Tag Archives: Social Justice Warriors

Angela Nagle on the self-flagellating left

Good post from Angela Nagle on the self-flagellating left. As well as mentioning some very obvious usual suspects such as Laurie Penny and the reliably ridiculous Arthur Chu, she quotes this much-ridiculed Tweet from Michael Moore

“No women ever invented an atomic bomb, built a smoke stack, initiated a Holocaust, melted the polar ice caps or organized a school shooting.’ (This is false. The Manhattan Project had its unsung female heroes, there are plenty of female oil and gas executives, and female school shooter Brenda Ann Spencer inspired the 1979 Boomtown Rats hit “I Don’t Like Mondays.” Ironically, Moore erases women’s history by neglecting its greatest villains.)

Though in fairness Michael Moore has said many far more sensible things since that.

Nagle makes comparisons with 70s Marxist and Maoist cults with their “self-correction sessions”, but this sort of lefitst reminds me strongly of something else: 1980s Evangelical Christians. There was the same sort of competitive holiness involved; you gained status depending on how much of your record collection you publically destroyed because it was “Satanic”. You gained even more points if you purified your friend’s record collection without their permission.

It’s a completely different ideology. But it’s a very similar mindset.

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Poisonous Memes

The use of these images is not an endorsement of their conent

Was there ever a better illustration of the Horseshoe Effect than this?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. The one on the left, as awful as it is, is orders of magnitude less objectively harmful than the one on the right. The Trump campaign ad is shouting-Fire-in-a-crowded-theatre levels of dangerous. The radfem meme is merely offensive, and is most unlikely to lead to gangs with sea-green hair roaming the streets in search of low-status men to beat up. In its original incarnation it had little impact beyond the echo chambers of Tumblr and Twitter.

But that doesn’t let their meme off the hook. It’s still ugly and dehumanising, and I do have a problem with value systems that see that sort of bigotry as acceptable because reasons. But more importantly, Trumpism and the alt-right didn’t happen in a vacuum. In so many ways their identity politics of the disenfranchised is a mirror image of the dehumanising identity politics of the regressive left, and has risen as a reaction against it. So it’s hardly surprising they’ve started copying the regressive left’s most toxic memes.

And as this well-written piece explains, the whole “Poisonous M&Ms” analogy is nonsense that cynucally targets our lizard brains, and relies on the inability to understand statistics or risk in a remotely rational manner.

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When Codes of Conduct Go Bad

David Auerbach notes that the ToDo Group have abandoned their Open Code of Conduct because they were unable to form any sort of consensus over its contents. He is correct in stating this particular clause would be a potential ligitation nightmare.

Our open-source community prioritised marginlised people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort, we will therefore not act on complaints regarding “reverse -isms”, including “Reverse racism”, “Reverse sexism” or “cisphobia”.

Reading that, you are forced to conclude whoever wrote than has never heard of the Requires Hate saga in SF Fandom, or has completely failed to learn any lessons from it. Such a code of contact won’t survive contact with a bad actor who identifies as belonging to a marginalised group, for starters. And it fails to acknowledge that “marginalised”, “privileged” and even “safety” and “comfort” are highly subjective and context-dependent things. Auerbach is dead right; lawyers could have a field day with that.

The online social justice movement has a contentious “Punching up/punching down” dynamic which draws from Critical Race Theory and Intersectional Feminism. But they are not uncontroversial mainstream beliefs, and there is considerable opposition which doesn’t just come from hardcore racists and sexists.

Codes of conduct are a necessary evil in a world where bad actors exist. But a successful code of condut requires a broad consensus from the community to which it applies. A code of conduct that explicitly hard-codes the values of one narrow political tribe is always going to look like a power-grap. It just plays into the hands of those who oppose codes of conduct in principle.

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I don’t care if Babymetal are cool, your article is toxic and alienating

As I’ve said before on this site, Babymetal are one of those bands who divide opinions. For everyone who finds their mix of metal and J-pop gloriously entertaining, there is another who thinks they’re too far removed from their narrow version of the spirit of metal. So when they were named as band of the year by Metal Hammer, it was all too predictable that some self-appointed defenders of genre purity were not happy with the result.

