Public shaming and modern media

Jon Ronson has an adaptation excerpt from his latest book age out public shaming in the digital age. It primarily revolves around Justine Sacco, who you might remember as sending out that racist/unfunny Tweet.

Ronson writes:

The furor over Sacco’s tweet had become not just an ideological crusade against her perceived bigotry but also a form of idle entertainment. Her complete ignorance of her predicament for those 11 hours lent the episode both dramatic irony and a pleasing narrative arc.


By the time Sacco had touched down, tens of thousands of angry tweets had been sent in response to her joke.


For the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.

At the time, I wrote about why Sacco’s Tweet wasn’t the worst part about the whole affair (and was subsequently quoted in the New York Times, when they wrote about this same issue): I was horrified by the reactions to it – and, mainly, how she was targeted by those with much larger platforms.

There’s an ethical dimension many haven’t considered with platforms and engagements: It’s difficult and tricky areas. I engage publicly on social media with people, quite often – but always with people who have anonymous accounts and aren’t traceable in any way. I don’t even try show up legitimate problematic individuals, unless they are threatening the livelihood and safety of others: if it’s just some loser Gamergater or MRA, I tend to just block, though inform others of the individual.

The point is it’s tricky and it should be tricky. Shaming shouldn’t be as easy as a Retweet, but it is and that’s dangerous. Platform holders like the Buzzfeed editors and Gawker’s Sam Biddle who thrive on public shaming deserve severe ethical scrutiny for their work and conduct.

Indeed, Sacco isn’t the one who should be ashamed; it’s those with major platforms who decided to draw the world’s attention to her, for her innocuous and clearly outrageous Tweet.

I made comments about comments sections

Comment sections are a fascinating topic for me, as I’m very interested in the new dynamics that comes with online interaction and the change in media.

Anyway, I made a Storify of some Tweets after a boring, persistent and verbose commenter I banned here followed me (?) to a game site I write for.

Why it matters that the internet’s made by men

The amazing Soraya Chemaly has a piece up about the internet being made of bros and why that matters.

Tech’s institutionalised male dominance, and the sex segregation and hierarchies of its workforce, have serious and harmful effects globally on women’s safety and free expression.

This is what Soraya documents throughout the piece. From revenge porn to the kinds of abuse women face, that segregates it from the kind men receive.

[Read more…]

I am made dead by Gamergate verbosity

I wrote an article about Gamerbro-types owning up to their own politics and social agendas – instead of making boring, obviously false assertions like “We just wanna play games”, “Keep politics out of games”, etc. Why am I comfortable enough to play and review games, and also talk about my own view of politics and social issues, but my “critics” are not?

Why is it OK to mention the number of pixels but not the low number of people of colour? It’s never been explained but we can all start having proper discussions when such folks own up to their views; just admit “I find race issues boring”, “It makes me uncomfortable to confront sexism”.

That’s so much more honest, so much more fruitful than trying to silence us with “make it about games” – when, for me, so much of diversity issues is seen in games. It is about games, for me: Telling me to keep quiet about race in games is telling me not to experience games. And if you don’t want to read about my experience of games, don’t read my reviews. These people are not babies, but for some reason this needs to be explained.

Regardless, a very boring commenter went on a verbose rampage, trying to drown us all in words – because, I guess, mortality isn’t an issue when you have an endless spawn option. I mean just look at this Niagra fall of words!

I’m working some things out, so here’s a fisk.

[Read more…]

Bros are not happy with Men’s Magazines getting rid of pick-up artist bullshit

As surely as night follows day, men angered by having creepy behaviour questioned and criticised will stand proudly to defend such behaviour. I, for one, am glad to know who to avoid and inform my friends of. I feel compelled to send them Meninist hoodies, the poor things.

One such fellow is Christian McQueen who writes a blog for men dreaming of “living the playboy lifestyle”. His Twitter bio reads “I didn’t invent the playboy lifestyle. I just perfected it”, which is great and I am super happy for him. However, he doesn’t appear to be happy with my country’s Men’s Health’s recent decision to purge itself of pick-up artist bullshit.

There could be a good discussion on ethics policy: Is MH going too far? Are they not unecessarily removing content that’s proven to help and not harm? We can have those discussions, but I’m not certain Mr McQueen is interested in that, so much as yelling at “weak-kneed beta bitch boy editors”.

Let’s see what’s upset him. [Read more…]

To the men “concerned” about the new Ghostbusters that happen to star women

Hey, fellow male Ghostbuster fans. I wanna talk.

But let’s first recap.

So, I’m also quite the Ghostbusters fan. I saw the first two films probably about ten times each, owned the toys, watched the TV shows. A few years ago, I rewatched both and bought the video game (which was scripted by Aykroyd and Ramis, serving as the official third part of the Gozer trilogy).


