Wednesday, January 28, 2015

About Anita Sarkeesian's Harassment Tweets...

...I almost hate to be the one to spoil this, but reading all those tweets -- all of which are undeniably awful -- one detail stands out:

Of all 157 tweets, only two of them mention #Gamergate. As such, the total harassment of Ms Sarkeesian attributable to #Gamergate is 1.2%.

Until you consider that one of those two tweets is this one.
Turns out that tweet doesn't meet any real workable definition of "harassment." This individual may be expressing an opinion critical of Sarkeesian, but that's not harassment. So the total percentage of harassing tweets attributable to #Gamergate is more like %0.6.

Someone better get ABC on this, stat!

So to all of those people who are sending Anita Sarkeesian: stop doing that, you morons. And to Sarkeesian herself: your shoddy research doesn't justify this, but your passive-aggressive tactics invite it. Don't confuse this for victim-blaming because I hardly consider you to be a victim.

And to Patrick Kulp at Mashable... just because your readers evidently don't expect you to do even this level of research doesn't mean it's not a good idea.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Amy MacPherson's Zombie "Journalism" : No Ethics, No Sources

As I set out to write this column, I realize that I can think of many, many ways to say that Amy MacPherson is not very bright, but that I didn't want to start this column by saying that MacPherson is not very bright.

I didn't want to do this, but then I realized that the defining characteristic of MacPherson's "reporting" is, in fact, that she isn't very bright. And her most recent "reporting" on L'affaire Ghomeshi proves it. To say that her "reporting" lacks gravitas would, frankly, be unduly complimentary to it. In fact, MacPherson's "reporting" is characterized by a deficit of gravitas.

In her most recent offering regarding Ghomeshi, MacPherson is somehow still on Ghomeshi's side. That much is crystal clear. But at least she almost seems to move beyond her "CPC is out to get Ghomeshi because Charter" conspiracy. Or at least, it seems that way at times.

But really what MacPherson is attempting to lambaste Canadaland's Jesse Brown over in this piece is ethics. And she fails at it because she doesn't understand the issue. Mostly because her own ethics are entirely bunk.

MacPherson's most recent attempt of a Brown takedown revolves around Brown's appearance on Ed the Sock's podcast.

Anyhow, MacPherson's deranged blogpost makes the following "ethical" complaints about Brown's reporting. She states that:

1. Brown did not disclose his personal relationship with a Ghomeshi victim.
2. Brown did not disclose his former position as a radio personality on the CBC.

Now, if MacPherson actually understood media ethics -- which is unlikely, as she doesn't have any -- she might have stopped to ponder, for a moment, the nature of the relationship between a journalist and their sources.

In cases where a journalist's source is a whistleblower it's always considered preferable that the source be identified. This can be considered an ethical disincentive to running with the story. However, in cases where the matter is a subject of public interest, it's considered to be perfectly acceptable to proceed with the story so long as the source's story can be factually verified.

The source's story was factually verified, much to MacPherson's chagrin. Everyone should remember that her original offering on the story was that Lucy DeCoutere was being put up to this whole thing by the military. That was an insanely -- literally deranged -- unethical attack on DeCoutere for reasons that were not then and not now entirely clear.

Once a source's story is verified and corroborated, it's considered perfectly ethical to print the story. And it's also considered entirely ethical for a journalist to protect their source from retaliation by protecting their identity.

As it pertains to Kathryn Borel, thinly-veiled threats made against other complainants at the CBC made it clear she had to fear for her job if it was aware she was a source -- although not the source -- for Brown's reporting. (More on this shortly.)

Admittedly, Brown had an ethical decision to make. He was caught between two ethical expectations: on one hand that he would disclose his personal relationship with Borel. But on the other there was his responsibility to protect his source from retaliation.

Brown passed this ethical hurdle in a novel way. Remember that Borel wasn't "the" source. She was "a" source. Brown sat on this particular allegation while he waited for more allegations to surface. And before long, they did.

