Saturday 5 June 2021

Eating Our Young

Well, this is a tough post to write, and it is a post that is likely to earn me some approbation from the community. But if I didn't write it, I would be a poltroon. So, there you have it. This is getting written.

Some background first: I am a cis-gendered straight white man. I have people very close to me who are gay, bi, and trans. No, I am not going to exploit them by naming them, but I do want the reader to understand where I am coming from. A pride flag hangs from my house.

The first time I was kissed by another guy was in high school. It was at a science fiction and fantasy convention in Oconomowoc that I sadly no longer remember the name of. There were a group of us, out all night, having fun. Some time after midnight, he got me alone on the ski hill at the hotel (obviously unused in the summer months) and told me how he felt. And, here's the thing - if sexual orientation were something you could choose, I would have chosen at that moment to not be a straight man. Because I felt valued by this guy in a way that I don't think I have have been before or since. After we talked, when he asked if he could kiss me, I said yes. And then we went back to the group and had fun all together until some godawful early hour in the morning.

I have also been hit on by guys who made me feel extremely uncomfortable, so I am not romanticizing one sexual orientation over another. I am talking about a particular time, with a particular person. The fact that I was young may have had a lot to do with how I remember that, or just a little. I honestly don't know.

On the other hand, I have also been a real asshole. No two ways about it. I have done things and held attitudes of which I am ashamed. I have failed to do things that  haunt me. I grew up mostly in rural Wisconsin, with the attitudes of the people around me. I can remember when they desegregated the primary school I was going to when I lived in Milwaukee. I went from High School to the US Army, and the military culture did not make me a better person. If the community judged me solely by my worst day, I very much doubt that anyone would still be in my corner. To be clear, and maybe some readers will understand this, there are days (not many, but some) where self-loathing makes me consider just drawing the curtain on existence.

I have opinions. I often express them. I have been called a Nazi for arguing against censorship. I have literally been told that opposing censorship makes me a Nazi. I have been told that, when I pointed out that it was the Nazis who were pro-censorship, I was trying to "Godwin" the argument by bringing up the Nazis. There are people who, to this day, will not speak to me because of this.

I strongly believe in social justice, but I am not a social justice warrior. The idea that we are so ready to cast out anyone based on their worst day is frankly abhorrent to me. I tend to think that we should try to lead by example. I tend to think that the strength or our arguments should carry the day - and that we should call out bad arguments when they are made by "our side". If we do not, our arguments lose their force. I do think that there is a point where you have to cut people off, but I don't think that should be our first reaction. How can anyone learn that "Hey, these people are all right?" if you cut off all contact? How do you open up a dialogue once you have made dialogue verboten?

This post came about due to some recent events concerning Gabor Lux (aka Melan), a man whose game design work I really admire. Among his sins? He deadnamed Jennell Jaquays, he posted that he found an encounter with a weretiger hilarious, and he said that he found the use of certain pronouns "retarded".

The deadnaming was in reference to a post comparing two products, one of which had been written by Jennell Jaquays before they transitioned. The name used was presumably taken from the original credits of the product. This is something I do, frequently, in the DCC Trove of Treasures. Not because I am trying to cause anyone harm or offense, but because I don't know people have transitioned, and even if I did, I would not necessarily know what name that person is now using. Do I have an obligation to try to contact each writer I might post something about? I don't believe that I do.

Years back, Mark Gedak of Purple Duck Games changed a playtester name for me before a product went to print, and that was much appreciated. It was fantastic for the player. But I didn't demand a scouring through the back-catalogue, and there are older posts I have written discussion people by names and/or genders they no longer use.

I have struggled with the concept of using they/them as singular pronouns, not because of gender politics but because of language. I got over it, but that doesn't mean the struggle was any less real. 

While I don't use the word "retarded", I have, not unfrequently, told people on Facebook "Don't be a moron if you can help it"  because of the (lack of) thought put into their arguments. Is that really such a big thing? (And, lest we go down the rabbit hole of ableism, some of you may have noticed a slurring in my speech in recent years. There is a very good chance that this is due to a genetic ataxia. It scares the hell out of me.)

If I understand the weretiger encounter correctly, Gabor Lux found an encounter where a weretiger's gender identity being affected by its transformation to be very amusing.  I am playing (and promoting) a game where "Gender Bender" is a mercurial magic effect. I came to it by way of a game with a girdle of masculinity/femininity and where a famous module might leave your gender reversed as you appear naked in a room. Both games make use of an Appendix N which is replete with problematic content.

Obviously, things escalated when Gabor Lux was called out. And it seems to me that this is the inevitable result of being a social justice warrior - offense is easily taken, and the goal becomes to defeat the enemy. Instead of defeating the enemy, you solidify that enmity, and you create more enemies. This isn't to say that there are not things worth calling people out for, or that there are not people worth cutting out of your life.

But using the name on a product when writing about that product is not one of them. Being against censorship is not one of them. Because, even if you think both those things are entirely wrong, you will not convince anyone that they are wrong just by calling them out on social media. You make enemies, and you make those enemies stronger.

It is a common view that bigots, homophobes, and transphobes should be afraid to reveal themselves. I disagree. People hate because they are afraid or uneducated, and making them more afraid helps no one. To some degree, I was a bigot, and a homophobe, and a transphobe. I got better. I didn't get better because I was cancelled. I got better through contact, and because people helped me to get better.

Does that mean it is your job to help make people better? No. But if you want better people, that is the way to do it. Be a social justice cleric.

If this post made you want to unfriend, unfollow, or cancel me, that is your right.

