My thoughts on SXSW’s #Savepoint drama

Before I even get into this, I know this opinion is unpopular. I know it is because I was chastised for “tone policing” multiple times when speaking with the GamerGate hashtag. But, I will not stop trying to get this point across. Every time I see these highly predictable, highly avoidable missteps happen, I feel compelled to speak out on it.

So, if you are unaware, Mercedes Carrera, adult film actress and free speech advocate, was set to appear on #SavePoint, a discussion on the current state of the gaming culture and games journalism. Carrera has been a well spoken individual, making clear, solid arguments based on evidence and facts. Her presence would have been a great asset to help counter the impression that gamers are over-reactionary fans who despise any encroachment into their subculture.

However, Carrera ended up having to remove herself from the panel. This is due to SXSW organizers asking her to remove comments from her social media accounts that she made regarding certain issues at the festival . She refused, and to avoid any negative impact to the panel, she stepped aside.

While I could go into the specifics comments, I really don’t think revisiting them individually holds any worth. Really what was said is only relevant in as much that the comments were critical in nature, but also had some fairly blunt language.

It’s this blunt nature, this willingness to air honest opinions, that often leads to fodder for the victim narrative the opposition uses. And this is a massive issue. I’ve seen complaints of how the media caters to people like Harper, or how organizers take their side. Yet, when you point out that the reason they get this treatment is in part due to this, you’re told to “stop caring about PR.”

This is a war of ideas. In this war, presentation of those ideas is the bulk of the path to victory. The reason the professional victims win out at almost every conflict is that they have a clear understanding how to construct an easy to comprehend narrative that is presented without vitriol. Meanwhile, a good number of the large voices within GamerGate kept lacing any argument made with low blow insults or dismissive language. That, in turn, just fed into how the professional victims craft their story, acting as evidence they are dealing with hate-filled people.

Freedom of speech is vital to a free society. And yes, you should never have to be concerned with speaking your mind, and expressing yourself however you prefer. I myself swear like a sailor, and yes I indulge in low hanging fruit often when tweeting or making comments. But I am not putting myself forward as a direct representative of any side or argument in this. I’m just a random internet user.

If I were, though, yes I would be careful with what I say and how I say it. When facing individuals who seek to twist your words against you, you will never avoid every pitfall. But, the more you fire off insults, or use blunt language, the more ammunition you are feeding them. They use that ammo to derail the conversation, turning what should be a war of ideas into a mud slinging contest where they will always, always win. They turn an important topic into a childish back and forth of taunts, which in turn gets the entire debate dismissed as kids fighting over their toys.

Journalistic integrity, in all its forms, has been lost. No longer can you read a story and just trust in the facts offered. Now, every article needs to be picked apart and research, every writer scrutinized. And yet, it’s now just an accepted fact of life. If change is to be made, that status quo needs to be broken. We won’t break it if it never gets discussed, though. We won’t break it with snarky comments and direct put downs. We will only break through by rising above that, by showing people we can present arguments based in fact, arguments that aren’t hinged on opinion.

It has happened. We have made impacts here and there. But, if we could stop rolling in the mud with the pigs, we would likely make a tonne more progress to the goals we all want.

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