In other words, I’m a really big fan of this franchise.

I was really excited about a third film. Then Murray showed hesitation. Then Ramis died. Then we heard rumours that it would star only women. And then, yesterday, it was kinda-sorta confirmed.

Via The Hollywood Reporter:

Melissa McCarthy, who was already in talks for one of the leads, has signed on for the Paul Feig-directed reboot, and Sony is now negotiating with Kristen Wiig as well as Saturday Night Live players Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Negotiations are ongoing, but the quartet are expected to sign on as the specter-seeking, poltergeist-punishing, phantom-phollowing foursome in the reboot, which is eyeing a summer shoot in New York.

Of course, you may notice an issue that always upsets the internet: Women. Yeah. Women and their… existence. The Internet and humanity doesn’t seem particularly happy.

Amy O’Connor, from The Daily Edge, noticed some not very friendly responses. (I’ve blocked out the users’ names for ethical reasons.) [Read more…]

What progress looks like: Men’s magazine wants to purge itself of Pick Up Artist bullshit

So a few days ago, a friend of mine made fun of me for writing for our local Men’s Health, on how men need to care about everyday sexism. He showed me a post they published about to “how to get a girl’s number”. I read and Tweeted about it.

As almost always, these sorts of articles come off as creepy blatant or glorified pick-up artist bullshit. I explained a little.

This morning I received some messages from the official Men’s Health (South Africa) Twitter account. [Read more…]

Should we mock people who use virtual girlfriend services?

At Daily Beast, I argued maybe not.

This is key. The problem here isn’t necessarily the person, but the expectations of others, like family members. If someone really does feel some freedom to live their life without parents prying, why should we view that as “sad”? Why should we consider this option worthy of scorn when it’s a way for someone, who is not as free or as stable in their relationships as the rest of us, to deal with problems?

While ideally our relationship lives are no one’s business, people from all over the world still are afraid of revealing their sexual orientation, their views on marriage, and so on. The specter of religious tradition obviously looms large and, as much as faith is losing its impact, it still has an effect on older generations’ judgments of the rest of us. A service that can help mitigate bigoted fears can provide some form of freedom to gain strength, security, and a real partner if they so choose.

Read the whole piece there.

An argument to reconsider words is not “thought policing”

How many people would use the k-word slur or a non-human animal species to describe persons of colour? Would any of you call me “camel-fucker”? Would you use “faggot” to describe a gay person? I imagine the answer to these is no – and it’s a “no” driven not by fear of police or lawyers, but some sense of morality.

Can you imagine anyone having to write an article today asking people not to use the k-word to describe black people? It seems ridiculous, because you probably don’t need to be convinced of that. If I had to blog about why you should not describe me as a “camel fucker” or “raghead” or “Paki”, I’d imagine you’d ask: Who the hell is this for? 

But let’s say there was someone, a white man,  who had never encountered these terms used in a bad way or himself used it as a term of endearment in an “ironic” way. Presumably such a person, who had never fully considered the impact on those it actually affects, would read my piece and reconsider his terms.

Whatever his conclusion, no one other than himself is preventing him from using those terms. I am not leaping out my blog to silence people who use “Paki”, I simply block them and conclude such people are not worth talking to. The entire Internet is available for Paki-bashers of the world to unite and use the term “ironically”.

That’s the end of it, really: Words on the internet ask you to reconsider using a term. Agree? Disagree? No one’s stopping you. Seems easy, no?

Well, judging from the way gamers responded to a similar suggestion about the term “Master Race”, maybe not. [Read more…]

Steve Jobs is anti-boner

This is quite an old little screencap and I saw it again today.

Here we can hear the lamentation of the boner, as it cries out against the wall of earbuds caging it in a blue kingdom. Woe to the boner that stands up but can find no release that women’s choice, decision and Steve Jobs hath design’d!

My favourite is how he misses everything:

“You can’t approach a woman with earbuds in her ears.”

Give the man a bells! Truly amazing. It’s almost… well, like woman intentionally wear earbuds to avoids creeps?

Now you may ask: But how will women know who are creeps and who are the nice guys, if they have their earbuds in? The answer is: If you are thwarted by earbuds, you’re a creep. If you feel that earbuds – and the subsequent intentional isolation they allow – are less important than you, you’re a creep. Indeed, the whole point is earbuds help identify who the creeps are, while simultaneously helping people not deal with them.

That’s their beauty.

And if you’re a dude who yanks earbuds out women’s ears or demands/requests they take them out so you can comment on their body, well I hope that Meninist Hoodie fits you nicely.

HT @ThatSabinGirl