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God Loves Little Girls Who Stand Up For Others

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(Retail | Denver, CO, USA)

Retail | Denver, CO, USA

(I’m a manager at a technology store and a lesbian. There are two men holding hands and giving each other little kisses every now and then, a woman who is trying her hardest not to look at them, and a mother and her five- or six-year-old daughter, all waiting in line. The two men get to the register.)

Man #1: “Hi, we were wondering if you do wedding registry here?”

Me: “No, sorry, we don’t. But my wife and I found when we were doing our wedding registry stuff that if you find a shop that doesn’t do a registry, just write down the SKU numbers so people can come in and—”

Woman: “Come on, none of us have time to be dealing with your little gay pride bulls***! None of you should be getting married anyway. It’s a sin!”

(I start to open my mouth, but the little girl stomps her foot and gives the woman the meanest look I have ever seen.)

Little Girl: “That’s not nice! You say you’re sorry, right now!”

(The woman is taken aback, but is not done with her rant.)

Woman: “I will not apologize to sinners! What they are doing is wrong! God hates people like—”

Little Girl: “No! Girls can like girls and boys can like boys. If God wanted boys and girls only to like each other then he would have made them only like each other! And don’t you know God loves everyone, even boys who like boys?!”

(The woman and the little girl look at each other for a good 10 seconds until the woman drops her items on the floor and storms out. The mother, the gay couple, and I are all speechless. Like a total boss the little girl takes the expensive robotic toy from her mother and walks to the counter.)

Little Girl: “I want this, please!”

Man #2: “My soon to be husband and I would like to pay for that.”

Me: “And wouldn’t you know it, we give 50% discounts to amazing little girls here!”

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7 hours ago
cambridge, ma
7 hours ago
everyone should get the chance to be chastised by a child
San Francisco
11 hours ago
that little girl rules.
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2 public comments
4 hours ago
Awesome little girl.
6 hours ago
The Internet warmed my heart this morning.

Romeo and Juliet Has No Balcony

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It's perhaps the most famous scene in all of English literature: Juliet stands on her balcony with Romeo in the garden below, star-crossed lovers meeting by moonlight. Colloquially known as "the balcony scene," it contains Romeo and Juliet's most quoted lines, which are so closely associated with the balcony that they're frequently repeated (often incorrectly and in a hammy style) by non-actors who seize upon any real-life balcony, porch, landing, or veranda to reenact the moment. There's only one problem: There is no balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.

The word "balcony" never appears in Shakespeare's play. In fact, Shakespeare didn't know what a balcony was. Not only was there no balcony in Romeo and Juliet, there was no balcony in all of Shakespeare's England.

This strange fact—the lack of a balcony in Romeo and Juliet—can easily be verified by anyone who goes back and reads Shakespeare's play, something few have done since high school. What is more complicated is understanding how a non-existent balcony has become so indelibly associated with Romeo and Juliet, that today it’s difficult to imagine the play without it. But tracing the history of how the balcony scene evolved over the past four centuries reveals that even when it comes to Shakespeare, audiences may care less about the original text than about adaptations and revisions that appeal to the sensibilities of the current era.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest known use in English of the word "balcone" (as it was then spelled) didn’t occur until 1618, two years after Shakespeare died. Even the concept of a balcony was (literally) foreign to Shakespeare's British contemporaries. In 1611, more than a decade and a half after Romeo and Juliet was first performed, an Englishman named Tom Coryat published an account of the tour of the Continent he undertook in 1608.  His whopper of a title, Coryat's Crudities: Hastily Gobled Up in Five Moneths Travells in France, Savoy, Italy, Rhetia Commonly Called the Grisons Country, Helvetia Alias Switzerland, Some Parts of High Germany and the Netherlands: Newly Digested in the Hungry Aire of Odcombe in the County of Somerset, and Now Dispersed to the Nourishment of the Travelling Members of this Kingdome, indicates how exotic and unknown he presumed the nations he visited were to his English readers. Italy, which figures prominently in many of Shakespeare's plays, was a source of especial architectural fascination for Coryat, even without the word "balcone" to describe what he saw:

I noted another thing in these Venetian Palaces ... and it is very little used in any other country that I could perceive in my travels, saving only in Venice and other Italian Cities.  Some what above the middle of the front of the building, or ... a little beneath the toppe of the front they have right opposite unto their windows, a very pleasant little tarrasse, that jutteth or butteth out from the maine building: the edge whereof is decked with many prety litle turned pillers, either of marble or free stone to leane over.  These kind of tarrasses or little galleries of pleasure ... serve only for this purpose, that people may from that place as from a most delectable prospect contemplate and view the parts of the City round about them.

For 17th-century English readers, there was something nearly scandalous in what Coryat describes, because the bodies on these jutting, butting galleries of pleasure now known as balconies weren't just viewing; they were also on view. As Henry Wotton, another Englishman, put it in his 1624 treatise The Elements of Architecture, there is "in no Habitations lesse privacie" than those of the Italians. The strangeness of this architectural feature thus stood in for larger national and cultural differences: Shakespeare's England was too cool for such architectural innovations, in terms of climate (they were experiencing a mini-Ice Age) but also perhaps in terms of social or sexual temperament.

