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mygif

That second paragraph… thank you for putting that into better words than I.

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The dickwolves thing was fine until they doubled down on it. I mean, yes, it was a played out joke that had been done a million times before, but the initial complaint was pretty dumb.

But then they decided they had to “strike back”, and they refused to make a real effort to reign in what their fans were doing in their name, and that was most definitely not fine.

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mygif

Very well put, thanks.

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I’ve spoken about this before, but I think in PA’s case (and it’s not unique to them, I’m sure), it’s exacerbated by all the times they “took down” people and groups bigger than them. For years, they had a feedback loop of people cheering them on, and they were not equipped to handle someone less visible than they were telling them, with complete justification, that they were wrong about something more important than video games. That’s not an excuse for what they did, but I think it’s why they doubled down rather than pausing and taking stock or saying “sorry.”

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Then again, there are strips like the current series they’re doing.

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FeepingCreature said on July 26th, 2015 at 6:54 am

The Dickwolves thing left a profoundly bad taste in my mouth. Not the comic, I mean, but the fact that there was a negative reaction to it.

I think this comes down to a question of cultural appropriateness – and yes, cultural appropriation – which is, should culture be permitted to exist that is offensive to some people? Should culture be permitted to exist that is offensive to its own readership? Is it wrong for me, as a fan, to automatically take the side of the creators? Is it a sign of maturity to limit your output to things that are inoffensive, or is it a sign of immaturity to expect the world to only present you with inoffensive things?

And yes, to take the position that offensiveness is acceptable in culture necessitates speaking in defense of some people who are truly, undeniably total twats. Because that tend to be the sort of people who cause the most offense, and it’s easy to say “yeah, these guys are my outgroup, and they’re being total assholes, so let’s throw them to the wolves”. Maybe there’s something to be said for deciding, as a society, that some expressions of culture that cause offense are “too far”. But there’s always going to be a victim. There’s always going to be somebody who will take it badly. And that’s terrible, and I’m not gonna minimize their suffering, and I don’t want them to encounter art that causes them anguish. But I also don’t want there to be only art that can’t cause anyone anguish! I don’t think we should trim our culture down to a nigh-universally-acceptable minimum-offense level; I don’t think that’s fair towards the rest of us who don’t take offense! The plight of the victim matters, but the cultural enjoyment of the non-victims also matters!

With that in mind, hell yeah I’ll speak in defense of dickwolves. The comic was funny; I enjoyed it. My enjoyment matters, just like the pain it causes people who are triggered matters. A balance must be struck here, yes, but this balance must allow offensive culture to exist. Otherwise we’re cutting off a huge part of human cultural experience.

Just my two cents.

[edit] PS: There was a forum discussion back then, about how the PA guys should be punished for their transgressions against social norm. It was the only thing I had ever read in my life that caused me to feel true rage. It made me feel … like, I don’t know how to say this without being weird, but you know the sort of “mama bear” instinct? It’s the only thing I can relate it to. It made me want to stand in front of Penny Arcade with a sword and defend them against all that wanted to hurt them.

This may bias my opinion here.

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steve from the internets said on July 26th, 2015 at 8:42 am

The problem was not the strip, the problem was their reaction to the reaction to it, which was not good at all. Plenty of people would speak in defence of the dickwolves strip, myself amongst them, but a lot fewer would speak in defence of being total shits about it afterwards.

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FeepingCreature said on July 26th, 2015 at 9:33 am

Fair enough, I didn’t follow that.

It’s sort of weird that we have to give standing advice to artists to not read comments on their own work. Given what I’d read in response to the comic itself, I can certainly see how one might have a shitty reaction.

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L. A. Julian said on July 26th, 2015 at 11:19 am

So, the Adam Sandler/Happy Madison of webcomics, then.

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@FeepingCreature: Thank you for illustrating a common trait to those who defend Penny Arcade–they automatically equate criticism with censorship, and equate censorship with oppression. Penny Arcade went from “Hey, that comic makes light of rape for no worthwhile reason and I think the joke would have been better without it” to “They’re throwing us to the wolves!”

You say, ” I don’t want them to encounter art that causes them anguish.” But you clearly don’t want to be confronted by the unpleasant connotations of your enjoyment of the strip. You want everyone else to be silent so that you can enjoy the things you enjoy without having to think too hard about what they’re really saying, and no, that’s not going to happen. If someone else has to read the dickwolves comic and feel bad, you at least owe it to them to hear out why. Otherwise it’s you who’s demanding that you never hear anything offensive or upsetting to you.

In short, if you’re against censorship, then you should be very much in favor of people telling the Penny Arcade guys that they’re assholes. And despite all the rhetoric that PA defenders flung about during that period, that’s really all that happened.

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FeepingCreature said on July 26th, 2015 at 1:06 pm

First, please don’t pattern-match me to some stereotype. I don’t want to censor anyone. But “your comic offends me” is different from “you shouldn’t be making art like this” is different from “what sponsors do we need to contact to put pressure on PA to make them apologize” is not that far away from “There should be a law.” At some point, there’s a thin line between criticism and shutting down speech you don’t like. I have no problem with criticism. I have a problem with people seeing something they don’t like and taking steps to cut it down to size.

Especially when it’s something I like.

The world would be better if we all could get along. But part of that is that everybody keep to some equivalent of “I don’t fuck with you, you don’t fuck with me”. Most big sites have rules against vote brigading – people having power in one social context using this to exert power in another social context. Reddit. Youtube. Google. Hell, antitrust regulations. Even 4chan has cracked down on invasions.

You say what you like. I say what I like. We may not agree, but we get along. But when somebody tries to shut down speech of another culture, without being hurt first, just because they don’t like it – that riles me up.

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Lupus753 said on July 26th, 2015 at 1:28 pm

I believe that if you honestly think that you did nothing wrong, then refusing to apologize is not only acceptable, but also what the person should do. If you say, “I’m sorry” but don’t mean it, that reduces the value of honest apologies.

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Trigger warning for the following comment, since it deals with the subject matter of the comic under discussion and may upset some survivors of sexual assault.

@FeepingCreature: Are you really going to try to tell me that someone tried to outlaw the Penny Arcade Dickwolves comic? Because Citation Motherfucking Needed, there. A more accurate reading is that you _felt_ attacked by the criticism of that comic, because a) it was pretty intense, which is what you’d kind of expect from the type of people calling rape survivors “immature” for not wanting to be reminded of their horrifying and traumatic experience…

(And before you go all, “Who said that? Nobody said that?”, let me quote you above: ” Is it a sign of maturity to limit your output to things that are inoffensive, or is it a sign of immaturity to expect the world to only present you with inoffensive things?” Because it’s not “offensive” we’re talking about here. It is a reminder of a traumatic experience that some members of their readership have almost certainly experienced. And they made FUCKING T-SHIRTS about it. And you suggested they were “immature” for not wanting to hear about it. You may now understand why I am cutting you so very little slack and why your little tantrum above about not pigeon-holing you elicits so very few fucks on my part.)

…and b) you strongly identified as a member of the Penny Arcade/gamer/nerd-geek “tribe”, and anything perceived as an attack on it is an attack on you. You have, in short, trouble separating the things you like from your personal identity.

As a result of these things, you react like a person who’s been attacked and not a person who’s been criticized. I do get it. We all get it. Anyone who’s reading this site has probably experienced that reaction in the past. But this is the key thing…most of us have recognized that this is not a sensible or mature reaction to that situation. Part of growing up is realizing that a real person who was a victim of sexual assault is more important than a drawing with word balloons, and that your mythical “right to enjoy” that drawing with word balloons is not more important than that person’s right not to live in fear. That while yes, nobody is saying you physically can’t make that drawing or enjoy that drawing, it’s really kind of a cruel (unthinkingly cruel, perhaps, but still cruel) thing to do and that you should stop. Accepting that criticism in good faith and apologizing, and maybe even reworking the strip so it makes the same point in a different way? Mature. Making T-shirts so that everyone you know and like can continue to remind people of the crime committed against them, and remind them further that there are a lot of people who want them to suffer in silence and bear an irrational grudge against them for being upset? Asshole.

Hope this clarifies.

