Personal Safety for Bloggers

In his post about Blog Stalkers — Personal Safety for Bloggers (via Performancing), Darren Rouse shares his personal experience of being stalked by a blog reader who, after a series of escalating behaviors, ended up at his home.

Having put this situation behind him, Darren goes into detail about how bloggers can protect themselves:

  • Decide ahead of time how much personal information to share on your blog
  • Be aware of what impression you’re leaving
  • Remember to follow offline security measures
  • Develop a plan of action ahead of time
  • Don’t try to deal with a problem situation alone

He also writes an important post about What to Do when Your Blog is Attacked, which I’m going to clip for future reference.


Other Global Responses to the Conflict about Jyllands-Posten’s Cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed

With violence increasing and the polarization about the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy becoming greater, it’s easy to agree with Neville Hobson’s statement that this conflict “illustrates a massive cultural and religious divide that is getting wider… with no meeting of minds looking likely at all. If anything, this will probably get worse.”

Fortunately there are dissenting voices, as these excerpts from around the world show.

From MSNBC:

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani denounced the violence and appealed for calm, accusing infiltrators of sowing the dissent to “harm the stability of Lebanon.” Prime Minister Fuad Saniora also urged peaceful protests. “Those who are committing these acts have nothing to do with Islam or with Lebanon,” he said. “This is absolutely not the way we express our opinions.”

From Rantings of a Sandmonkey:

Fully knowing that it is retarded to punish a whole country and its products for what a Newspaper in that country did, I expected someone to start a movement to restore common sense our muslim brothers and demand a stop to the boycott, especially since the Danes have apologized over and over again. Then I figured, shit, why don’t I be that someone?…

So I guess I will start the official local campaign to boycott the boycott, and thanks to the efforts of Roba and Jameed, the campaign now has banners that you can get here, put on your website and show solidarity with Danish people…

From Sorry Norway Denmark (via History News Network’s Deja vu — Judith Apter Klinghoffer):

In the middle of all the mayhem surrounding the Danish cartoons controversy, a group of Arab and Muslim youth have set up this website to express their honest opinion, as a small attempt to show the world that the images shown of Arab and Muslim anger around the world are not representative of the opinions of all Arabs.  We whole-heartedly apologize to the people of Denmark, Norway and all the European Union over the actions of a few, and we completely condemn all forms of vandalism and incitement to violence that the Arab and Muslim world have witnessed.  We hope that this sad episode will not tarnish the great friendship that our peoples have fostered over decades.

The problem with media representation of such issues tends to be that the media only picks up the loudest voices, ignoring the rational ones that do not generate as much noise.  Voices that seek tolerance, dialogue and understanding are always drowned out by the more sensationalist loud calls, giving viewers the impression that these views are representative of all the Arab public’s view.  This website is a modest attempt at redressing this wrong.  We would appreciate it if you could forward the word to as many of your friends as possible.

What long-term effects on free speech will this conflict have? We probably won’t know for quite some time. There is possibly a new Europen Union media code of conduct in the works (via EU Rota). And Lee Hopkins points out that, on a lower level, “the whole issue does… introduce fear and loathing in the workplace.”

In the meantime, although there is already some “fight cartoon with cartoon” behavior, as evidenced by the Arab European League’s two cartoons, I’d speculate that for most media, Serge Cornelus’s prediction is right on.


Danish Embassy in Damascus is Latest Target in Rage over Caricatures of Prophet Muhammed

CNN.com reports that hundreds of Syrian demonstrators stormed the Royal Danish Embassy in Damascus, Syria today and set the building ablaze. This is the latest reaction to the publishing of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Many Muslims are offended because they find the cartoons disrespectful and blasphemous; others object because various hadiths prohibit any depiction of the Prophet, regardless of what the images contain (although Wikipedia notes that representations of the Prophet have existed in Islamic art for quite some time).

The Vatican had this to say about the cartoons:

“The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion…

Any form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable provocation.”

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, part of the Vatican’s diplomatic service, was also critical:

“Freedom of satire that offends the sentiments of others becomes an abuse — and in this case it has affected the sentiments of entire populations in their highest symbols…

One can understand satire about a priest but not about God. With reference to Islam, we could understand satire on the uses and customs and behavior, but not about the Quran, Allah and the Prophet.”

See Wikipedia’s Jyllands-Posten Muhammed cartoons controversy for a chronology of events and international reaction. Make sure to also read the posts by Allan Jenkins and Neville Hobson, both of which offer an analysis from a communications perspective.

I predict that this explosive situation is only the beginning of other similar international incidents we’ll see in the coming months and years. I’d venture to guess that others (see, for example, Media Orchard’s post Newest Beer Pitchman: Jesus Christ) would agree.


Online Suicide Notes

It was bound to happen. Our most intimate moments in life and death are now public for anyone to see.

