I’m doing a bit of spring (winter) cleaning at Graunwatch, dusting off the cobwebs etc. I’m still hoping to put some of the articles together in an ebook format at somepoint.
Meanwhile, though the Graun still incenses me on a regular basis, I’ve decided it is sometimes better just to laugh it off, Like babes in Toyland do.
The sub-heading of Jane Powell’s interesting CiF piece on suicides informs us, Laurie Penny-style , that ‘It’s time to address the root causes of men’s depression and inability to talk’. The piece gives some statistics that I haven’t checked in detail, but which tally with a story I keep hearing, and not just in the UK: that men commit suicide more often than women, by a large margin. But right from the word go, there are important facts missing from the article. Powell states:
‘A complacent explanation for the difference is that men attempt more violent forms of suicide and are therefore more likely to be successful’
Firstly, can someone tell me why this explanation would be “complacent”?
More important are the statistics that have been left out, that give the bigger picture. Powell briefly mentions that men’s suicides are “more successful” (which doesn’t seem the right word). In fact statistics worldwide tend to indicate a) that attempted suicides are far more likely than actual suicides, and b) that women are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than men. The reasons for this fact are unclear, but why is it not mentioned?
Then there is this gem which is the problem sentence in the piece:
‘Poverty and mental health issues affect both genders. The variable factor is culture and society’
For a start, there is a whacking great assumption here: that men and women function in much the same way psychologically. This is a common enough belief among feminists. The problem is that wanting something to be true doesn’t constitute scientific evidence that it is so.
In fact there are multiple factors in the physiological make-up of men and women that probably lead to differences in experience and behaviour. Whether people writing in the Guardian want it to be true or not, there is strong evidence that brain and hormonal chemistry differ between men and women, and that these differences are associated with, for example: risk-taking, and violence (also social and sexual behaviour, information processing, mood changes)
If we’re going to be at all rational about the factors affecting suicide we cannot ignore the possibility that these differences might have a lot to do with the statistical profile of suicide seen worldwide (not just in one culture).
Then there is the vagueness of saying “The variable factor is culture and society”. It’s not clear what this catch-all phrase covers, but another factor missing is the possibility that the genders experience life differently. Quite apart from physiological differences, is it not the case that women form better social networks than men, remain closer to family and friends?
It certainly seems to be the case that men are less able to form strong bonds with their children – the most important part of their lives for many. The reasons for this difference may be partly “cultural” – society expects men to go out and work, women to get maternity pay and look after the kids – but the effect is of contrasting life-scenarios where many men miss out on a lot of joy.
Powell is more interested in the idea that men are less likely to talk about depression (which is strongly linked to suicide) and – for me – it’s where she starts to make more sense:
‘It seems to be accepted that men just won’t ask for help or therapy. Calm’s phonelines tell a different story. We’ve found that if you promote a service aimed at men, in a manner that fits with their lifestyle and expectations, they will ask for help. We struggle to keep up with demand’
But soon, her beliefs about gender seem to get in the way again:
‘We need to challenge the idea that a “strong and silent” man is desirable and challenge the notion that men talking, showing emotion and being “sensitive” is weak’
Again we’re given a narrow analysis. There’s no talk of gender differences, nor of differing experiences of parenthood, but plenty of this thesis that the main factor is men not wanting to show emotion. I don’t mean to suggest that being able to talk wouldn’t help depressed men – it would. But we need the whole picture, not the ideologically correct one.
In conclusion, I think the article avoids mentioning several important possible factors in the suicide statistics – and perhaps does so for questionable reasons. If we allow an honest debate of the issue to be derailed by what we want to believe then we risk failing to help those suffering from serious depression. And anyone who has known a suicide will know how devastating the consequences can be
I could write a LOT about the Suzanne Moore/Julie Burchill debacle, but I am too busy laughing really. Evoking Gore Vidal, it is incredibly (if perversely) pleasurable for me to sit here and say I. Told. You. So. I have been unpicking the transphobia, misandry (and often plain misogyny) of Moore and her cronies’ writings for a long time now. I will just mention that unlike most who have responded to this latest meltdown by La Moore, I have huge problems with her initial piece that set this whole thing off. Because I believe focussing on ‘female anger’ is biologically determinist, and just reinforces the gender binary. But my views on this have got me into trouble.
