In early childhood I saw the first snow-shovellers in thin shabby clothes. Asking about them, I was told they were men without work who were given this job so that they could earn their bread. Then they get what they deserve, having to shovel snow, I cried out in rage, bursting uncontrollably into tears.
—  Adorno, Minima Moralia III.122: “Monograms.” Translated by E.F.N. Jephcott.
6

Happy Birthday to Carl Sagan,

Carl Sagan, in addition to being a teacher of science, was a teacher of morals and empathy. He advocated for free speech, compassion, education, civil liberty, racial equality, gender equality, skepticism, and creativity. His views are continuing to inspire generations. Some, like me, have followed in his footsteps and seek to explore the wonders of science while improving the human condition. Carl had a hopeful view for humanity and he devoted his life to make that view a reality. Carl Sagan was certainly one of the best of us and he should be remembered for his great accomplishments.

Faceless Together

For a while now I’ve been kind of meaning to write a long, in-depth post about 4chan. With the recent controversy between them and some significant feminist figures in the gaming industry, I think it’s important that I finally go ahead and do this. Since, let’s be honest: any time there’s a big controversy on the internet, 4chan is going to be involved. And yet, a lot of people don’t really understand what 4chan is.

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First, I should probably start with some explanation of where I am coming from. When my webcomic first began taking off, I went to great lengths to keep an eye on everyone who discussed it. I like feedback on what I’m doing; the way I see it, the natural progression of an artistic career is that you eventually come to rely on audience feedback rather than individual critics who purport to represent it.

For the most part, this just entailed reading forums and blogs, nothing too complicated. however, there was this one audience segment that continually eluded my sight: 4chan. I could see 4chan links in my referrers, but could never find anything there about me or my work. The threads, with their short, transient lifespans, were always gone by the time I got there.

Well, needless to say, I eventually did catch a Prequel thread, and then more, and gradually over the next few years I learned a lot about 4chan - as well as a lot of other sites, major and minor (this one included). Of them all, though, 4chan stands out to me as having the most interesting culture - as well as being one of the most confusing, misunderstood, and outright scary entities to outsiders. I can understand why they are such a prevalent and relatively powerful force online, and I think it’s important for everyone to understand exactly what 4chan is.

I’m going to be sharing my personal observations and conclusions regarding 4chan. So, buckle up and put on your ethnologist hats, kids, because we’re gonna talk comparative internet cultures!

Anonymity

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The first thing that always trips people up about 4chan is this idea of an “anon culture”. Like, we all understand the idea of anonymous comments on a site, or accepting anonymous asks on Tumblr, and probably understand that such anonymous submissions are often used to attack someone without suffering any social ramifications or backlash for doing so. But what happens when you bring hundreds of thousands of people together who idolize the idea of anonymity and the freedom it brings?

Well, you get something kind of cool, in my opinion. What you end up with is this concept of a fluid identity. Not only do people on 4chan have no social ramifications for being rude, but they face no social ramifications for being inconsistent with themselves. On 4chan you have no obligation to stick to or defend your past beliefs or opinions, because no one knows they were your past beliefs, nor do you have any incentive to display beliefs that will make you look good - since no one will ever even know it was you.

It’s like… imagine being an invisible person in a room with a bunch of other invisible people. You, as well as each of them, are wearing an (also invisible) random voice-changing mask. From the seemingly empty room, one voice calls out: “so, what webcomics do you guys read?”

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If you were in a public place, you’d pick the answer that makes you look good. It’ll be something pretentious (if you’re around pretentious people), or something relatively normal and acceptable (if you’re around normal people), and you’ll choose the answer that doesn’t ostracize you otherwise negatively affect you socially.

In the room of invisible people, that pressure does not exist. You are speaking to the equivalent of an empty room. You can say the most embarrassing shit you can think of - let them know about that horrible, poorly-drawn DeviantArt comic series you are super into. If they laugh at you for it and you regret your choice to bring it up, then all you have to do is step a few feet to the left and say you like something else. All of a sudden, you and are effectively a different person. Alternatively, you could just own up to your love of this awesome DeviantArt comic. Why not? You can unassociate yourself from these claims at any time.

Or, imagine someone else in the room says they like some poorly-written little ComicGenesis comic, and you decide to rail on them about how horrible it is. Suddenly, they come back at you with this amazing explanation about its hidden nuances, and you realize that you misjudged this little comic and it is in fact the epitome of perfection. If you want, you can just instantly pretend you are a different person who liked the comic all along. You don’t have to feel any shame for wrongly disliking it at first, or any obligation to remain consistent with your earlier beliefs. You just do what you feel like. It can’t hurt you. You are just you.