EDIT: If you want a good example of the exact kind of worrying "reasoning" that I am talking about here, you need go no further than the comments left by Shoku on this post. From avoidance of the argument presented, to justifying cancellation as moral on the basis of a generalized claim which is then applied to specific situations without the actual situation taken into account, to the acknowledgement that cancellation can be bad where it is not justified without acceptance that justification must come before cancellation, to the idea that I am exactly like a Nazi because, before they overtly became the people we are talking about, they championed free speech for others to ensure their own....which, interestingly enough, has also been the position of the American Civil Liberties Union and that well-known arch-Nazi, Noam Chomsky.

This is exactly the kind of person who should not be making these choices: Self-righteous, unwilling to actually engage, and determined to claim that they are both smart and honestly engaging in a dialogue.

And, yes, absolutely you can say the same applies to me. But I am not arguing it does not. I don't want to set myself up as the arbiter of who should or should not be cancelled. We should be hesitant to cancel anyone, and even more hesitant to set up anyone as an arbiter of the same.


  1. It is crazy that we are thinking some of the same things at the same time from totally different places... I blogged about some of the same ideas just before I read your post.

  2. This is very well said, I think, Daniel

  3. Good post.
    Our DCC group was talking about similar stuff just last night... about how folks we agree with take things so far that it works against their supposed intent.
    Is the goal to correct these behaviors or just to shame and punish? Because calling someone a 'racist' or a 'homophobe' is more likely to just see them entrench and possibly find solace with even worse notions.
    Communication is harder than castigation, unfortunately.

  4. Daniel, with all due respect, Gabor/Melan is not "our young" - as one of the founders of the OSR, he's about as old guard as you can get within that particular scene.

    I think you've got your metaphor almost entirely backwards.

    Defending GL/M's entrenched position within the scene, and arguing that he ought to remain entrenched, at the expense of marginalized trans scenesters (regardless of age or generation), is practically the definition of "eating our young" - it's preserving the power of the old and the expense of the new.

    It is, frankly, rather gross that GL/M has built his reputation, in part, on being a fan of Jennell Jacquay's dungeon design ideas, and yet he's unwilling to repay her by showing a modicum of respect for her identity and personhood.

    No one is taking GL/M's website or zine or upcoming box set away from him. The only consequence he's suffering is that he won't be invited back to appear in Knock 3 alongside the trans contributors whose identity he's chosen to repeatedly insult again in the past few days, rather than admit that some of his earlier statements were insensitive.

    What are the alternatives to that? The only one left would be to say that GL/M will continue to be given a place of prominence in future issues of the zine, and that any less famous trans people who don't like that are free to not participate in the project. THAT would be "eating our young."

    1. Thank you for your comment. I believe it was heartfelt.

      Granted, I could have entitled the post "Eating Out Old", but the content would not have changed. And if the ultimate point becomes, "It is okay to eat our elders, but not our young"...I guess I have to disagree.

      If you read the post, you will know that I am not defending GL/M's position, entrenched or not. From my understanding, that position has become entrenched largely as a result of the response to his "outing".

      Quite honestly, I think there is a great deal of space between using someone's name as it appears on a product and being "unwilling to repay her by showing a modicum of respect for her identity and personhood". Neither you nor I know how "entrenched" his positions were before; all we know is how some reacted to what were fairly mild statements, and how he reacted to their reaction.

      And maybe, I grant, that would have been what occurred anyway. But I cannot help but see a direct line of cause and effect here. GL/M became entrenched because he was forced to defend himself from what appeared to be an existential threat. Hell, when I wrote this post, just saying what I did from the position I did seemed like I was stepping into an existential threat.

      But this post wasn't about whether or not you accept anyone's work in Knock. Not that there are no alternatives between "a place of prominence" and "no place at all, either. Things are not that black and white. There is a pretty broad spectrum of response that you are ignoring.

      I have held some of the biases we are talking about. If I had met the same kind of response, the odds are really good that I would still hold them.

      We have a choice. Help make people better or try to punish them for not being better now. Some day, transphobia may well be classified as a mental illness. You don't have to try to make people better. But that is the only way you get better people.

      You can be a social justice warrior. You can be a social justice cleric. I have yet to see anyone successfully multiclass those two.

    2. To be clear: People helped me become a better person. That is the route I prefer to travel. Had I been written off so summarily and so quickly and with such vehemence, I too might have decided that "Team Evil" was the more reasonable side to be on.

      You cannot beat the reactionaries of the world by being equally reactionary.

    3. "Eating Our Old." Truly unfortunate typo.

    4. It is a common bit of propaganda (stochastic and disorganized though it may be,) to act as though it is this kind of solitary and innocent remark that gets a person cancelled. If you look a little bit more closely at where this began, in college campuses with professors being called out, you will be able to see that this defensive move was already embedded in the way that we interact with one another. Fired professors would tell the story as merely making one slightly off color joke, and in describing it this way they spread that kind of fear of an existential threat among their peers. You had to be considerably more involved with the process of punishment or outright canning the guy to know that the decision was actually based around, say, repeated sexual coercion of a good in his class.

      Life is complex, and today's calcified bigot may merely have been made so fragile by some other monster dismissing the consequences of their actions as they try to save face, on matters where nobody will challenge them. We long dined upon our young, and we have been taught to be blind to it.

      It is now, when you watch just a few of our olds being eaten, that you can start to see the harm that this causes.

      The social justice warriors acting in ways that you find so repulsive, all tried other kinds of things for decades, and we're summarily ignored. It was only with great reluctance that so many turned to acts that you could not ignore.

