The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Mommy, Why Is That Man Cancelling Culture?

cancel culture erase person

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”

Ever since I heard those words in “The Dark Knight”, I keep seeing it proved again and again, like a horrible Blue Car syndrome. Role models, world leaders, artists, athletes. Time makes fools of us all. Except now those fools have teams of Proud Boys and Twitter trolls to call to their side.

Like most terms, “cancel culture” started as light slang being thrown around. If you were “swiped right” you were canceled. People tweeted at Kanye West “you’re canceled” when he did something stupid.

Now it’s grown to where public outcry on social media can affect someone’s career. Is all this controversy worth it? Are we not being forgiving enough or do celebrities deserve it?

Why is it when James Gunn gets fired from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 for tweets he made in the past, he’s not the bad guy. But James Lasseter and his shoulder rubs are. Why is that?

What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Cancel Culture?

First we need to clarify some definitions — what is cancel culture and what is not. Like a lot of liberal movements, it has no leader and no manifesto. So the rules and end goals get ambiguous.

“Cancel culture” is a movement to not support or cut off income (such as royalties or speaking fees) from an artist’s art because they did something heinous. It refers to the act of fans turning on a celebrity (sometimes too quickly) who did something wrong or something they don’t agree with. One of its goals is to “deplatform” them–to make it so no one wants to hire them for new work.

This applies to the person, not the work itself. So that means you can’t “cancel” Song of the South or Gone with the Wind. That’s a different kettle of fish I’ll talk about it a minute.

Criticizing is not cancelling. So if a celebrity’s big enough to be targeted, leaving a bad review on Amazon doesn’t do anything to their bottom line. Likewise, Twitter replies to their bad takes are not cancellation.

Being offended does not mean that someone is “canceled”. It is not “I don’t like this and nobody else should either.”

“Cancelling” is an act or a protest. Like a peaceful sit-in or a boycott. Voting with your dollar. But often it must happen to those who hired or commissioned that person’s art (resulting in them letting that person go).

Like any tool, it can be used for good or for evil. Some people think doxxing or going after someone’s sponsors or getting them fired is cancel culture. It’s not. That’s just griefing or plain old harassment, like GamerGate.

So we know we’re not talking about harassment or criticism. Are we talking about punishment? Justice? Are they the same thing? Let’s take the example of Count Dankula.

Certainly looks like the kind of guy you want babysitting your kids.

Short version of his story is that he taught his dog the Nazi salute and apparently this is worth getting arrested for in his native land of Scotland. He said in a tweet that he tried getting a normal job in a sandwich shop, and was rejected the next day because of people harassing the shop.

We can argue whether this is an overreaction. We can argue whether a dog trick is a hate crime, either here in America or in a country actually affected by the Nazi regime. We can discuss the fact that Count Dankula is a humorist and not a neo-Nazi and there were no victims.

But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about this question–was he “canceled”? The question is did Count Dankula not get the job because:

A) Harassers harassed the shop in obnoxious ways
B) Harassers harassed the shop to point out he did a video of a pug doing the Nazi salute
C) The shop being made aware of the video itself

People cite this case study as a reason cancel culture is bad — that you’re preventing people from being heard or having a normal life. I say there’s not enough evidence here to make a conclusion.

Reminds me of a Jim Belushi or Artie Lange type

Another case study: Shane Gillis was supposed to be on SNL’s 2020 season. Then he was found to have said a bunch of racist jokes a number of years ago, trying to be funny. People found out and told SNL. SNL dumped him. Was that right or wrong? You don’t want to reward racists, but how long do you hold the mistakes of the past over their head? What if it turns out they weren’t past mistakes, that’s just the way that person is?

Is Justice Punishment? Is Punishment Justice?

What's the Opposite of Punishment? | The Crime Report
There’s a reason why Lady Justice carries a sword and a judge wields a hammer.

The trial of O.J. Simpson taught us a fundamental lesson about America–the justice system doesn’t care if you’re guilty, as long as you’re famous. We have been living in that society ever since 1996 and we feel powerless to stop it. Hence the gates lift on the jury of the masses.

We’re not talking about cases like Richard Jewell or the Boston Marathon Bombing (where Reddit, upon being prodded by the FBI, falsely got a Saudi man arrested). Those cases were the fault of the media, an unregulated Internet forum, and a poorly thought out FBI response. The court of public opinion is eager to pounce and sometimes it pounces without a mouse being there. In those cases, that is not justice. But what else do you have when the justice system fails?

Cancel culture came about because the justice system takes too long to fix. People like R. Kelly and Chris Brown and Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian should all be in jail now, but they get off because of their fame and that their fame lets them afford expensive lawyers. Drug fines and DUIs are nothing to them financially, but they’re acts that can get someone killed. L’il Wayne and Gwyneth Paltrow and Mel Gibson and Tekashi 6ix9ine get new gigs and make millions.

These are the cases where the evidence is either plainly there or corroborated by witnesses. People like Woody Allen and Louis C.K. and Billy Cosby have clearly performed crimes–heinous family-destroying sex crimes–and continue to make money and suffer no consequences.
And then there are the crimes that can’t be tried in court, like racist or sexist or abusive statements.

Society changes fast, and thanks to social media, we’re learning about more celebrities who aren’t catching up to social norms that haven’t been 100% set yet. Maybe you can’t get justice, but you can give visibility to marginalized voices.

What Are We Trying To Do Here?

Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars - Area 6 Boss Defeat - Mission Accomplished - YouTube

One of the reasons that I said “don’t consider Gone With the Wind and Song of the South as targets” is that I believe we shouldn’t judge people now for the mistakes they made as children. America has matured since the 1950s in terms of the role of Black people in media and where they belong. Now if a movie studio tries making something like that today…

There’s a difference between an author who made a controversial work in the past (maybe during a time when the content wasn’t so controversial) and one using their wealth and power to advocate against marginalized groups. You can’t control how someone uses their money and influence. But you can control how you work with a text.

We changed, but older people like Seinfeld and Adam Carolla and Donald Trump haven’t. What they think is funny is not funny to us. They grew up in a time with The Honeymooners, when beating your wife was considered fine humor.

What do we want? I think we want an apology. A good apology. And a cessation to the behavior that caused them to be canceled in the first place.

People like Jonah Hill, Dan Harmon, and Justin Bieber all had cases where they did something very wrong and apologized for it. And they did their apology the right way. I think, for the most part, the world has forgiven them. (The works they’ve done since then are another matter, but not part of this conversation.) But others have not been so humble.

These people aren’t being punished and never sincerely apologized for their actions or words: Mel Gibson, Roseanne Barr, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, J.K. Rowling, Louis C.K., Orson Scott Card, Bill Maher, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity. They are rich entitled people surprised that the world has changed to one where there are consequences because social media lets us all talk to each other. There are zero degrees of separation between me sending my hot take on soup to Tom Hanks and him seeing it with his own eyes.

So if no apology is given, what do you do? Not support the author. That means more than not buying the books (because you’ve probably already bought them) or attending the shows. It means not participating in the fandom at all. No fan fiction sites or conventions to see your friends.

Because you can’t consume Harry Potter stuff without supporting Rowling’s wealth and influence. You have to force consumers to change their habits. You must make businesses decide that person is too toxic to associate with. And that’s going to be damn hard for someone who has her own theme park.

Harry Potter Theme Park - Universal Studios Hollywood
And what a happy theme park it is too. So bright and cheerful.

And how do the celebrities respond? Like they’re being attacked. What should happen is that we refuse to buy R. Kelly and Chris Brown’s albums. Then their label drops them. But then they blame us, saying they were “canceled” when they just weren’t making money. People with power don’t get to claim they’re a victim of their fame.

It’s really a denouncement, like the Klingon discommendation ceremony. You did this bad thing, so I shall not support you anymore. I turn my back on you.

klingon star trek discommendation

And that’s pretty much all you can do as a consumer. It’s not much, but maybe if enough people get behind it, something can happen?

Why Do We Cancel?

Why 'Cancel Culture' Is a Distraction - The New York Times

Are we simply living in an intolerant climate? Or do we now have avenues to organize and do something about bad behavior? Are the people who claim they’re being canceled just screwing up and don’t want to be called on their bullshit? Speech has consequences. Actions have consequences.

And it’s so easy to track and record everyone. We’ve become a 1984 surveillance society VOLUNTARILY. We carry our cameras and microchip trackers in our pockets. It’s easy to become Orwellian when your citizens do the work for you. We decided it’s worth being monitored if we can have a button that lets us know where our kids are at all times.

But one of the benefits of that is that you can’t get away with things so easily. There would be no George Floyd protests if someone hadn’t been recording all eight minutes and forty-six seconds of his death. Cops are so bad they have to be fitted with body cameras to audit their actions. Body cameras which they routinely turn off or obscure when they know they’re going to do something bad.

Are we too brittle? Too sensitive? Or are we trying to strike back at people who mean to do harm. Are we blowing the whistle on those who continually “get away with it” because they’re famous?

If you make anti-LGBT or anti-semitic comments, what makes you think that’s okay? It makes me think you’re not aware of what kind of society you live in.

This is called shitposting or being an edgelord. This kind of humor general doesn’t translate well to anyone who isn’t someone in the group being joked about or sensitive to that group.

Edgelord | Edgy | Know Your Meme

It’s tough to be in certain demographics, especially these days. Police are targeting Black people to the point where they’re being straight up killed and the cops who did it face no consequences. Congress is chopping up the land of Native Americans in the Dakotas and Alaska for fossil fuel profiteers like they learned nothing in 250 years. So when celebrities spout off a slur, the fewer platforms they can do it on, the better.

Who Should We Cancel?

The people that Cancel Culture wants to target are people like J.K. Rowling and Dave Chapelle and Michael Richards. People who have tons and tons of money and prestige. They’re the prime targets because they’re in the limelight and they’re seen as role models and they have no problem speaking about controversial topics.

I do believe there is a difference between art and the artist–no one thinks a crime writer wants to commit murder. But also, the artist has an unbreakable tie to their art. One influences the other. Like Doctor Victor Frankenstein, the creator cannot be extracted from the created. You know the work better if you understand the context it was written in, like The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye.

The Harper’s Letter
More Than 150 Journalists, Academics Speak Out Against 'Harper's' Letter On  'Cancel Culture' 07/13/2020

The famous Harper’s Letter that came out shortly after J.K. Rowling’s remarks states: “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.”

First, I hate how poorly constructed and unreadable that sentence is in something endorsed by a bunch of writers. Second, I’m not really into that perception when the “information and ideas” are about white supremacism and racism.

Any platform that allows free speech, even hateful speech, is making a small, silent allowance that it’s okay to say these things. Legally, Twitter is not responsible for the statements people make on their application. Morally, they are.

Third, there is no atmosphere stifling you. There are so many ways to get your message out nowadays. The difference is what you say with your art and what you say on Twitter or in an editorial.

