Individualists of Modern Philosophy and Social Justice

I have a soft spot for the brooding, sorta-kinda sexist dudes of modern philosophy whose work has helped to bring a great tide of social change that ultimately is helping all subjugated classes have a language and approach uniquely suited to themselves.

Nietzsche is one of the fathers of modern philosophy who had a great impact our modern understanding of how we conceive of ourselves as individuals in the context of social constructs. His big challenge surrounded the concept of finding one’s own path in a world he found mired with decadence. Primary among his concerns was how Christianity leads us to behaviors that are pathetic and avoidant of reality. The biggest sin which really turned his stomach was pity – the ugly emotion which caused privileged people to rely on finding lower classes of people struggling to “help” creating a never-ending relationship of dependency (in both directions). Reading his texts closely, his anger was not at the downtrodden, but for those who wish to keep the downtrodden in their place. He wanted everyone to rise up to their highest heights of their own accords.

Unfortunately, his death led to his sister managing his estate and philosophical texts, which were turned over and used to help with Nazi propaganda. Oops.

In the wake of Nietzsche, a new era of philosophers took on the problems of the day. Sartre and Camus were front and center in France, arguing about personal responsibility for creating meaning in life.

Sartre argued for a radical freedom accompanied with radical choice and discussed the feelings of angst, despair, anxiety and such that accompanies such responsibility. He discussed the paradigm it inspires to cause each person to become a sort of model for all mankind, as each decision we make should be made with the expectation that anyone else in our shoes should make the same decision.

Camus came to the existentialist world from the side. He confronted the problem of meaning in life with a question – the problem of suicide. Essentially, we have to start by asking about meaning in life – if we have no access to an absolute source of meaning in life that is given to us, then how can we go on living? He goes on to claim that we have to live in defiance to our fate of not knowing or understanding a greater meaning to life. He compares the struggle to Sisyphus rolling the rock for eternity with a sort of gritty grin, a sort of fuck you to Hades for the absurdity of our position of existing in perpetual absurdity. Our struggle with absurdity leads the choices we make relating to society very important for creating the value of our own existence.

These philosophers could wrongly be attributed to leading to the conservative arguments that anyone can just pull up their bootstraps and make a better life for themselves. In all of their cases, they understood some of the subtleties of socialization and the challenges to asserting an individual identity within a society. Humans form themselves in the context of interacting with their environment.

Sartre and Camus were not conservatives, they had a history of working at an underground newspaper during German occupation. They understood the feeling of being underclass, though Sartre found that suddenly as a man of privilege thrown into the chaos of war and occupation that entered France. Camus was born into intense poverty in Algeria and barely made it out – without his close mentor helping to hone his ideas and show him a path forward to higher education and Paris, he may have stayed in the lower classes forever.

Individualism sprouted from these men from a confrontation with injustice, inhumanity and alienation. Before Nietzsche became the author of “The Antichrist” he was actually on the path of becoming a well-respected pastor. His experiences as a youth in the church environment soured him to that path in life as he saw the flawed thinking and behaviors it caused. Sartre wanted the world to be filled with people who maximized all of our abilities to practice our radical freedoms – without being at the expense of others. Camus stubbornly appealed to everyone’s better selves, even when it made him ridiculed (as when he looked for a peaceful solution for the future of Algeria before it degraded into war with France). The most poignant moment of his young life was witnessing the hanging of a condemned man by the state – his essay Reflections of the Guillotine indicates clearly his stance on standing up to injustice.

Camus_quote

We don’t tend to view these philosophers as humanists because of their emphasis on the self. But from the self, we can understand that rising to our own heights involves the awareness of what shackles us. The stronger we support systems that benefit some at the expense of others, the more we lose ourselves. If the great individualist philosophers of the modern era could understand the relationship between society and self, we can now as well.

Selfish arguments that are based on raising a group up above others without any recognition of social systems is bankrupt. Nietzsche would call you decadent. Sartre would say you are arguing in Bad Faith. And Camus would say, “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”

We are mired in an era filled with those who fight desperately to avoid the responsibilities afforded to their existence. Camus was right when he said, “Freedom is not made up principally of privileges; it is made up especially of duties.” Yet somehow the meaning of freedom continues to erode very clearly into the realm of privilege.