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FeepingCreature said on July 26th, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Right, I get what you are saying, but as a rules utilitarian I reject the moral assumption that underlies it. The suffering of the individual can in fact be weighed up against the enjoyment of the readers, and while a case can and should be made that there are lines that society should not cross, even if there’s a net benefit in the individual case, I’m not at all convinced that “art is fair game” is the sort of rule that will end with, on net, more gain.

If you want to convince me, a solid argument would be demonstrating that the suffering by readers who were triggered by the comic is worse than the enjoyment by the readership is good, in sum. I will accept as a metric the amount of time it positively or negatively impacted their mood – for reference, I count enjoyment as, on average, ten seconds. I don’t know what proportion of the readership is triggered by rape jokes – has anybody run polls? – and I would accept as plausible a negative impact on the scale of one to five hours, in extreme cases. .. Seriously, does anybody have stats on this? It’s not at all certain to me that this sums up as for the comic; trauma can have an impact that lasts for a long time, while enjoyment is usually brief. Even if this came up “not worth it” for the comic, I’d still argue that art should be considered some amount of sacred, but it would shift my opinion. A study looking at effects across several media, demonstrating that rape jokes in sum do more damage than enjoyment, preferably with a model of loss of culture due to artists being put off, vs. artists being prompted to contribute due to a more supportive environment… seriously, is there data on this? Because I’m honestly curious now.

[edit] Oh, and I don’t know if the people in that thread were rape survivors, but I think to them it was more about hurting PA for their affront against their community norms, a community PA was not part of.

[edit] I’d call anyone immature who assumes the universe will never hurt them. Children ignore risk, adults manage it. Really friendly adults manage it for others, and I’m all in favor of trigger warnings by the way, but PA is an adult webcomic with a history of strong language. (Is there a plugin for Firefox that lets users tag web pages with trigger warnings? If not, why not? Surely, among all the outrage there must be people willing to chip in a few hours of development effort, or a few bucks to run a central database, or support a kickstarter…)

[edit] Yes, for the record, I am accusing the response to PA of being more motivated by punishing PA than helping the victims. In case that was, you know, unclear.

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@FeepingCreature: That is seriously one of the most terrible things I have ever read. You are seriously deep in the middle of a Dunning-Kruger moment here, where you are so inept at the basic skill of empathy for another human being’s suffering that you don’t even get why the things you are saying are so utterly, utterly terrible. I know you’re not going to understand why I’m asking you to please stop posting things, because you really don’t get why it’s SO not okay to have an “acceptable” amount of suffering that a joke causes to another human being compared to the amount of humor it produces in the rest of the audience, but I hope you will take my word that you would be better off just being quiet for a while. Okay?

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FeepingCreature said on July 26th, 2015 at 1:55 pm

Sure. This seems like a culture clash on multiple levels anyways, which might not be worth the effort for either of us to untangle.

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Aussiesmurf said on July 27th, 2015 at 3:22 am

@FeepingCreature :

“The suffering of the individual can in fact be weighed up against the enjoyment of the readers”

I know @John Seavey has asked you to refrain from further comment, but WTF? If we play your twisted utilitarian game, are you saying that the miniscule amount of humour that MIGHT in theory be lost by changing the reference to rape in the PA comic to something else has the same or more ‘value’ as the triggering influence that rape references have on a significant chunk of the audience? Seriously?

Art is not sacred. Art is art. Having a right to exist is not the same as having a right to monetize your art. If pressure from sponsors causes PA to change, then that speaks to their [PA’s] motivations, not to PA’s artistic freedom.

I won’t continue, but #Gamergate is that-a-way. You’ll have many friends there.

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FeepingCreature said on July 27th, 2015 at 4:20 am

Agh! Hard to stay away. – Short response, since you seem to miss my point: I said “can be weighed up”, then immediately after said “I don’t know which way that’ll go”. I’m open to the idea that the suffering outweighs the enjoyment; but I want somebody to actually make a comparison. (#gamergate more like #utilitarianism #quantifiedself. I didn’t follow that drama at all.) If the weight is as you say, you have a point. But “significant chunk”, “miniscule humor” are not givens, and humor unconstrained by offensiveness is not to me so insignificant a value. Is there data on the impact?

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Zifnab25 said on July 27th, 2015 at 10:53 am

RE: John’s initial comment minus dickwolves…

I’d be with him except, did you read the attendant comic? It’s quite clear that they were aware of the double standard. Gabe clearly points out that he feels inclined to play a busty witch, but would be uncomfortable with a mega-endowed barbarian.

The commentary that comes after merely notes that this is an exaggerated style throughout the game.

This definately highlights a degree of culture shock experienced by the PA crew (wait, it’s not the 80s anymore, and this sort of artwork isn’t appealing, it’s gauche?!) But it’s not all that immature. Merely a sign of changing times and people that have trouble keeping up.

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Man, this got ugly fast.

Interestingly enough, I think it does underscore the original point – that a great many of these discussions are rooted not just in disagreement, but also in a lack of communication, with each side hearing something different than the other is saying.

The Dickwolves scenario is a perfect example. The PA guys make a joke that is offensive to some, and come under criticism (some of it wildly disproportionate to the crime). They feel the need to defend their work – largely motivated by wanting to preserve Artistic Integrity vs the Spectre of Censorship – and they go way overboard in doing so, and earn even more volatile criticism in response.

Event continues to spiral out of control until their business manager steps in, and for moral and financial reasons, tries to smooth over the entire incident.

The key to realize, though, is that this wasn’t just a two-sided affair, with the PA guys on one side, and their critics on the other. Instead, each side has basically two halves – those who are reasonable, and those who are not.

When the original comic is published, there is a wave of criticism in response. Some – even most – of those responses are civil and calm critiques about the wisdom of including triggering content, particularly as a throwaway addition to the actual core of the joke.

From the perspective of those offering those criticisms – such as John Seavey – those are the only critiques being offered. (As evidenced in the comments above.)

But the truth is that there are also some other criticisms being offered at that time – and these are often very aggressive and very antagonistic. And it might be for entirely legitimate reasons, for someone who the subject of debate is something deeply personal to them and they are enraged over a perceived betrayal by a figure that, perhaps, they used to respect and admire. Or maybe they are just used to using such aggressive language when debating with those who are more habitual offenders in these matters, and don’t bother to tone down their response when throwing in their thoughts on the PA matter.

And it is likely that these more aggressive critiques are in the minority – but to the people being criticized, they are the ones that stand out. So all they seem to hear are these unreasonable complaints, thus sending them into a very defensive mode, and ends up with them responding in an unreasonable matter of their own. And, more than that, it often sets off their legions of followers to double-down on that response, and begin launching their own volleys of angry invective.

And each side tends to only hear the strongest, angriest voices on the other side, and tends to interpret the criticisms or defenses in the worst possible light. As noted in the original post – being told to ‘grow up’ gets read as an attack on their gaming culture, rather than as an invention to greater maturity. In turn, arguing for the right to creative freedom in their humor is interpreted as “an obsession with video games to the point where they cared more about them than actual human beings”, as Seavey seems to now view them.

It is an ugly situation. Particularly because these are people who are capable of great things (both artistically and culturally), and they have such a strong voice in the community that we want to see them championing the things we want championed. Sometimes those opinions won’t change – while I’m sure they regret how they responded in that scenario, I think their underlying opinions (regarding Art vs Offense) remain unchanged. And while I don’t necessarily agree with that, I can understand where they are coming from.

At the same time, other opinions are often formed from ignorance and clung to from habit alone. When Gabe offered up some pretty terrible statements regarding transgender individuals, it seemed to be a situation where the right responses seemed to get through to him, and the community was able to help him push past his own ignorance.

I’m not sure what my ultimate point is, here. I suppose it would be to emphasize the original message that Seavey seems to be saying (“What one side is saying isn’t always what the other side is hearing”), along with a reminder that:
-There are probably people on your own side of the argument who are saying things you don’t agree with, and they are often the ones the other side of the argument is responding to;
-Changing the viewpoints of those you disagree with is not a hopeless goal, and is ultimately a more fulfilling one than simply scoring points for how well you can excoriate someone;
-As soon as you vilify the other side and find a way to dismiss them as irredeemable, it usually means you’ve lost your own moral high ground and any chance of keeping the discussion in a civil place.