Everyone who signed onto this letter is old and already established in the industry. There’s no Pewdiepie or David Dobrik on this list. No Tomi Adeyemi. No Lil Nas X. No Megan Thee Stallion or Nicki Minaj. No G. Willow Wilson or Brian K. Vaughan or John Green or Justin McElroy or Taylor Tomlinson.

Plus the people who rescinded their signatures after they figured out what the letter was about. What, did Harper’s mislead them? Did they not give them the letter to read beforehand?

Celebrities and Comedians

So ask yourself this question: are you angry at cancel culture or are you angry at people reacting to you being a shithead?

It’s only the controversial celebrities who complain about it, because their livelihood, their product, is based on social transgressions. If they get canceled, they have no job.

Comedians especially are mistaking being canceled for not producing material that’s liked (Bill Burr, Louis C.K., Kathy Griffin). Which is fine–it’s their job to throw out joke after joke and not all of them are going to stick. I don’t expect it to. The problem comes when they double down on a joke they think is funny, but either A) has problematic content B) didn’t land. They , they think it’s the audience’s fault. Which is a huge no-no.

Case in point: Kathy Griffin. Did she go too far? Maybe. I think so. I didn’t see where the joke was and I hate Trump. What was her goal? To incite violence? No. I think she was trying to make something, if not funny, at least satisfying. Because many of her fans are LGBTQ and with Mike Pence as VP, they had a prison spotlight on their backs.

Kathy Griffin Apologizes for Trump Photo: 'I Went Too Far'

However, the backlash was equally too far. There’s no reason to think a successful American comedienne is part ISIS. Speech and photographs are not evidence of treason. Subjecting her to an FBI investigation is a waste of our resources and my taxes.

The best thing to do when a joke is unfunny or doesn’t land is to just ignore it. Don’t give it attention, because that’s what comedians want.

When they hear they’re getting “canceled”, they think there’s an angry mob after them, instead of a vocal minority. But there’s something about social media that amplifies the most contentious voices. So John Cleese is not the victim because two people complained about a Fawlty Towers episode from 1970. The victims are the people who work on the shows that get taken off the air because producers thought it would be too controversial.

Comedians are sensitive, broken souls, so it’s little wonder they act like this. They think people are searching for what they’ve done in the past, not who they are today, but that’s not true.

They think we’re twisting their words to fit our own narrative. Like we decided we’re going to “get” Rowling and “get” Louis C.K. We don’t need to–they dug their own graves. We don’t need to twist anything, it’s already there. Logan Paul visited a suicide forest and posted it on YouTube. What’s he going to do? Deny it?

How Not to Cancel

Cancel Culture Makes Everything Look Worse Than It Is | by Meghan Daum | GEN

One of the negative elements of cancel culture is the tendency to jump down throats or to shut their ears while they shout at the person. I remember, long ago in the early 90s, I saw a 20/20 special where John Stossel was talking to some college kids demonstrating for the environment. When he tried to tell them there were actually more trees now than a hundred years ago or that recycling caused pollution, they just shouted him down and drowned him out with chanting. They didn’t want to listen to the agenda-having, propaganda-spewing journalist.

I’m no fan of John Stossel–I think he’s a blowhard–but you can’t shut your ears to viewpoints you don’t like. “I’m not going to let anyone sway me of my opinion” or “anything you say is opposition, which means you are the enemy, which means you must be blocked at all costs”. That’s what I’m afraid is happening with social media–we’re demanding change and justice too fast.

Bean Dad | Know Your Meme

We’re seeing it in real-time with Bean Dad. I’m not sure why what he did was so “triggering”. He wasn’t starving his daughter, he was trying to teach her a “hard knocks” life lesson. It wasn’t abuse by the legal definition, but it was a judgment call.

Parenting–no one really wants the job but everyone thinks they can do better.

Bruce Lansky

Problem was this notoriety made people dig up a bunch of unrelated tweets he made in 2012 and 2013. Were they racist and anti-semitic and sexist tweets? Yes, I think so. But maybe there’s a reason they’re all from eight years ago and not 2017, 2018, or so on. Maybe he’s changed since then.

Rather than tell her the answer, he tried to guide her to it, using abstract thinking tools that can be applied to many life scenarios. He’s allowed to parent his nine-year-old the way he wants, even if that evokes the “Ron Swanson School of Toughness and Discipline”. But it wasn’t wrong or right. And it’s not up to me to decide how to parent his nine-year-old. I’m not there with her.

He deleted his Twitter because of this. Does this mean his career over because of bad jokes he made eight years ago? His song has been the theme of one of the most popular podcasts in America for a decade. The day this all went down–the SAME day–they changed it. Because it was “antithetical to the energy they try to bring”. The evidence has been on Twitter for the past ten years, why didn’t you change the theme then?

There is a difference between making a clumsy mistake (James Gunn) and condemning a category of people (J.K. Rowling).

I don’t think actions from the past should be used to cancel you in the future. I’m not talking about people like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski and Harvey Weinstein. I mean old college essays or a Halloween in blackface or “bad take” tweets. Things that happened before they were famous.

Using your current fame and influence to do wrong things is bad. I don’t like it when things that were socially acceptable then are censored now. This means Song of the South and Gone With the Wind and old Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons should not be hidden from the world’s eyes.

Looking at Community's Banned Episode – Pop Cultural Studies

I was watching Community for the first time on Netflix and I had no idea the famous Dungeons & Dragons episode wasn’t there. Why? Because Ken Jeong dresses as a Dark Elf and there’s a joke that he’s in blackface. Except he’s NOT in blackface — that’s the joke. So because of a one-off joke, I had to buy the episode on YouTube separate from my already-existing subscription to Netflix.

