Tuesday, 20 December 2016

As Above, So Below: The State of the Internet 2016

Greetings friends,

A lot of people I have seen are counting down the days until the end of 2016. Why is this? For festive fun & jollies? Afraid not.

No, the reason behind the countdown is that people seem to believe that 2017 is going to be better than 2016. That all the insanity of the world will magically vanish.

I'm afraid that those people are wrong.

There is a sickness in the world, a sickness which promises to infect everyone and everything, and it is present everywhere, but more so online than in physical.


Just yesterday the website NicheGamer announced that they were changing their terms and conditions, saying that racial slurs were to be banned from use.

This is a good thing, right?

Apparently not for the denizens of this website's commentary.

You see NicheGamer was set up during the massive fallout from the GamerGate summer of 2014. Gaming websites the world over were rallying behind people of questionable opinion and saying that if you supported GamerGate in any way, then you were unwelcome on their sites.

As you know, during the beginning, I was a big supporter of the movement. Finally there were people agreeing with me that the current climate wasn't right, and that pandering to extremists who claim such nonsense as "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem", was not the right way forward.

The problem was that, at the same time, a bunch of total a-holes decided to co-opt the moment, to use it as a platform to either a). Act like a dick, or b). Further their own political agenda. So me, and a tonne of others severed our connections with the movement and carried on independently, wanting nothing to do with the trolls who remained behind.

Enter NicheGamer, who as a founding rule stated they would offer a zero censorship policy. Yup, no matter what you did, as long as you didn't do anything illegal, you would not be censored.

What resulted was a small number of people who would 'insult' people, and 'antagonise' others by calling them racial/sexual/religious slurs.

It was disgusting, truly disgusting. And it was the reason I refused to join their community. But I understood that if you are going to have a zero censorship rule, then this sort of filth is going to exist.

But then they update their terms of service.

Awesome I think! So I create an account and post in reply to the article about the change to the TOS showing my support, and saying that was the one thing that was stopping me from contributing.

Within literal minutes I am beset upon by others claiming I'm in essence a fascist, that their rights to call people whatever they want is part of free speech and that anyone who is in support of this change isn't welcome in their community.

Yup, anyone who welcomed a change, which would result in greater inclusion, a nicer vibe, more contributors and contributions... not welcome.

So I did the best action I could think of.

I deleted my account.

As others might say, I 'cut and ran'. I could see where this was going, and frankly I didn't want to stand around and wait for it to happen.

To these 'people', the freedom to call others a racial slur, was more important than other's feeling welcome in their community. This revealed that even after this change in their TOS, they were still a community that I didn't want any association with.
- And these were the people who were not banned from using slurs.


Now I am sure there (might) be some reading this who say, "But Lox, slurs are just words. Who cares about words?"

Let me explain why slurs matter...

When you encounter someone who acts like a dick, then you have every right, no, requirement, to call them on it. To say "you sir are acting like a dick", or an a-hole, or any other insult of that variety. Because you are comparing them to something that describes their behaviour quite well. This is fine.

When someone uses a slur, by calling them something relating to racial/sexual/religious, then the problem is that it goes both ways.

Firstly it is a truly horrible thing to say because you are suggesting that being that race/sexuality/religion, is inherently wrong.

Secondly you are also saying that every person belonging to that race/sexuality/religion, acts like the a-hole you are calling out.

Labelling one person an a-hole is fine, that's a minority of one. It's calling attention to their personal behaviour. But doing so to a mass of people at once is generalisation and not acceptable.


So how does this relate to the state of the internet and the world in general?

What about that sickness I mentioned?

Well here we have people who are exactly the same as those who they were set up to confront.

'We' left other websites because 'we' were told that if we didn't con-scribe to their close-writ narrative, then we were the enemy and not welcome there.

Now 'I' am being told that if 'I' don't conscribe to his other close-wrote narrative, then I'm not welcome there either.

The whole thing is what I've been calling snowflakeism.

Snowflakeism is the sickness that is wracking our world both in reality but also online, where, in and out groups are sprouting up everywhere, be it feminism, millennials, liberals, socialists, conservatives, trolls etc. Each group creating their own echo-chamber and being unwilling to even consider discussion from outside.

All this does is make people feel disenfranchised, so then these disenfranchised join together to create their own disenfranchised group, with their own 'safe space' rules, making others feel disenfranchised, who go on to make their own group, and the cycle continues over and over. Each group hating, literally hating, the others, to the extent in liberal circles, the term 'conservative' is used as an insult, and the reverse in conservative circles.

It's tribe war of the ignorant kind, where our focus is less on the exchange of knowledge and information, and more about retaining our ignorance.


But how do we deal with this? How do we fix what is currently broken?

Honestly? I don't know. I'm not sure if it can be fixed, or if we just have to wait for the current mentality to burn away.

Some will argue that the answer is freedom. That we need to give people the freedom to be themselves, with free speech, and all that jazz.

Won't work. All that will happen is what is currently happening, with the establishment of echo-chambers encouraged by communities. With true freedom, all we are doing is encouraging people into tribalism and being snowflakes, forsaking others who think differently.

What about control and rules?

Nope! Still won't work. We'll still have tribalism and snowflakes, only this time it'll be based on whoever sets the rules, forcing those who disagree underground.

What about a bit of both?

...who knows?

What I do know is that we mustn't stop calling bullshit. Someone acts like a twat and gets a bad result, call them on it! It's not victim blaming, it's calling a goose, a goose (or a twat, a twat). If someone is making up a story for attention, call them on it!

There are more important things than 'feelings'. There are more important things than 'safe zones' and this bullshit we're being bombarded by, and that's entirely what this is, total bullshit.

But it goes both ways. Calling someone out isn't being a dick, it's challenging. By challenging people we are asking them to back up their claims, and if they run off refusing to do so, then chances are their claims were total bullshit. But that doesn't mean you should be a dick in how you do it.

One of the greatest lessons my father ever taught me, was to always question. It's something that I live by, and I believe it has kept me sane in a rapidly insane world.

So when others say "don't question, believe". I argue the opposite, "don't believe, question".

And on that, largely rambling note, I take my leave.

As always, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley