But the actual problem with the Internet isn’t us hastily tweeting off about foolish people. The actual problem is that none of the men running those bazillion-dollar Internet companies can think of one single thing to do about all the men who send women death threats.
Ronson has written about the harrowing experience of individuals suddenly finding themselves being pursued offline by a baying pack of thousands of virtual hounds. Sicha, in keeping with the tenor of the times, is more concerned with the aggregate, and would apparently have preferred to see a book confirming the popular belief that men’s terrible treatment of women online is a uniquely awful problem deserving a specially tailored solution, which, for the purposes of a review, goes beyond providing wider context into changing the focus altogether. I’m guessing that women who participate in things like Justine Sacco’s mobbing are considered statistically irrelevant.
At the beginning of the very same paragraph from which I plucked this excerpt, Sicha notes that thousands of years of unambiguous advice urging us all to be kind to each other, no exceptions, has failed to eliminate mean-spiritedness, but somehow comes around a few sentences later to the weird conclusion that tech CEOs are specifically responsible for figuring out how to design their products in such a way as to keep men from using them with malicious intent. Is this just a symptom of our age, that we expect to find a technological fix to perennial flaws in human nature? Maybe we should just give the NSA jurisdiction to arrest and prosecute anyone who uses social media to threaten felonious assault, since they’re the only ones who have the budget and monitoring capacity to handle all that anyway.
Earlier in the review, Sicha downplays the significance of online mobbing by saying that it’s much worse to be physically beaten with fists than virtually pummeled with tweets, yet I’m sure it would be considered offensive to borrow that logic and suggest that not all gendered “death threats” are created equal either. That’s why I’ll just appeal to the intersectional authority of Glenn Greenwald.