Open Letter to the University of Illinois

February 28, 2019

In July of 2018, Arcadia, a cafe in Urbana, announced on Facebook an “Art Salon” at which my new film would be screened. The next day, Professor Mimi Thi Nguyen commented on Arcadia’s event page: “She’s a transphobe. I will never attend your events now.”

My crime was, months earlier, sharing on Facebook the following lyric: “If a person has a penis he’s a man.” At various times I have also shared such contentious views as, “women don’t have penises,” “sex is not gender,” “woman means adult human female,” and “everyone is free to identify however they wish, but not to force me to identify them the same way.” Nonetheless, “If a person has a penis he’s a man” is continually quoted as my greatest hit of so-called ‘hate speech.’ It is also a fact.

When asked by other commenters why my stating biological facts was ‘transphobic’ and grounds for no-platforming, Ms. Nguyen replied “I’m the chair of Gender and Women’s Studies. I know what I’m talking about.” Speaking not merely as an individual, but in her capacity as a UIUC faculty member, Ms. Nguyen threatened a local business and libeled a community member and encouraged others to join in.

Arcadia promptly cancelled the event.

That October, my film, Seder-Masochism, screened to enthusiastic audiences at the Vancouver International Film Festival. In attendance were film scholars Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, frequent speakers at past Ebertfests, who loved the film and emailed Ebertfest director Nate Kohn to recommend it. Kohn replied they already knew about Seder-Masochism, and it was at the top of their list. Which makes sense, since it’s by an Urbana filmmaker (me) whose last film was a star at the festival (Sita Sings the Blues) and contains my late father’s voice, which is known to much of the festival’s audience (Hiram Paley used to be Mayor of Urbana, as well as a math professor at the U of I).

Later that Fall, I turned down an invitation to judge a major film festival in Buenos Aires, because its dates overlapped with Ebertfest. Since Seder-Masochism was “at the top of (their) list,” I didn’t want to miss it. In January, I emailed Nate Kohn and Chaz Ebert to ask if in fact Seder-Masochism would screen. For over a week, they didn’t respond. That same week, I was attacked by a Twitter mob accusing me of ‘hate speech,’ once again for having said “If a person has a penis he’s a man.” Then all trace of my film was removed from the website of a women’s film festival in Belgium, after they were bullied by a Belgian transactivist.

Still awaiting a response, at the end of January I emailed Ebertfest again. They replied: “Sorry, we don’t have room for it.” (Update 3-28-2019: Chaz Ebert confirms Ebertfest’s decisions had nothing to do with my no-platforming in Urbana and Beligium, and they were unaware of any controversy. )

I’m not entitled to be at any film festival, and the decisions of Ebertfest – a special event of the University of Illinois College of Media – are made behind closed doors, preventing any hope of accountability. But going from the top of Ebertfest’s list to “sorry there’s no room” in the midst of libel campaigns is consistent with the blacklisting and no-platforming of feminists at universities nationally and internationally. From the banishing of noted feminist speakers like Sheila Jeffreys and Julie Bindel; to the suppression of ‘politically incorrect’ research at Bath Spa University and Brown University; to secret blacklists of female academics uncovered at Goldsmiths University, the speech-suppressing behavior at the University of Illinois is consistent with unsavory developments around the world.

In 2017, the U of I adopted “Guiding Principles” on Freedom of Speech and Civic Engagement. I list some ways they are failing to uphold these principles:

