On Morals, Ethics, and the Mob Mentality
It’s been a weird week. Most of this post isn’t going to be interesting to you unless you’re tied into the latest Twitter drama, and I’ve been fighting with the idea of even writing about it. I don’t like giving rumors any weight by acknowledging them, but I think it’s time to make it clear exactly where I stand in regards to a few issues.
Earlier this week, I was asked for help. While I never disclose who is asking for help, this was made public by them, so it’s safe to talk about in this instance. The owner of a popular doxing and harassment board was targeted by the same person that targeted all of my Patreon donors. Schools local to his area had received a number of bomb threats, all of them appearing to come from him. This is a person that has hurt countless others, but I had to make a decision — do I offer to help, or do I let them deal with it on their own?
I offered to help. I won’t play judge and jury of anyone that’s getting harassed. I can’t say that a person is awful, so they deserve what they get. That’s not me. That’s not something I’m comfortable doing. When I make decisions about things like this, I have to ask myself if I’ll be happy with who I am afterwords. I made my decision, and I stand by it. I regret nothing, despite the outrage that happened once it was made public.
It’s not the first time I’ve had to make a difficult decision. I do my best to speak out about behavior, not people. This has put me in a lot of sticky situations over the past year, as some of the people participating in abusive behavior have been from communities that are routinely abused.
You’ve probably heard about the Social Autopsy stuff at this point. They decided to change their Twitter username without securing the username they were using previously (just another bad decision of theirs to add to the pile). Someone decided to jump onto this username and start railing against Social Autopsy.
I’m a fan of a good rant just as much as the next person. But speculation was growing among the GamerGate & doxing boards as to who could be running this account, and although many names were bantered about, Jesse Singal and I were the primary suspects. I knew for a fact that Jesse wasn’t behind this account, and I had a good idea who was. I asked them to please stop and delete the account, and I explained that it was because people were getting harassed. They chose to ignore me, and instead started ranting on the squatted Social Autopsy account about how Jesse and I were terrible people. So, basically, just like the old Social Autopsy account, but using words like heteropatriarchy.
If privilege is a ladder, I’m higher up on it than this person, and that sucks. I’m fully cognizant of that fact. But I don’t think that people should be forced to take the blame and the abuse that comes with it just because they have privilege. Privilege gives some protection, but it doesn’t mean that people should unjustly be turned into scapegoats for the bad decisions of those less fortunate.
In one of the conversations between people trying to figure out who it was, I pointed out that it clearly wasn’t Jesse or myself, and I pointed at some of the things the account was saying. Obviously it wasn’t either of us, given the terms that were being thrown around. When I pointed this out, a lot of people said I was trying to turn them onto a less privileged community. That’s not the case. I just wasn’t willing to continue to take the abuse from this individual. The splash damage that they were causing wasn’t something I could fix, and it’s not something I — or anyone else — should be forced to bear.
Activism isn’t that great when it throws anyone under the bus for the actions of another, privilege or not. I don’t think this person had bad intentions, I just think they make bad decisions. I don’t hold it against them, despite the fallout that I’ve received since pointing out that I wasn’t the one running the account.
Since then, I’ve received emails with subjects like “die cis scum” that include my mom’s home address. “Die cis scum” is about equivalent to “kill all men”, so I’m not going to get worked up about that, but now my family is being threatened. People seem to have figured out that there’s not much they can do to me, so they are going after people close to me. When your activism involves threatening someone or their family, it’s no longer activism. It’s terrorism.
None of these events were really that surprising to me. I first clashed with this community when I saw someone threatening to come to another person’s house and harm them. The person they were threatening was, once again, a pretty terrible person, and a well known supporter of GamerGate. I had to make another one of those difficult decisions. I spoke out, saying that we shouldn’t support that kind of behavior and threatening someone is never OK. I was told that this was their culture, so I should be supportive or be quiet.
If you see something bad happening, and you have the power and platform to say something about it and you don’t, this is the same thing as condoning that behavior.
The night I spoke out about something as simple as not threatening people, I was SWATed. Was it that community? No, probably not. It’s third party opportunists that jump on situations like this. It’s splash damage. It’s what happens when a mob turns on someone that won’t fall in line with their ideals. It’s why I value my own ethics and morals more so than I value any number of people that are sending me angry tweets and emails. About 10% of the abuse I get comes from this group of people, and I haven’t made any of it public because of that mob mentality. Because of privilege. And because I don’t want to cause splash damage. But I shouldn’t have to bear it in silence, which is what I have repeatedly been told to do.
I’ve been hearing that I was writing a hit piece, and I hope this wasn’t that. I wanted to leave things vague enough that no one will be able to be tracked down. I wanted to minimize splash damage, but still have an opportunity to say my piece. As I said last night, I plan on blocking anyone on Twitter that tries to cause problems because of all of this, so don’t @ me. ;)
Just like any community, actual events are like a game of telephone. My legend grows, and I can’t say that it doesn’t hurt, but it is what it is.