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Of course, the consequence of this is that 4chan is completely depraved by normal societal standards. Without the pressure to conform, it turns out people are naturally pretty weird. But, you know, they live it. It’s a culture where nobody is really shamed or hurt for the things they enjoy. Someone can try to shame them, but it’s not going to have any effect and it’s usually more of a joke.

The other consequence of this - and the one that probably scares the most visitors away - is that people can’t really be shamed for being what we would consider horrible people. Someone can be flagrantly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or whatever, and you can’t really harm them. All you can do is talk to them. Things that would garner death threats on Tumblr or Twitter tend to be short, comparatively nonconfrontational exchanges on 4chan. With many people from Tumblr or Twitter, that does not sit well.

The Anon

Sort of separate from this idea of “anon culture” is this idea of “the Anon” as an individual.

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When we get an anonymous hate comment on Tumblr or something, we know that person has an actual identity they are hiding. It becomes a guessing game as we speculate who they “really are”,

With 4chan, however, there is this idea of anonymity as an identity. By posting an anonymous message, you are not “hiding” your identity, you are an Anon. In their art, you typically see the Anon represented as a thin, green-skinned man or woman with a suit and no facial features other than a mouth. It’s an intentionally race- and class-neutral representation of a human - the Anon can be anybody. They celebrate this idea that they are indistinguishable - coming across as one single, undefined individual with a lot of conflicting tastes and perspectives.

This is a somewhat foreign idea on other internet cultures like Tumblr, where individuality is greatly valued. Look at anyone’s Tumblr page - we go to great lengths to define what is us. We often wear a banner declaring our race, gender, and sexual orientation. We list our interests and phobias. We even choose a picture to represent ourselves - mine is a little blue butterfly drawn by me and colored by a friend. Our identity gains strength and influence as we do things that please people, and weakens as we do things that they disapprove of. After posting this, my influence will probably reach 1,100 people, and I’ll do a little dance in celebration of this milestone. But, posting in a random 4chan thread, I would still just be an anon like everyone else.

The World To 4chan

Looking at it from this perspective, you can hopefully start to understand the political angles that someone who regularly participates in 4chan is inclined to take.

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In their own weird way, 4chan is a sort of utopia. They circumvent a lot of the harassment problems that places like Tumblr and Twitter have. You probably aren’t going to see someone on 4chan depressed over harassment they got on 4chan. They also circumvent most peer pressure problems - nobody on 4chan is going to agree with anyone else there just to look good. You are also going to have very few people who hide things, since there’s very little incentive to do so. If you feel a little gay that day and want some hot beefcake, say it, nobody will care and you’ll be happy.

Imagine how the rest of the internet looks to someone who is used to that as their background, though. It causes the person to develop a certain distrust. If someone publicly supports a position and a large group praises and rewards them for it, you wonder if they really believe what they profess. When someone publicly attacks and uses social leverage against a person who disagrees with them, you wonder if the attacker really has a decent argument that could stand on its own. The world becomes a vicious and uncivilized place full of powerful, violent people who might be lying or keeping secret agendas, and you want to look into it. You want to knock people off pedestals, jam their weapons, air their secrets, and leave nothing but a depraved and equal Anon behind.

And you see that in what 4chan does. When a controversial figure declares they were hacked or bullied, 4chan are the ones compiling evidence of whether or not it was faked. When someone tries to defend a position with their social standing or identity, 4chan is the first to stand against them, confronting them as an equal. And when someone preaches what others should be doing, 4chan is the first to get on their case if they don’t do it themselves. They are not a unified group so much as a group of people who share a common mindset - that inequality and its associated social pressures are the root cause of problems. They tend to confront people as equals - and if that doesn’t work, they try to knock them down to their level.

4chan To The World

Equally important to understanding 4chan, I think, is looking at the way 4chan is seen and portrayed by others - especially those who actively oppose its ideals.

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It’s no secret that 4chan is often viewed as this hive of racism, homophobia and misogyny. They’re this chaotic force that harasses feminists, hacks websites, and spreads the personal information of any good people who try to stand up for justice. It’s this vague, faceless force, and it fits the common perception of “evil mooks” we are fed in movies.

