So… Doctor Who

The topic of Doctor Who isn’t something I think I’ve covered on any of my blogs over the past thirteen years. It’s not that I’m uninterested. Quite the contrary. I suspect it has something to do with not enjoying the particular obsession with fan culture.

To be clear, I’ve seen every Doctor Who episode that hasn’t gone missing, I’ve got a number of the BBC Books, but I’ve never gone to a convention or felt any great need to work out who my favourite Doctor is..

Actually, I remember posting something about the show now. About 12 years ago I agreed to pilot a Dalek for an acquaintance who was doing a promotional stunt. I got to hang out with Trekkies/Trekkers (which one is the preferred title?) in full cosplay. Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy it. Do what you want, but I loathe cosplay.

(I’m not going to argue which franchise is better, and you’ll lose my respect if you try to do so in the comments).

At any rate, my suggested YouTube videos and social media feeds and whatnot are filling up with crap from nerds complaining about the latest season of Doctor Who being “too PC”. How very fucking annoying.

You know what I worry about when it comes to fandom and social justice? It’s not that “social justice warriors” are practicing entryism into fandom, it’s that fantasists in fucking costumes with shelves full of pointless fucking merch are lecturing the rest of us as if they have a grounded take on politics.

***

So I’ve been watching the new season. It’s got a few things I’ve wanted.

On location panoramas. Minimalist visuals during the credit sequence. A rendition of the theme that reassures you that the composer is suitably familiar with mind-altering substances. The Doctor is no longer a messianic fetish. The conflict revolves around ordinary humans – i.e. the companions – rather than alien psychodrama, or companions that become space-god-things. Oh, and the prophetic foreshadowing seems thankfully to have gone out the window.

I’m not entirely sure about how I feel about the Doctor’s loss of fetish status though. Sure, the aliens aren’t about to pack up and run just because Jodie Whitaker declares that she is the Doctor. That’s great. The Doctor’s motives have been de-emphasized, but perhaps a little too much.

And, sorry, but that console room has been seriously marred by the big lump of resin posing as crystal. Having it move makes the effect worse. Crystal doesn’t look or articulate like that. It looks like a prop and it really takes you out of the moment, which is sad because the rest of the set, while confrontingly different, could have worked.

***

So all the “Politically Correct” stuff?

I didn’t entirely like it, but probably not for the same reasons whining crybabies are writing to the BBC.

The casting is fine. But the format of the show just isn’t great for dealing with these issues. Take that woman’s mention of having had a wife in the second episode; the dialogue steered us towards that reveal, when a more natural approach may have had us meandering towards the revelation over two or three episodes. Of course, Doctor Who isn’t written like that. Most cast members come and go in a single episode.

Rosa, the third episode, seemed rushed. I suspect it needed to be a two-part story, and less about celebrity name-dropping and insinuating modern Brits into American history. Rather than the histrionics of participating in the bus ride itself, perhaps the Doctor and companions could have helped protect history more from afar – i.e. more direct conflict with the racist time traveler – knowing they can’t step forward to help in the historical injustices they’re witnessing.

There’s also a bit too much use of overly emotive incidental music where acting should be doing the heavy lifting resonance-wise. I can’t see why this couldn’t be toned down in lieu of things like stammering or shocked choking-on-words.

***

I don’t care if whites, men or straights are a minority in the new season, but I would like stories that are a little less jarring. If it feels like social justice issues are being shoe-horned into the story, it’s not because they don’t belong, it’s because they’re being crammed in faster than the plot can accommodate them, forcing contrivances. Thematically there’s no reason why it couldn’t be made to work.

Ironically though, it’s probably the older, slower format of the actually more racist and sexist Who that could have accommodated this better. At least, after cutting back the padding and the occasionally hackneyed dialogue it could have.

So if I were to ask anything of Chris Chibnall it would be this. If you want to do justice to social justice issues, could you slow it down a little, ease back on the contrivance, and allow for deeper, more natural expressions. Also, maybe get rid of the resin columns in the console room?

~ Bruce

Zero trust for Antifa

Communes, The NSW Greens, Spanish anarchists, and a plethora of other groups have adopted grass-roots, informal organizing structures on some level, often with the same results: accountability suffers and power differentials go unchecked. Those participants with the will are more or less able to act with the liberty to deprive others of their liberties; freedom from intimidation, freedom from sexual harassment, freedom from having your labour exploited – it’s all up for grabs if nobody’s held responsible.

