Gaming, Journalism, Ethics, and other Sundries

Oh, hey!

As usual, I am a little late to this party. Let’s call it ‘fashionably late,’ shall we? And, as it happens, I think I am glad to be late because, let’s face it, this party kinda sucks. Rick* and Regina* already got in a drunken fight. Tom* is passed out beneath the keg with the tap splattering cheap beer all over his face. There’s a few guys bunched up together making drunken passes at any girl they can find, and Linda* is taking this miniature basketball tournament way too seriously.

* All characters appearing in this paragraph are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons involved with the subject of this blag, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

There’s this thing happening. I honestly am not sure I totally, well, get it, but I will try and talk about an important facet of it here anyway. 

I have been mostly absent from Twitter, so I missed a lot of this. Apparently, a ‘movement’ (if one should respect what is happening enough to name it so) online is attacking gaming journalism in general, and a few women specifically, for pushing a political agenda and for being women and for not liking the smell of some people’s farts.

I’m sorry. That’s not helpful. But I really have trouble wrapping my head around what is going on. Some of those involved in the particular ‘movement’ in question are pushing a terribly misogynist viewpoint. Plenty are not, no doubt, at the same time, but the crap floats to the surface in times like these.

Go read Chuck Wendig’s post about it. Watch Jim Sterling’s video about it. Be informed, because it is your responsibility as a member of the general online community to be informed.

But is it responsible to rant about it?

First, let me cover one of my bases here. No rational, reasonable person in any way supports the notion that threatening violent action against someone with whom you disagree is acceptable, civilized behavior. In this case, I consider myself a rational, reasonable person. Beyond “violence is not the answer,” it comes down to basic human decency. The concept of ‘free speech,’ the definition of which the authors of the First Amendment clearly did not think needed clarification, is so misused on just about every front as to almost become meaningless.

Because I live in the United States of America, I am going to frame my argument here based on this country, because it is the only frame of reference I have directly available. But here: your constitutional access to ‘free speech,’ first of all, does not extend to private citizens and companies. They can suppress your speech all they want, so long as it is not the United States government doing it. Maybe that will paint them in a bad light, and you are free to express your distaste for those practices anywhere else that will let you make your voice heard.

Second of all, your right to exercise free speech does not exempt your liability to criminal law. If that was the case, then the only law we would need is, “All citizens have the right to free expression.” Then I could ‘express’ myself by failing to pay taxes, burning the crops of my neighbors, and stomping on puppies. In essence, that is equivalent to lawlessness. Right to free speech does not extend to threat of violent action, even with the semi-porous anonymity afforded by the veil of the internet. Right to free speech does not extend to the horrifying new troll hobby ‘SWATting.’

I feel like I have discussed this before, but I did not previously include the criminal element. In summary, free speech does not excuse or permit criminality.

On this side of things, now, one should wonder: Just what is causing the venom and spittle to fly forth?

No question about it: some humans are scum. We can even get a vast majority of the world’s population to agree most of the time about certain individuals (though a 100% consensus is basically never possible). Some of the scum we see, and some of the scum never rises to visibility, never sees the surface.

The internet is changing that, because a public stage is much more accessible to anyone who wishes to have it. People have figured out, over the last twenty years, that one of the best ways to get attention is to be as obnoxious as possible.

Sorry, actually, people have known that for a long time. The thing that stopped most people from amping up the Obnoxious-Meter to get attention is the social stigma attached to it. You know, stigma. That thing that encourages people to not do socially unacceptable things. No one gets ridden out of town over a threat of violence on the internet, the only exception being when law enforcement gets involved. And it should, because (at least in the US) making threats is punishable by law.

The anonymity certainly promotes it, because the thought is that no one will know who it is. But the other thing is the attention. The internet community, at large, is so bad about feeding the trolls. Maybe that phrase diminishes the importance of the matter.

Showering these criminals with attention, even the negative attention, empowers them.

And, by the way, that is what they are: criminals. Let’s not mince meanings here. Those promoting violence against someone for their gender, ethnicity, views, etcetera, are criminals, because we have laws against that very behavior.

I don’t know how to fix this problem. There seems to be no solution, for there is no way I could convince the millions upon millions of internet users to ignore the criminals. And no amount of stern talkings-to will persuade them. Even if the users are banned from social sites like Twitter, there is nothing stopping these people from assuming a new identity and spreading the vitriol further.

Recent events have brought this into focus once again. That’s good, because these are important issues. Let’s use this opportunity to ignore the trolls, ignore the haters and the criminals, and have a rational discussion.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Is the gaming community at large hostile to women? If so, what can we do about it?
  • How can we promote a more inclusive attitude in the gaming community?
  • Do gaming journalists meet the criteria to which we hold others labeled as ‘journalist?’
  • To what standards should we hold our gaming journalists? our news journalists?
  • Is there a difference between gaming journalism that leans toward friends of the writers and sponsored content on news sites, magazines, and newspapers?
  • Do we really want passionless robots to write our gaming news?

Leave a Reply