I find it kind of a shame that, for all that 4chan’s culture does to maintain the Anon’s gender, race, and class neutrality, the common assumption is that they consist entirely of middle-class, straight, white males. You see this whenever there’s some clash between 4chan and Tumblr - 4chan is the oppressor; some angry, privelaged mass that wants to make life difficult for minorities.

The nature of an anon culture makes it difficult to get actual statistics on 4chan - these are people who are not only anonymous, but often revel in the nature of anonymity. Race is almost impossible to analyze, since someone will only bring it up if it’s relevant to what they’re saying. Gender is easier though - according to 4chan’s advertising page, the userbase is 30% female - if you don’t believe their self-report, the third-party analytics site Alexa.com claims it to be over 50%. I have a few friends who frequent the site’s (often extremely risque) My Little Pony board - they once ran a lingerie selfie contest there, and exactly 50% of the entrants were female.

Overall, you’re looking at this very diverse community that has its minorities effectively erased by its opposition so it can make a better enemy. 4chan knows this, and you can see it leading back into that aforementioned concept of them seeing their detractors as hypocritical and barbaric. You’re not likely to get any big moment where 4chan’s minorities band together and say “hey, we exist!” because so much of 4chan values their anonymity. Gaining social leverage by declaring what you are is the sort of thing they generally stand against.

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Equally interesting is the way 4chan responds to hatred against them. Though it may not be readily apparent from the outside, they stick by their ideals at least as strenuously as Tumblr does. With the recent controversy in feminist gaming, for example, a number of people from 4chan have been watching Twitter and boycotting any company that claims the attack on The Fine Young Capitalists was justified. There’s been a lot of disappointment any time a loved developer comes to the attack’s defense. 

Similarly, there’s a lot of disappointment every time a creator directly speaks out against 4chan. I remember a time a few months back when the author of the comic Paranatural tweeted about how nobody should ever go to 4chan. Over on 4chan, there was a rather touching post where an anon described how it hurt them to have a figure they admire speak out against a community they loved. I actually emailed the Paranatural guy about that, though I never got a reply. I like to pretend it’s because he got a million other emails about it, but it’s probably not.

Open Door

I think the one last thing that is most misunderstood about 4chan is that if you are a horrible person, it can be a tool.

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4chan has no barriers to entry. There’s not even a signup process; anyone who wants to can go there and instantly become a part of their community. If you want to do something bad and hide that it was you, you can go to 4chan, make posts about it, and have it look like 4chan is to blame. You will suffer no ramifications for doing so - like any action on 4chan, it is effectively done by “the anon”.

Nothing keeps someone from setting 4chan up as a scapegoat. Heck , you could even go there and pose as multiple people, organizing entire attacks on someone. Even yourself, if you want. This is not a hard thing to do.

The question is why you would do it. Like, 4chan is fundamentally not a bad place. Its one property is that people there interact anonymously - for better or for worse, that ideal of fearlessly being the person you want to be is viciously preserved. It has a very interesting and generally nonconfrontational culture that can still bring ridiculous change or over-the-top revenges when them or their ideals are attacked directly. Between the social equality, lack of fear, and ability to drive action, it sometimes feels like everything Tumblr wants to be. 

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I guess what I’m saying is: be informed. It’s easy to use 4chan as a scapegoat, or construe it as an unstoppable force of evil, but if you really look into it it’s one of the more interesting cultural designs to come out of the internet. It’s worth lurking and understanding where they are coming from on things before dismissing them enemies.

Believe it or not "Bacon!" is an argument. It's just a really scary one. The argument is that if I enjoy something, it is moral. Which is utterly terrifying.
I do not want to be a “bad girl”. I will never smoke, or drink in excess or before I am of age, or do drugs. I will not give away my virginity before I am married. But there is one thing I will do. I will challenge the assumption that innocent is synonymous with naïve. I will challenge anyone who thinks that I cannot be kind and fierce at the same time.
—  a shockingly inspiring thing I churned out in English class
Remember, all crimes are not wrong for all laws are not just. Legality does not necessitate righteousness.

"One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws.

One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. | Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963)

GamerGate: Primer/Finale

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I swear, I really do want to stop making posts about GamerGate. As interesting as it has been for me, I really need to get back to my own responsibilities. Not just that, but the GG people have pretty much won at this point - more people are talking about GamerGate than ever before, a lot of unethical behavior has been fully confirmed, and word has it that more people in the industry will be coming forward about their experiences after things calm down a little. Like a chess player who whittles her opponent down to just their king and queen, all that is left is the long and tedious process of chasing them around the board and trying for a final checkmate. 

