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Random Curiosity Could Learn From Gamergate’s Bad Example

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I’m stepping out of my comfort zone as a blogger to discuss a very controversial topic. But it’s also a very important one for the online anime community.

Recently, I’ve been noticing some unpleasant behaviour by commenters on Random Curiosity – one of the biggest English-language anime blogging websites. I know, I know – “People being shitty on the internet? Whould’ve thunk it?” – but the actions I was seeing reminded me distinctly of the Gamergate controversy, and that’s not a good thing to be reminded of in any shape or form. Namely, I was seeing repeated personal attacks and excessive downvoting against a blogger, simply because she addressed the issue of emotional abuse in her reviews of Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso.

I suppose for many of you reading this, Gamergate needs no introduction, and I’m not particularly interested in covering the convoluted history of the movement on an anime blog anyway. Gamergate has been condemned by most reputable media outlets (including a pretty hilarious takedown on the Colbert Report), and it’s also fair to say that the movement has lost most of its momentum anyway at the time of this writing. But the issues spurring Gamergate? Our toxic internet culture? That’s all here to stay. And unfortunately, the online anime fandom is not exempt from any of these things.

Some context before we begin.

Random Curiosity was not originally a reviewing website in the sense of featuring opinions about anime. It began as an episode recap blog. Although the site’s approach has largely shifted to analysis and personal impressions, even today it still retains something of a reputation for “objective reviewing”.

This, combined with the self-selecting process of what shows get covered on RC (writers basically just cover whatever shows they’re most interested in), means that you don’t often see negative criticisms about anime on that website. And that’s absolutely fine, for the most part. Since the writers aren’t paid, it’s best if they stick to writing about what they enjoy. No one is obliged to write about anime in a particular way. (Of course, that’s not to say that RC writers aren’t capable of delivering some great critique.)

But the downside to RC’s “by the fan, for the fans” approach is that the community stifles negativity. Comments that express negative criticism are usually downvoted unless the anime is a particularly poor one, while witty one liners and memes are generally upvoted. In other words, the community is a whole lot like r/anime. There’s probably a great deal of crossover in the demographics too.

It’s in this context that the current controversy fits in, wherein a writer is attacked for daring to voice a negative opinion.

More specifically, she is attacked for criticising subtext, for linking the underlying messages to her own personal experiences, and for using the language of “Social Justice Warriors”.

Here is what Kairi wrote when she announced she was dropping Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso:

I know that everyone gets different interpretations and impressions from narratives, and there is no real right or wrong way to look at it. You are not a bad person for enjoying the show or for disliking it. You just see the world differently. However, it’s important to realize that other people do, in fact, have different interpretations, and that those may be intensely problematic for these individuals. It is a very real problem for me, and I wish I could say it wasn’t a big deal but it is, and it’s unfair to those who do enjoy it that I can’t see past this problem, so I will be stepping down as the blogger for this show.

That’s fair and reasonable, right? However…

RC01 RC02 RC03

Now, a lot of the angrier comments on the Kimiuso thread are getting downvoted into oblivion, but the attacks against Kairi appear to be continuing, even on posts that have nothing at all to do with Kimiuso. A couple of days ago on her post about Episode 7 of Akatsuki no Yona, we see this obvious example of internet bullying at play (I omitted some of comments in the chain for brevity):

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Of note here is the upvote/downvote system RC has in place and how the trolls have upvoted any comment that criticises Kairi. They have also downvoted Kairi’s comments, as well as the comments of those who defend her.

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That’s right, one of the commenters explicitly admits to not even watching the anime discussed in the post and is only interested in trolling Kairi.

Not to mention some of the downvoting seems to indicate a more general resentment against women:

RC05

As for the meat of their arguments, you’ll forgive me if a lot of these comments remind me a lot of what Gamergaters have said and the kinds of arguments they have used to derail critics. They’re not exactly uncommon viewpoints on the internet. I won’t bother rebutting their points specifically, but the main problem is that their stance lacks empathy, a fact which should hopefully be obvious even to the most casual of observers.

I’ve spoken to Kairi about the comments she’s received and she’s told me she’s not too bothered by them. She’s mentioned that she’s glad some people have gained a new perspective through her writing, and for her this positive net result outweighs the bad. She’s also done a fine job defending herself against the more groundless criticism.

That doesn’t justify the harassment or trolling at all, of course. The reality is that if you’re going to have a public presence on the internet, you have to develop a thick skin – and it shouldn’t be this way. Kairi’s case is linked to a larger problem with internet culture, one that unfortunately can’t be fixed easily.

If anyone from RC is reading this, I suggest that you issue a formal anti-harassment statement that can be seen or accessed from the site’s front page. I’m not entirely sure how the commenting policy works on Random Curiosity because I couldn’t find any official statement. I think it’s better to have a site policy than to not have one, especially considering how many comments RC gets. If the harassment continues, you might even want to consider addressing the issue up front in a post.

To everyone else reading this post, I’ve chosen to write about this particular situation because it’s really a perfect articulation of the sort of anti-feminist, anti-“SJW” nonsense arguments that media critics frequently have to put up with. It may not reach the heights (er, lows) of Gamergate, but the reactionary attitude and petulant behaviour are still present.

RC isn’t the only anime reviewing site where this sort of stuff happens. I mean, who can forget all the rape apologists in the ANN Cross Ange thread? Instead of railing against these so called “SJW” critics, it’s better to actually consider their argument. Ultimately, a big part of art – and art criticism – is how it sheds light on different parts of the human experience, so you’re always better off being receptive to criticism. You may even learn something valuable about the world.

So the takeaway message from this post is this: people can be dicks to critics for stupid reasons. Please don’t be a dick yourself and, if you can, call out dickish behaviour when you do see it. It’s perfectly possible to disagree with a critic in a respectful way. See this post for a great example of that.

I guess now is also a good time to mention that my blog now has an anti-harassment policy too. It’s right there in the sidebar, but I’ll copypaste it just so we’re on the same page here:

This blog is full of college kid humour, so I’m pretty lenient about cursing and sex jokes, but please don’t post comments that attack others, especially on the basis of their gender/ethnicity/etc. I will be moderating those comments and I will block anyone who repeatedly comes off as an asshole. Thanks.