These are works and art with values from a different time. Values that no longer exist or have changed into different values. Harry Potter and Ender’s Game are great works, but they can’t be removed from the culture they were created in, no matter what their authors do.

Just because it’s racist now doesn’t mean it’s offensive now. Shoving art under the rug, like it didn’t happen, isn’t okay. Facing your past is the only way to conquer it. It’s always going to be a part of you, but you don’t have to let it define who you are now.

Cancel culture fails when it loses a sense of forgiveness. Count Dankula is no longer using his platform to promote Nazism (whether he intended to or not, and I don’t think he did). He’s been deplatformed, and shouldn’t be stopped from going to one that’s different. He doesn’t need to be blacklisted for the rest of his life.

But forgiveness should be proportional to the crime. People like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, given their position and age, I don’t believe there’s any punishment they could receive that’s enough.

Conclusion: Does Cancel Culture Work?

At what point do they pass from “mistakes of the past” to “evidence that proves someone is a bad person”?

I don’t know. For the past four years, I’ve watched the majority being ignored. Either in voting or abortion or healthcare or wealth distribution. I’ve been to huge protests and seen nothing change. So I wonder if we can do anything to change.

The Blame Game at Work and Why it Doesn't Work

As with any movement, people get caught in the splash damage. Maybe that’s why James Gunn and George Takei and Aziz Ansari “got away with it” or were “exonerated” (depending on how you look at it). Did we decide they were worthy of saving because they had done more good in the world than evil, like Martin Luther King?

I’ve never seen it work.

Louis C.K. still sells out comedy shows. Donald Trump was never successfully impeached. Everyone who was one of his cronies got pardoned or exonerated. Jeff Bezos buys a yacht and his workers struggle to make rent. Sean Spicer got to be on Dancing with the Stars. Ansel Egort still gets roles. Ellen DeGeneres just turns into Rosie O’Donnell.

The one thing we can take solace in is that the art will outlive the artist.

The people who saw Gone With the Wind in 1939 were interpreting something different than we do today when we see it. Back then, smoking used to be okay. People smoked everywhere. Doctors went on TV to recommend brands. But not anymore. Does that mean we have to remove smoking from every movie? There’s tons of smoking in It’s a Wonderful Life–are you going to stop watching it during the holidays?

So why does it matter what we do now? Because, for us now, knowing who J.K. Rowling is influences the way you read Harry Potter. Knowing Orson Scott Card is an anti-homosexual affects how you read Ender’s Game. And moreover, any dollars you give or fandom you contribute support that author and those views. They’re using their platform to do things that are “iffy” at best, harmful at medium, morally reprehensible at worst.

So I’ve got nothing for you. Just do what you’re going to do. Vote with your dollar or don’t. Seems like more factors must take place to get a Harvey Weinstein put in jail, more than normal citizens are capable of doing. And even if a majority of those factors work together, it still might not happen.

Remember, words are tools. They can hurt and they can harm.

No SOPA Radio

soup

I don’t know much about making political opinions — the details are too complicated for me to process in my state in life. I’ve got to worry about kids, wife, work, and how to do anything than to find out how a bill works and who’s working with it.

But people smarter and savvier than me are against SOPA (Stop Internet Piracy Act), a bill currently rattling around in Congress. That includes everyone under Doug Walker, Lindsay Ellis, The Spoony One, Hannah Harto, and just about every video I’ve posted from YouTube.

I wish I could do something that’s a bit less “out there”, but they’ve convinced me because I love these people. I want to see more out of them — they’re going to do great things. But they won’t do it if they’re shut down. They finally convinced me to write to my senators and representatives.

Why? Because of the vlog “The Spoony One” posted. He’s a great storyteller, and I was surprised to learn that he met with staffers of my senator – Al Franken. I was even more surprised to learn that Mr. Franken was in favor of the bill. And that’s not cool. That’s what finally convinced me to write to my representatives.

Below is the letter I wrote to the three people who represent me — Rep. Erik Paulsen, Sen. Al Franken, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. I altered it a little bit for Mr. Franken because The Spoony One mentioned him specifically. It’s not hard to write a letter. Took me about an hour, and each rep has a clearly indicated place to contact them on their webpages.

How to contact your senators: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
How to contact your representative: https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

I don’t even mind if you use my letter. Just make sure you alter it so you’re not plagiarizing. I think the most important is at the bottom. Make sure you tell them that you’re watching this bill, you’re watching how they vote, and that you will be making a voting decision next year based on how they respond to this bill.

Strength in numbers is what we’re looking for. Their elections are based on numbers, not messages.

Stop SOPA.

Dear Mr. Senator,

I have never written to one of my representatives before. I have little to no interest in affairs of state at any level. I only vote during presidential elections, during which I face my great impotence in decision-making skills. Suffice to say, I don’t know much about politics.

But I do know the Internet.

I work on the Internet. I play on the Internet. All my favorite stuff, except for my family, rests on a computer. One of those favorite things is “The Spoony Experiment”, a video series hosted by Noah Antwiler (a.k.a. “The Spoony One”). He was part of a group who traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with representatives about voting against the SOPA bill. And I was disheartened to learn that several congresspeople from my state (which I consider generally savvy about technology and intellectual property) were in favor of the act.

As much as I was against the bill, and as much as everyone on the Internet is encouraging people to write, I had no intention of doing so. Until I saw Noah’s video recap of his experience. I believe you must vote against SOPA, because it will do more harm than good.

There’s nothing that concerns me more than that most of the people trying to pass laws on it don’t know how it works. They don’t know what a DNS server is and what “de-listing” does (especially that it does not prevent people from access). I believe this law will do nothing to stop piracy. It will give too much power to people who wish to take down sites with no due process. That is too much power for anyone to have.