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Admiral Snackbar said on July 27th, 2015 at 3:29 pm

“As soon as you vilify the other side and find a way to dismiss them as irredeemable, it usually means you’ve lost your own moral high ground and any chance of keeping the discussion in a civil place.”

You should probably pay attention to that one, Seavey. Because even before Feeping went on that borderline sociopathic economy-of-suffering riff, you were keen to stereotype and dismiss him. You didn’t really respond to the actual useful point he stumbled on, that offensive culture has a right to exist, and by implication is capable of holding value. I would argue that value has to be far above simple enjoyment, that it has to work much harder to make a meaningful point using its offensiveness, and that obviously Dickwolves or anything else Penny Arcade makes doesn’t measure up. But that value is potentially there, and can be more effective than a less abrasive method.

So I guess I’m saying, don’t take the accident that he turned out to be That Bad as a sign that you’re on the mountaintop here. Because while your original post has a lot of good points, your comments below sound like exactly what Myth’s describing.

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@Admiral Snackbar: You didn’t really respond to the actual useful point he stumbled on, that offensive culture has a right to exist, and by implication is capable of holding value

Feeping was dismissed, because he should have been dismissed, immediately. This was his opening statement:

‘The Dickwolves thing left a profoundly bad taste in my mouth. Not the comic, I mean, but the fact that there was a negative reaction to it.’

He stated, quite clearly, that the whole Dickwolves thing was a problem for him… because people dared not to like it. He’s a PA fan, which is fine hell, I used to be as well. He was upset that people were offended by something he liked, and dared to express that opinion. That the people doing so were primarily female and so their experiences and perspectives matter less was only tacitly stated until later in his screed. I have primarily suppressed any point I would make to / about him, since he was invited to have a time-out, but I’m not willing to give him points for stumbling into a semi-valid point, while flailing around for something to say other than ‘huh huh huh, Dickwolves funny, huh huh huh’.

As for the point @Myth made, I would say that this is certainly what happens in many cases… but I’d offer a clarification. In these situations (and Dickwolves was a great example), the originator’s don’t respond to the less rational arguments because those are the only ones they hear / see. They respond to the less rational arguments because they’re extremely convenient strawmen to feed to the masses of their fans and rally support. It was extremely easy to find thoughtful things that were written, which were largely supportive and informative. But justifying a dismissive and mean-spirited response to those is hard. It was far easier to focus the argument on those people on the lunatic fringe, and lead their troops in burning them in effigy.

It’s not a case of an honest mistake, it’s intellectual sophistry.

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BTW: ‘intellectual sophistry’ is the name of my Weird Al Yankovic cover band.

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Fuzzy Dunlop said on July 27th, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Hey, first time posting anything here, so, apologies if it’s bad form to jump in on such a contentious topic, but it’s something I’ve been thinking and talking about with people a lot lately.

A few issues I have with the constant outrage-of-the-week barrage online are:

1) Any sense of proportional response goes out the window in most cases. Look at Professor Tim Hunt. The guy made an asinine statement that he fully deserved to be mocked and ridiculed for, as well as one that needed an apology (which he provided), but is it reasonable that he lost his job over a gaffe? He never said women aren’t competent or don’t belong in the sciences. He said 1) inter-office romances can be problematic (true) 2) women cry when you criticize them (some do, but so do some guys. This was the bullshit statement).
Hell, according to highly respected women who’ve worked with him and know him from more than a 10 second sound bite, not only is their opinion that he isn’t sexist, but that he’s done quite a bit over his career to encourage and support women working to make a career in science. I’d wager he’s done more than most of the people crying online for his head to roll.
Where’s the proportionality? Should everyone be judged by the worst, most regrettable, things they’ve said? If that were true, we’d all be out of work.

2) Both sides of these issues feel like their reading/interpretation is the *only* valid and acceptable one.
If you look at the controversy over transphobic content in Airboy #2, I agree that the use of the word ‘tranny’ in the context of the story was offense, derogatory, distasteful, and needless. But the rest of the issue? My interpretation was that it was pretty progressive and pro-tolerance. One of the main characters spoke of transwomen *as* women, except when trying to explain the concept of ‘transgender’ to another character who’s being shown as ignorant, bigoted, and closed minded.
Sure the character of Airboy says some reprehensible, intolerant things, but that seems to be the character that’s being built. You can’t have an ignorant character in a story without that character saying some ignorant things.
More than anything, the issue struck me as Robinson (the writer) using the character of Airboy to rebuff the anti-trans views some people share with Airboy.

3) Who get’s to decide what is or isn’t offensive? To get it out of the way, I believe it’s the slighted group that gets to decide (So, I’m white, I can’t decide if something is or isn’t racist), but who *in* that group gets the final say?
Look at the controversy over the first issue of Strange Fruit. There are a lot of people online -and I’ve notice quite a few of them identify as white- who feel it’s inappropriate for white creators to tackle a ‘black’ story. Who also are offended by the ‘white savior’ trope (although, I didn’t see that in the issue. I saw two somewhat sympathetic white characters acting mostly out of self-interest, but no ‘white saviors’).
At the same time, online, and in my life, I’ve seen comments by, and talked to, quite a few black comic fans that enthusiastically *enjoyed* the comic, and are happy to see white creators trying to reach out beyond the ‘white dude’ market, and doing so with care and empathy.
Why should the opinion of offended black (or white) commentators take precedent and carry more weight than the opinion of black comic fans who reject the notion that it was offensive?

Or, in the case of jokes about rape, whose voice takes precedent: An advocate who feels like it’s a subject that should never me mined for humor, or a survivor who embraces rape jokes (as long as they’re punching up), as a way of moving past their trauma?

Or cancer jokes. If a cancer survivor is deeply offended by cancer jokes, and another survivor views them, again, as a way of moving past the trauma, whose opinion do we disregard? Because that’s what’s being demanded. Should it not be enough to have a conversation where we acknowledge “Yes, for some people, this will be highly offensive, but for others it won’t”, and then try to give people who may be offended a heads up so they can avoid the material when possible, without denying the material to people who wouldn’t be offended, or who might even benefit from it?

4) I think there’s also a large group of people who honestly believe that media shouldn’t be challenging, or make people feel uncomfortable. It should be feel-good and uplifting. That’s b.s. TV, film, comics, are just storytelling mediums. Some stories *want* you to feel uncomfortable. Even violated. Look at the uproar over Noe’s Irreversible, or Lucky McKee’s Woman, or Zobel’s Compliance. All three movies caused outrage because they depicted sexual violence against women. The people stoking the outrage all claimed that it ‘promoted’ this violence. That’s ridiculous. I’ve seen those movies. I thought they were varying levels of powerful, but every one of them pretty blatantly presented this violence as a horrible, dehumanizing thing that isn’t in any way acceptable. Hell, in Woman the antagonists were so over-the-top in their misogyny that all they were missing were handlebar mustaches and a set of train-tracks to tie a damsel to.
These films all made me feel deeply disturbed and uncomfortable, and that was the point the director was trying to make.
Some works are suppose to make you feel assaulted and uncomfortable. They’re not for everybody, for sure, but that doesn’t make them less valid.

Maybe people on both sides need to step back and stop being so absolutist about it. Maybe the work doesn’t have the objective value to justify the offense it creates. Maybe it does.

And can we also stop pretending that what some of these social media movements are trying to do with material they find offensive *isn’t* censorship? Yes, they’re not the government imposing laws, but they’re using the bully pulpit of social media to try and make the works they disagree with unavailable for everyone. Their percentage of success is irrelevant to their goals.

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@Admiral Snackbar: I am not a pro bono service correcting people of their willful stupidity in a polite, kind and genteel manner, and I should not be treated as such. I have certainly been far kinder to lots of people than they deserve when they say dipshittily awful things like, “…is it a sign of immaturity to expect the world to only present you with inoffensive things?” when talking about rape survivors. But I am by no means obligated to meet everyone who’s offensively, cruelly solipsistic about their privilege with kindness, sympathy and cookies. Those people are all about telling everyone around them to suck it up when they’re rude and offensive; they cannot and should not expect their discourse to be handled with kid gloves to protect their precious fee-fees. Because at some point, I just run out of fucks to give. You want to spare some of yours? Go for it. Won’t stop you. But I’m not going to feel guilty every time I call an asshole an asshole, either.