    • “We have a duty to vigorously and even-handedly protect community members against conduct that falls outside the First Amendment – including true threats, pervasive harassment, incitement to imminent lawless action, and libel…” Ms. Nguyen’s accusation, “she is a transphobe,” is libel. I do not fear or hate trans people. Although it shouldn’t be anyone’s business, I have had trans friends and lovers, and stood for the human rights of trans people, since before Ms. Nguyen entered college.
    • ”We will create conditions for a safe and robust exchange of viewpoints.” This has not happened at the U of I. While one-sided policies of “preferred pronouns” dominate, no voice is given to those who use English sex-based pronouns over newly imposed “gender identity” rules.
    • “In all matters involving freedom of speech, the University of Illinois system will endeavor to maintain a high level of transparency.” I am confident anti-feminist blacklisting occurs here, as it does on many other campuses. Blacklisting is by its nature non-transparent and unaccountable, but its effects are devastating.
    • “We will not condone shouting down or physically obstructing or threatening a speaker or the speaker’s audience.” Does this include on Social Media? Because Facebook is where Ms. Nguyen did just that, and got my event shut down.
    • “We must always strive to be valued local partners, learning from and collaborating with the communities that are home to our universities and programs.” Bullying a local venue into shutting down a screening by a local artist achieves the opposite of that mission.
  • “We owe our students opportunities for substantive civic engagement so that they graduate not only prepared for personal success but also knowing what is expected of them as productive global citizens.” Certainly the University has already failed its students and faculty by refusing any open discussion of genderist ideology and policies. This failure to foster free speech has spilled beyond campus and into the surrounding cities of Urbana-Champaign, harming the community.

HARMS

Many local residents were looking forward to the event at Arcadia. Due to the bullying by Ms. Nguyen, representing the University of Illinois, and her associates, the event was cancelled. Many more locals hoped Seder-Masochism would screen at Ebertfest this year. Now, they will not see it.

Many in this college town are afraid to voice support for me, or express any gender-critical thought, for fear of being branded “transphobic.” Academics who even question ‘gender identity’ have been disciplined or denounced in open letters; those who express fully gender critical views have lost their jobs. Between that and the imposition of ‘preferred pronouns,’ requiring the speaker to suppress their correct recognition of biological sex in favor of compelled speech – that is, lying – University employees, their spouses, and friends, feel compelled to keep quiet.

So, instead of the “opportunities for substantive civic engagement” promised in the University’s Principles, the University instead fosters a climate of fear and silence in the wider community.

Beyond this harm to our community, I have been harmed personally as well. I can’t calculate the cost this has had on my professional reputation, career, and livelihood. I have certainly suffered psychological harm: being falsely accused and shut down in my hometown, with no accountability for the accusers, evokes a despair I had previously only read about in books like “The Crucible” and histories of witch trials.

REMEDIES

The University needs to protect speech.

I acknowledge the University is in a bind. Recent State interpretations of Title IX have – perhaps unwittingly – redefined ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity.’ As long as Title IX fails to uphold its original purpose – protections based on sex – and instead protects incoherent, ill-defined, and fundamentally sexist concepts of ‘gender identity,’ it is at odds with the First Amendment – and with itself.

The University’s Student Affairs web page states:

We will continue to protect and treat all students according to their gender identities and gender expressions, honoring chosen names, pronouns, and restroom access, as is current campus policy.”

‘Preferred pronouns’ are compelled speech, forcing the speaker to contradict their own recognition of another’s sex. This compulsion violates the First Amendment. But ‘preferred pronouns’ also violate Title IX itself, insofar as it still protects sex. Although trans activists vehemently deny this, there is ample evidence that some trans-identified males are autogynephiles – that is, fetishists who are sexually aroused by imagining themselves as women. Being forced to call such men “she” is forced participation in sexual activity without consent. That is just one way privileging ‘gender identity’ over sex is institutionalized sexual coercion.

‘Sex’ and ‘gender identity’ are fundamentally mutually exclusive; you cannot protect one without delegitimizing the other. The University considers failure to use ‘preferred pronouns’ harassment against the individual who imposes them. But ‘preferred pronouns’ themselves are harassment, including sexual harassment, against individuals compelled to use them.

My plea to the University is to reaffirm its commitment to Free Speech and acknowledge the untenable and inconsistent demands added to Title IX by the redefinition of sex. It is tragic that the former integrity of Title IX, which has been instrumental in providing sex-based protections and opportunities for women and girls, is now in opposition to the First Amendment. Free Speech is important. Sex-based protections are important. Redefining ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity’ is an assault on both.

On an immediate and practical level, the University should:

Assure the right of all employees and students to use whatever pronouns they see fit;

Assure the right of all students and employees to question and discuss current “gender identity” politics without fear of libel or punishment, and;

Host meaningful discussion on this subject. Feminist Journalist Meghan Murphy is available to debate anyone on the topic, “Does Trans Activism Negatively Impact Women’s Rights?” The University would do well to host such a debate here.