So how did the culturally charged image of the balcony become so closely associated with Romeo and Juliet that it now serves as a visual synecdoche for the play itself?

The staged scene most strongly associated with Shakespeare actually comes from another playwright entirely, Thomas Otway. Little known today, Otway serves as a reminder that a famous playwright and exceedingly popular plays can fall out of public favor—as happened to Shakespeare, and particularly to Romeo and Juliet, which for nearly a century was rarely performed.  In 1642, the Puritan Parliament, at war with King Charles I, closed London's theaters. After Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 and the theaters were reopened, Shakespeare plays were put on again, including a 1662 revival of Romeo and Juliet. But far more popular was Otway's 1679 play, The History and Fall of Caius Marius, which grafts dialogue, characters, and plot from Romeo and Juliet onto an ancient Roman military and political struggle drawn from Plutarch. Although Shakespeare himself often borrowed heavily from a wide range of sources, Otway's own substantial appropriations—as when the young heroine Lavinia soliloquizes "O Marius, Marius! wherefore art thou Marius?"—might strike modern audiences as a nearly sacrilegious level of plagiarism.

But for much of the 17th and 18th centuries, audiences wouldn't be shocked to hear Lavinia and Marius speaking words commonly thought of as "belonging" to Juliet or Romeo. People in that era were far more likely to be familiar with Otway's play than with Shakespeare's. Caius Marius was produced over 30 times in London between 1701 and 1735; in those same years, Romeo and Juliet wasn't performed at all. Shakespeare wasn't studied in schools, and print copies of the play remained relatively rare—and expensive. The current perception of Shakespeare, particularly Romeo and Juliet, as ubiquitous cultural capital is the product of efforts that only began in the middle of the 18th century (undertaken in no small part by actor, producer, theater manager, and Shakespeare adaptor David Garrick, as much as an act of self-promotion as anything else).

And, as it turns out, the seemingly quintessential Romeo and Juliet scene should actually be attributed to Otway, who explicitly staged his version of the exchange between the lovers with Lavinia "in the balcony" while Romeo responds from the garden below. Garrick retained the balcony in his revival of Romeo and Juliet at London's Drury Lane, along with another of Otway's innovations (this one resurrected more recently by Baz Luhrmann): giving the lovers one last scene together after Lavinia/Juliet's fake poison wears off, before Marius/Romeo's real poison kicks in.

Spranger Barry, who initially played Romeo in Garrick's production, left Drury Lane and joined the rival Covent Garden theater, where he starred in a competing Romeo and Juliet, immortalized in a popular etching establishing the visual iconography of the "balcony scene." The image of Juliet on her balcony with Romeo below has thereafter been given a seemingly eternal and ever-expanding life. The Internet offers countless examples in which toddlers, cats, dogs, Lego figures, and even pieces of fruit "act out" the balcony scene. The half million visitors who flock to Verona each year can even act it out for themselves on a pseudo-balcony that was constructed by adding an old sarcophagus to the exterior of a building dubiously christened "Casa di Giulietta" in the early 20th century, specifically to satisfy the hordes of tourists seeking an authentic Romeo and Juliet experience.

I'm not suggesting audiences should condemn the cultural process of adaptation, appropriation, and revision that created the cult of the balcony. In fact, I myself am a flagrant Shakespeare adaptor. The reason I re-read Romeo and Juliet a couple of years ago, and first noticed the lack of a balcony, is that I was writing my novel Juliet's Nurse. The story imagines the 14 years leading up to the events in the play, as told by one of Shakespeare's most memorable "minor" characters. As a novelist, I confronted what actors and directors have long known: Adaptation is not a violation of some unalterable essence of Shakespeare's oeuvre—it's integral to our experience of his work.   

Every performance of a play involves countless acts of interpretation and revision. The same performer may not deliver a speech precisely the same way from one night to the next. Choosing how to stage a scene—particularly when it comes to Shakespeare, who wrote few explicit stage directions—requires choices well beyond what is in the text. Because Shakespeare's plays initially were performed without being published, it's safe to assume that the versions we have differ from what he originally wrote. Indeed, companies performing a Shakespeare play today must decide which of the numerous "authoritative" yet contradictory versions to use. Even then, directors frequently choose to alter or omit some passages for their specific production. Any of these interpretations might reveal something about the immediate context in which it was created.

Given the persistent place the non-existent balcony holds in the collective cultural memory, it's especially worth examining the effect of this enduring and adored revision. Why do audiences prefer to remember Juliet standing on a balcony while speaking to Romeo rather than allowing her to remain as Shakespeare positioned her, at her window?

