Caps Lockness Monster.

caps lockness monster

Caps Lockness Monster.

h/t @helgagrace; source.

Dishonest loathing.

head-deskIt’s interesting to discover that you’re being hate-followed, hate-tweeted, hate-read. Bracing, even.

First of all, it’s a phenomenon that I genuinely don’t understand. Like, to a fault. When someone makes my head pound with anger, or consistently says things I find utterly untenable, I ignore that person as much as humanly possible. Which, when you’re in my business, can be a problem. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, settler leader Dani Dayan, Washington Post columnist Jen Rubin — love them or loathe them, I have to know what they’re saying. I often depend on people with steadier dispositions to keep me informed, and occasionally find myself an hour or a news cycle behind the curve. So there’s the “huh?” aspect.

And then there’s the fact that I thought I knew who hated me: The right. The Israeli right, the American right, the Jewish right — people who live on that side of the fence and who happen to have come across my work hate me. They call me the worst things they can think of, and feel they’ve righted some wrong in so doing, and I either ignore or block them (depending on the effort they’re making to inform me of said hatred), because engaging with all of that is genuinely pointless. If the person in question happens to be in a position of power (hi, Dani Dayan!), I engage for the sake of furthering my own cause, not because I think that we’re likely to come to a place of mutual understanding.

But late last night it was brought to my attention (and I foolishly went to where the information led) that my name has become shorthand for… something? among an entirely different set of people, who are located roughly speaking on the left. I think that the general, shared notion is that I’m not sufficiently pro-Palestinian, and (I imagine) that speaking from a position of Jewish/Israeli/American/white privilege, I get everything wrong and really should just shut up. In yesterday’s case, I’d made a Jewish mom joke involving Ramadan and the recently signed New York Jets player (and Palestinian-American) Oday Aboushi, who I’d been defending against the most egregious slander (click here), and, by dint of ignorance, stepped on a sensitive issue — but I’m given to understand that this is not the first time I’ve been terrible.

Everywhere you go in life, there are people who never read beyond the 140 characters in front of them. There are people who read with eyes already closed. There are people who build an identity and/or a community based on an idea and that identity/community is more important than… I’m not sure what the end of that sentence is. The truth? That seems too grand a conclusion though, because try as hard as I might to strike an honest and consistent balance between what I believe to be the legitimate rights of Palestinians and Israelis (or any other rights and issues), I certainly can’t know for sure that I have ahold of the truth and someone else doesn’t. All I can do is try.

And I suppose that’s the thing: Context matters. Nuance matters. Past behavior matters. And for my money, more than anything else, honesty matters. The people who make a principled point of hating “Emily Hauser,” on the right or left, aren’t being honest. It’s not about me. It’s about them. My name and the occasional disembodied line from my work are tools they use in a battle in which I have no part.

For what it’s worth, this is why I very rarely join the rampant online exchanges that amount to talking about someone behind their back. Unless I am absolutely, personally certain that the person in question is consistently, and influentially, a bane on the human or civil rights of living, breathing human beings, I’m just not going to go there. Aside from anything else, I only have so much time and energy, and I want to devote them to fighting for achievable ends. Name-calling and snark neither help nor convince anyone.

Now, of course, I presume that one of my hate-readers may very well read this, and present it as whiny, or an indication of my lack of fortitude, or hate-amusing, or I don’t know. Something. That has nothing to do with me. But I can’t do anything about that.

I can however continue to do the work I’ve done for 25 years, continue to struggle for and toward civil discourse, and continue to do my best to be honest and accountable. For the all the rest, as we say in Hebrew: אלוהים גדול — Elohim gadol. God is great.

PS Which is not to say that there aren’t reasonable arguments to be had with me. There most certainly are. But that’s something very different.

Dear Science – here’s a true thing.

 

What Israel doesn’t get about Twitter.

I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and since the violence escalated between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza last week, my Twitter time has only increased.

And as others have noted before me, official Israel doesn’t seem to really get how Twitter works.

