It’s been a while since I updated this blog with a post on my personal problems, as if you, dear Internet, were a kind and old friend. Maybe you are. I have some good news, bad news, and neutral news from this last year to share with you. And yes, my crotch is still relatively fine, thanks for asking.
Since my last post, I’ve managed to get health insurance this May through ObamaCare, though that was canceled last month. The government had BlueCross terminate my insurance because they didn’t believe I was an American citizen. The irony!!! Their issue wasn’t my birth certificate, but my green card number. I never put my number on the healthcare insurance marketplace form, because I don’t have it, it is lost to me. For some inexplicable reason, this little laminated card was super important to the government. I do have a social security number and American passport and pay my taxes, but because the green card number was missing, my claims of American citizenship were suspect. (If you’re wondering, I became naturalized when I was 16 somewhere in New Jersey, with my mom.) That stressful bureaucratic bullshit was resolved last week and I can now go through the delightful process of re-enrolling for health care insurance. Yay! Times like these really don’t help me convince myself that my life is not one big cosmic joke. Read the rest of this entry »
Some other night at 3am while browsing YouTube videos when I should have been sleeping or writing, I came upon the above video and watched it multiple times in a row. Each time I watched it, this feeling in my chest grew. At first I thought it was love and laughter, but then it turned into sadness and worry. I will call this feeling a Peace-in-the-Middle-East-itis that ultimately left me with a low opinion of myself, one that described me as a naive and ridiculous person. Because you know, that inexplicable desire for global peace, the one all beauty contestants are mocked for expressing? Yeah. That. It’s so silly to even think about these things as it is far outside my area of expertise… but I went with it, as a thought exercise. How could the West effectively help solve the “ongoing crisis” that is the Middle East? What I came up with was a Middle Eastern Union.
I realize Israel probably won’t go for a plan like this, but let’s suspend disbelief and pretend they would. Actually, no, let’s just keep them outside of it for now, as well as Egypt.
The MEU could work like our democratic system with two “houses,” one house where every country gets one vote (representative, etc), and one where every country gets votes (or representatives) based off GDP. (Think “bicameral” like parliament or the US congress) The MEU doesn’t even need to be bicameral, they can just do this GDP thing. Countries with higher GDP get 2 votes, as opposed to lower performing countries who get 1 vote. (The map below is from 2007 and very out of date, and does GDP per capita… but I am using it because it is a good visual aid for you dear reader. Nominal GDP map of 2014 is here, GDP per capita from 2012 is here)
In recent days, I was asked by editors at Motherboard to review a science documentary. The PR pitch for the film seemed interesting enough, however, upon watching the whole documentary, I found myself caught up in a moral dilemma of the feminist type. Why? Because the documentary, female-centric in story and production, was terrible.
The email, more or less, that I sent my editor about the documentary:
The documentary didn’t focus enough on the science which was by itself quite interesting (this genetic disorder disproportionately affects Puerto Ricans, for ex) with the film opting instead for a human interest angle that was barely relatable. There were few emotional moments that connected with the viewer. The interview subjects themselves were a bit derp (overweight, unattractive, elderly, lacking eloquence or all of the above), and the awkward hokey music that played over their camera time didn’t help at all. They said their life sucked, but I as a viewer was never shown any substantial example of how their life sucked. I was bored and disinterested throughout. The animated story in the very beginning of the doc was the best part.
In addition, the documentary did a poor job of explaining the science. I was confused over whether or not the drug on clinical trial was approved by the FDA, and then later, why it was not approved. The film mentions at the end the same drug was approved in India, Europe and Japan but never explains the politics or why this is the case. I realize this was because they were trying to focus on the people, but the people were not as interesting as the science or the politics behind the science.
I generally rate Motherboard documentaries as a 8 or higher (out of 10)….I would put ______ at a 4.
I opted to not complete the assignment. I could have written something positive about the film despite not enjoying it or finding it sharable, but I found this option just as morally wrong as publishing the negative review. True, the negative review would have led to more publicity for the film, and this team of film-makers, but I don’t believe all press is good press when you are dealing with sexist environments like those found in filmmaking in general as well as documentary-filmmaking.
