“But she’s wrong about Hitman!”

I wrote this as a comment on gaming site I write for  – on Anita Sarkeesian and the topic of disagreement in game culture. Thought I’d post it here so I could curate proper discussion, because this is an issue I’m grappling with as a game and culture “critic” – and as a person trying to be decent. [sic] all around.

I’m not a fan of her work, but don’t see why a woman facing death, rape and bomb threats, who is at least bringing conversation, requires me to do in-depth criticism, 300 youtubes of how she’s wrong about Hitman, etc.

Frankly, I’d rather defend her right to be part of the culture and focus on her and others’ safety, than how they don’t get my favourite game is actually super important and the best thing ever. Games matter less than people’s safety.

Second there are plenty of people who deserve more attention for how wrong they are about games, such as those who say it “causes” violence, journalists who flout their swag, show off and show little engagement with material of games, developers who screw their audience, Kickstarter failures, etc. All these are actually detrimental. One person’s YouTube criticism is not.

I’m actually not interested in people’s criticisms of her work. First, because I have my own; second, who needs to hear it right now? Will the industry die because your voice wasn’t heart against Sarkeesian?

Imagine meeting an astrologer who’s got death threats and demanding he pay you attention, from a screaming mob, so that you can deliver criticism of his pseudoscience. I don’t care that you’re right about astrology; I care that you’re using time and energy to criticise him when you could be using it to defend him against bullies threatening him.

I also want to add: If we want to develop a culture that handles criticism properly, we need to care about people first. For example, those wanting “social issues” removed from game reviews are wanting solidification of the current state; the state that allows so many people to reach this level of anger at harmless women. Games can’t be removed from social dynamics anymore than cars or paintings can be. How you examine such items devoid of the contexts and identities that gave rise to such things in the first place is beyond me – except that you’d be delivering the most neutral, bland inhuman aspects of it. Imagine describing the Mona Lisa by listing the colours and direction of brushstrokes – that’s what it sounds like to me when you plead for objectivity. (No I don’t think every game write-up should analyise the race/sex aspects and what the second tree really means; but I do think such things can be written and should be done without cries of it being not part of gaming – or that it’s “ruining” games.)

You want to criticise Sarkeesian – Great. Work on creating a culture where doing so is done maturely, civilly and with sensitivity to the other person as the default. By pushing through with your criticism, you’re making it clear you don’t care about the current context a harmless person is facing for merely trying to make games better. Whether she’s right is debatable; whether she – and others – should have her life and safety threatened is not. Right now, I know what my priority is in this particular instance.

Maybe one day we can debate the merits of her video – and I might actually agree with you on some points. But now is not that time and, as indicated, there are other targets more worth your criticism. Otherwise you just become part of the climate that is already a room of knives.

Celebrity hacks and victim-blaming: Responding to 3 common claims

Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities have had (nude) photos stolen. I noticed three, of many, recurring responses, mostly it seems from my fellow men dictating what women should do with their bodies. Cos, yeah: of course.

Others have said these things more eloquently. But here’s some responses to claims about celebrity privacy violations – i.e. nude photo leaks – that we need to keep reinforcing.

  1. “Who cares?”

Celebrities may be annoying to many; celebrity culture itself is to me largely horrible. Celebrities are not necessarily talented, merely people with a large audience. However, the key here is “people” – not monsters. Presumably we want a better world for people – thus if bad things happen to people, we should defend and support them. This isn’t about whether they themselves actually notice – but it does mean setting up an environment that reacts appropriately to when women have their photos leaked and aren’t berated as “sluts“; it’s about reinforcing a space, like the Internet, that doesn’t spread stolen information from people because they’re “hot”. After all, women who are not celebrities at all, have the same thing happen to them. [Read more...]

Robin Williams’ daughter being chased off Twitter is a high-profile example of an everday occurence

and it must stop. I’m tired of tolerating an internet where people are unfairly targeted for their race, gender, sexuality, etc. In my latest for The Daily Beast, I didn’t want to target the “trolls”, but those who shrug this off, claiming it’s not a big deal, who say “That’s the Internet”.

Nope. That’s cover that allows this toxicity to continue. We can and must do better.

