Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘free expression’

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.

Read Full Post »

grim-9Back from holiday in the US. A much needed break after another scrape with self harm and a deep attack of depression that could have claimed my life. Sadly, this has become ‘normal’ after a fashion, so much so that when people were coming up to me at IndieCon and expressing gratitude I was confused momentarily what they were talking about.

I’m mostly OK now and my therapist thinks I’m in the clear, but has also recommended I take four day weeks from now on, for the foreseeable future. This sounds great, I’m sure to a lot of you, but I find it very hard not to be doing something. It’s bad enough that I’m only really capable of working half days on a single project, losing a day will help my energy, but not the amount of work I’m doing.

Things are tough. I’ve – somewhat – taken a step backward from Gamergate involvement to be a bit more ‘aloof’ but the cause is still engaging and extremely important, so it’s hard to leave it alone. It is just… frustrating to be constantly and consistently – wilfully – misunderstood and misrepresented. It’s also incredibly disappointing that people I otherwise respect are falling for propaganda and misreprentation and seem to have so little respect for free expression and the preservation thereof.

Its hard to judge when things quite got this bad, and its depressing to contemplate, but the usual problem plagues us with people talking past each other or arguing entirely different subjects. This is made especially difficult by semantics. The opposition has redefined a huge number of words in bizarre ways that bear little or no relation to their actual meaning. In some contexts this makes sense (scientific meaning of theory) but in many of these arenas the specialist language doesn’t exist to clarify, but to confuse.

Speaking of which, I intend to make a post or video (or both) making clear the difference between actual criticism, literary criticism and critical theory at some point soon, since people are masquerading censorship and calls therefore behind ‘criticism’.

I’m very tired bloggery chums. Very tired of this chain of harassment and fighting that has been going on for so long now. Accusations hurt, not because they necessarily have any meat to them but as we have seen with Gamergate, because people listen to them and then don’t amend what they think in the face of evidence. Emotive arguments void of substance are, unfortunately, effective.

Since publishing ‘In Defence of Rape’ I’ve been force-fed an overdose of what some of the crazier end of the internet call ‘red pills’. I’ve always considered myself a progressive chap, in The Enlightenment sense (advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition) but increasingly find myself at odds with those who say they are progressive, but who in many ways seem to be quite the opposite. Disturbingly I find myself increasingly on the side of the Libertarian right, at least so far as social issues go (minority and gay rights, drug legalisation, free expression etc) despite being a left-anarchist and a pragmatic socialist.

Looking out there at the world, the arch conservatism of many college and university campuses, groups like No More Page 3 etc, extremists like Gail Dines being given the time of day and fuelling spurious moral panic against sex workers and adult performers to force censorship upon them. Seeing companies de-list and hide adult or difficult content, seeing payment services refusing to cooperate with those who sell similar materials, forcing them to use services that gouge them mercilessly. Seeing the deeply anti-sex slant that so much modern feminism etc has taken is shocking and appalling. 50+ years of sexual liberation and hard-won freedom seems to be being rolled back and curtailed based on nothing more than some people’s offence – though they characterise it as social ills.

Why I’m so into Gamergate is because it finally represents a genuinely liberal fight back against this state of affairs and while the battle and hostility is exhausting (and increasingly dangerous) gains have started to be made in terms of ethical policies and alternative sites and businesses springing up. Maybe that will turn out to be the best way forward, but it’s going to leave the main problems that led to all this unaddressed.

I was asked to relate all the horrible shitty things that have been done to me in relation to Gamergate and events before it, but given recent attempts to fuck with me that have been escalating, I don’t really want to do it again. People can find out for themselves if they care that much. The recent harassment has included apparent impersonation online and having a provocative item sent to my home address.

Even with all that and everything else that has happened to me I haven’t had it as bad as some GG people who have lost their jobs, lost their partners (from false accusations) been beaten up, thrown out of their homes, SWATed (having police sent to their homes) and being doxxed.