@Fuzzy Dunlop: Please Google the phrase “Gish Gallop”, then get back to us once you can whittle that down a little bit to just the bits that are specific to this discussion, okay? Thanks.

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Fuzzy Dunlop said on July 27th, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Yes. I know the term Gish Gallop, and other than being overly-rambly, I’m not sure where I knowing tried to bury bullshit positions, or wasn’t addressing the issue in the original post (assuming the original post was about conflict between those who prioritize ‘free speech’ versus those who prioritize ‘sensitivity’ in nerd culture, and not specifically about dickwolves)
so:
First of all, I don’t see “You need to grow up” in these arguments so much as “I think this thing is sexist/homophobic/racist/attacking sexual assault survivors, if you disagree then you’re misogynist/homophobic/racist”, and I think that’s what causes the defenses of people on one side to go up.
It seems like what ends up happening is *both* sides are disinterested in any sort of conversation, and are only looking to ‘win’ the argument.

My questions are:
If the offense stems from subjective interpretation, does the interpretation of the offended party trump all other interpretations?
With the dickwolves thing, it’s pretty blatant, and I don’t see how anyone could defend it as ‘oh, you just misunderstand’, or ‘it’s satire!’, but what about in less clear cases?

Claiming that something *is* offensive is making an objective declaration. Who gets to make that decision? Someone who’s only seen a few cherry-picked, out-of-context panels on a twitter or tumblr post that’s already telling them they should be offended by it? Why wouldn’t it be reasonable to dismiss offense that was borne from an ill-informed base?
What if a Gawker article states “X is offensive to the black community! the creators should be fired! people who like X should be ashamed!” and some in the black community think ‘yeah, this is offensive’, but another group of the community think ‘what? this wasn’t offensive at all’. Whose opinion holds more value?

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Fuzzy Dunlop said: “If the offense stems from subjective interpretation, does the interpretation of the offended party trump all other interpretations?”

Thanks for clarifying, because I really think this is a contentious enough topic without bringing Tim Hunt into it. :) My answer is that it does not automatically trump all other interpretations, but that it is a sign of emotional maturity in a creator if they give it consideration and treat the person or people involved with respect and empathy. I think if you do that then the solutions to these problems often find themselves, because you as a creator are engaged with the people who are offended and are affected by their concerns, and you tend to make art about the things that affect you.

Again, we all make mistakes. Nobody’s saying that Gabe and Tycho have a responsibility never to make another strip that offends anyone. But when an emotionally mature person makes a mistake, they don’t tell the person they hurt, “Fuck you, this is your problem for existing.” They accept responsibility for their mistakes and do what they can to make it right or at least not make it more wrong. That’s why the Dickwolves controversy is such a perfect example–the strip was a problem, but the way they reacted to criticism was indefensible.

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Fuzzy Dunlop said on July 27th, 2015 at 7:43 pm

John – I agree with you completely about the Dickwolves thing, and really my problem with it goes to the initial strip – To *me* it’s clear that they were just trying to jab people with a stick. It was offensive for the sake of getting a rise out of people. Which, in a broader sense I’m fine with, but when it comes to issues like sexual assault? Nah. And not because I think it’s a subject that *can’t* be joked about, but if you’re just doing it to piss people off? That’s fucked. And lazy. Because *of course* it’s going to piss people off.

I do think that, generally speaking, the outrage-machine can over-react, or become driven by smug self-righteousness, and a desire for retribution above and beyond the initial offense. There absolutely are keyboard warriors that have internalized ‘I’m an activist’ as their defining identity trait, or are just addicted to the endorphin rush of getting on their high horse. That’s human, and happens on both sides of these issues. It’s problematic (to me) in these issues, because I see them doing more harm than good to their cause -which quite often is a cause I agree with. When I see people going after gamergaters with things like “You’re just bitter that you live in your parents basement and can’t get laid”… well, how do they expect those statements to be taken? It’s poking a rattlesnake with a stick and then being shocked when it strikes back.
Maybe it sounds like I’m tone policing, but regardless of how justified a person’s exasperation is with having to explain the obvious *yet again*, if their default mode is ‘confrontational’, then they’re going to get a confrontation.

To make it clear, I’m talking about the general situation, not dickwolves specifically.

I dunno, maybe in these arguments, instead of trying to ‘win the argument’, it would be better to try to appeal to the one or two people on the fence. One or two new allies is better than one or two new enemies.
And both sides need to 1) admit when they’re wrong 2) realize that, yes, sometimes they *will* be wrong, and 3) realize that a person not agreeing 100% doesn’t make them an enemy.

I mean, I can agree that you’ve correctly identified the forest we’re in, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be right 100% of the time identifying each tree in the forest, or that if I disagree from time to time on the micro issues, I’m not an enemy or trying to undermine you (the royal ‘you’).

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Fuzzy Dunlop said: “It was offensive for the sake of getting a rise out of people. Which, in a broader sense I’m fine with…”

See, I’m really not. (To the extent that I have ability to influence others, of course–which speaks to something you said earlier, “And can we also stop pretending that what some of these social media movements are trying to do with material they find offensive *isn’t* censorship?” It’s not censorship, not because of a lack of success, but because of a lack of coercive power. All I can do, even with “the bully pulpit of social media”, is attempt to persuade enough people to agree with me that someone isn’t worth listening to that it deprives them of an audience. That’s not censorship. Censorship involves the ability to impose a message regardless of whether anyone agrees with you or not–it’s an employer who threatens to fire someone for posting to a blog, or a company sending a cease and desist to someone for their speech, or just someone saying, “Shut up or I’ll break your face.” If all you can do is persuade other people to refuse to listen to someone else’s speech, you are not engaging in censorship because nobody is guaranteed the right to an audience. Most of the time, people who call that censorship are people who’ve never experienced any kind of real oppression and lack perspective on how bad censors can actually get and how much real courage it takes to stand up to them.)

But to get back to my main point, comedy that aspires to nothing more than to offend is universally shitty, unfunny comedy. I have frequently laughed at offensive comedy (Mr. Show, Monty Python) but I have never laughed at someone whose only joke was “It’ll cause someone a lot of emotional pain if I say this to them!” under a number of flimsy disguises.

(In fact, Mr. Show did a great bit about this kind of comedian, where they blatantly tried to find the most offensive thing they could say in order to generate controversy and hate mail. The sketch is very funny, because it aspires to be more than the comedians it mocks.)

Comedy like that really only appeals to people who identify with the comedian, and get vicarious enjoyment out of that comedian being mean to people they don’t like. It’s not so much “being funny” as it is “being an asshole and finding other assholes who derive sadistic enjoyment from your being an asshole”, and it’s what gave the world Adam Sandler. We don’t need another Adam Sandler. We don’t even need the first one.

Now, I will give PA a lot of credit in that frequently, they do aspire to more than that, albeit on a scale of events that doesn’t matter a ton to the general populace. They generally go after the makers of video games, which is “punching up” in terms of the microcosm of video game hobbyists. My original point in the post isn’t that they’re terrible comedians and creators; it’s that when they are caught out using their comedy for nothing more than bullying, they respond by doubling down and throwing tantrums instead of actually taking their medicine and learning from their mistakes, which is (again) not mature.

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should culture be permitted to exist that is offensive to some people?

Yes. But people may also respond freely. “Response” can include but is not limited to:

“I don’t like this.”

“I won’t give you money anymore.”

“You should take this down because it’s offensive and shitty.”

And if, unlike Gabe, you didn’t squander your youth reading about the Comics Code Authority and feeling like an edgy, edgy, rebel for liking a specific subset of consumer products, if you didn’t decide to adopt that particular persecution complex, you might even think about those responses for a second.

Should culture be permitted to exist that is offensive to its own readership?

Yes, if you don’t mind that readership shrinking. But the readership may also respond.

Is it wrong for me, as a fan, to automatically take the side of the creators?

YES. A thousand fucking times yes. Uncritical consumption is the greatest sin a thinking being can commit without hurting someone else. And in this case it led to certain members of a subculture hurting other people out of a selfish desire to not have to think about what you just read.