I will continue to speak out in the tradition of these individualists of modern philosophy, all doomed to garner the hatred of the conservatives of their time who wished nothing more than that power remained sucked into the orifices of the mouths who have always held power over others. Those who most arduously defend their “right” to privilege are the most lost and the most deserving to suffer from a healthy dose of pushback. People of any true talent and skill need not rely on holding others down for their own sense of achievement, which is why those who clutch to their privilege are also those most mired in a sad state of mediocrity.

When Disagreement Isn’t Enough

We are living in an era which has no understanding of what discourse is. That is – people think that having a disagreement or an argument that uses points is essentially discourse. This is not correct. A few things:

1) Discourse doesn’t exist if your goal is to silence your opponent.

Discourse should illuminate your own views and alternate views. Any attempts at silencing someone shows that no efforts are being made to have a true discussion.

2) Discourse doesn’t exist if you aren’t using facts to support factual claims.

Most arguments are a mix of ideology mixed with factual evidence to provide proof of concept. If the factual information is incorrect and the argument turns into a debate about whether science or something else that is not disputable is disputed, then there is no discourse.

3) Discourse doesn’t exist if your arguments rely on wishful thinking or “playing devil’s advocate.”

Discussing an ideal as an obtainable reality because “that’s how things should be” isn’t discourse, it is a conversation-stopper. If there is an ideal you wish to achieve, discuss steps that move you toward it and why that is the ideal you wish to achieve – don’t postulate that it should exist, therefore let’s leap there. Discourse involves confronting reality.

“Devil’s advocate” arguments are meant not to be genuine, if you don’t have a counter to your devil’s advocate argument that you find compelling – then that is your argument. If it isn’t your argument, then don’t waste time on it. Devil’s advocate scenarios are often terrible time wasters that involve intentionally undermining a discussion.

4) Discourse involves staying on topic.

If questions are being asked that change the subject, or minor points are being disputed that don’t change the intellectual thrust of an argument – discourse is being subverted. People who do these things are either willingly derailing conversations as a diversionary tactic to avoid confronting the holes in their logic, or they’re doing it out of habit or impulse. Either way, veering off-path isn’t discourse, it is a massive time waster.

Why does all this matter? Because we waste too much time trying to argue with people who aren’t interested in seeing an idea through from beginning to end. Particularly, arguing with GamerGaters is always an exercise in futility because A) they claim minor supporting evidence to my arguments are major premise points (and then try to pick them apart, often with poor arguments), B) they reject factual and highly supported arguments offhand out of reflex, particularly anything involving social science research, C) they use red herring argument tactics, constantly changing what the conversation is about and always dodging and weaving from confronting specific argument points in a linear fashion, and D) their goal is to dominate/intimidate their opponents, you can’t have a discussion with someone who is trying to shut you up rather than earnestly convince you of their point or consider in good faith the validity of your points.

Pay attention to those who aren’t trying to engage you in discourse, there is no value in arguments with those who don’t have pure motivations in talking with you.

I try to view every conversation as a chance to gather information. What are the values of the person I am talking to? How did they gain those values? Why? How are those values different than mine? etc.

So often I find that GamerGater values slide around as conversations progress, because they aren’t being fully honest with me (and probably themselves) about what motivates them. Of particular note – all of my articles discussing GamerGate behavior related to highlighting their ideology are met with extreme hatred, and are then backed up with little or no evidence beyond name-calling.

I am open to being wrong, we all should be. I’m waiting for a GamerGater to provide a convincing argument of something through a genuine attempt at discourse. I’m waiting. Waiting and waiting and waiting. But I’m not going to waste my time once I see that efforts at discourse are a total waste of time.

Meghan Trainor’s “My Future Husband” is terrible

This song is total garbage. Conservative and progressive people both have strong reasons to hate it. It is regressive, objectifying, yet selfish and lazy in a way that can unite everyone around its strange, entitled lyrics.

Congratulations, Meghan Trainor, your song and video are so shitty that you’ve united people across all political persuasions to hate it.

The Privilege of Ignorance: GamerGate, Misogyny and Male Power

So, strange thing happened the other day. I wrote an article about how GamerGate is like Woodstock ’99 and I got bombarded with denialists of all sorts. Some people have relatively valid complaints against me or misunderstood my point in areas where I was unclear. Others were way off base, and the ways that they were off base indicated to me something that has been on my mind a lot lately.