Its still worth it, but it takes a toll. Most especially, out of all of it, dealing with friends who can’t seem to tell which is the right side to be on.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Queen-Elizabeth-II-Giving-The-Finger-420x215‘Something must be done!’ is, perhaps, the most terrifying sentence in the English language. It is the herald of a new witch hunt, a new moral panic and the absence of thoughtful and measured decision making on a topic for the foreseeable future.

With Elliot Rodger it was the cynical exploitation of his rampage to paint Men’s Issues groups – with whom he had no connection – as terrorists, or to blame video games, or guns (which did at least play a role). The usual quest for something to blame which is woefully familiar in the damage it can cause to anyone who ever listened to heavy metal, read comics, played D&D or partook in video games.

With the more recent Slenderman stabbing, again we find calls to ban or block access to horror sites and Creepypasta all utterly unrealistic but usable as fodder by those who want to censor, control or ‘sanitise’ the internet. So it goes, it’s a familiar pattern. We see the same moral panics in relation to pornography, sex work, trafficking, media of all kinds and it never ends well.

In the Queen’s Speech yesterday we heard about the “Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill”, which is possibly the most disingenuously named bill since the US brought in its ‘Patriot Act’. Hidden amongst the crowd-pleasing changes about ‘have a go heroes’ and so on is the promise that it will also outlaw ‘written paedophile material’.

Well, what could possibly be wrong with that? What sort of sick monster would stand up for paedophile scribblings?

Well, perhaps the same people who have been extremely worried about the creeping censorship of ‘extreme’ pornography. I’m sure after his experiences at the hands of earlier, weaker legal changes Simon Walsh would suggest exercising a note of caution. Even consensual acts that you, yourself, have participated in are apparently no protection.

Indeed, the law that Walsh had trouble with is now extended:

The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 made it an offence to possess extreme pornographic images in Scotland. However the Scottish offence goes further than that in the 2008 Act, in that it covers obscene pornographic images which realistically depict rape or other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity, whether violent or otherwise. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement in July 2013 that he would ban “rape pornography”, the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill 2013-14 would amend the 2008 Act and also make it an offence in England and Wales to possess pornographic images depicting rape and other non-consensual sexual penetration.

That would also appear to extend to other material such as bestiality, necrophilia etc. Originally these laws were intended to protect against genuine snuff films, genuine bestiality, genuine rape etc being used to titillate. That was then expanded to depictions of such activity (staged, acted, faked) and the current wording would seem to extend that to any depiction – so perhaps you’d better delete your Bondage Fairies archive right now.

This new bill moves beyond even the realm of images though and into the domain of the written word, further blurring the line. Would Nabokov be banned? Pullman? Kuklin? Klein? I’m sure the government would say no and that these obviously have artistic merit but we cannot judge so subjective a determination as the obscenity trials in history over such things as Oz or Lady Chatterley have shown.

What if you wanted to write a biography or semi-autobiographical story about child abuse? Where would you stand then? If we’re now extending these standards into the written word on the backs of unsubstantiated fears about pornography, child abuse and so forth, where does it end?

It’s not about dealing with nonces, it will do nothing whatsoever to help deal with them. It will criminalise decent people, be abused and as Simon Walsh will attest I am sure, merely being accused of this sort of thing does irreparable damage even if you’re found innocent.

Read Full Post »

merkers3

Just a pinch.

Didn’t draw a line under anything I mean. You would have thought it would have. Someone spends the best part of a year examining accusations made against someone and comes up with nothing, you’d think that would stop and make people reassess their online mob behaviour. Not so. Of the 80 odd people Zak Smith called out for flinging and supporting accusations a grand total of three, that I’m aware of, apologised to me or showed any sort of contrition.

The specific post talked about has been changed, but not in such a way as to apologise to me for spreading rumours and false accusations, but rather to apologise to the people who were harassed as a result of supporting those false accusations. Even going so far as to claim there are threats of rape and violence involved when the lack of them was what undermined the original post in the first place. You’ll excuse many of us – once bitten twice shy – for taking these threat claims this time around with a pinch of salt.

tumblr_m8a7oxvG9Q1rolh67o1_400

Nasty gobshiteses

So, in the past eighteen months to two years of accusations and opprobrium what have we learned from all this?