The people who objected to that comic have equal right to voice their complaint, and are members of the same subculture. The community’s response to the concerns raised was to effectively expel the people objecting – essentially, to make a mean-spirited and futile attempt to repossess a portion of critics’ identity because they almost made you think about consequences a little.

Nobody sane should be proud of that.

Is it a sign of maturity to limit your output to things that are inoffensive,

As opposed to offending people without cause or warning and then acting offended that you have to hear their opinion in return? Yes.

or is it a sign of immaturity to expect the world to only present you with inoffensive things?

No, it’s not a sign of immaturity to avoid or eliminate needless suffering. Eliminating needless suffering is actually what civilization is for. But that’s not even what was being argued for. What you are arguing for is a world where you, as a member of the majority, can say whatever pops into your head, and those in the minority who are offended are forbidden from responding because it’d hurt your feelings.

Freedom of speech does not equal immunity from response.

Freedom of speech does not equal immunity from response.

Freedom of speech does not equal immunity from response.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH DOES NOT EQUAL IMMUNITY FROM RESPONSE.

I get really sick of having to explain that to people.

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Fuzzy Dunlop said on July 28th, 2015 at 11:01 am

John – Thanks for the response. When I mentioned that I’m generally ok with comedy that exists primarily to be offensive, I meant at a broader level than just going after a group of people. I think comedy that puts ‘offending’ as its priority can have merit, and I’d use ‘the aristocrats’ joke as an example. The structure of that joke allows anyone telling it to make it their own thing, but the point is to make it as offensive as possible. I can definitely see the artistry in how a comedian of reasonable talent can tell that joke.

Not sure if you’re familiar with his work, but if so, what do you think of a comedian like Anthony Jeselnik?
His stand-up is, on one hand, based entirely on blatantly offensive comments, but on the other, he’s performing as a persona where he’s taking the language and beliefs of MRA/frat-bro types and cranking it to 11 to highlight how vile and wrong that thinking is. But it’s being done in a way that if you didn’t know that was the point of his material, it would be very easy to take it at face value and assume he legitimately means what he’s saying.
Is there room for that type of comedy, or does the risk of it being taken as support for that mindset, and promoting that mindset, make it unacceptable?

To your original point, if a comedian legitimately disagrees with the idea that what they’ve said is inherently offensive and needs to be apologized for (say they feel that the offended party has missed the point of the bit and is creating straws to grasp in order to be outraged) I’m not sure I feel they should be put in a position where they feel compelled (perhaps because of fear that not apologizing will mean losing their show, podcast sponsors, or whatever) to apologize, or that they’re in the wrong or being immature for not doing so. What’s solved through more hollow apologies? Do they even mean anything if the person going through the motions doesn’t mean it? For myself, if someone doesn’t feel that they owe me an apology, I’d rather no apology than an empty one.

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@Fuzzy: If a comedian legitimately disagrees that what they’ve said is offensive and needs to be apologized for, then they can discuss that in a thoughtful and respectful way with the people being offended. As opposed, again, to making “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” t-shirts and encouraging your fans to wear them in public spaces. While I admire your commitment to trying to carve out some kind of hypothetical case in which a comedian is allowed to be an asshole without apologizing, I see no reason to discuss hypotheticals when there are so many real cases of comedians being assholes that we can talk about. :)

(Not to mention, frankly, for a responsible adult creator the _DEFAULT_ position when someone takes offense at your art is that at the very least, you have failed to convey the concept you are trying to convey and that is your failure as a creator and not their failure as an audience. There are some obvious exceptions–if they miss things explicitly stated in the text, or find things explicitly contradicted in the text–but in general, the attitude of a creator when someone gets really, really furious at something they created should be, “I fucked this up somehow” and not “you just don’t get it”.)

While I agree with you that a forced apology, or a nonpology (“I’m sorry you were offended by my brilliant work”) is BS, the solution is not for people to stop apologizing. It’s for creators to get the fuck over their own egos and listen to people who are upset by the things they said, and make a sincere effort to do better. If they can’t do that, they probably aren’t ready for the big time anyway.

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I’m pretty sure that the response to the dickwolves comic was one blog that got a lot of attention. And while I think the complaint was stupid, PA has thousands of fans, and enough of those fans were assholes that the person got severely harassed.

I don’t care what your motive is, if you mistreat someone to the point they have to leave, you are in the wrong. (A more recent example of this sort of thing is Gigidigi getting run off tumblr because she said something unpopular).

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Fuzzy Dunlop said: “If the offense stems from subjective interpretation, does the interpretation of the offended party trump all other interpretations?”

Honestly… kind of.

I had a long piece written here about the CBF, the Dukes of Hazzard, and being a black boy that grew up in NYC… but that’s it’s own hot button trigger issue. Then I tried to go with a parallel to the Sansa Stark rape scene and that just meandered too, so I’m gonna go a different way.

If the creator or artist, feels that including a ‘taboo’ topic (incest, rape, child abuse, slavery, gender identity, sexual orientation [and god I hate that describer], what have you), is something that is essential and necessary for their work… than they need to be prepared for the can that they’re opening.. and that includes the fact that they’re going to offend people and those people are going to confront them about it.

The artist’s response goes a long way towards establishing what value their work has. An artist / creator who is unprepared for the resulting confrontation has obviously not given the issue any thought, which suggests that their work didn’t actually have anything to say about it and has no value. Which is why PA’s response significantly reduced them in my opinion.

On the other hand an artist that actually has something to say on the topic? Has something to say in the discussion after their creation goes public. Now, it’s still possible that what they have to say is ‘I am a bigoted asshole’, but that’s show business.

It can be asked, and has been implied here, that a society that can’t face some painful things is one that is immature. I think @Feepingcreature is right… it is a sign of an immature society that we spend so much time pointing out problematic content. But the thing is by definition something that is immature can grow.

When a child is weaned off of their pacifier / binkie / favorite teddy bear, some considerate parents lock it away in the closet / attic / cellar with other childish things. It is the end of that child’s world in a way, but bringing Mr. Snuffles back out again would only make the process worse. When their teen grows and is ready to go off to college, maybe they give that box of things back to them.. at a point when the teenager can look at Mr. Snuffles in the proper context… with some nostalgia and not as the end of the world.

So maybe me need to put some of these topics away for awhile as something that we’re not really ready to deal with appropriately at the moment. (And yes, I just called rape jokes the worst security blanket ever… and what’s worse is I can actually see how they *are* in a way).

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Chindi, did you really just argue that we shouldn’t talk about rape? What the fucking fuck, man?

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No.

I argued that maybe we shouldn’t be making rape jokes on webcomics if our reaction to rape victims who are triggered by the joke is to say ‘fuck off’.

Apparently, it wasn’t an argument I made very clearly though, or well.

(Guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t expand on the security blanket metaphor and note that for a lot of immature guys rape jokes and jokes about other forms of assault are a way of getting a bit of control back in a world that they feel increasingly not in control of).

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FeepingCreature said on July 29th, 2015 at 9:39 am

Hey, I haven’t commented here in a while! Time to bring back the sociopathy. (Yeah, I’m a sociopath. That’s a totally realistic appraisal of my character. Dude, say that to my face IRL, so we can … have a reasoned and friendly debate about issues of morality and philosophy. Over a beer or other preferred drink. Like mature adults.)

A lot of very reasonable things got said here, and so I want to try again to clarify my original comment. I originally commented from a position of anger at what I consider bad treatment of some people I like. (Mike and Gabe.) I tried to make it clear in the end of my first comment that this was an emotional topic for me, and that my appraisal of the situation was probably not being objective.

I did not perceive the comic as a “fuck you” at rape victims. I did not perceive the comic as a “fuck you” at social justice. People were pissed off by the comic – I understand. However, as somebody who was not pissed off by the comic, it is my opinion that it’s very possible that y’all have given the comic a lot more thought than its creators, and that the original line was just a really over-the-top description of a very bad environment. (Crossing the line twice is a well-established form of humor.) I believe if PA wanted to give a take-that to social justice, it would be obvious. (See VGCats #270 for an example of how to write a take-that to detractors. Or .. don’t if you’re sensitive to abortion jokes.) Some malice is really just incompetence.