I'm not surprised that MacPherson doesn't seem to understand the ethical nuances of the relationship between a journalist and their sources. Not only has she demonstrated on numerous occasions that her work is written with extreme indifference to ethical standards -- attempting, though failing, to smear Ghomeshi's victims was the most egregious example -- but she frequently writes without sources.

No ethics, no sources, no worries. I suppose.

But that's not a formula for quality journalism.

MacPherson's other ethical complaint about Brown's reporting is also utterly laughable. It may be true that Brown did not disclose his former employment at the CBC specifically within those stories. Here's the thing: Brown's previous tenure at the CBC is public knowledge.

What's more laughable yet is her insistence that, during his time at CBC, Brown and Ghomeshi were "competitors."

They were both employed by the CBC, on non-competing shows. Never did a Jesse Brown show go to air opposite Ghomeshi's Q. That's what you call a "competitor." In fact, Ghomeshi and Brown were what you actually call a "colleague."

Comically, MacPherson herself was formerly a CBC election blogger. She doesn't disclose this herself. Which, as this is readily-available public knowledge, would be fine if she herself wasn't demanding such disclosure from Brown. But because she does make that demand, it's simply hypocrisy.

As MacPherson drones on she makes a number of entirely-irrelevant yet comedic complaints.

One was that Brown received encouragement from Jeffrey Dvorkin, who mas made some radical suggestions on how to restructure the CBC. Another is that Brown allegedly co-created Bitstrips.

To either case, MacPherson seems to make no effort whatsoever to clear the first hurdle of public inquiry: the "so what?" question.

Literally: so what? What about it?

Perhaps the most insipid complaint MacPherson raises against Brown is that the Ghomeshi story effectively rejuvenated Brown's then-flagging Canadaland podcast. Again, MacPherson cannot clear the "so what?" hurdle.

Here's a detail that MacPherson herself should be very familiar with: individual stories very much can make or break an individual outlet, and an individual career. And L'affaire Ghomeshi should make that perfectly clear to her: L'affaire Ghomeshi has made Jesse Brown's career. And it's destroyed hers. Mostly because each took it in entirely different directions, and in each case the direction was conducive to the result.

MacPherson chose to set off with virtually no facts in hand, and spun bizarre conspiracy theories that were not supported by the scant few facts she had in hand. When additional facts came out she attempted -- inanely -- to twist them to support that conspiracy theory. And while she makes no mention of that conspiracy theory in her most recent blogpost, she does note that Ed the Sock puppeteer Ed Kerzner once ran for office as a candidate of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

On the other hand, Jesse Brown adopted a "trust but verify" approach to his sources and to the story. Ghomeshi and the CBC attempted various methods -- not especially dissimilar from MacPherson's -- to deflect the story. But once the floodgates of additional complainants came forward, Brown was vindicated and a career (his career) was reinvigorated.

This is why Jesse Brown is a rising star in Canadian journalism, and Amy MacPherson's career is dead. And while she may choose to wander the wasteland of her Free the Press Canada blog, intelligent people recognize her for the zombie that she is.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gawker Feminism

So, let me ask you this: what would a "news" website staffed exclusively by awful people look like if it had any semblance of mainstream credibility?

Why, Gawker. Of course.

And if you took them at their word, you'd suspect that they're into feminism. Like really, really into feminism. Consider for example, Gawker's hilariously-outraged reaction to Wikipedia's decision to bar a number of feminist editors from editing the "Gamergate Controversy" wikipedia page:

"Theoretically, the free encyclopedia is a purely democratic operation—anyone can edit Wikipedia, after all—but there is a byzantine and largely unseen hierarchy that governs disputes among editors, culminating in a Supreme Court-style panel called the Arbitration Committee. The committee's latest decision: to punish a group of five editors who fought to maintain a Gamergate page that presented the 'controversy' largely as an assault on women—that is, who fought to present Gamergate as it actually is."