Precious little.

I was already aware that lies spread quickly and that they’re hard to fight when they do.

I already knew confirmation bias meant people see what they want to see and that they will try and do anything to stick with the ideas and positions that they already have. “…it is a habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire.” – Thucydides

I was already aware that extremists on what I consider to be ‘my side’ existed. Even if I didn’t know they extent to which they did.

I suppose I have learned a lot of new jargon.

I have learned that we can’t be complacent in protecting free expression, or good causes from those who would tarnish them, despite being of the best intentions. Somehow, those good intentions make it worse.

I suppose in some ways I should thank my ‘torch-wielding mob’ since, thanks to them, I’ve found a new enthusiasm for anti-censorship activism, the CBLDF, sex work, BDSM and porn advocacy, resistance to the UK porn ban and ‘extreme porn’ criminalisation. I have thought hard and long about my positions, been exposed to new arguments and others who think similarly to the way I do. Cleared out some people I can no longer truly consider to be friends. It’s been a tough couple of years with stress from all this on top of periodically crippling depression but I’ve come out stronger for it I think.

mary_whitehouse

Protect everyone.
From everything.

I have also learned that this little skirmish is part of a greater cultural war with conservative elements co-opting liberal hand-wringing to push the same old agendas, just under different banners. We can see it everywhere from attempts to sanitise the net to a regular ‘two minutes hate’ on Twitter every time anyone remotely in the public eye says anything that could be remotely construed as controversial. It’s a war that reasonable, calmer headed people are losing to this unholy alliance, primarily because they worry about their reputation and image, rather than doing what is reasoned and right.

The UK internet porn ban and extreme porn criminalisation is likely to go virtually unopposed, not because people think it’s a good idea (whether from an IT, sociological or free expression point of view) but rather because people are nervous about standing up in support of it, of publicly being identified with their private kinks.

This reluctance to stand up and defend oneself, about things that – after all – cause nobody any harm, gives the pseudo-activists far more power than their number or the veracity of their claims should give them. To give an example from our little corner of nerdery, there are aggressive and sustained attempts to force ‘harassment policies’ on gaming conventions, literary meets, technology expos, atheist conventions etc. There’s some resistance, but who could really be for harassment and against having rules in place to stop it?

Well, that’s not what’s going on, is it? That’s not what the objection is to. Take Dragonmeet’s anti-harassment policy, seemingly derived from the same Geekfeminism/ADA Initiative one that has been doing the rounds, forced on all and sundry. Was it a success? Did it make any difference or was it totally unnecessary?

The latter.

main-shot-again

In fact, if anything, attendees seemed to be treating it like a bingo card of things to cross off their list before they left the convention. I made a point of talking to a number of people about it and not a single one of them considered it to have any point to it whatsoever. It was a laughing stock. It’s not like its laughability wasn’t established well ahead of time so why was it instituted? I suppose it’s easier to give in to people than it is not to, easier to compromise rather than to knowingly allow yourself to be misrepresented.

Except that, like surveillance laws, the problem isn’t necessarily the regime present now, but the regime that may be present in the future.

All it would have taken would have been one, particularly stick-arsed campaigner seeking to make a fuss or someone like me who believes the policy is broken – either of whom would also have to be willing to ruin the convention for a lot of people – to disrupt the convention for all the other attendees. After all, by the interpretations we see often in arguments, a great deal of the book covers, displays and particularly the art on display would have contravened the ‘sexualised material’ clause if anyone had chosen to be a dick about it.

This culture war needs to be an argument, a conversation, an interplay of thoughtful positions backed by evidence. Not a screaming match in which false accusations fly and nobody feels able to offer even the slightest apology, even if they’re wrong, no matter how damaging their accusations can be.

Hopefully we can move to a position where that ideal becomes the case, or at least come to accept that it’s sufficient to be innocent and to be right, rather than to have one’s opponent’s admit the fact. To thine own self be true, at least first.