Finally, having lost two screening opportunities in my hometown because of the University’s negligence, I would like the University to sponsor a screening of my film Seder-Masochism for the community.

Sincerely,

—Nina Paley

Director, Seder-Masochism and Sita Sings the Blues

Urbana, IL

ninapaley.com

Mimi_Nguyen1

Mimi_Nguyen2

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Another way the Internet is like the Printing Press

10 years ago, the Free Web was revolutionary, democratizing, and empowering. Many of us correctly compared it to the advent of the printing press, another revolutionary technology that was inextricably linked to the Reformation that soon followed.

What I didn’t consider was that also inextricably linked to the Reformation were the European Witch Hunts. (Perhaps not inextricably linked, but simultaneous, were the European Enclosures.) Now we’re seeing online Witch Hunts (and Enclosures too, hello Social Media). So my enthusiasm for the Internet is a lot more qualified now, as is whatever I had for the Reformation.

Recommended reading (albeit in leaden academic prose – someone should rewrite it for a popular audience!): Caliban and the Witch

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Male Power, or just Power?

This is in response to my article below, Witch Hunt. You must read it first. I INSIST.

Have you read it (and the “think piece” it links to)?

OK, continue: Continue reading Male Power, or just Power?

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Intolerance

I was “no-platformed” in my hometown this week, because months ago and in a completely unrelated context I said “if a person has a penis he’s a man.” I stand by that statement; my views on the subject are formally articulated here. I am ashamed of venues that cave to bullies. They deleted the event page but not before these screenshots were taken.

“Tolerance” is no longer a liberal value. Now the word is “inclusion”, which actually means “silence everyone I disagree with.” I was able to have a productive and valuable conversation with Jordan Peterson, in spite of – or perhaps because of – our differences. It’s not hard; respect, civility, and tolerance are values we share. Meanwhile so-called “left” ideologues can’t tolerate any questioning or dissent; their tactic is to bully and silence women like me.

These same screenshots were posted on Imgur yesterday; in the middle of the night they all vanished. New link here, but it too can be disappeared at any time. That is the world these intolerant political tactics create.

Regardless of political positions, people need to step up for free speech and tolerance. I have always supported the right to speak for everyone, especially people I disagree with. That’s what free speech is about. The alternative is fascism, which the “left” seems to be hell-bent on creating, even more than the “right” they claim to “resist.” They actually share the worst values of those they claim to oppose.

Read it and weep:

Continue reading Intolerance

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Is There A Doctor In The House?

Note: updated below
I NEED HELP. I have an orange-sized fibroid in my cervix, among other problems. The local hospital system is dysfunctional and corrupt – doctors don’t communicate with each other, or with patients (it is, however, one of the most PROFITABLE systems in the country! Isn’t that nice). My so-called “primary care physician” hasn’t seen me in 3 years, though not for lack of trying on my part. I visited the emergency room in great pain last year and since then have gotten bumped from specialist to specialist, and then dropped – it took 4 months to get a referral from the useless rheumatologist for the gynecologist, because someone somewhere dropped the ball and didn’t feel like it was important. Surgery that was supposed to happen this month or next, now won’t even start to be scheduled until July. Maybe. Every time Carle says they’ll do something by a certain time, they don’t – like I said, they took 4 months for a simple referral (and I had to get on their case to do anything about it at all). So even if I absolutely knew surgery was what I needed, there is an enormous trust problem at this point. Do I want these corrupt clowns cutting me?

A doctor in my family recommended someone at Loyola Medical Center who looked promising. So I called, and while they accept Medicaid, they don’t accept Medicaid managed by Meridian, which is what I have. So I called Illinois Medicaid and asked if I could switch to Molina, and they said no, I’m locked in until April of next year. So I called Meridian, who put me on hold for half an hour and then gave me numbers of nearby medical establishments which aren’t Carle. One of them was a disconnected number, the other, Kirby Med Center in Monticello, has no gynecologists at all. I called an affiliated gynecologist in Peoria, but his office is booked until at least July – and that would just be for an initial appointment.