Gamergate's countless female members -- literally countless, because Gamergate has never been so obsessed with diversity-themed navel-gazing as to actually stop and count --  would certainly disagree with whether or not Gamergate is an "assault on women."

That's been the feminist demagogue take on Gamergate. (Oddly enough these identity zealots don't seem to take much notice of Gamergate's female supporters.)

So Gakwer is into feminism, right? Like really, really into feminism, right?

Well, if you thought so you'd be forgetting that Gawker rose to prominence via a website app that gave people a powerful tool with which to stalk celebrities, and that the 20-something nitwit they sent onto CNN to defend it dismissed concern about it as if it didn't even approach being a big deal.

There were reports of celebrities whose whereabouts were posted to "Gawker Stalker" within minutes -- mere minutes -- of them being there. Many were concerned that "Gawker Stalker" could be used by obsessed fans to beset such celebrities.

It would be foolish to think that female celebrities would be immune from such treatment. Frankly, Gawker was just fortunate that no one was hurt by some dangerous stalker type.

And here's the thing: for a "feminist" website like Gawker to publish such an app does not speak well to how much they do or do not care about the safety of celebrities, especially female celebrities who, it could be said, could be far more vulnerable to that behaviour than male celebrities. At the very least, this is what many feminists would presume.

It's strange to see a "feminist" website care so little for the physical safety of women. It's almost as if they're really, really into feminism until they can make a few bucks off of hanging famous women out to dry. Then, anything resembling a feminist concern for the safety of women is tossed out the window with little more than a smirk to acknowledge whether or not it was ever there at all.

I call it "Gawker feminism." It's a variant of "feminism" that has them espousing feminism when there's rhetorical advantage to be had against people they don't like -- and after Sam Biddle cost Gawker 7 figures of advertising revenue after suggesting people should respond to Gamergate by bringing back bullying, perhaps they have some reason to not like Gamergate -- and dispensing of it when they can earn a few sheckles by doing it.

In other words, they're extremely disingenuous people. That's no surprise. Awful people typically are.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Islam's Quiet Revolution: How to Be an Ally to Muslim Reformers

Today, leaders from around the world met in France and marched in solidarity to support the freedoms of western civilization.

And even while this is happening -- less than a week after radical Muslim terrorists stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine and murdered 12 people -- a quiet revolution is bubbling in the Muslim world.

No, this doesn't mean that countries such as Egypt are ready to accept a culture of liberty lock, stock, and barrel. But a recent speech by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi indicates that not only is he well aware that the ecclesiastical mania of radical Islam is inciting the world's hostility against Islam. And while more moderate Muslims may not condone the actions of radical Islamists, they do all-too-frequently seem to condone the mania itself.

al-Sisi seems to be recognizing this is a problem. " We have to think hard about what we are facing — and I have, in fact, addressed this topic a couple of times before. It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!" he told Muslim clerics. "That thinking — I am not saying 'religion' but 'thinking' — that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It's antagonizing the entire world."

We cannot expect religious or even political reforms in Egypt overnight. It's important to remember that Egypt remains part of a global bloc of Islamic countries pushing at the UN for the adoption of global anti-blasphemy laws.

But we can at least hope for Islam to take small steps along the road to reform. And we should be supportive -- however tentatively -- of any Muslim sect that is willing to make such reforms. The least we could do is not actively undercut them.

Which is what brings me to the following image:

It's worth remembering -- in fact crucial to remember -- that there are plenty of Muslims who have already made the leap beyond the ecclesiastical nuttery that led to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. If the example of Ahmed Marabet wasn't enough for you, the actions of Lassana Bathily -- who saved as many hostages as he could by hiding them in the basement -- should underscore the point. It can be done, has been done.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is: what can we do to help?

As I previously noted, we could at least start by not undercutting them. There is one thing the religious convictions of the Hebdo killers had in common with the religious convictions of Ahmed Marabet:

They both believed in a concept called "Jihad." The difference being that Marabet's concept of Jihad was a peaceful one. He died practicing it. Bathily's concept of Jihad is also a peaceful one. He risked his life practicing it.