Windows had their own importance in 14th-century Italy, in which Romeo and Juliet is set. Daughters of wealthy families were valuable in this era because they could be married off to secure useful political, business, and social alliances. To protect and promote their daughterly assets, families in late medieval Italy heavily restricted the public movements of unmarried girls (usually from the age of twelve on), who might only be allowed to leave the house to attend occasional religious ceremonies. These females passed most of their time confined at home sewing, usually near a tall window, which provided illumination for one's work but also a view onto the very urban streets to which a wealthy girl or woman had extremely limited direct access. The window marked the immense difference between interior and exterior, as Juliet notes: "Then, window, let day in, and let life out."  

That line seems ominous enough. But the balcony on which audiences now expect to see Juliet does what a window cannot. It is, literally as well as metaphorically, a liminal space, a feature of the domestic building that functions not as enclosure but as a highly eroticized form of exposure. Recall the implicit sexual connotation of Italian balconies in early English architectural treatises. As early as 1633, once balconies became known to the English, they were perceived as a space of sexual display for English women, as shown through yet another forgotten play by a forgotten playwright. In Thomas Nabbes's Covent Garden, two characters discuss a recent construction boom in London using such risqué language that it's impossible to miss the erotic charge of particular architectural features:

Artlove: Mistresse Tongall, you are delighting your selfe with these new erections.

Tongall: Faire erections are pleasing things [...] How like you the Balconee's? They set off a Ladyes person well, when she presents her selfe to the view of gazing passengers.

Who could not like the balcony, when it's a perfect place for a lady to admire (and perhaps inspire) such delightful erections?

Little wonder the balcony has become the most cherished symbol of Shakespeare's play. A dutiful daughter should be secured within the father's house, but the young woman who steps onto the balcony exposes her desirability, and her own desires. The window may let light in, but the balcony lets Juliet out, even as it invites Romeo in. Indeed, it's become a trope in stage and film versions of Romeo and Juliet to have Romeo climb up to the balcony, an architectural mounting that anticipates the sexual mounting that will end in both characters' death.

This may be precisely why the balcony has become irresistible, despite its absence from Shakespeare's play. Although I kept any reference to a balcony out of Juliet's Nurse (my agent wanted an image of a balcony on the cover, to be sure potential readers "knew what the book was about"), I happily waited my turn to pose for photos on Casa di Giulietta's sarcophagus-cum-balcone. When it comes to Romeo and Juliet, it's the audience who wants to see—or be—Juliet upon the balcony, stepping out from the protection of her father's house in a display of desire, consequences be damned. By focusing only on the balcony, the audience remains in that exhilarating moment, denying the tragedy and death to come.

The balcony scene as it is misremembered is romantic, sexually charged, and indelibly part of our culture—does it matter if this is a staging Shakespeare never actually envisioned, given the centuries of revision that have made it precisely what audiences want?

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/10/romeo-and-juliets-balcony-scene-doesnt-exist/381969/

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17 hours ago
1 day ago
Love how this piece zags when you expect it to zig re: purist vs. revisionist readings of Shakespeare. There is a balcony; he just didn't see it.
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Rack Unit

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There's also nothing in the TOSes that says you can't let a dog play baseball in the server room!
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2 days ago
For my beekeeper friends.
4 days ago
Alt text: "There's also nothing in the TOSes that says you can't let a dog play baseball in the server room!"
Yonkers, NY


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3 days ago
Jim Crow part 2: the return of Jim Crow
Providence RI USA
4 days ago
Ontario, California
2 days ago
Important, yes, but. How about the breakdown of drug users vs. drug dealERs who are in prison? Is there a difference between the categorization of users vs dealers? I'm not trying to say that the racial breakdown seems disproportionate, but this chart is not quite comparing apples to apples. (edited to fix a typo, which is in CAPS).
2 days ago
roughly 4/5ths of arrests are for possession vs sales: http://www.bjs.gov/content/dcf/enforce.cfm
2 days ago
And whites are slightly more likely to be sellers than blacks (4th paragraph): http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/09/30/white-people-are-more-likely-to-deal-drugs-but-black-people-are-more-likely-to-get-arrested-for-it/
2 days ago
@sfrazer thanks!
2 days ago
Now, those additions add context and make the chart make more sense. I'll mark these articles to read later. Thank you sfrazer.

Ten Short Rants About #GamerGate

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If you know what #GamerGate is, I don't have to tell you. If you don't know what #GamerGate is, any description I give you will be attacked by hordes of partisans saying that I have described it unfairly and that the sources I have linked are biased. So I'm going to treat you, dear readers, as if you know what it is. Clark wrote a post about it last week. My take is different. I'm not going to offer you a timeline or an attempt at a definitive "what happened" or "who is right." Instead I'm going to rant about ten ways that this controversy illuminates how we're screwed up.

1. 95% Of Label-Based Analysis Is Bullshit.

GamerGate is label-heavy, and labels are lazy, obfuscating bullshit.