As it turns out, owners of private websites and blogs have a right to moderate and delete comments they deem offensive. As an agent of THE EVIL FEMINIST CONSPIRACY, I have moderated comments before (namely dumb rape jokes). And I won’t hesitate to do so in the future. I’m totally not sorry for OPPRESSING YOUR HUMAN RIGHTS.

The loli feminist conspiracy, taking over the anime world one blog at a time

The loli feminazi, taking over the anime world one blog at a time

But seriously, observing social etiquette works in real life, so it should work on the internet too. The right to be an asshole is not a cause worth rallying for. If there’s one thing I learned from Gamergate, it’s that.

Edit: In response to the feedback I’ve gotten on this post, I feel I should clarify what sort of comments I deem offensive:

I am honestly fine with comments from people who don’t agree with liberal values. I permit any comment expressing respectful disagreement. I will even permit comments expressing values I perceive as sexist/racist/etc. as long as I feel they are not written with the intent to harm or slander another person. Of course, I will probably respond expressing my disagreement, but I will only resort to censoring when I think it contributes to an atmosphere of hostility.

If you are a private owner of a website or blog and you are interested in implementing a commenting policy, I suggest you check out John Samuel’s blog for a good example of one.

So far in my time as a blogger, the vast, vast majority of comments I have received have been respectful and constructive. I thank all of you for contributing to this positive environment. I hope that my blog will continue to be a safe place where you can express your views without feeling attacked.

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Posted on November 24, 2014, in Editorials and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 50 Comments.

  1. It’s always feels scary that there are people like that on the internet. People who is really lacking self awareness in regards on what they say or do online, thinking they can somehow get away with it just because that one little thing called animosity. But i guess its just a risk and byproduct of our ever evolving world that became more and more connected. Either we accepted and try make things better or we just going to be left behind.

    Toxicity in an online community, while it maybe not a new issue, its something that we have keep addressing because its also influencing real life. And as an internet user, i think its all of our responsibillity to handle it.

    Anyway, good post :)

  2. Sorry but anyone willing to take a side in gamergate or anyone who calls themselves a feminist has little to no authority to make an anti harassment statement. Why, because feminists and the social justice movement are all too willing to to harass when it suits them. So despite the probable fact that you think you are sounding moral or compassionate it all comes across as tribalism.

    • Okay, what I think you need to understand is that feminism =/= harassment. By that, I mean harassment isn’t inextricably tied up with feminist activism the same way it’s tied up with Gamergate activism. I understand that you may hold negative stereotypes of feminists, or you may perceive them as harassers because they may bluntly criticise others, but criticism and debate is not the same thing as actively trying to hurt people. You might have had some unpleasant personal experiences with feminists, but those experiences don’t invalidate the positive achievements of the movement overall. I hope you can understand and empathise with my position, at least.

      • When I said there were feminist and social justice harassers I meant harassers, not honest critics or debaters. I have also seen said groups trying to shut down honest debate or criticism of their works several times as well. That’s the problem with trying an anti harassment message while identifying with with those groups, It sounds less like an honest anti harassment message but instead a “anti harassment for those I agree with and the rest of the world can burn” message. The problem is no one harasses the people they agree with. I hope you can understand my position for if you do then you can craft a more resonant anti harassment message.

        • Okay, I think I can see what you’re getting at. You’re right that people tend not to criticise people they agree with. At the same time, the moral high ground isn’t necessarily the same thing as being neutral. There is really no such thing as true neutrality. And I don’t see how I should be obliged to renounce my ideals about gender equality in order to embrace my ideals about anti-harassment. I just don’t think those two sets of values are disingenuous, as you seem to think.

          The best thing I can do is condemn harassment of all forms, regardless of who is committing it. If someone calls themselves a feminist but harasses someone else, I most certainly wouldn’t approve of their actions, even if I may broadly agree with the ideals of feminism. I also think it would be unfair to expect me to speak for all feminists when I don’t even know most of them.

          • Understood. Personally I see myself as an egalitarian, which plain English translates to “Yeah technically I am a feminist but I also believe that the current feminist movement is kind of screwy at the moment.”

  3. What pisses me off the most are the personal jabs.

    “Oh, you have an opinion? You shouldn’t be a teacher then.”

    It boggles my mind that so many people consider debate a form of censorship.

  4. I think a problem with what happened there is also that there is a certain amount of ‘pent up’ aggression which unleashes specifically in those circumstances. Basically, while single episodes spark from different causes, there is a fundamental clash between two big parts of the internet – one composed mostly of liberal minded people formed in a culture that is currently specifically present in the anglophone world, colleges especially, and whose ‘extreme’ representatives are the so-called SJWs, and one composed by the more conservative people, and more prevalently from continental Europe and possibly other regions (I don’t know for sure but I do feel that this geographic distinction has a certain relevance; more on that later). When Kairi wrote her review when she dropped KimiUso she picked a specific choice of words – she didn’t just say “I think all these characters are annoying as all hell and basically evil and should die in a fire so I can’t bring myself to care about them”, she talked about “narratives” and defined them “problematic”. So paradoxically, as she was actually being much more graceful about dropping the show, she also (more or less consciously) identified herself as part of that first group, because this kind of language has acquired a loaded meaning recently and is especially common among people engaged in media theory. Hence, the backlash came upon her not only because of what SHE said, but because of HOW she said it: identifying with a group that someone in there perceived as “the enemy”.

    …and OUCH. A fault of the comment system just destroyed 2/3rds of my mini essay on social, cultural and geographical differences at the roots of this divide. TLDR would be: there’s kind of a war at work here. The liberal side, at whose extremes are the so called SJWs, promotes tolerance and equality from a position of generally superior culture and an anglosaxon POV. On the other hand, to some of those belonging to the rest of the world, aka the less cultured and those who don’t belong to the same culture, this is perceived as an intrusion into the private sphere of their enjoyment from someone who’s basically smarter and smugger; the most disenfranchised, uncultured and plain stupid elements of this group will react by lashing out their powerlessness in vain threats of physical violence, lacking the dialectic ability to answer in kind. And as an example of the geographic differences, I’m Italian and I can say this approach to liberal culture isn’t so common there, if only because we actually have much more very practical sexism issues (just look at what president Berlusconi did and said for years) that worrying about how much of Spider Woman’s ass is visibile on a Marvel comic variant cover practically feels like a luxury even to many liberal-minded women (also we have less prurience concerning sex and nudity in general).

