#Atheism – Chapel Hill


Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

We don’t know that much about thee Chapel Hill shootings yet, partly because there seems to be little interest in the mainstream media in talking about the story at this point. What appears to have happened is that a man has shot three young Muslims dead in America. We don’t know his motivations etc yet, but he appears to have been an atheist and anti-theist and the speculation is that these are the reasons for the attacks.

As a member of the atheist community I apologise for this person, this killer and will be more vigilant in keeping watch on other members of the community latching onto atheism as a cover for racial or other hatreds.

That said, I think it’s important to draw a line between atheism and religion as motivation for doing bad things. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in god. That is simply all it is. It has no dogma, no book, no set of commands to kill the believers. It is not a religion, it has no canon. Basically there’s nothing in atheism to excuse or promote death or dehumanisation as there is in, say, the Bible or the Koran.

‘You’re as bad as us’ isn’t an argument that makes you look very good and honestly we’d have a lot of catching up to do, to be as bad as religions on the death stakes. We’ll see what happens as the story unfolds. That he attacked Muslims in a country replete with Christians may suggest that his attacks were’t anti-religious per-se, but that he had some problem with these three people in particular.

Religion is still a blight on the human race, but we win with logic, reason and evidence and in the field of ideas. Not with violence.

“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
― Steven Weinberg

Sarkeesian gets a Humanist Award? Uwotm8?


Ultimate Buddha face-palm

So Sarkeesian got a humanist award at Harvard. Fortunately it turns out this is just an independent Humanist society not properly affiliated with Harvard, but most people are going to look at the word ‘Harvard’ and think this is a prestigious award.

Why is this an issue? Because it represents ignorance, stupidity and the worst kind of grand-standing, purely for social reasons. If a Harvard society is willing to back her nonsense, there’s real problems that now go far beyond media corruption and issues. Combine this with the currently push to put her non-academic material into the common core teaching material and we have an absolute failure of critical thinking on a potentially catastrophic scale.

The society state their values are: “Reason, compassion, creativity, justice, integrity, awareness, environmentalism, feminism, equality, science, progress, and pluralism.”

1. Her pronouncements are not based on reason. They are scaremongering moral panic and speculation without much of anything in the way of academic and scientific support. Indeed many assertions are directly contradicted by proper research.

2. She showed little compassion when she used incidents of violence such as school shootings to exploit for her own purposes and publicity.

3. She can hardly be considered to be for creativity when her entire oeuvre is about censoring and constricting how other people express themselves.

4. Her – and McIntosh’s statement are frequently anti-justice, especially when they dip into things like campus rape culture etc. Justice depends on innocent until proven guilty and not mob justice or inquisitorial systems.

5. Integrity? She’s a known con artist (never liked or knew about video games) with a background of links to dodgy telemarketing, pyramid schemes and handwriting analysis. Nor has she delivered on her Kickstarter – years late – and despite a huge amount of additional investment.

6. Awareness is too nebulous to comment on. She may have raised awareness, but of problems that either do not exist or which are being wildly overstated.

7. Environmentalism? No data.

8. Feminism? Not feminism in the sense of equality certainly. Modern pseudo-feminism perhaps, in all its authoritarian and censorious glory. That doesn’t seem to be something worth celebrating though.

9. Equality? See above.

10. Science? Again, her claims are not based on scientific or academic rigour. Nor does she open her work to proper peer review, will not debate it and doesn’t even allow criticism – characterising any such examination as harassment or misogyny.

11. Progress? This kind of puritanical, censorious attitude is a great leap backwards to the 1950s. It can hardly be characterised as progress.

12. Pluralism can mean many things. However with her absolute and total fixation upon the ‘first world problems’ of white, middle class, American pseudo-feminists she can hardly be considered a pluralist.

#Gamergate How GamerGate Was Hijacked

b5miliqccaeiqt5What Gamergate is Vs How Gamergate is Seen

Gamergate is a consumer revolt against problems in gaming media. This is primarily a concern about the ethical conduct of gaming journalists but extends to concerns about one-sided ideological propagandising within the dominant games media spaces and issues of censorship. Gamergate draws on a long tradition of resistance to interference from the out-culture, previously in regards to game addiction, game representations of violence and even earlier to issues in other spheres like comics and tabletop RPGs. The difference is that this time the attacks are coming – at least in part – from the in group.