So I am going to refer you to some measured, sensitive and also quite hard hitting responses from others to this latest scene in that campiest, bitchiest of dramas, The Women.
Please read Deborah Orr in the Graun, Christopher Bryant in Polari Magazine, Paris Lees in DIVA mag and stavvers on her blog. And please, as I am doing, take some comfort from the fact that Moore and her coven now, at last, seem to be a tiny minority in their hateful, clumsy opinions. The rest of us are doing ok thanks.
I am writing to complain – something I have not done before – about the content of Julie Burchill’s latest cif article.
Yes it is offensive, yes it is transphobic, but I am used to this kind of ‘controversial’ link-bait Daily Mail esque style approach from the Graun now.
What I am complaining about is the threatening nature of some of Julie’s words. e.g:
Shims, shemales, whatever you’re calling yourselves these days – don’tthreaten or bully us lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we’ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.
Now as someone who has a ‘lovely big swinging PhD’, a fact that was published online by two of Burchill’s journo mates, and someone who has caused the anger of Burchill and Moore by criticising their work, and someone who Moore has ‘accused’ of being a not-a-real-woman, I am frightened by this paragraph.
God knows how actual trans people will be feeling right now.
I am sure you take legal advice before publishing hate-filled pieces but just because something is not illegal it doesn’t mean it is not threatening and scary.
I hope you do something about at least the section I quoted here, or at least write explaining why you kept it in.
Elly Tams, PHD.
GRRRRRAAGGHHHHH!!! Suzanne Moore is angry
Many of us don’t feel calm but angry and perturbed that the humour embraced by Fragrant Dave is that of a previous generation (Benny Hill?). That may well be what being a conservative means: conserving the worst of things as well as the best of them
…and you wouldn’t like her when she’s angry:
These are the most conservative times for women I can remember. But why are we not saying “Enough, already”? Why are we not telling our inbred overlords that we are not as nice as we look? Partly because we are afraid of our own anger. It’s not a pretty sight. Seeing red and letting go is, for many women, a dangerous activity.
She’s so angry, she doesn’t care who gets crushed by her sheer rage:
The cliché is that female anger is always turned inwards rather than outwards into despair. We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.
In fact, she doesn’t care if people get angry with her for offending them…
People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.
…because she’s Suzanne Moore, she’s still angry, and she’s got a whole Guardian Column to tell everyone how little she cares if other people are offended:
Intersectionality] means we must understand our own privilege: the multiple oppressions of race, class, culture and sexuality. I speak as a white woman of privilege, though I was indeed born in the wrong body. It should have been Gisele Bündchen’s.
Intersectionality is good in theory, though in practice, it means that no one can speak for anyone else. It is the dead-end where much queer politics, feminist politics and identity politics ends up. In its own rectum. It refuses to engage with many other political discourses and becomes the old hierarchy of oppression.
What matters is that she’s angry, and thinks other women should be angry too – but not if they have sons:
What I was actually talking about was the way that women should be more angry about what is happening to us. I believe in anger. Everything I wanted for my daughters and yours is being denied them: housing, free education, employment.
For she is Suzanne Moore: your anger is trifling ; her anger is what really matters right now:
What I do care about is something that is deeply old-fashioned: solidarity. I may not be your colour or your culture, or share your sexual preferences, but open your eyes to what we need to do.
So to be told that I hate transgender people feels a little … irrelevant. Other people’s genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract.
And if people are still angry with her, well…FOAD, Losers:
I am not going to apologise. Get it?
Perhaps the whole affair could best summed up as follows:
Yours in solidarity (terms and conditions apply),
But I suspect Raaarrrggggghh!!!! Moore angry!! Moore demand solidarity!! Moore throw trans people to wolves!! Moore Smash!!! is nearer the truth since She-Hulk was just as prone to destructive rampages as her male counterpart. She-Hulk, however, might have shown a bit more self-awareness of the collateral damage she’d caused.