    5. Thank you for your heartfelt reply. I guess what you are doing is taking a long-winded way of saying that you agree with the post. There should be attempts to address a problem, and those attempts should have failed, before someone is cancelled. It is better to attempt to be a cleric.

      Some other things: An idea you disagree with is not automatically propaganda, although I can understand if American media might lead you to believe otherwise.

      Nor does moving from a specific case to a generalized case - where details cannot be examined but are simply hypotheticals - make an argument against a specific case somehow less compelling or less clear. Are there cases where someone really does need to be cancelled/shunned? Clearly there are. Should that be our go-to position? Clearly not, if only because not all bigots are as calcified as you might imagine them to be.

      In any event, your response to the argument is either agreeing with it, or not taking it into account. I am unsure. The final paragraph with the "so repulsive" remark (and the general thrust of your comment) makes me wonder if you read the post at all?

      That is a serious question, BTW.

    6. Not agreement, no. I curated an opinion that you had already expressed as a reason that you would probably want to look at all of this from another perspective. You're a smart guy, so I'm sure you can find it in some of the words that didn't support this interpretation that I agree with your position.

      I took the cleric position with you here, but you seem to have ignored it, or turned a blind eye to it.

      On to the pedantry though: For that bit of propaganda, I feel like I clearly described the facade, and detailed the truth that was hidden underneath it. This is a very bad target for you to dismiss my ability to identify propaganda, but it does confirm that you'll make smart connections to what I'm really talking about. We thus have a statement that your friend was cancelled for merely for reproducing the name written on an old book, and you chastise me for identifying the spin in this presentation, "because I disagree with it." This is not my reason for disagreeing with it, and you have already engaged with the idea that this is actually a well established pattern of behavior. This really builds a stronger case for the comparison I made, though I fully understand why you would not want to think that you have been covering for someone that routinely hurts people. We don't need to agree on the content of the specific case to agree that my general case in a good description of the kinds of interactions you are having with other people here. Besides the impulse to become defensive, you should be able to very clearly identify that we don't have to rely on whether I agree or not to judge if the general case maps onto this specific: we can simply look at twitter to see a history of transphobia that was not part of your narrative. This moves things well enough away from your critique that it is simply not valid.

    7. Cases for cancelling/shunning someone are pretty simple to understand, going back to those college campus roots. In those early cases, the targets were mostly war criminals, being paid generous sums to come give a motivational speech. (I use those harsh words because you have positioned yourself as someone that I think would not have been very fond of the Bush years and at least some of the wars we have been in ever since.) The act of cancelling them was not censorship or even a denial of a platform there, but rather, the cancel mob would fight to make sure that their tuition dollars did not pay this person's speaker fee. These people, so cancelled, chose not to give their speeches for free, because the money was important to them and the content was not. This is generally a good way to go about cancelling hateful individuals in your local community, as the people involved should have this kind of say in how their money is spent, and the targets are vile people. The case becomes much less clear with smaller targets, like comedians. These people are much less rich, but sometimes still quite well off, and the line for what offense is severe enough to harm their continued fame is a blurry one. To keep it simple, repeated sexual assault is probably (you understand understatement, right? Oh, maybe this word is a problem for you-) sufficient to shut off the faucet of adoring fans. We get caught up on whether or not that happened, but by the time that we are sure that this person has done quite a lot of dark acts, the cancelation has bounced off of them and that kind of justice isn't met.
      Cancelling people is clearly bad if they acknowledge that the thing they said was in poor taste and apologize for it. This generally doesn't happen, for exactly the reason you already covered: we become defensive, say something snarky, and then it is too late for most of the mob to see or accept any sincere apology. In a perfect world, I would definitely make that window of opportunity much wider, but it would not really help much with the kinds of non apologies where people couch what they say in term of "if you were offended" instead of admitting that "I hurt someone, and regret that I did so," and all of the similarly complex nuance that a public apology requires (to the degree that those can even work at all.)
      These things are also bad in the circumstances of false allegations. Such a case would basically have had this claim that "I wrote the name I saw on the cover," and hopefully, "I will try to use their correct name in the future," but we didn't get anything resembling that here, and even you and I are not so petty as to repeatedly dead name someone just because a crowd of tweeters got our hackles up. I will note however, that I have been on the receiving end of the false accusation, and it did not lure me over to team evil. It was not a fun experience, but I did manage to learn about the ways that I was being insufferable regardless of raising my defenses. This situation is the other main bad outcome worth noting, but it is a more complicated ethical concern, so merely presenting the outcomes would not be sufficient to get broad agreement among people about when it is or is not worth the cost.

      As for your serious question, yes, you have made it quite clear that you think that cancel culture is a bad thing, that you do not take part in it, and that everyone who does is a fool with no regard for the destruction they leave in their wake. You have pitched it much softer than that, asking that people be more kind to each other and offer gentle corrections for misbehavior, but if you can excuse my hyperbole, that's where you lie on the grid.

    8. I decided to allow you to post your walls of text, even though you are trying my patience, because I believe your comments are heartfelt.

      //For that bit of propaganda, I feel like I clearly described the facade, and detailed the truth that was hidden underneath it.//

      You made a generalization, and then decided that it applied to this specific case, without anything to show that it should. Your "ability to identify propaganda" is not a given, whether you want it to be or not.

      If you think that, in this case, your generalization applies, you need to evidence that. Nor can a rational argument be built using its premise as evidence that its premise is true. "I can make a case that X may be/sometimes is/often is Y" does not show that X is Y in any specific case.