The “grass roots” approach isn’t magic. For some, it’s organizing for people who’ve been made to feel that “organizing” is a dirty word, while for others it’s a source of ready-made suckers.

Enter Antifa.

I used to like a number of Antifa groups and pages on Facebook and had, up until two or three years ago, a number of Antifa-affiliated friends I’ve since walked away from. What can I say: I didn’t like fascism, but I also didn’t like bullshit.

Philosophy Tube has a breakdown of the philosophy of Antifa that’s largely sympathetic, if you’re curious and have the time. Closer to the concerns I’m airing here, is the matter of how Antifa is non-hierarchical and de-centralized.

An early warning sign in discussions of such matters is when non-hierarchal structures are readily referred to in order to indemnify when something goes wrong, but are rarely ever explained or justified on their own merits, often being mere expediencies. You may get some kind of suggestion that being non-hierarchal, they are the natural opposite of authoritarianism, but that’s just splitting. There’s a world of possible organizational structures between authoritarianism and anarchism, and it’s possible to be discerning about which ones you choose and then hold yourself to it.

In the non-hierarchal, de-centralized anarchist world, you can’t just expect a discussion of how a lack of formal consequences could be exploited by crooks, macho-men, fantasists, demagogues or apaths. In fact, if you voice these kinds of concerns don’t be too shocked if you’re treated with suspicion. If this kind of thing is a concern then perhaps Antifa isn’t for you – as it’s not for me.

It’s probably worth mentioning, before moving on, that “Antifa” is not synonymous with “anti-fascist”; one serves as a proper noun, the other does not. You can be “anti-fascist” and not “Antifa”. There’s a rhetorical trick of equivocation some use that switches “critic of Antifa” out for “critic of anti-fascism”, thereby positioning the critic of Antifa as an ally of fascism. Aside from being breathtakingly dishonest, it’s one of many examples of the kind of black and white thinking that should have people more worried when they see it.

***

After a series of concatenated disappointments, it finally came as no surprise to find out that one “feminist” Antifa friend was involved in a campaign to harass dissident feminist academics and activists in Melbourne (which broadly was aligned with a campaign that then went on to see a survivor of particularly severe child sexual abuse having a placard of “blow jobs are real jobs” abusively shoved in her face). It was no surprise to find out that one former Antifa friend, a feminist “ally” no less, had an AVO taken out against him by his ex.

These aren’t the only examples of such non-surprises I’ve seen, and it’s also no surprise that it’s often women that end up on the wrong end of these exchanges. It’s the men with skinny necks who want to be Captain America the most.

***

There’s no shortage of silliness, it seems, when it comes to the intersection between Antifa and Black Metal. Both scenes have more than their share, so when things overlap? People were hoping they’d cancel each other out? Sadly not.

To be clear, despite having listened to metal – including black metal – for thirty-something years, I’ve never listened to Marduk, nor so much as owned a Burzum t-shirt. I’ve heard one or two Burzum songs here and there, but haven’t owned a CD. I’ve no particular interest in changing any of this. It’s pretty uncontroversial to state that Varg Vikernes’ politics are fascist, that he’s not a very nice guy, and I can’t imagine a reason why I’d think otherwise.

If however you think Nergal is fascist, you’re ignorant and either gullible or obtuse. You’re precisely the kind of dillweed I’ve long since stopped trying to take seriously. Want that to change? Do better. Here’s a starter: Appearing in a movie as a Nazi doesn’t make you a Nazi.

nergal

Nergal (Adam Darski) as Joachim von Ribbentrop on the set of AmbaSSada (2013) – three years before the Antifa Against Black Metal (AABM) post (2016).

Foolishness not withstanding, there’s definitely an angle to be explored countering fascism in black metal. Nationalist Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) is a sub-genre, fascists do mine sub-cultures and marginal movements to radicalize new recruits and black metal isn’t immune, and there’s no shortage of potential creative projects that could get off the ground; black or Viking metal artists with an interest in European paganism may for example want to consider restoring its iconography from the influences of Nazi fetishization. (Not that I’m really that Nietzschean, but correcting Nazi mis-readings of Nietzsche would seem to be something that could run parallel to this).

There are definite angles here, but also definite possibilities to fuck up like the way AABM did with Nergal. Typically I’m suspicious of artists presenting as activists, but I’d rather trust an artist accountable to a grants committee with most of this, than I would an Antifa or Antifa-like activist.

