Friday, September 27, 2013

Move Over Stop And Frisk - Here Comes The Street-Harassment App!

"Well since “stop and frisk” is on the way out, and black men seem to be the target demographic for “The war against street harassment”, maybe they can just substitute “stop and gag”. Can’t let all that taxpayer money go to waste. Got to give the cops something to do."
-A commenter in response to my article, "Considering Tatyana’s Street Harassment “Crusade” at Just Four Guys

No sooner than my recent article taking up the burning issue of our era, "street harassment" hit the Interwebs, did one of my readers alert me to the fact that, as the quote above so presciently observes, there ARE indeed moves afoot to criminalize this supposed pandemic of the behaviors of lecherous Men. The Atlantic ran an article about two weeks ago, detailing how the Hollaback! organization, a multi-state "the sky is falling" franchise chockfull of the kinds of Do-Gooders one is likely to run into in Left-leaning havens like New York City, has released an updated version of their original "street harassment app" that came out back in 2010. The newer version - "Hollaback! 2.0" if you will - was granted $20K USD in taxpayer funds back in 2011 and was recently released for use in the Big Apple with the blessings and support of local politicos Julissa Ferraras and Christine Quinn - the latter of which being a mayoral candidate in her own right. Aside from all the usual "features" you'd expect from an app - like the ability to take and catalog pictures and/or video footage of the putative "offenders", GPS stuff and balloons mapping when and where some guy you don't like was, gasp! looking at you - the app has raised concerns among the Best and Brightest for one other updated feature: the ability to collate data. You see, when you use the app, you can then send your findings in to a kind of Big Blue database - in this case, something called Councilstat - which kinda sounds like Compstat, doesn't it?-where, instead of merely the mayor of NYC will have access to such "reports", just the NYC council members. Like Ms. Ferraras. Or Ms. Quinn.

These developments come at a most interesting - and uncomfortable - time for the Hollaback! franchise; earlier this Summer, a NYC judge ruled its infamous "Stop and Frisk" policy to be unconstitutional, and which has sparked a national debate about the abuses of the police state, racial profiling of young, lower-class Black and Brown Men, and the trampling of civil liberties; then, there's the larger and even more troubling revelations brought to us by American dissident Edward Snowden, about the federal government's snooping activities - it's gotten so bad that the actions of the NSA in this regard have soured relations between the USA and Brazil, after it's president discovered that the former was indeed, spying on her. The chief question, in both of these well-known - infamous even - events, is who gets to decide if someone is outta pocket? What objective standards will come into play, in making such a determination, when someone, likely a Woman, uses this "Hollaback! 2.0" app and presses the "send" button? What happens then - will criminal penalties be levied against the offender - without trial, perhaps?

There are those in the "hollaback" community who certainly would like to see legal penalties assessed, for certain - one Cynthia Grant Bowman, of Cornell university, has been on the stump advocating for criminal penalties for "verbal street harassment" - she calls for fines being levied against the "offenders".

Obviously, Prof. Bowman isn't familiar with the First Amendment.

Bowman goes on, in her 1993 article cited by the Atlantic, to make the case that such things can play themselves out along racial lines, citing two cases where the putative offender was Black, the other White, the Women involved being the reverse - the Black Man convicted, and the White Man was set free and the charges dropped. While her citations are indeed interesting to read, what she doesn't get around to acknowledging, are cases like Emmit Till - which could have been seen as an instance of "street harassment" back in 1955, for his supposed "whistling" at a White Woman; or the more recent case of Crystal Gail Mangum, a Black go-go dancer who accused four White Men of gang-raping her, only for the case to fall apart upon closer inspection; she flat out lied. 

If you think the above two cases I cited are going just a bridge too far, then consider the events of earlier this year, when the self-styled "Joan of Arc" of the tech world, one Ms. Adria Richards, took it upon herself to make use of the camera and social media apps on her phone to "bring two Men to justice". Surely, Ms. Richards is fully on board with the Hollabacks! of the world, and there are many, many Women who share her "might makes right" attitude - what's to prevent any lady out there who's feeling some kind of way, of doing precisely the same thing she did - this time, with the full force and backing of NYC's law behind it? 

In my previous piece on this topic earlier this week, responses were many and livid; there were accusations that I was being hyperbolic in my citations of McCarthyism, Riefenstahl and Orwell's classic read "Animal Farm"; my use of the term "She-Fascist"; and my argument that all street harassment laws would do is wind up targeting -and punishing - the very same demographic of Men that Stop-and-Frisk has targeted, and has now been found to be unconstitutional. Of course, it didn't take long for detractors to play the Misogyny Card, to accuse me of being a "Holla Freedom!" Guy myself, and other pithy (NOT!) retorts. Through it all though, a very interesting question emerges: "Obsidian, why do you care?"

I care because, as a Black Man in this society, I know and understand all too well what can happen when the State has the power to, well, "stop and frisk" you. Black Men have had to deal with "street harassment" claims long before the term became fashionable, made by Women who, by every conceiveable way, had far and away more power and privilege than they did. They had both the State and extralegal means with which to lodge their "complaints" - and many a Black Man has paid the ultimate price for it. Thankfully, that time has passed - but in the words of another Black Man, we just might be headed into another time, when the kinds of lynchings that occur, are of a high tech nature. History has repeatedly shown us, from the early 20th century and Jim Crow laws, to mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws in the failure that is the "war on drugs", to draconian child support laws that target poor Black and Brown Men, to Stop-and-Frisk and now the Street Harassment laws assisted by a taxpayer-funded app that are on the horizon, that such laws only serve to, in practice, punish lower class Black and Brown Men for being, well, lower class Black and Brown Men.

And while I am not personally a fan of taking notice of the ladies in such a fashion on the street, I still recognize the importance of civil liberties - those Brothas have as much a right to peaceably assemble, and speak their minds, as the Women who claim are being given a hard time by their very presence do of going about their business. Part of being an adult - let alone an American - is to learn how to grow a thick hide. After all, wasn't the whole point of the Feminist movement, to make the case that Women were just as tough as Men? What the current push on the part of the Hollaback! crowd seems to be, is a throwback to the Victorian era, where the fainting couch is now virtual, and an odd kind of Morality Police comes to the rescue if a Man - in this case, lower class and of Color - doesn't "act" right. They do that sort of thing in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps these ladies would like to move there?

Nevertheless, I have long argued that Street Harassment will indeed be classified as a criminal offense along the lines Prof. Bowman advocates for, by or before the end of this decade - we are becoming, "A Woman's Nation", after all - and in so doing, will have borne out what Orwell argued in his immortal work Animal Farm - that the putative oppressed, in this case Women, will go on to become the oppressors themselves. 

You heard it here.

Now adjourn your arses...

The Obsidian
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