Unfortunately the bottom-feeding clickbait media got hold of the story.

I won’t name the publication or link to it because quite frankly those sleazy hacks don’t deserve the clicks. When you use inflammatory language like “Metal bros losing their shit” and “Manbabies throwing tantrums” you make it clear you’re not interested in constructive discussion. Cherry-picking the posts from a handful of idiots and using them in an attempt to smear a far wider subculture for cheap outrage is little different from the way alt-right scandal sheets like Brietbart treat Islam.

You get a sinking feeling reading garbage like that. It’s disturbingly reminiscent of those “Gamers are Dead” articles that did so much to inflame the toxicity of GamerGate two years ago, and you wonder if they’re going out of their way to provoke an equivalent backlash from metal fans. I hope metal fandom is wise enough not to rise to the bait.

Social media gets a lot of the blame for the increasing toxicity of online discourse. But the online media that actively fans the flames of the culture wars for profit shares an awful lot of the blame, and this is yet another example.

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If everyone adopts the tactic of ostracising The Bad People rather than the far more difficult task of discrediting bad ideas, it’s not surprising that the culture wars become so toxic. It will inevitably devolved into witch-hunts and guilt-by-association. Getting somebody from your outgroup banned from a confererence or fired from their job may seem like a satisfying short-term victory, but does that really contribute towards making the world a better place?

Posted on by Tim Hall | 1 Comment

The Guardian, Coldplay and Cultural Appropriation

The Guardian posted an article accusing Coldplay of “Cultural Appropriation” over their new music video filmed in India. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the video itself, there was  an implied subtext that any western musicians who include elements of non-western cultures in their art are guilty of racism.

A band most of whom I know personally have recently released an album with lyrics strongly influenced by Indian spirituality. Does that mean that they too are guilty of racism? Does that mean I’m guilty by association through supporting them and giving their album a positive review?

Fortunately enough people whose opinions I trust have dismissed that piece as little more than sub-Buzzfeed button-pushing clickbait. It’s a largely fact-free thinkpiece that doesn’t cite sources or do any proper journalism. It’s the sort of thing you might expect to find on someone’s personal blog, but we ought to expect higher standards from a national newspaper with a long and illustrious history. It’s telling that under The Guardian’s new policy on articles that touch on race, the piece has no comment section, so they won’t get flooded with responses telling them how ridiculous it is. It’s also telling that the writer picked an obvious soft target, a hugely popular but deeply unfashionable band despised by much of The Guardian’s readership.

Cultural Appropriation is a bit of a minefield. It ought to be easy to understand why simplistic racist caricatures belong in the past, or why you should be careful when using sacred religious symbols outside the context of your own faith. Coldplay might even be guilty of those things. But Social Justice Warriors (I hate that term, but it seems to have stuck) take things much further; any attempt by white westerners to create art that references any aspect of non-western cultures is denounced as “problematic”, their term for “sinful”. The truth is there is an enormous grey area between those two extremes, but ideological absolutists don’t do grey areas. So much great music has arisen from cross-fertilisation between different cultures, something which would be squashed if those who would police art in this manner had their way.

There’s a whole cultural ecosystem of media pundits who earn a living playing on misplaced white liberal guilt. Nobody wants to be thought of as racist or sexist, so too much nonsense ends up going unchallenged. The whole subject of Cultural Appropriation is ideal territory for these people. It’s hardly surprising that it was meat and drink for the notorious predator Requires Hate who did so much harm within the world of science-fiction.

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Goldsmiths College – It Just Gets Worse

On the surface, this is Bizarro World stuff. A bunch of reactionary male religious fundamentalists attempt to disrupt a talk by an ethnic minority woman they don’t like after claiming the event was “violation of their safe space”. And then the same college’s Feminist Society issues a statement of solidarity with these men. What in Cthulhu’s name is going on?

Who else thought the disgraced Welfare & Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa wasn’t just a single bad apple but a symptom of something more deeply rotten at the heart of Goldsmith’s College?