So it was with only a little hope that my ears pricked up at the mention of “Neckbeard Deathcamp”. My early thoughts were that their work appealed to my prejudices (I don’t like InCels or basement-dwelling white-supremacists), but came with a degree of facetiousness that I’ve come to see as a warning sign.

When someone focuses on the lolz this intensely in the face of serious evil, there’s always the possibility that it’s not just your enemy that they regard as a joke, but your cause as well. And while on the one hand, comedy is a useful political tool, on the other, well, people laughed at Hitler before he ratcheted things up, and look at how well that went. People laughed at Trump too.

***

UK label Blackened Death has released volume two of Worldwide Organization of Metalheads Against Nazis (W.O.M.A.N.). Neckbeard Deathcamp feature, alongside others. What’s ND’s contribution? “TERF Crisis”. Go ahead and navigate to the tropey lyrics yourself.

Beyond any issue of how “TERF” has been used as a means of painting the target for a barrage of (usually online and often misogynistic) abuse, and beyond any issue of it being “just descriptive” or technically accurate, associating gender critical or radical feminism with Nazism like this is an exercise in false equivalence that’d have Rush Limbaugh jizzing in his pants. Pull back the disguise and you’ve got a group made up mostly of men calling women “feminazi” yet again – a pretty good indicator of failure in my books.

Pick up any serious undergrad textbook about fascism that attempts to list its essential features, and you’ll find hyper-masculinity listed. Hyper-masculinity is hardly the only criterion you’ll see failing to line-up with second-wave feminism, either. Whatever your take on the material analysis of gender, or of the various strains of radical feminism, if you consider them fascist I have little interest in taking your politics seriously because clearly you don’t take your politics seriously either. Clearly if that’s the case, it’s all just a game to you.

The schism between second-wave feminism and the currently dominant strand of transgender activism has been a Godsend to posturing brocialists; guys looking to finally lecture women on feminism and to be licensed to do it. They get to have their “well actually” and eat it too. Couple this with a climate where anything can be identified as fascist, and therefore punched, smashed or whatever else, and you’ve got an absolute wet dream for the left’s own misogynists.

People are implying, if not openly stating, that Blackened Death’s move will make metal more accessible to previously excluded groups, including women. Owing to repeated past experience, I’m not at all sure it’ll pan out that way. I hope I’m wrong.

***

You may be left wondering how Neckbeard Deathcamp’s Superkommando Uberweinersnitchel fits into all of this after exiting the band last month, owing to a number of his past not-entirely-woke social media antics being dredged up. The band delivered the standard anti-perfectionism defense in response. Hailz Komradez’s past membership in the now-defunct misogynistic $lutrot was then raised and the implications decided upon almost immediately.

“…You Trojan horsed your way in through a parody band and now you’ve been uncovered in less than five minutes research. Sucks.” – Dean Brown, 2018.

It has to be said that the resentment thrown up by these kinds of hyperbolic exchanges makes for a great climate for recruitment by various shades of political nasty. You can imagine alt-right media types rubbing their hands together at the sight of it.

I don’t expect these kids to be perfect, or censured, or censored, or excommunicated. But their contribution gives you the impression that “TERF Crisis” was selected right-off the back of their recent social media shaming for a particular reason; the phrase is a shibboleth in Twitter pile-on culture, and second-wave feminists are easy targets with limited material power with which to fight back. It seems like an effective strategy for re-directing angry tweets – maybe it’ll work, if that’s the aim.

I don’t know if the naysayers are right – that Neckbeard Deathcamp have just trojan horsed their way into the left – but you’ll forgive me if past experience has taught me not to get my hopes up that people’s motives are sufficiently genuine.

***

Blackened Death seem about as ad-hoc about campaigning as does Antifa, and about as accountable to their own base and to the broader community as well. I don’t know their working conditions, so I can’t comment on what capacity they have for planning and reflection; I imagine they’re a damn tiny, thinly-stretched outfit, actually.

I have no interest in castigating them. I can’t say I know they’re insincere, either.

But you can’t fault an audience for suspecting fertile soil is being tilled for abusive brocialists and their fellow travelers. You can’t fault women for staying away, despite gestures like Gaylord’s Filosofemme – a play on Burzum’s Filosofem – or the declarative acronym “W.O.M.A.N.”