Here’s to a new year with less drama, given I have concerns beyond myself now and am not as free to be as antsy as I would like, that would seem to be the case.

Read Full Post »

So, for those of you who don’t know, at the end of Pax in a stage interview Penny Arcade (as a collective) stated their regret about pulling the Dickwolves merchandize (T-shirt and pennant) back in 2010. As you can hear on the video this is quite a popular opinion and it’s one that I share. Further, despite having had my own controversies and having handled them in sub-optimal ways I think they probably shouldn’t have engaged any more than they did with their first response comic which, for all the complaining that they didn’t understand, is the character of the sort of complaints one gets from the ‘mob’ once they get a bee in their bonnet.

I was disappointed, then, to see the response to this in Wired and elsewhere, being a step up of the ‘boycott Penny-Arcade’ cries that have been bouncing around for a couple of years and, even worse, to see Stevens (of Diesel Sweeties) slamming another webcomic crew and, even worse, Warren Ellis retweeting Stevens on this. Neither of these two are, shall we say, entirely free of controversy and both have been misunderstood in the past. To single out PA for special treatment when they should know the sting of the mob themselves to some degree is disappointing, especially in creators who should be protecting free expression.

Quotes are from the Wired article, cross check there for attribution if you’re not sure.

Whether or not the strip was offensive in itself isn’t really relevant at this point: More than the comic itself, what made the most impact was how Penny Arcade responded to the readers — including rape survivors — who said it upset them. First, they mocked their critics with a series of posts and a flippant non-apology. In a subsequent “make a strip” demonstration at PAX Prime, Krahulik further needled the issue by drawing a dickwolf, and Penny Arcade even monetized the discomfort over the rape joke by making and selling “Team Dickwolves” shirts and pennants.

The original strip was only offensive if you completely missed the point of the joke. It did not trivialise rape, the point was that in these arbitrary quests in these MMOs all anyone cares about is completing the quest. The plight of the prisoners in the strip is irrelevant, no matter how horrible their fate it. In this case rape and hard labour. The ‘dickwolf’ is a riff on the fantastical and stupid creatures you see in any number of fantasy settings, worlds and games.

Having been on the receiving end, myself, of these kind of hysterical mobs (yes, I know feminists hate that word but it’s a good word to describe frenzied, emotion-driven and irrational reactions and I don’t mean it in the Greek sense) I can tell you with some certainty that their responses of eyerolling and sarcasm were to the kind of people who make insulting and nonsensical claims that such material is rape apologia or contributes to ‘rape culture’. To reasonable human beings not steeped in outrage culture and gender studies such accusations are both:

a) Incredibly insulting.
b) Ludicrous.

In that context their responses were perfectly valid. Of course, the fusses that the ‘Social Justice’ mobs create are great publicity and polarise people into supporters and attackers and producing Dickwolf merchandise is as perfectly rational way to both cash in and to allow people to show their support. It’s also funny to think of stupid fantasy creatures being mascots for school/college sports teams.

You don’t have a lot of time to think how to react to these mobs, it whips up a frenzy very rapidly and you’re always caught on the back foot. People  want responses or apologies NOWNOWNOW and that leads to poor communication on all sides.

Given the ridiculousness and extremism of many of the people making attacks, I understand and sympathise with the nature of the response. As Jefferson once said:

“Ridicule is the only weapon which may be used against unintelligible propositions.”

Many of the objections are just that, unintelligible.

And then on Monday at PAX, in front of an audience of thousands, Krahulik told business manager Robert Khoo that he regretted pulling the Dickwolves merchandise from the Penny Arcade store — merchandise he had created as a “screw you” to rape survivors who had had the temerity to complain about a comic strip. While the audience burst into applause, Khoo nodded sagely and said that now they knew better; now they would just leave it and not engage.

