I thought they might be victory-dancing like griefers, but the Registani authors who so harassed and bullied me on Twitter here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and more -- and deliberately targeted my employer with complaints about me -- are silent. Eerie.
(Remember, the beef these two professors had with my simple, factual post about a factual surge of Facebook membership in Uzbekistan is simply scientism -- Socialbakers is an accepted analytical company that simply publishes the quantative membership on Facebook from a given country. It works in cooperation with Facebook, and it is accepted as an industry standard.)
Intriguingly, Kendzior, Pearce, Foust, and Hamm don't have a single comment about my statement about their harassment of me and efforts to get me silenced and removed from EurasiaNet and while they are no doubt talking among themselves, they don't evidence it anywhere else (and that's no doubt how they operate on a lot of things). (UPDATE: Oh, except from this nasty little Aesopian tweet by Foust -- Ugh).
Although they aren't admitting it, indeed they are guilty of harassing and silencing a legitimate critic, a person whose work has always been highly valued in this field. That's scary -- that's scary for all of us. Their actions caused my employer to pick up their allegations in alarm and demand of me a complete and utter silence on Twitter and all social media about the Central Asia region in general. That's wrong.
That's an unacceptable condition of employment for a freelancer, and one that is especially unconscionable when the employer, Open Society Foundations (which funds Open Society Institute Central Eurasia Program), doesn't have any clause in the independent contractors' contract restricting their comments on social media or restricting their publications elsewhere, and doesn't have any separate internal written policy distributed to contractors, and doesn't even have a verbal policy universally stated to all -- indeed, no other EurasiaNet writer was under this Twitter gag, only me.
As noted, I urged the management to make a concerted policy not to have any EurasiaNet writers respond to attacks and harassment from Joshua Foust and other writers, rather than allowing him to proceed with what was obviously a planned and executed assault on EurasiaNet to get it to change its content and line on Uzbekistan and the NDN and other issues.
Instead, the editors chose to allow some EurasiaNet authors like Joshua Kucera to argue and banter and disagree with Foust, but then on his terms, with the appropriate accommodations. When asked why one author could do this and another, I was told merely that it was "different". What's different is clear -- I refused the accommodationist approach. The Registan saga is only part of the policy troubles at EurasiaNet that caused me to be forced out, but that's another story; Registan's instigation in harassing me and getting me removed is on the record, and should be deeply disturbing to anyone who values journalism, blogging, and free intellectual discourse about the Central Asian region.
Foust is a known and obvious quantity and his actions harassing human rights advocates are clear and part of his strategy and his ideology. What's more murky is the participation of the academics who support him and his views and Registan. Why are they doing this?
After Nathan Hamm set the stage by denouncing me as a "self-righteous troll" and a "tremendous black mark on EurasiaNet" merely because I correctly called out Foust on his hypocrisy and unconscionable attack on Martha Brill Olcott, then Katy Pearce, a professor at University of Washington, Department of Communication, and Sarah Kendzior, a professor of anthropology at Washington University at St. Louis, and co-authors and Twitter buddies and pals with each other and Foust, made a concerted demarche to my editors complaining about me in order to get me removed.
They did this because I legitimately criticized a joint article of theirs, rightfully expressing legitimate concern about a thesis that says if people report repression on the Internet, it scares others off, and then the overall growth of the Internet (and by implication, reforms) are slowed down or, as they explained, "how political protest is derailed".
They weren't just making a study of the obvious -- that arrests of journalists and bloggers puts a chill on Internet expression. They were making a thesis of how these countries change, and thereby setting up a policy rationale for not vigorously supporting alternative news sites because they had insufficient audiences, little impact, and actually were counterproductive as people got into trouble and others were scared off.
If that's *not* the policy prescription that appears crystal-clear in their work when it is finally published in full, it's my right to express *my fears about it anyway* because I genuinely suspect that's where it will go.
Put simply: if you're looking for a thesis not to expect unrest or the Arab Spring in Central Asia because you need those things not to happen for your own geopolitical reasons; if you're looking for a thesis to justify cutting funding to independent media in this region and shifting it elsewhere, this is your thesis.
My legitimate criticism sparked a howling denunciation of me as "assanine" and suffering from "poor analytical skills" and sparked their nasty jibes with the deliberate use of the @eurasianet to ensure that it got visibility on the front page of EurasiaNet. (By the way, Hamm's denunciation of me for my legitimate defense of Olcott and criticism of Foust, that I was a "black mark" for EurasiaNet stayed in the view over the entire Christmas holidays, harming my reputation wrongfully.)
I wouldn't worry about Twitter snarking or even academic findings that seem to pre-bake policy prescriptions into their research if it weren't for the fact that these two scholars support Registan so heartily, tacitly support the banning and deletion of critics, and vet only a certain "line" of the site that cleverly feigns to be critical of the US and the Central Asian regimes it supports, but winds up time and again supporting the status quo for realpolitik reasons. And silences critics.
Sarah Kendzior is of course someone I've heard of for years who is admired in the human rights community for her seminal work on Andijan and the government's claims that an Islamic fundamentalist business group called Akromiya was fabricated by the government. This article was critical in opposing S. Frederick Starr, who was condemned by the human rights movement as supporting Karimov's version of the massacre in Andijan at the time. I've always been troubled, nonetheless, by some aspects of her article, and now that it's come together for me further, I will write about that separately.
But knowing of her background, which I interpreted to be critical of the Uzbek and other regimes, I was quite surprised and troubled when I saw, again and again, Kendzior took part in shaping discussions in such odd yet subtle ways that seemed to keep supporting the status quo in Uzbekistan. And as I noted, I believe she was the person referenced when Hamm said he consulted a "kind soul" who justified banning me -- as she was the person whom I challenged most besides "Will" on the "suicide girl" thread, it was likely she.