The IDF Spokesman has tweeted warnings to members of Hamas not to show their faces above ground, warned journalists to stay away from Hamas operatives (which would likely make it difficult for them to get the story) and, of course, sent out the now infamous poster of Ahmed Jabari, the assassinated head of Hamas’s military wing, with the word “ELIMINATED” emblazoned across it.

For his part, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., American-Israeli Michael Oren, has tweeted and then deleted an apparent willingness to negotiate with Hamas, has made a point of the “pin-point” accuracy of Israel’s airstrikes (with nary a mention of the pictures that suggest otherwise), and while he’s expressed concern over the fact that Hamas is known to intimidate members of the press in Gaza, he has yet to tweet his concern for the members of the press who were in the Gaza City media tower when Israel bombed it. Twice. (For the record: Several were injured, and one lost his leg.)

What official Israel doesn’t understand is that Twitter is not a press release office, where people in official positions offer top-down, authoritative information, setting the narrative for any and all, in 140-characters bites. Twitter is not, to put it another way, the best outlet for hasbara.

Twitter is, in fact, as far from top-down as it could be—it is horizontal, and sideways, and loop-de-loop. If you misspeak, there’s no simple deletion—that tweet will live in screen-caps forever and aye, unless and until you actually address what was said. If you crow about the deaths of your enemies, people all over the world now have an equal chance to point out just how heartless that makes you look. And no matter how hard you try to direct the narrative, millions of other voices can chime in to say you’re wrong—and do so in the hearing of the very people you’re trying to win over.

A big part of why my Jerusalem-born-and-bred husband and I chose to raise our Israeli children in the Diaspora can be seen buried in official Israel’s hasbara-ish tweets: A callous, arrogant indifference to the lives of those we occupy (and upon whom we are now waging war), and a swaggering, overweening insistence that everybody else sit down and listen. Even if it means stretching, ignoring, or re-weighting the truth, even if it means a constant drumbeat of insistence that we, and only we, suffer. That we, and only we, deserve human compassion. That we, and only we, have a right to behave as if we live in the middle of a war.

The unwillingness to admit the existence of legitimate competing narratives, the cavalier indifference to any lives lost on the way to our latest target, and the stalwart insistence that Israel is always right drove my husband and me from our home. It is reflecting very badly on that home as this war continues.

And far more to the point: If more reasonable voices do not appear soon (on Twitter or, rather more importantly, in the halls of Israeli power), I fear that it will ultimately mean the end of the Zionist dream.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Twitter – sometimes less than charming.

#Sayin.

Marty Peretz & Grendel’s mother. Same-same.

Beowulf & Grendel's mother.

Someone on Twitter reminded me today that I actually once discussed Grendel (the monster in the Beowulf story) and Marty Peretz (an Islamophic monster in modern letters) in a single breath.

I had no recollection of this at all, but it sounded so much like me that I googled “grendel peretz emily hauser” — and lo! There it was! On Balloon Juice.

So:

A) How much do I love the internet and the Google subset of the internet? OMG, soooo much!

and B) This so amused me that I had to share the actual comment with you. Behold:

Monsters are not always monsters, not in every waking moment of their lives. Grendel’s mother loved him, and that’s why she came to avenge him. She was still a monster.

Which is to say: I loathe Marty Peretz, and made rather a stink about it when the anti-Muslim shit hit the fan. But it is possible that, in addition to being a loathsome xenophobe and racist, he is generous to a fault with those he likes, and possibly also good at cards. Who can tell.

Seriously. Who else do you know who would do such a thing? I’m a special snowflake, I am.

For your Beowulf/Grendel needs: Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (the Seamus Heaney version), Beowulf (a middle-school appropriate re-telling) and Grendel (a re-telling from the vantage point of the monster). And yes, I really have read all three — I read the second one out loud to the boy, and will read it to the girl in a year or two. Geek is as geek does, my friends!

h/t @HoldenDCat

Dammit, who opened the floodgates of knowledge?

Once upon a time, I didn’t know very much, and that seemed fine.

No, wait. Let me re-phrase.

Once upon a time, I knew a fair amount, more than most people knew, and it was, in fact, fine.

