Feeds:
Posts
Comments

B4iqEOOCQAAs_8uA couple of friends who work in the industry have been bemoaning the state of it lately. The problem is that people watch porn for free and don’t pay for it – at least people in the West don’t seem to. The main market seems to be abroad where people are willing to pay for it.

Piracy isn’t as straightforward a moral or ethical issue as people like to make it, but let’s not get tangled up in that right now.

Pornography is usually a tech-leader and innovator, but it seems to be failing to deal with the issues that music and film has been, to an extent, managing to deal with. Between iTunes (and its imitators), Spotify, Netflix and so on, the things that led people to pirates films, TV series and music have been addressed and these have shown that people are willing to pay a reasonable price for a product provided its convenient and available.

Porn, in contrast, is still following older models. Sites try to sell you subscriptions rather than letting you buy a film or scene individually. It’s not easy or immediate to get your hands on paid porn and you can’t use established and trusted payment services either. This combination is off-putting in and of itself, without even considering the unique social factors relating to porn. Not to mention that you can’t stream it via your games consoles etc in the same way you can with films.

  • People want to remain anonymous when buying sensitive material.
  • Pornography has a largely undeserved reputation as a risky prospect – making people wary of risking ID theft etc.
  • People don’t want such purchases showing up in their account records.
  • People feel less guilty about ripping off porn producers because it’s not seen as art/worthy or something to support.

I don’t honestly know what the porn industry can do about any of this. They get gouged as a ‘risky purchase’ by the payment services that do work with them and many don’t. Paypal is, effectively, the only game in town, when it comes to intermediary payments and they won’t work with porn and aren’t happy about working with erotica and other more acceptable adult services.

People like Cindy Gallop have mooted the idea of creating a less censorious payment service, but getting venture capital backing or anyone willing to work on that issue is hard (and she has her own prejudices, which don’t help). Banks are barely willing to work with adult services as things stand, online payment services are dead set against. Surcharges are levelled and all of this makes shifting the paradigm of payment and delivery exceedingly difficult.

I don’t see a way around these issues without a shift in the attitude of payment services and banks, at the very least. I also don’t see that happening in what seems to be an increasingly puritanical society in which corporate censorship is ever on the increase. Advertisers don’t want to be associated with porn, neither do payment services and all of this despite porn being a (roughly) hundred-billion dollar industry, even with all these woes and problems.

Why should this matter to the rest of us?

It’s often said that pornography is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to free speech. I think that’s as true for corporate censorship as it is for government censorship and these problems are likely to creep further and expand more broadly to affect written erotica and, probably, eventually, other areas like games.

Creators deserve to get paid for their work and to do that we need to make it easier to pay them. That affects everyone who makes things and sells them online.

Finding Grim-O

Originally posted on Postmortem Studios:

doc2QWawHere’s most (all?) of the places you can find me and my stuff online.

Paypal Donations – If you want to one-off support my work.
Patreon – If you want to support me more long term in making stories, videos and games.

Cafepress – Merchandising, mostly from my games.
Hardcopy board and card games.
Hardcopy books and RPGs
Download RPGs
Things I’ve done that are on Amazon
Fiction downloads.

Twitter
Facebook
Googleplus
Youtube

Postmortem Studios blog
Writing and personal blog
Lyssa’s Year (daily textual ‘webcomic’, currently a bit behind)
The Dude’s Abode – Men’s issue blogs
Athefist – Atheism/skepticism blog

View original

208B-002-040So if you’re on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know your feed zooms along pretty fast.

You’ll also know that you end up seeing a hell of a lot of crap.

‘Inspirational’ tweets, ‘motivational’ image macros, nonsense.

Part of the reason I’m pretty active on social media is that it’s stimulating, the cut and thrust of witty commentary, the opportunity to make someone smile by adding a joke or a double entendre.

Sometimes that goes horribly wrong…

So what appears to be a Hallmark comment comes across my feed, something that appears to be the kind of trite homespun wisdom you see a hundred times a day. Something like…

‘Whoever said laughter is the best medicine hasn’t heard of cancer’.

To which I replied…

‘That’s just because you’ve got no sense of tumour’.

Which, come on, is a pretty goddamn funny line.

Unless the person you say it to has had their tweet retweeted out of context and is actually talking about their child, who has cancer. That’ll take you from wryly amused to your heart sinking through your boots in a moment.