At the same time, though, I know there are still a lot of people out there who are confused on what this whole “GamerGate” thing is about. Tons of misinformation is going around, and you still see a lot of people saying things like “Isn’t this about getting rid of female developers? That’s what Kotaku told me!”. To combat the misinformation, I want to (hopefully) conclude my essay spree with a post about how this started, what happened, and where it is now.

So grab your sledgehammer, lonely Tumblr people, because a wall of text is coming.

Part 1: The Beginning

Journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

-Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics

This all started off when a game developer’s ex came forward to purportedly warn people about the developer’s manipulative and deceptive behavior. He detailed the emotional abuse in their relationship and how it ultimately culminated in this discovery that she had secretly cheated on him with five different people before he had the common sense to break things off with her.

The whole thing would’ve ended there if not for one fact: she was a game developer, and at least one of the people she she was alleged to have slept with was a gaming journalist.

Whether the ex-boyfriend’s actions were cruel or brave is up for debate. In the time since I first started writing this post, I’ve had two separate abuse survivors talk to me about how uncomfortable and victim-blamey it is to see the ex-boyfriend being painted as a villain for speaking out. No matter where you stand on the ex-boyfriend himself, the important part is that - as far as readers were concerned - a game developer had an undisclosed relationship with a gaming journalist. People started looking into it, and digging for any potential conflicts of interest this could have caused. The most well-known analysis of the situation was the Internet Aristocrat’s “Five Guys Saga" video, which currently carries over 36 thousand Likes. To make things worse, after the information was out, other people began to come forward to talk about abuse they had suffered from this developer - this is where we heard about things like her harassment and supposed press blacklisting of The Fine Young Capitalists or her alleged sexual harassment of developer Wolf Wozniak. Evidence was seemingly beginning to pile that something was up with this developer and her connections to the media.

Gaming journalism sites had to respond. At this point in time, we now know know that Journalists from the major gaming publications discussed it together and agreed that, rather than responding to concerns of journalistic conflicts of interest, they were going to focus on the harassment the developer received after the details of her sex life were outed. And indeed, when the news about this hit, there was no mention of journalistic corruption. Just “Female game developer harassed by internet misogynists”.

(Edit: for people who are apprehensive to believe the Breitbart link, there are members of the group confirming the messages real)

Part 2: Exacerbation

Journalists should be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.

-Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics

The “conflict” that followed was as ridiculous as it was entertaining. Here you had a diverse group of people - many of them women or feminists - concerned about the potentially abusive (or arguably rapey) actions of a developer and whether the media was connected to it, and in response they were being labeled as misogynists. When people tried to speak out in protest, there suddenly came a new wave of simultaneous articles declaring that the “gamer” identity had become something bad - a ravenous swarm of disgusting, sexist white men who were only speaking out on this because they wanted to keep female developers out of the games industry. You saw a new hashtag arise on Twitter, “Describe a Gamer in Four Words”, where people created these strange portrayals of gamers as a caste of angry and childish white males. 

The pushback came in the form of a counter-tag called “#NotYourShield”. Women and minorities of every kind who enjoyed gaming were encouraged to come forward and declare that they were not okay with journalists harassing gamers under the guise of “protecting women and minorities”. They argued that they were gamers, and that this portrayal of gamers as white men was nothing more than minority erasure. So, naturally, these people faced a whole new wave of accusations that they were fake accounts made by men, or commands of “if you’re really female, post a picture!”. When it was made clear that they were actually who they said, they were accused of being manipulated into defending a misogynistic cause - or, with some of the people who stood up, they were just harassed or hacked into silence. Even today, most news sources claim that the #NotYourShield tag was started as a “jamming tactic” by white gamers on 4chan, ignoring that its earliest use came from the anime reviewer Ninouh. Jason Miller, another black developer who is sometimes credited as the tag’s creator, was purportedly fired after someone from the internet contacted his boss

Around this time, you also got this interesting influx of well-known Conservative personalities coming out in GamerGate’s defense. They claim that it’s because “the Right supports free speech”, but I think the actual truth is a much simpler one: they faced no consequences to standing up. Liberal or feminist personalities who stood up in GamerGate’s defense risked alienating fans or losing connections - Boogie2988 even came open about the fact that he was receiving threats to his career if he “continued to connect [himself] with a movement that is ‘increasingly being associated with harassment and misogyny’”. Even when I sent in formal complaints about some of the journalist’s conduct, I did it under an alias in fear that the writers would read the complaints and perhaps make good on their threats of career-ending slander. Conservative personalities, though, didn’t need to worry about things like that - to them, threats were just more evidence that all liberals are evil and irrational. So, they stood up.

