Bloggers on the latest in the British hostage crisis.

Bloggers on the latest in the British hostage crisis.

Bloggers on the latest in the British hostage crisis.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 28 2007 6:13 PM

Persian Roulette

Bloggers analyze the latest developments in the British hostage crisis. They also do a fair bit of navel-gazing over one blogger's moratorium on blogging and public speaking because of sexist, violent taunts directed toward her.

Persian roulette: Iran fanned the flames in its crisis with Britain Wednesday by airing footage of the 15 British sailors and marines it captured last week. In a video broadcast on Iranian-run television, a headscarf-wearing Faye Turney, the only female sailor captured, said that "obviously we trespassed into their waters," though whether her statement  was voluntary or coerced remains unclear. Bloggers have so far given the British government poor ratings for its handling of this affair.

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Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters critiques: "So far, though, Blair has not exactly been Margaret Thatcher in his approach. When the Argentinians seized the Falkands in the early days of her government, Thatcher told Argentina that they had two choices: withdrawal or war. She made good her threat, despite widespread skepticism that the British Empire could still fight a colonial war -- and she beat the Argentianians in their own back yard."

Londoner Matthew Sinclair at Sinclair's Musings takes issue with the argument advanced by Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan, that the British government has been slow-footed in responding: "While getting in a firefight with the Iranian Republican Guard has serious consequences we can't put troops in the presence of our enemies and refuse them permission to defend themselves. If they do need to be changed it is a little late for changing the rules of engagement now, though. The Iranians don't need to keep pulling this particular trick."

Chops at internationally minded Global Review says provocation is not the issue, especially when dealing with Tehran: "This incident is not so much about who is right as it is about why this is continuing. Would Iran have turned the sailors over if the UK had apologized for an inadvertant mistake? Why is Iran worsening its already tenuous situation in the world community by making a huge stink over what is at worst a marginal infraction? If a military buildup occurs, how quickly will the Iranians snap and fire the first shot? Is a war exactly what they want?"

On an open thread at the Guardian's blog Comment Is Free, "Old Gray" maintains that, as far as military action is concerned, Britain's hands are tied until the United States unties them: "Those who advocate that Britain take military action fail to realize that absent US support Britain lacks the ability to inflict significant damage on Iran, unless they launch nuclear weapons via Trident. Iran is too far away and Britain lacks the resources to project sufficient power on its own against an enemy that large and that far away, without the assistance of the US or at least the willingness of some Gulf State to permit its territory to be used for airborne attacks. If Britain wants US support I'm sure it would be forthcoming on request, but that would show British weakness and be politically impossible."

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Read more about Britain's options.

Sierra club: Kathy Sierra, a tech blogger at Creating Passionate Users, has canceled a public appearance because of nasty comments posted on other Web sites about her, including threats of violence, sexist taunts, and doctored photographs of her. Her fed-up protest has sparked a massive debate about the limits of free speech and the prevailing culture of viciousness that comes with anonymity.

At Creating Passionate Users, Sierra herself posted a long explanation of why she was pulling out of speaking engagements: "I do not want to be part of a culture--the Blogosphere--where this is considered acceptable. Where the price for being a blogger is kevlar-coated skin and daughters who are tough enough to not have their 'widdy biddy sensibilities offended' when they see their own mother Photoshopped into nothing more than an objectified sexual orifice, possibly suffocated as part of some sexual fetish. (And of course all coming on the heels of more explicit threats)."

Russell Coker at Etbe writes: "The strange thing is that a large portion of the discussion seems based on the idea that what happened to Kathy is somehow unusual. The sexual aspect of the attacks on Kathy is bizarre but campaigns of death threats are far from unusual in our society. The first post I saw to nail this is the I had death threats in high school blog entry. Death threats and campaigns of intimidation are standard practice in most high schools."

Sheezlebub at lefty site Pandagon thinks only female bloggers have to contend with violent intimidations and effigies with Photoshop: "Do not give me the crap that this is free speech, that Kathy or other women should just develop a thicker skin, or that 'it happens to men too.' Threats and harassment are not protected speech, there's a difference between a flamewar and illegal and threatening behavior, and men don't have to deal with the same amount of vitriol on nearly the same level as women do."

Tech blogger Robert Scoble at Scobleizer is boycotting the blogosphere for a week as a show of solidarity with Sierra: "It's this culture of attacking women that has especially got to stop. I really don't care if you attack me. I take those attacks in stride. But, whenever I post a video of a female technologist there invariably are snide remarks about body parts and other things that simply wouldn't happen if the interviewee were a man."

Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin "sympathize[s] and empathize[s] greatly with Sierra. Death threats and misogynistic epithets and comments suck. But I find the response of the tech blogging elite rather underwhelming and unbecoming."

Read more about the Sierra debate.

Michael Weiss is the director of communications at the Henry Jackson Society, a London-based think tank that promotes democratic geopolitics. He is also the spokesman for Just Journalism, which examines how Israel and the Middle East are portrayed in the U.K. media.