Before you can type an apology someone’s retweeted it and their followers are on you like Nicholas Witchell’s tongue on a Royal boot, only the opposite of obsequious.

Fortunately, as bad as things could have gotten we sorted it out immediately with me apologising and the various tweets getting deleted, but it strikes me as a good example of how we need to be careful and how we need to develop a new set of social rules for interacting online.

The internet has the immediacy of conversation and the longevity of the written word and, at the moment, we treat it like whichever one of those is the worst.

That’s got to change.

‘No sense of tumour’ is still a good line though.

teal_deer_by_matheusrosa94-d30bu6uTeal Deer: Whether something IS censorship or a distortion of the free market or marketplace of ideas is a different argument as to whether said censorship or distortion is justified and acceptable.

What is a boycott?

What is censorship?

What does a completely free market (FM) look like?

What does a completely free marketplace of ideas (MOI) look like?

Strap down, this is going to be a long ride and a lot of definitional stuff and background needs to be established at the start.

Introduction

Over the last couple of days I’ve gotten into late night arguments over the interplay between the free expression of artists and companies (or other collective entities) to create material and the right of other individual and collective entities (such as activist or protest groups) to protest. It’s the old ‘freedom from’ versus ‘freedom to’ issue I’ve banged on about before.

A particular set of sticking points clustered around:

  1. The difference between exercising individual choice to buy or not to buy something versus an organised boycott.
  2. The concept of ‘violence’ as wielded by to silence or control others, going beyond actual physical damage or threats to reputational, emotional or fiscal harm.
  3. How threats etc distort both the FM and the MOI meaning that they can no longer be described as free.

This set of topics was particular difficult for me as I am a left-anarchist and pragmatic socialist, not a libertarian. I don’t not particular believe in the pure value of the FM or the impartial power of the ‘invisible hand’.

In fact, I think the FM as it is expressed in capitalism is often the worst possible choice as a way to run certain things. The classic example of a bad place to apply FM is in medicine. The aim of a medical system and a medical marketplace should be to supply the best possible care to the greatest number of people as cheaply as possible without harming them. In practice this only occurs in socialised medicine where triage is based on need, rather than FM medical systems where triage is based on the size of one’s wallet and people are often still ruined.

An argument can also be made, I think, that aesthetic goals are also not necessarily best served by a system that values profit and money above those goals.

The MOI is something I believe much more strongly in, but even there we have problems. The fact is that being correct, accurate and factual is no guarantee of the ‘fitness’ of an idea. A free market – whether capitalistic or noospheric – is supposed to be analagous to a Darwinian biosphere, where the fittest survive and thrive. The bot-fly in the cheek here is that bad practices and bad ideas can survive and thrive, despite the harm they do to the whole. In the FM this results in things like environmental damage, lying, cheating, stealing, fraud etc and in the MoI this results in things like fearmongering, lying, playing to emotions and people’s laziness and exploiting human psychological tendencies towards faith and groupthink.

Religions, for example, are fantastically successful memeplexes, arguably more successful globally than rationalism and enlightenment values, despite the latter being responsible for so much more that has benefited humanity as a whole while religions and cults such as Scientology or third-wave feminism (winky-face) cause nothing but harm and are very, very distant from enlightenment values of logic and reason.

So I found myself arguing for the ideal version of FM and MOI that I don’t necessarily buy into myself.

To further complicate matters I don’t particularly like arguing about boycotts, having been targeted by one that was particularly vicious and particularly dishonest. Its too personal and I don’ trust myself to maintain the kind of intellectual distance I normally try to muster around these subjects (though I sometimes play up the anger for effect on videos). Indeed, I did lose my rag late in the argument when it became apparent the opposition weren’t in it for a discussion, but for disingenuous ‘lulz’.

Alright, let’s move on to the definitions…

Definitions

Boycott: “To withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest (OED).”

A boycott is an organised & directed (see below) attempt to censor or control via a threat of violence (see below).

Censorship: “Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups.” (ACLU).

Censorship is ANY act that silences or attempts to silence ANY form of expression. The true argument is whether an act of censorship or a form of censorship is justified or acceptable. To my mind the best test we have at the moment for that is a cost/benefit analysis derived from JS Mill’s ‘harm principle’. Does this action cause harm? Does it cause more harm than benefit?