Any time power can be abused, it will be. It doesn’t matter if the bill is “targeted” towards a different audience. Look at this article on Cracked Top 7 Biggest Dick Moves in Online Gaming. If you ignore the salty language, you can see a preview of what happens when any human gets too much power. If a site blocks a trolling Internet commenter, that commenter can get the website delisted if it uses material that is covered under the first amendment for fair use and parody. And there’s no recourse for the accused party to defend themselves. When the DMCA came about, there were many cases of content being wrongly taken down, so there is precedent.

I’m mostly concerned about the lack of due process, the vague wording, the inadequate methods of how to enforce, and the fact that this law is a national attempt to fix an international problem. Piracy cannot be stopped. It has always been in existence as long as there has been media. That doesn’t mean it should be made easy, but SOPA is not the way to do that. SOPA will cause more legitimate businesses to suffer than it will to punish criminals.

But I’m sure a hundred other constituents have already summarized this for you, and I don’t need to reiterate it here. That’s not the reason I’m writing this letter.

The reason I am writing this letter is to tell you that I will be watching the bill. I will be watching how my representatives are voting. And if they do not vote the way I believe they should, I will be making a point to participate in the next election and remove them. Because at that point, it is clear they are not operating in my best interests as a citizen. I have never done any such thing before, but the fact that this bill threatens something I love, I have no choice, but to take action.

Good luck to you,
Eric J. Juneau

BTW what does “No Soap Radio” even mean? Who invented that name?

The Penny Arcade Dickwolves Go To State

penny arcade dickwolves strip

I’ve been interested in reading this Penny Arcade Dickwolves debacle ever since this timeline was posted because it deals with many intriguing issues. In mass media outlets, often you end up with political correctness, vocal minorities, and advertising sponsors winning the upper hand, and that’s even if the producers let it go that far. Never do the creators get a say. That’s why people like me turn to the web to find entertainment that’s not limited by corporate executives. But Penny Arcade is a entrepreneur webcomic, made by guys who aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade.

For those who don’t want to click the link, here’s the highlights. Penny Arcade, probably one of the biggest web-exclusive strips, published the comic above on 8/11/10. This drew objections from a “feminist” blog. Penny Arcade posted a response (in the form of a comic) the next day. Various other blogs weigh in, mostly objecting.

Later, Penny Arcade announces they’ll be selling a dickwolf t-shirt in their merchandise store (it’s not offensive, it’s a sport t-shirt, and resembles a mash-up of the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves logo — are PA from my corner of the world?), but Courtney Stanton (works as project manager for a video game company) objects. On January 24th, she announces that she was asked to speak at the Penny Arcade convention, but declined. Two days later, all dickwolf merch is removed from the Penny Arcade store. More blogs weigh in, and interpretations abound.

Separated at birth?

This is where it gets interesting. On January 29, someone asks Mike (one of the Penny Arcade people) whether dickwolf t-shirts will be allowed at the Penny Arcade convention. Mike responds “I’ll be wearing mine”.

More blogs weigh in. Some are conflicted. Some object to Penny Arcade’s handling of the situation. Some object to their removal of the merchandise. Some object to the objections. (You just can’t win, can you?) Courtney Stanton displays a pictorial breakdown of some of the responses she’s gotten, many of which involve the words “fat”, “whale”, “ugly”, “die in a fire”, and other unpleasant things.

On February 3rd, Mike and Jerry, the creators of Penny Arcade, finally weigh in on the issue, probably prompted by a tweeted death threat saying “A funny joke: Go to Mike Krahulik’s house, literally murder his wife and child” (paraphrased for readability). Basically, they summarize what’s happened so far, and ask people to stop behaving like sociopaths.

Rape as Comedy” is nothing new, just as “Rape is Love” and “Rape as Redemption” are common in media. Yes, girls, even your favorite “Gone with the Wind” is no doe-eyed innocent. Don’t you remember the scene where Rhett Butler forcibly carries Scarlet unwillingly up the stairs, kicking and screaming? In the next shot, she’s laying there in bed with a smile on her face, with Rhett next to her. Exactly, what do you think happened?

But that’s not what intrigues me about the argument.

The interesting thing is this also comes on the heels of a recent controversy where BitchFest made a list of 100 YA novels for the feminist reader. Some people objected to some of the entries on the list (mostly “Tender Morsels” which involves graphic, continuous rape and incest content). BitchMedia removed those entries which prompted people like Scott Westerfeld (among others), who also had entries on the list, to object to that removal, and ask for his own entries to be removed when it was clear that BitchMedia made a kneejerk censorship reaction and hadn’t even read the book. See here for a summary of that debate. Personally, why anyone would put stock in what an outlet called “BitchMedia” says is beyond me.

But back to Penny Arcade. This is what those guys were thinking: a dickwolf — a wolf with erect phalluses for limbs — who rapes people to sleep is ridiculous. So ridiculous, it’s hilarious. Twelve-year-old boy hilarious, but still, it’s so silly it’s funny. That’s what comedy is — pushing the envelope to the point of absurdity. They weren’t condoning or marginalizing rape, because why would they? It’s not on their mind 24/7. They were marginalizing video games’s dubious moral stance in real world scenarios.

I sympathize with PA in this debate because A) I’m anti-censorship & I wouldn’t want either the government or “the masses” determining what my product should or shouldn’t say B) I’ve been here recently when I tried to make some comments on Jim C. Hines’s forum. Everyone there attacked me and my opinions immediately. It doesn’t matter which side was right, we could not have a rational discussion about it, because people were too emotionally charged. It’s the same as racism. Same with abortion. Same with homosexual rights. We cannot solve these problems until we argue with objectivity, logic, and rationality. Not emotions, personal feelings, or gut instincts.

