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On The Sad Parents of #Gamergate

@Mike Hatley@facebook 'Trying to paint "gamers" as a problem when its not only not the source, but not even a concentration is beyond absurd.'

Except, no one is actually trying to paint gamers in general as a problem. Rather, critics are saying the problem is the small subset of gamers who are really into Gamergate and claim it's just about journalistic ethics in general, when in practice they spend nearly all of their time complaining about specific cases where they feel a woman is getting unfair attention/respect (whether a female game designer or a female journalist talking about sexist narratives in a lot of games), and hardly any time complaining about all kinds of obvious journalistic ethics breaches that don't revolve around the notion of "ladies are getting unfair breaks"! Ethics breaches like big video game companies giving free pre-release copies of games to youtube viewers if they promised to give a positive review, or gaming "journalists" appearing at video game company conferences to help hype games that haven't even been released yet. Examples like this are given in the following two articles on Gamergate, which I would suggest checking out if you want to see some informed criticism of the movement from people who are gamers themselves: deadspin.com/the-future-of-the-culture-wars-is-here-and-its-gamerga-1646145844 and badassdigest.com/2014/10/15/why-gamergate-already-lost/

Posted on October 19, 2014 at 3:01 pm 0

On Where Should We Bury the Dead Racist Literary Giants?

@Noah Berlatsky@facebook Also, I think anyone who's ever had a really cosmic bad trip on hallucinogens can probably appreciate that there are forms of "cosmic horror" that aren't rooted in racism--for a nice essay on the sort of "proto-psychedelic", "visionary" element in Lovecraft, check out the series of posts at 2012diaries.blogspot.com/2013/05/towards-visionary-antipodes-of-human.html and 2012diaries.blogspot.com/2013/08/towards-visionary-antipodes-of-human.html and 2012diaries.blogspot.com/2014/02/akashic-record-hp-lovecraft-psychedelia.html

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 5:07 pm 0

On Where Should We Bury the Dead Racist Literary Giants?

@Noah Berlatsky@facebook - Just because you can point to one example of a story about human inconsequentiality that isn't horrifying, that isn't really strong evidence that the horror in Lovecraft's stories is just a function of racism. As a counter-example, I would point to the novel "Blindsight" by Peter Watts, which is all about the horror of a universe where human consciousness and its accompanying sense of meaning proves to be something of an evolutionary blind alley, fated to be supplanted by alien mentalities that behave in an "intelligent" fashion but lack our particular human form of consciousness.

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 5:03 pm 0

On Where Should We Bury the Dead Racist Literary Giants?

@Noah Berlatsky@facebook - "when he comes forth it is out of that distant dentist island where the evil dentists worship him with their foul instruments."

But Cthulhu doesn't come out of any island where he's worshipped by cultists, he comes out of island whose weird architecture was evidently built by alien hands, which showed no sign of ever being inhabited by humans, and which had remained underneath the ocean until rising above the waters recently (because 'the stars were right', not because of anything his cultists did). And note that Lovecraft had a real-life phobia about seafood and undersea organisms; the horror of Cthulhu's appearance (not to mention the appearance of the fish-people in Shadow Over Innsmouth, or the horror in his early story 'Dagon' which also featured an island with mysterious cyclopean ruins) seems to draw on this phobia rather than on his xenophobic phobias.

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 4:34 pm 0

On Where Should We Bury the Dead Racist Literary Giants?

@Noah Berlatsky@facebook - "I would say that fears of degeneration, pretty clearly linked to eugenics discourses, are quite central to both Mountains of Madness and the Colour out of Space"

I think it's a stretch to say that the threat in Colour out of Space, which seems more like a disease (or some other form of 'fecund horror', to use a term from an excellent essay you wrote a while ago) than a sentient Other, is "pretty clearly linked to eugenics discourses"--can you point to any specific aspects of the story that suggest such a link? And even though Mountains of Madness has a representation of the "horrifying Other" in the form of the shoggoths, it also has a representation of the civilized/"good" Other ('good' by Lovecraftian standards, despite the human dissections) in the form of the Old Ones, of whom the narrator says:

'poor Old Ones! Scientists to the last - what had they done that we would not have done in their place? God, what intelligence and persistence! What a facing of the incredible, just as those carven kinsmen and forbears had faced things only a little less incredible! Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn - whatever they had been, they were men!'