    So my take away was: Kairi was exquisite and very graceful in dropping KimiUso, but she had bad luck as her choice of words identified her as “the enemy” to some of this people. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything’s going to change unless there’s a serious effort on either side to try and understand why the others do and think what they do and think, and study an effective way of communicating without the kind of threatening messages that fly back and forth and reinforce each other at every turn. I think the highest possibility for this to happen lies with the liberal side, which should at least have the higher self awareness of the two, but of course pride kinda prevents that so yeah, we’re deadlocked into this for the time being.

    • Your comment about liberals needing to reach out better to the rest of the world reminds me a lot of this article: http://religionandpolitics.org/2012/05/31/what-psychology-teaches-us-about-moral-and-political-divides/

      Also, you bring up a good point about Kairi’s word choice. A lot of the language of gender studies has become ubiquitous to the internet, but it’s also poorly understood. So yeah, as soon as someone uses that language, they’re identified as “SJW” or whatever, and suddenly their arguments seem a lot more posturing.

      There’s probably also something threatening about the word “problematic” in that it can make you feel like you’re a bad person for liking something. If someone tells you your favourite show is crap, you can simply put that aside to a differing opinion, but if someone tells you your favourite show is problematic, suddenly it feels like a moralistic statement.

      The SJW backlash is partly spurred by anti-intellectualism, I agree. The call for “objective” reviews probably goes along similar lines. “This anime sucks because the animation is bad and the story goes nowhere” is a much easier criticism to understand than “This anime is problematic because of the LGBT portrayals”. It’s not that one statement is more objective than the other – both are a matter of opinion. But unless you’ve been educated about the latter, you’re just not going to be able to link that subjective criticism to your own experience with the show.

      I wish there was a way to make liberal ideas more easily digestible to others, because while these values might not necessarily be morally impenetrable, they beat out clinging to the status quo. But solving political divides is more than what a mere anime blogger can handle, so I’ll just stop here. Anyway, great comment!

      • “I wish there was a way to make liberal ideas more easily digestible to others, because while these values might not necessarily be morally impenetrable, they beat out clinging to the status quo.”

        I think the interesting point here is also that the core of those ideas – *everyone should be treated equally regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, race etc.* – is fundamentally much more accepted than it used to be. There are backlashes of xenophobia in many countries these days due to economic circumstances, but ideological racism/sexism seem to me generally less common. The thing is, this debate tends to consume itself among a younger and more tech-savvy crowd, which is already in fact skewed towards relatively more liberal ideas on average. However the debate shifts at this point and it becomes a discussion on *ways* to enforce said liberal ideas, and on the *degree* to which they should be enforced. So you go back again to having two roughly equally sized parties, where by comparison with overall society you would probably have an overwhelming majority of people standing on the same side. It’s also quite irritating to feel ostracized/judged as an intolerant person when you hold tolerance as a personal value just because you disagreed on some finer point of how to implement a tolerant society in practice.

        Another interesting concept is that, imho, prejudice has some roots in our cognitive biases. We tend to ‘extrapolate’ information from existing data and act in consequence, by simplifying everything by category, including people. It’s definitely easier to consider a few defining traits to identify “women”, “blacks”, “asian” and so on! …it also happens to be rather detrimental to the way we relate to those people as individuals, especially if we’re the ones in power. But my point is, it takes a conscious intellectual effort to resist this bias, especially if it’s already established. And anything that requires effort is hard to do 100% of the time. So some people, though accepting of living in a society which rejects inequality, and being rational enough to not seek refuge in sheer denial like those who still openly hold sexist/racist ideas in public, might find solace in dropping societal rules and just being more instinctual in the simpler world of media – be it movies, anime, or games. Then along comes the media theorist and starts talking about problematic themes and sexual objectification and so on. And the answer to that is something like “SERIOUSLY, EVEN HERE NOW?”.

        (this spawned especially by my recent experience with the Witcher, its silly and uber-sexist mechanic of giving you trading cards with naked pictures of every woman you manage to bed during the game, and the discussions it spawned on the GOG.com forum)

      • On empathy, from a personal standpoint:

        I’ve found that I become more and more of an apathetic asshole the longer I spend time in social activities, because during those times, I tend to be thinking primarily of my own desires to have fun above all else. Add to that a snarky sense of humor and a lurking competitive drive, and it’s so easy to turn to tearing down others for fun.
        Every time I’ve made important steps towards being more empathetic, it’s been during times of isolation, where I’m idly reading lots of posts from people with perspectives different from mine. Importantly, during those times, I tend to have no agenda to respond to anything, so that I’m not constantly thinking of counter-arguments in the background, and consuming the material on its own terms.

        So one thought that I’ve had is that the gaming community is one aspect of geek culture that is more susceptible to brewing gate-keeping activities because it’s a circle of constant participation and competition and interaction, with little time to step back and analyze from a standpoint without immediate goals. Some skepticism of critics using artistic critique language may come from the thought that “Well, that time you spent learning about this analysis crap was clearly a huge chunk of time you weren’t gaming. Hell, time spent on any type of non-gameplay or technical information is time not spent gaming or thinking about gaming itself. Not a true gamer!”
        Similarly, some otaku communities may focus on consumption and community participation based on markers of accomplishment, such as creating memes, hours watched, money spent, size of collection, events attended, etc. I’ve always been struck by how some people’s goals when going to conventions drastically differ from mine. (I don’t find the Dealer’s Hall or Artist’s Alley that interesting, whereas others consider panels to be filler, and I like discussion panels over industry panels, others like games panels more, etc.) So one type of community would consider, as Higgsbosoff has pointed out, the language of certain forms of analysis as evidence of spending time on activities outside of the community’s goals. If we go by the simulated ethnicity model, then that person is exhibiting qualities that show that they do not have the same “inherent” qualities that push them to consume media in the same modes, and thus are excluded from the community as an Other, easy to turn into an enemy to be attacked without guilt. When the community promotes “nationalistic” sentiments, often for the sake of maintaining a safe space, then there’s no motivation to empathize with anyone outside of it.