I have long called myself the worst-read well-read person you might ever hope to meet, and there is certainly something to that (Moby Dick? Nope. Sense and Sensibility? Nope. Any number of classics in the field of Middle East Studies that people are certain I must know by heart? Nope.), but there is also something not to that — by which I mean: I actually am very well-read, very well-educated, and probably more to the point, know how to find the information I need at the drop of an Easter bonnet.

I had this skill when all the information was in libraries and one had to get up and go to the library, and I retain the skill, in its Brave New World form, in the age of the internet. I have always followed the news, I have always paid attention to the smaller stories as well as the larger ones, I have always been able to sniff out the lacunae in news reports that often matter more than the actual information on offer.

Well. In my middle years, I have come to learn an Important Truth:

The Information Super Highway is really more of an Information Firehose.

And I confess, dear reader — much as I love my blogs and my fellow commenters and my Twitter — I confess that, oh my good nightshirt, there is just too much to know, now!

Always, always, bloody always I am behind. On something. Something really, really important. Always.

Of course I have felt versions of this overwhelment pretty much since I started reading blogs about three years ago (having felt snooty about the practice beforehand — having forgotten, apparently, that like any tool or medium, a blog is as good as its handler, and if its handler is deft, then the blog is a thing of beauty), with a noticeable bump in said feeling once I got on the Twitter — but none of it compares with how I’ve felt since the revolution in Egypt.

Of course, it should be noted that a lot of the flood of information currently coming at me via Twitter falls, in a rather ahistorical and spectacular fashion, square in my area of professional, academic and personal interest. I actually — honestly, genuinely, and occasionally desperately — want to know every little thing about the rolling revolution under way in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.

When it was all going down in Egypt, I was as a woman possessed. I read, watched, tweeted, blogged, commented, stayed up far too late and got up far too early and generally acted like it was my job. At one point, I had two computers on my desk, so that I could have Al Jazeera English on at all times, without having to toggle over from whatever other Egypt-centric internet source I was engaged in at the moment.

But it wasn’t my job (oh lord, how I wish it had been my job!), any more than it’s my job to be up on Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and/or Tunisia now (oh lord, how I wish that were my job!), and when Hosni Mubarak stepped down, I forced myself back to earth — to the actual, paying work, the human beings with whom I live, and the rest-of-my-tangible-world stuff which is forever taking me away from the flood of information.

And so now what Twitter and the handful of blogs I read mostly make me feel is inadequate. And guilty.

There are a lot of people (well – a handful, at any rate) who follow this blog or follow me on Twitter because I was as a woman possessed during the Egypt upheaval. What are they to make of me now? I’m not up on Libya as I should be, nor on Syria or Bahrain or Saudi or — good Lord, I even feel like I’m behind on Israel/Palestine all the time now! —  and I’m writing about female body image, cleaning my house, and gay rights! All of which are things about which, it turns out, I should also know more.

Oy and sigh. I suspect I’m going through what will someday be identified as an Information Influx Cycle or something. I recently upped my content-received, so now I’m going through the “too-much-too-much-TOO-MUCH” stage, which is likely to be followed by the “well, I can’t know everything and so I will let it go like the pretty butterfly it is” stage. Or sommat.

But right now, all I know for sure is that there is a Peter Jackson video blog, his first since he started filming The Hobbit (!!) that I’ve been waiting to see all day, and I keep putting it off for more important things.

For which, come to think of it, I have a blog to thank (thank you, Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog! Go! [that's the blog's real name. Really. You should read it! It's awesome!]). OHMYGOD so overwhelming, this internet is, but also dead useful.

The assault on Lara Logan & the reality of rape.

I’ve never been raped.

Why? Because I’m lucky.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

I’ve been groped on more than one occasion. I’ve been followed by men in a car late at night. I’ve been harassed on the street, and more than once not been certain it was going to end at “harassment.” A friend and I once found ourselves in a shared taxi with two men who tried to convince the driver (in a language they shared and we barely understood) to take us somewhere they could attack us (the driver physically pulled them from his car). I once discovered that my gynecologist was no longer in business – because he had raped several patients.