I don’t think the merch was created as a ‘screw you’ to ‘rape victims’ but rather a middle finger to humourless dingbats, ‘social justice’ warriors and the kind of people who seem to think that nothing offensive should ever be made. It was also a way for people to show support for PA in the social media shitstorm that was created. It was a ‘screw you’ to the kind of people accusing them of contributing to ‘rape culture’ or being ‘rape apologists’. Victims of sexual or domestic abuse and censorious arseholes are – as I’ve found in recent interactions with A+ – not a singular demographic but, rather, an overlap in a Venn diagram. There’s a lot of victims that don’t want to be coddled and wrapped in bubblewrap or to have well-meaning but tone-deaf keyboard warriors fighting their fights for them.

As they seem to have settled on here, they should have just not responded, not engaged and let the argument and the fight fade into obscurity. I doubt they were expecting this reaction this time around, after all, what’s been expressed is nothing new.

@BrendanAdkins – Incredibly disappointed to have volunteered until midnight at #PAX three days running and then hear @cwgabriel still mocking rape survivors.

I’m not sure quite how you get ‘mocking rape victims’ from ‘it was a mistake to pull controversial merchandise’ but this is illustrative of the hysteria-driven hyperbole I was talking about earlier. Some people are determined to receive a different message to the one transmitted due to their own biases.

Cartoonist Rich Stevens of Diesel Sweeties reached out to WIRED when he heard we planned to report on the PAX incident. “It’s just so disappointing to see people I’ve known since we were all new and broke turn out to be such tone-deaf, old man bullies. He’s Rush Limbaugh with tattoos. I could get over the original comic if they’d just moved on or apologized, but they had to make merchandise out of rape just to poke back at people and then encourage fans to wear it to a convention that supposedly has pro-woman policies,” said Stevens.

Pax etc do have ‘pro-woman’ policies, if by ‘pro-woman’ you mean ‘anti-sex’. There’s a hypocrisy about objecting to booth babes and simultaneously objecting to some male geeks’ wariness about ‘fake geek girls’ especially given some of the reasoning to object to booth babes, but I’ve talked about that before elsewhere. This policy has even been extended to cosplay and I think regarding it as ‘pro-woman’ requires a particularly narrow point of view of what that entails.

I don’t think the merchandise is ‘of rape’ either. It’s about the incident and it’s about the silly creature  they created. One that will now live forever in infamy due to the Streisand Effect – something else you’d think ‘social justice’ warriors would be aware of as they create and sustain these popular ‘monsters’ of things they object to. As to the accusation of bullying, there is definitely bullying going on, but it’s not coming from PA who are, after all, still on the defensive.

Sampat also has firsthand experience with the dangers of criticizing Penny Arcade. This week, she posted an impassioned condemnation of Penny Arcade and PAX, outlining the company’s history of inappropriate public comments and behavior, as well as its failure to address the harassment and alleged assault of a volunteer by another volunteer at PAX East. Since then, she has received thousands of angry comments, including rape threats and death threats directed not only at her but at her children. (In 2010 and 2011, critics who wrote about the original dickwolves incidents were similarly flooded with harassment and rape threats.)

Alleged assault. Alleged behaviour. Alleged harassment. Frankly, these are not really jobs for convention staff, they’re jobs for the police. As we’re seeing throughout geek/hacker/skeptic culture there’s a big push for rather draconian convention policies that presume guilt and are enforced to the letter. These policies and the strict application thereof are starting to backfire with the cancellation of a talk by Violet Blue causing some backlash and, ironically, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick being tossed off a con’s trading table for breaking their rules (Tablegate). We don’t know the specifics of the case – which is only alleged – and so we should not be passing judgement or holding anyone accountable for something that may not have happened.

As to trolling, as with the Streisand Effect I’m amazed that anyone active on the internet for more than five minutes hasn’t figured out that spurious trolling and threats is just that, spurious trolling. Show yourself to be a target and you’ll get shit for it. This doesn’t excuse the trolling behaviour – not victim blaming here – but using that reaction as a weapon to beat the people you’re actually having the above-ground dispute with is not acceptable either. Trolls gonna troll.

