More Silencing

23 Jul

Feminist Frequency just posted a tweet about how an organization called Gamers Against Bigotry was hacked and shut down for putting together a database of people who are willing to pledge that they will not engage in bigoted behavior online and within their gaming communities.

They are not demanding money. The pledge is as follows:

As a gamer, I realize I contribute to an incredibly diverse social network of gamers around the world, and that my actions have the ability to impact others. In effort to make a positive impact, and to create a community that is welcoming to all, I pledge to not use bigoted language while gaming, online and otherwise.

Bigoted language includes, but is not limited to, slurs based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

It is tantamount to the sorts of honor pledges that many of us made or were asked to make in high school to avoid drugs, alcohol, and smoking. There is no legal, financial, or even social repercussion to signing or not signing. It is entirely voluntary.

And apparently threatening enough that there is a concerted effort to shut down the database and erase it, which happens every time the folks at GAB think they have it up and running again.

So what, precisely, is so threatening about what GAB is doing? They’re not a legal entity and they do not have the power to enforce bans or sanctions against players in any online communities. They are, for instance, asking people to stop using the word “rape” casually, asking people not to use racial, gender, or sexual slurs against one another, and asking people to be overall respectful of the basic humanity of the other people with whom they are playing and interacting.

Perhaps the backlash against GAB comes for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned before, but there seems to be more to it than that. This isn’t just the internet equivalent of jumping up and down and waving one’s hands about in order to distract people from an issue (which is what trolls generally do). This is the active shutting down of a site dedicated to basic decency. Which is to say, there are enough people out there in the gaming community who feel strongly that they should have the right to be abusive and bigoted that they will put in a concerted effort to silence those who want nothing more than to not be abused.

This goes beyond the issue of free speech and hate speech – what is happening here isn’t “hate speech” in the same way that I’ve talked about it before. This is the spiteful censoring of non-hate speech in what appears to be preemptive retaliation for the censoring of hate speech. In short, an attempt to make sure that the only speech is hate-speech.

And I find this particularly alarming because it says to me that there is a large and active enough contingent out there who not only are willing to be abusive, but who want to actively stop others from protesting abuse. It tells me that the ideology of the gaming community is abusive and bigoted, and that such behavior is not only going to be tolerated, but even encouraged because it keeps winning. And that is why it’s important for Anita Sarkeesian to keep doing what she’s doing. Why it’s important for GAB to get itself back up and running. And why it’s vital that we keep talking and not allow ourselves to be silenced.

Update 4.58pm 23 July: Both Sam Killermann’s website and GAB’s site are completely down as a result of hacking. You can still follow them on twitter as GAB648. I’ll keep updating here as things change…

2 Replies to “More Silencing

  1. Hey there! Thanks for the write-up, and the support. It looks like the hackers took it to the next level and shut down our entire site (blog and all) so we’re completely silenced for now, but when we get things back online I’d love to cross-post this article on our blog.

    Would you be okay with that?

    Thanks again!

  2. Absolutely. Anything I can do to help out in the blogosphere I’m happy to do – I know people are passing this around Google+ and the twitterverse…

    Keep up the good work, and, as I said, let me know what else we can do to support you.

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