The equivocation of ‘censorship’

There is a common discussion that I see popping up whenever activists succeed in shutting down an event from some sort of reactionary, recent example being the cancelling of talk by notorious right-wing troll Milo Yannopoulos.

Among other arguments on the morality of events, I see people bringing up the idea that shutting down such events is censorship. As soon as this happens, usually an argument starts on whether it really is such. One side claiming that it is not because it’s not a state actor that is suppressing free speech, while the other is claiming that in the absolute technical terms, it totally is:

the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.
“the regulation imposes censorship on all media”

However what seems to me is happening is rather some kind of equivocation. An equivocation in fact, between two meanings which on a word that don’t appear to be formalized yet as distinct in dictionaries.

Specifically, it there’s the popular concept of censorship which takes the above definition and adds “by state actors” in the end. Not only that, but more often than not, one will imagine also brutality involved and 1984-like images might come to mind. As a concept, this is the one that makes people icky.  In fact, this is the concept one attempts to invoke when they use it as the basis of the argument: “But it’s censorship!”

What is happening specifically is that all the unwritten baggage of “censorship”- which do not belong to its official definition but are attached to it anyway due to many years or red scare propaganda – are being used to undermine an act which does not share those characteristics at all!

The actual “censorship” currently happening, let’s call it censorship-lite for reference, might be technically accurate as a term to describe the effect, but if seen without relying on defining it, is quite a mild effect. In the case above it effectively involved people exerting peer (or sometimes market) pressure on some venues to not provide a platform to known reactionaries.

One would think, if such censorship-lite is not a big deal, why does it keep coming up from such valiant defenders of free speech (/s)? There is a further unspoken argument being packed in the accusations of censorship, in the form of the slippery slope fallacy. The point being made in subtext is: “This is how it starts, today you stop Milo Yannopoulos’ speech and tomorrow a boot is stomping a human face – forever.”

Please forgive my exaggeration but I hope it makes my point clear what is actually happening and why such arguments on the definition of the word never seem to lead anywhere.


Truly Orwelian

Saw this on reddit, and I had to share. Go read all of it.

Quoth SarcasticSadist:

Trump has demonstrated an uncanny, almost unbelievable ability to just bend the past however he wants. And you can protest all you want; nobody is really stopping him. We all get shocked in the moment – How could he have the unmitigated gall to say this shocking thing? But he delivers these shocks so regularly that nobody has time to fully process them. If a scandal blows up for more than two days, Trump will just do something else outrageous and the former story will be dropped to cover the new one. Trump is exploiting the media’s goldfish attention span. He’s overloading the news, giving them so much scandal that they don’t even have time to cover it all.

Every 4 years

When you rely on one vote every 4 years to be the epitome of all your democratic power, it’s expected to become depressed when your choice doesn’t make it.

Organize and attempt democratic control in all aspects of your life: Work, Neighborhoods, Online Communities etc. Then not only will losing that 4-year vote not make you quite so sad, but you’ll see it doesn’t matter anyway.

PS: Holy shit the drama today is overflowing.

Out of ammo

As you may have heard by now, Doomtown:Reloaded is being discontinued. As part of the design team for the past 3 years, it’s been a rough but wonderful ride and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved in terms of balance and gameplay.

Unfortunately the writing was on the wall at this point as event attendance had slumped, and online activity was barely existent. Even with some of the best tools available for a card game, in the form of DoomtownDB and OCTGN for online gameplay – things that are not given for most card games – it seemed like we were struggling to retain people’s interest. Of course I’m speaking only as an observer since I don’t really have an insight into sales records of any sort, but it felt to me that the past 6 months were more anemic than is healthy.

So while sad, I can’t say I’m horribly surprised by this turn of events. Nevertheless, the upcoming expansions are some of the best we’ve put out until now, and the final Pine Box’s new homes will open a lot more avenues for gameplay as well.

I plan to write a “post-mortem” from my perspective on Doomtown:Reloaded, so keep an eye out if you’re interested.

Outrage Culture or Male Indignation

The latest Wondermark comic once again hits the spot perfectly, but I feel it also makes a secondary point more obvious to me. I’ve always wondered why so many dudebros online just get so unreasonably upset about someone calling them out on something, even the smallest issue in the most polite way, and I just realized that it’s not really “outrage” per se that they’re expressing, but rather a sort of pre-emptive indignation at someone pointing out they might be wrong about something.

