Love is a word that is constantly heard,
Hate is a word that is not.
Love, I am told, is more precious than gold.
Love, I have read, is hot.
But hate is the verb that to me is superb,
And Love but a drug on the mart.
Any kiddie in school can love like a fool,
But Hating, my boy, is an Art.
All links are about horrible people being horrible.
I don’t know Benjanun Sriduangkaew very well. We met for the first time, I think, two months ago. I read a story she wrote, and referred by a friend, I followed her on twitter. She’s spoken to me about science fiction and fantasy and books and I’ve talked to her about bees and videogames.
The story of Benjanun as I know it is that she was very, very mean to some people; hurtful and rude, baleful and angry. Even if she was on the side of the angels, she threw the devil’s coal in the doing. Then, she stopped, and ten months, short stories and a book later, she was outed as being the jerk from her past, and made public apologies. Now, in her hair shirt, she’s experiencing the online SFF community break out the shovels and pile ashes upon her in shifts. There are good days, and there are bad days.
I think I may be pliable on this front because I myself know what it’s like to have had a radical reversal of personal outlook. I’ve looked at myself, at what my life was doing and said I really don’t want to be this person any more. The idea isn’t alien to me. It really shouldn’t be alien to anyone else, certainly in the realm of SFF fans.
For me, science fiction and fantasy stories are stories about people; stories about how we act and how we don’t act. They’re adorned about with impossible and potentials and maybes and what-ifs, but underneath every last piece of the ridiculous is the scaffolding of human interaction, the way people are. We’ve all seen stories of people who changed their minds. We’ve all seen them. We’ve all seen stories where the sinner turns and starts on a road to redemption. Those roads are rarely easy, but surely we know that story. Surely we can recognise in that narrative the most basic and simple truth: This is something people can do.
The thing that this all parallels however, is a current tumult that strikes at the far less respectable medium of videogames journalism, Gamergate. For those of you not particularly in the know, and not wanting to spend hours and hours enlightening themselves about it, Gamergate is a distributed network of, well, assholes. The term was first coined by an actor distributing videos about lies that claimed a woman videogame developer was a slut, and that her successes were result of mystical sexual powers. It then rolled on further into a harassment campaign that has since lied about its origins and formed into a sort of rolling, amorphous hate-mass, composed at its periphery of individuals convinced they’re being quite sensible and operating off reasonable concerns, and at its core there are some of the worst low-lives of the internet. I’m serious, you have Mens-Rights-Advocates, rape advocates, date-rape denialists, con-men, thieves, serial harassers and actual Neo-Nazis.
I need to underscore this, I’m not being comically hyperbolic. I’m talking about actual white supremacists and Neo-Nazis.
Gamergate is a pretty horrible event, even if it just branding for a simmering fragment of the nastier parts of the internet given a loudspeaker. You don’t want to wade too deeply into it, but just suffice, it’s a really horrible group of people. One tool they lean on, routinely, to make their case is the fundamentally untrustworthy nature of women.
Anita Sarkeesian is a videogame journalist and critic who made a video series about the tropes in videogames that are oriented against women or in favour of patriarchal structures. She raised funds for this with kickstarter, she was harassed and attacked for releasing videos, and eventually she was subject to death threats and the public release of her home address.
Gamergaters claim she raised funds fraudulently; that she fakes the harassment; that the videos are lies; and that the death threats never happened despite the police report existing.
Zoe Quinn is a videogame developer who made a videogame. The game was distributed for free after she paid to put it on a distribution service called Steam. Proceeds for donation from the game go to a charity for dealing with depression. The game received some smattering of praise and press because it was a new way to make games, because it dealt with some heavy themes, and because it was written by a small independent development team that happens to be a single woman in an industry that has a misogyny problem.
Gamergaters claim that she didn’t make a videogame at all – that it’s something else, but it’s not a game. They claim that it abused systems to get onto Steam. They claim that she’s stealing money that’s meant to go to a charity despite receipts existing. They claim the praise and press are due to Zoe Quinn sleeping with people, that it doesn’t really represent those themes because Zoe seems to be happy on her twitter, and that it was actually written by a man, and that the videogame industry has no such problem.