The many, many GamerGaters who believe that this has nothing to do with women seem to suffer from something akin to unconscious prejudice. They’re very motivated and upset about Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, etc… but they can’t seem to find it within themselves to realize how any of this connects to misogyny in themselves.

Being unaware of one’s own prejudice is a result of privilege. Privilege is created by living in a culture that values things on a sliding scale that isn’t meritocratic. We absorb these messages subconsciously without any need to engage it. They just become underlying “facts” of life that are seemingly obvious. A large reason they are obvious is confirmation bias: by witnessing things occasionally that fit the narrative, that is understood as sufficient proof of an overarching concept. A good example:

“If you think rock and roll never “recovered” from Woodstock ’99, you’re an idiot. There are still plenty of open-air festivals that still make insane amounts of money.”

Statistically, looking purely at album sales, rock music is doing exceptionally poorly compared to previous decades in terms of share of marketplace (particularly compared to pop music) and compared to itself (total albums sold, told # of bands on Billboard top 200, total # of hits). This kind of reasoning is much like global warming deniers who cite cold winters as evidence that global warming doesn’t exist. Nevermind all of the hard statistical data proving otherwise that global warming is real – I’m going to Rock Fest to see Nickleback!

This kind of confirmation bias is the root of how misogyny and sexism take hold in something as strange as “ethics in games journalism.” Depression Quest is a free game made by an indie developer that is rather unexceptional in the scheme of the games industry. It received minimal press until the harassment of Zoe Quinn began. It was a small blip on the radar, except for her ex-boyfriend losing his shit publicly about her – and that’s where this GamerGate movement began.

Forgetting the quality of Depression Quest, or the fact that it is free, why are the people targeted most by GamerGate women? Why are so many people so upset about Zoe Quinn to this day?

I’ll use the word “triggering” to describe the effect Zoe Quinn has on GamerGaters. Her existence, and her ex’s blog post about her triggered inside many of these GamerGaters a set of feelings they have that are misogynistic and latent (hiding under the surface).

A common thread among GamerGaters is a feeling of victimhood. What makes these people victims? A feeling of being wronged by women somehow, even if that feeling is completely generated inside of their heads. This can include feeling wronged by being ignored or rejected, or by feeling that the acclaim a woman has reached is unfair because their own sense of happiness and self-worth is lower than the woman’s.

One GamerGater, who I believe to be rather representative of what I’ve seen of the GamerGate community (if not even more respectful and patient than most GamerGaters) responded to me with the following comments:

“I see some female indie developers claiming victimhood while many other female developers are not even bothered. My question is why them? Are they reacting to the trolls? Publicity?

You can’t just state that a group is misogynistic without actual proof. Every group has its bad seeds, it’s outliers.”

“The way story involving Zoe came out wrong. The ex drama was ugly. Her game did receive favorable press from people she was connected with.

The joke was and is that it’s a terrible game. I don’t hate her. I don’t hate women making games, but I do hate being told I can’t make such statements.

Her game is cap and for it to be in the place where good indie games also developed by other female devs exist is a joke. And outlandish joke.”

“Not every rape claim is true. Just as not every claim or accusation of any sort is always true. that’s not a misogynistic statement as not every rape even involves women. “

You can see here two things: a propensity to minimize and dismiss problems that disproportionately affect women, and that his specific complaint against Zoe Quinn has nothing to do with ethics.

After a little research, I found an excerpt of his writing.

Jesse_Dedman_writing_sample

He claimed this was “story with intention of echoing the fables and myths of old, which is why the prose is archaic and full of tropes used frequently in ancient myths.” In actuality, there aren’t ancient myths featuring abusive women, particularly anything close to this level of slave torture.

This kind of writing doesn’t spring out of nowhere. Writing of women with immense, cruel power is right in line with the GamerGate ethos. These are men who feel victimized by women who have any power at all, just by their existence. They can’t understand understand their feelings or connect to them directly, but that threatened male ego easily gets turned on its head

This guy who wrote this, for instance, I don’t think he’s a “bad guy” or a “woman hater.” It is doubtful that he spends his time ruminating on the idea “I hate all women.” I think it works differently. I think he has deep-seated issues with women regarding himself feeling at a loss of power. Games allow him to feel a sense of power with the safety of knowing that power won’t be dispossessed. As women encroach into games, that power is threatened.

I am guessing that he doesn’t realize these kinds of feelings, and may feel genuine when he thinks “Zoe is different, I don’t like her because of these specific reasons” but because of the nature of these feelings, almost any female game developer will reignite his defensive, powerless response unless that developer is helping him fulfill his desire to feel powerful and is no way threatening or challenging. This is a very small window for women to fit into without getting lashed out against.

All of these strange feelings and behaviors toward women, which outsiders don’t fully understand, are encapsulated in the privilege of being considered the dominant class of the gaming industry consumers. Games have overwhelmingly been geared for men wanting to continually relive their drive to bolster their inner-power, however fragile, and women in games need to be subservient to this need. This privilege comes at a cost to the games industry – namely, that the games that service this need are getting worn out, and women make up more than 50% of people who play games.

The notion or fear that making changes to the games industry to be more welcoming to women (or just to have more diverse games content) would ruin the ability for guys to find more games to satisfy their power fantasy is ridiculous. There will always be games geared toward male power fantasies.

My suggestion to all who associate themselves with GamerGate – if you feel threatened or upset by women with power, or a sense that women have too much power over you – you are probably not in GamerGate for “ethics in journalism” reasons. It is very likely that this movement has tapped into your subconscious fears. You are not battling real enemies in the games industry, you are battling your inner-demons.

Warning: GamerGate is Woodstock ’99

In 1999, the alternative rock scene flooded into Woodstock for a massive concert that was supposed to be the biggest thing since the original Woodstock. The lineup had an mix of rock musicians, along with an eclectic mix of hip-hop, electronic and musical legends. In theory, this would have been an amazing experience connecting modern music back to the previous generation’s Summer of Love.

What ended up happening was not amazing, it was horrifying. The most testosterone filled crowd-goers and musical acts dominated the scene, and literally destroyed everything. The fatal blow came from Limp Bizkit’s performance of “Break Stuff.”

The breakdown of the destruction, violence and rapes and everything can be read here, but there is no need to share that all here. What I want to share, for everyone who cares about the games industry, that GamerGate might be our Woodstock ’99 moment.

5-Woodstock-99–1999

The saturation of angry, misogynistic, destructive, entitled men at Woodstock ’99 created an environment that was unsafe, particularly to women. The result commercially was devastating. Many articles (ex. 1, 2) have been posted over the past 15 years trying to understand why rock music has been declining since the 1990’s. My argument is that Woodstock ’99 told the world that rock music was only for angry men. The anger and disaffection in early grunge rock was about consumerism, alienation and the absurdity of modern existence. We also had quite a few female rock musicians that were a critical part of the scene and movement such as Sleater-Kinney, Tori Amos, P.J. Harvey, Garbage, Republica, No Doubt, Cranberries, Veruca Salt, Elastica, Hole, 4 Non Blondes, etc. If you go to Wikipedia, you won’t find an entry for anything after 2000 for female bands.

Since 1999, rock music has not told a story that was universal – it has been the story of aggressive men complaining about what aggressive men do.

Woodstock ’99 told the world who rock music was for, and it wasn’t for women. It is no wonder that since this time, women have looked outside of rock music for their musical icons. Nicki Minaj and Beyonce are examples of women embody the power that once could be found in rock music, without clear examples of strong females in rock music to idolize and emulate and with the clear message that rock music is a male realm – we haven’t seen new, popular female rock artists. It could be argued that marketing plays into this vacuum, but there is always a cyclical nature in the death of an industry.

We’re now half a year in to the GamerGate phenomenon. It has clearly demonstrated itself as being geared toward making games the place for masculinity just as we saw in Woodstock ’99 for rock music. This is where we all need to be careful.

Do not underestimate the damage that GamerGate can do to the games industry. Do not underestimate what the droves of women flocking out of the games industry and tech might mean for the future of games. Rock music still hasn’t recovered and may never will. The games industry has already proven to be volatile, GamerGate could truly be a catalyst of an unknowable amount of financial/commercial damage to games.

