Wikipedia, the 2015 Voltaire Lecture, and death by machete

Earlier this year, in Bangladesh, Bonya Ahmed survived a machete attack that killed her husband, blogger Avijit Roy. Last month she delivered the 2015 Voltaire Lecture to the British Humanist Association in London.

God bless the Humanists, they have provided a transcript:

First, the WP articles:

Avijit Roy was not the only blogger attacked; there were 8 total. Here are their Wikipedia articles, or lack thereof.

Now, some parallels to Wikipedia.  Bonya Ahmed narates:

“We were stabbed repeatedly with machetes on the side of the road. The area was surrounded by police officers and video cameras and thousands and thousands of people. Nobody came to help us, the police stood by.”

Does this not sound like Arbcom, telling women tat if they don’t want to be attacked, to keep a lower profile?

“Two men were arrested at the scene by bystanders….”

…not by the police.  This would suggest the  government is complicit.  And who defends women at en.wp?  Not the admin corps, not the arbitration committee. Time and time again, it’s the ordinary bystanders. (I should know, I was one.)

“They said they killed Washiqur despite never having read his blog themselves, but under orders from someone at their madrasas.”

Internet “brigaders” or meatpuppets these days get their marching orders from Reddit.

“At this point, perhaps, Sheikh Hasina could have slapped down the Islamists. She could have said that no, people have a right to demonstrate, to write, to question, to criticize. But instead, this is what she said: We do not need a new blasphemy law, because we already have a law against ‘hurting religious sentiments’ and we can prosecute the bloggers under that law! So the authorities received the list of suspect bloggers, officials promised to investigate, and then they arrested four of those bloggers from the list and pursued them through the courts.”

The real crime is discussion, the attempt at dialogue, at trying to reach for a consensus.  Asking questions is not okay.  Because, what if vested power can’t think of a reasonable answer?  The questions themselves must be suppressed, the questioners killed.

The Arbcom could have protected the Gender Gap Task Force as it protected the Classical Music and Opera projects in the Infoboxes case, but it chose not to.  The Arbcom could have declared hands off on hate speech directed against women, as it did against gays in the Manning Naming Dispute case, but it chose not to.  When those in authority refuse to curtail hate speech that demonizes particular groups, can violence be far behind?

“So, what happens when you give bullies what they want? What happens when you accede to crazy demands? Soon there were one-hundred thousand Islamists marching on the streets of Dhaka demanding not just ‘death to atheist bloggers’, but for the cancellation of planned new education reforms that would have helped girls into education, and yet the government again made concessions.”

Ah, when the bullies arrive, the girls are the first to go.  Why am I not surprised.

“Even more ridiculously, it seems that you could now get 14 years for criticizing religion online, while 2 years if you do so in print media.”

Yup, it is casual conversation on talk pages–not guest posts in the Signpost–that must be brutally suppressed.

The solution?

“What we are left with is us, ourselves: my thoughts and feelings, my losses as well as my triumphs, the meaning in my life, these are all important, because they are all that counts. And It makes no sense until we extend this realization as far as it will go in the human family. It is not just ourselves, but each other, every trafficked slave, every murdered writer, every lost and lonely mind, that are important and have value.”

Make it so.  We can start by doing away with primitive expressions of contempt for anyone who is not of our tribe.

Oh, and Bonya Ahmed?  Her Wikipedia article is non-existent. The Google juice for that directs to her husband’s article.  laughing



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