      Yes, cases for cancelling/shunning are simple to understand. Easy to understand =/= morally right. If you are aware that Z is "clearly bad" under certain circumstances, how difficult is it for you to realize that Z may be sometimes necessary, but is still bad, and should not be rushed into?

  5. How exactly was being told he he deadnamed someone an existential threat?

    1. "Hey, Trey, you asked a question with a really obvious answer." = not existential threat.

      "Hey, Trey, you asked a question with a really obvious answer, so we are going to do as much as we can to ruin your livelihood." = much closer to an existential threat.

    2. I understand how deadnaming could be problematic in most cases but if the person was famous before they transitioned it seems somewhat different to me. Unless done maliciously that is, I'm not talking about that.

  6. Daniel, I'm a huge fan of your blog and writing but I've got to say respectfully I think you are way off base here. If this were a simple case of Gabor Lux deadnaming Janelle Jaquays out of ignorance it would be easy enough to stop and correct him and I think the community would probably move on. However it has been unquestionably proven at this point that Lux was well aware of Jaquay's transition, name change and pronouns before he chose to use her dead name. He has made other mean spirited comments, almost always on issues relating to pronouns and gender and once again chose to double down on these comments after being questioned.
    Now if people were calling for the state to imprison Lux based on these comments, I'd probably agree the community was overreacting. But he's a relatively high profile name in our small gaming community and people reacting to his mean spirited 'humour' by suggesting that he's an asshole feels like a pretty appropriate response in my opinion. He has the freedom to say whatever he wants, but that freedom does not translate to freedom from reaction. He chose to make statements that he knew were inflammatory, and he's now dealing with the response he knew he'd get.
    You take some risks in this post and discuss your own history in a vulnerable way, and that's commendable. I respect the fact that you admit you have made statements and decisions in the past that you are not proud of, it takes humility to admit these things and we are all flawed humans after all. I suspect the difference here is you made many of those earlier decisions out of a place of ignorance and you learned lessons along the way that have changed the way you see things now. Gabor Lux is not in the 10th grade calling his friend gay for liking something taboo. He's a grown adult who spends no small amount of time on the internet and he knows full well the response he is likely to elicit with his statements. Any plea of ignorance as a defense would have to be tempered with the fact that whatever ignorance named was entirely wilful; furthermore I suspect he will make no such plea- he doesn't think he's done anything wrong here.
    Janelle Jaquays did publish a lot of work under her previous name, but somewhere along the way she decided to share her true identity with the gaming community. Did she suddenly one day wake up in middle age and realize she was trans? Maybe, I don't know her personally. If that were the case however, it would be very abnormal. Most trans people know they are trans from a very young age and I suspect Jaquays is no different. Thanks to the openness now embraced by many people in society, including old school RPG fans Jaquays and other trans gamers and designers now feel safe being their authentic selves in our community and that has only happened because people have refused to accept the mean spirited 'jokes' and and attitudes of people like Gabor Lux. If he'd made these statements 30 years ago, you could maybe give him the benefit of the doubt. However he has continued to make these statements well into 2021. Let him fight his own battle and defend the supposed validity of his foolish position himself.

    1. Thank you for your kind words about the blog, and your long response which seems not to have taken much of the arguments made in the post into account.

      Do not try to conflate "defending his position" with "abhorrence towards the community reaction." For instance, "if people were calling for the state to imprison Lux based on these comments" you would "probably" agree the community was overreacting? PROBABLY?!?

      I am not defending "the supposed validity of his foolish position"; I am trying to point out that the response is equally indefensible. And I am not trying to cancel you because of that response; I am asking you to do better.

      Take Gabor Lux out of the equation just for a moment. Imagine that 1,000 people on the cusp have read his words, and read your response, where you think it would PROBABLY be wrong to jail Lux on that basis. Now, how many of those 1,000 are going to nod and say, "Yes, I can see that Zachary is being perfectly reasonable here", and how many are going to say "Dear god, Lux is right; those people are insane!"?

      If you don't think that is important to consider, we could go into a long discussion of politics, and how not being willing to consider its importance leads to wage stagnation, lack of healthcare, and, ultimately, both more people taking extreme views you do not like and more people silencing voices you think are worth listening to.

      I am on the side of human rights, always. Even the rights of people who disagree with me, or who say things I find hurtful. What is okay to do to someone else, sooner or later, is always okay to do to you.

    2. You can be a Social Justice Warrior or a Social Justice Cleric. You cannot be both, just like you cannot be both pro-war and pro-peace.

      What you are championing is akin to the US foreign policy in the Middle East. In order to create "peace and stability" you are willing to scorch the earth and create 1,000 enemies for the one you manage to eliminate.

      I very much prefer the way that doesn't just create more enemies to fight.

      I encourage you to join me.

    3. As a bystander, I'm glad you called Zachary out on "probably" being against Melan's getting locked-up for "dead naming" someone. That argument makes me side with "evil" 100 times out of 100.

      Even those of us who are online a lot may see transgender as a mental illness, and gender pronouns as a ridiculous fad.

      I agree that a social justice cleric is more useful than a SJW, but wouldn't we rather have justice period?

      Also, I'm sure I could do without another health care lecture on an RPG blog. ;)

    4. I could provide another healthcare lecture, but I very much doubt the outcome would be any different than the last time we discussed the issue.

      But, since you bothered to jump in, I *will* address "Even those of us who are online a lot may see transgender as a mental illness, and gender pronouns as a ridiculous fad." Why? Because having "justice period" sometimes requires being a Social Justice Cleric.

