Dear Totalbiscuit…

Dear Totalbiscuit, we just had a small chat in twitter when I took exception to your claim that Tone Policing is “made up”. This was all in response to your lengthy blogpost on the recent brouhaha in the gaming sphere, first started with the Zoe Quinn “scandal” ands latter inflamed by Anita Sarkeesian daring to post another Tropes VS Women in Gaming video.

Once I provided one of your followers an accessible link to explaining what Tone Policing is from the geek feminism wiki, you decided to directly challenge me to provide “academic evidence” that Tone Arguments are actually a thing. Eventually you declared that you would only engage me further if I discussed your blogpost itself in a length counter-argument, which given your status as an internet celebrity and mine as a virtual nobody, was intimidating to say the least.

So I’m going to use this opportunity and attempt to do exactly that. Even though I’m not the most knowledgeable on the subject and in fact I feel woefully inadequate to fully express the issues as those actually oppressed. Only I’m not going to talk about Tone Arguments. Because you see, while your blog has some issues with gross false equivalence and many aspects of tone policing, the biggest flaws in it lie elsewhere.

They lie in intellectual laziness and the arrogance by which you wield it. So let’s talk about two-player games.

By far the biggest issue I have with your blogpost is how little research you did before you wrote it. In fact that seems to be a chronic problem with your approach to sensitive issues that have been affecting the industry you’re part of. Reading your original foray into these issues, it was obvious you were caught proudly unaware, but rather than do due diligence and explore what is the issue, you had your followers feed you the info they felt you needed to know, and then you wrote about that. As a result, in the midst of one of the most massive and brutal campaigns of harassment against a woman and feminist allies, the best you could find to talk about was corruption in games journalism and an alleged DMCA violation. Talk about having perspective!

And then today, came your secondary opinion piece on this issue, in which you start talking about some nebulous MRAs and SJWs who might or might not be caricatures and they’re really surely just as bad as each other. You promote “non-extremism” without explaining what exactly it is. You’re talking about “your perspective” on what bro-gamers probably think, about what feminists think. You assume and interpret what people on both sides of the debate are thinking and doing. But you don’t actually bother to go and find out by talking to them directly!

Dear Totalbiscuit, ignorance is not a virtue. If you want to discuss a very charged issue with the people  who are on various sides of the subject, you need to understand their actual positions. Do you know why those extremists labeled as “SJW” are even upset, or did you just dismiss them because they are? Are they as bad as MRAs1 because they use the same tactics (they don’t), or because MRAs are angry as well? Did you ever even bother to find out what an MRA is and what they stand for, or is the acronym’s meaning good enough? Did you investigate to see if any side has an actual merit, or did you just assume the answer lies in the middle?

And since we’re at this, let’s put something into perspective. The fact that one or both sides of this argument are angry, does not invalidate their position, or make them “extremists”. There are reasons why people will absolutely not engage with people from the other side and this doesn’t automatically make them “destructive elements”  as you’ll liken them in your post. Victims have no duty to be nice to their abusers. The marginalized do not owe respect to their oppressors. This is the essence of the Tone Argument by the way, and sorry, but I still couldn’t be bollocksed to go and academically prove to you  that it is not “made up”

But do not misunderstand me. You have every right to be in the middle of this subject. Feel free to partly agree with Anita and partly agree with the criticisms against her. But just because you find yourself in the middle doesn’t make everyone else an extreme. Your point of reference is not the anchor of the discussion. If you are willing to be as open minded as you claim, you need to engage with the primary sides of the argument and actually make up your mind if their reaction is warranted or not. And let me tell you, given your reaction when you caught a fraction of the fraction of the abuse that women in gaming are receiving, it looks to me that you’d be reacting far worse in their shoes.

Your laziness to actually take the time to explore these issues became infuriatingly obvious when we started talking about it on twitter. Clearly you have not actually bothered to read about feminism or understand some of its basic arguments, and yet a quick google search was all that you needed to declare that Tone Policing is not a thing. You expected everyone else to feed you the info (at an academically-sourced level no less) rather than making a rudimentary effort to educate yourself. Not for me or anyone else talking to you, but for your own damn benefit! You know, to be able to make an educated evaluation of the criticism levelled against you and either counter it, or fix the issue.

So this is the biggest flaw in your post. It’s lazily researched and has only the flimsiest of understanding of the dynamics of the situation. Tim VS  JonTron, Zoe VS 4chan, whatever. Everyone must be a little bit right and a little bit wrong, correct? No. It doesn’t work that way. If you want to express an opinion on each of these situations, have the moral fortitude to actually stick your head out and argue your case on the actual issues being debated. Figure out where you stand and tell us! You disagree with Anita’s videos? Why? You agree? Why? This is what the rest of us are doing, and why (women primarily) are taking flak for it. Show us that you actually understand the issues at hand and why people on either side are wrong, or not.

If you want to have the discussion, then have at it. But do not attempt to dismiss or minimize those who don’t have the privilege of a huge following to buffer and protect them from the internet hate machine. The marginalized would like nothing more than to have a polite discussion, but as the reaction to Anita’s very polite videos show, this is not going to happen any time soon. So please do not equate the defence of the abused with the offence of the abuser.

Rest assured, I do not hate you for your opinion. I do not even dislike you. I am disappointed because, as one bullied PC-gamer to another, dear Totalbiscuit, you’re in the wrong in this. Not because you’re moderate, but because you’re not putting the effort required to do intellectual justice to the issues at hand. Not because you don’t know feminist concepts, but because you don’t want to know. Because you prefer to talk about the form rather than the content.

  1. Note, I am not implying that everyone on one side is an MRA, merely making a point []

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