Of course, the gaming journalism sites took this and tried to spin it as a liberal-versus-conservative issue. There was no mention of the threats or harassment someone on the Left could receive for supporting GamerGate, just the shallow observation that conservatives were standing up for it. Sometimes, the observation wasn’t even true - Kotaku ran an article about feminist Christina Sommers titled “Conservative Critic Argues That Gaming culture Is For Guys”. When it was pointed out to them that Sommers is a registered democrat and leans liberal, they edited the title to “Critic Argues That Gaming culture Is For Guys” - curiously leaving out any note of her political affiliations.

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All through this, you still had people looking into that original question of whether developers were colluding with journalists. The curious lack of press coverage or even acknowledgement of this issue only caused them to redouble their investigative efforts. On one hand, this is probably what led to the continued harassment of several independent developers - which the gaming news outlets continued to report on as vigorously as they could. But on the other hand, the investigators began to scrape up evidence of actual legal wrongdoing. The Independent Games Festival, it turned out, might have had some games’ investors as judges. To quote developer Michael Vargas: “It’s one thing that I had participated in a rigged contest. It’s another that younger devs put college tuitions on the line, went into debt, made hours of sacrifices, all for a fraud and to send kickbacks to an indie clique”. Eventually people even uncovered evidence that could potentially place indie developer Phil Fish in prison - nobody knows what is going on with that now, since lawyers got involved and he deleted his Twitter.

This all eventually culminated in one games journalist contacting flaming conservative Milo Yiannopoulos and anonymously leaking the existence of “GameJournoPros” - a mailing list where competing gaming journalists could discuss issues in private. Milo’s article on the emails shows journalists dismissing the claims of journalistic favoritism toward the accused developer, while simultaneously agreeing to spin their articles in a way supportive of her and describing her as a “colleague”. At least one journalist in the group decries the actions as unethical and says he wants no part. Others discuss how they could use this to help the developer get positive PR - a curiously duplicitous move to support a developer who recently criticized 4chan for discussing how to best gain support.

Now, you pretty much just have confusion. There’s no clean, decisive victory in things like this. There are still people who only know about GamerGate from biased information delivered on gaming news sites. There are gaming journalists defending the GameJournoPros group, saying that it was just a gathering of friends and there was nothing unethical about it. On the flipside, you slowly have more developers and journalists coming forward to talk about their harassment or unethical actions, now that the tide is turning such that those who remain silent might be the ones remembered as being complicit. All that lies ahead is a slow and tedious cleanup as people without a voice band together to tediously correct misinformation one debate at a time.

Usually, something like this would just end with a few people getting fired. Sadly, gamers love going for the 100% completion score. Godspeed, journalists.

Part 3: Why I Care

Journalists should expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations. They should abide by the same high standards they expect of others.

-Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics

So, reading all this wordswordswords, you’re probably wondering: “why does this person care? And, why should I care?”.

If you read my blog, you know that I still consider myself to be a scientist. Truth is important to me, and discerning the truth means you must be able to judge the credibility and biases of information.

Just like academia has standards, so does journalism. Journalists are not just really popular bloggers - they have more credibility than the average person because we assume they abide by certain rules. We cite our sources and defend our beliefs and even write our own pieces using news articles as a reference - not because they are popular, but because we believe them to be more credible than the average internet blogger. When you have major public news sites publishing articles about how a bunch of gamers have been launching an organized harassment campaign at a female indie developer, it’s because the reporters got this info from sites like Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun, and assumed it was credible.

This whole fiasco has revealed that gaming journalists do not, in fact, abide by these standards, and in many cases probably don’t even understand them. They view themselves no differently than any popular Tumblr personality who uses their follower count to bully others - to quote professional gaming journalist Leigh Alexander: “Be careful with me. I am a megaphone. I am much less kind than [other journalists] and I won’t mind making an example out of you”. These are the popular kids who beat up gamers in high school, masquerading as journalists in a halfhearted attempt to do it again.

By all accounts, this blog is effectively a more credible source than sites Kotaku. I might have a hundredth of the followers they do, but at least I have a degree in the things I’m talking about rather than a degree in talking about things. As a standard blogger I have no obligation to abide by SPJ’s code of ethics, yet I still manage to abide by 32/35 of their edicts. Just going by information they’ve admitted to during this, sites like Kotaku stand at 6/35. People need to know this before regarding these sites as any more credible than hearsay.