Emergent: “In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties.”

By way of example, flocking behaviour in birds is an example of emergent complexity. Each bird is acting individually, of its own volition, slightly influenced by its nearest peers. Each bird’s actions are individual and simplistic but the behaviour of the whole is something complex and wonderful that has the appearance of complexity.

Many human actions are emergent and it is a force in societal change, economics, traffic flow and many other aspects, including social trends, runs on the stockmarket etc. Evolution is an emergently complex system. With regard to these topics, genuine grassroots movements – such as Gamergate – are examples of emergently complex systems. People acting individually find themselves suddenly aligned and a new force emerges. Compare and contrast with directed.

Directed: “Controlled, operated, managed or governed” (OED).

Directed actions contrast with emergence by virtue of being hierarchical and intentionally organised and directed. They have leaders, firmly stated goals, brittle but forceful organisation and so on. This may be obvious – in the form of state or corporate hierarchy – or less obvious, as in the case of Koch brothers funding of the Tea Party as ‘astroturf’ (a directed group masquerading as an emergent group).

Groups like No More Page 3 and other organised and directed ‘activist’ operations are of this sort, rather than being emergent. Often a movement will transition from emergence to directed over time, though it can break apart under the strain. The Occupy Movement stands as a powerful example of the risks and problems of transitioning from emergent to directed and that shift is what killed it as an effective force. Gamergate probably needs to transition from an emergent mass-action to a number of directed groups with more defined goals over time, but it remains to be seen if this can or will happen.

Violence: To do violence is to: “Damage or adversely affect”.

My misguided anarcho-capitalist and (big ‘L’) Libertarian semi-comrades make great play of the implicit or explicit threat of statism. The state as an actor is backed by the ability to project force via its courts etc and at the end of all the veneer of civilisation it ultimately comes down to the capacity to force compliance by physical violence.

The state is not the only actor capable of violence in this broader definition. Companies can do violence by leveraging their market-share or buying power to cut out, buy out or marginalise competitors. Activist groups can do reputational damage in terms of public relations issues, they can lie, cheat, play to emotion rather than fact and can wear on the emotional health and sense of security of those they choose to pick on.

The threat of such violence need not necessarily be a bad thing. In a perfect world the threat of police violence helps to maintain a civil society and they act responsibly and in accordance with the proper ideas of fair treatment before the law. On the other hand, Ferguson.

In a perfect world everyone tells the truth and do not abuse the fervid atmosphere around sexual assault allegations for attention or to harass-by-proxy. On the other hand we have the UVA hoax scandal and the damage done by mobs willing to listen and believe, uncritically, and to act before the wheels of a supposedly detached and truth-oriented legal system could turn.

The Actual Argument – Censorship

Boycotts are censorship. They come about as an attempt to silence, control, remove or ruin. They are intended to force a change in behaviour or the removal of a product or form of expression and, as such, they are censorship. They can, confusingly, also be an act of free expression in and of themselves in that you should be able to express disgust, concern etc individually or collectively about a product or form of expression free of interference just as the creator should be able to make it under the same conditions.

The difference between a boycott and individual action or inaction with regard to speech or products is the organisational nature. If I choose not to by the new Thor comic (Ther) because it is poorly written femsploitation, that is me acting individually and not a boycott or an act of censorship or violence. It’s merely an exercising of choice. If you choose to organise a campaign to take breasts off page 3 of The Sun this is a collective action and is, indeed, censorship with an implicit or explicit threat of violence. Even many individuals, independently making the same choice not to buy is not the same as a boycott.

So the argument is whether such acts are justified, for which you need to look to the Harm Principle. Specific arguments and cases are beyond the scope of this piece and there are no hard and fast rules here. It’s an eternal debate but one that I personally would assess to be skewed away from the harm principle in most instances at the moment and instead to be in the realms of dangerous moral panic.

I will, however, note that it seems to be very difficult to get traction for a justified boycott of, say, Apple for their Chinese sweatshops and all too easy to get people worked up over a few lines of text hidden away in an obscure side-track of a computer game. Something is clearly out of whack.

The Actual Argument – Free Markets and Marketplace of Ideas

A truly free market or marketplace of ideas is a platonic ideal that probably cannot exist. There are simply too many things at work that constrict our ability to truly think freely or to operate a truly free market, unimpeded by outside forces.