        At the same time, forming strong communities is key to being able to execute effective actions. So levels of empathy are inevitably lost for the sake of being able to rally a group and Do Things That Matter, such as in those “Gamers are dead” articles. In addition, some people find no benefit to stepping back and attempting empathy. They’re perfectly happy without doing so, and why compromise happiness? (Hence, ignorance is bliss.)

        • Your comment hits on some of the things I’ve been thinking about. All geek cultures share similar aspects and fans being defensive is something that happens in every fandom, but why are the gamers so particularly militant? It made me wonder if it has something to do with the competitive culture of gaming. Would you see behaviour on the scale of Gamergate from people who just stuck to single-player games? Probably not – and I think the fact that these Gater types take issue with games like Depression Quest and Gone Home kind of points to that too. They’re not into gaming for the introspection.

          In my eyes, that just affirms that there’s something wrong with the culture of gaming, not games themselves. It’s one thing to bond over being fans of the same game, another thing to play together and watch the same competitive tournaments and have a shared experience. Since I don’t play those sorts of games, I honestly can’t understand that feeling of solidarity. My love of games is an intensely private feeling.

          So yeah, it might be like you said. The fact that gamers are social but not inclusive is what has allowed them to rally in the way that they have. But, considering how Gamergate has adopted the likes of Christina Hoff Sommers and Milo Yiannopoulos, it seems they do accept outsiders to a degree. “Not a true gamer!” only seems to apply when someone says something negative about gaming culture.

          Which, again, points to the fact that this whole thing isn’t really about games at all.

          Also…

          “Well, that time you spent learning about this analysis crap was clearly a huge chunk of time you weren’t gaming. Hell, time spent on any type of non-gameplay or technical information is time not spent gaming or thinking about gaming itself. Not a true gamer!”

          I love this line.

          • There’s possibly also another factor at play – the long standing and never dropped implication that violent games spread violence. Gamers often had and have to deal with having their hobby pointed at and ‘moralized’ by media outlets for content related reasons, and became kinda touchy about it as a result. People saying that games are sexist and implying that they spread sexism/rape culture may well be seen as the same old crap shipping in a brand new package.

          • “All geek cultures share similar aspects and fans being defensive is something that happens in every fandom, but why are the gamers so particularly militant? ”

            It’s learned behavior. At least in my day, many of these people were excluded from other social groups because they looked weird, had strange interests, or actually did well in school.

            The people so excluded learn is that excluding others is an important element of forming and fostering a social group.

            At least, that’s one possible theory.

            Usually the explanation for why people treat others the way they do lies in how they were treated (and thus learned to treat other people.)

            • Irrelevant the topic but not completely.

              “At least, that’s one possible theory.

              Usually the explanation for why people treat others the way they do lies in how they were treated (and thus learned to treat other people.)”

              IMO, your theory is not just possible theory. It’s reality.

              Your theory reminds me when I read newspaper. (hardly read them, but once in a while) Someone wrote similar comment like yours in murd*r and r*pe cases, and I learned all people are not bad. (Yes, I mean murd*rers too. Can’t believe, right? I can’t believe I will say this too.) They just was tempted and change so suddenly. (just like Natsume’s quote)

              In the newspaper I read, that person gave a important notice that one of murd*rer of these cases, even is the victim of the similar cases started when he/she still is a kid. And the similar cases continue endlessly.

              His/Her target are the same as him/her. Kids. This person’s career needs to travel many provinces, wherever this person went, the murd*r case happened there. That person’s howl had happened about 10 years until was arrested. Can you imagine how many kids were…?

              It’s like transportation your suffering to other weak people to ease your own mind. You know it’s very bad but you can’t control yourself anymore. However, I found out it’s not like that every time. There’re people who can maintain themselves even they are suffering.

    • I think painting this as a purely cultural divide, while certainly true to some extent, deeply sugarcoats the practical reality of these conflicts. This isn’t really a civil difference of opinion between two groups offering their thoughts in an open forum – this is one group of people expressing their views on media and being met with “shut up about this or suffer our constant harassment on any platform we can reach you.” There’s room for questions of cultural grounding here, but I’m very hesitant to raise that point without also keeping in mind how much of this isn’t about differences of opinion, but of how some people take certain opinions as immediate grounds to pile on abuse.

      • “but of how some people take certain opinions as immediate grounds to pile on abuse.”

        People can go to incredible extents when they think they’re righteous, and that’s pretty much what’s happening here.

        I think the #gamergate issue isn’t worth defending, if not only for the fact that spawning that kind of protest from the claims of a scorned ex boyfriend shows clearly that the issues are elsewhere, and that the thin, barely believable excuse provided was nothing more than a casus belli.

        But let’s consider another more recent and imho controversial example, the #shirtgate. In this case it was some people taking issue with an ESA scientist’s pin-up shirt worn during the Rosetta landing. The man was clearly in good faith; he wore it for good luck as it was a present from a friend, and promptly and tearfully apologized after he was bashed shamelessly for it. There was the usual stream of despicable rape/murder threats, true. But the whole thing was spawned when Matt Taylor was insulted before he even had any time to explain – the first tweets on the topic immediately address him as “sexist pig”, “asshole” and so on.

        I think there’s a strong asymmetry here which is typical of intellectual vs. anti-intellectual clashes (aka liberal vs. conservatives, in many cases). On the one hand, a side that feels like they hold the moral high ground and that definitely hold the cultural/dialectic one. When they offend, they do so by shaming, putting leverage on the fact that the values they advocate are fundamentally considered ‘right’ by most of the people they address, or accusing them of violating those values wouldn’t be an offence at all. On the other, one populated by people who feel fundamentally annoyed and want to answer but feel like they CAN’T argue, most of the times; mainly because they’ll be quickly put in their places and sneered at by people who knows how to craft words much better than they do. So they resort to primal violence: they threaten and act big and strong. I’m not saying that everyone has the same faults; I just think that holding onto the idea that *since we’re right we don’t have to do anything* is impractical and leads to no resolution of sorts.