      When you claim that something is a "mental illness", are you claiming that there is no biological basis? Because science firmly has demonstrated that there is. Are you claiming that the biological basis is not present from birth? Again, the evidence is 100% against you if you make that claim. Nor is there any inherent inability to think or act rationally. So what is the basis of the "mental illness" claim?

      The only one I can see is that the person thinks and acts differently than you would like, and that this makes you uncomfortable. Arguably, that may be a mental illness, if you are unable to control your reactions enough to avoid causing harm to others. In this entire debate, that is the only thing approaching mental illness.

      Now, I am also going out on a limb here, but from your published work and from previous conversations, I am guessing that gender pronouns are important to you. I am guessing, although I may be wrong, that you would find the constant use of "she" and "her" related to you...problematic.

      So you do understand the issues with being misgendered. You just don't extend your empathy far enough to grant others the same understanding/courtesy. This might be a fad. We might go to entirely gender-neutral pronouns in a decade. So what? The question is not "How long will this last?" but "How much do I care about what harm I am doing others while it lasts?"

      Again, lack of empathy might be akin to mental illness. The demand that others share your worldview, when that demand harms them but their worldview does no harm to you, might well be a mental illness.

      See? Social justice cleric. Hoping to help you be a better person. Because that is the only way we will ever get "justice period". I don't have to agree with your viewpoint to treat you with respect. Hopefully some of that will rub off on how you treat people with different worldviews, including - but by no means limited to - trangendered people.

    5. We all have impulses. Acting on some of them makes no logical sense to others. I'm not the one who put gender dysphoria in the medical books as a mental illness.

      Am I insane for believing in and worshiping the Old Ones? It depends on what others think. "Right now, reality shares your point of view..." That's from In The Mouth Of Madness. Check it out if you haven't seen it.

      Like Jordan Peterson, if I saw a man who looked like a woman, I'd use she and her. But if a man looks like a man, I'm not going to call him she and her just because a portion of society demands it. Compelled speech is authoritarian overreach that must be fought.

      If you want a deeper discussion, you could interview me again. But I won't argue healthcare.

    6. If you don't want to argue healthcare, you should stop trying to do it. What it seems that you want to do is argue healthcare, and then have your arguments be left untouched as pronouncements.

      That is obviously not going to happen.

      If we are talking the government banding together to force you to speak in a certain way, or the cancel culture version of the same, no, I do not believe speech should be compelled. If we are talking about being courteous to others, I do not believe that anyone should be able to compel you not to be an asshole, although I do believe that being an asshole can (and should) have consequences.

      Let us not mince words: You are arguing here that you have a right to be an asshole. I agree. But, if you exercise that right, you are still an asshole.

    7. But isn't the person trying to compel you an asshole, as well? Maybe asshole is the wrong word...

      No, I really don't want to argue healthcare. I brought that up as a joke, a callback to your embarrassing screed in the comments section of my last interview.

    8. I wasn't sure that you had gotten enough out of that to be embarassed.

      No, the person saying "you should not hit people in the face" is not the asshole. The person who says "Fuck you; you can't compel me not to!" is.

      I suppose the person who can't tell the difference also is.

    9. Yeah, I wasn't talking about myself re: embarrassment.

      Anyways, didn't come here to open that up again. I simply wanted to mention my latest blog post where I reference your cleric/healer symbolism:

    10. //Yeah, I wasn't talking about myself re: embarrassment.//

      I guessed as much, but I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt.

      //Anyways, didn't come here to open that up again. I simply wanted to mention my latest blog post//

      Of course you did. (eye roll)

  7. Here is a hint that some might find helpful:

    If you find yourself reframing the argument, ignoring the argument, or refreming the reaction being discussed in order to justify your response, then perhaps the post really is talking to you, and perhaps you could put more thought into it.

    No one is arguing that Lux's position was the right one.

    No one is arguing that telling him it is not the right one is somehow harmful or wrong.

    No one is arguing that Lux is not an adult...but, frankly, adults hold stupid positions too. I know that I have. There is no magical age at which we no longer have to consider helping people get better as being a more ethical position that PROBABLY not imprisoning them for thought crimes or wrongspeech.

  8. Hey Daniel you are reading way too much into the use of the word 'probably' here. For the record: Gabor Lux should face no legal repercussion for being an asshole. That being said, if people chose not to support his work any more because he choses to be an asshole, well what can you do? Why extend an olive branch to somebody who has made it clear he thinks people who hold a progressive position on this topic are 'retards'? Nothing about his statements says "teach me, I'm willing to learn". Perhaps you will have more some getting through to him and trying to help him see things differently, I hope so. I just can't fault anybody for thinking he's a jerk and not wanting to support him or his work any longer.

    1. No, Zachary, the word "probably" isn't the issue.

      Now we are getting to the same sort of bad-faith argument as Trey. Being a Social Justice Warrior is not simply making that choice for yourself. It is a group of people getting together to decide that other people who do not share their values need to be silenced. And that includes the need to oppose anyone saying that might be a bad idea.

      History is full of people who thought they should pick and choose who gets silenced. Right now, there are those who work to silence anyone who opposes the atrocities in Palestine as anti-Semitic.

      I can count all the times in history that the people who felt justified in silencing others were right one hand. And I can chop off four fingers and a thumb before I do it.

      You can work to make people better, or you can join the many people throughout history who wanted to silence anyone they disliked for reasons they felt were fully justified. You cannot do both.

      Make whatever choices you want. Just don't lie about the choices you are making.

  9. The problem with your argument is that nobody is trying to silence Gabor, people are simply presenting information (things he has said) and letting people make informed decisions about who they support.