If you limited yourself to the larger gaming sites and the mainstream media, you would think that Gamergate is actually a misogynistic hate group, a gang of reactionary hoodlums intent on keeping women out of gaming. You might even think that they are terrorists, behind SWATing, doxxing, death threats, rape threats and all sorts of awful behaviour.

How is it that the reality of Gamergate and the public image of it are so wildly different and who hijacked it, and how?

How did the Message get Hijacked?

There’s two parties at fault for hijacking Gamergate. One more organised and unified, the other as chaotic and leaderless as Gamergate itself.

The first party are those called – disparagingly – ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (which you could consider in relation to actual social justice, the way you might read Islamist as opposed to Muslim). The second party are the internet’s usual legion of trolls, abusive commentators and drama-creators.

Trolls hijacked Gamergate simply because it was a magnet for a lot of drama, involving a lot of people and types of people who are perfect trolling targets. This would include the aforementioned ‘social justice warriors’ and most especially feminists, who can all but be guaranteed to takes trolls seriously and to create the drama and upset that trolls love.

For sake of clarity as the term gets misused, I am using ‘troll’ to mean those people who deliberately stir up trouble and post provocative and offensive things (spuriously) in order to garner a negative reaction. Trolling is nasty, and a problem that bears discussion, but it’s not a direct Gamergate issue.

The ‘SJWs’ hijacked Gamergate by making it about their pet issues. This was somewhat facilitated by the fact that some of the first corruption issues that emerged involved other ‘SJWs’, women amongst them. This made it quite easy for them to pretend that the ethical issues were, in fact, misogyny.

Since then, despite progress on the ethical and censorship issues, the dominant media narrative – in both games and mass media – has been misogyny, abuse, sexism and harassment, pinned on Gamergate, despite having nothing to do with Gamergate’s goals.

There’s synergy between the two hijacking parties because SJWs treat trolls as though they were part of Gamergate in addition to taking them seriously and treating them as though their threats and nonsense were not spurious. The SJWs get to smear their enemies, the trolls get to troll two parties for the price of one.

Why Was this so Effective?

It’s questionable whether it has been. Old media has lost a huge amount of influence, current games media has lost a lot of ground because nobody trusts it any longer. Still, it is distressing to see the public narrative so utterly skewed in both cases. On the other hand, this – in and of itself – is proof positive that there are issues of corruptions and ethical concerns and that they are serious.

To the extent that it has been effective, it has been effective in the following ways:

  1. Existing, dominant games media was always going to reject criticism of itself. D’uh.
  2. While Gamergate actions have exposed ‘wrong action’ by people of all kinds, the stories where women can be portrayed as victims are better press. Even if they’re corrupt (Sarkeesian) or have engaged in ghastly actions (Quinn, Alexander) there’s a psychological effect where women are seen as less villainous and more innocent than men that’s well known. Ironically the ‘damsel in distress’ is a trope that’s being taken advantage of here.
  3. Internet culture, and gaming culture, have existed for some time. Chan culture is an extreme that is often demonised, but not half as bad as it has been painted. Gamergate is just the latest in a long line of collisions between these cultures and a lot of problems are down to misunderstandings.
  4. Ideological corruption is harder to grasp than the more obvious financial corruption. While financial corruption issues have existed for years, it was ideological corruption that triggered Gamergate and has dominated much of the discussion (though the fixes for both kinds of ethical issues are broadly the same – disclosure and recusing).

Solutions & Consequences?

Are there any solutions to this? Nothing direct. The mainstream media is lazy and more interested in views (and viewers) than the truth these days. A sad consequence of the liberation of news sources and the ad/sponsorship driven model. The media can’t really be trusted to hold itself accountable, on any scale, for its own corruption and ethical issues. So far as mainstream and existing, dominant games media goes there’s only damage control and pressure.

A common complaint about Gamergate – from outside – is that it has no leaders. This has, in fact, been a huge advantage in making Gamergate more resilient and capable and has allowed it to survive internal drama and outside attacks. However, part of the reason there’s so little representation of ‘the other side’ in these media presentations is the lack of identifiable spokespeople. Gamergate doesn’t need leaders, but it does need spokespeople. It should be possible to find suitably eloquent, bullish and intelligent spokespeople that can be proposed and agreed to by a raw majority of Gamergate identifying voters in an online poll. Then you’d have people who are contactable for media appearances, to give the alternative point of view and to counter the kinds of nonsense that otherwise gets free rein on these reports.