The documentary filmmaker, a lady scientist, had received awards for her work on PBS and such a decade-plus ago, so I was surprised by how not enjoyable her latest project was. It’s almost like she can’t compete now, in this age of everyone-is-a-filmmaker-on-YouTube. It might have been good enough for PBS in the 1990’s, but not now.
This whole personal dilemma of mine reminds me of Buzzfeed getting press last fall for their decision to not write negative reviews. The rebuttal to their “no negative reviews” position came from Gawker, of course, who argued news outlets are not supposed to be extension of publicists and PR firms, (a laughable position when you look at sites like TechCrunch and PandoDaily). This argument is fundamentally true, news outlets are not supposed to be beholden to publicists by any means, but I don’t see the merit in smacking down an older woman in a tough field for delivering a shitty product.
Is my thinking wrong here?
commentary and unused notes from my Motherboard article “Did Russia’s Vladimir Putin Just Endorse a Ukrainian Post-Apocalyptic Video Game?”
This post is recommended for readers
- who are already familiar with the Areal/Kickstarter/West Games controversy,
- read my relatively neutral news piece on VICE’s Motherboard about West Games and want commentary and analysis
I couldn’t help but notice that every media outlet that accused West Games of being a scam, or illegitimate, failed to mention the indie company is based out of Kiev. Cringe-worthy, I know. I get that West Game’s ineptitude at what appears to be all online media and activity is overwhelming to us Westerners, but that is no excuse to ignore context and plausibility. Are we really going to pretend that the deteriorating relationship between Russia and the Ukraine, where a few months ago snipers were firing on people in Kiev proper, wouldn’t affect a video game company trying to get shit done? Like maybe this is why they are still in pre-Alpha and don’t have any new concept art from this year?
But hey, I am primarily talking about video game journalism here, so I can’t really be that surprised by lack of context. I was shocked, however, by how big of a critic West Games made in Forbes blogger Erik Kain. (Check out hisseries of negative posts about the company, including his latest which urges “backers to get out now” as the campaign may or may not be “a total scam.”) Clearly he hasn’t finished scratching his “West Games sucks” writing itch. West Games PR is so shockingly bad, they’ve driven this blogger into a spiral of distrustful, angry posts about them and made an enemy out of reddit of all places, reddit, who loves the STALKER series!
Unlike Kain (and reddit), however, I am not enraged. This lack of anger allows me to see clearly what West Games biggest “red flag” is, and that is their PR person is a moron. To quote Hanlon’s razor,
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”
More on that stupidity in a bit, but first, I personally don’t think the Kickstarter is a scam. I base this viewpoint on my emails with Kim, and I think they will eventually finish their game as it sounds like they have a plan to do so.
On the use of the Unity presets, Kim wrote “many game developers use unity assets and presets to convey their game, with a more prominent example being Wasteland 2, from Inxile Entertainment.” Using Unity presets to show off a game in pre-alpha is not unheard of or unusual. STALKER didn’t have particularly amazing graphics any way.
Kim estimates Areal will be complete in late 2015 with some Kickstarter backers getting Alpha or Beta access if they choose those rewards. West Games plans to hire more people as “development ramps up” to help finish Areal, as their small team can’t handle the ambitious project alone. Kim wrote quite a few local game developers were interested in working with them, before adding “there are a lot of highly experienced video game developers right now who are out of work in Ukraine, and we’re more than happy to employ them.”
This spring, Polygon found most Ukrainian video game developers had been laid off because of the conflict, were considering leaving the country, or had escape plans ready should the situation worsen. “This might be the end of our country, so of course people are looking elsewhere,” game developer Sergey Galyonkin told Polygon at the time. In an email about the physical dangers in the Ukraine, West Games seemed more patriotic than earnest. They don’t have any escape plans at the moment because right now “it’s safe in Kiev!” but were quick to add “we do plan to move over time” though.
Now, back to how West Games doesn’t know how to Internet. They’ve already admitted they were woefully unprepared to run a Kickstarter campaign, but not being good at running one does not necessarily constitute a crime worthy of Internet harassment. If that was West Games only issue, than okay, I’d feel sorry for them.
The Kickstarter fumbling is not their only PR problem, however. Their entire team seems preoccupied with what is going on online rather than getting shit done. They’ve literally spent the bulk of their time since launch of their Kickstarter campaign in June proving they are who they say they are, instead of actually working on their game.
