My Two Pennies, Part IV

The comic that spawned the thread that became this month-long bollocking of a single piece of mediocrity in comic form is one of two late-2017 Penny Arcade comics that were being dragged around to show that these two millionaires who couldn’t care less about anything I have to say were Bad Persons. The other is… this one:

Now, I spent time criticising the first beyond all reason because well because I found it funny, but also because it’s boring and lazy and it uses a ton of space to make no reasonable damn point at all; Polygon dislikes thing; I’ll probably like it.

To me, that’s not a point, it’s just journalism. Polygon provided a useful context for Tycho. Like, that’s literally what Polygon should be doing: They give a clear, consistant journalistic voice, provide summary and context, and consumers can use that information to make reasonable and informed choices. People acting like ‘I always disagree with that journalist’ is a sign of criticism of that journalist are weird. If you’re always disagreeing with them, they’re at least presenting something consistant you can use.

The latter one however, got treatments like this, from Prequel-Liker and Games Journalism Thousandaire Harris Bomberguy.

My problem with the first strip was that reading it, I found it made a very, very simple self-evident point and used excessive space to repeat that point for no actual increased value at all. It was Comic Loaf, spackle of the soul. It isn’t this. It isn’t an inarticulate, confused rant from someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. It even avoids the sins of the first comic by dint of actually using the camera of the frame to do something, it actually uses the visual elements of the medium.

Look at this without the text. There is a progress of expression; regardless of what’s being said, it is at its core just revival tent sermonics, a procession from Seeming Calm, High Dudgeon, Brooding Rage, but like, it is actually doing something. The transition between panels has some meaning to it. You can tell how he feels about what he’s saying as he says it.

There’s also the way the face grows in frame. You draw closer, as he leans on his pulpit, as he looms over you, the congregation, and you imagine him as the face of a vengeful angel looming in the demeanour of the unrighteous against whom he preaches.

For those of you who do not this genre of rhetoric, Tycho argues like a preacher. I don’t know for sure because actual hard prying into the man’s history seems to be deliberately tricky on an internet where a man has been a constant presence baring his soul for twenty years but I have a suspicion that at least at some point in his past, Tycho was subject to a revival tent, perhaps attendant to a church in some way. Either way this is the mode of his argument. He argues like a preacher: he argues one-sidedly, imbued with rightness, where the height and weight of his values will carry where rational proofing cannot.

I think that’s why I never feel lost when I watch him making points or rhapsodically lathering in his own rhetoric. I know the genre. It makes sense to me.

with that in mind, here’s the thing about the bomberguy edit.

It’s just wrong.

This is not a reasonable interpretation of what this comic is, or is saying, or is about. And this is in a moment that everyone I know hating on this strip was on the same side as Tycho.

Here’s that same strip, with the wording massively simplified. This is, as I read it, the message of this comic strip. I know nobody who would be against this position. I know nobody who wants to go into bat for EA putting hundreds of people out of work as ‘creativity.’

And yes, clearly a big part of this is on Tycho. The dude is a communicator, and communicating his point is his job. This strip is doing literally nothing but giving you a highlight reel of a sermon, a 2-minute hate at a worthy target.

But it’s not this:

He understands. He understands the rhetoric of an executive VP who is framing the destruction of a game studio as a ‘creative act’, and that upsets him. He made a comic strip about it, or at least wrote it.

I bring this example up not because I think Penny Arcade’s crew are poor misunderstood butterflies. I think they’re a pair of millionaires who don’t care what I think. I bring this up because what I’m afraid of, what I see people I care about indulging, is that the image of them is easy to hate.

This (not this one specifically, just my first hit) was my childhood. Comics that one-sidedly presented the ideologies and ideas of others so they could be wholeheartedly and absolutely destroyed as icons of utter evil.

And now here’s the kicker:

I know people who were sharing this, out of context, then explaining the context incorrectly, then explaining that they hadn’t read the comic.

This lying to ourselves.

This is an act of hyper-irrigation. We are encouraging ourselves to hate people we already hate for bad reasons, because it is easy to hate them. It is moral liberterianism and it is a bad habit to get into and a worse habit to enjoy.

No funny jokey jokes.

If we hate, let us at least raise to a higher standard of hate. Let us not lie about those we disagree with to justify lying to others about them.

And fine, a joke.

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