If he'd been caught he likely would have been a victim of the Hebdo shooters, whose concept of Jihad Marabet and Bathily would both denounce as false.

So for us to refer to the Hebdo shooters as "Jihadists" seems like a rather strange way to thank them. So long as any concept of Jihad that is not-violent exists, to use Jihad as a blanket term for Islamic terrorism is literally an attack on the religion itself. That's a bad idea. It's also a great way to shoot the reform efforts being called for by Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in the foot.

After all, if we call the actions of Muslim terrorists "Jihad," we're helping to give them premise to call it that themselves. And that grants them the aggrandizement they desperately crave and actually helps them recruit other Muslims to their cause.

Some people may mistake this for political correctness. It's not about political correctness. It's about tactical correctness. More specifically, correctness in rhetorical tactics. Rhetorical tactics may not seem important on a battlefield in which unarmed westerns are so often having to fight for their lives against armed extremists. Rhetorical tactics don't deflect a bullet or kill a terrorist. This is true.

But effective rhetorical tactics can help sway younger, more impressionable Muslims away from these actions in the first place. An enemy who never takes up arms is an enemy you never have to fight, over here or over there.

If we don't constrict the rhetorical space they have to work within Muslim reformers will win the battle against Islamic terrorism for us. It may take a long time, but it's the only possible way to win that battle. This doesn't mean that we refrain from criticizing Islam when it's necessary -- in fact our criticisms should stand as a beacon of specific reforms they need to pursue -- but it certainly means that we shouldn't wound our allies before they take the field.

Unless we stop doing that we can expect this to get a lot worse before it gets any better.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Today We Are All Charlie

If no one has said this yet, I'm just going to come out and say it: Charlie Hebdo was a bit of an asshole.

He went where he wanted, said what he wanted, did what he wanted. And he didn't sit around worrying about what other people thought about that.

I hope he died as he lived: defiantly. Because if the terrorists who slew Charlie today -- just because he drew some cartoons that they didn't like -- have their way, they'll kill a little bit of the defiance in the freedom-loving people who survive him.

Right now, with all the murderers like Charlie's murderers determined to dictate to the rest of us how we'll live our lives, we'll need all the defiance we can muster.

Fuck that noise.

There are many good ways to live and there are many goods ways to die and I, for one, will not sit around waiting for ISIS or any other terrorist organization to choose mine.

So what if Charlie Hebdo was a bit of an asshole? He might mot be the asshole we deserve. But he's the asshole we need right now.

Je suis Charlie.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Economic Impact of Unethical Games Journalism

Regular Bad Company readers may recall my inaugural Gamergate-themed post, wherein I took one Henry Smith to the woodshed for his portrayal of gamers strictly as "rich white men with expensive toys."

More than simply false -- gamers come from all races, genders and walks of life -- it was incredibly shortsighted.

It was shortsighted for more than just the misapplication of what he claims as his own ideas. It's also oblivious to the people to whom the ethical issues associated with Gamergate matter most.

Simply put, the "rich white men with expensive toys" argument has virtually no understanding of to whom these issues are most important. Simply put, the less money a gamer has to spend on their hobby, the more important these issues are.

Upon its release a AAA video game can cost approximately $70. For gamers who partake in the hobby on a low-income basis this can present a serious quandary, particularly if they don't want to wait for a second-hand copy of the game at their local EB Games or on Kijiji. If they're going to spend $70 on a new video game, it's especially important for these gamers that they choose wisely in a field that, like all others, offers no guarantees.

Perhaps more than anywhere else, low-income gamers rely on games journalism to give them an indication of which games they should spend their money on. So when games journalists give glowing reviews to AAA games that are simply not up to snuff on a technical basis -- Dragon Age Inquisiton being a prime example -- they have betrayed their audience to an unconscionable degree.