    • Interesting view, though I do have to point out that I’m not Anglo Saxon in the least.

      Guatemalteca y Salvadorena. I just had the luck to be educated in English as well as in Spanish, but I have lived among Latino/as my whole life. I think I saw maybe three white Americans in my town in the entirety of my elementary and secondary education until college.

      • Oh, okay XD.

        I wasn’t really implying that to be a fixed rule (also, sweeping generalizations are exactly the stuff racism and sexism are made of). I guess I tend to think of the contrast more with European continental culture, and even then, of course, it’s just a broad statistical kind of thing, everyone has their own formation… it’s just that it’s a dominant mindset prevalently in UK/USA colleges, where it’s gotten to its most extreme conclusions (stuff like pop songs being banned from campuses, trigger warnings on literature classes… I live in Oxford, and one guy I know once was publicly shamed on a Facebook group for posting a silly joke deemed sexist on his private timeline, which seemed quite excessive). I don’t read RC regularly but I did happen to read your KimiUso post and I found it rather genuine and heartfelt – it struck me as you being so personally disgusted by the content of the anime that you couldn’t truly bear to go on with it (from what I’ve heard about it anyway I’ve not even come close to it despite its music theme being interesting to me, and after all you’re not the only one to drop it for the same reasons – see Guardian Enzo). I do use words like “problematic” myself, by the way, it’s just something that entered my language as I follow a lot of blogs which have to do with media theory (not only anime blogs). It’s just unfortunate that some words end up loaded politically because of circumstances – as often in human language, there’s layers upon layers of meaning which end up piled on what should be straightforward expressions.

  5. Like with every fandom, there is going to be a lot of bad apples. While I don’t necessarily agree with third wave feminism (I’m more of a second wave feminist and a humanist), I think both sides need to listen to all criticism and not shut themselves out by insulting others (or a group of people) and name calling just because they do not necessarily agree. People should listen to all criticism (as long they are constructive) as people will have different views. On the other hand, harassment, death threats, etc is not acceptable either and while I am not against or for Gamergate, but both sides engages in this behavior with supporters being harassed, having threat threats sent to them, having personal information leaked (doxxing), etc and vice versa. The Internet will have nasty people (which is why a fandumb exists), so it’s best to call them out and don’t feed the trolls.

    On the other hand, I feel that gender issues tend to be a touchy subject, which is why would rather not touch on it. Still, I think entertainment companies should focus more on creating entertainment that everyone would enjoy rather than focusing too much on social issues (sure, studios and creators are free to make shows with a strong/capable female protagonist, nothing is stopping them). If one does not like what he/she is watching, vote with your wallet and don’t watch it (or if one is watching it already, just state why you don’t like it an move on). There is no need to insult or accuse companies, viewers, etc with anything. Of course, this also applies to anime in general, there is no need to harass people just because one doesn’t like the types of shows they like. After all, even if someone states their political views, the reviews are still subjective.

    • The Internet will have nasty people (which is why a fandumb exists), so it’s best to call them out and don’t feed the trolls.

      See, that’s the thing. Why should we have to skirt around these trolls? I know it’s for the sake of convenience so that we don’t have to put up with abuse and harassment, but I’m pretty fed up with that behaviour and I don’t want to passively permit the trolls to continue by keeping silent. It’s a good thing thing this sort of behaviour is getting talked about more outside the internet. We just can’t let this stuff go on in a public space that so many people use.

      At the same time, it doesn’t really seem like there’s a solution in sight *sigh*

      Anyway, thank you for commenting. Glad you could share your thoughts!

  6. Off-topic in a sense. Based on your previous post on Your Lie in April and the unfortunately “vintage” douchebaggery I avoided picking up YLIA and therefore will not discuss it once my new blog is up.

    It reminds me of Sora no Method and what someone saying that it manipulates viewers’ emotions to forcibly feel a certain way while watching the dramatic moments. I see it as a show about high school students with grudges…acting like high school students with grudges, with a dash of anime tropes and stuff. Your Lie In April, based on what I’ve read about the show it SCREAMS manipulation. I could be wrong but that’s the vibe I’m getting from it. This post intensified my resistance towards picking it up. Fanboy backlash is disturbing.

    Thumbs up for referencing the magnificent Loli-Hitler.

    Oh and Cross Ange can suck it.

  7. I’ve been following the whole ordeal since the beginning with the original kimiuso post from kairi, and even though i’m not the most knowledgeable person on all the social, political and cultural themes that have arisen, I can say that I certainly don’t lack empathy for kairi as I think I understand the position she must be. We don’t know what her current reality might be. We don’t know what experiences she had lived. We don’t know because every person is a universe in itself. That’s why I say “I think I understand” as nobody can really know how anybody else feels. So we should not asume that a person is weak or flawed based on a certain opinion from their point of view, knowledge and experiences. And even less just because we don’t understand what is being said to us.

    Proper communication through the written word can sometimes be hard, as the transmission of an idea as it was intended can sometimes face a barrier of education, hell even just an accidental misplacement of words can change an idea. This is a problem that any blogger gets exposed to. But I believe that the love for blogging and sharing outweighs this kind of bad experiences.

    I don’t consider myself a poorly educated person, but I certainly lack more domain in the english language and more that a few years of just cultural exposition.

    I agree with the suggestion of a disclaimer of sorts.

    Sorry if some of my ideas don’t make much sense. I’m improving myself on the matter, I guess I got a little inspired by all this.