I’m not saying rape victims are immature for being triggered by rape jokes. (Jesus Christ.) What I wanted to say was, if you have a situation that harms you, specifically, it’s a matter of courtesy, not obligation, for other people to pay attention to this issue. For an analogy, consider people with nut allergies – we don’t demand that all store owners remove all nuts from their product; rather, we lobby for labelling laws.

Relatedly: is there a HTML extension for content warnings yet? Google doesn’t turn up one.

Is there a plugin for Firefox to share content warnings with others? Google doesn’t turn one up either.

And on reflection, that’s the part that really gets me. People have nut allergies, that’s not their fault. Some people like eating nuts, but allergies are a lot worse than the joy of crunching on a nut. But – we don’t start a campaign to end all trace of nut products in food! That’d be insane – it’d polarize the field between pro-nuts and anti-nuts, one side would get adopted by a party and the other by the other, and arguments would unavoidably fall into screaming matches based on personal taste where anti-nuts call pro-nuts sociopaths and pro-nuts call anti-nuts crybabies. Or we could both lobby for labelling laws.

And here’s the part I don’t get. Content warnings are the interest of Social Justice, one of the biggest movements on the planet. Surely, its ranks include some developers. And yet, when I searched for attempts to create technical solutions to bridge the gap, I found none. When I searched for proposals to allow websites to embed content warnings, I found none. When I brought this up before in this thread, the topic got ignored. Instead, I got called a sociopath for stating I was a utilitarian.

Why do we immediately split into pro-nut and anti-nut? Into no-rape-jokes-in-culture and total-freedom-for-artists? Why do the people who ought to have the most interest in solving the problem (certainly who are the loudest about it) seem to have no interest in finding a technical solution?

Why is the first – and only – move to paint the situation as an us-vs-them battlefield where one side is Good and the other is Mentally Deficient?

(Yeah, I took that “sociopath” comment a bit badly. Having a different moral philosophy does not a fucking sociopath make. Having empathy for people doesn’t mean you have to go along with anybody who wants to do something for them.)

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@FeepingCreature: Having a different moral philosophy does not a fucking sociopath make

I’m pretty sure that the issue the got you labelled a sociopath wasn’t ‘having a different moral philosophy’. It was you suggesting that we judge things by the equation (Enjoyers) x A > (Victims) x B for determining if they have value, and that if that equation was true, then the victims can fuck right off.

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FeepingCreature said on July 29th, 2015 at 10:33 am

That’s … that’s the definition of utilitarianism. “Let the moral choice be the one that causes the greatest happiness in sum.”

I even tried to account for relative impact. And I’m not even a strict utilitarian, I’m a rule utilitarian; if that equation had come up “victims > enjoyers”, it wouldn’t have convinced me the comic was wrong; if it had come up “enjoyers > victims”, it wouldn’t have convinced me that rape victims could “fuck right off”. I was trying to get an idea of relative impact.

Numbers aren’t enough to make a decision; quantifying suffering isn’t enough to let you know what’s right. But any philosophy that doesn’t even try to quantify the things it values is… I don’t want to call people names in a comment where I was angry about being called names, but I honestly don’t see how those philosophies can function in situations of any moral ambiguity.

And of course, as I keep saying, any solution that satisfies both would be greater than one that satisfies either.

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@Feeping Creature: First, what you’re talking about is “trigger warnings”. You’ll note that I used one in my previous comment on the subject for that very reason. (It’s still in effect, pretty much, for those of you who are triggered by such things.) You’ll also note that Penny Arcade didn’t use them on the strip. They do not need a “technological solution”–you can just put them prominently on display before whatever comment, post, strip, show, et cetera you are providing and let people opt out manually. Also, you should be aware that most of the same people who shout “Freeze Peach” also complain that trigger warnings are too much work.

Also, while I’m adding alsos, you should probably note that my initial comment in the post was not about the Dickwolves strip itself, which you and other commenters keep leaping in to defend, but to their response to it, which absolutely was a “fuck you to rape victims” and could not be taken any other way. That was what was immature, that was what I was talking about, and your defense of the initial strip, while not particularly well-handled either, is magnificently irrelevant to the actual conversation which is about their manufacturing of what were essentially “I hate mouthy rape victims” t-shirts. Which is, again, indefensibly shitty behavior.

And last but not least, your use of utilitariannism as a defense continues to be frankly awful, because a) you are assuming that there is some sort of objective metric by which you can measure the amount of trauma experienced by a rape survivor who is forced to relive a horrifying and scarring event, and (far far worse) b) you are assuming that this trauma is roughly equivalent, maybe a little more, maybe a little less, to the amount of humor experienced by someone laughing at a funny comic, so it all evens out. Let me clarify: This. Is. Fucking. Terrible. It is an absolute minimization of a very real, very horrifying experience that far too many people in the real world go through, and even though I am lucky enough never to have experienced it myself, I have listened to the experiences of rape survivors enough to know that these things should in no way be presented as equivalent, as even roughly equivalent, as close to equivalent, or even as “probably not equivalent but how can we know without poking at people’s personal traumas to check and see whether they’re more or less severe than the amusement I got from a webcomic last week”. To even suggest that is to dehumanize these people, to minimize their experiences, and to generally behave in a terrible and shitty manner. I cannot spell this out more clearly. Assume, for the purposes of your bullshit utilitarian equation, that 1 Rape Survivor Trauma is roughly equivalent to 1,000,000,000 Internet Chuckles, and do the fucking math on that. Then fucking drop it. Okay? Okay.

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FeepingCreature said on July 29th, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Re “but to their response”, I actually have no opinion about their response. I’ve never seen their response. The thread I read was about the comic, as far as I can remember. Maybe they were total twats in their response. That’s entirely plausible, and I’m not defending it.

Re “‘essentially’ I hate mouthy rape victims” t-shirts: the word ‘essentially’ does a lot of work in that sentence. “Team Dickwolves” is not “I hate mouthy rape victims”; that it feels that way to you doesn’t mean that it feels that way to them, or that they intended it to feel that way to you. Death of the author, yeah, but if we’re accusing people of being “essentially Hitler”, intent should maybe count for something.

Re: “you are assuming that there is some sort of objective metric by which you can measure the amount of trauma experienced by a rape survivor who is forced to relive a horrifying and scarring event”

Okay, you can make a philosophical argument that experiences are essentially uncomparable, but then it becomes hard to see how empathy itself could hold. Or you can try to quantify – I’m open to reasonable estimates of badness of being forced to relive a traumatic event. We’re stacking multipliers here – extended experience, traumatic experience – so as I said in the original comment, I’m really not sure it comes out for the comic – that’s not why I’m saying this.

Re “should in no way be presented as equivalent, as even roughly equivalent, as close to equivalent”: you’re confusing “comparable” in the everyday sense and “comparable” in the formal sense. 1 and 1000000 are not equivalent, but they’re definitely comparable – I can establish that 1000000 is larger. But say I scam a billion people for a dollar… and note that scams like this actually exist, and the disability of humans to compare large values with large numbers of small values is a known problem, which leads to eg. people buying lottery tickets.

I am not saying that being triggered is in the same area of badness as enjoying a webcomic is fun. I am not saying that they’re in the same ballpark, or the same city. I am saying they’re on the same dimension. Extreme suffering is worse than mild suffering, but it is not incomparably worse.

Re “you’ll note”: you’ll note that one suggestion I made, a Firefox plugin to share warnings, does not rely on the support of the site, or its authors.

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Candlejack said on July 29th, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Probably everybody is ignoring your idea for a trigger-warning extension because it’s completely unworkable. Because 1) different people are triggered by different things, and 2) computer programs are terrible at reading for context, there would be almost as many false negatives as there were false positives. It would be, in a word (or rather, two words) absolutely useless, giving no meaningful information.

Since the fuck you to rape victims came in the response to the complaints–you know, the part where Mike mocked trigger warnings in the PA blog, and PA rolled out Team Dickwolves t-shirts and pennants in time for PAX–and you somehow have managed to be completely ignorant of all that, you should probably stop defending that point. Or get caught up on it. Particularly of note is that the first blog to complain about the comic in no way suggested it should be censored–it just said it wasn’t funny, and pointed out why.