The other solutions, beyond the successful pressure to tighten ethical policies, is to continue to act as a watchdog and to continue to promote alternative sites. Gamergate participants should also, in my opinion, strive to act well, represent the revolt well (I’m not saying mind your language, just to leave no suggestion of doxxing, no reasonable suspicion of harassment etc), and to concentrate on spreading the accurate message. Confounding the false narrative with charitable actions and NotYourShield also helps. Ultimately Gamergate wins out when people actually investigate and are pointed to the correct facts.

There are consequences to Gamergate that have deeply concerned me and I’d like to finish up by covering these and making an appeal to its enemies.

I, along with many Gamergate supporters, identify – or identified – as being on the left. We believe, passionately, in equality, justice and many of the other things that our enemies also believe in. Our differences with the other side come in when their demands come across as irrational, unscientific, unsupported, authoritarian or compromise other values – such as free expression – which we also hold dear.

My worry is that the extremists of the ‘SJW’ crowd and their hangers on, are driving a huge number of people to the right. The more right/libertarian media has been more sympathetic to Gamergate, due to their agreement on socially liberal concepts. This has earned those sources a great deal of sympathy and has meant people listen to them more, because they’ve proven themselves – at least on this topic – to be more honest and accurate.

I don’t want people to be biased in this way, by their bad experiences with a radical fringe and a corrupt media. I appeal to the opposing side to please, at least alongside everything else, to take the ethical concerns and issues seriously and to discuss those, at least, in good faith. Call Gamergate’s bluff, as PC Gamer did, by addressing the ethical concerns. The worst that can happen is that we all end up with better media and, hopefully, people will stop being pushed to the right.


#Atheism – Why I Loathe Islam

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
– Inigo Montoya

Time was, I would have told you that while Islam was a horrible, nasty, squalid little religion it wasn’t really that much of a threat to modern Enlightenment values or the west, but that Christianity was. In the triage of religions we needed to marginalise it seemed to me that Christianity had far more sway over public life than Islam did, what with Church schools, Creationist nonsense, evangelical scam artists and so on.

I’m not as sure as I once was.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks I posted a bunch of the cartoons that were made in response with the tagline ‘Fuck Islam’. Impolitic, perhaps, but truthful.

The resistance to that simple, pained and understandable statement was incredible and not from the kinds of people you might expect to be against murderous religious nutcases enforcing censorship from the barrel of a gun, but from my fellow left-liberal types. All manner of apologia for the actions of the terrorists and ways to excuse Islam from the equation were presented, even a great deal of victim blaming as we’ve also seen in the mainstream media. The idea that somehow this reaction should be expected and normalised because they were being provocative.


There’s a kind of paralysis that falls over my fellow lefties when you can be accused of a thought crime. Whether it’s ‘islamophobia’ (which is a dog whistle for ‘racist’) or accusations of ‘misogyny’ when you’re fighting against censorship and for ethical journalism in games media. There mere accusation is enough to taint any further discussion and it doesn’t seem to matter how wrong or ridiculous the accusation is, it has power.

Let’s get a couple of things out the way first:

  1. Islam is not a race. There are Muslims of pretty much any race you care to mention. This should be obvious enough that it doesn’t constantly need restating, yet here we are.
  2. Phobia’s are irrational. Islamophobia would be an irrational fear of Islam. Given the context of Shariah law, the links with terrorism and other barbarisms it could be argued that ‘phobia’ is an inappropriate suffix. Fear of Islam, given the content of the Koran and the state of Islamic nations would appear to be a perfectly rational response. Islamomisia, irrational hatred of Islam, would seem to be equally inapplicable in most circumstances. It’s going to be impossible to avoid Godwinning in this article, so let’s get it out of the way. You wouldn’t accuse a Jew in 1940s Poland of being ‘Naziphobic’, because their fear and hatred would be entirely justified because of the beliefs and actions of Nazis. So it goes.
  3. Islam isn’t like other religions. While there are commonalities, mostly between the Abrahamic faiths, Islam isn’t a personal religion that confines itself to faith, belief and personal conduct. It is a complete system for theocratic autocracy with a great deal to say about personal, professional, governmental and judicial conduct. It is as much, then, a political ideology as a faith and one that draws its authority from ‘god’. The ultimate autocratic dictatorship. It’s not some wishy-washy, half-hearted spirituality like the Church of England, it has very defined and delineated ideas – many of which are anti-human.
  4. Islam ≠ Muslim. There are many lovely Muslims but the fact of the matter is that you can only be a lovely person by being a bad Muslim. If you’re OK with people making fun of your prophet and your god you’re a god, chilled, laid back person, but you’re a bad Muslim because the Koran and Hadith and the example of Muhammed himself (Al-Nadr bin al-Harith, Uqba bin Abu Muayt, Asma bint Marwan to name but three)  tell you that you should kill people who do that. There are many great people who are Muslims, but they are great by virtue of being bad Muslims.
  5. Hating with Good Reason is not Bigotry. Merriam-Webster defines a bigot as ‘a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.’ The key here is ‘unfairly’, which shifts the question to asking whether it is fair to hate Islam or not. I would argue that it is.

