We Have Reached Peak PC

On the internet you can pretty much say whatever you want. Any idiot can get themselves a social media account and some free space on Tumblr and spew empty brain farts out into the ether at will. To read something really crazy on, say, Twitter isn’t a big shock because expressing yourself on Twitter requires no writing skill or social graces. Put simply, there are plenty of places you can go if you want to rage pointlessly or read someone raging pointlessly (this column, for example).

Slate, however, isn’t Tumblr or some other site that exists solely to aggregate the various “feelz” of  melodramatic 19-year-olds. Slate is, for all intents and purposes, a serious politics and culture outlet. True, there have been times over the past couple of years when, along with Salon at its nadir, the site has felt like its goal is to troll sane people. Overall though, Slate still has a stable of excellent writers creating thought-provoking content and taking stands that can’t always be politically pigeonholed. In the past it’s even called out internet outrage, in one of the most sweeping indictments of the phenomenon ever published, and it’s featured highly critical examinations of the campus rape and revived Woody Allen controversies.

You’d think that if you put these two things together (that any idiot can write something stupid online but that Slate isn’t a stupid outlet), that Bryan Lowder’s piece decrying “spooning” as problematically sexist wouldn’t exist. At least not as it was published at Slate.

Lowder, who reportedly writes and edits for “Outward,” the site’s generally good LGBT issues section, posted the column that is without a doubt one of the most painfully absurd descents into self-important cultural criticism and general internet madness ever conceived by a seemingly sentient being. Lowder’s thesis is that spooning, the act of curling up directly against your lover from behind in bed and holding that person or being curled up against and held, is a “terrible idea” that’s “fraught both physically and ideologically.”

At first it seems like Lowder just might, hope against hope, be joking. But then comes this kind of thing:

Big spoons are manly and will take care of you (provided you let them use you to take care of themselves); little spoons are fragile, passive creatures that need to be held and kept safe. This, of course, is fundamentally a sexist arrangement, one that casts the big spoon as ‘the man’ and the little spoon as ‘the woman.’ To say that this power imbalance is built into all acts of spooning — whichever the sexes engaged — is not, I think, an overstatement. Indeed, I would argue that spooning is always already a power play, a perverse strategy by which we nightly enact the unjust relations of ‘big’ and ‘little’ privilege that plague our society on every level.

Hey, remember when it was the liberal position to not concern yourself with what consenting adults do in private? Those were the days. Look, keeping religious fundamentalists out of my bedroom is already a full-time job, I don’t need to also box-out glorified Tumblr snowflakes.

Lowder, needless to say, has an alternative to spooning at the ready that he would rather you do in the privacy of your bedroom:

What we need is conscious cuddling, cuddling that takes into account the realities of our bodies, so easily taxed, and the pressures of a fallen social system that unnecessarily sorts us into limiting categories of big and little. Luckily, there’s a solution at the ready: Cuddle sitting up. It’s bracingly simple, I know, but it is the balm we need. Vertical cuddling—whether with an arm loosely paced around the neck, or a head freely reclined on a shoulder, or just sitting cozily side-by-side—removes much of the risk of physical discomfort and all of the semiotic violence that spooning conveys. It also allows for intimacy we actually experience because we are, you know, awake.

The internet has allowed anybody to post whatever he or she wants, no matter how far up their own ass but Slate has editors, ones you’d hope would be in a higher position than the delicate snowflake that is Bryan Lowder. You would also hope that those editors would read something like this and send it back to Lowder with a series of laughter emojis emblazoned across the top and the words, “No, seriously, what are you writing today?” typed underneath.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that this lunatic nonsense, literally telling people how to sleep, is designed merely to troll, but if that’s the case you get the impression it’s Slate doing it. Bryan Lowder seems pretty sincere in his quixotic fight against the villainy of spooning (between straights, gays, or anything in between or beyond).

If Slate is genuinely trying to cultivate and continue its reputation as a relatively serious site, it has it’s work cut out for it if continues to let Lowder (or anyone) write ridiculous horseshit like this.

As for the rest of us, one day we’ll all look back on this period in our culture and laugh.

No One Likes a Quitter

Hey, did you catch Game of Thrones Sunday? Turns out that Sunday’s episode upset a bunch of people.

Why are people upset? Turns out about halfway through the episode (*spoilers* by the way), Jamie and Bronn finally catch up to Myrcella at the same time the Sand Snakes make their move to kidnap her and what should have been an awesome five-way fight scene turned out to be clunky and awkward and didn’t lead to much other than everyone involved getting captured.

They can’t all be winners I guess.

Oh, and at the end of the episode Ramsay Bolton marries Sansa Stark and is…let’s say “less than gentle” when it comes to consummating the union, all while castrated man-slave Reek is forced to watch. Shocking right? Who would have thought that Ramsay would be such a douche to his new wife?

