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Blog Justice on the Wild Web
April 16, 2004 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Blog Justice on the Wild Web SXSW speaker's stolen purse sparks online race war of words (A follow up to this MeFi Post)
posted by ColdChef to MetaFilter-Related at 11:16 AM (58 comments total)

"....SXSW truly is mostly white and affluent and male and cliquish."

What an awesome bunch of people. Can I please pay exorbitant airfare and hotel costs and hang out with this lightning rod of a group?
posted by xmutex at 11:27 AM on April 16, 2004


"Everyone in the room knew that these guys were not part of our work community," boyd said. "These guys made it clear in their questions that they didn't even know what a blog was."

"The accusations of racism make me want to throw up my hands in several different directions," wrote Kelly.

I understand the exasperation. Here the author is applying Occam's razor (a gang of 6 unknowns attend a party - they'd be my prime suspects too). Why is race the issue here? They could have been any colour - they'd still have looked suss.

"There's no justice like angry-mob justice?"

True. Unfortunately.
posted by SpaceCadet at 11:36 AM on April 16, 2004


for someone "interested in how people manage social contexts" she seems surprisingly clueless. what did she expect? first thing that crossed my mind looking at the link was "whoa, possible racial implications". and i'm a friggin programmer...
posted by andrew cooke at 11:51 AM on April 16, 2004


From the article: Let's face it, bloggers are a tight-knit, mostly white, mostly affluent bunch. These guys immediately stuck out like a sore thumb."

Really? Or are the most "famous" bloggers the "tight-knit, mostly white, mostly affluent bunch"? This is was a poorly written article. The generalization may have been true six years ago, but it's no longer relevant.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:54 AM on April 16, 2004


Note that over half the crime in the United States is commited by an ethnic group comprising less than 15% of the population.
posted by the fire you left me at 11:59 AM on April 16, 2004


BlueTrain, you said it. (slight derail) The Austin Chronicle is never great but truly sucks in reporting any SXSW-related complications. Every writer there turns into a Slacker PR hack for a month, lead by their bloated egocentric editor, Lewis Black. There is one really funny letter to the editor, this week, though - Second letter down - Go get 'em, Granny.

(now back to your regularly scheduled topic)
posted by pomegranate at 12:10 PM on April 16, 2004


the fire you left me,

which PDF file is the stat you're quoting in? why not link to it directly, instead of a page full of pdf files. You sound like you're talking out of your ass.

furthermore, all black people belong to the same ethnic group? since when? There are black people from all over the world, who all have very little in common besides the fact they all have the same skin complexion. You're telling me that a Jamaican and a Nigerian are in the same ethnic group?

also, they keep track of the race of people committing crimes in the states. that seems a bit fucked up to me. or is that how they justify pulling more black people over to harass?
posted by chunking express at 12:18 PM on April 16, 2004


Umm... actually, chunking, that's exactly how most states justify racial profiling. Sad, ain't it?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:26 PM on April 16, 2004


TFYLM,

I'm a lazy, lazy woman. (and I hate giant PDF files) Can you please spell out what it is you're trying to say?

Thanks.
posted by pomegranate at 12:37 PM on April 16, 2004


She's a Nazi!

(there, a quick end to this, as it is bound for hell anyway)
posted by scarabic at 12:39 PM on April 16, 2004


scarabic, end to what? I just think thefireyouleftme is just spouting racist dogma. Can't call someone on something like that without having a thread turn to shit?

(frankly, i think it is reasonable to suspect the 6 strangers that crashed your party may have stolen your stuff.)
posted by chunking express at 12:47 PM on April 16, 2004


CC, know you were pointing out the article. Now after reading some of the comments should we e-mail the person the purse was stollen from? Since she is a Meta-Filter member. Or am I wrong here to think this?
posted by thomcatspike at 12:47 PM on April 16, 2004


They could have been any colour - they'd still have looked suss.

Yeah, except if they'd been white, no one would have figured out they "didn't belong."
posted by yerfatma at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2004


It'd be interesting to see a bizarro-world version of the original thread wherein danah's MeFi-hood was made clear in the first couple of posts.

I like to think it would have been less chock-full of assholery, but until science catches up to fiction I'll just have to wonder.
posted by cortex at 1:09 PM on April 16, 2004


yerfatma: Being a geek, I can pick a geek from a non-geek in about ten seconds of conversation on the damn STREET.

This was a private party among people with common interests, where pretty much everybody knows or knows of somebody else there. And these are random guys none of them know.