No one should expect perfect objectivity from video games reviewers. After all, many of the key elements of a game -- graphics, music, sound effects, play format -- are subjective measures. However, the mechanical aspects of a game: controls, artificial intelligence, processing coherence (whether or not the game is glitch-free or is glitchy as all hell) -- are not. If a game is lacking in these measures it is automatically a bad game, regardless of whether or not some games journalist prefers its subject matter or finds it sufficiently caters to their tastes or political opinions.

Economics teaches us about the concept of opportunity cost. Explained most simply, opportunity cost is the best option, in terms of marginal utility, foregone for the purpose of an option selected.

In the case of a video game purchase it's not unreasonable to suggest that the opportunity cost of a bad game purchased is a good game purchased in its stead.

For the individuals fomenting the cancer at the heart of games journalism -- journalistic standards sacrificed for the purpose of promoting the "social justice" agenda -- opportunity cost is also an applicable concept. For them, a game produced that does not serve their agenda represents a game not produced that does serve their agenda. This is obviously an issue with any game, but for AAA games, the production budgets for which can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, this becomes far more acute.

Social justice warriors among the so-called "elite" of games journalism have unquestionably tilted their ratings in favour of some games, including AAA games, that didn't deserve the ratings. If the result is that gamers purchase games that aren't worth the money, that will give developers an incentive to produce games that successfully pander to the "social justice" agenda even at the expense of game mechanics. If this happens, these particular games journalists have just succeeded in doing something tremendously pervasive: they've shifted their opportunity cost from themselves to the gamers who also happen to be their customers.

You're welcome, I presume.

The lower the income of a particular gamer the more negatively impacted they are not only by any journalistic trend that may mislead them into a poor game selection, but also that any journalistic trend that encourages a decline in average game quality.

My observation is that the so-called "elite" whose activities have given rise to #Gamergate are too drunk on power they don't deserve and don't know what to do with to have even considered the consequences of their actions. In the famous words of Mal Reynolds: I don't credit them with an overabundance of brains. And so I cannot put this past them.

This is the kind of thing that facilitates the decision to make everything else secondary to a political agenda -- just don't bother to think about what the unintended consequences could be. This is rooted in the conviction that no price is too high to pay for "social justice" ...even if the "justice" being pursued is just one narrow, almost narcissistically narrow, view of it.

Some of them simply aren't predisposed to think of the consequences. Others, like Ben Kuchera, seem to literally be having too much fun abusing the power they've been given -- sneering at dissenting voices all the while -- to care.

One way or the other, regardless of Henry Smith's caricature of gamers as rich white males, it's the poorest gamers who actually have the biggest stake in #Gamergate. The economic impact will invariably fall hardest on them.

Monday, January 5, 2015

On #Gamergate, CBC's Massive Ethical Fail

After months of waiting, viewers and readers concerned about the CBC's #Gamergate coverage have finally gotten a response. And that response is... underwhelming.

As One Angry Gamer reports,  CBC Ombudsman Esther Enkin has responded to these concerns by saying that everything with the CBC's coverage of #Gamergate is a-OK, despite the clear evidence that it is not. In particular, Enkin replied: "The fact that you reject the negative narrative does not mean it should not be discussed.”

Well. Is that what's been going on at the CBC? The negative narrative being discussed?

Well, a meaningful discussion of a narrative requires that both sides of it participate. And as it turns out, the CBC's coverage has permitted no participation by those on the business end of the "Gamergate harasses women" narrative.

This is made crystal clear by examining the following points of the reporting, on The National by Deana Sumanac-Johnson, and on the CBC's Community Blog by John Bowman.

Point 1 - #Gamergate has become a catchphrase for the online harassment of female gamers.

Sumanac-Johnson has repeated a claim made not by neutral observers, but by by #Gamergate's opponents. As such, Sumanac-Johnson has violated the CBC ethical code's guidelines on impartiality. It reads: “We provide professional judgment based on facts and expertise. We do not promote any particular point of view on matters of public debate.”

