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Are there any limits to free speech?

That's a question I have been pondering a lot of late, as the storms of Puppygate swirl all around me. My own politics are liberal... which means I lean left, but not way over to the fringe left. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to dissent, all of that has always been central to my political attitudes. The freedom of the artist to create should be absolute. I have always been against censorship, silencing, McCarthyism. (The McCarthy period, a particular fascination of mine, was one of the blackest eras in American history. The Time of the Toad, Dalton Trumbo called it; Trumbo was one of its victims).

((It should be noted, since idiots always misunderstand this point, that freedom of speech does not mean you can say whatever you want wherever you want. If you want to proclaim that you are the new messiah or call for ethnic cleansing of Martians or even promote your new book, I think you should be able to stand on a soapbox in the park, or start your own website, and do just that. I don't think free speech requires me to let you into my living room to give your speech, or into my virtual living room here on the internet)).

Of late, I have begun to fear that the Time of the Toad has returned. Only this time, thanks to the internet, the Toad is much larger. This Toad is Tsathoggua, for all you Lovecraft fans out there. And this toad is so huge and monstrous and venomous, and seems to have so many friends and fans and worshippers, that it has begun to shake even my long-held fervent belief in the sanctity of free speech... and the basic decency of human beings.

I am talking, of course, about the Toad of Hatespeech.

I am not a gamer, and I have not closely followed GamerGate. Nor do I care to get embroiled in it now. I don't care who slept with whom, or whether some reviews were biased... but I do care that some of the participants, especially women, received death threats and rape threats from anonymous toads on the internet. I have never met Zoe Quinn or Anita Sarkeesian or Brianna Wu, and I don't know that I would agree with them on the issues at the heart of GamerGate, but it does not matter. Threats have no place in civilized discourse, and neither do slurs like "cunt" and "slut" and "whore." Oh, yes, I am aware that some say these women fabricated the threats against them. Bullshit. I believe they did indeed receive such threats... for the simple reason that friends of mine, women I DO know, and love, and respect, have received similar threatening and demeaning emails whenever they have dared to express an opinion online.

And now there's Puppygate, and I have been posting about that, and in the course of which I have had some exchanges with Larry Correia, the founder of Sad Puppies, and Brad Torgensen, who ran the SP3 slate. And both of them tell similar tales: of anonymous phone calls, libel and slander, vicious emails, death threats... death threats! All of these, presumably, coming from "my side" of fandom, those who oppose the Puppies. Do I believe them? I don't want to believe them. I would rather cling to the belief that my side is better than that. That's hard to do these days, As strongly as I disagree with Torgensen and Correia about the Hugo Awards, and probably a hundred other issues, I have no reason to think them liars. I think they are telling the truth, just as Quinn and Sarkeesian and Wu were. On the internet, it seems, abuse trumps debate every time.

Death threats. Really? Really???

It really makes me wonder. Were there always so many toads out there, so many slimy squirming venomous cowards lurking in their parents' basements? Or did the internet somehow just bring them into being overnight, these children of Tsathoggua?

I really don't know, but it makes me despair. Is this what we are as a country, as a people? When we disagree, is it really necessary to spit and snap at each other, to throw around insults and obscenities, to make death threads, rape threats? Can't we just debate the issues?

I have lots of problems with this year's Hugo ballot, as I have made crystal clear in the posts below. But there is one nomination that I wholeheartedly applaud... the only suggestion from my own "recommended" list (one novel, two movies, some TV shows, six artists, and Laura):

LAURA J. MIXON made the shortlist for Best Fan Writer. Here's why:




I am not going to talk about Requires Hate here. I do not have to. Laura Mixon has said everything that needs saying. I cannot overemphasize how much I admire her courage, her diligence, her compassion, her integrity. She did something that needed doing, something no one else was willing to tackle for fear that they too might be targeted. I will also say, as a one-time journalist with a j-school master's, that this is investigative journalism the way it ought to be practiced: thoroughly researched, well sourced, based on verified facts, everything checked and double-checked and backed up by first-hand testimony.

