Internet Harassment: A Different Narrative

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Read plebcomics. They give lulz.

I wasn’t entirely sure which of my blogs was the best fit for this article, but I decided – in the end – that the one devoted to skepticism and atheism would win out, because this is very much about skepticism. I am going to be talking about some particulars of my experiences though and those relate primarily to gaming and gamer/geek culture.

For those who don’t know, I’m a tabletop game designer. I’ve written many books and games and worked for Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, Mongoose Publishing and others. I’m currently the creative director of Chronicle City, but for about a decade I’ve been freelancing and self-employed under the banner ‘Postmortem Studios’.

This is just to establish some background. TL;DR I have been an indie game designer for some years, with something of a profile and a degree of exposure and niche fame/notoriety.

I’m also a straight, white, vaguely middle class (in education and mores, rather than money), cisgendered male.

I also suffer from bouts of moderate to severe depression which can reach suicidal levels and I’ve been to the brink of suicide three times in my life.

I say this not to garner any particular degree of sympathy, monetary donations or anything else. I don’t really expect (or want) you to treat me any differently because of my illness, I mention it because it underlines some points I’m about to make and because being open about having a mental illness helps others.

So. I’m a straight, white, cisgendered, male, ‘middle class’, gamer nerd. This means, by the current narrative, that I am an avatar of everything that is wrong in the world and – likely – a bigoted internet troll. That’s the story that we have, that people like me are the problem and that the targets of concerted internet harassment are women, people of colour, LGBT people and so forth.

Well, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t necessarily the case.

For years now I have been subjected to abuse, disinformation, threats, slander and libel in a seemingly unending stream. Initially this was because I wrote an article defending the use of rape (and any other unpleasantness) as a plot or story element. This drew the wrath of the ‘social justice warrior’ crowd and ever since I have been pilloried and any work I have put out has been gone over with a fine toothed comb for anything that can be twisted around into something ‘problematic’.

Harassment against me has included, but not been limited to:

  • Death threats.
  • Rape threats against my wife.
  • Threats to kill my pet cats.
  • Petitions to browbeat any potential employers not to hire me.
  • Hit blogs.
  • Twitter harassment.
  • Harassing comments on my blogs.
  • Facebook harassment.
  • Threatening emails.
  • False accusations of making rape threats.
  • False accusations of rape (!)
  • Harassment and threats made against people who do work with or employ me.
  • Attempts to undermine projects.
  • Whole ‘satirical’ products aimed at a strawman caricature of me.

I’m not going to go into details on this stuff from the past, but I am going to make a case-in-point in a minute. However, there’s a couple of things worth pointing out at this stage. While much of this came from anonymous internet trolls and can – in my opinion – safely be ignored (and I wish more people would realise this) much of it did not. Much of it came from social justice keyboard warriors who felt no need to hide their faces or where they were coming from and continue to operate their accounts today.

This still goes on today.

Currently I’m seeking support for an RPG and (separately) a worldbook based on the controversial fantasy novels of John Norman – The Gorean Cycle.

This is, apparently, ‘asking for it’ and I’m ‘doing it for attention’ (doesn’t that remind you of troll comments about prominent feminism bloggers and youtubers?)

This has resulted in yet another torrent of abuse and hate from people who should know better, and indeed claim to know better when it’s someone who fits their political and social orthodoxy who is rocking the boat, rather than me.

As a case in point and limited to a single thread in a single forum, here’s a catalogue of the hatred directed towards me.

  • Childish
  • Claiming fantasy reflects real views
  • Despicable
  • Dishonest
  • Faking it for attention
  • Horrible
  • Insane
  • Kink shaming (a LOT of kink shaming)
  • Liar
  • Loathsome
  • Misogynist
  • Misrepresentation of media appearances
  • Pathetic
  • Persecution complex (there’s irony for you)
  • Pervert
  • Plagiarism
  • Plagiarist
  • Pro-rape
  • Racist
  • Rape apologist
  • Rapey
  • Scam artist
  • Shitty
  • Silly
  • Sociopathy
  • Stupid
  • Terrible product
  • Thief
  • Toxic
  • Trolling
  • Victim blaming
  • Violent
  • Weasel-worder
  • Whining

And all this on a site that normally enacts a very strict policy regarding personal and group attacks, yet whose moderators only really stepped in once someone pointed out the divide between reality and fantasy and other people’s failure to acknowledge it. Were similar attacks and harassment being directed at someone making a game within their political/social orthodoxy this thread would no longer exist.

And it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So yes, this will just contribute to accusations that I’m ‘whining’ or ‘doing it for attention’ or to promote my current project, but it’s much more to do with the ongoing debates and fights in the broader nerd community. I just want to show that the narrative you’re being sold – that women and minorities get the harassment and the hatred and get squeezed out – isn’t the whole story.

Everyone gets harassed on the internet, and it’s not always by meaningless, anonymous trolls.

Everyone.

Beheading for Dummies

sharia_dummies1So, apparently it’s news and/or surprising to people that British jihadists heading to Syria and elsewhere are buying Islam for Dummies and Koran for Dummies.

Personally I don’t find this remotely surprising, but unlike many others I’m not using it to leap to the defence of Islam by assuming this is some hardcore proof that these monstrous individuals are somehow not representative of Islam. Yes, a lot of people are ignorant of the particular details of their religions and don’t know the finer points of ‘scholarship’ associated with them but then, they don’t really need to. They’re fed these toxic memes by those who supposedly know better.

And it’s not as if a deeper, more academic and scholastic study of religion makes its proponents any less disgusting in any case.

Exhibit ‘A’.

Perhaps more relevant to recent revelations regarding Rotherham, but the point stands.

Worse, people’s fear of being seen as ‘racist’ helped these perpetrators get away with what they were doing than longer than they should have been able to. That’s an important lesson.