DARVO in India and Cyberspace

edit: In this post I utterly trivialize the horrible condition of being a woman in India. I am but a fool and I write in part to learn.

In this post I’m (eventually) going to talk about the Women’s liberation movement growing in India, and the sexism entrenched in hacker culture.

Egalitarians, who confer power temporarily and based on merit, and Authoritarians, who feel they deserve it intrinsically, are always fighting. Americans might recognize this as the ‘culture wars’. Recently the Egalitarian side has been becoming stronger in many places, including the one where I live. At times the fight has come to blows, but more often it is a slow process of vigorous argument in the media and condemnation on the streets. One of the interesting things about this fight is that both sides make arguments that superficially appear similar. Why is this?

We all know that abusers, who are obsessed with power and control over their victim’s lives, react furiously to the possibility that their victims might escape them. A common tactic they use to deflect unwanted attention from the authorities is called DARVO. This stands for ‘Deny, Attack, Reverse victim and offender’. The abuser first denies that their crimes ever happened or were severe enough to warrant investigation, then attacks the integrity and intentions of the person or people trying to escape them or bring them to justice, and finally plays the part of the innocent victim while alleging that they are being persecuted by an abusive enemy.

This tactic can be successful primarily because it allows the abuser (both in their own mind and to a public that doesn’t look at the evidence too closely) to sound like the victim. When it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, grievances are frequently not settled.

The theory of DARVO can also scale upward to interpret the narrative spun through an entire culture. For example, the people who decide to fight against women playing a truly equal part in government and industry frequently claim that they are being punished unfairly, that they are the ones who are truly looking out for womens’ best interests, that they are the victims of (haha) Feminazis. And they say this continually, all the while trying desperately to retighten their grip and reassert their privileged position in society.

Yesterday, a hacker wrote about a recent experience she had. For several months she had been trying to organize a free cryptography conference. She had experienced increasing levels of abuse, harassment (and on one occasion, fraud) and had resigned from the project. And yesterday she published a long document of what happened. You can read it here.

Both the article and the comments beneath it are illuminating, particularly in the above context. By some strange coincidence, she is also withstanding a DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attack – a common trick of skript kiddies who do not have the capacity to organize anything more sophisticated. Sexism has long been a problem in the field of technology for a variety of reasons, but the biggest is that even if you work in a basement and decide not to bother developing your social skills, you will still want a mate and the only way that will happen is if your potential target feels obliged to be with you no matter how disgusting you are. This is why some techheads are willing to fight very hard for a world with a subservient gender.

Indians should take note – even if their society retreats from open oppression of women on the street, the people who loved exercising unjustified power will pull back to other areas and take root; they will in turn need to be sponged, and purged, and if necessary blasted from their fortifications.

I wonder, is the DARVO tactic also being deployed in India? I’m sure that conservative figures are trying to divert attention from themselves and pretend that the values they have always defended is nothing to do with the terrible assault that became a murder two days ago. Maybe you could let me know.


Dear fearmongering media personalities, news corporations and bloggers,

I have a friend who was just released a fortnight ago from a month in mental hospital. He has had untreated schizoaffective disorder for a long time, though now it is now responding well to the right medication.

He has a message for you.

Remember Harold Shipman?

The most prolific and dangerous lone mass murderer in history, who killed over 250 victims?

He was a doctor. Born in Nottingham too, funnily enough, just like me.

Stop blaming mass murder on schizophrenia. Stop blaming it on aspergers. Stop blaming it on godlessness or gunlessness, or whatever you decide is most politically repulsive to you.

My parents committed me last month because my mind was disintegrating, and I trusted them and went along with it. Remember what the mother of the asshole in Connecticut was about to do when he went ballistic? Of course you do. You reported it to me.

Fear is the opposite of trust, and if I had been fed a lifelong diet of damaging and insidious information by well-paid demagogues who wanted to channel my fear of ‘the other’ into political power, things might have ended up very differently. People who are very fearful tend to become violent, after all.

Be grateful I knew better than to listen to you, you greedy, amoral anachronisms, you tight-lipped superficial oafs. Go now to the land of wind and ghosts and stop hurting humanity.

Here’s a bonus link from me, by way of bo-news: “I wish I’d murdered the gunman when he was a teenager”

I feel this is relevant, even on a blog mostly about philosophy. Share it if you want.

More questions from Toshi

I submit my answers humbly and welcome disagreement and conversation. I am no prophet, just an anonymous hd.