Suzanne Moore interrupted her Christmas break to provide the Guardian with some hard-hitting reportage. She anticipates ‘criticism’ for the fact she stumbles across some ‘local news’ whilst on a luxury holiday in Goa, with this humble paragraph:
‘I am a tourist not a traveller, I don’t kid myself, and now I am in Goa on holiday with my family on beautiful beaches where westerners and wealthy Indians live the high life. These beautiful people are here to party, to drink strawberry mojitos, to dance.
But I can’t stop watching the news’!
That’s right Graunwatchers! Suzanne Moore’s big scoop is something she just happened to see on telly, like everyone else around the world. But her ‘connection’ with India and, more importantly with teh wimminz, means she feels it is her duty to lecture us, I mean report on the reactions in India to a recent rape of a woman in Delhi.
Moore’s article is a run of the mill Graun feminism mix of propaganda – ‘Rape is not about sex. It is about power’ – and ‘confessional’ – ‘When I first went to Delhi some 30 years ago I stayed in some flophouse. Men knocked on my door all night. They wanted two things. Sex and Johnnie Walker. I barricaded myself in, got out my Swiss army knife and my hat pin’. But far more revealing was her twitter feed as she holidayed in Goa, watching the Indian news of the protests about ‘violence against women’. The photos she posted on twitter summed up everything I dislike about Moore’s particular brand of feminism. First, screengrabs of media coverage of demonstrations in India showed Moore’s interest in ‘retaliation’ by women against violent men. ‘Kill the cruels’ read one placard featured by Ms Moore on twitpic, ‘Stone the rapist to death in public’ another. This is the Valerie Solanas school of ‘women’s liberation’, and Moore made no attempt either on twitter or in the Graun, to question the ‘eye for an eye’ attitude of the women protestors.
But worse than that, in between her hand -wringing and ‘concern porn’ Moore posted photos of the cocktails she was drinking in Goa. Was she trying to lighten the mood for her ‘audience’ at home? Or to remind us that she’s not all angsty misandry, but also a ‘good time girl’? I don’t know, but I am glad she could sip a ‘Burmese pomegranate magarita’ to help her swallow the reality she was witnessing. But victim feminism never admits to its voyeurism. The ‘confessional’ at the start of her piece, where she intimated that she used her hatpin as a weapon against predatory men, when she was a young ‘tourist’ in India many years ago, serves to link her with the women victims of violence today in India. It’s a clever device but I don’t buy it. Because Suzanne Moore, a Guardian columnist who lives in a very smart, white, rich postcode of London, and who holidays in Goa with her smart phone and her disposable income, knows next to nothing of the lives of ordinary women – AND MEN – in the subcontinent of India.
Someone who DID know a great deal about life in India, Gandhi, is going to have the final word today. He said:
I was very pleased when I realised someone had articulated carefully the misgivings some of us have had about Leo Traynor’s now quite well known account of meeting a ‘troll’ who he says abused and harassed him online and IRL. The post is by @ResistRadio and I copy it here verbatim:
Internet trolls are the latest obsession of the British media – and a Dublin-based blogger has provided them with the ultimate account of vile online abuse.
In an article originally published on his personal website and which has gone viral after being republished by The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The Irish Independent and others, Leo Traynor describes in detail a shocking hate campaign waged against him and his family over the course of three years.
Mr Traynor is an enthusiastic user of Twitter, describing himself as a “Writer, crossword compiler, political consultant & facilitator. Ex media monkey & press officer. Spiritual tourist. Unapologetic curmudgeon”, and his story is disturbing in the extreme. I encourage you to read his original article – but here’s the abridged version.
In July 2009 Traynor began receiving abusive direct messages to his Twitter inbox. The first called him a ”Dirty fucking Jewish scumbag”, and a string of abusive messages from new accounts followed – two or three times a week, and sometimes even two or three times a day. His Facebook account was hacked, his blog was spammed, and he received a torrent of highly disturbing emails. They contained images of corpses, concentration camps and dismembered bodies. Traynor’s wife joined Twitter, unaware of the abuse suffered by her husband. She inadvertently revealed that she was married to Leo. She too received a torrent of abusive direct messages.