I have read the Koran and many of the Hadith (all of the Sahih). I have engaged in very long arguments with Muslim apologists and creationists and have even had brushes with Islamic spokespeople like Anjem Choudary and Mo Ansar. I have devoted considerable time to trying to understand the faith and its adherents and have come to the inescapable conclusion that it is a primitive, violent and dangerous faith with no good prospects for reform.

But why?

  1. Extremism is Mainstream. When you say ‘religious extremism’ you might be thinking of something like the Westboro Baptist church. A couple of dozen loony-tunes existing at some far-flung edge of the religious spectrum. While Islam has those too, even mainstream, ‘moderate’ Islam is pretty damn extreme. Wanting to live according the Shariah, a set of hideously barbaric rules come up with in the 7th century here, today, in the modern era is mainstream for Muslims, but extreme to everyone else. 20-40% of UK Muslims polled want Sharia law brought in, and that poll is from 7 years ago, according to most analysts things have gotten worse. Another poll showed unanimous loathing for homosexuality amongst British Muslims, with a margin of error of 4%.
  2. The Koran is Unquestioned. A huge part of the problem we face with any religion that is based on a supposedly divinely inspired book is that it is simultaneously the ‘perfect word of god to be followed to the letter’ and riddled with contradictions and vague statements that can be interpreted as one sees fit. The Koran is no different on this score but, unlike Christianity, does not have a kinder/gentler second book that justifies ignoring most of the first for its followers.  When the book outright advocates death, torture, mutilation, wife-beating and all the other horrors we’re now all to familiar with its hard for anyone claiming the title Muslim to speak against it – or they’re an apostate and subject to imprisonment, shunning and/or death. This is only made worse by the Hadith which, generally speaking, prioritise and give license to the more violent and horrible passages.
  3. Muslims Weasel. Getting a straightforward condemnation of the actions of ‘extremists’ is very hard, excepting some of the more politically minded or already outcast Muslims (such as the Muslim Council of Britain or Majeed Nawaz). Why? Because the ‘extremists’ are drawing from the holy Koran, which is the infallible word of god, so to condemn or question the ‘extremists’ is to question god or the prophet. Things which aren’t allowed. It’s like getting blood from a stone to get a clean, clear, outright condemnation of terrorism, violence, intimidation, poor treatment of women or even, most telling of all, child rape. Why the last? Because of Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha. Admitting that it’s wrong to have sex with children would be condemning the prophet, so you can’t do it.
  4. Islam Appears to be Unique. Islam’s ability to create suicide bombers, to excuse and encourage the worst aspects of human behaviour wherever it is followed, to unleash real horrors upon innocent civilians and the militarise believers appears to be unique in its scope. Terrorists exist across all ideologies and faiths – yes, even Buddhism – but Islam is the grand-daddy of them all possibly because of the cult-like nature of it, its internal enforcement and the lack of access to alternative points of view in Islamic communities. Yes, the actions of The West and Economics play a role, but to ignore the role of religion is ignorant.
  5. Islam Makes People Stupid. Not the Muslims, but my fellow lefties. Islam terrifies many of them in its implications, but so does the idea of being ‘racist’, of not being completely accepting and open to other points of view – even if those points of view are wrong, stupid, violent and dangerous. Never mind that you would not the same reaction when criticising any other ideology. If one were to say one hated Stalinism, for example, because of its cult of personality, the gulags, the purges of the intellectuals, its insane ideas about agricultural policy and the genocide of the kulaks, you would not be accused of being racist and your points would be taken seriously. Say something similar about Islam however and people will lose their minds.
  6. Islam is Hugely Arrogant. According to Islam we’re all born Muslims. This is why they use the term ‘revert’ for converts to Islam, instead of converts. This would just be annoying were it not for the fact that apostates (those who leave the religion) are subject to death under the Koran. Handy, but hardly fair or respectful.
  7. It’s Just Horrible. Sexist, racism, advocating for slavery, rape and murder, mutilation and so many other horrors. Its beliefs helped end the Islamic Golden Age as they became more rigorously enforced, it’s viciously anti-semitic, anti-scientific, dogmatic, autocratic and domineering. It has no true ‘moderate’ centre as we would understand it. I don’t see how any moral being can excuse it.