While the fight against GamerGate is ongoing and more efforts are being made than ever to discuss inclusion and diversity in games, the fatigue and alienation caused by these people is real. If GamerGate gets what they want, the games industry is going to lose for it. The writing is on the wall, rock music shows what can happen.

Abundance vs. Scarcity – GamerGaters Worldview Perspective

The worldview of GamerGaters mimics, in many ways, that of conservative Republicans. People with a conservative understanding of the world see everything as being limited. Jobs, natural resources, money, women, etc. This worldview leads Republicans toward advocating policies that allow for hoarding, because they desire to hold onto and gain power, because if you don’t take it – you’ll lose it to someone else who will take it.

The reality, of course, is that it is possible to exist in a society where most people have enough to comfortably survive and advance and wealthy people aren’t threatened and are able to prosper as well.

In the game industry, this is particularly relevant. At no other time in gaming history has it been so easy and cheap to make games. Anyone can make any game they like, and if it is executed well (regardless of content) there is probably a market for it.

This makes the complaints about feminists ruining games so utterly ridiculous. Creating a wider diversity of games with different content can do nothing to harm people who enjoy their male-pandering games full of all of the tropes about male power, female objectification, etc. There’s a market for those games, and those games will be made.

This deep fear illustrated by GamerGaters comes from a feeling of having power and trying desperately to hold on to it. Sadly, their only power is that of a consumer, and as marketers and advanced statisticians/economists understand where the biggest gains in making money in a diverse market will come from… they are squandering their power away by behaving so poorly.

If a key demographic of your game drives away all of your other consumers, that is a liability. As a sad and pathetic movement, GamerGaters are making themselves scarce.

SVU on GamerGate shows we need a Tropes for Women in SVU

As reported by Kotaku, the last episode of Law and Order: SVU was a real stinker.

The late night crime shows have a long history of excitably casting women as brutalized victims of deranged and misunderstood men. This episode was no exception. A few things were exceptionally painful:

1) The female game developer character is actually captured and brutalized by a GamerGate crew of dudes. The optics of this scenario feeds the most misogynistic and violent of the GamerGate crowd with a sort of pornographic wish fulfillment about their unending desire to put Quinn, Wu and Sarkeesian in their places.

If this episode was meant to illuminate the misguided misogyny of GamerGaters, it was strangely removed from the reality of the real threats and behaviors these people show in a way that makes the GamerGaters look relatively normal in comparison – a ridiculously difficult task.

2) GamerGater guys working together in the real world to enact violence against a woman together – this is not the mode of operation for these guys. They work in tandem online and build themselves up to feel certain things that touch on their male entitlement, sense of endless victimhood, etc. But the real “go and get-em” warriors of the group who are out for blood tend to be mentally ill solo actors.

As GamerGater dudes are obviously extremely sensitive to multimedia imagery and have a tendency to struggle understanding the difference between reality and their fantasy worlds, the absolute last thing we need is a new visual for them to attach to that shows a model of behavior that we don’t want.

The behavior in the episode is not only completely inaccurate to the struggles we’re dealing with, it can be used to push the violent dialogue and fantasies to a new extreme.

3) The episode’s shallow understanding of gaming culture and what is happening with GamerGate guys is so weak that it does nothing to shed light on a current issue. Topical episodes have some responsibility to illuminate an understanding to the general public and to take a stance on what is going on. The cartoonish depiction of everything made the episode’s relevancy moot… beyond the pornographic wish fulfillment element, that I’d argue is the worst thing they could accomplish.

4) Finally, and most importantly, this show is trying to capitalize on a terrifying and serious problem and turn a real sort of hate group/terrorist organization into entertainment for the masses.

Seriously, Fuck You. Law and Order: SVU and NBC, your constant failings are disgusting.

If there is anything that has more shitty tropes about women related to violence than video games, it is these shoddily written crime shows. I can only imagine that the writers and network guys who greenlit the episode implanted their own consistently misogynistic worldview into episode with the horrible tropes that are so common to this genre, because they’re so blandly lost in their own stupid tropes that it is impossible for them to have made this episode any other way.

As Sarkeesian is shedding light on problematic moments in games thematically, we need someone to shed light on the problematic moments in these shows in a similarly thematic way. It is time to put pressure on these asshats for making easily consumed garbage and make them actually work to make content that has some value.