    1. Well, then I guess there is no problem with my argument, because "nobody is trying to silence Gabor" is untrue.

      Seriously, if that were true, nobody would be arguing with a post saying we should not be trying to silence people. On top of which, I have seen the posts suggesting exactly that. It was the posts suggesting exactly that which caused me to respond here.

      I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and accept that you may not have seen the type of posts I am talking about here, but your response really comes across as disingenuous.

    2. And, just to be clear, if the only problem with an argument that "We should not X" is that we are not currently Xing, that sounds an awful lot like agreement with the argument.

      But I am rather guessing that you are not trying to agree that we should not X so much as trying to argue that we should not look critically at what we are doing when we X.

  10. This is a very thoughtful post and it must have been difficult to write. I don't have much to add, except agreement in my own words. Ostracizing people who have different opinions does not help, but dialog, kindness, and respect can. It's EASY to cancel people. It takes no effort whatsoever. Social justice warriors are armchair warriors at best. Discussing things with people you disagree with? That's a real challenge. But a challenge usually has a reward. You might learn something about someone and you might change their mind. Social justice cleric, this is a great way of looking at it.

  11. We have all been given a very simplified and in ways even romanticized understanding of that but of history, but I would like to correct your view of the Nazis and censorship. As with many fascist movements, they were actually heavily opposed to censorship when it was convenient for them to be. You can see this clearly by reading some of their internal correspondence, where they simply claim that these are just ideas like any other, and that they should be discussed openly, that so that intelligent people could come to the right conclusion about them. When this switches is when they have the power to censor who they please.

    And something that I think will resonate with your message here: The Weimar Republic was actually quite supportive of trans people, pioneering a great deal of cosmetic surgeries to help them, *but a bad backlash can erase a mountain of good, dooming us all as people decide that team evil is the better side to join.*

    1. Well, you can try to correct that view, but it is not at all unusual for people to want censorship for "them" but not for "us". That is not unique to people you would categorize as fascists.

      In fact, your "correction", like your earlier comment, seems to support the argument being made rather than correcting it.

      Did you actually read the post you are commenting on?

    2. Thinking about this some more, I have to wonder why you would even think it needs bringing up that the Nazis didn't want themselves censored. No one who calls for censorship even intends for that censorship to be applied against themselves. It beggars the imagination that you might think this needs to be explicated.

      "When this switches is when they have the power to censor who they please" is also a universal truth where censorship is involved. The people who call for censorship are either those who want narrative control, or those foolish enough to imagine that giving them narrative control will be in their best interest.

      You know what else the Nazis did? They recognized that smoking was bad for you. That didn't make the Nazis good. It is also irrelevant to the topic at hand. As a rhetorical technique, that does work on some. It does not make a rational argument, though.

      As I have suggested before, if you find yourself ignoring an argument in your attempt to refute it, you may wish to spend some time thinking about what you wish to refute.

    3. "ever intends" not "even intends".

    4. "Did you even read the post?" is a horrendous question to ask someone if you are concerned about people becoming defensive. I should know, I do it all the time, and I am about to do it again.

      Nazis did not simply say that they should not be censored, but that nobody should be censored. In a very tolerant society, they expressed, and genuinely held strong principles for freedom of speech, and a free market of ideas.

      This is important to understand if you have made a facile argument like "I'm saying we shouldn't censor people and that's the OPPOSITE of what the Nazi's were like!" No, that is exactly the same as what the Nazi's were like.


      Do see what it's like when you ask someone if they even read what they are replying to? I tried to treat you like an adult at first, seeing as you have quite a few years on me, but this quickly turns everyone involved into children. If you want mature discussions, then you need to fight back that urge to belittle the people that disagree with you, and not characterize what they've said with so much less nuance than how they originally presented it.

      With that in mind, you brought up your views on censorship is order to position yourself. You gave something positive, admitted that there was some negative that you have been able to fix, had the paragraph with Nazi's, and then summed it all up by effectively saying that you support the ideas in a society but condemn the manner by which activists try to make them actually happen.

      If you don't take any objection to how I characterized that, I got the message loud and clear.

      What you took from my position was simply "the Nazis didn't want themselves to be censored." It should be clear that I do not accept this as a good faith reading of my post, but I'm explicitly saying so anyway, because you have convinced me that I have to do that here.

      I would like for this to not devolve into exactly the kind of "look at me! I'm so smart! You can't even point to where the insults are but really it's just awkward and mean!" kind of back and forth that you and I both know you're leaning into right now, but that cannot happen if you continue to engage like this. I know that even good will attempts tend to leave some of that stuff slipping through, because it's just so natural when we think we're smart, but can you at least dial it back?

    5. 1/2

      //I tried to treat you like an adult at first, seeing as you have quite a few years on me, but this quickly turns everyone involved into children.//

      Let's do each other a favor here and not pretend that you are an injured party. You can engage with an argument. You can attempt to side-step an argument. Being called on trying to side-step the argument doesn't make you an injured party. Being asked if you read the post is not a "horrendous question" when your response makes it unclear that you have. Whether you like it or not, that is treating you like an adult.

      I am not overly "concerned about people becoming defensive" - I am concerned about the reaction to what is, in effect, an existential threat. I am not concerned that getting called out is going to cause Gabor Lux to become defensive; I am concerned that going over the top, to the point where the people calling him out appear to represent an existential threat by necessity entrenches their position. And, if the choice is to (A) defend a person against an existential threat that appears unwarranted, or (B) join in with those making that threat - either overtly or tacitly - the number of people who chose (A) is going to increase.

      If you imagined otherwise, my responses to Venger Satanis, in this and other posts, should really make it clear that I am not overly concerned with making people defensive in general.