Labels are supposed to be shorthand for collections of ideas. I might say "I am libertarian-ish" because it's not practical to go around announcing the whole array of views I hold about demolishing public roads and privatizing the air force and so forth. This, up to a point, is useful.

It stops being useful when we argue over labels instead of over ideas. Take, for instance, "feminist." A person who describes themselves as "feminist" might associate that term with their grandmother being the first woman in the family to go to college and their mother defying a sexist boss in a male-dominated job and the development of laws saying women can't be relentlessly harassed in the workplace or fired for being women.1 Someone who routinely criticizes "feminism" might be thinking of Andrea Dworkin saying all heterosexual sex is coercive, or that time a woman snapped at him when he held a door open, or the time someone embarrassed his friend by saying his joke was sexist. When these two people use the term "feminist" in an argument, they are talking past each other and engaging with strawmen rather than ideas. The feminist is engaging the anti-feminist as if he opposes women in the workplace or supports gender-based hiring, which he doesn't necessarily. The anti-feminist is engaging the feminist as if she thinks all marital sex is rape and as if she thinks jokes should get him fired, which she doesn't necessarily. Neither is really engaging in the particular issue at hand — because why would you engage with a person who holds such extreme views? Why would it matter if the person you are arguing with has an arguable point on a specific issue, if they also necessarily (based on labels) stand for everything you hate?

Labels also make us lazy and insecure. If I identify myself as Libertarian — rather than libertarian-ish — then instead of asking whether an idea has merit, I might lapse into asking whether libertarians believe in that idea or not. But libertarians might be wrong about that idea, or their position on that idea might be some accident of history. Yet instead of focusing on substance, if I depend on labels I will be gripped by fear and cognitive dissonance. If libertarians believe in this, and I don't, does that mean I have to rethink my entire belief system? Will other libertarians reject me? Will Nick Gillespie stop letting me touch his leather jacket? It will be much easier and more comfortable to stick with whatever view is associated with my label.

#GamerGate dialogue relies heavily on labels — feminist, gamer, MRA, SJW, and so forth. That's why it's mostly noise. I've used labels before, and when I have, what I've written has been mostly noise. Labels are an excellent way to vent outrage, but a lousy way to argue about ideas or facts.

2. Timing Matters. So Does Your Chosen Vehicle.

At least some advocates of #GamerGate tell us that it's about ethics in game journalism. I'm willing to accept that some people saying that are sincere, and don't associate themselves with the hashtag because they like demeaning women.

But here's the thing: people will draw conclusions about your motives based on your timing and your chosen vehicle.

Video game journalism has been ethically troubled for decades. There was controversy in the 1980s, when I was reading Computer Gaming World on paper like a caveman, over game magazines reviewing the same games that they were advertising. Suspicion that dollars drive game reviews have persisted, and with good reason.

So if you choose this particular historical moment to become Seriously Concerned About Journalistic Ethics, and your timing just happens to coincide with a related pushback against women's activism in the gaming community, and just happens to be triggered by a campaign against a particular controversial woman, and just happens to be congruent with 4chan's declared campaign against "SJWs," people are going to draw conclusions about you. This is especially true if your sudden fury about ethics in journalism appears to focus on the coverage of tiny indie games instead of big-money games, which is just odd. It also doesn't help when your lists of demands for ethics reforms sound suspiciously like "apologize for hurting my feelings and only report on the things I want."

It's reasonable for people to draw conclusions from timing. If, immediately after the shooting of Michael Brown, I started a vigorous campaign calling on society to protect convenience-store clerks from assault, people would reasonably suspect that I had a political agenda related to the shooting, not a sincere concern for the welfare of convenience store clerks.

Moreover, if you chose the label #GamerGate as your vehicle, people are going to draw conclusions. If I put a Westboro Baptist Church bumper sticker on my car, people will draw conclusions no matter how carefully I explain that their children's choir program is awesome. That's because the Westboro Baptist Church label is very specific. It's not something broad like "Baptist" or "Agnostic" that you'd expect to encompass a wide range of views. #GamerGate is very specific too. The label #GamerGate has its origins in a freakout over a woman in particular, and gender issues in general. If you decide to adopt it, people are going to wonder if you mean to associate yourself with its origins, in a way they wouldn't if you chose a broader label.

When people complain that they are being associated with misogyny and threats for waving the #GamerGate banner, I feel (on a different scale) about the way I do when people complain that they are being misjudged for flying the Confederate battle flag. Sure, maybe it means Southern pride and heritage to some of them. But I'm not sympathetic when many see it another way based on its history. If you fly the Confederate battle flag, people may reasonably think you intend to send a message that contradicts your spoken claims of harmony and equality.

3. People Are Going To Say Things You Disagree With, And You Need To Get A Fucking Grip About It.

I've been saying for a while that talking about harassment in "geek culture" triggers disproportionate outrage.

Critiques of games and game culture also seem to provoke bizarre, disproportionate outrage. I find it very difficult to take that outrage seriously.

Take Anita Sarkeesian. Anita Sarkeesian offers gender-focused criticism of video games. This causes some people to completely lose their shit.