What I REALLY want is a doctor that actually pays attention and can help me figure out what I should do. I won’t get that through my local med system. I probably won’t get that anywhere. But here’s my last-ditch effort before I resign myself to a life of pain and permanent celibacy (I can’t have sex without getting violently ill; celibacy is how I’ve been managing at all):

Are there any gynecologists among my fans? Any? I will travel to your state. I just want someone who will actually pay attention to my case. I am desperate.

Update 5-18: Due to help found through my cry of despair here & on fecebook, I have an appointment Monday with a gynecologist at SIU Med Center in Springfield IL. I was advised that teaching hospitals are eager for patients like me, and so far that seems to be the case. I called this morning, they were very helpful, and called back within 4 hours with said expedited consult appointment.

Then all I had to do was get my records released from Carle. Carle doesn’t accept emails for this (“they take too long,” they said on the phone). You have to visit their new vortex-of-evil administrative hell-plex on Staley road at Curtis, on the outside of town. Fortunately, SpecialManFriend(tm) was kind enough to take me there. I filled out the form, talked to the clerk, and came back after lunch. “Here are your records!” they said, handing me a big envelope. I almost walked off with it, but then decided to read through them first. Good thing, too – they’d neglected the most important, recent, and pertinent records of my MRI and ultrasound. They also neglected to include images, which I specifically requested. I politely asked for these things and they said, “oh, sorry, we’ll print those out now,” and “oh, ok, we’ll burn you a disc.” I’d be disgusted but I’m feeling too hopeful about getting a new doctor in a completely new, totally non-Carle system.

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The TERFening: attempting to document a convoluted online silencing campaign

Background

A few years ago, when I shared this article about Caitlyn Jenner and another one  about Rachel Dolezal, many angry liberal friends called me “transphobic,” and told me to “educate myself.” They apparently didn’t know I had spent many years deeply involved in various queer scenes in San Francisco, and had trans friends, and was gender dysphoric myself (it resolved in my mid-20’s, which is not unusual.) Since I couldn’t “educate myself” much more on trans people and queer theory, I considered what I really hadn’t educated myself about: radical feminism. Like everyone else, I had been denouncing “TERF“s without reading anything they’d written. So I started reading, and quickly realized I was a gender-critical radical feminist. (If you’re wondering why, I suggest you “educate yourself” about radical feminism. This video is a good place to start.)

Saying you’re a gender-critical radical feminist in public is like saying, “I’m a witch! Burn me!” So I spent about a year and a half in seething, cowed silence. But finally, on February 25, 2017, I “came out.”

The TERFening

In late February I noticed my liberal friends were sharing this “meme”:

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So I posted this on Facebook (which I now call fecebook):

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You can try to read all 1000+ comments here, although fecebook organizes them so poorly they’re hard to navigate.

Now it gets rather convoluted. Some of the comments have been documented anonymously here, along with annotation. I am “user J.”

Continue reading The TERFening: attempting to document a convoluted online silencing campaign

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Youtube’s Content ID abuse is out of control

Today I received not one but two fraudulent copyright claims on my Free and Copyleft work (instances of Sita Sings the Blues and All Creative Work is Derivative). I’ve also received fraudulent claims on Copying Is Not Theft, as have others who have re-posted it and translations.

This is why I’m looking into Chinese video hosting. When China starts looking like a Free Speech haven, something is really wrong with the United States.

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Authoritarian update

crossposted from Mimi & Eunice

Authoritarian

I’m re-posting this cartoon today because the US Department of Homeland Security seized more than 70 web sites over the weekend (while sites like arstechnica.com and techdirt were on vacation, and the mainstream media were devoted to stories about holiday shopping). Democrats: unless you stand up to stop this NOW, I am never voting for you again.

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Mimi and Eunice: the challenge continues

So I missed my whole trip to California due to a badly-timed cold. Which means I have lots of time on my hands to bang my head into the wall that is the Mimi & Eunice web site.

I hired a developer who started building a beautiful new system in Ruby on Rails, only to discover that my web host, Media Temple, has a relatively wonky and outdated Ruby setup. That led the site to disappear for a few days. It’s potentially a really nice system (though it still has some kinks in it), but I may have to switch web hosts if I want to rely on it.