Yes, it sucks that a female game developer got harassed - it sucks when anyone gets harassed. But she is a popular, public figure. It is unethical for journalists to focus on her harassment while being knowingly complicit in silencing people she harassed. Journalists are supposed to give “voice to the voiceless”, not say things like “I do feel that there is some legitimate public interest in a game developer being attacked by the internet”. 

I admit, though, there is another reason I care about this too.

Gaming is not a big deal. The gaming journalism industry is small and poor, and they don’t have the money or experience to launch any major information coverup or maintain a sizable conspiracy. This whole thing has been a sloppy and pathetic attempt at a real conspiracy.

And yet, people are still falling for it.

Sure, it might not matter now. A news site can declare “gamers are misogynists! We need to push back!” and the worst that will happen is some people get bullied on the internet or mailed an ominous syringe. But what happens when the news declares “Egyptians are terrorists! We need to attack!”? What happens when you have actual collusion and falsified information, headed by professionals, guiding you to political conclusions? \

The manipulation tactics people have fallen for over the course of GamerGate are appalling in their simplicity. You see people using grouping as a call to arms - “you’re a social justice warrior. If you want to keep being one, you need to stand against these misogynists with me”. You see harassment and threats given to people who speak out - before the syringe, Milo Yiannopoulos was sent 90 rolls of toilet paper as a presumed message of “I know where you live (and you’re shit)”. You see people using guilt by association - citing Adam Baldwin’s homophobic statements and how he’s a GamerGate supporter - or relying on the Genetic Fallacy - pointing out how much of this started on 4chan and claiming that ruins its credibility. I swear you even see fucking negging: people getting hit with these subtle implications that they’re inherently racist or overprivelaged, but that they can counteract it a bit by opposing GamerGate. Negging, for God’s sake! 

If you want a picture of how sloppy this entire operation is, consider this for a moment: there is no name for people who are against GamerGate. People who oppose abortion, for example, get the cheerful title of “Pro-Life”, but people who oppose GamerGate aren’t pro- anything. They can say “I’m pro-safety in the games industry”, but then GamerGate people just reply “so are we. We want people to be able to speak without losing their jobs”. They could say “I’m pro-women in gaming”, but then GamerGate people point out that they are too, and funded The Fine Young Capitalists after they were DDos’d and slandered by journalists and their friends. If they say they’re against harassment, the GamerGate people will point out that they have been actively calling out harassers in their own ranks while their opposition hasn’t. The anti-Gamergate people can’t even claim they’re “pro-representation in media” because, as people have pointed out, the gaming journalism clique is predominantly white men. #NotYourShield was created (and promptly ignored) because minorities were pissed off at these people’s claims to “represent” them. The only position anti-GamerGate people have is that they are against GamerGate. Sometimes, they even endorse all its goals but are pushed to stand against it anyway.

And this is all so easymode. We are better than this; these are manipulation tactics that should be harmlessly bouncing off anyone who graduated highschool. I’m glad that GamerGate seems to be winning, but understand: we need to be able to win harder. We need to learn from this, and become resistant to these methods. There are bigger enemies all around us, and we can’t afford to waste this much time struggling to beat the rat in the starting dungeon.

While writing these essays on GamerGate, I got a piece of fanmail from someone near Russia. He said that my writings and analysis of GamerGate were helping him question and confront the media coverage of the Ukranian crisis. “While bullets fly in our neighbour’s eastern parts, an information war is waged in traditional and electronic media and frankly, it’s terrifying.” This is the sort of thing we need to prepare for, and our track record following this GamerGate thing is pretty abysmal.

The dumbest part is, people who oppose GamerGate because they want to talk about sexism or misogyny in gaming aren’t even helping that conversation happen. There are people on both sides who really do want to talk about those issues, but it’s hard to do it when the media won’t even acknowledge women on the GamerGate side of things are getting doxxed, harassed, and blacklisted for not fitting the journalists’ model of how a woman “should act”. If we had just stood together and held journalists and their friends accountable for their wrongdoings without letting them subtly change the subject to harassment and misogyny, we could have moved on from this and all started talking about those other issues together. Heck, as soon as enough people stand up, that’s probably how it will play out anyway.

