The Meaning of Discourse and Freedom of Speech

I recently had a good chat with a friend about how #GamerGate has forced those targeted to put aside their differences and present a united front against abuse. I have the utmost respect for this person and wish her well, even if our politics have drifted apart in some respects. I say this because today I published an article discussing BDSM in Kill la Kill, and mentioned I wanted to critique radical feminism, of which some friends are proponents of. However, after we talked last night and when I woke up to the news this morning I decided I will not write that article. Whatever my criticisms of radical feminism, now more than ever it’s important to underline the importance of discourse. My criticisms of radical feminism also pale in comparison to my criticisms of #GamerGate, for the former is valuable and legitimate discourse while the latter lacks any semblance of basic dignity.

While my site is hardly far-reaching, I want to write this because I want to add my voice, and because this shit is affecting people who I love. It’s time we sat the kids down and explained to them what freedom of speech is not, and what discourse is.

Excerpt from the Canadian Criminal Code:

Public incitement of hatred

319. (1) Every one who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Marginal note:Wilful promotion of hatred

(2) Every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty of
(a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years; or
(b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.

 

Freedom of speech is not, and has never been, the right to say whatever bullshit enters your head without facing consequences. It exists to allow journalists and other citizens to debate and criticize the government’s actions without risk of being imprisoned or executed. If you are in Canada and you publicly declare on Twitter (which is a public place) that you are going to murder and/ or rape someone, you are committing a crime. It is a crime because in a civilized society, death threats and incitement of violence are rightfully viewed as morally reprehensible and “breaching the peace”. There’s 35 million of us in this country and we’re all trying to get along, part of that is acknowledging that whatever your views, public hate speech injures us all.

For there is no positive outcome.

I was once in a hotel room with someone and the first thing she did was look for the Bible. When I asked why (neither of us were Christian), she (proudly) said that she always takes the Bible and writes in bold letters “Lies” (among other reprehensible things) across the pages. Fortunately there wasn’t one (and I would have stopped her if there was), so that was the end of it. However think about what would have happened if the circumstances were different. Do you think that there would be any positive outcome when the next occupant reached for that Bible?

For there are two possible outcomes. In both the person feels their faith attacked, sees their sacred text defaced, and may have difficulty reading the passages they wished to. Then either:

a) They experience feelings of depression, and perhaps feel a little less welcome in the world solely because of their beliefs.

or

b) They experience feelings of anger, and perhaps the desire to lash out at the person who did it and/ or the world for attacking them solely because of their beliefs.

I promise you, despite what you might believe, no one will ever change their views or stop practicing based on seeing that hate. Changing their views isn’t even a positive outcome to begin with, so we’re left with two possible negative outcomes, and one impossible one.

It’s funny to think back on that relationship, and even if knew it was going to end, I’m able to pinpoint the exact moment when it did. So there’s another negative outcome, hate speech isolates you and makes it clear that you’re not someone to be associated with.

Laws about what speech is permissible in the public domain protects freedom of speech better than a society without them. Not only does Canada’s Criminal Code (ideally) prevent someone from inciting violence (which has obvious negatives), but it forces one to engage with the public discourse. Thousands have marched on Ottawa demanding the end to NAFTA, our involvement in the Middle-East, women’s rights (to name a few), but despite being angry, they were shouting that (for example) our involvement in Afghanistan is claiming innocent lives, which is an engagement with the issues at hand. They are not threatening to kill every MP or the Prime Minister, because that will instantly label them a sociopath in the eyes of the public, and if they went through with it Canada’s Middle-Eastern policies would remain. Death threats do nothing to further the cause.

Hell, threatening to murder someone only legitimizes their position. I’m going to assume that members of #GamerGate really like Game of Thrones, I do too it’s a wonderful show (I’m one of those filthy non-book readers). They probably also like Tyrion Lannister, because he’s awesome. He also said this:

Technically George RR Martin wrote it, but you get the point.

Technically George RR Martin wrote that, but you get the point.

If you are a part of #GamerGate and still don’t understand, let me lay it out for you: Death threats not only provide zero benefit for you, but by threatening anyone you have a problem with, you are sending a (rapidly strengthening) signal that they have something important to say.

As #GamerGate has abandoned the human element, let me put this in purely clinical terms.

Discourse is any discussion, debate, writing or artistic commentary on any particular topic. In writing this article I’m engaging in the discourse on freedom of speech and #GamerGate. Now, this awesome guy named Michel Foucault had a number of brilliant things to say on discourse. One of his most salient points is that marginalized people/ topics are often brought into public discourse by the very people who condemn them. This is because by acknowledging, labeling, and criticizing those marginalized viewpoints, you create a discourse around them.