So until you can stop calling people a fat whale or threaten to kill someone’s family, shit like this will keep happening. At this point the debate is causing more pain than the original act.

But here’s the two things I want to say. One: I cannot reconcile the fact that they decided to pull the t-shirt from their stores, then Mike says that he’ll be wearing his at PAX. That seems pretty hypocritical. I know there’s got to be more to the story than that. It could have been left hand not knowing what the right was doing. That often happens in business. But it wasn’t enough to say that there won’t be any restrictions on dickwolf t-shirts, he had to say he’ll be actively wearing one. Isn’t that like Murabak wearing a “Free Egypt” t-shirt? I don’t think PA needs to apologize over this, but I do think they need to clear it up. I don’t think there’s anything they need to apologize for. Apology implicates regret, sadness, and remorse, and you should never have that for something you created unless it hurt people. No one is hurt by a comic strip. PA should stand by their work.

Second: I’m not going to talk about this in terms of censorship vs. sensititve issues like rape, but I will use this analogy:

Say you’re at a playground, you brought lunch, there’s a bunch of kids around playing. Now a mom, a total stranger, comes up to you and asks “excuse me, my son has a severe peanut allergy. Could you wash your kids hands so they don’t get peanut butter all over the equipment?”

First, you might not think this is a big request. But think about it a little further. Wouldn’t you be surprised? Taken aback? I know I would be. In fact, I might feel forced to leave, unwelcome. I might not want to come back to that playground if that woman’s going to be there again. I know it’s awkward for her to ask, but it’s awkward for me to give in to a foolish request.

Who knows if someone’s peanut-laden kid was there five minutes ago? Do you think wiping a kids hands is going to do anything but a passable job to get the peanut butter off? I don’t have a sink in my diaper bag. Why is it your job to safeguard this kid’s life when you’re not the one who has the problem?

No, I’ve never been there. I have no allergies. I don’t know what it’s like to have allergies or asthma. I imagine it’s bad. Not being able to breathe is scary. But if I don’t have this condition, why should I be forced to act like I do? I’m not the one with the allergy. Why is one person dictating the policies that change it for all of us? Why are we listening to a few screwballs instead of listening to the people who had no problem? The majority of the people liked the comic, but they had nothing to complain about, so they stayed silent.

(Here’s the post where I gleaned the scenario from. Be sure to read all the comments.)

Remember what Neil Gaiman said. Freedom of speech is not a scalpel. It’s a club. It must defend all speech or none, even icky speech. This is the web. Offensive material is everywhere. But anyone who says it should be taken down because of their personal feelings is being selfish and inconsiderate to a lot of people.

–Some comments on the comments below–
  • I don’t believe in the “slippery slope” argument.  If a tree falls in the forest, do all the other trees around it fall?  When radio debuted they thought it was the end of live music.  Then they said the same thing about movies and television and videos.  They are all still around.  Slippery slope is a logical fallacy.
  • Wheelchair ramps don’t inconvenience me.  I can still take the stairs.  Blind accessibility won’t inconvenience me. All websites will be first engineered for the “sighted”.  You can add things for the minority, and that’s fine, but when you start taking away something away, that’s when I get pissed.
  • Rape culture is a bit of a misnomer.  As I understand it, it’s the word for when rape is treated lightly or as a joke and thus is implicitly condoned.  I don’t believe this causes rape (just the same way that violence in video games does not cause violent human behavior), but it does provoke misconceptions about its nature (Jim C. Hines just posted a nice example of this).  Did PA do this?  I don’t think so.  At least not NEARLY as bad as mass media news outlets do.  It’s farcical comedy, people.
  • PA are not rich white guys (not sure what their being white has to do with this).  They are hard workers, they frequently give back to the community, and I see no evidence that they have mansions or are “privileged”.  (You ever see their reality show?  Their office space is tiny.)
  • Dickwolves, in themselves, do not offend people.  It’s their “raping to sleep” act that does it.  When I hear the world dickwolf I imagine a wolf with phalluses all over.  Not a wolf in the act of raping someone.  So the shirt itself does not promote rape.  Humans rape, but a picture of a human on a t-shirt is okay.
  • I don’t know what spectral integrity is, but I want it.  Sounds boss.
  • I don’t know what the offended people are expecting from PA, but I suspect no matter what they do, it would not be enough.
  • One last thing by Jim C. Hines he wrote today: “Everyone messes up. We all say things without thinking. We say things that are hurtful, offensive, or just plain stupid. What’s important is what happens next.”
  • The Final Word on The Shine Journal

    I sent my last blog entry to said editor of The Shine Journal. As you could read, it wasn’t an apology, it wasn’t a redaction. It was a re-evaluation. I don’t know what I was expecting for a response, if I was expecting one at all, but I would have liked it to be a bit more magnanimous than it was. Her tone was extremely defensive and proud. Maybe it’s all the Lamebook I’ve been reading, but it feels like adolescent behavior–can’t leave an issue alone, attacks all forms of disparagement, always has to have the last word, uses too many exclamation points

    The first thing she said was that she doesn’t send any contract information because it’s already there on the website to read. So the onus is on me to find all this stuff? You can’t remind the reader? You can’t even include a link to where this info is? Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to be paying me? Is it the employee’s job to find out how he’s going to get paid? Or is it the employer’s job to indicate how he will be paid? I know which job sounds better.

