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Local Voices: Venice May Be California's Playground, But It's No Place for Bullies

Victims of online harassment deserve protection

Last week my personal identifying information was removed from a cyberbully’s website. While it is gratifying that finally this neighborhood bully has backed down to pressure from the Los Angeles City Attorney's  Work Place Violence Unit – afforded me because of my position as a Neighborhood Council Commissioner – it disappoints me that some of the other people he listed remain vulnerable because they are not public officials. The City should go further and protect the ordinary citizens who Mark Ryavec continues to harass through his online campaign.

This incident is particularly egregious because each time those listed protest his campaign, Ryavec amps up the intimidation and harassment by declaring us drama queens, accusing us of playing the sympathy card,  "getting a good laugh" about my pending divorce and saying that we are the ones seeking attention. This is quite a predicament; we, (the three targeted women) either call attention to his refusal after repeated attempts to delete our personal identifying information, or we are silenced. That is the very definition of cyberbullying. 

What better place to find information about cyberbullying than the internet, the modern medium that made it possible? According to Wikipedia, “examples of what constitutes cyberbullying include communications that seek to intimidate, control, manipulate, put down, falsely discredit, or humiliate…” That started a couple of years ago, when details of my personal struggles were published on Venice blogs in an effort to embarrass me.

But the cyberstalking in Venice has gone even further with the "enemies list" published months ago and remaining under the ruse of being a "campers' guide for the homeless" on the Venice Stakeholders Association website, directing people to private homes. 

Municipalities and states across our country have passed laws protecting citizens against these kinds of online attacks, and it isn’t just a civil matter. The National Crime Prevention Council has weighed in, and the California criminal code is clear: we are not allowed to cause harassment of anyone by posting personal identifying information, and "Harassment means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that a reasonable person would consider as seriously alarming, seriously annoying, seriously tormenting, or seriously terrorizing the person and that serves no legitimate purpose."

There is no legitimate purpose in directing people to private homes. This is right in line with the tactics outlined in Wikipedia's article on cyberbullying: “Common tactics used by cyberstalkers are performed in public forums, social media or online information sites and are intended to threaten a victim's earnings, employment, reputation, or safety. Behaviors may include encouraging others to harass the victim and trying to affect a victim's online participation. Many cyberstalkers try to damage the reputation of their victim and turn other people against them.”

We have seen tragic real world consequences in the national news – and Venice is not immune to this kind of online pile-on.  One anonymous commenter on a news story about the camping guide suggested he’d like to slit my throat. There are documented incidents of strangers with unclear intent continually showing up at the addresses of several of those included on Ryavec's list. He refused the calls of many in the community to remove the  other addresses. 

He has attempted to silence me in other forums, too. It's become par for the course that when I sit on a panel or am interviewed by the media, the producers have to contend with Ryavec's barrage of insults for allowing me to participate. Thankfully, these pros understand that such tactics make it all the more important for my voice and others to be heard

When I won election two years ago to serve as president of the Venice Neighborhood Council http//www.venicenc.org,  I expected challenges on issues throughout my tenure. I knew there would be plenty of ad homonym attacks given the passions involved. My last post here "A Call for Civilitiy-A Love Letter to Venice" generated so much debate I became one of Patch’s Top 100 national bloggers! That’s what democracy is all about.

I never dreamed, though, that I’d face this kind of sustained, personal harassment—and that others would simply because they’ve spoken up about difficult neighborhood and regional problems. This matters so much because the bullying has extended to anyone who disagrees with my opponent's positions—who, we should remember, lost the privilege of representing Venice by a substantial margin. I received over 750 votes out of 1,219 cast in a City-run, unchallenged election.  

Disagreement and rigorous debate are critical to democracy. As president, I am vigilant about maintaining civil discourse at Neighborhood Council meetings because if people are afraid to speak up out of fear that they might be the next target, they will lose their voice and the whole point of the Neighborhood Council will be lost with it. To make room for democratic debate, there is no room for bullying.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Another WorldView July 21, 2012 at 04:42 AM
'Zilla - not sure how you're doing on our meds. Nothing in my comment was intended to be tacky. If you really are homeless - and not just a Republican Homeowner pulling my SHMAKEL - then the Catholic Workers are just the place for you. Good folks down there - and in constrast to Mark Ryavec's anti-feeding agenda - they actually give a damn, and are always pitching-in to help out those in need - even when that just means reminding the US Military about beating their swords into plowshares and spears in to pruning hooks. . People wouldn't be using lawns as toilets if the city would install one those nifty-new self-cleaning toilets, like they gave the folks down by Pershing Square. Of course if cost is an object - they've already got bathrooms 3 blocks west at the beach - but they get locked-up at sunset. And it isn't only the UnHoused who could use'm - I see Housed patrons of local bars relieving themselves in Rose Avenue lot, all the time.
Another WorldView July 21, 2012 at 11:40 AM
From Wikipedia - "Godwin's law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread Reductio ad Hitlerum form.[4] The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate..." I think that Mike Godwin is an idiot. And Fascism existed before Hitler or the Nazi party of Germany. The Nazi "Reich" was the "Third"-one, because the previous two attempts at 'world empire' had failed, in both the "Roman" and "Holy Roman" variants. The US congress has two 'Fascii' on the walls, on either side of the speaker's (SPQR) dias. "Crossing the Rubicon" - by Mike Ruppert - is a pretty good book, about the lies surrounding "9/11", our present circumstance (the "Homeland Security"-STATE), as well... In the original usage, the 'crossing (of) the Rubicon' metaphor, was an actual description - when Cesar marched the army across that river and into Rome - the Republic was no more, replaced by an Empire.
Spirit Of Venice July 21, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Wow, AWV, thanks for the edification on godwin's law & etc. Amazing how truth and information blow away the cobwebs of vindictive hatred and condescending contempt. - That's all these pinheads know how to do is ridicule and belittle every well intended bit of information and perspective with which caring and constructive members of this conversation attempt to shed light on the dark actions of the greedy, power-hungry, cowardly and dictatorial persons in our midst. - Making scapegoats out of the most powerless and helpless among us - fomenting fear of and hatred and violent spirit towards them and promulgating the propaganda that once they are eliminated all will be well is EXACTLY what Adolph Hitler and his thugs and propagandists did in Nazi Germany - only in that instance the target was the Jews and in this instance the target is the homeless. - Let them attempt to minimize, trivialize and de-legitimize the obvious comparison all they want. As much as they wish they could, they cannot control the thinking, perceptions or conclusions of the free thinking individuals who follow this discussion, and the weight of evidence and truth is overwhelming with us. - The facts speak for themselves, and "the truth will out".
Misterbee1 July 21, 2012 at 08:35 PM
But Mike Godwin says such nice things about you, Ian.
Spirit Of Venice July 22, 2012 at 08:25 PM
REALITY CHECK. This thread is about Mark Ryavec publishing the private address information of Linda Lucks and several other community activists while fomenting lynch-mob-mentality hatred against them and then encouraging that mob to harass and intimidate them - which resulted in, among other things, someone posting threats to murder Linda Lucks. - The Los Angeles legal department has deemed this action to be criminal and forced Mark to remove Linda's information, although the information on the others remains on his blog. - Not only has Mark NOT apologized for these heinous and evil actions, he has refused to even acknowledge the clear and indisputable wrongness of them. And now his gang of thugs is using this thread to heap insults onto the injury he has caused. - And THIS is the man who wants to take over the community political apparatus named Venice Neighborhood Council. - In the name of all that is decent and good, let this be a call to arms. We must make sure that he and his goons do not get themselves elected in the coming elections - whatever level of community activity it takes to prevent it.

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