You seriously think six white strangers who didn't talk the talk would have blended in?
posted by cortex at 1:14 PM on April 16, 2004


Note that over half the crime in the United States is commited by an ethnic group comprising less than 15% of the population

the fire you left me, I looked at the links and I'm not sure where you got the 50% figure; to me it looked more like 35%. Incidentally, I also noticed that about 73% of crimes are committed by men. But I certainly don't think that fact should come into play when determining the guilt or innocence of one individual man. Being quicker to label someone guilty just because they happen to belong to a race or sex (or whatever) that commits a disproportionate share of crime is clearly [fill in the blank]-ist.

Anyway. I too think it's reasonable to suspect that one of these guys did it... not because of their race, but because it sounds like they were the only unknown people at the party. It's funny though, when I originally saw the picture I thought to myself "Aw crap, why did they have to be black?" because I forsaw this sort of controversy brewing.
posted by purplemonkie at 1:17 PM on April 16, 2004


Note that over half the crime in the United States is commited by an ethnic group comprising less than 15% of the population

a more accurate, by far, statement:

"Note that over half the people convicted of crime in the United States are members of an ethnic group comprising less than 15% of the population"

your statement assumes that all crimes are reported, solved, fairly prosecuted and justly tried and that all trial results are correct. it damns an entire ethnic group by false use of statistics. i note that others are attacking your stats, i'm just picking on the incredibly biased statement itself.
posted by quonsar at 1:46 PM on April 16, 2004


Note that over half the people convicted of crime in the United States are members of an ethnic group comprising less than 15% of the population

Base your crime stats on income level (and disregard race) and you'll get a better picture.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:07 PM on April 16, 2004


I had the same reaction when I first saw the post and followed the link. She was damn clueless not to have recognized the racial implications.

But more than that, there's something about it all that gets my hackles up. I cannot argue that on the surface the story seems on the up-and-up: a group of strangers crash the party, someone sees one member of the group in the bathroom with the purse (or however the story went), you try to track down the identity of the crashers. Her posting the web page could be entirely non-racial in every sense. Still, though, here you have a group of privileged white people using high-tech to track down the identities of a small group of conspicuous, non-high-tech, young black male party crashers in not-the-best-part-of-town. There's so many stereotypes going on here that it makes me dizzy. My first thought is that those guys are going to be blamed for the purse theft no matter what. And that's the problem. How would things have been different were they white? Would she and her friends be so certain of these guys' guilt? The situation stinks and it boggles my mind that anyone wouldn't realize that the accusation—and the entire context of this vareity of vigilante justice—wouldn't raise eyebrows. I mean, that in itself makes me suspicious.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:36 PM on April 16, 2004


First I'm not defending her, think matteo's comment in the thread summed it up well too.

Would she and her friends be so certain of these guys' guilt?
From memory she said she had just seen her purse while these guys were there. Then her purse was gone yet no one other than the 6 guys had left during the time frame which include someone seeing a guy going through a purse in the bathroom. The party was winding down and her purse may have been on a counter or something because she had just used it. Yet all this comes out way later in the thread. Again side with matteo on this. Point this out as sometimes it takes time sorting these facts out.

Noticed this especially when reviewing back over the Russian "unglamorous schoolgirl" thread. Because later comments in the thread showed her being quite an attractive girl.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:24 PM on April 16, 2004


As she studies social networks, my first thought would be her purse was never stolen, she invited the six males in the photographs, and you are all a part of something observed.
posted by four panels at 4:21 PM on April 16, 2004


How would things have been different were they white? Would she and her friends be so certain of these guys' guilt?

Sorry, you're pretending like you don't know. If 6 guys who simply look out of place walk into a party, and leave early, and your purse goes missing, they've got to be the prime suspects. Yes, I said "look out of place", because I refuse to feign dumb PC innocence. My street senses tell me when to be alert. I've seen gangs of lads walk into parties/pubs/clubs many a time, and you know there's some funny shit happening. It's just instinct. Don't play the race card, Ethereal Bligh even though you'll score easy points on Metafilter. It's just not the truth.
posted by SpaceCadet at 4:32 PM on April 16, 2004


If 6 guys who simply look out of place walk into a party, and leave early, and your purse goes missing, they've got to be the prime suspects.

You wouldn't group those 6 fuckers together if they were white. I guess if they held hands when they walked in and stayed within 6" of each other at all times your SpaceSense might detect they were a group of outsiders. Otherwise they would be six individual people who walked in.