You can’t fault people for getting the impression that violently misogynistic sentiments like those expressed by the Degenderettes are more than welcome in these circles. (Let’s cut the shit, this “I PUNCH TERFS” business isn’t about liberating the gender non-conforming, it’s about fantasies of bashing women).

And you can’t fault people for assuming that Blackened Death believe second wave feminism is a form of fascism – i.e. that Blackened Death isn’t actually serious about either fascism or feminism. They are, primarily, a music label, not a political organization. Take that for what it’s worth.

Instead of putting a small, independent label under the microscope, though, it’s possibly a better idea for any political wonks watching this episode to observe the way purposely anti-fascist groups, not labels or online music magazines, respond to and influence this project. That and maybe gauge the response of listeners (and comments threads if the requisite hazmat suits are available).

What’s Antifa’s role if any in all of this? Do involved anti-fascist groups hold themselves accountable via formal mechanisms, or do they just wing it, or indeed, indulge themselves? Who if anyone will be blamed if and when shit does hit the fan? How will they be blamed? Does this have material consequences for participants – particularly women and people of colour?

How long will it take for the “I feel personally safe as a member of x, therefore there’s no problem” trope to drop? Which purportedly welcome social group, if any, will be caught on the pointy end of this kind of apologetics first (my money is on lesbians)?

Until something changes, my trust in Antifa and the like will remain as low as it’s ever been. Maybe something will change. I’m not holding my breath.

~ Bruce

MUDU 2018: Why Is Port Pirie So Metal?

Thirty-odd years ago as a sprog down in Port Lincoln, I used to listen to Mal host the Metal Show on the then MMM-FM – a community station that broadcast in Adelaide, but that I could pick up over the Spencer Gulf on a good day. Mal played a number of South Australia bands, including Outrage, who had a presence in Port Pirie of all places (check them out here, at the Port Pirie YMCA in 1988).

We didn’t have metal gigs in Port Lincoln, and I was given the impression that Pirie had to be huge compared to Lincoln; it was closer to Adelaide by road; it was more industrial by far, and it was a part of the Iron Triangle. Traveling along Three Chain Road at night on a Stateliner bus, and passing by on the wider highways helped the image grow in my mind to no end. Lincoln was comparatively countrified; we had fish, grain, smaller roads and not too many smoke stacks.

Around the time it turns out, Pirie’s population was around 14,000, while Lincoln’s was just north of 11,000. That’s not too big a difference, even with a sizeable margin of error – I was expecting Pirie to be twice the size.

So back in the day South Australia was having a thrash explosion, Port Pirie featured, and I was too goddamn young to go. Fast-forward to this past month, and there’s a Metal United Down Under (MUDU) event to look out for, and Pirie, again, is in the frame.

mudu flagMade it. And just before the first act kicked off too.

Continue reading “MUDU 2018: Why Is Port Pirie So Metal?”

Social justice and storytelling

Don’t get me wrong, I prefer not to have sexist or racist tropes in my stories, it’s just that from a creative standpoint, my primary objection is to tropes themselves; they should be subverted, satirized or better yet, avoided altogether. Tropes, racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic or not, are creative minefields.

For this reason, representation in-front of the camera, or in-character, is important to me creatively, not primarily for social justice reasons, but because it makes the story more real. The umpteenth visit to “The Planet of The White People” should become tiresome for anyone, left-wing or otherwise.

But I don’t see story telling as an exercise that should be undertaken by committee. What this means is that consultation has it’s limits; yes, a white writer can for example go into various Asian communities to ask questions (and should seriously consider paying consultation fees – there’s no reason why this information should just be free), but this doesn’t automatically make members of those communities part of the writing team; they may get a credit, but unless specifically hand-picked for the task from the beginning, they don’t just get editorial authority.

Creative integrity excludes like that.

From a social justice perspective though, there is an obvious if difficult workaround: representation at the writing/production level. Publishers can seek out members of a community or social group to write about that community or social group. Universities can review their admissions policies to check for institutionalized biases that arbitrarily exclude various social groups. Hollywood could be more thoughtful about which producers it supports, and be more pro-active about inclusion at that level. And people who care can campaign for these things.

I think it’s a little conspicuous though, that given how much attention has been given to representation of minorities in casting decisions, just how little the staffing of direction, production and writing positions have been similarly considered. A hundred and one hot-takes, with most focused on the limelight when their stated problems run a lot deeper, speaks of a culture pathologically attracted to celebrity.