“Mike’s reaction when he’s criticized for this kind of behavior is always to comment on how he hates bullying, and how he sees himself as fighting back against a bunch of internet bullies,” Story told WIRED. For her, the primary conflict is about Penny Arcade’s continual abuse of power. “The unexamined privilege in [Mike’s] viewpoint is sort of breathtaking — the fact that a straight white male, a celebrity with countless followers who will agree with anything he says, doesn’t see that he is in a position of power over other significantly marginalized groups is almost beyond believing. What he is doing is bullying, no question, and it’s not excused by the fact that kids were mean to him when he was in school.”

This is not acceptable. Mike IS fighting back against internet bullies, they just do not – or cannot – see themselves as such because they’ve bought into an heroic narrative that they’re fighting against the big bad and that excuses anything. If you’ll pardon the hyperbole, this is not unlike the mentality behind terrorism.

Mike’s heterosexuality, gender, his colour and his celebrity are irrelevant to what is true or not. It’s a ‘poisoning the well’ fallacy and it’s racism, sexism and heterophobia. I’m not saying it’s ‘reverse’ any of those things, prejudice is prejudice and its ugly in whichever direction it’s aimed. Can people in positions of assumed authority and power be bullied? Absolutely. The minorities in this case are using their victim status to lend authority to their claims that something bad is going on here. Nobody wants or likes to be seen being sexist, anti-woman, to be picking on rape victims or anything of a similar ilk and so these accusations can create a panic reaction. One well exploited by those abusing the victimhood of others or identifying themselves only by their minority status.

Yes, absolutely, marginalised groups can be bullies, when they have the means to do so.

Mike Krahulik is not a brave upstart defending freedom of speech, even if that’s a defense Penny Arcade has hidden behind time and again. Freedom of speech is not and never has been in danger here: Krahulik has every legal right to be shitty to rape survivors and trans*people and react like a child told he can no longer break the other kids’ toys. There is no law preventing him from flaunting the fact that he has a lot more financial and social power than the people criticizing him for abusing it; nor is anyone arguing that there ought to be.

Yes, he absolutely is. They all are. Free speech includes ‘icky speech’, to quote Gaiman. They and many other creators are engaged in a war of attrition with an absolutist mob with no sense of context, nuance or humour. Free expression is no longer at the mercy of governments but in private hands and the attempts of these mobs, with their false accusations and hyperbolic interpretations, are not directed at criticism but at boycott and censure by other means than the law. You have control over your media intake, if something bothers you, don’t consume it and – unless it breaks a law – let that be an end to it.

And that means that if the gaming community’s going to keep moving forward, the time has come time to leave PAX behind.

I don’t disagree here. I think Pax, gaming, writing and almost every other endeavour would be better served if the mobs went their way and the creators who don’t give as much of a damn about their pet hates went their own. Pax will not be harmed by a few extremists not going any more and may in fact strengthen for it.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

If you want characterless, lifeless, riskless entertainment and dull, safe events. Go make your own and let the people who want something else have their events too. Make your own games, make your own comics and stop trying to turn your personal dislike for something into a massive social ill that NEEDS ADDRESSING RIGHT NOW.

Let’s all go our own ways, make more art and compare notes in five years time.

***

Update

Mike posted some clarification etc here, something I don’t think he should have done (no engagement after all) but it makes a few points that could stand to be covered.

If we had just stopped with the strip and moved on, the Dickwolf never would have become what it is today. Which is a joke at the expense of rape victims or a symbol of the dismissal of people who have suffered a sexual assault. the comic itself obviously points out the absurd morality of the average MMO where you are actually forced to help some people and ignore others in the same situation. Oddly enough, the first comic by itself is exactly the opposite of what this whole thing has turned into.

This is the part I don’t get. The initial strip so obviously and inarguably had rape as a bad and terrible thing and poked fun at the artificial indifference to the problems of the NPCs that the ‘level grind’ MMO atmosphere creates. It isn’t Mike and Penny-Arcade that turned the Dickwolf into a symbol of dismissal and, in fact, it still is anything but. The people who turned it into something more are the very people who supposedly hated the message it allegedly made. Ironically, they’re the ones that turned it into something it wasn’t and you shouldn’t apologise for the actions of others.