In other words, it’s not really a case that someone is upset about SJWs taking over popular culture and other such nonsense, but rather a case that someone not wanting to accept or hear that they might have done something shitty.

The reason I think this is because it’s a classic result of toxic masculinity to react aggressively to any suggestion that they’re not perfect, or that someone else might be better at them at something. And it doesn’t have anything to do with how aggressive you are when you make such a statement, or even a specific subject. This reaction might be triggered from something as innocuous as a suggestion that they may not know as much about cars as another dude.

Toxic Masculinity then demands that they re-assert their dominance, and when they’re clearly in the wrong, their options are rather limited;  either unwarranted aggression to cower the opposition or denial and misdirection. Both of these examples are plentiful in the recent examples of reactionary outrage against feminist strides in online spaces. From the constant harassment of prominent women (and other minorities) online in an attempt to silence them, to “sealioning”, to conspiracy theories and constant regurgitation of debunked lies.

So, in the end, I feel a lot of the reaction I see from dudebros is not really truly an expression of outrage culture1 but rather a case of classic male indignation to the idea that someone else might be better than they are at a subject.

  1. even though I find it exquisitely funny how this is another perfect case of dudebros perfectly exemplifying a concept they claim to be railing against []

Windows finally given for free?

What’s this then? My 9 years-old prediction is finally coming to be? Huzzah!

To be fair, this isn’t exactly direct free giveaway, but it’s pretty much the next best thing. Microsoft is finally starting to feel the heat about their market share coming from mobile devices and the upcoming Steam OS, and I’m suspecting they are trying to get ahead of the game. Legitimizing pirates makes sense, if it will retain their OS market share.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much good it will do them. Sure the pirates will be legal in Windows 10, but they’re still not going to be buying the OS. I suspect this is more an attempt show developers that the important development platform for games and apps is going to be Windows 10, rather than someone else like Steam OS. Of course, profits from those apps/games do not go to Microsoft, but if by the time Windows 11 comes around, PC users are again solidly within their technologies, Microsoft does not have to offer the same thing once more.

So this is more like a honeypot offer to avoid attrition before requesting money again. It’s classic Microsoft. It will be interesting to see how many will take them up on their offer and where it will lead.

Syriza’s Judo techniques

I’ve been following the latest happenings between Greece and EU with some amount of fascination. While I’m not a believer in parliamentarism, I can’t help but be glad the current government is sticking to their guns and promises to their voters and is willing to go head to head with a very hostile and condescending Europe.

I do not think they have a chance in hell to succeed. Even if it’s merely a bluff. But I suspect they didn’t intent to. I believe this is part of their strategy.

My feeling is that Syriza knows that it’s been given a unique opportunity to break the bi-party lockdown of greek politics which has led to unprecedented corruption and nepotism. Something which EU/US government and businesses have been more than happy to take advantage. But this support is yet very fragile. The Greek people do not trust politicians anymore and most expected just another PASOK. However without the historical opportunities the original PASOK had to win people (i.e. effectively money away for votes) it would be impossible for Syriza do retain power in a similar fashion, so the only way to do this is to retain the popular vote.

And this is where their main antagonist comes in. EU, and particularly Germany looms especially large in the minds of Greeks, with a lot of dislike for what they’ve done to their country in the past 5 years. And while German media loves to coddle German citizens with tales of lazy Greeks who live beyond their means for decades, the reality for the Greek citizen has been completely different. Greeks saw the “support” of EU go to save EU, German and Greek banks with the capitulating Greek governments as an intermediary, with very little benefit to their own lives. In other words, the Greek Bailout was just another EU Plutocracy Bailout with the Greek populace as the ones socializing the damage.

At the same time, the actual life quality of the average Greek family has been declining rapidly as public services and social nets have been slaughtered on the altar of austerity and increasing competitiveness. Something which conveniently started raising the specter of Greek Nazism to the forefront of politics. One thing which EU is very happy to see when it serves their interest (see: Ukraine)

But it seems the Greeks are a bit less tolerant than our Slavic counterparts. I never expected Greeks to tolerate living with 100 Eur per month and I was surprised at how little social upheaval was happening as wages were being slashes lower and lower. But it finally seems they grasped their first chance to break the cycle and demand some radical change, by voting for a seemingly radical party to try something different from abject capitulation to economic demands.