So, in reference to this post:

Toshi: is the truth, which you explained to me in the 1st paragraph, limited? (from your reply to my question on what is truth)
hd000: I think that in some areas our ability to understand the truth is limited. For example, Richard Nixon took many of his crimes to his grave, and we will never know what was on the tapes he erased. However in many areas it is possible to know the actual truth. In all of Mathematics and much of biology and sociology we can get the real answer if we look hard enough. We can, for example, say that without the HIV virus, AIDS would not exist – obviously an important conclusion. I do not know if truth is itself limited. I suspect we could not experience a universe where truth could be self-contradictory. I want to talk about this later on, actually.

Toshi: are there different kinds of truth? or there is an ultimate wholesome truth, and the others as minor truths or subordinates?
hd000: Well, some questions are more urgent or important than others, so they’re worth taking more time and effort to solve. But the basic process of finding the truth is usually the same – try not to fool yourself or be biased, try and be honest and patient with the universe and other people, and try and find as much good-quality evidence as feasible before you settle for an answer. There is no Ultimate Truth. Truth is not God (though of course there is the truth about God).

Toshi: are human beings equally equipped to discern the truth? or there are some ways to see it clearer?
hd000: If you can understand how two plus two can make four, you can find the truth about things. All it takes is consciousness and a willingness to spend time searching.

Toshi: subsequently the next question is, since finding truth is a process what are we trying to get at…ultimately.
hd000: To die not wanting power over the world. To neither hope to live forever nor believe it desirable, but instead to love the world and happily pass on to it your experience and material possessions. To live a decent life and die an honest death: this is the work of mankind.

We also talked about the constant danger of Guitar Thieves, but again that will have to wait.

What are you talking about?

I have made these two opposing characters, God and truth. What do they actually stand for? I’m becoming aware that people from all over the world read this blog, so I need to be careful and clear because several of my friends and allies profess a belief in God or Gods.

By God, I mean the person. Many people are pantheists and see God in all things as a unifying force, many people see God as something to be experienced. But the God I am setting up as my enemy is a conscious being, seen by His adherents as someone so powerful, deep and important that He deserves capitalizations beyond the rules of English grammar! Or Gods that rule the forces of nature, or whatever. These kinds of Gods are people who intrinsically deserve ultimate power.

By truth, I mean the process of finding out about the world, and the goal of understanding it.

If you see heaven as a hierarchy, with God at the top and people as his children (especially if you feel that priests and prophets must act as mediators), then I am on your side, but I might end up disagreeing with you on a few important things.

If you see humans as an equal part of the greater tapestry of the universe, or as orphan sparks of sentience in a world that does not know or care that we exist, or as the products of mindless laws of physics no more wondrous than (say) a pair of merging black holes producing a gamma ray burst that stretches halfway across the cosmos, then I am also on your side. I think we will have something in common in our view of the world, too.

I am an egalitarian, and thus oppose authoritarianism. And I am not alone.

Some good questions!

My good old Toshiba read some of my other posts (possibly this one) and smiled as he asked:

    1: what is truth?
    2: does it require universal approval to call it a truth?
    3: if it is not, than it can be another term of emotional outburst that will lost in the ocean of relativism?

Excellent questions. Let me explain.

Truth is the thing that allows us to know (or suspect) anything about the world or ourselves. ‘The process of using/seeking truth’ is the process of learning about the world. Truth about the nature of the universe is universal, but your personal truths are (of course) personal – though if you explain your truths carefully enough other people might start see it your way. To paraphrase Harrison, many things can wait, but the search for truth cannot wait.

It might be unusual to see truth being spoken of in this way as if it were a actual being, but I have a purpose in calling it this. I want to verbally set it up for a fight against someone else.

Many people worship The God. This God is power incarnate, and he rewards his followers by allowing them to live forever, and sit on a throne in heaven while He destroys all the people who did not worship Him in the right way.

This God is not like Toshi’s, I suspect. This God tries to clothe himself in the splendid mantle of nature and pretends to be its creator, but in the end He is nothingness. He runs like a simulation in people’s minds, controlling their view of the world, and turning it into his: Us, Them. Brother, Infidel. Love, Hate. There is no desire for unity. Always there is an Enemy without or within. Always there is the lust for power and triumph over that enemy, ever growing stronger and more subtle.

This God is schizoid, and bipolar, but more than that He is Evil. I rejected him morally at age sixteen and was eighteen before I was sure He could not hurt me. Because I am from Britain and we have a long tradition of secularism, I call myself an Atheist. I love the universe and humanity though, so when you talk of loving God or serving him I will know what you mean. But the evil God who poisons the souls of so much of humanity? This, I want to rid the world of, whatever name He has and whatever form He takes. I hope my intrinsic kindness will prevent me from being consumed in this mission, because at all times I will reach out with a cybernetic hand for discussion.

It may be another emotional outburst, but that’s the way I am. Thanks for reading.