So you see a racist Tweet…

How should we respond to awful posts on social media? Spoiler alert: I don’t know, but I think we can do better – overall – if we don’t always reply quickly, grounding our responses with what is best for others. Not what feels right at that moment. In my latest post for TBD, I use the example of a Tweet that directly targets people like me – “foreign-named”, darker skinned, etc. – and reflect on what I’d actually like to see more of.

Spoiler: It’s not abusive messages sent to the random kid who made the racist Tweet.

Read it at The Daily Beast

“So what if you’re offended”

You’ve seen this, no doubt.

If I never have to see this quote or picture again, I think the world would be a better place.

Now, it’s not because it’s false. It’s not because Fry isn’t spot on about this being a sometimes correct reaction to, say, wide-eyed religious conservatives who want to ban books, censor science, etc. Indeed, the context was in conversation with Christopher Hitchens about the pernicous way “offense” from religious people was seen as sufficient reason to censor – it was about the idiot notion of blasphemy as still regarded as legitimate in secular, civil society. (South Africa couldn’t distribute a book some years ago because it offended some members of the Muslim community. That mindset, years ago, is also why I heard about and wanted to read The Satanic Verses; and one-two-skip-a-few I’m now an ex-Muslim. Streisand Effect leading to atheism.) [Read more...]

So apparently Christians are the world’s most persecuted people

Paul Vallely writes:

Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.

The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.

People suffering, regardless of how much, is terrible. Numbers and facts matter. Resources are determined according to need and requirement. And reality doesn’t always align with our political perspectives.

Vallely doesn’t cite “insulting Jesus”, for example, as discrimination, but rather instances like “Christians… languishing in jail for blasphemy in Pakistan, and churches are burned and worshippers regularly slaughtered in Nigeria and Egypt, which has recently seen its worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries.”

He continues

The most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century saw as many as 500 Christians hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals in Orissa, India, with thousands more injured and 50,000 made homeless. In Burma, Chin and Karen Christians are routinely subjected to imprisonment, torture, forced labour and murder.

Persecution is increasing in China; and in North Korea a quarter of the country’s Christians live in forced labour camps after refusing to join the national cult of the state’s founder, Kim Il-Sung. Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be a Christian.

This is horrible.

UPDATE

Smart commenters are smart. Thanks, folks!

New York Times’ Editorial board calls for drug policy to enter the 21st century

Because, you know, policy that harms more than it heals, laws that create criminals instead of mitigating criminality, is a little bit stupid.

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

It seems silly to call them brave – but, I think, that among other compliments are deserved.

Read the rest.

Plagiarism in the age of instant, digital content

Buzzfeed has fired its “viral politics editor”, Benny Johnson, for numerous (read: forty one so far?) instances of plagiarism. Buzzfeed isn’t some bedroom-based conveyor belt of clickable content, it’s a major site, employing many people, producing original content and sometimes actual journalism.

However, Buzzfeed, as a whole, is an entity existing in an ethical quandary with content creation. [Read more...]

Women, science and the machine of exclusion

In my latest for The Daily Beast, I respond to a piece about how “females” just can’t brain science as well as men – or rather, that “females as a whole” tend to find science boring. Apparently. According to some dodgy data.

Anyway, I had some amazing input from some brilliant scientists who have had experience with this. There is also plenty of data supporting the machine thesis, that of a culture that makes science into a man’s space, that is unwelcoming to women, then uses women’s absence and disinterest (after they’ve been taught to be) that women don’t like science.

Of course while writing it, I forced myself to watch that awful Science: It’s a Girl Thing video again. *Shiver*

Remember this BS?

Yeah. I totally wonder why women found this so horrible! /s

Robin Thicke and self-entitled creepiness

So, I’m not what you’d call a regular listener to radio. I did, however, encounter Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” when it came out – and found it not only a repulsive song, musically, but also morally. I think we should care about what goes into our creative endeavours, but maybe I’m just a crazy person.

Anyway, with the release of his new song and album, his put his creepy factor into a new gear. I was not impressed; and hate the normalisation of viewing women’s rejection as some kind of game or challenge. I wrote more about it over at The Daily Beast.