I am a woman, and I live in the world. This is what living in the world looks like, if you happen to be a woman. If none of that becomes rape? You’re lucky. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And while I might not have been raped, I know many women who were. Some more than once. Some when they were children. Some by people they believed loved them. Rarely, but occasionally, by strangers. And this is just the people I know.

I also spent five years as a rape counselor at the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, where I learned just how tenuous my status as someone who had never been assaulted is. One of the most famous cases we handled involved a young woman and her date — a well-known musician. They got to his place, and after saying yes, she said No. She said no so vehemently, with such certainty, that he had to tie her up to complete his rape. And yet some people still wanted to blame her.

The other day, as all of Egypt poured into the streets to celebrate their victory over tyranny, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was separated from her camera crew, surrounded by a large group of men, and then brutally and repeatedly assaulted. She was saved by Egyptian women and Egyptian soldiers, and CBS reports that she is still in an American hospital.

When Twitter got wind of this, folks went nuts. Some want to blame Middle Eastern culture, or Egyptians generally. Some say the rapists were hired goons, unrepresentative of anything remotely related to those who participated in the Egyptian uprising. Some have actually managed to blame Logan, and one man who should have known better made light of her fate and suggested it would have been “funny” if Anderson Cooper had been raped, too (he’s since apologized, so I won’t link).

But the simple truth is that the only culture that is responsible for this is human culture.

In far too many minds, all over the world, a female human is little more than an outlet or repository for male wishes or power. Rape is regularly and consistently used as a weapon of war. Rape is regularly and consistently used as a method of control.

But rape is also just regular and consistent. Men rape for no reason other than that they think they can get away with it — all the time, every day. Doctors rape, clergymen rape, husbands rape, boyfriends rape, employers rape, “dates” rape. Sometimes they employ tricks and ploys and intoxicants in order to convince themselves that what they’re doing is not (as Whoopi Goldberg so memorably put it) “RAPE rape” — but if she said no, or couldn’t say no, or was too afraid to say no? It’s RAPE rape. It’s all rape.

And lots of times, rapists don’t even bother to convince themselves. They wanted a vagina, and there was one in the room. They wanted to bond with their boys, and a vagina walked by. They wanted to show that bitch, or prove their worth, or relieve themselves, or take what any man in his right mind would take. RAPE rape.

Like most crimes, rape is a crime of opportunity. You don’t drive across state lines to pick-pocket — you go down to the corner. You don’t get on a bus to find women to attack — you attack the ones who are there and handy. Most of the time, those who commit sexual assaults do so within their own communities. Often within their own families.

Men and boys are also raped — every day — and that is at least one reason why that one tweet was so beyond-the-Pale wrong. No rape is ever funny, and the particular suffering of male victims is one with which we as a society have yet to grapple.

But men and boys, as a class, do not grow up and live with this fear, this threat, across the world and across cultures. This is women’s lot, and it falls on all of us.

Every.single.one.of.us.

I feel such pain and sorrow for Ms. Logan — not only did she survive this horrific attack, but her story is now public property, to be analyzed and picked over by all and sundry, people who have never met her and never will.

But her story is not as rare, or as easily dismissed as random violence, as so many would like it to be. Would wish it to be. And until we — humanity — admit that, millions upon millions of women and girls will be raped and assaulted year in, year out.

I’ve been lucky so far. I pray to God my daughter will be, too.

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

 

UPDATE: Melissa Bell, a blogger at the Washington Post, wrote a very good, brief response to the reactions to the attack on Ms. Logan, including some important statistics. Please click through and read the whole thing.

A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women experience public sexual harassment, from groping to assault.

Here’s why this story is not just about Egypt, either:

In 2000, in New York’s Central Park, an assault similar to Logan’s occurred during a parade. Seven women were attacked. In the United States. Attacks occur everywhere, every day. Again and again.

The assault did not happen because Logan was a reporter in a dangerous country. It did not happen because that country happens to be Muslim. It happened because sexual assault occurs every single day to women everywhere in the world.