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I’m not the kind of person who likes to 100% games. I can see a gold coin laying on a table and I won’t even take it unless my character is short on cash, and I’m not going to keep writing about GamerGate while gamers go through the long and arduous process of dissuading site’s advertisers to pull out and getting people fired. If you’re interested in staying on top of things, there are people obsessed enough to do daily updates on the happenings. Please understand, though: we need to get faster at this. We need to get more resilient, keeping manipulation like this from having a leg to stand on to begin with. In the future, lives will depend on your ability to see through lies and discern the credibility of information sources. You can’t always afford to take this long.

But, to everyone who questioned this stuff from the very beginning, stood against harassment and misogyny even when the news itself was calling you a misogynistic harasser, and endeavored to give a voice to the voiceless even when the media tried to stomp them out: rock on. The world needs people like you.

Compromise isn’t always a good thing.

We get into the habit of compromising with people to preserve unity, that’s good. But we can’t compromise on holiness or faithfulness.

Some times the best thing to do is say “this far, no further.” People might call you a stubborn stick in the mud for not budging on morality but you can remind yourself that ultimately it’s not their opinion that matters.

anonymous asked:

Forgive me for asking about tropes but... what are your thoughts on the "Honour before reason" trope? You think a good warrior/soldier, one who deals with people trying to kill her in daily life/job could work with this trope or it will change their view on things such as killing?(as in, she chooses to not use a bow because it seems dishonourable or something like that - personally I think that's being a hypocrite). How could this apply to real life?

Honor before reason is actually a real thing that happens for some people, both on an individual level and at an institutional one.

One example of it at in institutional level was the US Military’s approach to snipers. During the first World War, the US established a specialized school for training snipers. After the war ended, the school was disbanded, only to be reformed during World War II, disbanded, reformed for Korea, disbanded, and finally reformed during the Vietnam War.

It was shut down between wars because the role of a sniper was viewed as dishonorable, and Flag Officers wasted no time in getting rid of it as soon as they could. Even though it meant, when the next war rolled around, they were starting from scratch all over again.

In a lot of ways, your personal code of honor defines your moral boundaries, and helps you to create an identity for who you are. Or at least who you believe you are. You don’t have to call this “honor,” but it’s as good a label as any.

True story: I used to know a guy who held up one rule for himself (actually he held up a lot more than just one rule, but he tended to single this one out), he wouldn’t get a job as a janitor. It was a position that was (ironically) cleaner than what he was already doing, less stressful, less physically taxing, and paid better, but, he wouldn’t apply, didn’t want to do it, and refused, because he didn’t want to “sink that low.” That’s “honor before reason”, and I suspect we all have boundaries like that.

It can be pride, it can be moralistic, it can be anything really. But, when you’re making a decision based on your view of how the world should work, or who you believe yourself to be, over what the world tells you, or what the “best” course of action actually is, that’s probably “honor before reason,” or a close relative of it.

And yes, it can be warped to an insane degree. People do approach the world with very skewed perspectives on how things should be, or what they believe their role is. Which can lead to people making idiotic decisions based on who they believe they are, or how they want the world to work.

Now, usually, when invoking this, we’re thinking of someone who has an incredibly inflexible code of honor, but, that can, and does happen. But, at a slightly more abstract level, this is everywhere.

Also, honestly, a lot of people are hypocrites in one way or another. Think of it like the old Star Wars quote, the more you try to define who other people should be, the more you likely you’ll violate one of your own rules.

If it’s just you, and you’re not holding others to account on your rules of how things should be, then you’re probably not going to be a hypocrite, but, in an era of “someone on the internet was wrong,” that can be hard if you don’t think about it in advance.

On one hand, killing is killing. It’s all wrong. There is no “good murder” as opposed to “evil murder.” It’s all choosing to end the life of a fellow human being “because reasons.”

Saying that some means of killing them are more reprehensible than others is… well, it’s not entirely without merit. Let’s use a word I know you’ve seen before, but might not have seen in this way, “discrimination.”

In warfare discrimination refers to your ability to kill the specific individual you intended, and not, say, his buddy standing next to him, or that civilian that happened to get caught in the blast radius. In warfare, discrimination is one of the fundamental elements of Just War Theory, and it is generally a good thing. It’s your ability to kill the enemy, without accidentally killing a bunch of innocent bystanders in the process.

When it comes to selecting your weapons, some will discriminate more effectively than others. Historically bows were rather poor at discrimination. Archers would fire in volleys which would put the arrows in the general vicinity of way over there. If you’re view of the warfare is fundamentally built by St. Augustine and his articulation of Jus Bellum, (like most European military forces in the last 2,000 years) then the idea of just randomly killing the enemy, instead of killing an individual could be somewhat problematic.