    • Oh no, thank you for sharing your thoughts! You might say you’re not good at English, but I think what you’ve written here shows plenty of understanding and empathy and that is far and away the most important thing. It’s comments like yours that cheer up a blogger’s day and make the act of blogging more worthwhile. I say this as a blogger myself :)

  8. I’m starting to get really tired of the entire Gamergate issue but for quite different reasons. Before I go any further, I should say that I believe that no one deserves to be harassed in any way on the internet or off it for their opinions (as long as they do not harm others – and in that case other actions should be taken anyway), both women and men deserve equity and the same rights in all things (and we’re not quite there yet) and gaming journalism should be transparent and ethical. Finally, I haven’t seen the anime in question and can’t comment on it >.<

    The problem with this conflict is that the labels of Gamergaters or Feminists or SJWs are meaningless on the internet. The number of people lashing out, doxxing or just plain trolling and tagging themselves with any of those is far too large for a rational discussion to work out. We have people concerned with games journalism being targeted for other individuals' sexism and hate, while people concerned with women's rights are being targeted for other individuals' misandry. Adding into that the fact that pretty much every site commenting on the issue is skewing information to fit their opinion, and you have a situation where absolutely nothing is going to change.

    As an example, whatever you've seen about the issue has shown you that Gamergate is a terrible idea thought up by terrible people and feminists/SJWs have been unfairly victimized. Conversely, pretty much everything i've seen points towards people interested in ethical reporting on video games being unfairly targeted by incredibly hateful and illogical people calling themselves feminists. And then somewhere in the middle are two groups of people being unfairly judged for trying to fight for a legitimate cause that they believe in. We've seen the same story playing out from different angles and have entirely different views because of it.

    Now that i've hijacked the comments section for my own purposes, condemning a blogger for not wanting to cover and anime that makes them uncomfortable is madness in itself and nasty comments are simply not warranted in that situation. Gender isn't even something that should have been brought into the discussion or acted upon.

    • That about sums up my thoughts on the matter as well, and on any sort of internet drama in general. Things get blown way out of proportion on the internet, specially when Twitter gets involved, a platform that shouldn’t be even considered viable means of debate. I’m pretty sure that letting go of labels and just talking to each other like freaking human beings would solve most problems.

  9. Good post. Although I’ll note that exercising your right to moderate posts is NOT censorship.

    Those who are moderated can still say what they like somewhere else, all moderation does is exercise your right to not listen to them in what is YOUR space.

    (It may also be necessary to protect yourself from defamation laws – see Charles Stross’ moderation policies for an example).

    I’ll also note that using “social justice warrior” as a pejorative is the debating equivalent of calling your opponent a moron. Don’t be surprised if the response is a matching level of contempt.

  10. When I saw the title of this post I actually thought this was going to be about RC being contemptuous of their audience. I generally think the people who like RC and comment there are shitheads, but in all honesty, if the writers over there thought the same; I’d think less of them. That’s why I’m glad to see this Kairi person doesn’t seem to talk down to her readership: there can be any number of excuses for dropping a series, and they might all be great, but in the end your still letting your readership down by doing so. And if you as blogger have a right to drop a show, the readership likewise must have a right to be upset about that (and if they are that could be taken as a compliment). Though none of that matters because the person in question doesn’t care and isn’t some princess that people –mostly men– have to save or to defend. To me this looks to be mere drama, to stave off boredom, trolls trolling trolls and otherwise fully functional and competent people pretending to be idiots.

    • Well, I’ve spoken to Kairi about this and while I agree that she is not “some princess” and is more than capable of taking care of herself, she thinks, like me, that there should be an anti-harassment policy on Random Curiosity. That’s not the same thing as talking down to your readership at all. In fact, the community is a positive one for the most part and I suspect most of the readers would like to see the harassment go away (a number have stated so on the comments). So it’s really not a case of readers vs the publication they read. We would all like to see the situation improve.

  11. I don’t know if I should be grateful or not when it comes to this sort of thing. Since Spring 2014, the only anime that I am watching are all kids’ shows that very little bloggers would touch (except Shirogane no Ishi Argevollen). Then again, even those have skirted with sensitive issues, such as how Future Card Buddyfight gets into the usual “users of a certain card types means that you are evil” trap.

    The same deal applies to the video game side. The games that I’m now playing are just freeware stuffs that I can simply get from specialized depositories or arcade games that I frequent monthly, which I have yet to get affected from the #gamersgate and its related issues aside from some news that I read.

    However, I do agree with you that people should stop being jerks in the net.

    • I am REALLY glad you’ve been detached from the online community enough not to have to put up with this sort of thing. It is truly one of the great things about being into niche stuff. A lot of the crap talking circling around Gamergate stems from the fact that the gaming culture is halfway-niche, halfway-mainstream. So everyone feels they have a right to an opinion on it and that’s why it’s pretty heated.

  12. It’s always sad to see people who have so little to worry about that they get genuinely upset over someone’s opinion about an anime. It’s all the worse when their attacks are so bizarre that it’s clear they have bigger personal problems to deal with than Kairi’s issues with KimiUso. Learn to just close the browser tab and move on with your lives, guys. You’re not being heroes here. You’re just picking on someone who had an anime hit a little close to home.

    The most troubling aspect of this “debate” for me is the people who seemed to think it’s wrong to judge this anime by non-Japanese standards. Would you also tell someone that Song of the South should be watched it with a mid-40s American perspective, otherwise your criticisms are invalid? Of course not. Stop being such SJWs. The Japanese have their cultural problems too. It’s not wrong to be upset by them even if you’re not Japanese.

  13. Froggykun I can tell your heart is in the right place and I basically agree with the intent of this post which is why I’m going to mention this.

    You pat yourself on the back because you have an inclusive policy – “… please don’t post comments that attack others, especially on the basis of their gender/ethnicity/etc.” – yet I notice two comments, one by you, that does just that. I am a religious conservative. I go to Mass every Sunday and I believe the Bible is the only piece of writing ever produced by anyone that is more important and more significant than the US’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.(That I also believe women should get paid as much as men do and that the universe is 14 billion years old will then probably surprise you.) I also went to college and earned two Bachelor’s degrees so when I have my intelligence insulted – intellectual vs. anti-intellectual – I feel attacked.

    I don’t like being called dumb.

