Thursday 8 August 2013

Does threatening a cyclist count?

You're unlikely to have missed the news about Mary Beard and others receiving rape and/or death threats via. Twitter. Obviously news like this should shock us all.

In what started off as a campaign to get another woman on to a British bank note (not unreasonable - while I'm uncomfortable with any example of 'positive discrimination' I accept it has its place) abusers on Twitter have gone as far as to threaten extreme violence. This tells us various things - most obviously that some people are arseholes. Like we couldn't have guessed. And the Police have taken this very seriously.

Before continuing I'll share a pet hate - these threats do not come from internet trolls. A troll is someone who posts to get a response - usually it'll be something to inflame an argument or to get a response. Threatening violence or death is not trolling - its far more serious. A troll is basically a harmless net-denizen. These people are not harmless - there is no context in which threatening death is considered okay.

Or is there?

The context of that question is pretty bleeding obvious in this blog isn't it?

The truth is cyclists get death threats quite frequently. Sometimes generically against all of us, often against individual cyclits. And do the police give a rats ass about it? Do they hell. 

I agree with those who seek to brand all such threats as unacceptable. There is something intensely sinister about the thought process that could lead anyone to think that these threats are okay - and we should oppose them wherever we can. And it frankly shouldn't matter who the subject of those threats is. But it does.

People are posting threats to murder cyclists. Over, and over, and over again. And the only time action is taken when there has actually been a road incident. Even specific threats made to specific people will be mostly ignored by police when brought to the attention of site admins and the police (please forgive me for not linking directly to such threats - generally they're frightening, ill expressed and deeply offensive and I'm not wanting to give them publicity here. You'll find them on Youtube comments of most helmet camera cycists from time to time, you'll certainly see them on Twitter).

I'm not asking why threatening to kill a feminist is treated as a serious crime, I'm asking why threatening to kill a cyclist is not? Bluntly, why do the Police believe that we cyclists deserve it but vocal (and reasonable) feminists should not be subject to the same abuse?

The only reason for ignoring such threats is that perhaps it is assumed we're bringing it on ourselves. If you go to the police and say 'this guy threatened me' but then admit you were poking him in the eye then they would be unsympathetic. Is that what the police think? Do they equate the act of cycling with intentional provocation? Are we assumed to being this on ourselves just because of how we travel? Is this an assumption we are collectively responsible such as we're seeing from the vile and unwholesome Nicewaycode campaign?

How do we turn things around such that we're not seen as having it coming? How do we become 'humans' rather than 'targets'?

1 comment:

  1. The ability of one group to threaten members of another group with impunity is a function of the groups' relative political power. The ability of women to have threats against them taken seriously is a reflection of women's political power and visibility in the media. The police can no longer shrug off rape threats in the way that they used to do, because they will suffer bad publicity, legal challenge, and political interference.

    In the case of cycling, we're decades behind women. We're still at the stage of trying to get violent assaults taken seriously by the police. Getting mere verbal threats taken seriously is a long way off.