Monday, February 21, 2011

Cyber Racism

Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights – Jessie Daniels

Chapter 4: White Supremacist Social Movements Online and in Global Context

I focused mainly on the first half of the book for this week’s readings. Jessie Daniels brings up an interesting topic that hasn’t been explored much by mainstream academics. The idea that the internet is a place where identities, race, and ethnicity can simply fade away is one that has been prevalent in the media, but I hope, is finally being disproven by books like this one. It seems that the internet is a space in which many people celebrate rather than are critical. I find this to be troubling because in many of my experiences the internet has simply been a place where real life issues are mirrored at a global level. This is not to say that the internet cannot be powerful in terms of social movements (just look at Iran and Egypt), however, we must also recognize the growth of the power of the state through these technologies as well. Daniels’ book is an important step toward an examination of some of the darker realities of the internet. I especially like how he is not afraid to really condemn some of these movements. I think that too often scholars are afraid to voice their opinions when it comes to new media.

I’d like to focus on Daniels’ methods for a moment here. It seems that the author wants to do a bit of everything in this piece, and is very proud of it. There is a bit of textual based work, experiment, empirical investigations, etc. I am not a sociologist, so I am not sure if this is a normal study, but it seems like she is trying to do too many things at once. She believes that her study is unique and important because it does use several different types of studies and methods; however it seems a bit disjointed. I would have rather had her really focus on one section or area rather than jump around so much. Interestingly, if you go to her website, she is incredibly proud of her accomplishments and awards. She states, “Recognized as a national expert on white racism, I was featured in Elizabeth Thompson’s Emmy-award winning documentary “Blink,” about a supposedly reformed white supremacist” (Daniels 2011).
So, one wonders if that when you become a big star in popular academia, are you allowed to take more risks in terms of your studies? If she knew that she would be writing for a much more popular audience, would that change the tone of her study? It seems that this book could be used by many audiences in order to talk about issues of racism on the internet, which is a good thing, but I wonder how long it takes before a scholar has the freedom to write like this?

Anyway, let’s move on to chapter four. In this chapter, she addresses some of Castelles’ arguments surrounding online networks and racialized politics. Interestingly, she looks at white supremacist groups as a threat to activism and democracy on the internet. She compares the online traffic between one prominent white supremacist group and and concludes that as least Move On is the more popular of the two sites. However, interestingly, around the November time period on her chart, both sites have a lot more traffic. I find it also interesting that she concludes that democracy is healthy because of Move On’s popularity. It seems that she would have to look at a lot more websites from different political perspectives in order to really make this claim. Also, her idea of democracy is a bit clouded. The issue of white supremacy has been important in Europe. Many laws have been created to stop issues of hate speech and it has been made illegal to deny the holocaust in some areas. I find this to be problematic because one cannot stop hate speech from simply banning it. It still exists either way. I agree that hate speech should be banned, but we must be careful with these arguments. I wonder where the author stands on these issues.

1 comment:

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