The cogs and wheels behind the edifice may not be as glamourous, but they’re no less fundamental to increasing representation. Any cultural obsession that obscures that fact can reasonably be considered a political obstacle for anyone seeking progress.

Social justice is a consideration for some, creatively. But so is creative independence. There is a limit to what critique by third parties can contribute, and social justice doesn’t magically extend these limits. Unless you’re living in a totalitarian state, neither does any other political imperative.

From the misogynist nerds who think they own Rick and Morty, to woke-acting narcissists who think they get to provide directorial input on Doctor Who via social media, to any number of vain social media didacts who just can’t butt out, there’s no shortage of jerks online who’ll co-opt any political cause – left or right – if they think it’ll enable them to insinuate themselves into someone else’s creative process. A little bit of professional courtesy wouldn’t go astray here.

I could probably think of a thing or two about Cleverman that I’m not 100% behind, and I could probably go on to offer a critique. But there’s a huge leap between that and going on to pontificate about what Ryan Griffen needs to do with his work, as if he were obliged to listen to me in the first place. Well he’s not obliged, so I’ll not bother. Obviously white fellas are pretty apt to shoehorn their way into other people’s expression because on balance we’re raised with an implicit, unrealistic sense of our own importance. But as a general rule, ideally nobody should be doing any shoehorning.

I don’t see this being any different if the creator in question just happens to be conservative, either.

Perhaps if something was so far-right that it literally incited political violence, there’d be a Millian corn-seller argument there to stop the expression in its tracks – but that’s an extreme that goes well beyond mere critique. Similarly, if a particularly right-wing text defamed, there could be ethical and legal grounds for a demand of cease-and-desist and possibly compensation. Again though, that kind of injunction goes well beyond the realm of critique.

Litigation and indictment aren’t creative or analytic tools. (They’re not necessarily ethical all the time either).

Short of these kinds of injunctions, critics have very limited entitlements. They can critique. They can boycott. They can sulk. They can devise their own creative visions and attempt to build upon them. Ideally such creative visions can get a fair hearing, although often they don’t. The arts world can be rough, and is rarely ever fair.

But critics can’t just magically front-up via viral media and magically expect to be made a de facto part of an existing production or editorial team. And any critique undertaken with that sense of entitlement is bound to be self-indulgently bad. Any creative process that caves in to this kind of entitlement is likely to break – its reason for being being necessarily watered-down.

Maybe any given work of art, free of intrusion, will still turn out to be garbage. No political persuasion has ever been substantially represented without multiple failures occurring, and there’s still a role for critique in documenting these failure after the fact. Entitled didacticism still isn’t going to make this any better though.

Want to critique Star Wars to make the franchise better? Tough. It’s not your franchise to make better. Someone else may find your critique useful though.

Progressive or not, good critique is primarily for the public interest. It’s not a means of grasping control for one’s self. Professional boundaries matter.

So where does that demarcation leave white, male, heterosexual, left-wing creators who do have a care about social justice, but also a regard for professional boundaries? Hopefully nowhere too self-pitying. Hopefully nowhere crying and moaning that a woman has won out. Hopefully somewhere getting used to seeing other ethnicities on occasion being promoted above and beyond them.

I have a sneaking suspicion that while straight male left-wing creators may or may not have had ample experience at getting used to the success of gay male creators, the prospect of successful lesbians may still cause resentment. This is pathetic if true.

Beyond these realizations, good faith, a respectful curiosity regarding humanity, and an aversion to group-membership tropes are to my mind, if not ideal or all-encompassing, sufficient. I certainly have no intention of ticking off every box on some officious blogger’s checklist-for-wokeness, and unless somehow brainwashed, I doubt I ever will.

There will always be conflict occurring between these concerns every now and then, and I think creators need to resign themselves to that fact. When given the chance, I probably will consult with others that I trust, in private, if it’s not an imposture upon them. And I will peruse critique on an ongoing basis.

Unsolicited edicts from self-appointed editors though? Nope. Not a part of the process.

~ Bruce

Connotation creep

Something I’ve been noticing increasingly with the rote use of political/civics language, is a curious, somewhat sneaky attachment of connotations to otherwise unobjectionable terms or phrases. The “creep” comes into it, not because it’s creepy (although it sometimes is), but on account of something akin to mission creep; an array of new connotations starts to steer the use of the phrase away from it’s original purpose.

Consider the pair:

1) “You’re free to speak, but you’re not free from the consequences of your speech”.

