Sunday, October 19, 2014

Let's Take a Look at the News Hostility Scoreboard

I have a few things I want to touch on and I'm not sure how to work them all in so let me start this way.

1. I'm not a gamer. I don't know much about video games. Or care. However,
a) the important aspect of the discussion is not the games or the games journalism but the death threats, rape threats, harassment of women, and related misbehaviour by some carbon units who seem to have forgotten that they aren't melodrama villains, and
b) I don't need to know anything about video games to know that I'm against that. Plus
c) it's not like the same kind of thing isn't going on in the comic book world also.

2. Most intelligent things that there are to say about Gamergate have already been said by others, and more cleverly than I would have said it. So I won't drag you through all of that again. (Although here are some links if you want them: 1 2 3 4.)

3. In general I'm opposed to death threats, rape threats, harassment, murder, rape, and assault of all kinds.
a) Just so there's no confusion, I can also say that in specific I'm opposed to those things when directed against women who have some thoughts about pop culture.
b) Not that that's a particularly original idea, but
c) it may gain weight by repetition (which is most of the reason why we're going through this section of the discussion in the first place), so:

4. Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Janelle Asselin, Brianna Wu, and anyone else who has to deal with similar mistreatment have my complete support and encouragement and also my hope that all this is resolved in a satisfactory way.
a) (Where "satisfactory" is a catchall adjective that includes many possible outcomes including jail time for some of the troublemakers out there.)

(Note: the internet has acted as the primary medium for this trouble and harassment. I'm happy to say that, in all the time I've been operating this website, there has never been any of that kind of action here. I thank you all and here's to many more years of just that.)

I mean, like everything else isn't bad enough, now people want to reenact the Salem witch trials only with witchcraft subbed out for freaking video game criticism? You'd think that inequality, climate change, and Ferguson MO would keep us all sufficiently busy. What the hell is wrong with people?

It's very tempting, in these times, to just say, "Well, screw it, then! Everything's terrible, and I don't care anymore, and everything might as well fall apart." To resort to cynicism, in other words.

Stipulated that everything is terrible. I don't want to try to tell you that everything isn't terrible.

But not everyone has the option of giving up. (I mean, in some situations they do. If we're talking about--and I will be--giving up on DC Comics, then everyone has that option. There's nobody in the world so disadvantaged that they can't cut DC Comics out of their life, with the possible exception of DC Comics employees.) Giving up is a privilege.

Look at me: reasonably prosperous straight white male. It's easy for me to look south across the border and say, "Wow, that country is messed up. Cops pulling you over and taking your stuff, banks stealing people's houses, cops gunning people down in the street for the pure joy of it... I'm not going there." But, see, I can easily afford not to go to the U.S. For the people who live in Ferguson, it's not so simple. How would they go about giving up, assuming they wanted to? Move to another town? Hide in the basement 24/7?

The more options you have, the more giving up on the world is an option. The fewer options you have, the more you're forced to fight back. The irony here is that the people who can fight back the most effectively--the people I describe as having "more options"--are the people least likely to actually do so.

My next step is not to say that I know what I should do, or you should do, or anybody should do. (And for the most part that discussion doesn't belong on this blog.) But I do know that checking out on the world is not the way to go.

Which brings me back to DC Comics. (Remember comic books? This is a blog about comic books.)

A while ago I got so fed up with the various wretched things DC was doing that I stopped buying their comics (except for Legion of Super-Heroes, until there wasn't any more of that for me to buy either). And there were another couple of companies that did things I didn't care for either, and I stopped dealing with them too. But, you know, you do enough of that kind of thing, and you start to get a sense of the limitations of the tactic.

1. It frequently doesn't work. As in, whatever company you're boycotting may very well ignore you and keep on with what they were doing. And then where are you?
2. It's really another version of checking out of the world.
3. You can only do it once. Imagine this scenario. XYZ corporation says that they're going to do Plan A. You don't like Plan A, so you tell XYZ corporation so, and you tell them that if they stick with Plan A they'll lose you as a customer. XYZ corporation weighs these considerations and keeps going with Plan A. You take your business elsewhere. A few months later XYZ corporation announces that now that Plan A is going so well, they're also going to start in on Plan B. You like Plan B even less than Plan A. But now what are you going to say to XYZ corporation about it? You can't become even less of their customer!
4. You lose touch with what the people you're boycotting are up to.
5. If you keep doing it, you will eventually reach a point where you can't deal with anybody anymore (and you will reach that point, because, as stipulated above, everything is terrible) and you're basically a hermit in your house.

The problem is with exerting influence over powerful economic or political entities that are very good at not listening to anybody they don't have to. I don't have any secret trick for doing it, but my thinking now is that you can do it better by maintaining a relationship with them than by cutting off that relationship.

So I'm lifting my sanction from DC Comics. I mean, who knows what they'll get up to without me watching carefully, amirite? It's not because I think they deserve it; it's just that I'm starting to feel like all I've really done is leave myself out of the discussion. So I'm climbing back in. Slowly. I can't think of a whole lot of DC titles I really feel like reading these days, although there are assorted back issues and collections, and of course the Legion showing up in Justice League United, which I would have gotten anyway, and it's about time I bit the bullet on Astro City... We'll see.

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