Twitter post 2.0

Looking for a nice primer on how Twitter works? Click here.

The other day I went on something of a tear about how Twitter doesn’t reflect Real Life. And I stand by that post! I said, I said: I stand by that post!

And I really do, because my point was: Let’s take this whole Twitter thing with a boulder of salt. Aside from anything else, I argued, there’s no such thing as “Twitter” — there are as many Twitters as there are people using the service.

And yet.

I believe I’ve already established that I am entirely capable of contradicting myself (being in possession of a bicameral mind), and the truth is that there’s another truth here, too.

While Twitter doesn’t have the kind of impact that people often like to think it does (witness the pronouncement that I’m “influential” in the world of Jewish Twitter — meanwhile, in the world of Jewish People, I’m really rather not [and/or witness the fact that the Iranian government was not, after all, toppled by tweets]), Twitter — and here I actually do mean a single, discrete thing called “Twitter” — does have real world impact that shouldn’t be denied. Certainly not by me, a person who often serves as a conduit for that impact.

I could not possibly estimate the number of new ideas I’ve been introduced to through my Twitter feed, and if we throw in the deepening of my understanding of old ideas, too, then we’re in entirely uncharted territory.

Furthermore, there are actions I’ve taken, good deeds I’ve been privileged to be a part of, about which I would have known nothing were it not for my Twitter feed.

A few minutes ago, I called my state senator in support of an end to the death penalty in Illinois, because I got a tweet. A couple of weeks ago, I brought a bunch of coats, hats and gloves to a Chicago school serving a community of homeless kids, because I got a tweet. And (my personal favorite), a few months ago, I contributed to an ad-hoc, wildly interfaith fundraiser to compensate a Muslim community after a drunk Islamophobe/asshat burst into their mosque and urinated on their prayer rugs — because I got a tweet. And I have, in turn, pushed each of these good deeds and others like them a bit further down the road by tweeting about them myself.

I have also been in a position to: Prepare for a wind storm; bring along a surprisingly necessary umbrella; watch important events unfold live; laugh my fool head off; get excellent, free job search advice; and (my personal favorite) hold hands across time zones with people I wouldn’t recognize if I sat next to them on the bus — because I got a tweet.

Twitter is a tool. It does what we want it to do. Like a hammer, or tweezers, or a fork, or, I don’t know, a chainsaw. It can be used to do good things, like eating dinner, or you could, you know, put your eye out with it. Metaphorically.

The oft-mocked 140-character increments in which we communicate on Twitter are, I will grant you, often mockable. But, at least in my experience, they are more often than not little teasers, ads almost, for worlds that expand exponentially when you click on a link or download a song or follow the trail of replies or…. Each tweet (stay with me now) is a portal.

Or, of course, each tweet can be. One can navel gaze and tweet obsessively about breakfast and bowel movements, or not.

But when we put all of those portals together (and even the navel gazing), there is (in spite of all that stuff I said the other day, or perhaps alongside it) a Thing that is Twitter. It’s amorphous and messy and its borders are ill-defined and ever-changing, like any other social construct, but it’s a Thing. What’s Judaism? What’s the blogosphere? What’s American society?

So, yeah. Twitter’s like that.

On Twitter, the Jewish Telegraph Agency, and real life.

Update (in three parts):

#1. JTA was gracious enough to tweet a link to this post, calling it a “thoughtful critique.” Which, you know, if you’re going to be all gracious and everything, I’m going to have to say that that’s very nice of you. Very nice, JTA! Thank you.

#2. Also, my All Things Internet pal Vicki Boykis (you can see her down there in the comments to this very post, even!) wrote a really good post about the list (also graciously tweeted by JTA) from an entirely different angle, explaining the much more technical and social-media specific problems with the list, some of which I vaguely sensed but could not have begun to explain to myself, much less to anyone else.

#3. Even though I was smart enough to point out that many people don’t know from Twitter, Vicki was even smarter and posted an explanation for those not on it.

bonus #4! Point is: Vicki’s very smart. And wry, and clever, and you really should be reading her. (Plus which, I just corrected my months-long mis-spelling of her name on my blog roll, which she was too gracious to ever point out, so, yeah… there’s that, too).