It seems overly reductive to take Lovecraft's most horrifying "Others", including the ones in "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" and suppose they must have been simple veiled metaphors for his feelings about all non-white people, as opposed to taking certain paranoid feelings he had about foreigners and intentionally turning them up to 11 (in kind of the same way that Ronald Moore may have been intentionally exaggerating the danger and implacability of real-world extremists to create his Cylons, as a sort of thought-experiment). Keep in mind that although Lovecraft was a pretty straightforward white supremacist in his earlier years, by the 1930s he had moderated his racism in many ways, suggesting that most non-"Nordic" races and cultures were not really inferior, just that each culture would be happier living in relative isolation. As he said in a 1934 letter which can be read on his wikiquote page:

'Only an ignorant dolt would attempt to call a Chinese gentleman—heir to one of the greatest artistic & philosophic traditions in the world—an "inferior" of any sort . . . & yet there are potent reasons, based on wide physical, mental, & cultural differences, why great numbers of the Chinese ought not to mix into the Caucasian fabric, or vice versa. It is not that one race is any better than any other, but that their whole respective heritages are so antipodal as to make harmonious adjustment impossible ... As a matter of fact, most of the psychological race-differences which strike us so prominently are cultural rather than biological. If one could take a Japanese infant, alter his features to the Anglo-Saxon type through plastic surgery, & place him with an American family in Boston for rearing—without telling him that he is not an American—the chances are that in 20 years the result would be a typical American youth with very few instincts to distinguish him from his pure Nordic college-mates. The same is true of other superior alien races including the Jew—although the Nazis persist in acting on a false biological conception.'

Unfortunately he persisted in thinking black people really were biologically inferior, but S.T. Joshi argues that this was not purely a matter of emotional prejudice (though that was obviously a strong element) but also a matter of his buying into scientific ideas which were very mainstream in his day, but have since been discredited.

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 4:19 pm 0

On Memes and Misogynoir

@nicknboots –it's a little weird for you to advocate "critical engagement with this text" while at the same time taking the title so literally that you think there's the slightest possibility the article is attacking "all memes" (including, say, all LOLcats) as opposed to the particular types discussed. Did you actually think this was a real possibility after reading the article, or are you just speaking out fo concern that others will interpret it that way? Also, while it's true that "laughing at people black and white who do hilarious things on the news is not inherently racist or forcing a performance", do you think the standards for what kind of comments are found "hilarious" by the internet are the same for white and black people? If a white woman used some analogous slightly out-of-place casual phrase to describe her reaction to her building filling with smoke, like "I so don't need this right now" or something, I doubt it would have been as widely perceived as hilarious and meme-worthy (and probably even less so if it was a white man).

Posted on September 2, 2014 at 1:01 am 1

On Ask Polly: Help, I'm The Loneliest Person In The World!

@Lcanon She didn't say she can't communicate socially in general though, most likely she can with the "2-3 close friends" she mentioned. I'm pretty terrible at making small talk with strangers myself, but I have good relationships with a few friends and my long-term girlfriend (and we live together), and I don't think my problem with small talk is that I "don't know enough about human communication" (there's a big difference between being able to passively understand the nuances of a conversation and being able to contribute to it; think of someone who has a good appreciation for music but can't play or sing at all).

Posted on November 6, 2013 at 7:52 pm 0

On I'm Gonna Take A Pass On Russell Brand's Bloody Revolution

This whole post seems to be attacking a weird strawman version of Russell Brand who wants an "ideologically pure society", but that doesn't really come through in the interview at all. I'm sure Brand would be fine with the existence of a vocal minority of people who don't believe in cutting carbon emissions, say, as long as the actual laws in place ensured that emissions would in fact be cut (and similarly for whatever other policies he would favor).

Posted on October 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm 1

On Critics Who Explain Things

@Jeremy Mesiano-Crookston But ironic quote marks are also condescending quote marks, as in, "women's fiction, as if". For example, if I were to say 'Well, if we're talking "accuracy"' to you, it would mean I was condescending to you, yes? This is a convention widely understood. It's disingenuous of you to decide he didn't mean it that way in this contest. Why not just say women's fiction, no quote marks?

One possible way of interpreting that line is that Giraldi was using the ironic/condescending quote marks because he was trying to mock the concept of "women's fiction" as a separate genre, not mocking the concept that women can write quality fiction. If that's the case, he was being condescending to people who un-ironically use the term "women's fiction", not to women fiction-writers. You could make the argument that the term ghettoizes female authors or encourages us to think that women as a group are "naturally" drawn to read and write certain specific kinds of fiction.

Posted on August 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm 0

On A Tale Of Two Tennis Shirts

@sigerson Maybe it was supposed to be this? (edits in italics)

"There are a lot of brand loyalists like Paul, and the continued popularity of Fred Perry shirts among the likes of contemporary skinheads, from “The Modfather” Paul Weller to the Pitchfork-approved Danish hardcore band Iceage, is an idiosyncratic factoid that Malcolm Gladwell could write a New Yorker article about."

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 11:50 am 0