SXSW has been in the news for its decisions regarding an anti-harassment panel; specifically permitting a totally not Gamergate panel as a supposed counterweight to the harassment panel and then cancelling them both for poorly defined reasons. You can read Arthur Chu’s account here and Leigh Alexander’s take here if you’re unfamiliar with what’s happened so far. (Events are still unfolding) While this is important, I’ll leave discussion of it to other people who are better suited to do so. Instead, there was something else about this whole thing that I wanted to talk about: Chris Kluwe’s denunciation of the original decision, which you can read here.
Overall, it’s a strong piece, but when reading it one can’t help but notice the following paragraph:
I read this, slammed my head against the wall for an hour, snorted half a bottle of bleach, force-fed myself eighteen pounds of lead-based paints, and still couldn’t approach the depths of sheer bloody-minded imbecility it must have taken to put those words together in that particular order.
It stands out because it’s disconnected from the themes of the piece. It stands out because of how It stands out because of how ableist it is.
The notion that the organizers of SXSW are developmentally disabled, or the equivalent thereof, as the source of their cowardice is patently absurd. They knew what they were doing, and if there was any disconnect between intention and actions, it’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because they’re ignorant. If you are less forgiving of the organizers then they’re not ignorant; they know exactly what they’re doing and don’t care. Regardless, the end result is cowardice and evil.
Evil isn’t stupid. Evil can function with ignorance, but that isn’t a requirement. Evil can function with apathy, but that isn’t required either. Evil requires active, malicious action. It solidifies itself through systems of oppression and marginalization that benefit those who do harm. These systems then use ignorance and apathy to prop itself up as people who have vested interests, or are led to believe that they have vested interests, prop it up. Action, which manifests as violence, is knowingly taken to defend these systems.
Attributing cowardice and malice to a lack of an intelligence is offensive. It infantilizes the opposition and makes it quite clear what you think of the disabled. If we want to make the internet a safe space then ableism is one of the things we must work to end.