*******

Easily the craziest thing to happen to me in 2010 happened when the year was almost done.

Last Thursday, December 30, the Jewish Telegraph Agency (aka JTA, a kind of a Jewish AP) posted its list of the 100 Most Influential Jewish Twitter Users for 2010.

I’m #28.

To give you some perspective on this, let me fill you in on a few of the folks I bested:

  1. Danny Ayalon (Israel’s boorish deputy foreign minister)
  2. the Jewish Agency
  3. AIPAC

Yes, that’s right: In Twitterverse, I am more influential than AIPAC.

Now, we all know that I love me my Twitter. I use it as a combination clipping service, source of Awesome Information I’d Never Otherwise Hear, branding device, and virtual water cooler. I have online friends who I know almost exclusively through Twitter, people who genuinely brighten and add to my day, in 140-character increments.

But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more convincing argument for Twitter’s utter lack of real world applicability than my place on that list. Indeed, on that list a cautionary tale hangs.

Twitter is a place where I carefully pick and choose who I talk to, what I read, and who can talk to me. If people seek me out to yell at me, I block them. This is one of the beauty parts of the service, frankly, but it’s also a piece of a larger, more important truth:

Twitter doesn’t reflect the world.

Indeed, I would argue that there is no such thing (no real thing, no quantifiable thing) as “Twitter,” at least not in the sense that there is a New York Times, or even a Huffington Post. There are as many Twitters as there are people with Twitter handles, and those individual Twitters don’t reflect the world — they reflect the people on the other side of the handles.

My Twitter reflects me. I’m sharing information and laffs with people who are, for whatever reason, and however tangentially, Like Me. It’s true that a bunch of people who are very much Not Like Me have started to follow me in the wake of the publication of the JTA list, but a) I have every reason to believe that many of them will soon stop (like the settler, for instance), and b) even if they’re Not Like Me in Twitter terms? They’re still Like Me in tech terms.

Put it this way: @AIPAC might be on Twitter, but AIPAC isn’t on Twitter.

AIPAC — that is to say, the people meeting with Senators and helping to shape our national discourse on Israel — are not reading the 140-character missives of tens of thousands of people, and neither are they crafting their own missives. They’re too busy meeting with Senators and helping to shape our national discourse on Israel. Similarly, (most of) the people who donate to AIPAC and believe every word that AIPAC utters are also not on Twitter. They’re too old.

Indeed, the vast majority of people — whether they regularly meet with Senators, are old, or not — are not on Twitter. All told, Twitter has some 145 million “registered users,” but there’s no way of knowing (because Twitter apparently doesn’t want to tell us) how many of these people actually use the service. This is a world of seven billion people. A whole lot of whom (even just among the Jews) don’t even own computers.

Before the list came out, I had about 370 Twitter followers. I always block people who have followed me solely to sell me something, so at least I can say that that list represents real people who actively chose to follow me, but a) I have no way of knowing who reads what and how often, and b) 370 people. Dude.

There are Jewish Twitter accounts with twice, three, nine times as many followers as I have who fell below me on the JTA list — many of whom  are, moreover, confident enough in their Cool Kid status to completely ignore me, even when I actively seek to engage them (ok, so they’re also rude, but that’s neither here nor there).

If I actually have influence on Twitter (and I think the foregoing suggests that to be a pretty big “if”), and if the JTA isn’t really just making a mountain out of an exceptionally small and particularly narrowly defined molehill (re-read the bit about how people were chosen, before the fancy metrics were applied), and if having influence on Twitter is even something that can be usefully measured — it clearly means nothing.

Because AIPAC, and the Jewish Agency, and Danny Ayalon are the ones actually calling the shots — some of the shots, at any rate, a hell of a lot more shots than I ever even hear about, much less get to influence. And I live in Real Life, not Twitterverse.

So, to sum up: Twitter is very nice. But it is not Real Life.

Just look at me!

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