So I started uploading the strips in plain old WordPress, which is excellent in all ways but one some: the images don’t show up in all RSS feeders, they don’t show up in Facebook, and I can’t find a way to generate simple embed code for them. What am I talking about? Behold what I want, as shown on the fine comics site qwantz:

See that code it automatically generates that lets you embed any comic? I spent a day searching for a wordpress plugin that does that, and still can’t find one. Help?

And I don’t know why my Mimi & Eunice comics don’t show up in the RSS Feed in Firefox, but they do in other browsers. I already did this, and installed the AbsoluteRSS plugin. But I still can’t see the images in Firefox. Help?

I just want Mimi & Eunice to be as easily shared as possible. Help appreciated, but please don’t suggest ComicPress. Been there, done that, it has a lot of problems. Also my budget is exhausted of $$ to pay for consultants, since the Ruby on Rails project consumed it all. The nice thing about the simple WordPress setup is that each comic displays at a small size (640 pixels wide) but links to a high-res (2400 pixels wide) image suitable for printing. That’s important to me, because I want to encourage all kinds of sharing, including paper publishing. The current site has all the features I want except image embedding. Please tell me there’s a solution. Thanks. I love you.

Update: Brett Thompson has made an embed code generator for Mimi & Eunice! It looks big and text-y today but Brett says he will spruce up its appearance tomorrow. But you can start embedding Mimi & Eunice comics RIGHT NOW!

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An Open Letter to Lincoln Center

Dear Lincoln Center,

On Friday, May 28, I attended a NY Philharmonic performance of Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre.

All patrons were required to pass through long “security” lines and have our bags searched by guards. Those carrying cameras were forbidden from entering the auditorium and ordered to check their bags in an even longer line.

New Yorkers tolerate “security” searches because they remember the falling of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. They are willing to be treated as suspected terrorists and “guilty until proven innocent” criminals because they fear for their physical safety. They rationalize Lincoln Center’s “security” policy because they don’t want anyone bringing a bomb or weapon into a large closed space containing thousands of vulnerable people.

But cameras are not a security threat. In fact, citizen cameras increase security, and their forced removal puts us in greater danger. In the unlikely event a terrorist were able to bring a weapon into the auditorium, citizens carrying cameras would document it. Presumably Lincoln Center has its own “security” cameras, but no fixed, closed surveillance system is as effective as citizens.

I don’t trust Lincoln Center’s “security” to protect me or anyone; they are incompetent at actual security, effective only at treating patrons like suspected criminals, creating long tedious lines, and converting what was once an uplifting cultural experience into something resembling a visit to an airport. I can visit the airport for free, but being treated like a criminal at Lincoln Center cost close to $100.

After being ejected from a very long security line to enter the theater, and redirected to stand in an even longer line to the coat check, I moved my camera from  my large bag into my small purse and found another entrance to the auditorium. This line’s “security” guard did not see or feel a camera, so I was allowed in. That let me know how effective the “security” guards would be at detecting a weapon or any genuine threat: not at all. Lincoln Center’s “security” did not make me feel “secure” – quite the opposite – but it did make me feel harassed.

Why does Lincoln Center treat cameras its greatest threat to “security”? Does the organization believe that photographing its productions is “stealing”? Let me remind you that anyone who wants to copy images of Lincoln Center’s copyrighted material, is physically capable of doing so. Photos of Lincoln Center and its productions circulate in Lincoln Center’s advertising, in print and on the internet. Lincoln Center has Copyright law to protect them against such illegal image-copying. Copyright law also applies to any unauthorized photos taken by audience members. Lincoln Center may ban taking photographs in its auditoria without confiscating cameras themselves. Galleries and other performance spaces do this: they have signs that say NO PHOTOGRAPHS. Banning cameras in the theater does absolutely nothing to “protect” anyone. It does however abuse legitimate theater patrons, the ones who bought expensive tickets expecting a civilized experience. Furthermore, banning citizen cameras makes it impossible for citizens to document real danger, thereby lessening everyone’s real security.