Unpublished quote on all the trolls, critics and haters:
“It has been incredibly difficult,” wrote Kim in an email. “It has definitely affected us from a monetary standpoint,” he added, and “it’s hindered development, but as you can see with the early gameplay teaser, it hasn’t stopped it.”
An example of a West Games troll that got the entire team worked up in to a tizzy:
If their PR person managed to do their job properly, the rest of the team wouldn’t be caught up in all this online drama, and in an “information war” between Ukraine and Russia. With the death threats, online impersonations, and known Kremlin-backed trolls paid to live on and disrupt Western media sites, West Games’ skepticism of all Western press and unwillingness to engage in most online activity is understandable, but unfortunately online engagement is necessary in order to run a successful Kickstarter.
West Games could turn all this negativity around if they were actually honest about their situation and plans, and a good place to do this would be their Facebook and Twitter, but activity on both those social media platforms is practically nonexistent. Their AMA was a ruined opportunity to regain the public’s trust, as instead of actually engaging the community, West Games cut and pasted from their Kickstarter. Of course redditors freaked out and raged. Granted, the inaccurate online sleuthing on reddit reads more like a witch hunt than citizen journalism, but at least the community’s heart is in the right place. Reddit wants a new STALKER game, for crying out loud! By appearing shady and closed in the AMA, West Games added fuel to the skeptic fire and made more enemies.
Finally, West Games doesn’t know how to engage with press online. They’ve been going after media outlets for being critical of their Kickstarter but even if West Games firmly believes these outlets have been infiltrated by the Russians, they need to stop attacking the press. (Forbes quality deteriorated with the advent of their new blogging section, NOT because “of China,” this is known.) Every time West Games denounces an outlet, it gives the outlet’s post more credibility and legitimacy and makes West Games look even more paranoid than they already are.
Besides dissing outlets, West Games needs to stop demanding journalists do things for them, including changing things after an article has gone up. A personal example: Kim emailed me after my post went up asking me to change what video I linked to in my piece, because the new video they just made looks better, completely missing the point on why I linked to the crappy West Games video in the first place. I linked to the first video and called it “shoddy,” so don’t ask me to then link to a video that is not shoddy when I am pointing out how unprepared your Kickstarter game is.
To conclude, West Games needs to fire their PR person ASAP (their CEO Eugene Kim seems to be doing most of that work anyway) and focus more on actually building their potentially supercool game.
Update: This kickstarter was suspended due to West Games violating their rules and Terms of Service. I’m not surprised, given all the dishonest behavior.
In the past week, there have been two heavily publicized instances of little girls stabbing their loved ones in the name of Slender Man; the first being the two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls charged last week as adults for stabbing their “best friend” last year, the second a 13-year-old in Ohio who tried to stab her mom while wearing a white mask. The media has tripped over themselves trying to explain Slender Man, and inadvertently (or purposefully) demonized Creepypasta, unsupervised Internet usage and online culture. Even those outlets that did not demonize these suspects still failed to properly portray the reach of Slender Man and the stabbings in context of the Slender Man community.
Like all killings the media takes a shine to, a large roster of armchair psychologists have come out of the woodwork to bloviate on Slender Man. Everyone, including those not qualified, especially those not qualified, are theorizing on online culture while completely glossing over the community aspect of a phenomenon like Slender Man. Folks that are qualified to write about online culture, like this lady at the Washington Post, this lady at the Verge and this gentlemen at the Awl (not linking to said trollish article), have also massively fumbled to explain these stabbings in context of the community. (Why the Verge is linking to the awful tone-deaf Awl piece is beyond comprehension, but that’s a post for another matter.)
So here’s the first thing wrong with all this Slender Man stabbing coverage: the absence of Pew Die Pie and adequate mentions of Slender Man in video games
Why is top YouTube celebrity Pew Die Pie important? Well, a large portion of his fan base comprises of girls in the same age range as the little girls stabbing their loved ones. Teens and tweens don’t watch TV as much any more, they watch YouTube and play video games. Pew Die Pie’s main claim to fame is his Slender Man videos and many little girls got into Slender Man because of his charming accent, golden locks and good looks. My now-13-year old brother used to complain all the time about how all the girls in his class are obsessed with Pew Die Pie, and subsequently Slender Man because of Pew Die Pie. My evidence is anecdotal, but that doesn’t make it less true. In the case of the Wisconsin girls, they cite and favor video game lore; they want to go to Slender Man’s mansion, which only exists in the video game. A video game made popular by Pew Die Pie.