And here's the thing: Laura Mixon is a "Social Justice Warrior" if ever there was one. Unlike me, she might even accept that label. She cares about social justice. She hates sexism, racism, misogyny. She wants our field to be more inclusive. She has fought her own battles, as an engineer writing hard SF, and being told that women could not write hard SF. Laura is well to the left of me. She's also a kinder, gentler, and more forgiving person than I am. And yet she did this, devoted months to it, uncounted amounts of efforts... because someone had to, because lives and careers were being ruined, because people were being hurt.

I hope she gets a Hugo. For herself, and for all of Hate's victims.

There's something else that needs to be said here. Requires Hate did not flourish all alone. Had she been a lone voice crying in the wilderness, ignored and shunned, she could not possibly have done the damage that she did. She had enablers. Allies. Others who shared her goals and values to a greater or lesser extent, and for that reason were willing to cheer her on, or at least turn a blind eye when she called for writers to be burned alive, or raped by dogs, or have acid thrown in their faces. I am not going to name names here, though I could. If any of you are reading this, you know who you are. Some of you even called for Requires Hate to be nominated for a Hugo as Best Fan Writer... the very award Laura is now in contention for (irony is a bitch). Instead of speaking up for the victims, you wanted to give an award to the person attacking them. You should be ashamed, every one of you.

Which brings me back to Puppygate... and, at long last, to the Rabid Puppies.

Only Nixon could go to China. If a liberal Democrat had done it, the Republicans would have attacked him mercilessly. Yet it had to be done, and the world is better for it.

Only a so-called "Social Justice Warrior" could expose Requires Hate. If a conservative white male had done it, liberals and feminists might have rallied to her defense (sad to say).

I do believe that there are decent, honest, well-intentioned conservatives in our field, many of whom are deeply involved in the Sad Puppies movement. Brad Torgensen and Larry Correia among them; my disagreements with them so far have been on the issues, but I don't believe that they are racists, sexists, misogynists, bigots, or haters. But I do have a question for you:

When are you going to do something about Vox Day?

Make no mistake. Vox Day and Requires Hate are twins. Mirror images of one another. The Toad of the West, the Toad of East, each of them spewing forth the venom of hatred and violence, poisoning any attempt at honest dialogue. Requires Hate had her acolytes and enablers, and so does Vox Day, and it is from those toads that they derive their power.

Liberals and moderates and "SJWs" can denounce Day all they want, and it only serves to generate more hate, more division, more death threats. His followers will just shrug that off. But if some respected figure from the right were to speak up, well, maybe someone would listen. But do we have a conservative in the house with the courage and integrity of Laura Mixon, someone honest enough and brave enough to denounce the excesses of their "own side?"

I hope so.

That's what we need. Fandom, our country, our world. There will always be haters, that's part of human nature. There will always be toads. But we do not need to tolerate them. Yes, I do believe in free speech, we should all be free to say whatever we want... but not without consequences. And if your free speech is hatespeech, if you want to exercise your freedom by denouncing black people as savages, suggesting that gays should be raped straight, or calling down rape and acid attacks on writers whose books displeased you, you should not be surprised when you are shunned, abandoned, and denounced by all decent human beings.

I want to be a part of a culture that has NO tolerance for death threats, rape threats, or hatespeech. We are better than that.

Aren't we?