The story relies overwhelmingly on anecdotal evidence to support this claim. The anecdotal evidence may be offered by individuals judged by Sumanac-Johnson to have sufficient expertise to make that judgement, but expertise alone is not enough. Any judgement offered by Sumanac-Johnson must be backed by a sound basis in fact. Anecdotal evidence does not provice that basis, and should not be considered to provide that basis.

Sumanac-Johnson has taken numerous women on their word that they were harassed by #Gamergate. While it may not be unreasonable for her to take their word that they were harassed, it's not reasonable to take their word that they were harassed by #Gamergate. The hashtag has attracted a great number of third-party trolls, and Sumanac-Johnson seems to have made no effort whatsoever to confirm whether or not such harassment came from an individual truly sympathetic to #Gamergate's goals. If she did, that is not evident in her reporting.

Which takes us directly to the next point:

Point 2 - The exclusion of Jennifer Dawe.

When preparing reports, reporters make decisions not only regarding which facts to report, but also which facts to ignore. This also applies to voices. They make decisions not only regarding which voices to include, and which voices to exclude.

It's now a matter of public record that Jennifer Dawe, a game developer supportive of #Gamergate, was interviewed for this story. Yet her pro-#Gamergate voice is excluded while anti-#Gamergate voices were included -- exclusviely.

Dawe was advised that her interview could be published as a "reaction" to stories on #Gamergate. That would be very good in principle.

There was only one problem with that: Dawe's interview never aired. Ever.

Her voice -- that of a female video game developer -- was excluded from a story about alleged attempts to exclude female voices from video gaming.

That's rather ironic.

Point 3 - Gamerella.

Again, what is every bit as interesting about Sumanac-Johnson's piece isn't just information she includes, but rather information that she chooses to omit.

Sumanac-Johnson spends a great deal of time on the Gamerella gamejam, in which women interested in video games get together to to develop video games. There's nothing wrong with this in and of itself. Gamerella sounds like a great way to support women choosing to enter the video gaming field. However, the inclusion of Gamerella makes the omission of Zoe Quinn's past behaviour all the more interesting.

An early event in the #Gamergate saga was Quinn's attack on a gamejam with a similar goal. This one was organized by the Fine Young Capitalists, an Ontario-based second wave feminist organization.

Quinn accused them of "enslaving women," despite the detail that 8% of the proceeds from the sale of the gamejam's product would go to the woman on whose idea the game was based. Undeterred by this fact, Quinn then accused TFYC of being "transphobic" despite the fact that their policy on the inclusion of transexuals had been written by a human rights lawyer, and was later given a thumbs-up by an Ontario Human Rights Commissioner. (One of the few times that organization has been of any worth.)

As Quinn stepped up her attacks on TFYC,  the tactics her supporters used included DDOS attacks -- which Quinn herself was clearly well aware of -- and hacking their IndieGogo page in order to shut it down. Quinn's Twitter output during these episodes seemed to indicate that she was well aware of what was going on and condoned it.

If the topic was harassment of game developers keeping women out of the video gaming field, why did the harassment -- often by third-party trolls -- warrant mention, but Quinn's harassment of video game developers did not? Particularly as Quinn's deliberate torpedoing of the TFYC gamejam reduced opportunities for women to get involved in the video game field?

Point 4 - Video games victimize women?

Anita Sarkeesian herself could have written Sumanac-Johnson's line about Gamerella participants demanding "games that don't victimize women."

Of all the clear signs that Sumanac-Johnson has subscribed to a particular point-of-view and is promoting it via her reporting, this line is it.

Even if Sumanac-Johnson were simply conveying the opinion of the participants of the Gamerella gamejam, why not simply have included footage of one of the participants uttering such a remark (provided that she had such footage)? Even the optics of Sumanac-Johnson appearing to editorialize in her report contributes to an appearance of bias.