2) “You’re free to speak, but you’re not free from the consequences of your speech” *Taps baseball bat in hand/[insert implied retribution]*.

The first is often deployed in response to bigots of various stripes who think their public speech acts are immune to criticism – I.e. as a rebuttal to authoritarians who think they’re entitled to be viewed as liberal and to have their critics gagged at the same time.

The second I’ve actually seen deployed by people who’ve tried to pretend that they’re being oppressed by another on account of a speech act, and therefore that a retaliatory threat (or act) of violence is justified – E.g. what boils down to InCels warning women that they reserve the right to violence should they hear the word “no” too often. There are obviously other possible instantiations of the corrupted form as well.

I use the above example not because I’ve seen the connotation deployed recently, but because in its more extreme state, it makes what I’m talking about relatively clear. The difference between the furthest extremes in meaning is stark and hard to forget, but only once you’ve had the opportunity to see it. The creep is usually more subtle in the wild.

You get to wondering, once you’ve seen the creep and then the uncorrupted meaning being used again, just who a person’s been talking to. Have they borrowed the phrase without thinking it through? Do they know how else they could be read? Are they, somewhere, unwittingly co-operating with someone who’s got an investment in the creep? Do they on some level sympathize with these motives, or have a bias that prevents them from seeing them in the first place?

***

This corruption isn’t like the right’s overt co-opting of language (particularly the co-opting of terms that the left has used to criticize itself). That’s usually pretty blunt – more of a connotational lurch, than a creep. If they weren’t jacking our shit, I’d almost respect their openness.

But no, the creep is a worry too. It’s insidious, especially among bros.

“You’re denying her agency!”

A phrase meant to highlight how a women’s role as a decision maker and interest holder is being sidelined from consideration is relatively apt to creep towards something that serves the bros. Just remove power from the analysis, and treat all the current options on the table as the only ones logically possible, and all that’s left is to smear the people criticizing the situation as “denying her agency”. Never mind that the bros may be actively restricting the options she has to choose between in the first place.

Consider the bro who’s gaslighted and socially isolated his partner to the point where she’ll accept any crummy choice from a list of crummy choices. Consider the bro who’s deliberately selected and “helped” a partner with body image problems. Consider the bro who’s rendered his partner deliberately vulnerable through a hundred ratcheting steps. Then consider her modelling on social media to impress bro’s friends, submitting to injurious sex acts, you name it.

“Maybe she likes performing ass to mouth for his gurning bro friends to watch and laugh at! You’re denying her agency!” There are other examples along the continuum both less and more extreme, and if you line them up in graduations you can creep, creep, creep your way along them – if you’re that kind of asshole. If you’re really good, and have the aid of a compliant crowd, you can pass your shittiness off as woke in no time at all.

***

It’s practically a law of the Internet that as a phrase or term goes viral in social justice circles, it’s meaning will creep towards something more regressive. The corrupting agents are plural; marketing departments, MBA speak, narcissists, aspiring social media cult leaders, hipster brocialists, and on and on; the usual eaters of meaning.

It didn’t take long for the “spoon theory” disability metaphor to be used by “good allies” without disabilities who were just looking for a convenient term to express their exasperation.

“This thread is tiresome. I’m all out of spoons”.

“WTF Byron? You don’t even have a disability!”

And fark. “Good ally” itself doesn’t necessarily connote what people think it does anymore (if ever). I’m sick of getting a pat on the head for that one. Don’t be shocked if you call someone a “good ally” only for them to ask you what you mean, and to quiz you on your expectations.

“Safe Space”: That’s been creeping since the 80s at least. It used to be the product of women’s officers on campus, and it had little to do connotationally with “trigger warnings” or “no-platforming”, both of which have had their own substantial creeps as well. Think better lighting, women-only spaces, security guard patrols/escorts during the late hours, intercoms, anti-harassment policies and so on and you’ll be closer to the “safe space” of yore.

I’d ask you this, a favour: If you consider yourself progressive, travel in progressive circles, socialize enough, and still wonder what the fuck I’m on about here, keep an eye on something for me. When you see a designated “safe space”, keep an eye out to see how lesbians are catered to.

Lesbians – lesbians of colour especially – have often been the first to go under the bus in ostentatiously progressive spaces. As a social group in political circles, they’re easy to isolate and then exploit, attack or easily exclude.