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Apr. 11th, 2015 09:10 pm (UTC)
Excellently put, sir - as a woman in SF fandom, we need this kind of reasoned statement. Thank you.
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:12 pm (UTC)
Amen. I would say more but you've already said it.
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:12 pm (UTC)
we are better
We are better then death threats I think but really death threats do people really care that much? I am truly worried about what our society is becoming
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:18 pm (UTC)
Re: we are better
Why should death threats not be taken seriously any time they're made? It shouldn't matter if the person making them is just trying to screw with someone. There's no justification to take it that far.
Re: we are better - JonJProctor - Apr. 11th, 2015 09:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: we are better - flashfire - Apr. 11th, 2015 10:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: we are better - mrbakunda - Apr. 12th, 2015 01:37 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: we are better - baackdragon - Apr. 11th, 2015 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: we are better - chickenoverlord - Apr. 12th, 2015 05:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: we are better - baackdragon - Apr. 11th, 2015 10:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: we are better - luke_jaywalker - Apr. 12th, 2015 06:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:18 pm (UTC)
I want to be a part of a culture that has NO tolerance for death threats, rape threats, or hatespeech. We are better than that.

Aren't we?

I'd love to believe this, but, well... GIFT has pretty well proven the opposite. I was chatting recently with a young woman about Internet mores; she flat-out called me a liar when I mentioned that I've never sent anon hate (if you're going to be a douchebag, at least be honest and open about it) or dick pics. That's what we've come to: sociopathic behaviour has become the norm.
(no subject) - ardversen - Apr. 12th, 2015 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:19 pm (UTC)
Don't waste your time with this shit, George. It can only drag you down. Hate isn't going anywhere. Ever. You could be out in the Sun with a beverage harnessing positivity. Life's short be happy.
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:19 pm (UTC)
Well said.
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:26 pm (UTC)
Bears repeating:

1 - Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise. - Alexander Pope

2 - Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them. - Aristotle

Apr. 11th, 2015 09:44 pm (UTC)
In Canada we don't have carte blanche freedom of speech and I completely respect the limits. People can, and have been, criminally charged for expressions of hate (one fellow was running a white supremacist website if I recall).

Free speech is protected in Canada, but our judiciary can override that right using s.1 of our constitution (which basically is a catch-all clause which allows our supreme court to say "technically this is allowed, but it's super messed up and only causes harm so NOPE").

Food for thought America?
Apr. 11th, 2015 11:17 pm (UTC)
I like our system better, actually. I don't think the powers of the state should be involved in determining what is or is not acceptable to say. I think that's a really dangerous road to go down.

So I believe in *social* consequences for abhorrent speech, not legal ones. I think the white-supremacists should be "allowed" to run their websites, in the sense that SWAT teams are not going to come beat in their doors and they are not going to be thrown in jail.

However, I also don't think that we are compelled to "tolerate" abhorrent speech. There are a number of social consequences that are fully appropriate in these cases, for instance:

* I support the right of private ISPs to refuse service to those publishing hate.

* I support the right of potential employers to refuse to hire those publishing hate, on the grounds that they do not want to be represented by bigots and do not feel that bigotry is aligned with their corporate values.

* I support the right of customers to choose not to do business with bigots, OR with publishers and employers of bigots.

* I support the right of message board moderators and other online forums to delete hate speech from their platforms. Just because I have the right to say what I want doesn't mean YOU are compelled to hand me your megaphone.

A right to free speech doesn't mean that bigots are immune from criticism and consequence. It just means that the powers of the State will never be used to silence unpopular views.
partially agree - davidlang - Apr. 12th, 2015 12:25 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - scarybaldguy - Apr. 12th, 2015 12:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - luke_jaywalker - Apr. 12th, 2015 06:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jessiedwheelie - Apr. 13th, 2015 04:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2015 09:48 pm (UTC)
You're More Optimistic Than I Am
You're more optimistic than I am, Mr. Martin. John C. Wright is a man who is Vox Day's brother in terms of right-wing hate speech: he has called LGBT people abominations, and termites that need to be exterminated-- the latter merely in response to two girls holding hands on Legends of Korra. John C. Wright was actually a nominee on Brad Torgersen's slate.

