, and I dont' know how to change it.

The article also quotes me talking about George's Orkut friends list. I haven't had a conversation with George about this yet, but almost half of George's Orkut friends are black. But if you click on George's white friends and look at their network - often George is the only black person, or one of very few. I'm not a social scientist, I don't know what to make of that. All I know is it's stupid to pretend that isn't the case. Again, more of this discussed here.

April 16, 2004 at 08:42 PM in Weblogs | Permalink

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Comments

ah...nothing like quoting people out of context (and not interviewing them) to fan the flames of controversy. this should make for some powerful blogumentary stuff, I guess, on the bright side, but, yeah, I can't even imagine how mad you must be. (I really like the "getting your purse stolen is no big deal- we've all been there" crap).

Posted by: jonathan at Apr 16, 2004 9:13:22 PM

The whole damn thing makes me furious. I guess the writer emailed questions to Lori, but not me for some reason. Yeah, good Blogumentary fodder if anything.

Oh well, at least now everyone knows I hate black people. Quite a relief actually, having it out in the open, in a newspaper. <-- joke, duh

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 16, 2004 9:18:13 PM

Clearly the bitch had an agenda, and I think I'm allowed to call her a bitch since she painted my very sweet clearly not a clueless dumb white guy boyfriend, as a racist. I can't believe she didn't even email Chuck the questions! She emailed me, but gave me no timeline, and I had too busy of a week to answer them yet. I never once thought she'd write the kind of article she did, I expected more from an Austin newspaper. Plus, I thought, she'd really want to talk to Chuck anyway, and not me.

I'm really fuckin pissed off right now, and I don't know what I'm going to do, I think at the least email the bitch, maybe write a letter to the editor.

What is wrong with people that they have to keep this damn race thing going as long as possible? Yes, please, let's drag it on and on and on, rather than trying to sort it out and get past it. Would everyone have gotten so upset about the posting of the pics if they were a bunch of white guys? I don't think so. I can't wait for the day when we all grow up enough that race is no longer a red flag to people. It won't be about the white woman accusing the black guys of stealing, it would simply be the wronged person trying to take matters into her own hands to get justice.
Obviously we can all see race, but do we have to act like it's the only issue? Chuck said "Whoa who are these guys?" which isn't just about them being black, but about the way they entered the room, the clothes they were wearing, their age, and the way they acted. If the bitch had read on, she would have realised this and not painted Chuck in the manner she did. Or, maybe she did read everything, and just picked the stuff that fed into her little story of racism in the blogosphere. Gotta sell the papers now don't we honey.

Posted by: lorika at Apr 16, 2004 9:35:20 PM

Courtney's questions to Lori:

1. What was it like at the party before the suspects” arrived? Did the mood change after they arrived?
2. How did they stick out?
3. Why do you think boyd’s case is getting so much attention. Don’t purses get stolen all the time?
4. Was it clear to everyone at the party immediately who the suspects were after the purse was discovered missing?
5. Would you have asked these guys to leave, based solely on the way they looked?
6. Do you think this story underscores a real
segregation on the web, especially in blogging?
7. Do you think it’s fair to attach racism as an issue to this story?
8. How do you and your boyfriend know danah?
9. Why did the two of you look like you belonged at the party?
10. Were there any other people at the party who stuck out, independent of race?

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 16, 2004 10:08:59 PM

Again- I understand why people might be upset about this. One thing that immediately jumped out at me was the question of the legality of what Danah did.

While I think it's entirely fair to ask some questions about the possible racism involved, I think it's asinine to assume that no one involved was capable of differentiating between their prejudices and their perception of a party crasher. Party crashers ALWAYS stick out, and I can think of two parties off the top of my head where some weird white guy(s) showed up and made a scene almost immediately (remember the creepy guy from Roseville who followed us out of Simon's apt.?).

What is particularly frustrating is that you were singled out for ADMITTING to a certain amount of prejudice. You were aware of the issues and chose to be open about it, then got pegged as a racist - as though the accusers are all innocent and free of all prejudice. Those are exactly the kind of people who need to question THEIR OWN prejudice.

But hey- just like the right wing fundamentalist Christians have taught us: it's far easier to criticize others for their (percieved) shortcomings than face up to your own.

Posted by: jonathan at Apr 16, 2004 11:36:28 PM

I think that's what gets my more than anything. I went out on a limb and tried to be honest about that "certain amount of prejudice" we all have, race/class/what have you, and all the other white people were either completely silent - or implied I was racist and they distanced themselves from me.

This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and makes me think an honest conversation about race is completely impossible. I throw my hands up, too.

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 16, 2004 11:58:22 PM

this isn't a good forum for it, anyway. I think a major problem with blogging is that it's far easier to misinterpret little internet snippets than it is within a face-to-face conversation, especially on such major intersecting historical issues like racism, sexism, classism, etc.

Posted by: jonathan at Apr 16, 2004 11:59:13 PM

Yes, i agree completely. With that whole thread, I felt a face-to-face conversation would be the only way to understand what we're saying.

Incidentally, I've sent a number of emails to the writer and editor of the Austin Chronicle about the way this was handled. I've requested they link to the entire thread so readers can see all the quotes in context. i've also emailed Dan Gillmor about the protocol (if any) of quoting blog threads without permission.

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 17, 2004 12:22:14 AM

Woah. Based on what I've learned in my news writing class (and my professor is a stickler for accuracy and source listing), she did a Bad Thing. In my mind blogs are basically conversations, and using info from them isn't the same as pulling numbers from the MetCouncil site for an article about the bus strike. She essentially "overheard" your discussion with other people and the decision to use a quote from you without asking for permission is horrible. She didn't even say that she got it from your blog! She makes it look like she spoke to you, which she clearly didn't, which is a very bad way to do reporting and false.

I hope you are going to write a letter to the editor. Let us know what it says and any response!

After everything I do in class to make sure things are accurate, people who get PAID to screw up piss me off.

Posted by: Ciri at Apr 17, 2004 9:18:59 AM

Ciri: You rock. Thank you.

I've sent emails to the writer and editor. Lori is drafting a letter to the editor. Courtney has responded as well, apologizing but didn't think she quoted me out of context. She's going to think it all over, and I suppose I am too. I'm waiting to hear back from the editor. I expect them to at *least* place a link to the thread these quotes were pulled from.

Posted by: Chuck at Apr 19, 2004 1:46:39 AM