There's no race card to play here. I may be (and the good mayor can back me up) the least PC person with an active membership here, so let's leave that bs out. The mistake both you and cortex are making is looking at things from your perspective and/or assuming guilt on the part of these six individuals. If you consider them as six people who didn't steal anything (as a court in the US would require of a juror until evidence was provided to the contrary), you may see the problem: you've convicted a group of people of theft simply because someone else told you there were six black guys in the party who "didn't belong." And everyone's "detectors" went off, because the average MetaFilterian is a street-smart, down-with-the-people hustler who knows what o'clock it is.
posted by yerfatma at 4:42 PM on April 16, 2004


BlueTrain & Pomegranate: Not to run to defend the Chronic or the writer, that line is a quote from the same guy Olsen that believes there are only 3 black bloggers in existence.
posted by birdherder at 5:02 PM on April 16, 2004


Note that over half the crime in the United States is commited by an ethnic group comprising less than 15% of the population.

what's next? stats about per capita watermelon consumption? geez.
what the Mayor said. consider income, education, etc. not race.
and also, quonsar's point about the general fairness of the legal system (ie check death row stats) is very good, too
posted by matteo at 5:18 PM on April 16, 2004


You wouldn't group those 6 fuckers together if they were white.

You don't have to, since they group themselves together.
posted by kindall at 5:48 PM on April 16, 2004


Boy, minefields aside, that other thread was saved when sgt. serenity got all James Doohan on everybody's ass with a wee fund for the lassie who lost
her bag
.
posted by y2karl at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2004


You don't have to, since they group themselves together.

I have no idea what that means.
posted by yerfatma at 6:38 PM on April 16, 2004


I guess the lesson we've all learned here—and it's a damn useful lesson at that—is if you're an academic and/or technogeek at a party while attending a conference somewhere, and some black guys crash it, you can be very confident that no one will suspect you if you pillage some woman's purse or lift a wallet.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:13 PM on April 16, 2004


She was stupid. If evidence comes to light (e.g. pictures), feel free to publish as evidence but don't assume guilt even if you are 100% certain.

ed & crunchburger said it best.

Young people being silly in public is always a bit painful to watch...
posted by i_cola at 1:18 AM on April 17, 2004


is/are
posted by i_cola at 1:29 AM on April 17, 2004


yerfatma scores the dumbest post in this thread:-

You wouldn't group those 6 fuckers together if they were white.

I feel sorry for you that you have absolutely no instincts. I've seen it time and again.....a group of lads (and it's mainly guys) unknown to anyone, crash a gathering. I've seen some walk right into clubs without paying, into parties where the atmosphere changes as everyone wonders who the hell these people are. And hey, they've been all creed and colour. Call me hair-trigger, but my instincts in these situations tell me to be on alert.

And calling them "fuckers"......hmm, please.

you've convicted a group of people of theft simply because someone else told you there were six black guys in the party who "didn't belong."

I said they would be prime suspects in my book. I did not "convict" them. Do you know the difference?
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:19 AM on April 17, 2004


It'd be great if we didn't have to trot out this issue again. Wasn't it painful enough to discuss this the first time?
posted by rocketman at 6:37 AM on April 17, 2004


I feel sorry for you that you have absolutely no instincts.

Go with that. It's got you this far in life.
posted by yerfatma at 7:05 AM on April 17, 2004


>> You don't have to, since they group themselves together.

> I have no idea what that means.


Right. Let's establish some ground work. I know that I'm being an assume-y-pants about some of this, so here's a statement of my assumptions from what I read:

(1) All six of these guys were obviously not from the scene that most of the partygoers were. As in, their working vocabulary with regards to the whole central Notion these partygoers were into was off/wrong/missing. As in, in a chatroom, pure text, talking about what people at the party were talking about, they still would have stood out.

(2) They arrived as a group, and left as a group, and were in their behavior recognizable as a group. As in, temporaly and spatially, they were linked.

Now, if they were blog-happy SXSW superfriends or whatever, (1) goes out the window. If they came and left independant of one another and did not interact with one another any more so or in any way differently than with anybody else at the party, (2) goes out the window.

Those are my assumptions. Show me where they're off. I'm not assuming guilt, I'm saying these guys as a group have been established as the sketchiest thing at the party in the time-frame around which the purse-raiding happened. If (1) and (2) hold, they could be a pair of elderly Catholic grandmothers and I'd still suspect them.
posted by cortex at 8:32 AM on April 17, 2004


they could be a pair of elderly Catholic grandmothers and I'd still suspect them.