Homosexuality was demonized, but shuttered from public discourse for centuries. When psychiatric institutions began investigating it, they first gave it the label so that they could talk about it, then began to condemn the practice as a form of mental illness. However, until that point most people didn’t have a vocabulary to articulate their views on homosexuality, or homosexuality itself. Now they did. On those grounds the discourse expanded as it allowed more and more voices to engage with it, and those voices began to change the discourse surrounding homosexuality for the better. From hate, grew a cultural force whereby in 2014 most Canadians view homosexuality as a mundane fact of life.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (goddamn that novel is useful), Ingsoc works to eliminate words from the dictionary. The process is called ‘newspeak’, and the name itself is an example of how Ingsoc removed “new” and “speak”. They did this because “new” and “speak” may be applied to other concepts, and allow discourse which acknowledges that ‘newspeak’ is a new and an unnatural way of speaking. If you are not able to articulate your thoughts, not only may you struggle to comprehend them yourself, but you are certainly not able to articulate them to others.

“… the purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods… For example, the word “free” still existed in Newspeak but could only be used in terms of something not being possessed as in, “the dog is free from lice” or, “this field is free from weeds.” It could not be used in terms of being able to do as one pleases, as in “free choice” or “free will” since these concepts no longer existed.” – George Orwell (Source)

 

Silence, not threats, is the true enemy of discourse. Ignoring someone does infinitely more to stifle their influence than martyring them.

Watch how politicians will outright evade questions about their policies. They do not refute them, they do not threaten reporters, they stay silent. Because if there is silence, then there is no story. News media might employ expert bullshitters, but even they can’t sustain coverage of an investigation that goes nowhere for long. You can’t engage the public without a hook. Eventually, “The administration refused to comment.” gets old. Then an event with real teeth comes along and everyone focuses on that.

I am not a fan of Anita Sarkeesian. I think much of her analysis is flawed, and I think her fixation on identity politics is overbearing. I’m frustrated that by suffering abuse she’s become an infallible martyr in the eyes of many. Thing is that’s not her fault, the irony is that blame rests with the people who wished to silence her. If her kickstarter hadn’t been attacked, then she likely would have raised the $6,500.00 (which she arguably didn’t need to begin with, but hey it’s a free country) and made her videos for her website’s audience. Her story would not have appeared on every major gaming and many mainstream media outlets, because there would have been no story.

Sarkeesian has the has a right to engage in the discourse around women’s portrayal in games, and we need society to be challenged or else it will never strengthen… but thanks to you fucking children (speaking to #GamerGate here) her views are disproportionately influential than I believe they should be. If Sarkeesian happens to be reading this, if we ever cross paths- honestly, unless you wanted to talk politics, I think I’d be more interested in just shooting the shit. Because that’s what people in a civil society do. Also when I see someone portrayed within only one realm, I start wondering what they’re like outside of it.

However, I ever meet Jim Sterling I will smack his hat off (if he’s wearing one, if not I’ll buy him a hat then smack it off) for his comments on Final Fantasy XIII. He insulted my waifu and that cannot stand.

I think that anyone who calls themselves a conservative needs to slap these #GamerGate kids across the face and teach them how to properly engage in a debate. This neo-libertarian ideology has bred incivility, disrespect, and crime- all of which are anathema to conservative values. #GamerGate-extolled Reddit-style libertarianism is a cancer on conservatism, and the public discourse is now shifting to view anyone associated with the ideology as a childish misogynist, without any semblance of human decency; while the radical-left is poised for a renaissance. #GamerGate is poison, and not only must conservatives disassociate themselves from it, but we must actively renounce and end it.

Likewise, there may be no discourse which debates #GamerGate’s supposed ideals. The cognitive dissonance within that movement is staggering; O’Brien would be proud. This movement has done nothing to promote integrity in games journalism, in fact it’s likely that it doesn’t even understand what integrity is. Their PR statements believe journalists knowing one another, or using personal opinions in reviews are signs of corruption. It’s the movement of adolescents, the kind who’ve got a big idea in their head but lack the life experience to comprehend its nuances. That’s irrelevant of course, as all the movement does is threaten anyone they disagree with.

“But I’m not threatening people. That’s not what #GamerGate is.” is the same smart-ass logic of people who have called me a ‘tranny’, before arguing it wasn’t a slur because they were calling me a part of a truck. It’s bullshit, we know what you’re doing, and it needs to stop.

Hate speech is not acceptable under any circumstance. Hate speech brings zero positives to the world. You attack the idea, but you never attack the person. The former is a critical component of freedom, the latter is monstrous.

I wanted to end with this classic quote:

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire

 

Instead, I have this to say to #GamerGate:

If you won’t do it for them, do it for yourself. No good comes from threatening another solely because their opinion conflicts with yours. Many people have left the industry, and this hurts you. Yes, you. Because you’ve limited the number of experiences this world will have. Life is difficult enough, I’m certain many of you know this. What you’re doing is diminishing pleasure, because you not only refuse to wade into new waters but actively want those oceans dried. That is a tragedy. Because I know for me, one of the few real joys in my life are the moments when I stumble into something I may never have considered, and fall in love with it.

It’s why I made this site and while it’s a small one, it’s at least an addition to discourse, a positive gain.

So grow the fuck up.

– Jaydra

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2 Comments

  1. Tyrion Lannister has also said a few things about condoning rape and murder. I’m certainly not arguing on anything in this piece, but I figured I’d comment anyway. It is very greatly written.

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