The little girls first tried to stab their friend in a public restroom, then in the woods. Both scenes, of Slender Man catching up with you in a public restroom and in the woods, happen in the first episode of Pew Die Pie’s Slender Man video series. Is Pew Die Pie responsible for the stabbings? No, of course not.
In the case of the 13-year-old girl, her mother mentioned her daughter plays Minecraft, and the ultimate bad guy in the game is Enderman, a creepy figure the creator of Minecraft admitted to being inspired by Slender Man. Is Minecraft responsible for the stabbings? Again, no, of course not, but yet again every outlet has failed to mention the Slender Man-inspired monster in Minecraft.
The second thing wrong with all this Slender Man coverage: it glosses over the role of the community WHICH NOW INCLUDES THE PRESS in perpetuating the Slender Man myth.
Think of Slender Man as a community art project, where for years now adults, teens and tweens have been fabricating fake news articles, photographs, and even video games and comics, about Slender Man, this all-powerful, all-knowing spectre-monster with long arms (shaped like claws, or tree branches, or tentacles depending on the artist) that mind controls and kills people. When these two Wisconsin girls say they wanted to honor the Slender Man myth, to make him “real” and prove the “skeptics wrong,” it sounds more like they wanted to participate in the community by creating the most credible news article about Slender Man ever. They didn’t want to make him real by doing another photoshop, that’s already been done. So how do you make the most credible news article about Slender Man? You actually go out and make Slender Man happen in a way the news can cover.
Not only that, but these two little girls then gave their best friend the ultimate Slender Man experience by becoming Slender Man for her. It’s sick and it’s twisted, but if we are charging them as mentally fit adults we can’t say they didn’t know the line between reality and fantasy because mentally fit adults do know the line between reality and fantasy. Unless, you have two girls purposefully blurring the line between fantasy and reality in order to contribute to this online community producing Slender Man lore. Slender Man wipes memories and mind controls, remember, which is convenient for all three girls then, including the one in Ohio who say she doesn’t remember anything after trying to stab her mother.
The Wisconsin girls completely changed the meme and contributed significantly to the Slender Man community/phenomenon with their attempted murder, and by doing so in this way, have completely changed the narrative of Slender Man lore. Slender Man used to just be a fantasy. Now he is a reality. He is a reality because anyone can become a proxy for Slender Man if he or she wishes. This is evident in the stabbing of the 13-year-old girl who tried to stab her mother. Three little girls have now stabbed two people in the name of Slender Man, not in a fan fiction or in a video game, but in very, very real life. Like all things digital these days, these girls got instant feedback for it too. And not just from online.
The Verge almost got this right, when they quoted psychologist Peter Langman:
Online communities may provide stronger reinforcement than other forms of media, Langman says, because other people are providing feedback.
Any media outlet that reports on this story and fails to mention that they as an outlet are now contributing to the Slender Man myth, is laughably ignorant and dangerous. The press does not exist in a vacuum. The press cannot blame CreepyPasta and memes but not blame itself or Pew Die Pie.
In fact, the primary driver of the Slender Man myth is no longer Pew Die Pie, Minecraft, CreepyPasta, reddit, 4chan or Something Awful, but the press itself.
It takes twenty-eight hours to travel between Chicago and Austin aboard the Texas Eagle, and in that time, I fell in love. With train travel in the United States, that is. The gentle rocking, the horn steadily blaring through the night, the rushing countryside and quick peek at cities and towns, the extended leg room, the atmosphere conducive to writing, the delicious food and trading stories with passengers: these experiences are unlike any I’ve had on a plane, car or bus. Factor in the historical significance, and I have to wonder why I previously dismissed commuting long distance by rail in North America.
I didn’t think I was going to make it to SXSW last week — I was originally planning on road-tripping with my mate but he pulled out at the last minute — and the train became the solution to my logistical problem for a fourth the price of airfare. (Reason #1 to take the train to SXSW : the price!) I quickly became charmed by the idea of using a culturally significant technology hundreds of years old — older than the car or plane — to get to a festival devoted to celebrating new technology.