Nothing is simple, there’s always other factors, but so long as we keep ignoring Islam’s dogma, hate fuelled passages and its affect on the world we’re not going to be able to find or work towards solutions that might help. Ideally the human species needs to divest itself of religion (and faith) altogether, but that’s an unrealistic goal. Islam, at the very least, needs a reformation or a new sect. One that is explicitly peaceful and distances itself from its own violent past, one where membership is not automatic and enforced under pain of death.

Charlie Hebdo’s approach, that so offended Muslims, was to treat Islam the same way it treated every other religion. With scorn and childish schoolboy insult. ‘You’re not special’ was the message and it’s one that needs to be seen more. Instead, increasingly, we get cowardice in the face of Islamist threats and news organisations bowing to their demands, even while those who share their professions lay dead in morgues for standing up for universal principles that make life better for everyone.

I don’t hate Islam through ignorance, racism, bigotry or prejudice. I hate Islam having studied it, having seen what it does and what it believes and having seen how its unreasonable threats and terrorist actions make coward and hypocrites of those who should be standing against it.

And now I’m going to try ignoring it, like Gamergate, because people can’t stop and think whether I have a point long enough to overcome their panic.

2015 can’t get any worse at least, right?

#JeSuisCharlie Ceci N’est pas un Bomb


A paedophile, a murderer, an epileptic madman and the prophet of a major religion walk into a bar.

“Morning Mohammed,” says the barkeep.

Did you laugh, did you even smile? Then you’re marked for death, as I am for writing it, as anyone could be for drawing a stick figure and writing Mohammed beside it.

Cartoonists have been gunned down for standing up against the increasing censorship in our society. This makes me feel terrible and pathetic because I recently backed out of one the other important fights about free expression that are going on simply because I was told to by my friends. While others are standing up and being shot, taking on Islam’s hatred and arrogance, I am sitting down and stepping back from fighting the far less violent forces of ‘social justice’.

In the face of what we’re seeing now, that seems like it was a mistake, however good the reasons for doing so.

Still, it’s clear that even in the face of an atrocity like this, people are still unwilling to admit there are problems. Problems with censorship, problems with religion, problems with Islam in particular.

Here is an unreformed, barbaric religion whose followers, globally, support – in the majority – stonings, Sharia Law, the death penalty for ‘disrespecting the prophet’. Even in the UK alone, with its relatively progressive Muslim population, 40% are in favour of imposing Sharia Law, 20% had sympathy with the 7/7 bombers and some 78% thought mocking the prophet deserved prison with 12% agreeing that it should be punished with the death penalty.

Even today it is virtually impossible to get even moderate Muslims to condemn the killings. They simply, at best, stay silent.

Islamic sensitivity is far from our only issue though and perhaps those incapable of or unwilling to examine their own censorious issues and hypersensitivity are excusing Islam for more personal reasons. We’re not so immune to this creeping madness. One need only look to the Twitter Joke Trial, the recent arrest of the gentleman who made an off-colour joke about the Glasgow Truck Accident or Criado-Perez’ prosecution of her (predictably pathetic) trolls for ‘threats’ that were obviously spurious. One could also look to Gamergate and gasp at the sheer hypocrisy of those who ARE standing up for free expression against gun-toting Islamists but who didn’t dare to raise a peep against other – less violent – forms of censorship.

While they may not be shooting anyone, yet, is there really any difference between the claims that insult amounts to ‘real harm’ from the religious:

Because it is, and I pick my words carefully here Mr Choudary, ‘fucking insane’. You’ll note, also, how he uses the ways in which we have already chipped away at the edifice of free expression in his arguments:  

The answer is not to ban or prohibit Islam, or indeed any other form of expression, no matter who thinks it is hateful or dangerous (unless it can be show that it actually is). The answer is virtually always ‘more speech’.