(I’m curious, by the way, how you would tally up all the people who never said anything one way or the other about the dickwolves comic. Do you assume that everyone who didn’t complain got at least your ten-second smile’s worth of enjoyment from it? Or do you assume everyone who didn’t vocally defend PA got little to no enjoyment from it, or would have gotten more enjoyment if the dickwolves part had been replaced with something else?)

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FeepingCreature said on July 29th, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Re trigger-warning extension, I had a different idea for how it would work. For instance, somebody would read the PA comic, be aghast at the tone-deafness of the author, and submit a trigger warning to some site, which would then export new warnings using a simple API (Trigger: Rape, url: so and so, date: 1970-1-1 or whatever) Users could then configure their browser to warn them when they load sites with rape jokes. It wouldn’t be perfect, but it might be a significant improvement. Authors could even submit their own tags. Hell, half the infrastructure for this is already there in the form of adblockers and filter lists.

Re “the pratfall of PA – a timeline”, the last time I read anything from the SJ side on this topic, I discovered a whole new mental state of anger. It was not fun. That’s a Tumblr post. I’m staying away. I will say that if you’re a rape victim, and you see a comic like that, and you find a follow-up post by the author and it’s titled, I don’t know, “Fuck You Rape Victims – I’m Doubling Down” or whatever, and you read that… I don’t want to blame the victim here, but at some point it becomes obvious that some content isn’t going to be good for you. “Peanut Delight – May Contain Traces of Nuts.” If this is about protecting victims, I honestly don’t see how a follow-up text post can be the main problem. (Was the PA dude a twat there? I do not question it. But that’s not the accusation, or is it?)

Re tally up: this is what polls are for! I don’t know how well the comic was received in general. I didn’t even point this out because I genuinely expected people to run studies, I pointed it out to show the sort of argument I’d consider persuasive. If we’re even considering tallying up experiences, we can at least talk – it means if I come to a different conclusion, I’m wrong about facts instead of wrong because I lack empathy and should probably be locked up before I harm somebody.

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FeepingCreature said: “Re “‘essentially’ I hate mouthy rape victims” t-shirts: the word ‘essentially’ does a lot of work in that sentence. “Team Dickwolves” is not “I hate mouthy rape victims”; that it feels that way to you doesn’t mean that it feels that way to them, or that they intended it to feel that way to you. Death of the author, yeah, but if we’re accusing people of being “essentially Hitler”, intent should maybe count for something.”

Okay, then, please, enlighten me. When you make an offensive strip, and people complain about it, and then you make a large number of t-shirts specifically referencing the offensive thing, encourage people to wear them to your cons, pull them only when your business manager tells you that this is sinking your brand, and then publicly state that you should never have pulled them, what charitable interpretation do you have of this behavior?

Follow-up question: How do you consider providing a charitable interpretation of a near-universally-agreed-upon terrible act that even the participants have admitted was immature and asinine to be “not defending that”?

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Also: “Re “should in no way be presented as equivalent, as even roughly equivalent, as close to equivalent”: you’re confusing “comparable” in the everyday sense and “comparable” in the formal sense. 1 and 1000000 are not equivalent, but they’re definitely comparable – I can establish that 1000000 is larger. But say I scam a billion people for a dollar… and note that scams like this actually exist, and the disability of humans to compare large values with large numbers of small values is a known problem, which leads to eg. people buying lottery tickets.”

The reason everyone keeps telling you this is terrible behavior isn’t because we don’t think these things can be compared to each other–it’s because it is rock-stupid and insensitive to compare them when they are so obviously different and the very act of comparing them subtly suggests that they’re similar.

Analogy: If I killed twenty thousand people and dressed them up in clown suits, and you said, “Well, yes, but the tableau he created was kind of funny looking. I mean, not that I’m justifying this or anything, but from a utilitarian point of view, it’d at least be worth knowing how many people laughed and how hard, and comparing that to how badly the victims and their families suffered. Just to be sure it’s really a bad thing from a utilitarian standpoint.” …you can see how that would piss people off, right? You can see that yes, these are both theoretically reducible to numbers, but it’s so blatantly obvious that one number is much much bigger than the other that your attempt to suggest that we can’t be sure in order to justify your laughing at it is, in and of itself, an act that causes pain to people and, by your own utilitarian logic, an immoral action?

Because this whole argument is painful to no benefit. Your standing up for assholes to justify your agreement with them is, by utilitarian logic, immoral. Because it benefits nobody and hurts a lot of people. That alone should be enough to get you to drop it if you really believe what you’re saying.

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FeepingCreature said on July 29th, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Re “Because it benefits nobody and hurts a lot of people.” There’s usually value in providing a dissenting voice. At the least, even if people are right, it forces them to make sure their arguments are in order. Also, I don’t see who’s supposed to be getting hurt here.

Re obviousness, please understand: if it was obvious to me that the calculus was that obviously in favor of the triggered, I would never have asked! I ask because it is not obvious! You’re massively overestimating how clear your position is to me. I have no idea what the numbers are regarding people triggered, badness/length of trigger event, etc. I don’t know. I have no data. If I knew, I would not asked – I would have said something like “From a utilitarian perspective, this is obviously reprehensible.”

Analogy: imagine a world where stunt actors have shorter life expectancies. On one hand, “no amount of culture can outweigh a single human life – they are incomparable.” On the other, millions to billions of people watch action movies. On the third, once we can stop calling each other murder profiteers or hippies and start looking at statistics, we can maybe start talking about workplace safety.

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@FeepingCreature: “There’s usually value in providing a dissenting voice.”

No. There’s really not. People who hold terrible, indefensible opinions often use this as an argument of last resort–“Oh, even I don’t really believe the crap I’m saying! But doesn’t it help you sharpen your debating skills for the real trolls when you have to spend a couple of days arguing with me on the Internet?”

The answer, as stated above, is no. I don’t really feel any great need or enjoyment out of reinventing the wheel with someone who still hasn’t gotten the idea that rape survivors being reminded of the trauma of their sexual assault is a bad thing. This is really pretty much settled by anyone who knows anything about it, and as I stated to Admiral Snackbar, I do not have the time, the patience, nor the supplies of fucks to give about the fact that you still don’t get it. You still have confusion over the issue, after decades of discussion and however many years you’ve managed to live upon this earth? Then shut your mouth, open your ears, and listen. I am under no responsibility to cater to your ignorant opinion just because you hold it, and if your actual defense is, “I have no idea what the numbers are regarding people triggered, badness/length of trigger event, etc. I don’t know,” while you are literally interacting with people through the medium of the largest repository of information in human history, then ignorance of the facts may not be your biggest problem here.

Also, your new analogy is even worse than your old one, because it suggests that there’s moral equivalence to your enjoyment of a movie and the literal death of someone due to the negligence of people working on the set, and that negotiations of workplace safety should only begin after people have accepted that as a morally valid position. You are failing at analogies if you think this makes you sound less like a sociopath than your previous analogy. (This is not to say you are a sociopath, only that you are providing analogies that make you sound like one and you should probably stop doing that if you don’t want people to confuse you with a sociopath.)

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FeepingCreature said on July 29th, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Okay, whatever. I give up. I don’t know if you’re deliberately misunderstanding what I’m saying or if I’m just completely failing to make myself understood, but clearly this is not working.

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@feepingcreature says: You’re massively overestimating how clear your position is to me. I have no idea what the numbers are regarding people triggered, badness/length of trigger event, etc. I don’t know. I have no data.

And that? Right there? Is why you’re a fucking sociopath.

Only a sociopath wonders whether the following equation balances.

INTERNET_CHUCKLES * A * B = RAPE_VICTIM_FLASHBACK * Y * Z

And only a fucking sociopath suggests that at some point if the the left side of the equation is large enough, then the right side of the equation is an okay side-effect… and then suggests we try to compose a fucking study on the subject.

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Seavey Said:
Okay, then, please, enlighten me. When you make an offensive strip, and people complain about it, and then you make a large number of t-shirts specifically referencing the offensive thing, encourage people to wear them to your cons, pull them only when your business manager tells you that this is sinking your brand, and then publicly state that you should never have pulled them, what charitable interpretation do you have of this behavior?