My Amtrak ticket was purchased on Wednesday night (by my mate), I boarded the Texas Eagle Thursday afternoon and arrived in Austin 6:30pm on Friday. Along the way, I watched the snowy landscape change to Southern brush, and rode through 25 cities and countless towns, urban areas that literally built themselves around the railroad tracks that pass through them.
Reason #2 to take the train to SXSW : the history!
A hundred years ago, the Texas Eagle was actually called the Sunshine Special until it was renamed in 1948 by the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac), one of the first railroads west of the Mississippi. Spurred by the California gold rush, MoPac began officially in 1851 with a five mile track between St Louis and Cheltenham City, a project that took a year to complete. Expansions continued despite interruptions caused by the Civil War. By the late 1870’s MoPac was taken over by railroad developer Jay Gould, who in 1880 connected it to the Texas and Pacific Railway, allowing passengers to commute from St. Louis to Dallas (see this 1903 MoPac railway map). Around the same time, Gould acquired control of the rail lines operating from Chicago to St Louis, allowing passengers to commute from Chicago, Illinois all the way down to San Antonio, Texas all before the 1900’s.
The Missouri Pacific Railroad is no more, and there is nothing on the current Texas Eagle to indicate its rich history, except for its name and the rail road the train operates on. The tracks have long been replaced and so have the train cars. Even the 1950’s Dining cars, a missed opportunity given Mad Men’s popularity, if you ask me.
Speaking of eating on the train, I am not kidding about the food being delicious.
Reason #3 to take the train to SXSW: the food!
Amtrak actually employs chefs to make their food, and it shows. Here is their menu. If you travel in a roomette (small room with a bed), your meals are included. I was Coach, which means they were not.
On both evenings, I ordered the Amtrak Signature Steak (medium rare) and everything about it was juicy and fantastic. The mashed potatoes perfectly seasoned. The cheesecake was …. just all right, but still better than airplane food.
I also ordered a glass of red wine the first night, a half bottle of wine the second. Total price for this dinner meal is comparable to a fancy restaurant ($45) but for those looking for something cheaper, the snack bar offers microwave-able sandwiches and food items. I opted to get a full meal from the Dining car, because how often do you get a well-cooked meal on a train? (For breakfast on the return trip, I ordered the Classic Railroad French Toast, which again, did not disappoint.)
If you want the whole train shebang and have the means, you really need to have a meal in the Dining car. It is an experience: unless you are traveling in a group of four, the dining staff will seat you with strangers at a booth. If you haven’t already struck up a conversation with strangers sitting in the Lounge or Observation car (or near you in Coach), you most definitely will in the Dining car.
Reason #4 to take the train to SXSW: the people!
On the way back to Chicago, I was seated with an elderly couple clad in cowboy hats, the wife the chatty one, the husband the quiet nodding and smiling type. We were joined by a mid-30’s male who upon seating, the wife in a cowboy hat insisted he introduce himself as that was the way things were done around here. The wait staff nodded, because, yes that was indeed the way of the train. The Dining car is just as much for eating as it is for conversation. And some of those conversations may lead to genuine friendship. No promises, but it happened to me.
That first night on the Texas Eagle, I hung out with the three people the dining car attendees sat me with, including a man that filled a large Dasani water bottle with vodka. He shared this with me and another woman from our dining table, a woman named Angie I now text because we became actual friends after getting wasted together (I’d share the picture of her I took for my phone contact info here, but no, because privacy.) Angie endeared me to her immediately by also wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt, and I joked it’s the best “leave me alone/don’t hit on me” outfit. The three of us spent hours talking in the Observation car — they teased me over taking too long to transcribe a 30-minute interview — and we shared stories about our jobs, families and various life experiences. By 2AM, we were joined by a woman who couldn’t sleep and a man with neck tattoos who had 5 children with 3 different women. He’s a busy man, in more ways than one.
My daytime Coach seat mate on the way to Austin I dubbed my “travel mom,” and she gifted me some ibuprofen for my Dasani hang-over. She complimented my cellphone photograph of the state capital building in Springfield (above), and vowed to take one with similar composition on her way back. She was very proud of her son, a master welder, who she was going to visit in Iowa.