That said, if you’re advocating a truly free market you cannot be arguing for boycotts, letter writing campaigns to advertisers or anything else that actively seeks to distort a free market. In a free market you would not boycott, you would make your choice and leave others free to make theirs, trusting to the individual actions of people to emergently form the success or failure of whatever it is you take exception to.

To take a case in point with No More Page 3 since it’s well known and provides a good example, the effort is made to distort the market by associating bare breasts in a tabloid newspaper with misogyny, ‘rape culture’ etc and to forcibly shame people into abandoning their patronage of the newspaper via bad publicity. As noted above, it’s the difference between the emergent ‘I don’t like this’ and the directed ‘You shouldn’t buy this’ and pushed forward via dubious tactics, pseudo-science and browbeating, rather than the harm principle.

Boycotts are deliberate and wilful acts to distort the market. The real argument is over whether they’re justified or not.

To use a different example from earlier of the medical system, in order to create a more effective and humane medical system we might want to eliminate the financial free market and replace it with a market that rewards efficiency, provision of care and medical success (low waiting times, high success rates etc) and this is what socialised medicine attempts to do.

When it comes to the marketplace of ideas, keeping a truly free and open mind is incredibly difficult. We are all the product of our upbringing and past influences and it is very difficult for people to give up ideas that they have become wedded to, even if they’re provably and demonstrably false.

This is reflected in the heritability of religious and political affilations (75% with modest defections in free societies) and in the criminal arena people’s unwillingness to admit they’ve been defrauded and continued vulnerability to fraud even after the fraud is revealed. This is how people end up hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt on obvious scams, they simply don’t want to admit they were fooled, or wrong, so they double down.

In Conclusion

The argument over whether something is censorship or whether it is against free market or marketplace of ideas principles is separate to whether it is justified or the correct course of action – or ‘right action’ if you want to get Buddhist about it. There is no escaping the fact that if you’re trying to silence someone or something it is censorship. There is no escaping the fact that if you’re trying to strip individual choice of action away, you’re distorting the free market. The question – again – is whether it is justified or not.

Obviously, I’m involved in Gamergate and so lets wrap up by bringing it back to that.

Gamergate is an emergent system, a genuine grass-roots consumer revolt to reassert the desires of the majority market in games (and increasingly geek-media on a broader base) against the directed control of a minority voice that shouts loudly, but often aren’t even consumers of the media.

Some of Gamergate’s actions are censorious and some of them are anti free market.

Many, if not all of their opposition’s actions are censorious and against both the free market and the marketplace of ideas. Especially against the marketplace of ideas, revealed in a great unwillingness to debate honestly, if at all, or to examine their ideas. GG, for all its faults, is much more willing to engage and to thrash out ideas amongst itself.

cbf23abd52736fe31698651fb24fb77eThere’s much that genuinely emerges from GG that I do not agree with and do not participate in, but I do not presume to insist others conform to my personal choices on these issues, nor do I withdraw my support from the overall aims (ethical journalism and anti-censorship) simply because I disagree with parts.

To me, GG is simply a necessary and long-needed counterbalance to the largely unchallenged opposition that has ridden roughshod over consumers and creators with insults, shaming, censorship and distortion for years.

And ye gods, that’s a long essay. Thanks for reading.

picture35

“Can I say that?” He said, and he cut off his tongue so there was no more risk.

“Am I allowed to look?” He thought and he put out his eyes so his soul would not impinge on any other’s.

“Are there things I should not hear?” And his ears joined his eyes, cast aside on the floor, so he wouldn’t hear anything dangerous.

“Are there things I should not touch?” And he took the axe to his hands, leaving bloody stumps that would never explore, transgress or be idle again.

“Are there places I should not go?” And he broke his ankles so he would not stray – at least not without help.

“Does my presence offend? Are there things I should not think?”

And there was simply.

Nothing.

Left.

.

Bletchley Park

20150322_110149We spent today visiting Bletchley Park and the nearby Computing Museum.

Bletchley has a weird vibe to it. It has the weight of history to it, but doesn’t feel that old, even though the manor house dates back to the 17th Century and the site appears in the Domesday book – and was occupied back to Roman times. In some ways it feels like a school or a college campus, in others still like a military installation and layered over all of that is the museum, though it doesn’t feel so much like a museum as a more interactive/hands on.