This is inexplicable, even in a subculture that already has people who are rendered unaccountably twitchy by bad reviews.2 I've viewed Sarkeesian's videos, and I've read the criticisms of her: that she's not a gamer, that she doesn't truly know her subject, that she uses unfair examples and ignores counter-examples, that she has an agenda, that she generalizes, and so forth. I think some of these criticisms are apt and others aren't. But my reaction to all of them is the same: Judas Priest, have you never encountered any form of cultural or literary criticism before? That's what it's like. Whether it's people saying that Harry Potter promotes witchcraft or other people saying that the Lord of the Rings is a racist allegory or Dan Quayle saying that a fictional character's fictional life choices disrespect American fatherhood, cultural and literary criticism is often stuffed taut with bullshit, no matter who produces it or what it's about. When it's good, it's provocative, and when it's bad, it's that essay you threw together through your hangover at three in the morning on the due date about what Shakespeare thought about Jews, writ large.3 Seriously. If Sarkeesian enrages you, don't let anyone show you Foucault or Derrida or you're going to have an aneurysm. And please don't come back with "but Sarkeesian fooled people into giving her money for her videos." Jack and Jill made $150 million, motherfuckers. People pay hundreds of dollars to see Nickleback in Temecula. Why are you freaking out over how people spent their money this time?

People are going to say things about your favorite parts of the culture. Some of these things will be stupid or wrong. It is swell to use more speech to disagree with, criticize, or ridicule the criticism. But when you become completely and tragicomically unbalanced by the existence of cultural criticism, or let it send you into a buffoonish spiral of resentful defensiveness, people may not take you seriously.4 Rule of thumb: a reasoned rebuttal of wrong-headed cultural criticism mostly likely won't require you to use the word "cunt."

I anticipate a response to this point: aren't cultural critics (for instance, people who offer gender-related criticism of videogames) also losing their shit and overreacting to stuff? No doubt some are. Let's make fun of them, as we would anyone else being silly. But for the most part cultural critics of games are complaining about things like how women are portrayed in games and how women are treated in the industry, not having a cow about being disagreed with or having their hobby critiqued. When cultural critics do pitch a fit about their views being disagreed with — say, for instance, Amanda Marcotte flaming out because people disagreed with her nasty totalitarian rumbling about the Duke lacrosse case — then by all means, mock away.

4. Live by the Sword, Die By The Sword.

If you encourage a cultural trend involving calling out behavior, you may not like the way it is used by others. This seems obvious, but apparently it's not.

If you encourage the overuse of the term "bully" until it means nothing, you can expect the term to be co-opted and aimed at you sooner or later.

If you cultivate a culture in which people react disproportionately to stupid or offensive jokes, sooner or later someone else is going to be freaking out — sincerely or cynically — over someone "on your side" telling a stupid joke.

If you cultivate a culture in which the internet lands on someone like a ton of bricks for being an asshole, sooner or later some segment of the internet is going to decide that you are the asshole, and pile on you.

If you cultivate a culture that likes to boycott media or its advertisers for content you don't like, sooner or later somebody's gonna boycott media over something you agree with.

Stretching words like "bullying" for political purposes, calling out people for stupid jokes, participating in gleeful pile-ons, and organizing boycotts are all classic free speech. They are a more-speech response to speech you don't like, a good alternative to government censorship, and an example of social consequences for speech. I'm not telling you to stop. I'm not saying all speech we decide to condemn is morally equivalent. I'm not telling you that such techniques are morally wrong. I can't, credibly, because I have participated in all of them. I'm reminding you that all speech has consequences, and all modes of speech have consequences. The consequence of gleefully piling onto some douchebag is that you normalize and model gleefully piling on someone you find offensive. The consequence of abandoning proportionality is that someday some segment of the internet may wig out and lose all proportionality about you or someone you care about. Recognize cultural cause and effect.

You're going to say "but the people I was piling on/freaking out about/boycotting are totally distinguishable from the people being victimized now by piling on/freaking out/boycotting." How nice for you. Explain that distinction to them and let me know how it works out.

(Clark has been making this point for quite some time.)

5. Your Insult-Parsing Is Bullshit.

Critics of gaming culture assert that demeaning people based on attributes like gender, ethnicity, race, and sexuality is wrong. I agree.5

But too many critics of #GamerGate seem to view it as a fine opportunity to demean both groups and individuals based on attributes like weight, appearance, social isolation, and non-neurotypical status. People (including, occasionally, me) employ "fat, smelly, basement-dwelling Aspie neckbeard" rhetoric to talk about misogyny or harassment in gaming.

If you engage in that rhetoric, many people will think that your objections to demeaning language about women is contrived and tribal rather than sincere.

I'm sure you can construct an excellent argument about how demeaning language against women occurs in a historical context and in connection with a power structure and patriarchal vertices and thus-and-such, and that it is simply different than making fun of people for being fat or unattractive or autistic. That's swell. It would get you a solid A- in your sophomore seminar at Brown. But most of the real world thinks it is an unconvincing rationalization.