      //Nazis did not simply say that they should not be censored, but that nobody should be censored. In a very tolerant society, they expressed, and genuinely held strong principles for freedom of speech, and a free market of ideas.

      This is important to understand if you have made a facile argument like "I'm saying we shouldn't censor people and that's the OPPOSITE of what the Nazi's were like!" No, that is exactly the same as what the Nazi's were like.//

      Are you actually trying to make a case that the Nazis were ANTI-censorship? That being against censorship is "exactly the same as what the Nazi's [sic] were like"? There are some links in the comment for people interested in pursuing the Nazi relationship with censorship.

      It is not unusual, at all, for people who are experiencing censorship to champion free speech. There is nothing at all unusual in that. And, yes, those people almost always (and always, unless they are very, very stupid) champion free speech for others because that is the only way to ensure free speech for themselves. If you want to know what the Nazis - or anyone else - are really like, what they do with power is always more telling than what is done without power. There is nothing astute in that observation. There is nothing in that observation that makes the Nazis anti-censorship in reality, any more than Trump saying he would fix healthcare before he got into power means that he is really pro-universal healthcare. It's a bad argument.

    6. 2/2

      //What you took from my position was simply "the Nazis didn't want themselves to be censored." It should be clear that I do not accept this as a good faith reading of my post, but I'm explicitly saying so anyway, because you have convinced me that I have to do that here.

      I would like for this to not devolve into exactly the kind of "look at me! I'm so smart! You can't even point to where the insults are but really it's just awkward and mean!" kind of back and forth that you and I both know you're leaning into right now, but that cannot happen if you continue to engage like this. I know that even good will attempts tend to leave some of that stuff slipping through, because it's just so natural when we think we're smart, but can you at least dial it back?//

      Alternatively, you could actually address the argument.

      For the record, here is my take on censorship: Big tech and governments should not be allowed to engage in it. Where something is justifiably criminal (child pornography, for instance, or incitement to criminal action), it is the criminal action rather than the speech that should directly result in charges. In the case of obvious harm (child pornography, for instance, or revenge porn) the privacy rights of the victims outweigh the considerations of free speech, and the postings should be aggressively taken down. But, at the same time, we should be mindful that curtailing rights, while a necessary evil, is still an evil. If we do not, we can easily reach the point where we consider ourselves the "victims" of words, thoughts, ideas, or attitudes that we do not like. We can easily reach the point where we ban books for uncomfortable content - sometimes re-victimizing the victims, if they are telling the story of abuse they have suffered. We can easily reach the point where any nude photograph of a child becomes sexualized, where it might just be a photo of Mom giving Baby their first bath. But you can disagree with this entire paragraph, violently so, without it affecting the actual argument in the post.

      But, related to that, you are commenting "in my house", so to speak. I would never suggest that I can tell you what to do in your own house, but you are a guest here. And this is the first post here you have ever commented on.

      You are not addressing the argument; you are dancing around the periphery. And then you would like to tell me how to react to that? Take your own advice, dial it back, and address the actual argument. You might get a different response.

      From the standpoint of the argument itself, your comments sound like you are disagreeing with me while kind of not disagreeing. You've never been here before, as far as I can tell. I don't know who you are. What I object to in the laziness in the response itself, compounded with the apparent unwillingness to do better.

      Yes, Nazis (like every other pro-censorship group in history) did not want censorship applied to THEM. Yes, Nazis (like every other pro-censorship group in history with the intelligence required to link cause to effect) were willing to argue that free speech applied to X, so that it would also apply to them, when they needed to. But the Nazis (like every other pro-censorship group in history) showed their true colors as soon as they had the power to do so. There is nothing profound in that observation. Nor does that observation invalidate the argument I made in the post one iota.

  12. What am I sidestepping? I've tried to respond to every point you made, despite your complaints that I'm long winded.

    Your existential threats reveal a deep fragility.

    When your scope is people choosing A or B, it is quite easy to identify a good and bad outcome. When A is entangled with other people choosing C and B is entangled with a swath of people choosing D, then you have to weigh each lot together. I'm fine with a few more A's if the C's outweigh them. It's not perfect, but we don't get perfect options out in the wide world.

    //Are you actually trying to make a case that the Nazis were ANTI-censorship?//
    During a specific time? Yes. They ultimately murdered many of their own that clung to that ideal, and things shifted quickly when they started to become the Nazis that we are more familiar with, but there was absolutely a stretch of time when they were not mask off evil, there was absolutely a time when the broader German people were not naive imbeciles for not taking up arms against the Nazi's immediately. There were complicated tactics and political factors at work in the beginning, and lots of people as normal as you or me could not trace a straight line from what they were presented with to what the Nazi's would become. If you went out and talked to them in those early days, they were exactly as opposed to censorship as you were in this story about your past. Some of their best known politicians were not genuinely opposed to censorship like that, but the little people, the vast numbers of average citizens who counted themselves as supporters of that political party? Yes. That is what they were in the early days. That is why people today will call you such a vile thing, for views that contradicts what the Nazi's were at the end (though, not knowing the friends you lost in that argument, it is also possible that they just didn't care what words mean. You're clearly telling the story like that is the case, but this other justification is present, and I am surprised that you seem to be having so much trouble understanding it.) To lose those friendships, it seems obvious that many of those friends would have been quite concerned with what you would do if you were in power; the virtue at play wants to make sure that even when we do not have power, that we are not those kinds of people who flip the script on a thing like freedom of speech.