***

The examples of connotation creep aren’t lacking if you pay attention. There are things that I suspect, though, that could be of help in keeping conversations from being corrupted. If the thought of my offering advice seems too didactic, feel free to ignore me and skip the rest of this piece.

Don’t reward or encourage people for rote-repetition of cant. This just encourages people to say the words more, but without encouraging them to really think about what they’re saying.

Don’t be quick to dismiss things as “semantics”. Possibly there are few better climates for the corruption of meaning than those where people have decided to deride discussions of meaning.

Do avoid political cant when plain language will convey your meaning with economy. This way you can keep your meaning without edgelords wanting to pervert it – and you’ll be more easily understood. Orwell was right.

Get to really know political language if you can, especially its etymology. I keep seeing people saying that etymology is irrelevant ala the genetic fallacy, but this strikes me as wrong-headed in much the same way as the “why are their still monkeys” creationist argument. Old meanings can still be in play in every day language, if not the foundational literature. Knowing what’s out there as best you can helps you get your point across without participating in the corruption.

Don’t let people guilt you about being careful with words, especially if you’re a writer. You don’t have to be self-flagellating, but writers are supposed to give a shit about words. Allowing others to manipulate you is often tantamount to giving editorial control to people who aren’t entitled to it.

Be fair on yourself and adopt the lexicon at your own pace. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to ask someone to explain a neologism clearly, although give them a little leeway for pace as well.

If people are quick to anger with you, and accuse you of being obtuse, reconsider whether they’re worth having a discussion with. You can’t have an honest discussion with someone who doesn’t want an honest discussion.

Try to preference publications that take a care with these issues. Personal choice isn’t the world-changer some people think it is, but you may be able to positively influence discussions in your own space if the media you take to it is more carefully selected.

***

I doubt there’s more I can say on connotation creep at this point that’s not redundant, vague or boring. I’m trusting that people reading this can get my point. It’s not that hard.

I’ll confess this is all somewhat shaped by the kinds of conversations I’d like to have – but if you’ve got this far then possibly you’re similarly inclined.

I hope this has been helpful.

~ Bruce

Babysitting Grown Men

In less than seven days, I’ve managed to witness on two separate occasions, two separate “Nice Guys” stating openly in person what I’ve only ever seen them too coy to state explicitly online; that sub-cultures (particularly gaming and science fiction in this case) are refuges from the world, especially for men, and in particular from women and/or feminists. This is, to put it plainly, pathetic.

‘Gatorboi

Last week, while preparing to upgrade someone’s computer, I lost my shit with a possible InCel/definite Gamergator. If this was a care situation, or a campaigning context, it’d be unprofessional. In reality, it was after hours and I was still dieting before my upcoming operation, so having some guy I don’t know trying to impress me with his take on Anita Sarkeesian, and with his thoughts on Internet subcultures was the last straw.

This was my time off and as it was I was spending it trying to help someone else to begin with. I’m going to cut myself some slack here.

“Anita Sarkeesian is sooo corrupt. Have you heard about her husband? She’s taken so much money! And all those balding middle aged beta male feminists who are white-knighting to get feminist pussy. [Insert pouty sulk].” – I paraphrase, but the sulkiness is pretty much spot on.

Why the fuck am I supposed to be impressed by or able to empathize with this shit?

I know the conspiracy theories are just that. I don’t care about her husband. I’m a balding middle aged man who’s been feminist-supporting for a long time, and while neither you nor ‘Gatorboi are in a position to verify it, I know for myself that I haven’t used this as an angle to try and get laid. Trying to convince me otherwise is a worthless exercise.

While yes, I occasionally play a game (Solitaire, Bejewelled, Civilization, and a number of DOS games from time to time), I don’t bother to self-identify as a “gamer”. It’s not something I’d aspire to. The technology behind the games is far more interesting if you want a topic on which to expend any serious mental effort (e.g. considering the historical development of floating point performance, running through implementations such as various first person shooter engines before widening the scope to include the implications for non-gaming applications like protein folding modelling and CERN’s ATLAS software stack), but the gaming experience itself? Not so much.

Further, beyond the technology, if I was going to go to any great length considering my use of computer games above and beyond what’s required to waste time and unwind, I’d be more interested in cultural critique than in mounting a fevered defense of the virtue of some gaming franchise, or clique of Cheeto-gobblers. Brand loyalty isn’t worth the effort. I’m not a fanboi. Of anything.

If this excludes me from being a True Gamer, I don’t give a shit.