Although I had read Kendzior's Andijan piece, I had never heard of Nathan Hamm and Katy Pearce. It turns out they have tag-teamed each other before in suppressing criticism in worrisome ways.
First, Nathan Hamm. I see now that one of the reasons he reacted with such malice and spite in permanently banning me from Registan is that he believed me -- falsely -- to be a part of a group that he said had libeled him and threatened his livelihood in the past.
(He also Google witch-hunted me, found that I was banned from some Second Life fan site and was considered an "infamous antagonist" in the Second Life virtual world, and assumed that I had some horrible reputation -- a line Foust also took in heckling me about SL. In fact, I'm proud of my reputation in SL which involves hateful invective from some quarters merely because I stood up to bullies, documented abuses, tackled the thuggish Anonymous variants in SL, and fought for basic human rights and democracy in social media as I have done everywhere else in my career.)
I marvel at the recurring theme Hamm has made in a number of episodes to the effect that others are plotting and libeling him and threatening his livelihood, when in fact what is really actionable on his part is his libeling and actually harming my livelihood by inciting distrust and anger in my employers and making them put a Twitter gag on me that I ultimately could not accept because it was unjust and unfair and selective. It takes two to tango here -- Registan's creepy banning of a legitimate critic who called out Foust justly dovetailed with EurasiaNet's disturbing willingness to tag-team their perma-ban by putting a Twitter gag on me. It's especially weird, given that EurasiaNet's own team of authors writing on NDN and Uzbekistan had been viciously attacked for months on end, along with various human rights advocates, by Joshua Foust from his constant stream of Twitter invective.
People project on others what their own constant obsessions and fears are, and that may explain it. I can only repeat that I have no idea what Hamm was talking about when he accused me of being part of some mysterious group of people who had maligned him and harmed him, apparently in some recent incident (unless he has such an elephant's memory he is referencing one from 2006). I can't see anything about this anywhere, and would appreciate some clues from readers ([email protected])
The incident of some six years ago, however, had all the same earmarks of what happened to me -- and I submit that my case is far worse because my livelihood was forced to be removed and I depended on it for my family's survival. I make no pretentions of understanding a thing about Armenia or the Armenian blogosphere -- I don't follow either at all. And I don't know who is wrong or right in this episode, but it doesn't matter: what I see is the strong hand of Hamm and Pearce interfering in free speech they don't like.
Links about censorship allegations are removed. Onnik Krikorian, an Armenian blogger, has complaints and then his posts are removed (I will write and ask him about this). As I see him continuing to post on Registan, and with important criticism BTW, perhaps he patched things up with the Registanis, but Hamm sounds like an overbearing and paranoid prat in this post. He's young; the young live in fear of reprisals for their Internet activity and are horridly comformist as a result. It's one of the biggest chills on intellectual discourse in general -- that horrible conformism of the young, so unlike the 1960s or 1970s. (OWS is actually merely a more extreme form of conformism to extreme ideologies than most.)
Onnik had this to say, back then:
But let’s get something straight. Your involvement started with me turning down doing an Armenian summary for Global Voices because I could see your involvement — even indirectly — with New Eurasia and I see Katy Pearce has being one of the biggest threats to the Armenian blogosphere — pushing her own ambitions even though her knowledge of the situation in Armenia is limited.
And elsewhere he called Pearce "authoritarian" -- that link survives. Again, I don't know who was wrong and who was right in this dispute as I don't follow the Armenian blogosphere.
But I do see a pattern that jibes with my own very pronounced critique of Global Voices which I've had for a long time: in my view, the founders and editors are mainly all about harnessing this region, as others, in a political drive for power and influence in the US in support of a "progressive" agenda. They're accordingly selective about the content they encourage or discourse on Global Voices. I've had fundamental disagreements with Ethan Zuckerman about what I have seen as his opportunistic use and/or disparagement of Twitter revolutions in this region; I've had fundamental disagreements with Rebecca McKinnon about her efforts to influence the takeover of the Internet by "progressive" technologists -- these are people who seemingly I should be compatible with as we share some of the same goals for Internet freedom, the same colleagues, projects, and organizations even -- but I don't support them because I fundamentally mistrust their drive for political power and influence. Of course, anyone could object that anyone, even the lowliest blogger, strives for power and influence in their way. But the more resourced and powerful strive more and have more.
Then there's this strange story of a link removed and someone also complaining about Hamm and Pearce. And the links within that story are removed and the trail goes cold, but there is a remark about Hamm and Pearce "showing their true colours". Again, perhaps it's this Armenian blogger who was somehow at fault -- somehow I don't think so, but it's hard to tell when all the links are removed or blocked -- but something is "up".
That professors would use this kind of method to remove even speech they might be able to justify as "wrong' or "false" is profoundly, profoundly troubling; it becomes even more creepy if in fact the criticism about them or their ideas is true and no claim is false (and that's I believe that is surely the case with my criticism and statements about their "derailing" theory).
I remember thinking with the kind of clarity that my rather partial ESP sometimes gives me some months ago, that the attacks by Foust were so fierce, the reaction by EurasiaNet management and writers so weak and ineffective, and the accommodationist steps so odd, that I thought to myself, "Somebody has to die for Foust's deliberate plan to take down EurasiaNet, and that person will be me, because I write the most human rights and opposition stories, and these will be derided as the 'advocacy' that Registan scorns and mocks EurasiaNet most for."