En route to Chicago, I sat next to another senior citizen, a Native American named Thundering Waters traveling to meet his brother for their annual fishing trip. He had good taste in turquoise rings (of which he wore many) and told me of the dream that named him. I shared my similar dream achieved also through days of fasting and dehydration (but not intentional) from that time I was in India last year. Thundering Waters and I bonded over anger at Andrew Jackson still being on the $20 dollar bill, the middle finger that is Mount Rushmore and his discomfort of young predominantly white hipsters appropriating Native American imagery for their art, clothing and jewelry. I showed him pictures I took at SXSW of what I like to affectionately call “art for assholes” and he shared images of his website-less friend Richard Branson (not the British investor) whose two painting –one of a group of crows, the other of a medicine man — I’m still thinking about days later.
Thundering Waters also helped identify the name of the black and white birds of prey I kept seeing. They would fly in groups above the Texan landscape and could either be the the zone-tailed hawk, the turkey vulture, or the Mexican eagle known as the Caracara.
Which brings me to reason #5 to take the train to SXSW: the sightseeing!
True, the landscape from Chicago to Austin is flat and full of woodlands but staring out the window still yields exciting results. Or maybe I am easy to please. Besides the birds of prey in Texas, red-tailed hawks hung out on stumps and trees by the tracks. I spotted a large group of deer in the woods. Once you got further south, especially Texas, there are herds of cattle, sheep, goats and horses chilling out on ranches. As for architecture, the Texas Eagle route is a crash course in middle and southern American cities (including St Louis and Dallas) and towns. Smaller skyscrapers the shape of diamonds, St Louis’ Gateway Arch, bridges that looked like modern art, young males skate-boarding in a makeshift skate park, graffiti: there was always something to see. Some of the smaller towns we passed in Texas were caricatures of themselves, resembling movie sets on a Western feature enough that I questioned if this was indeed real life and not a dream. The poverty that stretched along the rail road was also a bit shocking, especially the condition of houses seen in state capital cities like Springfield, Illinois or in Texas near new condo developments. (Here’s a PDF with quick factoids of the towns and cities on the route, one I wish I read before embarking)
Reason #6 to take the train: the time for contemplation, reading, writing
Amtrak announced their writer’s residency program this month after a writer tweeted about it, prompting CNN to ask “who knew so many writers did their best work on trains?” I didn’t know this, but after riding on one for more than a day, I totally buy it. I managed some writing for my own book (more than five years in the making now, oh god why is not finished yet) and got some work done besides transcribing an old interview. Alexander Chee told CNN about his own residency and experiences, “there’s a mix of anonymity and rootlessness to being on a train that makes you feel you could be anyone, anywhere — which turns out to be excellent ground for writing fiction.” I wouldn’t describe it in this way as I haven’t written fiction in a while, I’d say in my case it’s more the partial isolation of the train is friendly enough to help you focus and decompress, but not enough to make you bored, tired or lonely. The Texas Eagle doesn’t have wifi access, so perhaps that also helps to disconnect.
The major con!
Sleeping in Coach is not that comfortable, even if you’re drunk. Sure, it’s more comfortable than sleeping on a plane or on a bus — the seats lean back and a bottom portion of the seat comes up underneath your legs to make a semi-bed — but you’re still not going to get a good night’s rest. Even if you end up getting two seats for yourself, like every overnight rider (myself included) did, it’s still not the same as sleeping in an actual bed. Next time I do a day-plus train trip , I’ll be sure to bring a pillow. Or if I go with my mate, we’d get a sleeper (because sex on a train). Folks in First Class (aka sleepers, roomettes) also get access to a shower.
If I go back to SXSW next year, I will definitely travel by train. Maybe I can convince fellow Chicagoans heading to Austin to ride with me, and it could turn into some community-oriented fun time like the recent Indie Train Jam. We could talk about everything we’ve learned and heard at the conference and festival, the people we met and the things we saw, or catch up on our writing.
Consider this post a toast to two awesome train rides between Chicago and Austin and to future rides with friends both new and old.