  • Holocaust denier? Hit them with stats and mock them.
  • Anti-immigration racist? Show them the economic data, and mock them.
  • Climate change denier? Show them the data, then mock them mercilessly.

Anything and everything must be open to mockery and it is these same, vital, Enlightenment principles of free expression, satire and free society that also make us free to protest and expose the actions of our governments, which are sometimes blamed as being the ‘true reason’ behind these barbaric attacks upon artists, writers, comedians, film-makers and others.

#Gamergate Morbidly Curious

If you want this to make sense to you, you’ll have to go and read this first.

While I’m distancing from the general rough and tumble of Gamergate, there’s more to it than the arguments on Twitter and there’s more to it than the fight in computer gaming. While this is to do with games, it’s also to do with so many other subjects from personal freedom to free-expression, access to a free internet, censorship and a hell of a lot more. So I’m putting this here on this blog, rather than the gaming blog as politics/skepticism are more applicable here.

d52c708be97b2c08ec7515bc2eb6fffaThis is Mandy Morbid.

She’s bisexual, a gamer, a ‘muse’, describes herself as a feminist and is a sufferer from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a condition that causes hypermobility in joints and a host of other issues too long to go into here). I don’t mention this last to elicit sympathy for her but rather to underline the fact that she would not seem to be the typical target for the kind of wrath to which she – and her friends – are subjected.

Oh yeah, she’s also an alt-porn star, but I’m sure that has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Mandy appears in many of Zak Smith’s illustrations, has the exploits of her characters chronicled on DnD With Pornstars and was on I Hit it With my Axe.

I’m a fan. I’m a fan of her, Zak (despite his abrasiveness and apparent, current distaste for me) and their whole crew and ‘orbiting’ gaming personalities. I think that people like them do far more good for games and gaming by example than any amount of pronoun mangling, art quotas or cod-inclusiveness can do. They make games sexy, interesting and innovative simply by playing and approaching with different sensibilities. They embody actual diversity and nobody cares or is upset, it’s just a thing that happens and it doesn’t so much as arch an eyebrow.

So who could take exception to this? Why? On what basis?

The complaint seems to be that Mandy doesn’t agree with the assessments of ‘social justice’ luminaries in the tabletop gaming scene over what constitutes actual sexism, actual racism, actual transphobia, actual bigotry of any kind. Mandy finds the kind of heroic, sexy representations that a lot of people like to be interesting and exciting and not an affront to her delicate lady sensibilities. Furthermore, she backs up other people – primarily Zak – who also point out that such transgressions aren’t as cut and dried, obvious or true as some seem to think they are.

If you look at the people who attack and harass Mandy and her friends, you’ll see familiar names. Familiar names of the kinds of people who will claim just about anything and everything is harassment – except their own actions. The kind of people who will play up the transgressions of anonymous sockpuppets and burner accounts, anonymous trolling etc, but minimise or justify the actions of identifiable people doing awful things to people, while simultaneously condemning the same things in others.

  • Paul Ettin.
  • Andri Erlingsson.
  • Jussi Marttila.
  • Alex Norris.
  • Kai Tave.
  • Tom Hatfield.
  • Tracy Hurley.
  • Fred Hurley.
  • Fred Hicks.
  • David A Hill Jr.
  • Ryan Macklin.
  • Bruce Baugh.
  • Elizabeth Sampat.
  • Geeky Lyndsey.
  • Wundergeek.
  • Christopher Allen.
  • Shannon Appelcline.

Any of these sound familiar? They should. They’re other complicit or active in this harassment, or demonstrating hypocrisy by not moving against it, when they’ll condemn people who disagree with them over far less.

I’m sure the porn has nothing to do with it.

#Gamergate – Not Everything is Political.

gamergate1One of the aims of #Gamergate is to de-politicise the consumer media, at least with regard to reviews (editorialising belongs in editorials). Gamers want to know about the features and qualities of the games and systems they are buying, they don’t want to read a treatise on the failings of pre-Franco anarchistic Spain in the middle of a feature on Farmville.

Even when game plots are explicitly political, injecting politics into professional reviews is pointless. A libertarian reviewer who can’t set their politics aside when reviewing the original Bioshock is going to be about as useful as a chocolate fireman for discerning what the game is about and whether it’s any good – and so it goes for all shades of the political spectrum and for causes like radical feminism.

There’s two articles which have brought this problem to my attention.