People dress up to go to Lincoln Center. They pay hundreds of dollars. They believe it’s important to support the arts. In return, Lincoln Center treats its patrons like criminals, and exploits their fears of terrorism to enforce a misguided, dangerous, and invasive no-camera policy.

Lincoln Center should abandon its dangerous and harassing “security” policies and return to respecting its patrons.

Sincerely,

–Nina Paley
Art Lover

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Correction, again

I’m reposting this (originally posted July 2009) because misinformation continues to spread all over the interwebs. Maybe I’ll post it every month.

correction

Dear Journalists Dear Journalists, bloggers, commenters, etc.,

Some of you are writing that I was forced to choose the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license because the film is violating copyright. That is completely untrue, but has become the dominant motif of stories I read about the project. The confusion is understandable, so I attempt to sort it out below.

Sita Sings the Blues is 100% legal. I am free to release it commercially, which is why the film is gaining a number of commercial distributors in addition to its free sharing/audience distribution, which is also legal, and wonderful.

Sita Sings the Blues is in complete compliance with copyright regulations. I was forced to pay $50,000 in license fees and another $20,000 in legal costs to make it so. That is why I am in debt.  My compliance with copyright law is by no means an endorsement of it. Being $70,000 in the hole reminds me daily what an ass the law is. The film is legal, and that legality gives me a higher moral ground to stamp my feet upon as I denounce the failure that is copyright.

Having paid these extortionate fees, I could have gone with conventional distribution, and was invited to. I chose to free the film because I could see that would be most beneficial to me, my film, and culture at large. A CC-SA license does not absolve a creator of compliance with copyright law. The law could have sent me to prison for non-commercial copyright infringement. I was forced to borrow $70,000 to decriminalize my film, regardless of how I chose to release it.

Note that in some ways the film is not, and never will be free. For each disc sold, distributors must pay $1.65 to these faceless money sinks.  Transaction costs raise that amount to about $2.00 per disc. That is why my own Artist’s Edition is limited to 4,999 copies. I’ve already bled $50,000 into their vampiric maws; I have no intention of paying more.

Thank you for your attention.

Love,

–Nina

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What’s wrong with “streaming” DRM?

Judging from comments here, at Techdirt, and at BoingBoing, there seems to be much confusion about why I don’t want DRM on Sita Sings the Blues. The simplest explanation is this: I am making my film available to all under an open license. Allowing a party to take the benefit of that license, but then limit the rights of downstream users is inconsistent and frustrates the original purpose of the open license — to promote and facilitate access and use of the work.

Some people seem to think DRM is irrelevant on “streaming content.” I was one of them, which is why I was initially so indecisive about the Netflix streaming offer. DRM encourages people to think of certain liberties as being impossible, rather than merely taken away. Already many people think that “streaming” means “cannot be saved on my computer,” instead of “optimized for real-time flow”.  People make this false equation entirely because of user-side DRM.

So along with its other problems, DRM is a kind of anti-literacy device for the digital age.  The more hobbled people’s phones and computers and music players get, the harder it is to remember what it was like when those devices served their users rather than the monopolists. The more deeply embedded DRM becomes, the more its restrictions will come to feel like “just the way things are”, rather than an impediment that could conceivably be removed or worked around.

I respectfully submit a typical comment:

Its not a download or purchase , its “Free Streaming” . From my Roku box to my tv why should you or I care if it has drm.

This is a perfect example of the kind of illiteracy mentioned above. “…we’re talking about a stream, which by definition is not saved on your computer”.  This commenter and others have bought the industry’s definition of “stream”, even though there’s nothing inherent in streaming that prevents saving. I can’t blame them; until last week, I didn’t think about what “streaming” meant either.

Here’s another typical comment:

You’re obviously making a symbolic stand here. That’s fine. But please at least be honest about that instead of claiming that Netflix streaming is “breaking” my home electronics. My computer and my Xbox work just fine and my rights have not been violated in any tangible or meaningful way.

If data is sent to your computer, and yet your computer won’t let you save that data, than an important function of your computer has been interfered with.  Who does your computer work for, anyway, you or them? It’s not just a hypothetical breakage, either.  For example, if you wanted to divide the same incoming stream to two different computers in your house, similarly to how a “Y” pipe would do with water, Netflix DRM will prevent that.  Normally, your computer could do that just fine, but not when it’s broken.