It’s rare you can point to a particular time and place as the time and place that a new technology emerges, but Bletchley is that and a such a powerful and meaningfully influential place that you can feel it.

20150322_111751I’m still none the wiser as to how the Bombe works, because even the expert explanation didn’t show how the machine could understand when it got a positive result – without human intervention – but the Colossus at the neighbouring museum did make perfect sense and was incredibly impressive – especially considering it was pretty much the first fully operational computer. Even the paper-tape reader was impressive – the fastest one ever made – and its operation made far more sense (based on probability distributions).

The Computing Museum had more doodads, but less history. They run classes to teach kids to code, promote the Raspberry Pi (booo) – alternatives are available – and have a lot of big, old, working computers.

My dad was a maths teacher when home computers were just getting really popular, so I got to see a lot of older computers and to tinker around on the Acorn Atom, BBC, Spectrum and a bunch of old computers as well as to rummage in boxes of dead computer parts. I still can’t code to save my life, but I still find I know more about these things than I want to!

20150322_142635Bletchley is well worth a visit, but for my money the Computing Museum next door is more interesting to poke around in and look at the various artefacts of electronic history, in that nicotine-stained, yellow-beige plastic that’s always been so ubiquitous. As the spiritual home of computing, the whole area can’t help but feel special to netizens and digital kids of all ages.

Give it a shot, though Bletchley is pretty expensive to visit they force you to buy a ‘season pass’, so you can go back.

The computing museum sells Raspberrys and all kinds of casings and add-on widgets, so if you want to get hands on before you buy, it seems like a good bet.

I was going to do this as a video, but I’m in the middle of upgrading my desktop PC so you’ll have to make do with a blog post for now.

fc9

So, recently we all got the wonderful news that The Block Bot – a crude and breathtakingly stupid and stifling tool that came out of the AtheismPlus schism – was shutting down.

And there was much rejoicing.

rejoicing

But then… IT CAME BACK!

92175-massive-facepalm-gif-Imgur-e8XZ

Well, that’s not necessarily so bad. They seem to have kept all the wording changes etc they made to avoid legal action. Further, they’re trimming the team and consulting other people. Hopefully with a bit more legal advice and fewer and more level heads there won’t be a problem. So who are these people they’re working with?

Screenshot from 2015-03-21 19:55:13

I try not to be prejudiced, but I do think there’s a difference between prejudice and bitter experience. While I’ve met some awesome trans people in my offline life and via Gamergate, most of the ones I’ve met who are online activists are gigantic arseholes, more concerned with being gigantic shitheads to everyone that crosses their path than on education, discussion, explanation or understanding.

5fnk8l

Between the exhaustive lists of pronouns and the rest of the language used on the site, there’s more red flags than a North Korean march past.

18wwmkj83iieajpg

But this, THIS is the glacé cherry on the diarrhetic shit-sundae of the whole thing.

Screenshot from 2015-03-21 20:16:31

79cc3e6b891567444ebc7822548e277d16eb0c94870887d3c5915223c859d9f7

So you’re going to put a supposed ‘anti-harassment’ tool into the hands of self-admitted racists, sexists and heterophobes?

What a brilliant idea! Almost as good as Randi Harper, considered by a great many people to be a hate-spewing harasser, setting up her own version of the bot in relation to Gamergate and trying to set up an anti harassment initiative.

Here’s some other great ideas of the same form:

  • Australian daycare by dingos.
  • The Jimmy Saville Initiative – Paedophiles working in primary schools to repay their debt to society.
  • KKK-run racial sensitivity seminars.

Seriously, all this website needs is a Confederate flag and a looping midi of banjo music to fit the degree of gobsmacking prejudice on show.

But hey, maybe they can swallow their clusterfuck of ‘isms and continue the improvements and lawsuit avoidance that has been going on already. On the other hand, maybe they’ll make things worse but engage in ‘reverse libel tourism’. That may not help if they fall afoul of anti-discrimination and hate speech legislation though.

I’ll hope for the best, but I ain’t holding my breath.

tumblr_m0fe82V7AV1qh2o7zo1_500

PS: Can we all agree that this kind of ‘article’, full of shitty memes and reaction gifs, and low on words has had its fucking day by now?

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,111 other followers