In Game Design is Always Political Owen Grieve spectacularly invalidates his own article with this passage:

To begin: Understand that, in real life, there is no such thing as objective neutrality. Everything that everyone does, at all times and places, occurs within some kind of political context – even if you’re stranded alone on a desert island, the absense of society still contributes towards this context. You can assume you will not be arrested for scrumping the odd coconut, for example. 

I reject this premise and in so doing reject everything that stems from it within the entire article – because if your base premise is wrong, then everything built upon it necessarily collapses. How and why can I reject this PoMo viewpoint? Because science exists and because science depends on objective neutrality. Gravity works the same way whether you acknowledge reality or whether you think it’s because Buddha is pressing down on your head with his finger. If objective neutrality and a fact based outlook wasn’t possible, you wouldn’t be reading this blog, because without it we wouldn’t have mathematics or science or the fruits of those enterprises such as electricity, computing and so on.

Can we apply the principles of objective neutrality and reason to other spheres? Yes, we can. Which isn’t to say there aren’t subjective experiences and values also, but even subjectivity can succumb to objective examination. Indeed, it’s possible to assert that many of the problems we face as a species are down to failures to think objectively and neutrally, so encouraging or excusing that behaviour strikes me as a dangerous game.

One need only look at the clash between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck recently on Bill Maher’s show to see this clash of ideals. Harris has a more objective, neutral outlook and believes that we can use reason to determine the most effective moral good. As such he objectively examines the issues surrounding Islam and sees it as a problem. Affleck, however, is not remotely objective or neutral and responds – not intellectually – but by hurling slander (racist) and making content free emotive arguments.

Gamergate, if you’ll allow me to skirt with hyperbole, is just another battleground in this current culture war which manifests as intellect versus emotion, objectivity versus subjectivity and authoritarianism versus libertarianism (small ‘l’). You’ll note the same problems arising in regard to Gamergate. Gamergate is about ethical, objective journalism and de-politicising games media as well as preserving the right to free expression for game developers and artists.

Gamergate’s opposition doesn’t address these, at all. Instead they make emotive arguments that devs should moderate their creativity for fear of offending people. They pretend that Gamergate is responsible (somehow) for doxxing and threats (while ignoring doxxing and threats made against Gamergate) and where Affleck disingenuously invoked racism as his silencing tactic, those against Gamergate invoke misogyny in much the same way.

In his article ‘A Thing About Gamergate‘, John Walker engages in a lot of hedging and evasion. If there’s no ‘anti-gamergate’, then there’s no Gamergate either, just people with loose sets of similar values. So that invalidates that argument. The claims that Gamergate abuse is somehow the only abuse the counts is disingenuous and it’s amazing how quickly people forget the ‘tone argument’ when they’re on the receiving end of a lot of anger.

Of COURSE people are angry at places like RPS that have been corrupt and which have wilfully misreported Gamergate since the start. Read it yourself if you fancy a good facepalm, I’ll answer some of John’s peculiar questions at the end, since Gamergate has hardly been shy about these I don’t know why he doesn’t know them already.

Here, though, I’m talking about the politics claims and how Gamergate wants reviews, at least, de-politicised.

Here’s his imaginary example of a game and his assertion that you can’t report on it without being political:

There’s a new game out, called Koala Fighters XVII. It’s a game about an elite squadron of fighter pilots, who are taking on the menace of the invading koala hordes. In it, throughout, are cutscenes showing bare-breasted women being kidnapped by the evil koalas, threatened with torture and death, to be rescued by the amazing gang of pilot men. The game is, obviously, brilliantly well made, featuring some of the best koala shooting action ever seen in a game. However, when reviewing this game, gaming site Poltaku comments on how the nudity and sexual stereotypes are disappointing. Meanwhile, Sensible Gaming Reviews, leaving the politics out of games coverage, doesn’t say anything of the sort, not seeing the feature necessary to mention. GameBros4Ever, meanwhile, reviews the game and comments on how brilliantly the breasts are animated, and how great it was to feel like a powerful man in the cockpit of the plane.

All three reviews are inherently political. Choosing to mention this specific feature of the game is a political decision, whether to condemn or celebrate. And crucially, choosing not to mention it is a political decision too. Not thinking it worth mentioning, also, is born of a political position on the matter. Indifference to something of importance to others is, of course, a political position. You cannot “leave the politics out of games coverage”. Politics are inherent. What is instead meant by this demand is, by its nature, “Leave politics I don’t adhere to out of games coverage.”