I think the thought going through Gabe’s mind was, “Man, those people made this huge deal over this throwaway reference in our strip. Let’s show them that we aren’t going to let their criticism define our art, and we’ll do it by creating a shirt celebrating that reference!”

I think it was very much a poorly considered idea, and that it became especially worrisome when a wave of blind followers starting using it to champion a misogynistic narrative.

But if you really believe that Gabe was thinking, “I hate mouthy rape victims”, and that that was the intended message of the shirt, then I think you are succumbing to your own blind rage in the need to define that act as something as indefensible as possible.

GamerGaters making death threats and carrying out campaigns of harassment and online assault? Those are indefensible acts.

Creating merchandise to champion a cause you believe in (freedom of artistic expression), while remaining ignorant of the way in which that merch would be used and the context of what it could be said to represent… yeah, I consider it a profoundly stupid move. But nowhere near in the same league as some truly awful acts.

Now, let me make one thing clear – it doesn’t need to be in the same league as those acts in order to be criticized. I’m not trying to argue that because the PA guys aren’t as bad as other online hooligans, that it makes what they did ok.

But I’m pointing out that you are trying to reduce them to that level, and that by doing so, you are diluting your own argument.

Again, this is what I was trying to point out in my previous post. Each side says one thing, but the other side hears something else. The creation of the Dickwolves shirt does not mean that Penny Arcade changed their stance. I am certain it remained a way for them to endorse their original message of freedom to include whatever humor they wanted in their art.

But the context in which it was released, and the way in which the fanbase used it, made it into something much more unpleasant – and apparently left many people believing it was a message explicitly aimed at telling victims to stay silent.

Ultimately, as long as each side believes only in its own narrative, there isn’t going to be any rational discourse. (Unless it is imposed by an outside force, as essentially happened here.)

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@Myth says: But if you really believe that Gabe was thinking, “I hate mouthy rape victims”, and that that was the intended message of the shirt, then I think you are succumbing to your own blind rage in the need to define that act as something as indefensible as possible.

Maybe he wasn’t thinking that. But by the time he created the tshirts, the army of his supporters was already *extremely* vile. I would have hoped that when he announced that he’s going to make a tshirt and he’s getting supporting tweets from ‘@teamrape’ he might have had a moment to consider that this was a poor course and he was setting a poor example.

Gabe also doubled down on that by stating he was going to wear the shirt to PAX even after the merch had been removed from the store. That was well into the hatefulness.

At what point does Gabe, a smart guy who is *well* aware of the internet and how it works and how people rally to their ‘tribes’ online, no longer get protected by the shield of ‘not knowing how people would react and how the work would be used’.

Gabe had many, many, many, many chances to walk back from the edge of the monster he’d created, but he spent a great deal of time feeding it instead.

The comic? Completely agree it’s not an act of misogyny.
The Merch? Initially? Sure I’ll call it a stupid move, but not exactly an act of willful misogyny (though personally I think it was all about him flipping a bird to his detractors and less innocent than you’d like it to be).
Every other part of his engagement in that debate after that? Yeah, that’s on him.

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Myth said: “I think the thought going through Gabe’s mind was, “Man, those people made this huge deal over this throwaway reference in our strip. Let’s show them that we aren’t going to let their criticism define our art, and we’ll do it by creating a shirt celebrating that reference!”

I think it was very much a poorly considered idea, and that it became especially worrisome when a wave of blind followers starting using it to champion a misogynistic narrative.

But if you really believe that Gabe was thinking, “I hate mouthy rape victims”, and that that was the intended message of the shirt, then I think you are succumbing to your own blind rage in the need to define that act as something as indefensible as possible.”

Except that he had to know, at that point, that “those people” were rape survivors who found it cruel to make fun of their trauma and people who supported rape survivors. There’s really no way, short of willful blindness, that you can believe that Gabe was aware of the controversy, that he was upset at the people who had spoken out about it enough to make a public statement in the form of the t-shirts, but that he somehow missed that this was an action whose primary target was rape survivors and their supporters. Your best-case scenario here is that he was making a t-shirt with a message, “I hate mouthy people who criticize me,” and somehow forgot that those people were rape victims.

This is not a hill to die on.

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Candlejack said on July 30th, 2015 at 12:56 am

FeepingCreature, I think your trigger warning extension idea is still unworkable, thanks to the wonders of assholery.

Considering how many dudes seem to feel it’s not just their right but their duty to mess with the people they dismiss as social justice warriors, I would expect every safe and/or progressive space on the internet to be plastered with false trigger warnings within a week or two. And probably every other place would be equally plastered within a month of that.

To a lot of gatekeeper assholes, the only thing better than making the trigger warnings meaningless would be if the people they hate actually believed them and stayed away from everything that was tagged.

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Hugh Mann said on July 31st, 2015 at 9:02 am

Number one comedy blog from Canada in 2008 people!

I miss when MGK made actual content for this site.

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Fuck this site. Fuck penny arcade. And fuck canada, bullshit colony of england and their fucking nazi monarchy.

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/6548665/Their-Royal-Heilnesses.html

knew about this thanks to these guys:

https://www.corbettreport.com/interview-1067-new-world-next-week-with-james-evan-pilato/

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John Seavey wrote: “While I agree with you that a forced apology, or a nonpology (“I’m sorry you were offended by my brilliant work”) is BS, the solution is not for people to stop apologizing. It’s for creators to get the fuck over their own egos and listen to people who are upset by the things they said, and make a sincere effort to do better. If they can’t do that, they probably aren’t ready for the big time anyway.”

Except, people get upset by lots of things. Does every upset person deserve to have their feelings soothed? No.

If I say something about the Confederacy seceding over slavery, and some southern people get upset, am I going to give a shit? No, I am not. Not even if their great grandpappy was killed at Gettysburg and the battle flag means a lot to them.

If a webcomic makes a strip about the needless violence of American police, that, too, is going to upset people who side with the police. Should those comics not be created? Should their creators apologize?

Now, if neo-confederates and pro-cop absolutists can be upset with impunity, why not other people?

There’s no right to not be upset.

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@Jon H: Ah yes, the fallacy of assuming all opinions are morally neutral. “I’m not allowed to get upset when you insult racists, so why are you allowed to get upset when I insult minorities? You have to be CONSISTENT!”

Just because the answer to “Does every upset person deserve to have their feelings soothed?” is, as you point out, “No,” doesn’t mean that rape survivors don’t deserve respect and sympathy for their trauma. Your attempt to carefully erase all of the context of the discussion, reduce it to a vague generality that you can comfortably make further vague generalizations about, does not impress.

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DensityDuck said on August 5th, 2015 at 1:42 am

” trying to make it right rather than doubling down on them in an effort to prove some sort of nebulous, ill-considered point about “freedom of expression” (*cough* Dickwolves *cough*).”

People were exactly as upset about George Carlin as they were about Dickwolves. There just wasn’t a whole Internet to tell them that it wasn’t just a personal upset at crass behavior but a moral transgression that had been specifically and intentionally committed against them.

I accept that people’s pain is real to them, but did it really work out better for everyone to scream and cry at Penny Arcade’s creators? Did we actually, honestly end up in a better place, and was there truly no other way that could have gone down?

I mean, you give us a whole essay full of “when you tell a geek to grow up, you’re telling them to stop being the person that they are”, but then at the end you give us “hey geeks, when someone tells you to grow up, what they mean is that you’re being an asshole and you need to stop”. And from the discussion in the comments it’s pretty clear which of these ideas is stronger in your mind.

A whole bunch of words about “feelings are real, geeks are adults who’ve made choices and feel very strongly when someone attacks those choices”, and then in the end it still comes down to “go away you creepy stupid creep”.

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DensityDuck said: “People were exactly as upset about George Carlin as they were about Dickwolves.”

[citation needed]

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“while they look at you like you’re something they want to scrape off their shoe”

Maybe that’s not the only look that should be given. Maybe a look that says “I like you and you could do better.” or “There are benefits to growing up.”

Instead, let’s just hashtag #fuckingnerds all day. That seems to be working!

and one more thing: Liking Jerry and Mike, still, does not make you a bad person. Carrying water for them like this just makes you weird.

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