Point 5 - The CBC's coverage of #Gamergate has exclusively been of an anti-#Gamergate angle.

Sumanac-Johnson's reporting hasn't been the only CBC reporting on #Gamergate.  John Bowman, of the CBC's Community Blog, wrote an article going on at length about harassment experienced by female gamers in social media.

The article focuses intently on the harassment that Anita Sarkeesian -- allegedly at the hands of #Gamergate supporters, but with the number of third-party trolls active in the hashtag it's nigh-impossible to know -- and includes the following paragraph:
"It's difficult to understand why a series of videos on sexist portrayals of women in video games would bring about such an extreme reaction..."

No mention is made by Bowman of the number of Sarkeesian's critiques have been confirmed as factually inaccurate. In particular, her claims that Hitman: Absolution "invites" players to murder strippers during a mission that actually penalizes the player if they happen to do so. (YouTube playthroughs of that mission posted by players invariably feature the player sneaking around the characters rather than interact with them.)

To have someone insinuate that you're misogynistic for enjoying a game that is not in fact misogynistic, and is in fact demonstrably not misogynistic, would make anyone angry. That Sarkeesian and her followers insist upon giving the targets of her critique no opporunity to confront their accuser makes it that much worse.

(I have to take a time out here for some full disclosure: I've encountered and confronted misguided pro-#Gamergate individualswho believed it would be perfectly acceptable to produce revenge porn with a Sarkeesian look-alike character. This is a taste of the anger that Sarkeesian has inspired with her demagoguery. The number of pro-#Gamergate individuals active in that discussion who condemned and discouraged this outnumbered the misguided individuals in question. Take note: while this is anecdotal evidence, those accusing #Gamergate of harassing Sarkeesian -- particularly at the CBC -- carry a burden of proof they've never satisfied, and in fact never even tried to satisfy.)

From the way the CBC has reported on #Gamergate an otherwise-uninformed person would never guess that there's two sides of the story. That there's no debate. And that simply isn't so.

Deana Sumanac-Johnson knows this. She interviewed Jennifer Dawe. So while John Bowman can theoretically feign ignorance on this point -- though few would believe him based on the anti-Gamergate agitprop appearing in his Twitter timeline -- Sumanac-Johnson cannot.

At a certain point when there is enough evidence that the CBC has set aside the very notion of its own impartiality standards it simply cannot be accepted as coincidental. So for CBC ombudsman Esther Enkin to tell individuals lodging complaints that the narrative should be discussed is pure hogwash.

In saying that the narrative should be discussed she's not wrong. The narrative should be discussed. But perhaps the narrative should be discussed by those on both sides of it. Such as, say... Jennifer Dawe. And yet we happen to know full well that while the CBC discusses the "#Gamergate harasses women" narrative exclusively from an anti-#Gamergate perspective, they sit on an interview from a woman of a pro-#Gamergate perspective.

That's not discussing the narrative. That's dictating the narrative.

Discussing the #Gamergate narrative meaningfully requires both sides to discuss it together. If the CBC is serious about discussing the narrative, my biggest question is this:

When can we expect that Jennifer Dawe interview to finally see airtime? When can those of us supportive of #Gamergate expect any kind of opportunity to rebut the anti-#Gamergate narrative being pushed by the CBC? When will we see any kind of research put into any of the CBC's #Gamergate reporting?

These are questions Enkin cannot expect to sweep aside.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

No, Conservatism Isn't Patriarchical


Ascension might be one of the more intriguing of recent science fiction offerings. Coming as this film does, late on the heels of Interstellar, it's hard to approach the mini-series without unduly spoiling it.

Essentially, the mini-series centers around the idea that the United States could have launched an interstellar space voyage based on the technology available to them in the early 1960s. The ultimate product of this idea is the USS Ascension: the idea of an intergenerational spaceship designed somewhat loosely as an O'Neil Cylinder -- a massive tubular spaceship which spirals its way through space as a means of generating artificial gravity. The ship is on a 100 voyage to a habitable world, carrying 600 people to establish humanity's first interstellar colony.