There’s other instances of this. Brianna Wu, Randi Harper, Jenn Frank, Mattie Brice, Patricia Hernandez – but there’s a universal pattern. A woman makes a claim, and her opposition claim she is lying. Even claims with evidence.
On the other side of this exchange, within the in-group of Gamergate itself, these people will assault even these modest claims (“Zoe Quinn made a videogame”) with utter disbelief. On the other hand, when it comes to their own side, their own supporters, we have seen Gamergaters claim…
- … that a man who doubts the Holocaust numbers doesn’t really count as a holocaust denialist
- … that suggesting sexual intercourse with women unsolicited cannot be sexual harassment if it comes from a woman, and criticising that is homophobic
- … that a man who wrote a manifesto seeking the destruction of a woman out of boredom with an actual Swastika tattoo on his chest and who proudly proclaimed himself ‘pro-white’ was not, in fact, a neo-Nazi or a misogynist
- … that a renowned opportunistic man who had called all gamers losers and degenerates was completely contrite
- … that a falsified facebook post had to be true because the aforementioned holocaust denialist wouldn’t lie
- …that a tweet of 200+ characters in which Anita Sarkeesian proclaimed comically racist anti-Japanese sentiment was real, and if not real, might as well be real because you know that’s what she thinks
- … that Stormfront, the white supremacist website, may be Nazis, but that just means that gamergate is ‘natsoc-inclusive.’
In every case we’re looking at instances where in-groups are given extraordinary trust, while conspiracy theories are crafted to attack even the most reasonable factual claims of the opposition. And this has been going on, non-stop for three months.
This has made me a little raw these days of anyone who, when they hear a woman make a claim, tell her she’s lying. I may have become overly enamoured of the act of trusting women as an act of radical praxis.
Let’s presume for a minute that all Benjanun’s e-crimes are true; that she has scoured other communities and attacked people and been a total raging asshole. This is not to downplay the harm a person being an asshole inflicts. After all, I’ve seen people reduced to suicidal thoughts by online abuse – and I am not one to think that turnabout is fair play when we’re talking about wrongs.
I guess what I have to ask, the question that endures in my mind is what does the hate get you?
You can’t stop her writing. Trust me, that much I can see. You may stop her publishing, but you’ll never stop Benjanun from writing. You couldn’t stop her by taking her hands, you surely won’t stop her by taking her audience. She’ll create. This is the internet – and she was able to get a following on a nowhere blog just by the force of her writing before.
You can’t stop her being skilled at writing. I mean, I’m going to guess there are at least a few people out there who resent someone they dislike being successful, which I can understand because that’s a feeling I have all the time, but it’s not a feeling I turn to actively trying to harm someone’s mental state. The jealousy’s natural, but the reaction’s still horrible. And hating her won’t make her get worse unless you genuinely damage her mental state, which is monstrous.
You can’t stop her being a woman of colour. Oh, god, wouldn’t that be perfect? Wouldn’t it just be wonderfully ironic if she turned out to not be what she is? Please, if you’re thinking this, if you’re even entertaining this, recognise that this is a total asshole thought. Right now one of the complaints being levelled at Benjanun is that she drove away the voices of marginalised people: By trying to erase her identity you’re doing the same thing.
So the hate gets you… well, it gets you the hate. I know the hate, I’m quite well acquainted with hate. Hate, in the right times and spaces, is a balm, a warm fuel that can turn the engine over in situations when nothing else will. Trust me, I can get hating something. It’s addictive. It’s nourishing, in some situations. But with Ms Benjanun Sriduangkaew, that’s all it gets you. It’ll be hate for hate’s sake. The kind that gives life to gamergate and all of its related flailing arms.
You can trust women. You can trust her apology. You can look at a woman admitting she did the wrong thing, and wanting to change and accept that.
You can sit back and accept that this person who did the wrong thing has recognised she did the wrong thing, and that she wants to make good on it. She wants to change. She wants to be different, she wants to be better, and after doing wrong, she wants to do right.
Hate is an art. Doing it well is difficult, and with any performance, any story, there comes a time to know when it should end.
Let it end here.
There’s really nowhere else for it to go.