Internet Sexism, Global Warming, and the War on Terror

Through a confluence of events – namely Syl’s war on panties and a Kotaku article that points towards an abysmally counter-productive blog post – I want to talk about internet sexism for a moment. Namely, how not to do it. For example, taken from aforementioned counter-productive blog post:

So first up, is this a problem at all? Yes. Yes, this is a problem. The gaming community contains an incredible number of idiots. Go here and read this article about Saint’s Row 3 by Emma Boyes. It’s a good article, well reasoned and the complete opposite of anything aggressive or hectoring or provocative. It defends a game that has been attacked for sexism. It’s a great piece.

Then read the comments and it’s just a roll-call of complete fucking bullshit. Angry, shouty, stupid, illogical, emotional, insecure ranting, brought forth from the depths of the internet’s prick cabinet. If that exact same article had been written by a man, not a single one of those comments would have been written. That’s because they have absolutely nothing to do with anything that’s said in the article and, more importantly, because men don’t get handed this shit.

This is not how you should approach the problem of sexism over the internet. To be honest, even approaching the problem of sexism over the internet is probably dumb. Not because sexism is a cause unworthy of one’s concern, but because it is an unnecessarily Sisyphean struggle based on how you are outlining the issue.

The United States is currently “at war” with Terror, even after Drugs won the Drug War. If you set your objective as eliminating the Platonic Form that is Terror – and exclude the Terror you inflict on other nations – you set yourself up for failure. All terrorists have to do is succeed once; you must succeed 100% of the time, forever. Similarly, eliminating internet sexism can never succeed considering that the closer you reach the endpoint, the more effective a sexist troll becomes.

Is such thinking defeatist? No. To be defeatist is to set oneself up for defeat, i.e. unrealistic goals. Your goals should be informed by what you want to accomplish, not the other way around.

When Nils wrote about Global Warming, I knew how the comments would unfold before I even read the post. Why? Because the way the Green movement approaches the subject is dumb. We should not be talking about the earth warming, sea levels rising, and so on. It is entirely possible (no matter how unlikely) that mankind has nothing to do with the earth warming; every minute you spend trying to convince someone the Green movement isn’t an anti-business communist conspiracy is a minute farther away from what you want to accomplish. Instead, Green should be focusing on the power plants very obviously spewing toxic material in the air. Green should focus on more fuel-efficient cars for energy independence and because, hey, efficiency. And in the process of focusing on concrete, unassailable accomplishments, Green also achieves their Global Warming goals.

Incidentally, the above is why this nonsense:

@olly – If you believe what you just said and act accordingly then you are enabling those assholes. These people will always exist but it is still your personal job to tell them they are being assholes when they are being assholes.

We don’t stop trying to catch murderers just because there will always be murderers.

You are making excuses. Stop it.

…is worse than doing nothing, it’s counter-productive. Calling trolls assholes is exactly what they want. The more white knights that show up on internet message boards, the more embarrassing their (otherwise noble) behavior appears to everyone else, and the less likely anyone actually does stick up for women (etc) when it counts. And by the way, if you tell someone who gives to charity that they don’t give enough, you are liable to make them stop giving at all.

If you want to combat internet sexism, demand these companies moderate their own goddamn comment sections. Do you see? A well-moderated forum is just as free from (trolling) sexism as an utopian gender-equal society. Moreover, the actual issue was never sexism per se, but trolling itself. “Solving” sexism and racism and other -isms is fairly meaningless if everyone ends up trolling about how fat, stupid, or ugly someone is instead.

Sexism in the real world is a lot more difficult to solve, of course. But just like with everything above, the key is to leave ideology at the door, fix the plumbing, and then the owner will invite ideology in on their own. And even if they don’t, well, at least the plumbing got fixed.

Posted on December 15, 2011, in Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m not sure I like your part on global warming, even if it’s true.

    What I mean is: you’re basically saying to stop long-term planning and long-term vision, reasonable arguments, scientific data, and just switch to the short-term marketing approach: “POWER PLANT!! BLACK DUST IN YOUR KID’S LUNGS!!! CANCER CANCER!!! OMG OMG!!!!”.

    It’s probably a good idea and it would work fine, which makes things even more depressing……


    • The comments on Nils’ blog on global warming are *even more* depressing, IMO. People get so caught up with the Left-ness of the movement that fixing the entirely nonpartisan arsenic and mercury levels falls by the wayside.

      It might seem like short-term “think of the children!” marketing, but it really is not short-term at all. Fixing these factories fixes them (and every other factory like them) in the long-term, forever. It would be a lot better to enact broad, sweeping reform right away, of course. But when that fails, and it HAS failed, a more practical approach that actually accomplishes something is the most prudent move.

      Think about the whole solar industry. How much of a black eye has the Solyndra thing given the movement? Extremely embarrassing. Now, think about what’s going on elsewhere in the industry, when companies lease solar panels to customers for free. How can someone argue against 10% cheaper electricity bills at no cost to them? And once everyone has solar panels… well, Mission (mostly) Accomplished, right?


      • I admit I was not surprised at all by the comments. What I mean is that I already read enough comments on the subject that I know what to expect. As for many (all?) other subjects, it’s very easy to fall in the trap of not wanting to be scared and hiding the head in the sand, and after you’ve defined your position confirming it is always easy, since it’s always possible to find an excuse to dismiss the opposer’s position (there is always someone corrupt, some wrong data, etc.etc. …).

        I had never heard about Solyndra (unsurprising since I’m in Europe), but it seems like the standard run-of-the-mill technological industry scam, as there are lots of them. It becomes a “problem” only because the subject is politically polarized, if it were CPUs nobody outside the computer industry would have cared, probably.

        I can’t read the ny article you linked, it says I need to login…. BTW for solar energy production we would really need some organic cells to become competitive. The research in the field is extremely active, sooner or later someone will hit the right material, leading to a cost drop and widespread usage.


  2. re: Global Warming…

    my mom: it’s cooler in Idaho, which means global warming is a lie
    my bro-in-law: volcanoes caused global warming, nothing we do affects the weather
    my best internet friend: global warming wasn’t caused by man, and fixing things because of “human caused global warming”, would be a lie

    me: knowing that global warming means the ice caps and glaciers melt (we know this is happening), this makes the oceans change flows, thus affecting weather patterns, and this is why some areas are now cooler or wetter, and others warmer or dryer…

    So what can be done? You’re absolutely correct. Go after the X, so that we can make it cleaner for everyone. Don’t mention because of Global Warming, and maybe you will have a better chance at getting people behind it.


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