    I and most conservatives are very used to it and generally don’t say anything. If I was feeling uncharitable I’d say that we don’t want to come off like liberals who seem to be constantly complaining about some new cause or injustice. If I was feeling charitable, I’d merely say that if we spent time complaining about things we don’t agree with on-line then there’d be no time to do anything else.

    I try not to see people as their labels, though, in part because I don’t want others to judge me based on my labels which is why I’m writing this instead of just marking this down as yet another example of liberals being smug snobs who love to insult the intelligence of those they don’t agree with then wonder why their arguments don’t work on us sub-humans before moving on to the next blog I want to read.

    As for the original post on Random Curiosity, I do not agree with the personal attacks lobbed at the author, too many of them were way out of line. However, when one’s argument is so tied to personal reasons any disagreement will probably automatically sound like a personal attack, even when it’s not intended to be.

    Reading the write-up for episode 5 the first thing I thought was – Wait, did this person watch the same episode I did? I went back and watched episode 5 and I still can’t understand how the author saw episode 5 in the way they did. If asked to be brutally honest, I’d say the author’s reaction to this episode was so far from the norm that I’d consider it abnormal. All I see is a bunch of kids that have grown close enough to be like siblings to each other acting like siblings do with nary a hint of abuse or bullying.

    I don’t mean that as a personal attack and, if I offended the original author, I’m sorry. Nor am I implying that you don’t have a right to your own opinion. Personally, in your shoes, I’d’ve just said the main characters grate on your nerves and the plotting seems forced and unnatural and had left it at that.

    I also think some (most?) of the hate is coming from people who will miss the coverage of the series on Random Curiosity and won’t be able to discuss the show there now. If another member of Random Curiosity picked the show up then there probably would have been a lot more understanding and sympathy shown.

    • Hey, steelbound! Good to have you here. I just wanted to say thanks for sharing your opinion. I’m absolutely not against hearing opinions that disagree with me and I’m really sorry if anything written in the comments offended you. If you could point out what in particular upset you, I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled for that sort of thing in the future. Since I’m only human and what I may define as harassment will be different from what another person defines as harassment, I’m always open to criticism.

      I feel I should probably clarify what I personally think is acceptable and what I think is unacceptable.

      I am honestly fine with comments from people who don’t agree with liberal values. I permit any comment expressing respectful disagreement. I will even permit comments expressing values I perceive as sexist/racist/etc. as long as I feel they are not written with the intent to harm or slander another person. Of course, I will probably respond expressing my disagreement, but I will only resort to censoring when I think it contributes to an atmosphere of hostility.

      In light of that, I don’t think any of the comments on this post step over that line. I understand that as a conservative, though, you feel as if you are being condescended. To clarify my own perception of the conservative vs liberal issue, I don’t often come across self-proclaimed conservatives who are able to articulate their opinions as clearly and respectfully as you do. That doesn’t mean to say that I dislike conservatives or think of them all as unintelligent. I just have difficulty understanding exactly where they are coming from, and the attempts by me and my commenters to theorise about this no doubt shows how little we understand about your point of view. So thank you for pointing out that you have an issue with it.

      • Thanks for the reply. As defined and clarified I’d agree that no comments stepped over the line; it’s the standard conservatives have to be either not as intelligent as me, cultured as me, or educated as me because those are the only reasons to explain why they don’t believe in something I do which is run-of-mill stuff. I wish comments like these weren’t so common from both sides because it shuts down honest dialog and my tolerance for snarkiness, which drives many of these comments, has seriously tanked in the last couple of years. Too much of a good thing is not always a good thing.

        Too many people on both sides simply parrot the talking points of the side they identify with without ever really thinking about what they say. Take gay marriage. I am against it and yet I often cringe when I read other people writing why they are against gay marriage. Nor do people for gay marriage ask me to elaborate on why I’m against it; as soon as I say I’m against it, I become a foul creature. I am against gay marriage because it is an impossibility. The specific act that is required to create a human being is central to marriage. According to the Catholic Church if a guy and girl ask to be married in the Church and one of them, say the woman, had been a soldier and had everything from her waist down amputated due to an IED explosion and could no longer do the specific act that is required to create a human being then the Church would not and could not marry them. It’s not a question of fertility but of the couple being unable to fulfill an innate part of marriage. Without calling into question the sinfulness or not of a gay couple, this alone is enough to show why I’m against gay marriage. Now, there are many perks and privileges that married couples receive that gay couples would like to receive as well and I can’t think of one that I’m against gay couples having. Hospital visiting privileges? – fine, people should have whoever there they want to feel better. Spousal insurance coverage? – sure. Tax breaks? – okay, government gets too much money anyways. Being able to adopt? – no problem here, too many kids age out right now. And etc., I just object to the relationship being called marriage.

        I think anime, like video games, is hugely skewed younger and I bet many of the commenters over at Random Curiosity that attacked the author of that post are not old enough to remember who Bob Dole is or had the chance to vote for him. Many of these people – not all – have not really learned the limits of labels. Labels are handy but should never be seen as a complete measure of a person. One way I try to remember the person behind the label is to use the label they prefer. Going to another hot button topic. I’m pro-life because I believe human life begins at conception. The other side, who believes human life begins once the head of the not-human pops out of the mother’s body and therefore there’s nothing wrong with killing said not-human before that point, in my eyes should be called pro-death because that is what they believe in. I don’t, however, I call them what they want – pro-choice – because they are people and deserve respect.

        By the way, getting back to the anime in question – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso – I have issues with it but they fall mainly in the poorly directed camp and I enjoyed your post covering this angle.

  14. I don’t really have a lot to add to what you’ve said here, which is pretty fantastic; all I’d like to point out is something that I very rarely see said regarding internet shitstorming:

    Most of us phrase our views very differently in different company. If I’m simply ranting or hanging out with people with views I suspect to be similar to mine, then I’m likely to use a greater degree of hyperbole and invective than would actually be reflective of my beliefs. I’ll also simplify where common, obvious views are concerned. It might seem bad to say stuff that I don’t entirely believe, but it’s natural to need to rant. It’s also natural to need to cut corners at times: if I’m talking about sexism, I’ll probably not bother with establishing why I perceive sexism to still be a thing if I’m in likeminded company, and might (out of frustration or out of a desire to lighten the mood with humor) call people who disagree with us (the crucial thing here being that my perceived target audience is in the club with me, so to speak) idiot bigots even though I actually know that things are a lot more complicated than that. If I’m engaging people with whom I disagree, I try to be a lot more respectful, nuanced, openminded, etc. In short, context, yo.