Further, if your view of warfare requires meeting on an equal field, then your own archers launching a volley in to soften the enemy infantry is a necessary evil. Necessary, because they’ll do it to you, but evil, because this isn’t how warfare should be fought. It creates a peculiar moment where killing someone in one way can be dishonorable, and depending on how adamant your personal code of honor is, it could be a real issue.

This is before we even get into looking at how formalized codes of honor come about. Formalized codes, like Chivalry and Bushido, are (fundamentally) built around maintaining the status quo. They’re there to reign in your forces. In the case of European codes, there was a strong focus placed on killing someone face to face, and not killing someone until you’d actually seen their face. The reason was simple; it wasn’t about fairness in combat, it was to keep you from accidentally snuffing a noble on the battlefield.

Now, obviously, if you’re an archer, putting an arrow somewhere over the rainbow, you don’t know who you killed, or if you killed anyone at all. But for an infantry fighter, the prospect of accidentally killing one of the people you were supposed to capture, haul back, and ransom, could be deeply unsettling.

What does this mean over long term? It’s like the old axiom about how “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Once you’re actually fighting for your life, your code of honor undergoes an acid test. It might corrode or it might become the anchor you cling to. You can call that “strength of character” if you like, or “honor before reason.” But, ultimately, that’s a question about who your character really is, under the surface, after everything goes off the rails; which is probably best left for you to decide and answer.

-Starke

Offensive Categorization

A week or so ago, I made a post about how words can mean different things to different people, and the importance of learning what definition the user intended. While it’s on my mind, I want to make a quick followup illustrating how this can be used offensively.

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Imagine you have six shapes. The Yellow Star is objectively good. Everyshape loves the Yellow Star. Meanwhile, the Red Square is pretty much the worst shape ever. Everyshape hates the Red Square. 

Here’s the interesting part: depending how you categorize things, you can justify any of the shapes in the center as being good or bad.

Like, let’s say you hate Blue Square. She skipped out on your birthday party or something. Rather than saying Red Square is bad (something everyone would agree with), you can make the generalization that squares are bad, using Red Square as proof. Now, Blue Square looks bad too.

Or, let’s say Yellow Triangle is in a bind. He killed his roommate, and the police are getting nosier than he’d like. He can make himself look good, though, with a generalized statement: yellow shapes are good, and Yellow Star is proof of this. This is actually the tactic I wrote about in an essay called Defensive Generalization.

You can even make more complicated generalizations based on the exact people you are trying to discredit. Let’s say you have a problem with both Blue Star and Blue Square. You simply say that shapes with symmetry based off an even number are bad, and point to Red Square as evidence of this. You can even do a two-step: let’s say Red Pentagon and Blue Square get along great and call themselves the “Top-Row-Of-Shapes Club”. If you want to break that club up, you can warn Red Pentagon that even-number-symmetry-shapes are bad (see: Red Square) and that her association with Blue Square could be harmful. And just like that, their relationships are yours to control.

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Despite the prevalence of this tactic, seeing through it as a listener is relatively easy: you just need to pay attention to who is categorizing things for you. Blue Square is going to deny having any association with Red Square. People who want to attack Blue Square, though, will take every angle possible to associate them. They’re both squares, they both have even symmetry, they both have one facial feature, they’re both on the right side of the image, whatever. If you question who is grouping things together for you, ulterior motives can become more obvious.

Countering it from the target’s perspective, however, is more difficult. As easy as it is, most people won’t question who is categorizing things for them. Blue Square either has to deny her associations with Red Square, or come up with a whole bunch of groupings that associate her with Yellow Star, who we all know is good. It’s a stressful position and, ultimately, favors whoever has the most people listening. If someone gets shot, it’s the loudest voices that will decide whether he was a student or a thug. 

As listeners, though, we have the most power to counter this. We can be aware that harmful manipulators will use this tactic, and by extension skeptical of people who try to sort things into categories for us. Ultimately, your goal is to look past manipulative categorization and judge parties by their actions, not their grouping. Anyone who tries to keep you from doing this is usually an enemy. 

As usual, though, the best thing you can do is simply be skeptical. Recognize that everyone has an agenda. Even have an agenda - if you look at the sort of things I write, it’s obvious that I’m trying to reduce the value of deception so that I can outcompete people who rely on it. It’s important to note these things and factor it into the credibility of information. Nothing is more dangerous than taking things at face value.