    I don’t get what I said that was so insulting. The Shine Journal was plenty big for me… until a bigger magazine came along. Surely these people don’t believe they’re the biggest fish in the pond. They might act like you are, but if you have a simultaneous submissions policy, you have to expect this sort of thing to happen. And I might note that the big fish all have contracts. Does she know that not having contracts is not the norm? That not having contracts is kind of dangerous? That the whole point of contracts is to protect both the author and editor legally? And she said “I won’t help you out-read for yourself”. What does that even mean?

    Before I regretted my words and the result they brought. Now I really don’t care if I’m blacklisted. This is not the sort of people I want to work with. And further justifies the decision I made. I have no regrets about putting The Shine Journal on my ignore list. I’m done with this immature back and forth. And that’s my final word on the subject.

    Aftermath With The Shine Journal

    I may have made a mistake. A big one. Maybe.

    This refers to the last post I made where I compared “The Shine Journal” and “Sorcerous Signals”. First, I want to say why I said what I said. To me, the name of the name game is to get published. To get published you have to get noticed. You get noticed by getting into the big magazines. To get into the big magazines, you get into the small ones first. At least that’s my battle plan. The purpose of this blog is to track my progress and leave an account of what I did or how I did it. However, in doing so, I may have seriously sabotaged my ambitions. I made… a ‘boo-boo’.

    What I wrote about “The Shine Journal” offended someone at… “The Shine Journal”. The editor wrote back to me, cited some lines I had written that described said magazine as being unprofessional. She told me that I should not judge the credibility of a magazine based on how it responds to acceptances, and should have been grateful for the acceptance. She said that “The Shine Journal” has been online three years, won awards, and was putting together a “best of” anthology. She said she does not send out contracts because she does not want to waste paper. She closed by saying that I was blacklisted from ever submitting to “The Shine Journal” again.

    Of course, I never expected said person to come to this site. I always wrote this blog as if no one was reading. And unless I’ve got my Google Analytics set up wrong, no one is. The site got only 26 visits last month. Total. And yet, this one entry found its way to the editor of “The Shine Journal”. If I had published it a day later, maybe she never would have seen it. But it doesn’t matter.

    What I’m saying is–everything you write on the Internet is there for everyone to see. You must expect that everyone is reading it. And thus, you must be careful of what you say. Visit Lamebook for some real life examples. A writer’s tool is his words and words can hurt. Perhaps using the word “legit” was incorrect. I did not mean to imply that “The Shine Journal” was a scam site. I’m sure it is not.

    But words tell the truth, and I, as a fiction writer, have a duty to tell the truth. I never sought to besmirch “The Shine Journal”. What I did was I make an opinion. I had to make a judgement call and I called it like I saw it. That “The Shine Journal” would read such an entry, not to mention take action on it, never entered my mind. And it shouldn’t.

    I thought a lot about it, whether or not I should reconsider what I post, my blogging style, in case someone doesn’t what I have to say. Someone with power. But that would be a policy based on fear, not on knowledge. I don’t believe I did anything wrong. I told the truth. I thought the way “The Shine Journal” handled my acceptance was not as professional as “Sorcerous Signals” did. I did not feel that they regarded me as an author, just as a contributor. I did not receive any form of contract or instruction on how I would be paid.

    Think about it. If you have two job offers for the same position–one sends you a nice e-mail welcoming you to the company, here’s the company website, here’s a copy of our application policy, here’s a map of the campus, you go here to sign in, there’ll be a 2 hour tutorial before you meet your boss–and another e-mail that just says “you’re hired, see you on Thursday”. Which one sounds like the better job?

    So I stand by what I said, although I’ve recast it here. You can disagree with it. You can take action on it. But you cannot and will not affect what I have to say. I find it ironic that the editor of a literary journal couldn’t handle criticism. I believe I made the right decision, both in which magazine to go with, and how I conduct myself on my blog. I can’t let the potential opposition stop me from saying what I want, as long as I’m honest and composed.

    So what have we learned? Am I going to stop talking about my experiences with magazines and how they make me feel? Well… I don’t know. I’m definitely going to think more carefully about how I word my criticism, not just for the sake of my own career, but because word selection is an important skill in a writer, and should not be taken lightly.

    My Token Update and a Rant on Scalzi

    I haven’t posted here for a while, but something really got my goat today. But first, an update.

    As you’ve no doubt guess, I’ve been trying to focus on my fiction, meaning back-burner blog for breakfast. It lost my interest for the moment, as everything else I’ve been doing has been going well. I feel like I’m in a rhythm on my writing where there are fewer blocks. To date, I’ve finished the first draft of my short stories, gotten up to version 2 on Black Hole Son, sent Avatar in for a second critique, finished cataloguing possible places to send my short stories. Right now I’m working the final revision for Blood 2, and am actively editing (cleaning up) the Blood Wiki, which I was invited to because of my fan fiction. They even did a Bloodite of the Week interview with me. It’s hard to believe that a story I wrote 10 years ago in high school still has a following.

    The site’s a good enterprise, and it’s fun to work on, but it needs a lot of cleaning up. Lots of middle grade English, lack of images, lack of pages, ugly main page, ugly templates, no style conventions, and it seems to be . It’s really wanting a strong direction. It’s got all the earmarks of a fan site, just like the FF Compendium. It’s got more pages dedicated to fan fiction than to the items or enemies of Blood (before I got to it). It’s got non-canon and fan media junk mixed in with the stuff that actually had to do with Blood. The profile on Caleb had biographical implements from a fan fiction story – that I wrote!