Then things turned particularly nasty and threatening. Traynor received a package at his home address. It was a Tupperware lunchbox, filled with ashes – and a note which read ”Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz”. He reported the awful delivery to the authorities. Two days later, however, things got even worse. He opened the front door to find a bunch of dead flowers – with his wife’s Twitter username attached.
Later that same day Traynor received a horrendous death threat via a direct message on Twitter: ”You’ll get home some day & ur bitches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone.” Traynor, devastated by the abuse and terrified for his family’s safety, reported the threats to the authorities. They were sympathetic, but said there was nothing they could do. Another threatening tweet arrived, reading ”I hope you die screaming but not until you see me piss on ur wife.”
Traynor decided to take matters into his own hands. With the help of an “IT genius” friend, he baited the troll until his IP address could be identified. The IP address led, shockingly, to the house of a friend – and the troll was revealed as the friend’s teenage son. The story ends with Leo and his friend agreeing to meet, the son in tow but unaware he’s about to be confronted over his vile abuse; in a dramatic final scene Leo presents the damning evidence, delivers a stern warning to the youth but generously pledges that he will not press charges, and then shakes the hand of the stalker who’s been abusing and threatening him and his family for three years.
It’s a highly disturbing but ultimately redemptive tale, and if true Mr Traynor fully deserves the online outpouring of sympathy and respect he’s received.
There are, however, several highly questionable aspects to the story.
The Twitter abuse
“My account was followed by a fairly innocuous looking one which I followed back and within 10 minutes I had received a direct message (DM) calling me a “Dirty fucking Jewish scumbag”. I blocked the account and reported it as spam. The following week it happened again in an identical manner. A new follower, I followed back, received a string of abusive DMs, blocked and reported for spam. Two or three times a week. Sometimes two or three times a day. An almost daily cycle of blocking and reporting and intense verbal abuse.”
You can only send direct messages on Twitter to people who are following your account, as explained in the Twitter Help Center:
“You can only send a direct message to a user who is following you; you can only receive direct messages from users you follow.”
To receive direct messages, Traynor would therefore have had to be following his abuser’s accounts; as he makes a point of mentioning he was doing. It’s definitely not unusual for people, perhaps out of politeness, to follow accounts that follow their own. The big question though is why, after the initial abuse, did Traynor continue to follow accounts newly following his own – thus allowing direct messages to be sent to his account?
Continuing to follow unidentified new followers after only the first couple had sent hateful messages is perhaps understandable. But why continue to follow accounts – up to two or three times a week and even two or three times a day - when doing so would simply enable the sending of more vile messages? And why did he continue doing so not only on his main Twitter account, but also via a second that was being similarly targeted – ‘@LeosClue’?
Why, when she joined Twitter, did Leo not take the obvious precaution of warning his wife to keep their connection secret? It was especially unfortunate that Mrs Traynor revealed their relationship on Twitter in the most overt way possible, by declaring herself ”The long suffering wife of @LeoTraynor” in a status update.
Why did Mrs Traynor follow accounts that followed her own – unusual behaviour for someone new to Twitter – and continue following them, even after receiving seriously abusive direct messages in which she was called ”a whore”? That Mrs Traynor continued to reciprocally follow new accounts is apparent because after blocking an initially abusive account, she received a ”torrent of abuse via DM” - which could only have come from a second account that she’d followed.
Traynor claims that he eventually made his Twitter account private, before finally closing it. His account has been reopened – hence the announcement in the intro to his article – and you can see it here. He must have reopened his Twitter account extraordinarily soon after closing it because of the abusive messages – Twitter’s Help Center explainshow ”Accounts are permanently deleted 30 days from the date they were deactivated. After 30 days, deactivated accounts cannot be reactivated.”
It’s odd that after what Traynor had been through, he decided to return to Twitter so quickly – within 30 days. He must have decided to reopen his account and return to Twitter in much less than 30 days, actually – 30 days minus however long it took to identify and arrange the meeting with the teenager, and write his article (he’d closed his account with the arrival of the “die screaming” message, remember – prior to his friend positively IDing the troll, and obviously prior to the showdown with him).