    But the near-constant open-door policy on the web means that it can be pretty damn difficult to establish who one’s audience is. As a result, hyperbolic, frustrated rants can very easily be mistaken for the fleshed-out, nuanced version of a person’s views. I don’t think this has the same sort of badness as ranting at people who you know don’t agree with you and with whom you have no desire to come to an understanding. (There are also, no doubt, people who only have the exaggerated opinions, but they’re the other people, of course! You know, the idiot patriarchy. Totes.)

    Anyway, I think what you pointed out about RC in particular might be a sort of corollary of this: the comments on a given episode will often come with the implicit idea that the audience is other people who like the show. Someone not liking it is an intruder. Or something like that. I dunno.

    The other point that can’t get hammered on enough is that it’s totally okay to like stuff that has problems as long as you aren’t an asshole. All other things being equal, I’d probably have a harder time getting along with somebody who enjoys KimiUso but doesn’t get what’s so bad about, say, the MPDG stuff (or, y’know, the abuse) than I would with somebody who, say, masturbated to motherfucking Cross Ange but understands what’s wrong about the show and can maintain a critical attitude towards its wrongness. One’s behavior, rather than one’s tastes, are what I think is important here.

    (Of course, I actually like KimiUso and could probably get along fine with someone who doesn’t see the problems with it that I do; I also still find it unbelievable that I managed to sit through the entire first episode of Cross Ange and would really rather not know if somebody masturbates to that, no matter how otherwise intelligent, empathetic, etc. they are. Ewww.)

    • Actually, to clarify something that I think I left sort of unclear, probably because my thoughts on it are not entirely clear: I don’t think that saying that you thought you were talking to somebody else is a good excuse for being a jackass. And there’s really no excuse for harassment. At all. There’s a bit of a distinction I want to make here: it makes sense to me that we want our rants and circlejerks, but it’s also important to not be assholes by saying mean things about people outside of the supposed audience (or inside it, for that matter), and we shouldn’t simply surrender ourselves to the Great Echochamber for fear of interacting respectfully with people with whom we disagree (especially since there certainly are cases where the people who agree with you are wrong and the people who disagree with you are right).

      But I can’t figure out any way of describing this line besides saying it’s gotta exist somewhere. Which might be all one can do. Frustrating.

  15. Great post Frog-san! I’m not very active in online communities so Gamergate was news to me (yeah I sorta live under a rock). I do however follow RC and am aware of the shitstorm behind the KimiUso coverage. Some of the comments there were truly disgusting but I’m glad to read that the author is not too bothered by them.

  16. IDK how this happened, but I only just got around to reading this post and learning about the whole gamergate thing. I think you’re doing right here. This is a great post and I’ll do my best to fight back against the assholery and thoughtlessness.

  17. I’m a little late on commenting, as I recently found your site and have been enjoying some of the essays.

    I have followed gamergate on the sidelines, as I’m not much of a gamer anymore, but I’ve found the whole thing interesting. The harassment is certainly over-the-top, but I don’t get the sense that the media has been total honest on this. For example, I still like to keep up with Blizzard games, and was pretty interested in their game Heroes of the Storm. So I looked for some previews, and found this terrible interview of the lead developer:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/11/22/blizzard-on-heroes-of-the-storm-female-designs-in-mobas/

    The journalist began bringing up the portrayal of women in video games, and got so pushy that it basically turned into an unprofessional rant, to the point he was kicked out of the room. I got the sense that the interview was just a pretense for pushing politics. So I can understand where people are coming from when they say there is a problem with gaming journalism.

    I’m a conservative, and I have a different interpretation of how the media works. For example, you say gamergate has been condemned by most reputable media outlets, but I don’t see that as a standard of honesty: the media caters to what it’s sponsors and viewers want to see. They have professional loyalty, so if one journalist gets attacked, others will jump in to defend him. Also, mainstream journalism (outside of Fox, which is just as bad), is essentially all liberal, so a consensus among them reflects more the liberal perspective, rather than an objective truth. Lastly, many of these celebrity-newsmen are more about their ego, like Brian Williams, who got caught making up several stories that were entirely unnecessary.

    The gamergaters complain that any mention of Zoe Quinn allegedly sleeping with reviewers has been totally censored from these mainstream reports. Its strange that they would not even print this explanation; in fact, I think it was even more harmful to Zoe Quinn to not print them. People just got angrier and angrier that the issue they cared about was not even discussed. Its unsurprising this provoked even further trolling. Imagine if the price of food suddenly rose dramatically and people protested for food subsidies. If the government denied that anything was wrong and claimed people were just trying to get free handouts, people would probably riot. I guess you couldn’t condone violent rioting, but that doesn’t make them ridiculous or excuse the government’s lying.

    • Hey, thanks for commenting! I appreciate the alternate viewpoint you’ve offered and I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my essays.

      The way I interpret the whole Zoe Quinn thing is that her sex life doesn’t matter one bit to the general public. If the mainstream press had seriously delved into questions like “Is Zoe Quinn a slut?”, it would have been a) an infringement of her privacy, and b) a validation for those who would use that information to smear her. It’s not equivalent to that food analogy you mentioned because the mainstream public has no personal investment in Quinn’s sex life.

      As for your other points, it’s not like I really disagree. Mainstream media has a liberal slant and I don’t even believe in “objective truth” anyway. The nature of capitalism makes it impossible to entirely circumvent things like networking in the industry and appealing to consumers. Broad criticisms like that aren’t enough to discount the mainstream media; any kind of media outlet would have to struggle with these problems. It’s definitely a good idea to be critical of media and their biases, though. No form of media is without bias!

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