Of his example reviews, only Poltaku is actually political, and I will explain why.

Poltaku’s commentary on the boobs and nudity is explicitly political and it is bringing politics into an apolitical arena, the recreational experience of playing a game. It isn’t a judgement on the game or its content, it is an extraneous insertion of the idea that nudity and ‘stereotyping’ is somehow bad (this might also be a religious objection, comparisons between the evangelical right and anti-sex ‘feminism’ in games culture is very valid and telling).

In comparison Sensible Gaming Reviews just reports on the game and puts no spin on it, leaving that up to the reader and GameBros, while more subjective and gonzo (in talking about their feelings and experience) talks about the ‘jiggle physics’ which is an objective part of this hypothetical game engine, just as it was for Dead or Alive.

Neither SGR nor GB4E have made any political judgements or recommendations, they’ve both just reported on the game as it is. Only Poltaku has inserted an entirely irrelevant political ideology into its review. While GB4E is subjective, I think the claim that Gamergate wants ‘objective reviews’ is down to poor English skills and what’s really being talked about is the depoliticisation of reviews, or at least saving the politics for editorials rather than messing up reviews with it and allowing ideological bias to prejudice examination of a consumer product.

Are there times when politics does intrude? I would argue yes, there are. I think EA’s treatment of their staff is notably awful, I think Apple and other manufacturer practices are worth covering, but in these cases one can point to actual harm to human beings and while you can make an argument for it being about outsourcing and capitalist business practices at heart it’s really more about basic human empathy.

So, then, to answer John’s queries and wrap up this blog.

What does Gamergate want?

Collective consensus seems to congregate around the following:

1. Ethical Journalism: People have referenced various codes of professional ethics to the websites in question, The Escapist implemented a good, model, set of prospective ethics. What would it actually hurt to implement similar on other sites? Why is that so hard? So objectionable? Don’t fund or fuck people you write about (and vice versa) and declare conflicts of interest. It’s not hard! (Disclosure: I have friends at The Escapist) – see? How hard was that? These standards are just in application to political and financial corruption in Indies, stand up to the AAA bribery and extortion as well and Gamergate will have your back.

2. De-Politicisation: I come primarily from tabletop gaming but I’m also involved in erotica writing and science fiction and fantasy publishing. I may lose your attention if I say ‘radical feminism’ but I’m going to anyway. Radical feminist and ‘social justice’ agendas are devastating the creative fields, especially the nerdy and geeky ones. Free expression and creative independence is seriously threatened by bullies and harassers – often in positions of power – using those positions to gatekeep on an ideological basis. People enjoy all sorts of different things and we don’t think it is the job of games media to tell us – on no basis – that what we like is somehow unacceptable, sexist or whatever else. Personal distaste doesn’t translate to a massive societal issue that must be rooted out and solved. Save it for editorials. Odds are, if we’re interested in Dragon’s Crown – for example – we already know it has fantastic and sexualised art. We don’t need or want a radical feminist spin on unproven concepts like objectification in our reviews thanks, we’re trying to work out whether it’s a good GAME.

3. Defending Free Expression: We want devs, writers, artists etc to be free to create with as few constrictions as possible, whether individually or as an aggregate. Surely, as writers yourselves you can understand that motivation? Free expression is a fundamental human right as recognised by the UN and even if you can’t accept that this IS censorship at least accept that, for creators, this atmosphere of bullying, harassment and spurious accusations of rape apology, misogyny etc has a chilling and limiting effect on free expression – and that’s not good.

Additionally, and separately, I would also suggest:

a) Report honestly on Gamergate, without obvious bias. When Gamergaters are harassed, doxxed and threatened give that the same publicity you do the antis.

b) Stop trying to split the hashtag. Gamergate rejects the harassment, doxxing and threats and a few outliers say nothing about Gamergate just as the few outliers doing the same to Gamergaters says nothing about the antis. What DOES say something about the AGGros is the disparity in the reactions and coverage. Deal with Gamergaters as they are, ignore the trolls.

c) Stop trying to paint Gamergate as misogynistic, right wing, reactionary etc etc. On aggregate Gamergate is left-libertarian, inclusive (NotYourShield) and all the rest. What’s not agreed on across the lines is the way change is gone about and – to reiterate – the corruption and politicisation of games media and the creeping censorship of creators.

There’s a rather good breakdown of these differences HERE.