The Trollocaust and Feminazi Twitter Drama Explained in Context
Twitter is this unique social space that brings vastly different (and sometimes insular) Internet cultures together, and when this happens, the culture clash creates crazy Internet drama like yesterday’s “trollocaust,” dubbed so by the trolls, hackers and Anonymous-affiliates who felt they were under attack by “feminazis” hellbent on muffling their freedom of expression. Neither group has any business with the other, but here they are, operating on the same platform and pissing each other off. Maybe it’s time they went their separate ways. They don’t understand each other anyway. One’s harassment is another member’s way of showing love.
On Monday, dark web counter culture folk who follow rules and etiquette birthed from places like 4chan, Something Awful and Usenet found themselves at the mercy of older women who did not grow up with the Internet and viewed their obnoxious 4chan ways as if they were a foreign language. More than 45 accounts of people associated with Anonymous and activists were suspended as a result of this clash. The feminists lost only one, the twitter account for a blocking app used by feminists and atheists. The suspensions began after four women reported harassment, sadly still a common occurrence across most of the Internet, to Twitter.
If a woman (or a man) was being harassed, including with death and rape threats, on 4chan or a place operating under similar rules, the way to get the abuse to stop would be to come up with a witty retort preferably from the weird Internet society handbook of inside jokes and circle-jerkery. This witty retort can also be an offensive remark meant to disgust and upset the abuser, like making light of the Holocaust, questioning the abusers sexual orientation, gender, religion, whatever will upset the abuser to admit defeat. Besting the abuser in argument intellectually works as well, but a weak comeback can and will result in more abuse. One does not make controversial or unpopular statements in a 4chan-like place without the power of their convictions, and the last thing one wants to do is to lose their cool, get mad and contact the moderators or Internet police. Saying you will do so is taken as a sign you want and or need more harassment. New users in these web communities are generally hazed with abuse to ensure they can handle the madness that is the community, and are expected to speak in this coded way if they want to stay a part of the community. This code includes racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, homophobic and over the top offensive language and jokes despite many in the community being black, homosexual, feminist and Jewish.
Twitter is different. Twitter is not 4chan or the deep web, and will never be 4chan and the deep web– Twitter even has rules and tools in place to prevent it from being so, like the block button that eliminates the need for the person being harassed to best the harasser in any sort of argumentative exchange. A woman, especially an older woman, is not on Twitter to get into a face-off of “who is more offensive” or to find out who has a more logically sound argument, nor does she have time for such juvenile games. She uses Twitter for a completely different reason than the young male that frequents 4chan. To her, the slur “feminazi” is offensive, misogynistic and reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh, and a term she does not use ironically or in an attempt to “take it back” like younger feminists on the micro-blogging network. She does not get that she is being tested, because no one gave her the memo. Death threats and words like “trollocaust” are offensive to the woman, nay, most users on Twitter of both genders, because they don’t know they’re supposed to be offended by the term. They did not get this memo either. People on Twitter are not on the platform to condition themselves to bombastic and offensive statements or take a crash course in how to withstand cyber-bullying. Many of them are genuinely incapable of handling offensive language on a screen and when they see it, they will report it whether or not they understand the context. In the rules dictated in the Twitter space, it is not normal to receive death and rape threats, and people who make such threats are reported to the authorities or in this case, the Twitter police. The Twitter police actually do their jobs in Twitterland, and if they find someone violating their rules, they will suspend said user. These are the rules of Twitter, and by Twitter’s own inclusive nature, are very different from 4chan-like etiquette. 4chan’s 10 year old codex is rebellious, alienating, cultish and strange while Twitter’s is more akin to civil and mainstream society by design. Twitter is its own web place and can do what they want.
Which brings us to the “trollocaust:” the 4chan game cannot be played on Twitter because not everyone knows the rules. Even if all users do know these crazy Internet society rules, they may not want want to play by them, and it is unfair to subject them to the game because outside of the 4chan context the game appears quite rude with players mostly bigots. The game only works if everyone knows they are playing, and since not everyone is playing, everyone loses.
So what’s a troll, Anonymous affiliate or follower of deep web etiquette and humor to do? Go elsewhere, maybe even back to 4chan and Something Awful. Anywhere but Twitter, because Twitter doesn’t want you, and you just lost the game. No one likes a loser.
Or, you know, make your accounts private and communicate however you see fit with your peers.