How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
You may have heard, last week, YouTube terminated the entire Cornell University Library account on their site.
All of it.
I found out, like everyone else, by accident. I got an email from a bewildered colleague. Then a second. Then a twentieth.
Google’s little company deleted all the files, after they saw the April university lectures by myself, Gayle Rubin, and other On Our Backs artists. We don’t know if there was a complaint, or it was just their usual harrow of ever-changing terms and conditions.
Needless to say, the OOB lecturers were fully clothed and rather obsessed with our historical narrative. Anyone not interested in feminist politics would have probably fallen asleep.
For the moment, at least, the “banned” videos are back up, as of this AM, June 20th. 2 videos. And, the OOB exhibit is online, on Cornell’s server.
I hope you all know it’s because of your support and outrage that we were able to claw this back. One day at a time, eh?
Here’s a link to all the film and stills and words:
I have to laugh, really, thinking of how Google’s termination the past two weeks erased all the Cornell lectures on higher mathematics and plate tectonics, fashion design and human ecology, Classical Greek and MBA best practices— yes, ALL OF IT, has been “terminated” by Google because they and their AI moderators are so concerned about “sensitive content.” They won’t stand for it.
I agree that feminist history is indeed a touchy subject.
Anyway… the drama will continue to unfold.
Close readers will also recall that when I announced the OOB exhibit at Cornell in early April, I was “banned” by Facebook for more than a month, my personal profile.
FB sent me daily emails warning me how they promise to cut me off forever if I ever pull something like that again.
The thing is, this banning/terminating/deleting troll crap has been going on since I first got my modem in 1986.
I’ve been on every popular web platform, every one — and I’ve been “un-platformed” each time, because of specious complaints. The emerging media companies court early adopters, and then they can’t get rid of us fast enough.
I have gone so far as to be the chief individual individual plaintiff to the Supreme Court1, in a victorious decision to uphold the First Amendment and the Miller statutes on the Web, TO NO AVAIL. Even Justice Stevens said he couldn’t understand why people were so upset about my blog.
Free speech activists and historians know why we face this onslaught of censorious attack. Sex is always the litmus test. Not just pictures, but words and thoughts and political discourse. All of it.
The hope that speech of educational, aesthetic, and critical merit would be protected on the Web— in the spirit of American law— has been cruelly disappointed, every time. The First Amendment, or anything close to it, is MIA on the Web.
As one Google rep emailed me in the 1990s, “If you were a 10-figure net worth institution, we woudn’t bother. But you aren’t.”
If I say one thing to the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, it will be printed verbatim. If I say the same thing on my own site or social media, it will be deleted, pulled, or firewalled.
This has been going on for decades now. It isn’t just Google, it’s all the majors: Apple, Amazon, FB, Twitter, Microsoft, AOL, on and on. I could name a dozen others who’ve disappeared in the social media mist. It’s cruel that each of them censor the very people who created their original incubators.
Did you know that On Our Backs was the first magazine, of any kind, to publish with an early Apple computer and Adobe Pagemaker 1.0? Yes, we were. I was on The WELL in the 80s. Our idealism and commitment was ferocious!
Some of you may remember, decades ago when AOL was the big thing, they decided to clamp down on “pornography” by closing every chat group that used the word: breast.
Needless to say, AOL was shamed and ridiculed by breast cancer support groups, and breast-feeding parent groups.
Everyone laughed at them. How could AOL think using AI to clamp down on violence and dangerous threats, would be accomplished by attacking women’s sexuality?
Yet that procedure is exactly what has continued, writ large, ever since. The large internet players have no intention of parsing their clampdowns on free speech. Their response to “school shootings by incels” is to clamp down on feminist and gay writers. The low-hanging fruit. I know it sounds diabolical but the evidence is miles long. (There ought to be an index, and perhaps some of you will provide more links.)
The snuff-out blanket of “Terms and Conditions” is the Digital Patriarch’s performative version of “doing something” about good citizenship on the Web. —More like good riddance. —Even their appeals process is run by AI. “There’s no there there.” —To quote a lesbian they would love to ban.
This tale is a very, very long way of announcing something:
I’m putting a troll-filter on my Substack newsletter and blog, in the form of charging a small subscriber fee for posts I know will arouse attention.
You can click here, if you wish:
Yes, I have a new baby blog I’m fond of. I hope you’ll look at my archives.
I don’t want my stories to be shut down after all the work I’ve put into them.
I don’t want the tender new community I’ve gathered, to be traumatized and abandoned.
This has only happened a 100 times before. Je suis finis.
From now on, if I post something in my newsletter that has the slightest chance of being persecuted (e.g., sexual insight, controversial politics, artistic daring) I will put a paywall up. You’ll be able to read the first paragraph or two, to consider if you’d like to go further.
You’ll be asked to pay a small fee to continue. (Monthly or yearly).
You can quit if you don’t like it. It’ll never be more than what we’d spend having coffee together. Thank you for your understanding, as well as your uplift!
If you need a subsidized subscription, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll comp you.
The point isn’t to soak you . . .
The point is, and this is crucial: If a writer/journalist charges a fee— even so much as a dime— trolls can’t be bothered to complain and harass. They’re such cheapskates. The prude activists and opportunistic trolls will not spend one penny on their harassment campaigns. They insist on a free ride.
Furthermore, the AI bots leave paid subscribers be, for the same issue. They figure it’s one less thing they have to moderate, their plague of incompetence. Social media companies don’t have a stake in the health of public life. There is no altruism, intellectual pursuit, or even true belief on their parts. There is no there there.
Here’s an example of what I intend to protect: I just posted a recent story about the history of the blatant lesbian image, and I installed my first subscription requirement. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for understanding the cost of speaking our minds, with compassion and consideration.
Cornell University, in their power and deliberation, will figure out a way to preserve and protect their stories.
As will I.
And, people who love knowledge and creativity2—we’ll make it work, one way or another!
Co-Plaintiff, ACLU v. Gonzales (C.O.P.A. case), Supreme Court, 2003-2006
--Judgement in favor of Plaintiff