Insulting people can be fun. A well-crafted insult is a pleasure. A stinging mockery can be very expressive. It's unflattering, but it's true. But speech has consequences. The consequence of indulging yourself by mocking people for being fat/unattractive/socially awkward/non-neurotypical/etc. is that people aren't going to take your indignation about gendered or racial insults particularly seriously. You may think that's unfair, but it's how people are. Govern yourself accordingly.

6. The Enemy Of Your Enemy Is Not Your Friend.

Social strife makes strange bedfellows.

It's a good thing to read the opinions of serious people "on the other side." They might be right about something. You might be wrong about something. You might improve your understanding of issues.

On the other hand, it's always good to exercise skepticism about how your anger about an issue is being monetized or weaponized by others.

In the #GamerGate context, take Milo Yiannopoulos, who writes for the Breitbart sites. Yiannopoulos has hurled himself into #GamerGate like a stoned bassist into a mosh pit. That's clearly because #GamerGate advances his chosen narratives, and Breitbart's: the media is a bunch of biased liberals! Feminists are destroying society! Progressives are fascists!

Some fans of #GamerGate have reacted with uncritical delight, increasing his traffic and praising his work.

Yet before #GamerGate, Milo was happy to use gamers for another purpose — to advance the cultural conservative narrative "Gamers are freaky dorks!" He says he's a non-gamer. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but weren't people just criticizing Anita Sarkeesian for being a non-gamer?

Look, if you see #GamerGate as a vehicle to advance cultural conservative messages that you believe in, more power to you. That's free speech. But if you are genuinely someone who only cares about journalistic integrity, and you promote Breitbart and Yiannopoulos, aren't you being a useful idiot?

Yiannopoulos is by no means the only example. There's also the feculent two-faced pack of scribblers at Gawker Media. Gawker Media, through Kotaku and Gawker and Jezebel, is consistently outraged at the misogyny of #GamerGate, and has retreated into pearl-clutching couch-fainting at the attacks it has recently endured on its own work. But Gawker Media loves feminism like a glutton loves his lunch. Gawker poses as high-minded for the outrage clicks, then returns to its cash cows: self-righteously promoting revenge porn, ridiculing women based on their appearance, paying sociopaths to describe the pubic hair of women they don't like, gleefully outing people, shrugging at systematic harassment of its employees, leering at hacked nude pics, and generally being about as progressive as a late-night advertisement for Schlitz. If you rush to Gawker Media's defense because it's #GamerGate who is attacking them, aren't you being a useful idiot?

If #GamerGate is wrong-headed, it isn't because Yiannopoulos supports it or Gawker Media opposes it. But when someone enthusiastically agrees with us, and seeks to leverage that agreement for profit, perhaps we should be skeptical about their motives, and resist citing them as support.

On the other hand, it's also good to be a little skeptical of the "you are just pawns of [interest group]" rhetoric. Sometimes very different people reach the same conclusion for different reasons and with different motives. Much of the "you're a pawn" rhetoric is just a way to dismiss viewpoints without engaging them. For instance, I remember how irritated I was when a pair of notorious hacks suggested that outrage about TSA fondling was just astroturfed to undermine public unions. Ridiculous. I've hated the TSA and our subservience to it for years. I hate public unions for completely different reasons.

7. The Media Is Usually Banal, Not Motivated Enough To Be Conspiratorial, And Not Your Life Coach.

Some supporters of #GamerGate like to point to an abrupt flood of "anti-gamer" articles that hit early on during this controversy. They assert this is proof of corruption, collusion, agenda-driven journalism, and attempts to impose new norms onto a culture.

That's giving journalism too much credit.

Look: journalists are herd animals. They tend to write about the same thing other journalists are writing about, because they tend to have many of the same cultural and social values, and tend to be aiming at the same thing (prestige and more readers). In the 1990s, when the media started to tell us that crack babies were going to become "super-predators" and kill us all in our comfy beds, it wasn't because journalists had conspired to become racist or gullible or stupid. When the media jumped all over "Satanic abuse" panics, it wasn't because they all abruptly became born-again Christians. When the media stalked the Casey Anthony murder trial like they expected Jesus to show up and give out free Teslas, it wasn't because there was some collective decision that this was a legally significant case or a vehicle to send a coordinated message. It's about greed, ego, and a shocking lack of imagination. The media conspires to tell the same story in the same way that the TV networks conspire to flood the schedule with CSI clones.

Does the media tend to have a bias? Sure. It trends towards white, college-educated, middle class, and interested in telling people about things and having them listen. But saying it has a "liberal bias" is a oversimplification. The media has a pro-media bias, a corporate culture bias, a self-indulgent my-views-are-objective-truth bias. If it pushes a "OMG gamers harass women!" story, a large part of that is because stories about sexism sell, even if they are completely wrong. There's nothing "liberal" about having your lips planted firmly on the sweaty ass of law enforcement, yet the media is too often deferential to law enforcement, because deference gets access and access gets blood-and-guts and blood-and-guts sells.

