Many of you have never heard of Penny Arcade. As far as webcomics go, it was the original success story, the ur-two-guys-on-a-couch video game afición strip-styled deal. The popularity of the comic helped the writer and the artist build a significant business, running gaming conventions, charities, and so on.
They’re still doing their thing, but outside of “gaming” (the bro subculture, not video game playing as a whole field), who has heard of them? They’ve hit the wall.
Two factors limit their success – the existence of gamergate and the “dickwolf” controversy.
Gamergate poisoned all things gamer, actually succeeding at their primary goal. Gamergate’s social terrorism was so vast it gained international media attention and told the world that gaming is an off-limits hostile place, ruled by miscreants that are best left alone. Congrats! You kept out the normies!
I’m not going to explain the dickwolf controversy and subsequent flare-up involving transphobia (because of course it did), even though they’re less well-known than gamergate. Long story short – they aligned themselves culturally with gamergate, with regressive gaming, by having mean-spirited blow-ups at mild criticism.
The dickwolf controversy aligned them with gamergate, no matter what they’ve said on the subject since, and gamergate relegated the culture of gaming to the sewer of human civilization.
I was thinking about that, about love lost. I used to follow the comic for a chuckle and dropped it like a rock back then. How many trans women and progressive-inclined people in general felt they weren’t safe engaging with the comic, with its fans, with the conventions they sponsored? How much love did they lose forever by being reactionary dickwolves?
And here we are – online atheism. The background is different, but the end result is the same. We were founded on islamophobia, so we were rotten at the core. A lot of us may have been socially progressive on a few issues, enough to feel good about ourselves, even then.
But collectively we were reactionary. When an opportunity for a movement-wide misogynist freakout came, it showed that we were stacked to the rafters with villains.
Many of us left the movement and culture altogether, I have no doubt. And of those who remained, the scum outweigh the rest of us by an order of magnitude. Maybe not in actual population (though I bet they do), but certainly in terms of will, of money, of resources, of cultural impact in the form of web presence, on social media and youtube.
Atheism aligned itself with evil and lost love. Where could we be without “elevatorgate”? Without the years of feeding the right wing islamophobia war machine?
It’s gone and it’s never coming back. I had a slow moment and considered opening up Penny Arcade’s website to see if I could have a chuckle. But no, I really profoundly don’t want to. They betrayed the vulnerable people in their audience – a fucking lot of us – and I’m not about forgiveness.
And no one is obligated to forgive us either. Organized atheism is a sewer. We can do things, we can be together, we can fight the good fight as much as possible. But what more could we be right now? How much love was lost?
Feels like all of it.