Some people try to shut down us white male liberals when we criticise the excesses of identity politics or the misuse of “safe spaces”. But the terrible events in Paris ought to serve as a reminder of why extremism is everyone’s business and everyone’s problem. The people who were gunned down in cold blood at The Bataclan did not enjoy the luxury of a safe space. And the mealy-mouthed victim-blaming response to the earlier Charlie Hebdo massacre by the repellent Arthur Chu serves to remind us that some so-called “Social Justice Warriors” are themselves part of the problem.

I have no idea whether or not Goldsmith’s College is a hotbed of ISIS sympathisers, but I would not be the least bit surprised if it was. And when London suffers the inevitable Paris-style attack, I wouldn’t surprised either if any of the terrorists turned out to have some connection with Goldsmith’s.

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It’s a sobering thought that there are people alive today who will be alive in the year 2112. And by the looks of it, some of today’s students sound like they would make good Priests of the Temple of Syrinx.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off

Inappropriate Content?

Yet another big controversy has erupted in the tabletop RPG world after One Book Shelf (which owns the downloads sites RPGNow and DriveThruRPG) pulled a provocatively-titled small-press game suppliment its virtual shelves following a Twitter campaign.

It’s opened a massive can of worms.

One Book Shelf have now announced a new policy for reporting offensive content. The precise details are vague at the moment, but there are suggestions that there’s going to be “report as offensive” button which will cause automatic suspension of the reported product pending review. Some game publishers, most notably James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and The RPG Pundit have raised very serious concerns over how this might work in practice, and have threatened to pull all their products from the site should a single one of their titles be suspended under this new system. They express a strong concern that their own products may well be targetted.

It’s near to impossible to tell whether their fears are justified or not.

I would certainly advocate no suspension of any product without human intervention under any circumstances, because such a process would be far too vulnerable to abuse. The ugly “PunditGate” saga remains a faultline in the community a year on, and the past behaviour of some of the personalities involved more or less guarantees bad things will happen unless active steps are taken to prevent it.

At least some of these people have an overtly authoritarian agenda combined with axes to grind against specific game designers and publishers, and can’t be trusted not to misuse any “report as offensive” button to pursue long-running personal feuds, or to report anything that fails absurdly strict purity tests. The “everything is problematic” crowd have very broad definitions of racism and sexism, and there is a very loud faction of them with the RPG community. Give them the power to disappear publications they don’t like, and it will have a chilling effect on the hobby as a whole.

In the world of self-publishing there are all sorts of issues of quality control and gatekeeping. If a line needs to be drawn somewhere over what content is beyond the pale, it matters who gets to draw than line. Twitter mobs with torches and pitchforks don’t always make the best judges. But are ill-conceived  technical solutions which could cause as many problems as they solve any better? It’s really a social problem.

I don’t want an RPG hobby that’s awash with overtly racist and misogynistic games. But I don’t want an RPG hobby where are small but vocal minority have the power to veto on what anyone else can publish.

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Dubious Moral Equivalences

WingnutThe Sad Puppies/Hugo Awards saga is the car crash that keeps crashing. The latest episode revolves around serial bad behaviour and repeated insincere false apologies from writer Lou Antonelli, one of the Puppies’ nominees.

It’s predictably depressing that some Puppies are defending his behaviour, while others are using the episode to suggest Requires Hate was unfairly monstered (click on either of those links at your own risk). And yes, hair splitting arguments over whether or not Antonelli is worse that Requires Hate are at best pointless wasted electrons and at worst attempts by people who are themselves part of the problem to derail justified criticism. It seems, yet again, that “Them and Us” trumps “Right and Wrong”. If you want to call out other people’s bad behaviour, then you can’t keep excusing obvious bad actors in your own camp and still claim the moral high ground.

A pox on both camps, I say. All it achieves is to alienate the ordinary readers of SF.

At this point things have become so polarised and so tribal that I wonder if there’s any possibility of bridge-building. Either the world of SFF will become Balkanised into multiple fandoms all of which view each other with mutual suspicion and loathing, or the whole thing needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt from scratch.

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