If the quibble is with the word “broken,” we can use the less-inflammatory word “disabled,” although people are eager to forget that “disabling” a computer means “breaking it in increments.”

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My rejection of DRM is not a condemnation of Netflix (I like Netflix!) nor of those who use this very convenient service. I made this difficult decision as the author of Sita Sings the Blues. The only reason Netflix has DRM on its streams is because of pressure from the “content industry.” Well guess what – I am the content industry too, and I say no to DRM.

Nina_IFC_640_contentinustry

Thanks to Karl Fogel for contributing to this article.

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“if no one is informed, no one will object.”

My goodness, no one seems to know what grand juries are! I sure didn’t, until this week. Because they’re called “juries,” people think they’re trial juries. Not at all! Here’s a good article explaining how grand juries work by activist Craig Rosebraugh.

Grand Juries, often referred to as the “strong arm of the court system,” thrive off public ignorance, working behind closed doors and under seemingly little regulation. Often working in accordance with the Justice Department, the Grand Jury system has been, and continues to be, used for gathering intelligence and suppressing “radical” groups and organizations that oppose current governmental policies.

…..

In my experience, the most fascinating aspect about Grand Juries is that the public is largely misinformed and kept in the dark about their true nature. Most citizens do not realize that an individual called before a Grand Jury has neither the right to counsel nor Fifth Amendment protection in the proceedings. I have found that people from all walks of life are outraged when they learn of this reality.

It is this very secrecy and deception that has allowed Grand Juries to persist. It is a simple rule that says if no one is informed, no one will object.  (link)

I don’t know if it’s legal for me to write this, but I must say that so far my grand jury experience resembles the Milgram Experiment. That’s the one where an authority instructs an “average person” to administer painful electric shocks to someone else. As long as the authority figure tells them it’s ok, the “average person” just keeps pushing that shock button, ignoring the victims’ screams of agony because the authority instructs them to. Likewise, the prosecuting attorneys instruct us to ignore any details about cases they don’t control; if we ask questions about other charges, they say that’s none of our business. We don’t get to see or hear our victims; we have only authorities telling us to push the button. In a sealed, secret room. I’ve sat on my hands a number of times, but believe me, most people are happy to comply with the authorities. They know not what they do, and the system likes it that way.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.[4]

Please understand what grand juries are. They need to be abolished, as they have been almost everywhere outside the United States.

 

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My Tax Dollars At Work

My Tax Dollars At Work

My Tax Dollars At Work

I know it’s bad timing that I made this on Veteran’s Day – I assure you it has nothing to do with veterans. It does have something to do with “the Law”. Click for full size.

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Grand Fucking Jury

The Law

Pardon my French – or is that legalese?

As of today, I’m required to serve as a grand juror for the next two weeks. Meaning I had to cancel my only paid work for the month, speaking at Alma College in Michigan. The court said essentially, “tough shit.” Ironically, if I’d been mugged on the street for the same $ amount, I could initiate a trial in the very same criminal court I’m “serving” in!

Unlike trial juries, Grand Jury allows no excuses; they don’t interview you. If you’re breathing, you serve. The fact that I’m morally opposed to the drug laws that half the cases are based on is irrelevant; I’m simply advised not to vote on those.

I’m also sick – still coughing even after a month with this virus, whatever it is – but don’t have insurance or a regular doctor to write the official written excuse on official doctor letterhead. Besides, that would only postpone this; once you’re called, they keep calling you until you’re seated. They mentioned that sometimes jurors get sick while serving; one collapsed on duty recently. If I actually collapse, they’ll send a doctor. Otherwise, tough shit.

On the brighter side, I get to see up to six cases a day. Lots of fascinating stories, especially the ones that aren’t about drugs. And however much it sucks to be a juror, it sucks worse to be anyone else in that room.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I have such a bad attitude about the law, maybe it’s because I broke federal law to make my film, and could have faced jail time myself? Or that most people I know are technically criminals also?

Don’t expect much from me until after November 23rd. I do get weekends off. And tomorrow, which is Veteran’s Day.

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