Who wouldn't?
posted by timeistight at 10:22 AM on April 17, 2004


A witness reported seeing one of the men going through the woman's purse in the bathroom. They left right after this. Presume innocence, sure, but she's not saying they're guilty and should be shot, she's trying to help the police find them and question them-- which (especially given eye witness testimony) they ought to be trying to do anyway.
posted by Hildago at 11:03 AM on April 17, 2004


Surprisingly, the Nancy Drew Girls & Boys didn't save any of their ire for the divvies that let the suspect (that's 'suspect' not 'guilty'!) group into the party in the first place.

Just re-reading this makes me cringe. People (PhD researchers thru robbers & bloggers) can be such idiots.

These people stole my stuff... Blergh.
posted by i_cola at 11:04 AM on April 17, 2004


Hildago: The bathroom witness didn't know what was happening in the bathroom until later when the robbery was discovered. Any decent defence lawyer would kill that one straight off.

Theft is bad.
Letting uninvited strangers into a house party is not smart.
Leaving important stuff unattended when there are people you don't know around is not smart.
When you're not smart, people can take advantage.

A few years ago I came home to find that my place had been emptied of $8000-worth of decks, stereo, computer, TV, video, etc. The evidence I had to go on was that my friend's girlfriend had stolen my key (he was looking after my place while I was out of the country) from him & given it to her dealer who took my stuff to pay her debts.

The (London) police were useless but I tracked down the thief's address, hangouts etc. I decided to leave it & learn from the experience.

Five years on I own my own place which I can rent out while I'm out of the country with my stuff in secure storage. Things worked out well. And I'm no longer friends with the idiot who didn't get the locks changed when he realised that he'd 'lost' the key.

The thing that bugs me about this whole Austin theft is that some of the bloggers seem so wrapped up in their little community & how 'on it' they are that they don't seem to have learned some basic life lessons & are getting pissed off because of that as much as the theft.

I'll shut up now. I've had my say...
posted by i_cola at 11:51 AM on April 17, 2004


scarabic, end to what? I just think thefireyouleftme is just spouting racist dogma. Can't call someone on something like that without having a thread turn to shit?

Probably not. Add logic to shit and you're still covered in shit. This thread, this whole issue in fact, is a stupid bugaboo. No one knows the damn facts. Some are willing to speculate that these black guys are the perps. At best, this is limp detective work in a racially polarized setting. Others feel that the speculation alone is racism. It's a fine old time to haul out accusations of frumpy white-ness, and allegations of wolf-crying political correctness. Yipee. Seeyas.
posted by scarabic at 12:54 PM on April 17, 2004


ALVY'S FATHER
You fired the cleaning woman?

ALVY'S MOTHER
She was stealing.

ALVY'S FATHER
But she's colored.

ALVY'S MOTHER
SO?

ALVY'S FATHER
So the colored have enough trouble.

ALVY'S MOTHER
She was going through my pocketbook!

ALVY'S FATHER
They're persecuted enough!

ALVY'S MOTHER
Who's persecuting? She stole!

Alvy's father gets up and gets his hard hat. He sits back down and starts
polishing it.

ALVY'S FATHER
All right-so we can afford it.

ALVY'S MOTHER
How can we afford it? On your pay?
What if she steals more?

ALVY'S FATHER
She's a colored woman, from Harlem!
She has no money! She's got a right
to steal from us! After all, who is
she gonna steal from if not us?
posted by languagehat at 7:19 PM on April 17, 2004


yerfatma is currently method-acting the part of Alvy's mother.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:07 AM on April 18, 2004


Was over at a friends house the other week, and whilst out walking the dog, we passed some young kid (white / Burberry hat) sort of hanging around & looking shifty. My friend lives in an affluent area in Leeds, and all my "Stranger Danger" alarms went off. Being the ineffectual liberal I am, I duely chastised myself for stereotyping and carried on with the dog walking. On the way back, there were a huge number of police cars. They were looking for someone who exactly fitted the description of the young lad I'd seen.

No moral to this. Just saying.
posted by seanyboy at 3:10 AM on April 18, 2004


My friend lives in an affluent area in Leeds, and all my "Stranger Danger" alarms went off. Being the ineffectual liberal I am, I duely chastised myself for stereotyping

If the person was "looking shifty" as you put it, why do you think you were stereotyping when you felt some instinctive suspicion toward this person?
posted by SpaceCadet at 3:39 AM on April 18, 2004


yerfatma is currently method-acting the part of Alvy's mother.