According to New America Media, 17 year-old Joshua Anson Ballard posted his last MySpace.com bulletin on Nov. 29, 2005 just a short while before fatally shooting himself. And Chris McKinstry, the founder of Mindpixel, made two posts dated January 20, 2006 on his Mindpixel Blog before taking his own life a few days later.

What’s our obligation if we stumble across something like this? Should we get involved, contact the authorities? Can we just click away without guilt? I’m not sure there is a universal answer. In the cases of Joshua and Chris, it seems that people did try to intervene before it was too late.


Bloggers as Unwitting Ambassadors

The summer after I graduated from college I spent two weeks traveling through Japan. I walked through the neon streets of Tokyo and the breathtaking gardens and temples of Kyoto. What I remember most, though, is the role I played as an American ambassador.

In addition to arranging a full program of sightseeing, my host families set up several “cultural exchanges” in which they expected me to be an expert on all things American. I spoke about current events and politics to students at Reitaku University, talked with young mothers about the expanding opportunities for women in Western society, and met with a group of employees to discuss marketing.

Most of all I tried to leave a positive impression about the United States. I knew that what I said, how I said it, and my overall demeanor would have a greater impact on the people I met than some brief blurb about the U.S. they’d read in the newspaper.

That trip was many years ago. But the role I had to play is not dissimilar to the one we as bloggers and writers hold now.

Most of the blogs I read come from the U.S, but several are from Europe, Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world. I read them to gain an international perspective and to measure my opinions and responses against those of others who aren’t necessarily shaped by an American mind-set. I also know that what I write here is read by a few people in different parts of the world.

Acting as ambassadors of our respective countries is no small burden. But it offers a tremendous opportunity for us all.


Resources for Blogging in Politically Repressive Environments

Here are two important blogging resources for anyone opposed to censorship and supportive of free speech … and, most importantly, for any blogger working within a politically repressive environment.

On a related note, there is currently much talk about credibility, accountability and accuracy within the blogosphere. I’ve often thought that limiting the anonymity of bloggers or those who comment on blog posts is one way of increasing accountability. Spirit of America has challenged my view on this (see entire argument on Anonymous Blogging Apologia):

“Most of the bloggers who have been arrested in the past two years were easy to find because they followed the advice of some purist critics of anonymous blogging: They used their real names and details of their lives. Considering the likelihood that the harrassment of bloggers will continue, we believe anonymous blogging should remain a valid option and comprehensive instructions on how to do so should be available.”


Civility A Hot Topic Among Bloggers

The recent verbal sparring between Six Apart president Mena Trott and backstage.bbc.co.uk’s Project Lead Ben Metcalfe at the Les Blogs 2.0 Conference has hit a massive nerve among bloggers. A Technorati search for “Ben Metcalfe” reveals 400 posts. I won’t comment on what happened at Les Blogs since I wasn’t there, but I admit I’m glad that civility – and the absence thereof – is a hot topic again. While it’s true that definitions of what’s considered civil behavior vary based on environment, personal values and cultural norms, it’s indisputable that incivility takes its toll. This might be a good time to re-read an older, but still relevant, article on workplace civility. It contains good ideas applicable to many settings.


Legislation Seeks to Avoid a Repeat of Katrina’s Pet Failure

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, pet owners were either forced to abandon their pets or risk their own lives in trying to protect their animal companions. Some people decided to stay behind, others were heartbroken by the decision they felt forced to make.

While stories of happy reunions between owners and their pets provide a small feel-good element in an otherwise tragic series of government failures, there are still reports of animals who are barely alive and desperately waiting to be rescued.

Seeking to avoid a repeat of Katrina, Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Chris Shays (R-CT) recently introduced the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2005 (H.R. 3858) to require state and local emergency preparedness operational plans to “take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals following a major disaster or emergency.” PETS currently has over 60 co-sponsors. As explained in Congressman Lantos’ introductory statements:

“This legislation … requires states to include how they plan to accommodate their incumbent pet population as well as people with disabilities that are aided by service animals. FEMA will require the jurisdictions to submit their emergency preparedness plans in order to be eligible for FEMA funding assistance in the event of a disaster.”

While the legislation doesn’t require any specific rescue efforts by state or local governments, it serves as a starting point for discussing the practical steps needed to rescue people and their pets. So are any non-profits or advocacy groups using this bill as an opportunity to educate their members and the public? Here’s a partial list of national organizations that are:

· The Humane Society of the United States (go here)

· The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (go here)

· Last Chance for Animals (scroll to bottom of page here)

· United Animal Nations (go here)

· Doris Day Animal League (go here)

At a time when the wounds of Katrina are still fresh and people around the country are wondering what they would so if disaster struck them, all animal advocacy groups, whether national or local, large or small, should be using this legislation to raise awareness and mobilize their audiences into action.