Before the rant about beta males, of course, there was an implication by ‘Gatorboi that the influx of outsiders was destroying sub-cultures – a point ‘Gator wrongly extrapolated from my own point about social media, smart phones and a sudden influx of people unfamiliar with the concept of netiquette – which obviously he refined to the point of singling out feminists and non-compliant women in general. Quite a long bow to draw, that. It was in this context that he framed sub-culture as his special refuge, and outsiders as trespassers.

Why on earth would anyone want to be stuck as this guy’s babysitter, patting him on the head and telling him it’s alright? Wouldn’t “gamers” rather game? And what’s he hiding from? Culture’s going to be subject to critique. Get over it. Critics don’t need your permission.

Afraid of the specter of gnashing vaginas, and want a Daddy figure to hold your hand? Please try therapy instead.

Maybe, just maybe, instead of whining about beta males trying to get some – a pretty obvious example of projection that, incidentally – how about considering whether or not they’re being put off of being your Bronie because of your suppurating self-pity.

Fake Numbers

So yeah, another day another whiny man. I don’t know how women put up with this shit. Where do they get the energy?

“Women keep giving me fake numbers!”

No shit.

“It’s like they look at me and see “Loser”.”

That’s clearly how you see yourself. But go right ahead and blame women who haven’t done anything wrong. What are women for, if not to make you feel better about yourself? Just look at your mother – she’s a woman ergo. These ones not giving you there number must just be broken.

“That’s why I like science fiction. It takes you away from the cruelty of mankind. Or in this case, womankind.”

The cruelest thing here is a Fake Number Guy’s sense of entitlement. Even if you strip away the implied threat, and the whiff of angry resentment, you’re still left with behaviour better suited to an Amway salesperson/cultist.

Learn some boundaries guys. Learn the social cues. It’s a part of maturing. She doesn’t want to give you her phone number and she doesn’t want you pestering her by asking for it in the first place.

Some of us learn it later than others – too late – but if you’re past 40 and you’re still not getting it, then… fark. People can reasonably and fairly write you off.

That aggrieved sense of entitlement. That sulking self-pity. You do realize that it permeates your behaviour in general, right? It’s not just the asking for the number. Even your ums, ahs and agitated twitches at the slightest hint of frustration tip people off. People get an off feeling around you because… well, you are off.

In the first instance it makes you a wet blanket. A real party pooper. Even if you don’t squeal “whaaaa”, people can still hear it. It wafts off you like bad cologne. You’re killing the mood like a shit in a punchbowl and that’s before you’ve started badgering women for things you’re not entitled to.

It’s also something pathological you have in common with stalkers, spousal abusers and date rapists, so it’s unreasonable to expect that complete strangers are going to welcome you with open arms and just give you the very means to pester them on an ongoing basis.

Women don’t exist to alleviate your poor self esteem. Generally speaking, science fiction communities don’t exist to alleviate your poor self esteem either, even when marketing departments tell you otherwise. Science fiction communities exist for people who are interested in – surprise! – science fiction, for the purpose of – hold on to your hats – science fiction. Odd that.

The people you need to see about self esteem are called therapists. Again, please try therapy.

“Aww. Therapy? But then the guys will think less of me. Only beta cucks go in for therapy.”

The opinions of guys who think like this aren’t worth respecting. Guys like this are why deep down you think of yourself as a “beta”, subsequently feeling a need to make every other guy the “beta” just so you can feel a little better about yourself. Thing is, if you think “beta males” actually exist in Homo sapiens, you’re a sucker – The Guys have played you for a fool.

Tip: Make like The Guy’s wives and ditch them.

(Yeah, the thought of breaking off makes you feel fear, doesn’t it? You worry about angering your “alphas”. Maybe they’ll yell at you. Maybe worse!)

No. You’re not a nice guy. You’re an asshole, lickspittle servant to bigger assholes, and probably a coward, too. The good news is that unless you’re a psychopath, you can always stop if you choose.

I still don’t get it

Science fiction communities being for science fiction, gamer identity not being worthwhile, certainly not to the point of getting angry at perfectly anodyne critique, and aggrieved, self-pitying entitlement being a buzzkill: Mad, I know.

But there you have it. Clearly I don’t have a clue. It’s that blue pill I guess.

All the same, clueless or not, I still don’t want to be around this bullshit, much less coddle the grown men who indulge in it. Save for ulterior motives subject to cost-benefit analysis, I don’t understand why anyone would.

~ Bruce