    Before you worry about my failure to address the second post, know that I'm simply busy, and will return to this when I can waste several additional hours in the kind of fruitless argument that I always expected you to turn this into.

    1. I am again letting this by, but it might be the last one, unless the quality improves. If your intent is to waste my time, you will discover that I am not going to allow you to do so indefinitely.

      What are you side-stepping? The actual argument made in the post. Other people have understood the argument made in the post. It does not take a genius. If you are not intentionally avoiding it, you can read the post.

      //Your existential threats reveal a deep fragility.//

      Your lack of reading comprehension reveals a deeper fragility.

      To paraphrase:

      "Hey, Shoku, you asked a question with a really obvious answer." = not existential threat.

      "Hey, Shoku, you asked a question with a really obvious answer, so we are going to do as much as we can to ruin your livelihood." = much closer to an existential threat.

      //Nazi stuff//

      Already answered ad infinitum as nauseum. And I think you and I have a far different level of experience with human beings, and how often they are, indeed, naïve imbeciles, present company included. One thing I have learned over the course of the last several decades is that being a naïve imbecile is easy. It is usually better to start from the assumption that you are being one than not.

      Apparently you are not used to people calling you on your bullshit. Give it time. You will eventually get used to it.

      And, no, I am not worried about your failure to address anything substantial. If you want to comment further, try addressing the actual argument. Or go post somewhere else.

      If you really think that you have addressed the argument, and you really need help parsing it so that you understand it, then go ahead and comment just that - "I think I am answering the argument and I really do not see where I am not" - and I will repost the argument in a bare-bones format for you.

    2. Oh, and that wasn't a complaint about your being long-winded. That was a complaint about your not breaking your comment into paragraphs.

    3. I've decided to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you don't know your bullshit is bullshit. Maybe you really don't understand the argument.

      Bullshit: Hitler had Jewish friends that he protected from the concentration camps for a while. Therefore, if you believe people should be protected from concentration camps, you are EXACTLY like Hitler.

      Honest: No one who is comparing you to Hitler is comparing you to this.

      Bullshit: The Nazis recognized the health risks of smoking. Therefore, if you are anti-tobacco you are EXACTLY like the Nazis.

      Honest: Even bad people can be right about some things. That doesn't mean that we should not accept that those things are positve, or that accepting those things are positive makes us like those bad people in any meaningful way. However, we should be willing to examine any causal links between those ideas that might have contributed to other, bad ideas.

      Bullshit: Before they were the Nazis you are being compared to, the Nazis vocally campaigned against censorship. They were campaigning to prevent their own censorship, murdered those members of their party that would not get on board with censorship, and were thereafter notorious for censorship, but if you are against censorship you are EXACTLY like the Nazis.

      Honest: People do not always portray their motives honestly. It therefore follows that you should think very carefully about who you put in power, and what power you give them.

      Also honest: Anyone trying to make the above claim is conflating two things - the people the Nazis murdered (actually anti-censorship) and the Nazis we are discussing (very much pro-censorship). If they are doing so unintentionally, they are not really thinking things through. If they have thought things through, they are engagine in bad-faith tactics.

      Now, here is the argument simplified for you:

      (A) X is an evil, although it may be a necessary evil at times.

      (B) Even if necessary, X is still an evil.

      (C) Because X is an evil, we should not be eager to use it as a solution to problems unless it actually is necessary.

      (D) The people who tend to think X is an easy/good solution to problems are usually the people you should avoid giving the power to X.

      (X in this case is cancelling people, but the same argument applies to any "necessary evil", such as war.)

    4. Oh, and I would be a monster if I had the power of Superman, no doubt.

      Day One: Set minimum human rights standards all countries must meet, provide a 365 day window for all billionaires to divest themselves of enough wealth to go below $1 billion, set global carbon emissions targets that must be met.

      Day Two: Set up an arbitration process between nations that must be obeyed, and begin disarming nations of missiles and nuclear weapons, by force if necessary.

      Day Three: Use cooling breath to chill the planet, increasing the time for climate change to be ameliorated.

      Day Eight: Nations that fail to meet minimum human rights standards have their leadership replaced via heat vision from space.

      Day 366: Remaining billionaires eliminated via heat vision from space. New 365 day limit is given to any new adult billionaires created by inheritance. After 365 days rinse and repeat.

      So, yes, openly, I would be a monster.

    5. Luckily, I suppose, I am not arguing that I should have that power.

      That I am arguing the opposite seems to have eluded you.

      Again, by all appearances, you just showed up here thinking you could stir things up, punch a Nazi or two, and basically not be called on your bullshit, I am guessing, merely based on timing, that you followed from Satanis' blog, imagining that he and I are like-minded on our politics.

      In short, what you are doing is lazy and comes from a place of ignorance. Prove me wrong. Comment in a way that is worth posting, and I will let it pass moderation. Continue along the lines you are taking, and I will show you the door.

  13. For anyone who cares - Shoku made two more attempts to comment that were not worth allowing to post. I will continue to check his comments, at least in a cursory way, but if they are the same as his current tripe, they will not be appearing here.

    If he posts anything that shows any understanding of what he is responding to, I will allow him back in the door.

    If anyone else thinks his arguments have merit, and want to discuss them in an honest way, please feel free to comment.

  14. "The idea that we are so ready to cast out anyone based on their worst day is frankly abhorrent to me."

    It often never occurs to people in disagreement that they are the ones having their worst day. Humility has died.

  15. Chris Hedges, who is a liberal (not neo-liberal) icon talks about this here, after being banned from YouTube. This stuff is completely predictable, and should be completely obvious, but some people have a hard time grasping it.


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