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A Statement on the Publication of Leaked Emails

Yesterday someone decided to forward an email thread off a private listserve I co-run to Rich Johnston, the head of a comic book site called The Bleeding Cool.

Johnston claims he ran the item because he is “giving people an insight into how the sausage is made”. Leaving aside the issues with that allusion I want to be clear on the impact of his actions and the action of the leaker.

This email list was founded in honor of a dear friend of many of ours who died far too young. Martin Bosworth. Martin was a comics geek and an activist and blogger around consumer issues and electronic privacy. EPIC even named an award in his memory.

That is the legacy that the leaker and Johnston have compromised by their actions.

The vast majority of people on the private, off the record listserve I’ve run are regular comics readers who do not work in the industry and do not aspire to. They are hardworking employees of nonprofit organizations and activists who enjoy comics in their spare time. These are people who want a more diverse and inclusive comics readership, yes. But they are primarily on the list as fans.

Our list was created as a safe space for women, LGBTQA people, people of color and others who had been faced with abuse in the comments threads of the major comics sites. At the time of the list’s formation this toxicity in the comments section of sites was an enormous problem. It is still a huge problem but through the advocacy of many people on our list and those elsewhere the toxic environment of comics website’s comments sections has been greatly reduced. A more inclusive comics world is being forged.

The fact that the leaker and Johnston would seek to compromise that safe space disgusts me. It should disgust anyone who wants a more inclusive space for comics lovers to congregate.

Next time Johnson wants to show the manufacturing of sausage I’m sure he can find other places to grind up.

The following is a statement from the late Martin Bosworth’s sister, Leah Root:

My brother Martin spent much of his too-short life advocating for privacy protection of email accounts, blog, forums, and other online and offline media. It has come to my attention that the name of a private group – named in honor of my brother –  was leaked to the internet at large.  This is beyond ironic. This is insulting, and goes against everything my brother Martin stood for.

I was not as involved in the comic world as Martin was, though I do enjoy reading and watching various comic series. However, I can draw parallels to the needs of [ inclusiveness and privacy ] in my own life. I work in a library IT department of a University. Our library, and our entire campus, strives for diversity and inclusiveness. My work area is a LGBTQA ‘safe zone’ for students, faculty, and  other library patrons. The goal of the library itself  is to be a safe place for people to learn, teach,  and exchange ideas.

My brother would not tolerate harassment of any type, and neither will I.

Almost American

5 comments

  • It was hard to tell that this thread was taken from a safe space as you describe, because of the mockery and insults. There was no intent to compromise any such exercise and I apologise to anyone who was hurt by that.

    • Safe space is always a question of a safe space for whom. The stuff you pulled is an example of why people like me choose to create a safe space for people to talk off the record and where we don’t have to worry about hostile cis het white male “insiders”. The person who leaked to you knew all of that context about the list and did so anyway.

      From your comment above it sounds like your real complaint is that people were saying negative things about you in a space that you do not control.

      You owe an apology to Martin’s family. On Bleeding Cool.

  • Safe space is always a question of a safe space for whom. The stuff you pulled is an example of why people like me choose to create a safe space for people to talk off the record and where we don’t have to worry about hostile cis het white male “insiders”. The person who leaked to you knew all of that context about the list and did so anyway.

    From your comment above it sounds like your real complaint is that people were saying negative things about you in a space that you do not control.

    You owe an apology to Martin’s family. On Bleeding Cool.

  • That’s fair.

  • Thank you for the additional context, it seems as if the leaker may have exhibited the poorest taste in bringing the thread to the attention of the criticized. The comments were clearly not intended to be public and therefore not meant to hurt Mr. Johnston. People should be able to have an expectation of open conversation without retaliation when having a private discussion about a party not included in said discussion. The public apology should most definitely come from this gossiping busy body who thought it would be appropriate to share the thread with someone who would reasonably be offended by it. That is base and just plain mean.