What are you trying to say? And why the modifier "method-" to acting? Are you suggesting the presence of a coach hiding in this thread telling me what to do? I'm bedazzled by your worldliness.
posted by yerfatma at 6:43 AM on April 18, 2004


Not to mention that Languagehat's comment isn't relevant. I don't see anyone here claiming that were the suspects guilty of the crime they are accused of, that they shouldn't be punished.

Anyway, I suspect SpaceCadet of the crime. Does anyone know his real identity? Let's come together as a community and take this sucker down.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:17 AM on April 18, 2004


Let's come together as a community and take this sucker down.

Keep trying to be funny.....
posted by SpaceCadet at 8:37 AM on April 18, 2004


Funny? Why do you think I was trying to be funny?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:48 AM on April 18, 2004


I thought that was pretty funny.

I think it speaks to how arbitrary this whole situation is. If she suspected the people of a crime, then go show the pictures to the cops. What does putting them up in the internet accomplish? People walking their dog are going to start looking for the criminals? All she is doing is chastising people in a very public way.

Also, you can go on about how it doesn't matter if they are black or white. Suck it up, because it does. I'm quite sure 6 white dudes wouldn't be getting the same reception these 6 black dudes are. That's just how the world works.
posted by chunking express at 9:03 AM on April 18, 2004


Not to mention that Languagehat's comment isn't relevant.

Dude, it's Woody Allen. (The early, funnier Woody Allen.) Lighten up. Not everything is a sociological treatise. If it didn't get a laugh out of you, your money will be refunded at the door.
posted by languagehat at 11:41 AM on April 18, 2004


Funny? Why do you think I was trying to be funny?

Ethereal Bligh, now you are being funny.
posted by SpaceCadet at 1:11 PM on April 18, 2004


spacecadet: "looking shifty" for me meant the whole burberry hat / white bomber jacket / amphetamine jawline thing that comes "pramfaced" out of the poorer areas of Leeds. That's where I was worried about stereotyping. Follow the link. The "England's burgeoning peasant class" thing may be a joke, but the chava look is something the media are training us to treat with suspicion.
posted by seanyboy at 3:12 PM on April 18, 2004


…whole burberry hat / white bomber jacket / amphetamine jawline thing…"pramfaced"…chava look…

I wonder if someone could translate this for the North American audience. Languagehat?
posted by timeistight at 4:42 PM on April 18, 2004


lhat: I thought it was funny...

tit: see previous 'chavscum' MeFi thread.

burberry hat: Cap with Burberry pattern beloved of young UK wannabe hooligans
amphetamine jawline: Tense, grinding jaw...like you'd get from taking speed.
pramface: Looks like should be pushing a pram i.e. bit-rough-young-single-parent-type.
posted by i_cola at 10:43 PM on April 18, 2004


i_cola, I'm from the UK by the way, and spent 7 years in some pretty rough areas of Manchester. I've been mugged 4 times (Longsight, Fallowfield, Levenshulme, Stockport)
and evaded probably dozens of other dead-certainty muggings by following my instincts. To be explicit on race: Was mugged by a gang of white kids who steamed me while I made a phone call from a phone box, 2 white guys at gun point (abducted and taken to cashpoint), a gang of black guys (again, phone box) and finally at a bus-stop with my girlfriend - both mugged at gun point from white and black kids. There's no race issue here - a dodgy looking person can be of any colour. The characteristics are body language, clothing (balaclavas are a dead giveaway), location, time.

Apart from one of those occasions (totally unavoidable - I was trapped prey), I could have avoided easily if I'd listened to my instincts. You allude to "stranger danger" - you need it, it's not something to repress as "politically incorrect" thinking. I don't see a dodgy looking gang as a bunch of "oppressed, down-trodden youths marginalised by society therefore deserving of my sympathy", I see potential trouble.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:09 AM on April 19, 2004


I'm quite sure 6 white dudes wouldn't be getting the same reception these 6 black dudes are. That's just how the world works.
Then you never lived in the "hood".
posted by thomcatspike at 10:31 AM on April 19, 2004


Then you never lived in the "hood"

I'm sorry, what?
posted by chunking express at 10:54 AM on April 19, 2004


chunking express, not sure if you were talking about 6 guys in the world or her party...in the world everyone may be alienated.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:29 AM on April 19, 2004


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