So, when #GamerGate fans talk about media conspiracy, I really have to wonder whether they have ever observed the media before.

Then there's the fundamental question about what you should expect from the media. Do you want ethics? Fine. Would you like fairness? Great. But are you in the market for a fluffer? Look elsewhere. Some elements of #GamerGate, with their Nixonian enemies lists and concern with being "insulted" by the media, strike me as very entitled. Maybe it's because I'm a lawyer, and used to being automatically categorized as a scumbag by the media and society, but I think the "game blogs have been hurtful to our feelings" is unbecomingly needy.

If you don't like the views of the media, there are ways to handle it without being entitled. Are media generalizations of gamers bogus? Then take the example of Anita Sarkeesian — produce more detailed speech saying exactly what's wrong with them. You're on the internet, for God's sake. You have historically unprecedented publishing power. Be like the #GamerGaters who have decided to start their own what-we-want-to-hear review sites. Take a page from political conservatives, who went from ineffectually mewling about media liberal bias to creating the implacable-if-somewhat-dim media juggernaut that is Fox News. But if you want to stand around and insist that the media not run any stories that you don't want to hear, and that they apologize for being mean, or else you'll boycott their sponsors, FacepalmAcademyor tell game companies not to work with them, I don't see why I should take you any more seriously than anyone else who does that. I don't have any respect for someone who wants a code of journalistic ethics that boils down to "don't challenge me or insult me."

Also: some of you — you know who you are — stop saying that the media is censoring you by criticizing you or your viewpoints. Speech is not tyranny. Criticism is not censorship. You don't have a right to be liked, taken seriously, respected, or agreed with.

8. Women, Minorities, and LGBT People Are Not Magic.

The "#NotYourShield" hashtag is apparently intended to convey that #GamerGate can't be sexist or racist or anti-gay because there are women and minorities and LGBT people who support #GamerGate.

This is an irritating and faintly condescending fallacy that pops up now and again. Look! Bill Cosby criticized "black culture!" It must be right because he's black! Look! Morgan Freeman criticized black history month! It's convincing because he's black! Look! Christina Hoff Sommers criticized feminism! Her criticism has added weight because she's a woman!

It's as if people are trying to apply some twisted rule of evidence in which a statement by one member of a group is a binding admission on the whole group.

But people can be wrong whatever gender or color or orientation they are. Doubt me? Let me ask it this way: are Michael Moore's generalizations about white Americans automatically more right because he's a white American? How about Nancy Pelosi? Noam Chomsky? No? No. Because that's obvious bullshit.

A woman saying she supports #GamerGate and doesn't find it misogynistic firmly establishes only that this particular woman hasn't experienced misogyny, or didn't perceive it misogyny, or didn't care. She doesn't speak for all women any more than a "SJW" critic of #GamerGate. Everyone's millage may vary.6

Ironically, the #notmyshield meme repackages a notion that you'd normally expect to hear from "SJWs" — the idea that only whites can be racist and only men can be sexist. This is a cherished doctrine in academia but provokes eye-rolling nearly everywhere else.

Also, different people have very different tastes about what is offensive and demeaning. I'm crazy, and don't find the term "crazy" offensive. Some people face mental disorders and find such language extremely hurtful. Neither of us is "right." I'll probably keep saying "crazy," at least about myself, but I'll probably avoid using that term against someone who finds it hurtful. Unless, of course, I'm trying to be a dick. As Oscar Wilde said, "a gentleman is someone who never hurts anyone's feelings — unintentionally."

9. Stop Trying To Be A Special Snowflake.

You are not the first to discover journalistic corruption. You are not the first discover media bias. You are not the first to discover media double standards. You are not the first to have the media generalize fecklessly about you. You are not the first to discover activism. You are not the first to discover free speech. Stop pretending otherwise. It's embarrassing and juvenile. Hippies and Ron Paul supporters are cringing.

10. On Threats.

There's no excuse for threats to anyone, whatever "side" they are on. Posting someone's home address or private phone number or financial details will almost never be relevant to a good-faith dispute7 — it's clearly intended to terrorize, and it risks empowering disturbed people to do real harm. These things are wrong no matter who does them, no matter the motive, and no mater the target.

Yet those things are common in the gaming community. They've been familiar in the context of casual contact for some time, and more serious and frightening threats have become more and more of a problem. That's why I think the claim "these people are making up the threats" is unconvincing — it's happened before under even less controversial circumstances. Whether or not more women are threatened than men, numerically or as a percentage, being a woman and articulating a viewpoint seems like a very reliable way to get threatened. You may not be happy that it is an element of gaming culture, but it is.

The reaction is disappointing. We're seeing a lot of "you're making it up" or "it happens more to our side" or "men get threatened just as much" or "they did it first" or the like. There's an undercurrent of "they made up all those things, which they deserved." We're also seeing people attempt to discredit the discussion of threats by using the word to describe mere insults and criticism.