It seems as though Mr. Torgersen and Mr. Correia are quite happy to lay down with bigots if it gives them the power they're looking for. Mr. Wright's place in THREE slots for Best Novella, and Mr. Day's place on both editors' lists, suggests the Rabid Puppies had a lot to do with the success of the Sad Puppies-- and I hope I'm proven wrong, but I suspect the Sad Puppies ringleaders won't condemn Vox Day because they need the strength of their far right wing, like a mainstream Republican needs the strength of the Tea Party.

Moreover, conservatives seem content to allow hate speech to thrive-- as long as it's not directed at them. In fact, even mild critiques directed at them are seen as intolerable; compare their hate for John Scalzi (who suggested that white guys have a bit of extra privilege in life) and Tempest Bradford (who suggested not reading straight white guys for a while) to their tolerance and defense of Vox Day, who has said far, far more odious things-- just not against them.

For the Sad Puppies/Gamergate-type folk, it seems as though

hate speech and insults = defensible criticism
rationally written critique = outrageous persecution

It's Opposite Day in Right Wing land, and it has been for a while. I hope I'm wrong, but I suspect your plea will fall on deaf ears.
Apr. 11th, 2015 11:50 pm (UTC)
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am
This really is an excellent example of what SP and other conservatives are fighting against. Re-read your post. Assertion, assertion, assertion, all ascribed to "those right wingers". Those people. Them.

"They" seem content to allow hate speech to thrive. "They" can't take criticism. "They" are the rightful targets of your righteous disdain.

Guess what? Conservatives do not all share a monolithic set of beliefs. Yes, there are racists and intolerant people. There are those who practice hate based on religious principles. But there are also people who donate their time and money to good causes. People who truly care about others. People that are deeply religious, but take the words of Jesus very seriously (honor the Lord and treat others as you would be treated).

If we truly can move forward as a civilization, we all need to stop the stereotypical thinking. This goes for all sides.
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - thewrittenpath - Apr. 12th, 2015 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - joshmst - Apr. 12th, 2015 05:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - langkard - Apr. 12th, 2015 02:36 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - agaborn - Apr. 12th, 2015 04:03 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - Colum Paget - Apr. 11th, 2015 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - thewrittenpath - Apr. 12th, 2015 12:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - hannibaladporta - Apr. 12th, 2015 05:14 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - thewrittenpath - Apr. 12th, 2015 06:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - anisosynchronic - Apr. 12th, 2015 02:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - kip_w - Apr. 12th, 2015 03:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - agaborn - Apr. 12th, 2015 04:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - Colum Paget - Apr. 12th, 2015 10:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - Colum Paget - Apr. 12th, 2015 10:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - thewrittenpath - Apr. 12th, 2015 08:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - renepavan - Apr. 12th, 2015 01:11 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: You're More Optimistic Than I Am - Alvaro Garces - Apr. 12th, 2015 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
John C. Wright's actual opinions - jake_freivald - Apr. 12th, 2015 04:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
John C. Wright's actual opinions - jake_freivald - Apr. 12th, 2015 04:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: John C. Wright's actual opinions - grrm - Apr. 12th, 2015 07:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:01 pm (UTC)
It may be a matter of time. The developed world (in most places) is lurching away from indoctrinated aggression and violence - perhaps suggesting a trend that may spill over onto the internet. Though we cannot rest on our laurels and say "time'll sort it out," the trends exist nonetheless. Hopefully the internet doesn't remain an outlet for violence that some seem to think it is.

Both sides of the fence in Puppgate have gone out of control - but this might be the cost of internet anonymity. People can say anything without ramification...and that's why psychologically-dubious people make death threats.
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:02 pm (UTC)
those last few lines, made me cry. I'm a sentimental sap and I appreciate those, like yourself, who care and can articulate what I feel in my heart.
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:05 pm (UTC)
I am still trying to figure out why people are making death threats over a few awards this truly baffles me
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
Death threats are illegal. That's not exactly free speech in this specific case.

As someone who used the Gamergate hashtag to vent about the actions of games' media I wish some of the anonymous idiots who find it amusing to threaten people would be caught by the proper authorities. As do most people.

I would just like to see the discrimination stop here as well. It is not only the Zoe Quinns and Anita Sarkeesians who've had nasty things said about them. Dozens of people on the "other side" have been directly threatened, doxxed, and even harassed in real life by people trying to get them fired from their jobs by making a fuss to their employers with wild and frivolous accusations.

But these people are invisible. The media will never write a about them, there will never be TV programs dedicated to their experiences with bombastic headlines. Because they are on the "wrong" side with the "wrong" opinions and the "wrong" politics.
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:34 pm (UTC)
The relative visibility and reactions to who gets death threats are indeed one issue.

Tied with that is also how various people react to death threats.
You can dismiss them as not credible, or go to the police to make a report, or apparently you can go on twitter and shout about them while handing out patreon links.

I would love for both sides to police their own extreme outliers, instead of decrying the other sides missteps, but human nature being what it is makes this unlikely.

Lastly, I do want to point out that Larry Correia, Brad Torgesen and Sarah Hoyt have all already spoken on the matter of Vox Day and certainly don't consider themselves in league with him or have any influence over his actions or any responsibility for them.

More dealing with individuals and less dealing in labels would do all sides a world of good.

(no subject) - redheadedfemme - Apr. 12th, 2015 03:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
Less than half the story
What the media fails to report is that harassment in the GamerGate controversy went both ways, and one gamergate was harassed in real life because she dared wear colours that expressed her support of the movement
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:50 pm (UTC)
George, you should be aware that Gamergate loves to make false equivalencies about harassment. Yes, some individuals who oppose Gamergate have said and done horrible things, and some third-party trolls have antagonized both sides. But hundreds of people mocked Brianna Wu as her dog was dying, and accused her of killing it on purpose, and accused her of making it up for sympathy. They went so far as to create a Twitter account for her dying dog and tweet at her from it. One of their figureheads, Milo Yiannopolous, who is still followed and quoted by thousands of Gaters, said he would gladly swallow poison if he were her dog. (He wrote about the Hugos for Breitbart, you may recall.)

These comments came in for twelve hours straight, and were favorited and retweeted hundreds of times by Gamergaters. This is one example of many; it happens to be the example that made me realize Gamergate was irredeemable, but you can take your pick. A few anti-Gamergaters have done terrible things, yes, but they have not benefited from the mob reinforcement that characterizes Gamergate.

NOTE: I am not going to respond to pro-Gamergate replies to this comment, or post any more about Gamergate here. I've wasted too many hours conversing with them over the last eight months, to no benefit.
(no subject) - grrm - Apr. 11th, 2015 11:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
The Lindbergh kidnapping had over 200 false confessions. The Black Dahlia murder had dozens that we know of. These are the products of a narrow range of personality disorders of which there are many other types.

It is estimated that maybe as many as 10% of human beings are mentally ill with that bottom 3-5% being in the severe, kind of scary category.

The Internet simply exposes us to large numbers of anonymous people. Certain topics will of course be lightning rod issues and attract your every day bigot, troll, racist (or simple jerks) in greater or lesser numbers. But for every hundred responses by a hundred random individuals no matter what the topic, a handful of them have the very real potential to be quite shocking to the rest of us -simply because a solid 4% of human beings are severely mentally ill.

Hate speech is a terrible thing, but anyone that deals with large amounts of anonymous input needs to expect a certain baseline of shocking or disturbing comments. I would bet that GRRM would quickly attest that 4 out of 100 of the comments he receives easily fall into this category.

This is not to minimize the heinousness of hate speech, my point is simply that the Internet exposes us all to the widest range of human condition possible. More than any point in our history. For better or worse, mental illness in all its forms are going to be a significant part of that.
Apr. 11th, 2015 10:21 pm (UTC)
I get death threats too, yes. Not many, but a few. One guy just send me a battered paperback copy of Stephen King's MISERY.

No rape threats, however. That seems solely for women and gays.
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