If you saw the panel you know that someone in the audience shouted out and asked us to bring the merchandise back. Both Robert and I immediately said no way. We have worked very hard to make PAX a safe place. We have an incredible anti-harassment policy, a “booth babe” policy that you will not find anywhere else in the industry,and panels that cover all the social issues facing gaming today in a meaningful way. That’s the heart of PAX and that will never change.

Those policies are things that I also think are mistakes (to an extent). Give an inch and people take a mile and as PA continues to rediscover, there is simply no way you can satisfy the demands of the ‘social justice’ warrior. Nothing you do is good enough, your motivations are suspect and they just keep going and going like an Energiser bunny with an axe to grind.

What I can promise is that we will continue to be honest with you. There’s no bullshit, no PR, this is just Jerry and I and we’re doing the best we can. Hopefully we will keep getting better.

For me that’s the best possible thing. Honesty. Nothing short of abject grovelling will ever satisfy these people so you can’t win there. You can maintain an honest and ‘real’ attitude and in the long run that’s a lot better. Plus it doesn’t run the risk of a complete breakdown, preachification and – as a consequence – becoming desperately unfunny.

Read Full Post »

personal_trollface_hdThere’s been – yet another – blow up about trolling on Twitter but the context provided by the UK porn filter discussion makes this a slightly different debate.

It is my bitter experience that while I hate to condescend to people, assuming too much reading comprehension skill on the part of the internet as a whole is to invite misinterpretation and problems further down the line. So if this post comes across as a little patronising it’s not because I intend to be, it’s because I don’t want to be misunderstood.

Let’s get a few things said up front to provide some context:

Misogyny is bad
The word gets overused a bit, but in its original meaning ‘irrational hatred of women’ yes, it’s absolutely a terrible thing. Anyone promoting or engaging in misogyny deserves little or no sympathy and like any other irrational prejudice or hatred it’s unacceptable. I am against misogyny and everyone should be in my humble opinion.

Trolling is bad
Like misogyny, the term ‘trolling’ gets overused to include anyone who vehemently and passionately disagrees or gets into a heated argument. Still, genuine trolling does still exist and it is destructive, problematic for debates and more and more of a problem because people don’t seem to understand that they’re being trolled.

As defined in: “Trolling in Asynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication,” by University of Central Lancashire lecturer Claire Hardaker, a Troll is:

…an individual “who constructs the identity of sincerely wishing to be part of the group in question, including professing or conveying pseudo-sincere intentions, but whose real intention(s) is/are to cause disruption and/or to trigger or exacerbate conflict for the purposes of their own amusement.”

How do you deal with it?:

“Trolling can (1) be frustrated if users correctly interpret an intent to troll, but are not provoked into responding, (2) be thwarted if users correctly interpret an intent to troll, but counter in such a way as to curtail or neutralise the success of the troller, (3) fail if users do not correctly interpret an intent to troll and are not provoked by the troller, or, (4) succeed if users are deceived into believing the troller’s pseudo-intention(s), and are provoked into responding sincerely. Finally, users can mock troll. That is, they may undertake what appears to be trolling with the aim of enhancing or increasing effect, or group cohesion.”

Women bloggers, columnists, article writers etc who keep bringing up the trolling they get as a serious issue are giving the trolls what they want by virtue of ‘4’.

Again, nobody – I know of – is arguing that trolling it a good thing.

Let’s also be clear that this isn’t a uniquely female problem. Express a political, social, religious or even an artistic/critical opinion and you’re likely to attract trolling. The major difference seems to only be that – for some reason – women take it more seriously than men.

Trying to control the internet is also bad
Internet sites that allow users to post their own content – such as Twitter – are more akin to paper manufacturers than they are to TV channels. Given the sheer amount of content and the problems with automated processes expecting Twitter or Facebook or even a website host to control or monitor the content ‘written on their paper’ is a mug’s game. It should not be their responsibility but rather the responsibility of the person using their ‘paper’. The ISP or host can help once abuse is correctly identified but doing this is frustratingly slow – so long as we provide decent protection against false reporting.