Apparently it was shocking and upsetting to a lot of people. The ending of the episode is so controversial in fact that it’s got the Internet Outrage Machine churned up to full throttle. It’s gotten so out of hand that many have announced (via twitter of course because that’s where internet outrage lives) that they are “quitting” the show. Feminist site The Mary Sue has vowed to no longer cover Game of Thrones episodes following such an unprecedented and problematic scene.

Which in my mind begs the question: Has The Mary Sue even been covering Game of Thrones to begin with? I’m more than ready to call bullshit on the “twitter quitters” as mostly being outrage bandwagoners who don’t watch the show but can’t miss an opportunity to be morally indignant about something, but if The Mary Sue has really been regularly covering Game of Thrones episodes, shouldn’t they know better by now?

In all fairness, the final scene in Sunday’s episode was extremely disturbing and upsetting, it was meant to be. George R. R. Martin and the show runners have established Ramsay as a lunatic sadist since he first appeared and there was very little chance of that scene going down any other way. In fact, it closely mirrors a similar scene in the books, the main difference being that Sansa wasn’t the victim but rather a young woman posing as Arya Stark.

Additionally, while the “rape of Sansa” is again disturbing, it’s hardly the worst thing to happen in the show, even to a woman. Remember the Red Wedding? Where a pregnant Talisa is murdered via several stabs to the abdomen? Having read to books, I knew that the Red Wedding was coming but even I wasn’t ready for that. Or in Season Two (I think) when Tyrion hires a couple of prostitutes for Joffrey hoping that it would mellow him out a bit and how horribly pear-shaped that goes? Ramsay’s a bastard (in more than one sense) but he’s not even in Joffrey’s league when it comes to tormenting women.

Game of Thrones has decapitated characters, castrated them, and even featured far worse treatment of some of its female characters. So why was this too far? Is this really the worst thing the show has yet done, or is this just the internet outrage du jour for people who are on a hair trigger when it comes to being offended at anything that they find to be personally distasteful?

Salon Writer Goes #FullMcIntosh on Charlie Hebdo Solidarity

It turns out that if you’re standing in solidarity with the slain staff of Charlie Hebdo, you’re engaged in an unconscionable act of white privilege.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, allow me to show you the tumblr trigger-fit thrown by Salon’s Brittney Cooper as a result of her watching the Golden Globes:

“As I watched multiple white celebrities don the stage and stand in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack and other innocent bystanders, I marveled at the privilege that they had of being specific. Even though some people of color were casualties of the attacks in Paris, by and large this was an attack on white French satirists whose bread and butter was the routine disrespect of the Muslim community. Attacks on largely white victims received a huge and committed show of solidarity, while the Black Lives Matter Movement that has consumed our news cycle for the last four months was apparently not even worthy of mention.”

Here we have a recurrence of the false narrative that satirizing a long-dead “prophet” is tantamount to a “routine disrespect of the Muslim community” as people, which has been a depressingly common theme with twitter. Cooper calls it the magazine’s “bread and butter,” demonstrating that she has no familiarity whatsoever with Charlie Hebdo.

As an internet social justice activist, Cooper is uniquely trained to spot racism, even where none exists. Note how she acknowledges that the Black Lives Matter movement “has consumed our news cycle for the last four months,” which would seem to indicate the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in Staten Island (where Cooper erroneously thinks the Statue of Liberty is located), and Tamir Rice in Cleveland have in fact been at the forefront of the national discussion.

Those killings, however, happened in August and November, and the most recent major news related to them was the non-indictment of Garner’s killer and the massive protests that ensued. That was over a month ago, a century in terms of the news cycle. The attack on Charlie Hebdo, however, happened a mere five days before the Golden Globes, which is one reason why it was on the celebrities’ minds.

Another reason it was on those celebrities’ minds can be summed up in one word: art. The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were killed for practicing their profession as artists, which is what the actors, directors, musicians, choreographers, and others recognized at the Golden Globes are.

Whether or not Cooper liked the work of Charb and the other murdered Hebdo cartoonists is irrelevant. They died because they drew pictures, and that’s an unsettling idea for any artist or performer. Hence the solidarity, about which Cooper proceeds to say:

“The attacks on Charlie Hebdo are absolutely devastating. But the Je Suis Charlie movement among white American liberals is nothing short of disingenuous. It represents an attempt to displace black people from the center of a political moment that has been about state-sanctioned terror against black people. The fervor of white celebrities to speak of their white counterparts abroad while managing not to say even one word about the movements for racial justice happening here at home strikes me as being part and parcel of liberal white dishonesty on questions of race.“

Cooper has never met me, but since I am a “white American liberal” she knows my thoughts. Since she’s been studying social justice for so many years, which entitles her to draw conclusions and make sweeping generalizations about me and other white people. And that’s why she knows that when I say, “Je suis Charlie,” that I am engaged in an attempt to “displace black people” like Brown, Garner, and Rice “from the center of a political moment.”