Accordingly, everything on board the ship is comparatively low-tech, analog technology. But as with all good sci-fi the technology is not the defining aspect of Ascension.

The micro-society founded aboard the ship is a highly segmented, hierarchical society. The ship's officers and their families live in the "upper decks," a very swanky habitat within the ship. They are charged with the tasks of administrating the ship. The rest of the ship's crew lives on the "lower decks," the USS Ascension's equivalent of steerage.

Between the two is the ship's artificial beach. It's one of the few places shared by people from the ship's two different classes.

The mini-series focuses heavily on one of the necessities of such an endeavour: population control. The USS Ascension requires a crew of 600. No more and no less.

Accordingly, reproduction becomes a privilege, not a right. Each year the ship's girls must apply for eligibility to legally marry and have children. Even upon selection for eligibility they are not permitted to choose their husbands -- their husbands are assigned to them by a calculation of the ship's computer, and based on genetics. Each year the computer selects a number of couples equal to the number of people who have passed away.

That's how the delicate balance aboard the USS Ascension is maintained.

One of the favourite aspersions the left enjoys casting on conservatives is that conservatives allegedly want to turn the clock back to the 1950s; to an era where men were wage earners and women were homemakers. Where men could control women via their income. This is the definition of a patriarchal society.

Yet Ascension confronts such attitudes with an entirely different concept: a patriarchal society that is not a conservative society, but is in fact a collectivist society.

There is no denying that the micro-society born aboard the USS Ascension is patriarchal. Nowhere is that patriarchy more deeply-rooted than in the eligibility process.

In one pivotal scene, the captain's wife, Viondra Deninger (Tricia Helfer) is administering the final selection of the ship's girls for eligibility. The final test is a measurement of body mass index. To describe it most simply if the girls are too fat they can't get married. One girl is denied eligibility because her body weight is considered ideal for a girl all of two inches taller.


It's far from the most exhaustive measure of genetic fitness. It seems that, over time, the USS Ascension's social system has not been selecting the overall most fit for the privilege of reproduction. Instead, the system has effectively evolved not necessarily to facilitate the coupling of those most genetically optimal, but to couple men with women who will maximize male pleasure.

In that sense, it almost resembles the survival plan proposed by Dr Strangelove (Peter Sellers) in the film of the same title.

That's how a feminist critique of the micro-society portrayed in Ascension would have it, and this is one time in which I don't think they'd actually be wrong. Almost as if to make the point, one of the items held in reserve for girls deemed eligible to reproduce is cosmetics.

And while the aesthetics of the society may closely resemble the late 1950s/early 1960s in pretty much all things, there's nothing conservative about this society. At its very core the micro-society of the USS Ascension is collectivist in nature; collectivist to a stunning degree considering the paranoia about communism in the United States at the time the project was launched.

One of the fundamental beliefs of conservatives is that the family is the bedrock of society. There's fierce debate within conservative circles about precisely what form of families should be permitted (I stand with those who contend it should be of any type formed between consenting adults) but one thing stands beyond contention:

If the family is the bedrock of society, then to reserve the creation of a family as a privilege is to make a society fundamentally unfree.

Genuine conservatives won't find much regard for the micro-society of the USS-Ascension. It has more in common with the model societies frequently imagined by those of a more progressive political bent -- including feminists who frequently rail against patriarchy everywhere that it isn't.

If they want to see what a patriarchy looks like, they need look no further than Ascension.

As the mini-series wears on a number of Shayamalan-esque plot twists emerge to tell one of the more nuanced stories in recent sci-fi history. If viewers approach the show expecting anything along the lines of Interstellar they will be very, very surprised.

At three one-hour sittings it certainly becomes a less demanding time investment than Christopher Nolan's space epic and in the end perhaps leaves the viewer with far more to ponder.

It'll also leave you humming "Rocket Man" for days.