There's a fascinating and disturbing alternate take in Violet Blue's column for the SF Gate.
If I understand it correctly, this interpretation is that Kathy's not being stalked by an individual sexually repressed lunatic, but harassed by a group of men, and further, that these men are not expressing sexual intentions in a violent way, but expressing violent intentions in a sexual way.
To quote from the column, "we're not talking about a lack of social skills, we're talking about a desire to destroy." It's persecution, online mob violence, with the purpose of keeping a class system intact. It's as evil as evil gets.
Violet compares Kathy's harassment not to Jodie Foster's experience with the demented stalker who tried to kill Ronald Reagan, as I did the other day, but to a "sex-murder" of a transgendered teenager. I don't know what "sex-murder" exactly means, and I don't want to know, but even though the details are fuzzy, the picture is clear. Her point is that the sexual nature of the attacks isn't an expression of actual sexuality, but of gender politics. It's as much a deliberate intimidation tactic discouraging other women as it is any kind of thing involving Kathy specifically. Since high-tech is generally seen as a masculine thing, her attackers are enforcing some kind of gender barrier they feel she's violating. Like "How dare a woman write a blog that is better than anything I'll ever do in my life? Doesn't she know her place?" That kind of thing.
That doesn't jibe naturally and intuitively with my experience, but as a white male with an excellent education, if that jibed naturally and intuitively with my experience, that would be pretty weird. It does, unfortunately, resonate absolutely and incontrovertibly with what I understand of psychology, sociology, fundamental tribal behavior built into every human, and especially class structures. What I'm saying is, it feels weird, but I'm almost certain she's right.
There's actually some good news in this. Individual stalkers tend to be very single-minded and unrealistic, owing to the fact that psychosis and realism are such polar opposites. However, if this is a group of harassers hell-bent on intimidating women and keeping women out of high-tech, there's a much smaller chance of them attacking Kathy personally and physically. In fact if they're harassers rather than stalkers, attacking her physically would be less productive for them than continuing the online harassment, since the online harassment is more public, and more intimidating to women in general. Online harassment is a lot less effort to go to, so women generalizing it out and considering themselves potential targets also is more likely.
Obviously, however, this "good news" is a pretty fucking mixed blessing. I think everybody should be glad that Violet's analysis indicates Kathy will probably be safe, physically, but Kathy's comments that she might never post again take on an entirely different tone in this context. It means that even though Kathy's safe, the evil bastards are winning anyway.
It really hammers home the need for a solution, and I think the solution is to de-geekify technology. Kathy's books defy the perception of what teaching high-tech is about, and yet they're more effective at teaching technical topics than books matching that perception. The people doing this to Kathy are obviously invested in that perception, if Violet's argument holds water -- and I believe it does -- so if we destroy that perception, we draw fire away from Kathy, and from women in general, at the same time as we reduce the attackers' power.
So the good news is we have a solution, and the bad news is it requires transforming an entire worldwide culture. So again we have a very mixed blessing on our hands.
A more immediate solution is to find these assholes, put them in jail, and make sure none of them ever gets hired doing any god damn thing even remotely related to technology. And to make sure Kathy keeps posting. If I was O'Reilly, I'd offer her kung-fu bodyguards at the next conference.
Seriously. Show those motherfuckers we aren't tolerating that shit. The picture's about right, but there's something missing.
There we go.
There's one other thing in that Violet Blue link, by the way. Violet says this situation is a situation confronting every woman out there who has a blog, and I absolutely believe her. She also says that neither she nor a friend of hers, both of whom have had experiences similar to Kathy's, ever made a big deal about it in their blogs or posted about being terrified. The weird thing is, she almost sounds macho about it:
The question is, Do we women need to portray ourselves as victims to garner support when men threaten to defile our corpses if we gain notoriety?
I'm not a woman, so I'm way out of my depth here, but for what it's worth, that sounds to me like a false dichotomy. There's portraying yourself as a victim, and there's not saying a single word, and these things are miles apart from each other. I don't know what the middle ground is, but I'm sure it exists. Tolerating that kind of thing in silence, accepting it as normal, that's not good for anyone.
Finally, although this is totally self-aggrandizing, there is something you can do about this. Link to my blog! Send lots of people here. The more people realize what this is really about, the better the chance that women will shrug it off like Violet, but tell people about it like Kathy.