Traynor also appears to have radically changed the way in which he uses Twitter, since his return. He currently follows less than 200 people, whilst he has well over 3000 followers. If he was still following every account that followed his own – as he did during the period of abuse, thus enabling the sending of innumerable hateful direct messages from multiple troll accounts – he would now be following a similar number of people to those following him. Over 3000.
It seems odd that Traynor would change his Twitter behaviour in such a fundamental way after the cause of his online persecution, the teenage stalker, had been exposed and prevented from carrying out any further abuse.
The reports to the authorities
Traynor claims that he made two reports to “the authorities”, who he does not name, but who were presumably the police. He made the first report after the disturbing receipt of a box of ashes and an abusive note.
This shocking delivery revealed that the troll knew the Traynors’ home address.
He made the second report after finding a bunch of dead flowers outside his door, and receiving an explicit death threat via a Twitter direct message – from an account he must have been following, remember – that very same day.
“You’ll get home some day & ur bitches throat will be cut & ur son will be gone.”
In response to the second report, the police were apparently ”polite and sympathetic”, but ”there didn’t seem much that could be done”.
If this is true, then serious questions need to be asked about the conduct of the police in Ireland. What was happening to Traynor went far, far beyond trolling. The abuse had not only taken place over an extended period of time, causing significant distress, but it had also escalated into direct and credible death threats, as well as threats to kidnap a child.
The abuser knew where Traynor lived, placing him and his family in real physical danger. It even appears that the stalker personally visited the Traynors’ house.
Whilst Traynor says he found the Tupperware box in the post, meaning it could have been mailed to his home, we have to assume that the stalker delivered the flowers himself. Being asked to deliver a bunch of dead flowers would probably raise eyebrows at the post office or courier service. Traynor was in his house when the flowers were left outside it, because he describes opening his front door to discover them. This suggests they were not delivered by courier or some other professional service, because if they had been, and Traynor had simply missed their knock, wouldn’t they have left the flowers with a neighbour, rather than lying outside his door?
A stalker prepared to personally deliver such distressing material to their victim’s home address is obviously disturbed, and a clear and present danger to those they are threatening.
The abuse was also specifically racist in nature. The stalker attacked Mr Traynor for being Jewish.
Are we really to believe that the police politely dismissed the pleas of a clearly distressed man, who’d suffered racial hatred and explicit death threats, issued by an apparently sociopathic stalker who’d visited his home and threatened his wife and child?
The authorities supposedly contacted by Mr Traynor clearly need to explain why his reports were not investigated, and clarification is needed as to whether things will be handled differently in future, should they receive similar complaints. If Traynor’s account is true, then anyone living in Ireland should be very concerned about how their complaints might be treated by the police, should they be unfortunate enough to be harrassed by a stalker.
The IP address
Mr Traynor explains that he decided to take matters into his own hands, and that:
“In July I was approached by a friend who’s basically an IT genius, and he offered some help. He said that he could trace the hackers and trolls for me using perfectly legal technology, which would lead to their IP addresses.”
Traynor baited the troll to post more abuse, allowing his friend to identify the abuser’s IP address.
“It transpired that the abuse had emanated from three separate IP addresses in different corners of Ireland. Two of them were public wifi locations but the third … The third location was the interesting one. The third location was a friend’s house.”
To those with limited knowledge of IT, the idea of establishing someone’s home address from their IP address sounds plausible.
It is, however, impossible. Legally impossible anyway, without the internet service provider’s assistance – for which you would need a court order. A court order would compel the ISP to release personal details of the customer suspected of a crime.
An address could in theory be leaked by a corrupt employee at the ISP, and the information could feasibly be stolen by a hacker – but such methods would certainly not be legal.
At best, an IP address will give you a rough idea of the area in which the internet user that you’re trying to track is located. You can generally ascertain their town or city, though even this is not guaranteed to be accurate.
Many people have pointed out that it is impossible to determine someone’s home address from their IP address, without a court order and the assistance of the ISP. In response Traynor has added a footnote to his original article, as well as making a public tweet, directing people to this blog post which is entitled ‘Tracking a troll’. Traynor states that the method used by his friend to track the abusive troll was “almost identical” to the one described in this post.
Unfortunately for Mr Traynor the blog post does not, as he seems to think, prove that you can establish someone’s home address from their IP address. The article only serves to confirm what has already been described – that the best you can hope for if you have someone’s IP address, is the internet user’s rough location.