It’s not because I want to stand up for the right to free speech; it’s not because I think cartoonists shouldn’t be killed for what they draw; it’s not because I think writers such as myself and Cooper shouldn’t be threatened with violence for what we write; it’s not because I resent the totalitarian nature of radical Islam; but it’s because I am a racist who wants to push black issues aside, out of the limelight so that I may help perpetuate the institutional oppression that my race has been perpetrating on people of color for centuries.

But wait, there’s more:

“White celebrities saw no issue with standing in solidarity with a newspaper that routinely antagonizes Islamic communities under the auspices of free speech. Freedom of speech is, of course, fundamental to creative practice, and defense of it is warranted. But failure to stand for freedom of speech, without also acknowledging the ways it has been used by Charlie Hebdo to antagonize Muslims is absolutely egregious.”

Cooper then says, “I’m not saying blame the victim,” immediately after blaming the victim.  It’s astounding that social justices activists reserve so much  more vitriol for the murdered cartoonists and their defenders than they does the killers. In fact, Cooper doesn’t mention them at all.

Who Cares What the Media Says About Gamers?

A common refrain about the media in America is that our media has  a “liberal bias.” This has been debunked several times of course, the largest “news” network in the U.S. is basically the Republican Party’s media arm after all, but the media definitely does have a strong bias:

Laziness.

The American media is lazy, and it hates nuance. That’s why you’ll get a network like CNN spending weeks endlessly talking and speculating about a missing Malaysian airliner until the next big obvious thing comes along.

It’s in the midst of this laziness and hatred of nuance that gamers once again find themselves in relation to the media narrative of the #gamergate consumer revolt. There’s been a lot of wailing and rending of garments over the coverage that #gamerate has gotten in the media with outlets like MSNBC, The Guardian, and numerous online outlets regurgitating the narrative spoon fed to them by the people who despise gamers the most, a low-rent games press anxious to advertise its moral virtue.

At the behest of the games press, the mainstream media has entirely cast aside any ethics considerations brought up by #gamergate despite the fact that The Escapist, Kotaku and Polygon have each amended their editorial policies as a result of the concerns brought to light. This would seem, to me at least, like an acknowledgment of systemic failure.

Gamers supporting #gamergate have also successfully helped green-light a female developer’s game on the Steam marketplace via a Twitter campaign (all while opponents of #gamergate urged a boycott because she has the wrong opinions) and also contributed over $20,000 to the Fine Young Capitalists, a feminist organization.

Instead, the media has lazily stereotyped #gamergate as the highest expression of sexism in gaming and that gamers are a horde of basement-dwelling, fedora wearing neckbeards who hate the idea of women and/or minorities playing videogames and will threaten to murder and/or rape any that try. Five minutes of independent research would disprove most of these stereotypes but that would be work, and work is hard. Plus, it has the unfortunate side effect of complicating your tidy narrative.

It also bears mention that not a single arrest or prosecution has yet been brought as a result of alleged threats in which #gamergate has been implicated. nor a shred of evidence linking any #gamergate supporter to any threat. It should also be pointed out that social justice fundamentalists use online “threats” as currency in a perverted sort of Oppression Olympics, showing off to one another and begging for donations with each new round of threats that, in many cases observers suspect they have deliberately manufactured for themselves.

The annoyance is certainly understandable, but it shouldn’t really be surprising at this point. In fact, as depressing as it is, this perception of gamers is actually an improvement. You may recall, 10-15 years ago, once it was discovered that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who committed the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, were avid players of Doom, the media narrative around gamers became that we were all just one bad day from becoming mass-murderers.

Is it any wonder gaming enthusiasts and #gamergate supporters alike look at these dishonest summaries of themselves and the hobby they love, which in many cases has been an escape from everyday troubles, and are driven to hyperbole when describing their critics?

However, this media attitude in some ways actually helps #gamergate in that it solidifies opposition to lazy, ideologically motivated  media coverage which takes the easy route through the #gamergate controversy, instead of addressing the movement’s concerns and scrutinizing the claims made by the people who want to turn the entirety of the internet into an echo-chamber for their opinions.

It seems pretty clear at this point that gamers as a whole are a long way from getting any kind of fair shake from the media, even the media that purports to serve us specifically. Perhaps in another 10-15 years we’ll become acceptable members of society. In the meantime, if they don’t want gamers as part of their audience I think we should oblige them.