Which takes us back to Syriza. Their current moves are unlikely to convince Germany and EU to change their course. But I suspect they already know that, given how Varoufakis had even precisely predicted the ECB’s retaliatory move a few years ago.  Rather I suspect their “stick to their guns” strategy is meant to show Greeks that there is another path than the way of the “Ragias”1. And Greeks are responding VERY positively to it. Not only is Syriza giving Greeks something to be proud of, but they are promising and taking actual steps to attack the local Greek Plutocracy and crony politics at its root! If you live outside Greece, you have no idea how many Greeks were waiting for something like this to happen for decades and instead saw corrupt politicians continue business as usual.

This is unprecedented in modern Greek history!

At the same time, the unwavering negativity from our EU partners and Germany in particular is playing exactly into the strategy of Syriza, who do not even need to propagandize to show how Europe is hostile to any valid fix in the Greek situation, and would rather prefer to keep the above stated “business as usual” strategy going until they squeeze blood from stone (or “fat from a fly” as the Greek prefer to call it).

This economic hardline is akin bombing a military dictatorship. Your tactics might defeat the dictator but they are not going to turn the people to your side. In fact, the indiscriminate damage is going to have the exact opposite effect, it’s going to make people rally around their existing government and try to repel the invading forces any way they can. We have seen this again and again such as in US interventionism is Serbia and Iraq.

This is likewise rallying people around Syriza. And this includes Anarchists, right-wing “anti-communists” (Syriza’s leadership is Ex-Communists or Communists on paper), and a lot of apolitical people who never cared to support a party which would continue “business as usual”. If elections happened right now, merely a few week after the previous ones, Syriza would win in a landslide!

I do not believe however that Syriza leadership is being merely cynically opportunistic about it. I think they believe in what they do, but they MUST know that either of two things will happen. Either EU will blink, or Greece will completely collapse. I think they’re OK with both outcomes. The former, one I am not sure will happen, but if it does is because EU knows that a defaulting Greece will start a domino effect in Portugal, Spain and Italy and they cannot afford it, and not only that, but if a Greece outside of the Euro manages to recover faster than the doomsayers propagandize, then it will provide fuel to parties similar to Syriza in those other countries. Already Podemos of Spain is making huge gains just from being in the same timeline as Syriza’s rise to power!

The latter is what I think is more likely. The political cost of being lenient to Greece is far too large for the German government to stomach, especially since their mass media has been busy brainwashing their populace to dislike Greeks for the past half of a decade. So diplomacy will fail and Greece and Germany will start getting increasingly hostile to each other (more than they are already), with Greece poking at Germany more and more to illicit a response. This is, in fact, already happening with Syriza once again bringing German reparations owed to Greece into the spotlight.

Syriza knows a Grexit might be unavoidable at this point if they want to keep to their campaign promises, but they seem to want the decision to be made by their EU partners, rather than deciding it themselves. And if EU does kick Greece out, then it’s another chance to radicalize and rally people around them and manage to grab complete control of the government to follow their own strategy once out of the Eurozone.

And if THAT happens, I believe Germany and EU will have only one option remaining to them, a road richly paved by US realpolitik before them. Interventionism. I believe EU cannot allow Greece to succeed in any way after a Grexit. Not just because plutocrats are vindictive bastards, but because it will inspire others inside and outside the Euro to do similar. It’s one thing to have an Argentina or a Venezuela do that at the other part of the world, but this is in their own back-garden. You can’t let Portugal and Spain start getting ideas!

IF a Grexit happens, I foresee very bad times in the future of Greeks. Not necessarily because of Syriza’s flawed strategies, but due to supreme capital flight, as well as very likely funding of Nazi parties and even a potential attempt at a military coup. There is no doubt in my mind that a Greece of Syriza cannot be allowed to succeed.

I can only hope that the intervening times will radicalize Greeks more and more to be able to counteract these classic Capitalist reactions. Neo Nazis have been dealt some serious blows and I hope the recent courage Syriza provided will be enough to keep people on the left, rather than start blaming immigrants once more. Although I want to hope that if it’s EU that forces Greece out, it’ll be far more difficult to do so. In the same vein, the Greek standing army has been demotivated for long that I hope they won’t be able to use it for a military coup, even if they have support of a police force they’ve been busy making into happy little fascists for the past decade.

If all else fails, a proxy war via Turkey might be their last chance. And I truly hope it’ll never come to that.

  1. meaning, Greek Slave []