    To be honest, I’m fully expecting the same thing to happen that happens whenever I get involved in a collaborative creative effort. The leader won’t like the way I’m doing things because he won’t have any ambition or any idea of how to make a site look professional. They won’t understand the sheer magnitude of the problem, and get scared they’re losing control, thus ban me or kick me out, after I’ve improved the work by a factor of ten.

    Now I said that to illustrate a point. I wouldn’t be surprised if the editors of the Blood Wiki see this and get riled up that I criticized their work. The FF Compendium did the same thing. The proliferators of the Blood Wiki are writers, so I’d like to think they are more receptive to criticism than to simply deny and lash back. But if not, then its their loss. But my point is, I can say that sort of thing, because I have a blog, and can say whatever I want on it. However, I can’t (and shouldn’t) stop anyone else from saying what they want here, unless I disable comments or ban some people, because this blog is a public domain. Mr. John Scalzi begs to differ.

    Exhibit A: Another Entry in the Annals of “People Who Haven’t the Slightest Idea What They’re Saying”

    Read that? Good. Now I’m not an expert on politics, but I do know the difference between how you think something works and how it actually works. Now most of this article seems to be true, except a few points.

    Point the first – your first amendment rights do not apply to this blog. Is this blog a medium of speech? Yes. Is speech covered under the first amendment? Yes. Case closed. He makes the argument that the blog is his private property. That is the equivalent of creating a large TV screen that broadcasts whatever you are saying, and then saying that the likeness and his words are his own private property. There’s no such thing. I learned in high school journalism there was a landmark court case where a journalist was playing a bridge game with someone. That someone said something that that reporter later printed. The court ruled that this was okay.

    Scalzi makes the argument that he is not the government, so the first amendment doesn’t apply to him. He seems to be under the misconception that only the government needs to watch their speech. WRONG. Even a fifth grader could tell you that. The right to free speech applies to everyone. The government only enforces the right, making sure that no one’s taking it away, so if some other American is taking away your right to free speech, they step in and bring the hammer down (or at least they should. These days they’re better at suppressing, but that’s another topic).

    He says that he doesn’t need to tolerate free speech anymore than he needs to tolerate protestors on his lawn. WRONG. That’s called freedom of assembly, another right in that wonderful free speech section. I admit I’m fuzzy on the details, but as long as people are peaceable, they have the right to gather. Maybe not on Scalzi’s lawn, that could be considered his private property, but on the sidewalk? In the street? Oh yes.

    Point the second – the first amendment does not apply to the whole Internet. True, it does apply to only the servers on which the data is stored that fall under that jurisdiction. This point I’m not worried about. And I agree that I wish the first amendment applies everywhere. But then Scalzi does a 180 and says in the same breath that that still doesn’t apply on his blog. I don’t know where his server is stored, but I don’t think it’s in Switzerland. That means his text and the text of his commenters is subject to the same law as all other Americans.

    Point the third – Not disabling comments does not give people permission to comment. Thne he says I expressly and explicitly deny you permission to comment. This is where the ‘how it works vs. how you think it works’ comes into play. You can deny me all the shit I want. If you don’t disable the comments and then get huffy when someone says something you don’t like, you’re a moron. He says that even if you do post, you don’t have consent, just like even though his house door is unlocked, doesn’t give consent to allow entry into his home. First, how the hell is that supposed to work? I don’t give consent to you dancing the watusi. Now how do you like them apples? This reminds me of a famous movie I once saw – a stirring epic of biblical, political, and sociological lessons with far-reaching implications. Let’s take a look.

    LORETTA (a male): I want to have babies.
    REG: You want to have babies?
    LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.
    REG: But you can’t have babies!
    LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.
    REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb. Where’s the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?
    JUDITH: Here. I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault… not even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.
    FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother! … Sister, sorry.
    REG: What’s the point?
    FRANCIS: What?
    REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?
    FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
    REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

    Replace that “can’t” with “can” and there’s Scalzi’s delusion.

    Second, a home is private residence, which is protected under another amendment. What Scalzi does not seem to realize is that he is posting in a public domain, in a public way. A blog is not a private residence, it is a public forum, especially if you leave comments enabled (consent or not). The closest equivalent I can think of would be a global bulletin board where you have the right to put on whatever you want in the form a big jumbotron everyone can see, and then not giving people permission to put post-it note responses on your jumbotron. It’s your jumbotron, true, but people are going to do what they want to do and say what they want to say.

    Why has Scalzi appointed himself the king of the Internet? Does he not know how people behave? Blogging software has things like banned IP addresses and comment disabling BECAUSE this sort of thing exists. He says that even if he uses those tools, that doesn’t mean his consent thing still doesn’t hold. I don’t know what kind of Pollyanna world he’s living in, but I dare him to set up a post, remove “permission” for people to comment there, and see how far he gets.

    So in conclusion, it’s up to everyone to promote free speech. The blog is not a home, it’s a public forum, especially if you don’t take the necessary and freely available steps to stop someone from defacing it. You can’t violate someone’s free speech by taking it away, unless it’s vandalism or hurtful to someone. It’s illegal for someone to grafitti a wall (doesn’t mean they’re not gonna do it), but it’s not illegal for someone to put poster on it with a message. That’s public domain, and that’s free speech, and it’s morally wrong for you to pull that post-it note down, because then you’re trying to silence someone. Taking away consent is shouting into the wind.

    Speaking of which, I hope you don’t think I’m a coward just because I’m posting this in my blog instead of the comments on Scalzi’s blog. I would post this diatribe there, but he’s already gotten enough lip service from people saying the same thing. I don’t think it would do any good, because you can’t argue with someone who’s unreasonable.

    Remember, the only solution to bad speech is more speech.