Please follow the advice given in ‘Tracking a troll’, and try the method for yourself. I did – and apparently I live in a field next to a motorway, miles away from my house. How did Traynor’s friend manage to pinpoint the culprit’s house? We do not know exactly, and he appears very reluctant to enlighten us. We shouldn’t expect an explanation from his IT genius pal any time soon either, because he apparently does not want to be identified.
(After publication of this article, the author of ‘Tracking a troll’ added this note to his blog:
NOTE: this does not work in all cases but even a general location is a piece in the puzzle when tracking a troll.
The late addition of this note to ‘Tracking a troll’ only confirms what has just been explained in this article – that an IP address does not enable you to identify an individual’s home address. An author whose article was specifically referenced by Traynor as ’proof’ of his home address claim, has had to admit that the method given in his article does not actually allow you to identify someone’s home address. Whilst the author continues to suggest that it is indeed possible to find a home address from an IP address, he declines to tell us exactly how - because, even though the method is legal, it apparently has to remain secret!)
Perhaps Traynor only tracked the IP address to the troll’s town or village, and has embellished the story for dramatic effect. Why then does he continue to insist that he used the IP address to determine a home address?
If tracing a home address from an IP address is legally impossible, how could he possibly be so sure that the abuse came from a computer at his friend’s house? The stalker could have been absolutely anyone in the town or village. And even in the impossible event that he’d established a home address from an IP address, how could Traynor be so sure that the abuse was perpetrated by his friend’s teenage son? The friend himself could have been responsible, or a friend of his friend, or a friend of his friend’s son, etc. If the family were using an unsecured wireless connection, a complete stranger could have sent abuse via their address.
Wouldn’t a tech-savvy teenager capable of hacking into a Facebook account, and making online death threats, be very careful to hide their tracks by disguising their location through the use of a proxy server anyway?
The article’s dramatic denouement is also very odd. It seems improbable that the teenager’s father, when approached by Traynor with serious allegations about his son, would not first check the story out before agreeing to a covert meeting and the unceremonious presentation of highly disturbing and previously unseen material. Surely he would have first questioned his son, or visited Traynor and reviewed the evidence, before agreeing to the unverified and incredibly serious allegations being summarily presented in front of his family?
Why was the father ”not surprised” to hear about his son’s behaviour – and why during the phone call is it implied that the son’s constant internet usage is the reason the father accepts his son could be guilty? Many teenagers spend inordinate amounts of time on the internet, but it’s a poor reason to suspect someone of being a sociopathic stalker. If there were other more compelling reasons for the father believing Traynor’s allegations, why did he not express them during the call? We can assume he didn’t mention any because if he had, Traynor would likely have included the reasons in his written account of the conversation, instead of the detail about the son’s excessive internet usage.
Apart from raising questions about the truth and accuracy of Leo Traynor’s story, wider issues are highlighted by the reception of his article. Having reviewed The Guardian’s comment thread, it seems that at least 90% of respondents simply accept Traynor’s extraordinary story at face value. The few who have questioned suspicious elements have been criticised for doing so – as I’ll no doubt be, for writing this article. It’s worrying that highly emotive personal narratives, dealing with controversial issues such as anti-Semitism, seem by many to be unquestionable, and somehow above criticism or scepticism.
The mainstream media have also been exposed. The Guardian and other newspapers have apparently republished Traynor’s article without seeing any kind of evidence corroborating his claims. This is perhaps unsurprising. It is, after all, a powerful story that was guaranteed to attract internet traffic. especially as outrageous tales of horrible internet trolls are the media’s and reading public’s latest obsession.
Disgracefully, moderators at The Guardian website even deleted comments that questioned Traynor’s article. They were, apparently, against “community standards”. I read the comments before their deletion, and they were entirely non-abusive in nature. So much for the liberal Guardian’s dedication to free speech and journalistic inquiry.
Please feel free to leave a response to this article, in the comment section below.
Choc chip cookie?
Please expose Traynor’s dubious article, which has gone viral, by sharing this one on Facebook and Twitter! Many thanks.