Kafkatraps & False Dilemmas
Whether it’s the proposed porn filter or asking Twitter to police ‘harassment’ this is presented as a kafkatrap. Any response at all is interpreted in the worst possible way and as support for the proposed stricture.

  • Oppose the porn filter? You must be a creepy paedophile or an abuser.
  • Oppose pointless efforts to control or censor Twitter? You must be a misogynist.

It’s an emotional appeal on an emotional issue from an emotional reaction.

It is perfectly possible to both oppose child porn, or abusive harassment and to oppose proposed tools or controls to deal with it.

The cost of control & abuse of control systems
The internet routes around censorship and control as though it were damage. Like DRM or the porn filter trying to control abuse/harassment/trolling will have virtually no effect on the trolls and will have a big effect on normal users. Indeed trolls are likely to use and abuse any such system to silence people themselves.

This already happens.

As part of the #atheist community on Twitter I regularly see people who are merely strident or effective debaters getting their accounts suspended due to organised abuse of the spam report button that already exists. The process seems to be somewhat automated (volume of communication is too big to expect people to go over it all). Enough spam reports and your account is suspended. It takes some time to get it back. As a case in point I present @RosaRubicondior, an active Twitter atheist currently knocked offline due to abuse of the report system by a Catholic apologist with multiple accounts. There are even whole groups that coordinate spam reports to knock people offline.

Adding an abuse button – as is being proposed – will just provide another means for legitimate users to get knocked offline and it’s likely to be used against the very people asking for these controls and tools.

Will it stop a determined troll?

No. They’ll make multiple accounts, they’ll use proxies etc to get past any protections that are put down. To be even moderately effective any tool will have to identify the user (which presents its own problems). Remove anonymity and you don’t particularly stop a determined troll. Anonymity has a cost in terms of cyberbullies but it also has a big positive side that lessening anonymity would hurt:

  • Political dissidents use twitter and other online media because of their anonymity.
  • Homosexuals – still criminalised in many countries – are able to get a sense of community and support only because of anonymity.
  • Battered spouses and victims of real life abuse can seek help through anonymity and safety.

That’s a tiny few examples of many. You threaten to destroy that by changing things.

You already have options
‘Don’t feed the trolls’ is getting a bad rap for some reason, but it remains the best way to deal with it. The payoff for a troll is getting a big reaction a twitterstorm, newspaper articles, people wringing their hands and even making blog posts like this!

We play into their hands by doing so. Block the person, ignore them and they get no payoff from you.

I don’t see any other way to deal with it that doesn’t have a massive cost in terms of free expression, abuse of the system and loss of the upside of anonymity. We don’t seem to be able to change the trolls so we need to change ourselves (or at least some of us do).

  1. Block ’em.
  2. Don’t take ’em seriously – after all, how many online ‘threats’ actually come to fruition?
  3. Understand what trolling is and change your reaction to it.

1. Almost every social media platform has a block function. Even outside of social media there are plugins for browsers that will block forum trolls and even cut off  whole websites. You can set your email spam filters too and most newspaper and other, similar hosts are much more heavily moderated.

2. Come on. Really. How many internet threats go flying around every day? I’ve been trolled, harassed and threatened by a combination of trolls, true believers, social justice warriors and militant Islamists. I’ve been threatened with burning, stabbing, beheading, ruination, maiming etc etc. Here I still am. Why should I take these threats seriously and why should you? Why do you? The only people that have come close to following through are the supposed progressives!

3. A troll is a parasite who gets an emotional high (and a salve to their boredom) from provoking you and making you react. If your reaction is to take them seriously and demand changes and censorship you’re doing what they want. ‘Ur doin it rong’. You simply cannot control or stop trolling in a way that allows us to preserve the upsides of the internet. The only thing you can change is your reaction. I think it’s somewhat telling that men don’t seem to react in the same way. Perhaps due to a culture of ‘joshing’ and ‘friendly insults’. This does seem a healthier way to react though.

These kinds of kneejerk reactions to what absolutely is reprehensible behaviour threaten to cause more harm, not less.

Take a breath, think about it as a whole.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »