Confused about what an Intellectual Turing Test is? Click here! Please read, then vote at the end of the post. Feel free to speculate in the comment section about this person’s identity!
By popular demand, polls now include an option to indicate your pro-SJ or anti-SJ alignment. Those who do not consider themselves pro-SJ or anti-SJ should either vote with the one they’re closest to or alternate. (Sorry, guys, I’ve dealt with the LW survey results, I know you abuse the right to be special snowflakes.)
1. What discourse norms do you tend to follow? Why? Do you think everyone else should follow them, and why?
The discourse norms I aim to follow balance several different forms of respect – respect for other people as individuals, respect for other opinions, respect for underprivileged groups, and respect for the truth. All of these are important, and none of them override the others in every circumstance.
Respect for other people as individuals means treating them with courtesy, regardless of disagreements. This is important for maintaining a polite, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Spaces which lack this norm tend to become dominated by the loudest, most aggressive voices and drive people away. However, when this norm is raised above all others, it can be used to silence those experiencing genuine anger and injustice – women and minorities are often dismissed for being insufficiently polite.
Respect for other opinions is often referred to as freedom of speech. It means not silencing people simply because they hold an opinion you disagree with. This norm is important for maintaining an open dialogue and openness to criticism. Spaces which fail to follow this norm tend to become stifled by consensus and group-think. However, not all opinions need be permitted in all spaces. Subaltern groups – who are constantly subject to mainstream opinions which question their value or existence – should be able to create spaces where they do not have to be exposed to opinions they find distressing, and use those spaces to rest, retreat, and develop strategies and ideas without constantly refighting the same battles. In addition, some opinions are sufficiently abhorrent that they should be denied legitimacy. Institutions such as universities and media outlets should not be obligated to provide a platform for racist, homophobic, misogynist or transphobic views, and the people that support those institutions (students and customers) should be able to protest and boycott them.
Respect for the truth means arguing in good faith, avoiding lies, and supporting positions with evidence. This is important because misinformation and deliberate lies undermine the trust necessary for effective communication, and unwillingness to ground positions in evidence makes rational argument or decision making impossible. However, when this norm is overvalued and certain kinds of evidence privileged over others, it can be used to silence opponents while retaining the appearance of objectivity. For example, dismissing the lived experiences of subaltern groups while demanding excessive or inappropriate standards of empirical evidence for opposing arguments.
Respect for underprivileged groups means recognising that some groups are subject to systematic discrimination and silencing. For example, men tend to talk more than women but believe women are dominating the conversation when they have equal time. Consequently, male feminists have an obligation to support women when they speak and avoid monopolising the conversation – an obligation which does not need to be reciprocated. People from privileged groups should yield the floor to those less privileged where possible. When speaking on a specific topic – trans rights for instance, or racism – those directly effected should be given priority. When this norm is not followed, underprivileged or minority groups tend to be suppressed by the prioritisation of other speech norms – demands for politeness, balance, free speech or particular forms of evidence can all be used to erase their perspective.
Because all of these norms are important and they sometimes conflict with one another, it is necessary to use good judgement to understand what to say in a given situation. The appropriate balance between these norms varies depending on the nature of the space they are being applied to and the nature of the entity which enforces them. I will briefly lay out some possible spheres and what I consider the appropriate norms within them.
State Sphere: The state supplies the overarching rules for debate in society because it holds a monopoly on force and can silence speech through legislation and active censorship. As a consequence, the state should prioritise respect for a diversity of opinions. However, it is appropriate to use the power of the state to silence certain kinds of speech – slander (which falls under respect for the truth), incitement to violence, and harassment or abuse.
Public Sphere: The public sphere is where members of a society engage in political and social discussions about the nature and future of their shared world. In this arena it is important to balance all norms as evenly as possible so as to maximise the ability of every person to participate. This sphere is also the least subject to any form of control, so it is most incumbent on those who speak to consider whether their speech conforms to the principles.
Institutional Sphere: This is the domain of corporate (not necessarily private) entities such as schools and universities, government bureaucracies, and actual corporations. These institutions can have more restrictive rules governing allowable speech, and their first priority is usually the harmonious cooperation of their students or employees, and public relations. This means respect for individuals takes priority over respect for differing opinions. However, it is important that these organisations be aware of power dynamics which can be harmful to women or minorities within their organisation, so heightened respect for subaltern groups is appropriate.
Social Sphere: This is the space of non-political social interaction. In the social sphere, which involves frequent interaction with strangers, respect for others as individuals is paramount. However, attention must be paid to intentional and unintentional microaggressions which are often inflicted on members of subaltern groups in the process of routine social interaction – for example misgendering transgender people, asking women to smile, or asking visible minorities where they are from.
Counterpublic: Counterpublics are places for subaltern groups gather, retreat and organise. They are often referred to as safe spaces. In a counterpublic, the overriding priority should be the subaltern group which the space serves. Anger and generalisations about the dominant group are more acceptable here than elsewhere, and it is unnecessary to give a fair hearing to opinions which undermine the basic assumptions of the safe space. Counterpublics are necessary, but it is important not to let free expressions of anger degenerate into toxicity and domination by a clique.
2. What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?
The underlying basis of my ideology is the recognition of entrenched, unjust power structures and the desire to dismantle them. The interlinked systems of race, class, gender, heteronormativity and ableism create hierarchies everywhere we turn and create a society characterised by domination and violence. It is our duty to dismantle these systems, to liberate ourselves and our fellow human beings (and ultimately animals as well).
Since the enlightenment progress has been made in recognising and dismantling these power structures and achieving formal legal equality, but they are too entrenched to be eliminated simply getting rid of explicitly discriminatory laws and hoping for the best. The myth of the level playing field only serves to disguise the reality of privilege. Hierarchies of domination and exploitation permeate our culture, our language and our social organisation. In order to dismantle them we must be critical of the state, but also of the way we speak, the media we consume, and the way we conduct ourselves. This, to me, is the essence of ‘social justice’.
If I could be convinced that these systematic injustices didn’t exist, or that they were changing on their own without the need for active criticism, or that attempts to change them were doing more harm than good, I would stop fighting for social justice.
3. Explain Gamergate.
Gamergate is a reactionary social movement opposed to the increasing visibility of subaltern groups in geek culture. Ostensibly focused on collusion between game developers and journalists, the rhetoric and targets of the movement betray it’s true nature.
Although the term was coined by Adam Baldwin to refer to the ‘Quinnspiracy’ surrounding Zoe Quinn and her alleged trading of sexual favours for favourable reviews, the movement really began in the opposition to Anita Sarkeesian’s ‘Tropes Against Women’ kickstarter., which aimed to apply cultural criticism to videogames in the same way it has been applied to other forms of media. Many of the same people who opposed Sarkeesian are at the center of Gamergate, and the movement finds it almost impossible not to target her.
There are three general groups within Gamergate as it exists now: Unreflective reactionaries and the alt-right. Unreflective reactionaries are the largest group. Mostly white men, they sense that their identity as gamers is somehow threatened but they do not have a detailed ideology to explain why. They sense that they are being scolded and looked down on by feminist critics and game journalists and are uncomfortable that games in styles they dislike (artsy indies, twine games and walking simulators for example) are being praised by those critics while games they do like are criticised for thing that seem unimportant or illusionary. In order to rationalise this discomfort they frame their distaste as a principled ethical opposition to collusion between games developers and games journalists, but when pressed or within the gamergate bubble on reddit or 8chan they reveal that the real target of their ire is feminism – this is also apparent in their choice of targets (Zoey Quin, Randi Harper, Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian and Leigh Alexander). They are not necessarily malicious or particularly right-wing and they might identify as left leaning or even feminist (although their favourite feminist is usually Christina Hoff Summers)
The second group, the alt-right, are only interested in games and gaming incidentally. Their aim is to use Gamergaters as footsoldiers in a culture war. They are fond of elaborate theories linking games developers and critics to the Frankfurt School and the conspiracy of international Jewry to undermine western civilisation. Their leaders include Milo Yiannopoulis and Weev (Andrew Auernheimer) and they like to hang around /pol on 4chan.