Most people say they oppose the threats. How many mean it? How many of you think that death threats and having a Google Earth picture of your house is just "part of the game," like towel-snapping in the locker room?

I'll start believing that people are really against threats and doxxing when they act like it. Would you be a member of a club that routinely tolerated members posting death threats against a rival club on the club's bulletin board? If not, why do you participate in sites where such threats are an accepted part of the culture? Do you know people bragging about terrorizing enemies with true threats? If so, why haven't you turned them in? Do you continue to treat people who use threats and terror-doxxing as friends, or do you treat them as pariahs? If you are proud of your l33t hacker skills, do you use them to attack those who say things you don't like, or do you use them to identify the people who make true threats and threatening doxxes?

I'm a rather strong supporter of free speech. I donate a lot of effort helping to protect it. But true threats are not protected by the First Amendment. They represent an effort to silence speech through physical fear. I'd like to see more done to fight the people who use them. Help stomp some cockroaches.

So, What Now?

So how will this play out, and where do I stand?

Some people assert that #GamerGate would end quickly if game journalists would simply articulate and hew to satisfactory ethical standards. No doubt some people would be satisfied with that. But I think that many supporters in #GamerGate — egged on by cultural conservatives who view the movement as a ideological opportunity — will not be satisfied unless "journalistic ethics" is interpreted to mean "don't discuss cultural issues and don't say things about my community I don't like." Some won't be satisfied until only approved bien-pensants are game reviewers, and companies restrict access to only those reviewers who don't discuss social issues. On the other side, the fight will be bitterly extended by the self-indulgent frothing by a civic illiterates who see it as an ideological opportunity. Too many enjoy the fight for the sake of the fight.

What am I going to do? I'm going to call out idiots and assholes and thugs. I'm going to watch, with interest, for game reviewers saying meaningful things about journalistic ethics. (For instance, I'd love to see a major site dish on how game companies have tried to influence their reviews, or confess times they caved, or a discussion of how a site separates out its editorial and advertising functions.) Even though I am interested in that subject, I am sure as hell not going to associate myself with #GamerGate. I'm going to watch, with interest (and skepticism), to see how #GamerGate responds to reviewers that articulate ethical rules but continue to talk about social issues. I'm going to watch, with interest, whether #GamerGate focuses on big money corruption, or whether it focuses on indies that just happen to feature women or social issues. Will #GamerGate be vigorous in pursuing how, say, Sony tries to get good reviews, or is it going to be oddly preoccupied with how an obscure indie developer was once a walk-up apartment roommate of a blogger? I'm not going to follow craven sites or reviewers who kowtow to #GamerGate by stopping any social comment. I'm going to keep disagreeing with "SJWs" when I disagree with them, but I'm not going to let the existence of their critique unbalance me. I'm not going to start taking people seriously when they say that criticism and dissent censors them or that unflattering coverage of a subculture "slanders"8 them. I'm not going to start taking people seriously if they suggest they have a right to be free of reviewers talking about social issues. I'm going to offer to help find pro bono help for people who are terrorized and threatened. I'm going to continue to be a defender of the First Amendment, but I'm not going to let myself be used for cynical propaganda or as a conduit for threats and abuse.

Also, I'm going to keep playing games. Right now, Age of Wonders III, Wasteland 2, and Divinity — Original Sin are on deck.

Ten Short Rants About #GamerGate © 2007-2014 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.

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8 public comments
2 days ago
Mostly good.
2 days ago
"If I put a Westboro Baptist Church bumper sticker on my car, people will draw conclusions no matter how carefully I explain that their children's choir program is awesome"
Somerville, MA
2 days ago
mostly talks sense. And great taste in turn based rpg :)
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
2 days ago
Eh, I actually agree with most of what he said. Of course, #4 is equally true of the opposition in this case, and perhaps even moreso since they had been doing it for years before GamerGate started. Personally, I think both sides should just let the whole thing die down and quit calling each other names.
3 days ago
So much goodness herein, not really specifically about #GamerGate, even.
South Burlington, Vermont
3 days ago
Some of most insightful info on GamerGate I've seen.
Cedar Rapids
3 days ago
A much better piece than Clark's muddle last week
Washington, DC
4 days ago
This. All of this.
Washington, DC
4 days ago

pepperonideluxe: A comic about Seagulls.If you feel like this...

4 Comments and 21 Shares


A comic about Seagulls.

If you feel like this comic doesn’t accurately represent you, and that you personally don’t act like this, good. That means this comic isn’t about you.

If you DO act like this, and are working on a counter argument about how not all _____ are ______ , well that’s just disappointing. 

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3 days ago
This is basically perfect.
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3 public comments
3 days ago
Boston Metro Area
3 days ago
Seattle, WA
3 days ago
Actually, it's about ethics in journalism.
Ontario, California
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