The Internet and Social Justice

So yeah, been an interesting few days. Well, “interesting” is not really the word. “Bloody scary” is probably closer to the mark.

I refer, of course, to the whole Social Justice Warrior scene between Zoe Quinn and her ex boyfriend.

To recap, her ex – Eron Gjoni – put up a blog where he basically accused her of sleeping around, while making sure he knew of her feelings on infidelity. This then got picked up by 4Chan and Reddit, who made it out to be more than it was – a simple case of loose morality and bad judgement on her part – and made it into “Game dev sleeps with journo to get coverage”. Which it wasn’t and never was, as Eron himself pointed out.

But then, the avalanche of social warriors, who are fearless behind their anon email addresses, start harassing Zoe in unbelievable ways. Those women who come to her defense also get attacked – one even having to leave her home after the death threats.

Now, lots of people have had a lot to say about this – mostly picking sides. Some are all about the fact that Zoe invited this on herself, behaving as she did. Some are all about the over reaction of the internet based social warrior, who appears to be consist of mostly white guys who are deeply misogynistic and have anger issues.

I have my own thoughts, and I’m going to get them out here.

Firstly, this is not about “Slut Shaming” as some people describe it. Lets deal with this. Firstly, the word Slut is bullshit. It means nothing. It’s a derogatory term for a woman who sleeps around. The word for that for men is “Stud”. It’s a double standard that is horseshit. Women are looked down on because they sleep around, while men are venerated for it. It’s just so apparent crap, yet it perpetuates itself. The least said about this the better. We can all just agree it’s shit and move on. So lets remove the word Slut from this.

When Eron did was “Hypocrisy shaming”. Zoes behavior was, at best, hypocritical. Lets be clear on that too. She made great capital about fidelity, then didn’t live up to those statements. That’s at best hypocritical and at worst, extremely damaging to your significant other – to the point where the relationship fails, as is the case here.

Now I don’t really want to harp on about morality and/or sleeping around, suffice to say, whatever a relationship is between two people, it’s up to them and no one else. Common western civilization dictates that a relationship between two people that is romantic tends to be monogamous. That’s the default state, as agreed by pretty much everyone out there. It’s what we are brought up with and defined as. Now that doesn’t make it right at all – just what you would reasonably expect of a relationship. Now if two people don’t want to do that, then it’s entirely their decision to alter those parameters and make it whatever they want it to be. They get to define what their relationship actually is, no one else, and more power to them. If they want to open up their relationship, then that’s fine.

But it does take two to tango in that regard. One person cannot do that and expect the other to just go along. Both have to know and agree, or it doesn’t work, as it hasn’t here.

I totally get how Eron feels about this – it’s very apparent in his blog posts. He’s upset, bewildered and probably very angry, and making this behavior public is probably his only recourse here.

I would imagine that he feels he is just making her behavior public, holding it up to the light so others can make their own judgements. Of course it’s rendered in such a way as that he controls the interpretation, but still, I would imagine that’s his mindset.

But.

The fact is, The internet has no middle ground. It just doesn’t. The reaction from anonymous commentators has to been to vilify Zoe, his Ex and to basically eviscerate anyone who disagrees with that analysis. Nasty emails, threats and so on.

What Zoe did was bad, but it in no way justified the backlash she is getting. It’s outrageous. It’s life threatening. It’ll destroy her in ways that she in no way deserves.

But there it is. The crux. The word “Deserve”.

What do we do here? As a society? Her behavior was crap, there’s no real getting around that. But proportionate to this response? Not even remotely. She’d have had to kill people to deserve this reaction. This is just angry boys, who have finally realized that life isn’t like an 80′s romantic comedy, and they aren’t going to get the prom queen to suddenly come to the realization that they are “the one” and are pissed off about it.

It’s made worse because it’s video game related, and by definition, lots of the audience is angry 12 year olds who have too much testosterone and have no outlets to let it out; we’ve done a great job as a civilization removing those, over the past few years, via concerned mothers. So your audience for this starts out being skewed, which just fuels the fire.

There are those who say “She doesn’t deserve to be even mentioned” – which is a valid view point; her behavior was to one person – her significant other – not the rest of us. Why should we be involved in this? It doesn’t effect us?

Others would say it does, because what she does in her personal life apparently spills out in to her professional one. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy, and as such, when it’s discovered, it should be brought out into public. Other wise the behavior goes on. This is the driving force for things like Watergate and Snowden.

The question is, what do we do when the behavior is bad, but the only punishment for it – the unleashing of the Social Justice Warriors is far worse than the crime?

That’s where we are right now. The internet, as it’s structured now, gives these cowards (and I use the word advisedly) a place to strike and hide. Society, as a whole, develops these kinds of people because parents are generally too busy to actually instil some social values in their kids (or, worse still, have a wry smile when it happens). This issue is not about to go away and regrettably, loose groupings of people who oppose it are far outnumbered by those perpetrating it. Or to put it another way, those who do it have already justified it in their minds. Missives like this are not going to change anyone’s core beliefs that it’s their right to vilify people.

So what is the solution? We shouldn’t be hiding this kind of behavior, but equally, the response is too outrageous to even contemplate?

My personal feeling is that what this particular situation has taught us is that we will HAVE to hide this kind of thing. Or at least, not make it public in the way it has been. The internet Beast is just a thing of evil, with a mind of it’s own, and it’s simply too aggressive and too random to be unleashed.

I don’t like it; I feel justice as much as the next person – but I don’t honestly see what alternatives there are.

Thoughts?

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