Saturday, November 22, 2008

My response to the LAB anti-hate speech solicitation

Dear Andy, Elizabeth, and Jeff
League of American Bicyclists Executive Staff

Just read the solicitation letter on responding to and addressing the hate on the Internet and elsewhere. Fine as far as it goes.

We are running into a problem larger than cyclists alone. A letter to the editor in the Los Alamos Monitor was written by a local resident who, walking into County offices to vote early, heard two men say, one to the other, "you aren't going to vote for the n*gg*r, are you? ". The letter-writer was perhaps as naive as cyclists regarding undercurrents of hate?

The rise of anonymous forums on the Internet and to inflammatory radio has lead to people feeling free to say crap they would never dare to if they had to sign their names or have their faces seen in the newspaper. Perhaps from our perspective that is good--we get to see the worst of the hate speech which otherwise is underground.

On the other hand, I don't buy that perspective. I think the rise of anonymous hate speech reinforces it, due to the "me too" effect. You cannot reason with or confront a fictitious name for an Internet troll in Topix, etc. I've really gotten disgusted with organizations such as Topix which get their income by fanning anonymous hate. Our local paper, the New Mexican, has tossed its lot in with Topix. Too bad, since our previous forum kept it reasonably civil because we were all real people. The level of discourse has recently gone into and beyond the toilet bowl.

One antidote I advise is making our own faces public. When I walk into the County offices to chair our County Transportation Board meetings, its often with my bicycle, and I toss bike and helmet in the corner, walk to the nearest rest room, and come out in street clothes as Clark Kent. At work, a cyclist is chair of our LANL-wide traffic safety committee and is active in other safety issues on the technical side.

So it is obvious that I am a cyclist. You want to hate me? Take a good look. I look just like you do. Its a little tougher when we put a human face on it. Get more people active in their community as public ambassadors for the greater good--not just the cycling good.


Anonymous said...

Not quite sure I follow what just happened.

Khal said...

Andy Clarke, Exec. Director of the League of American Bicyclists, sent out a letter soliciting $$ in order to counteract stuff like the following quote:

"If you are on the road, you deserve to get hit. I see these fools all the time on the damn road when there is a sidewalk there".
-comment in an online discussion forum in the Miami Herald, responding to a news item that a cab driver had plowed into a group of ten cyclists on an empty causeway.

My comment was that online forums, especially when allowed to be anonymous (such as Topix), promote all sorts of ugly comments. Cyclists are just another target. If one wants to re-civilize people, its gonna be a big job and goes beyond just protecting cyclists from such comments.

Anonymous said...

I read on a recent blog,, about fraudulent board elections and loss of purpose recently (2003) by the LAB. Is this the same group?

Khal said...

There are issues. Seen this site?

Some think that adding the appointed board members indeed amounts to stacking the deck against those freely elected. As though the ruling party could decide to appoint thirty newly created Senators to the U.S. Senate; people whom they agree with. I'd have to sit down with Andy and ask him that question bluntly.

I think the League has massively improved from a decade ago when I had some pretty sour experiences with them--both a former Exec. Director and a former Board member. That said, any org can improve and so can LAB.

One of the reasons I have not pushed BFC too hard here is that I think we need to work out what we want in Los Alamos rather than take a script from Dee Cee.