Grab yourself a sandwich and a beer, this is going to be a long post.
Let's talk about offensive behavior, and I want to start off looking at where we've been. I grew up during the Reagan 80's, an era which saw the debut and continued success of the book series Truly Tasteless Jokes by Blanche Knott. It was the end of an era, when cracking jokes about a collective was not only okay, but was expected. You don't make jokes about blacks or Jews or Poles or whatever?!? What's wrong with you?!?
A key thing to keep in mind is that everyone makes jokes, everyone goes over the PC line at least once in a while to get a laugh. But there's a key difference between those kinds of jokes (for example, Mel Brooks) and the jokes I refer to above (Rush Limbaugh). The difference is intent. Brooks jokes traded on stereotypes, but there was an atmosphere of trying to be funny, of trying to make people laugh. Limbaugh's "jokes" are about hurting people. They insult. They denigrate. They make the joke teller superior. They aren't trying to be funny, it's just, "Look at me making fun of this guy! Aren't I great?!?" In those early days, Polish jokes didn't offend me because they weren't about any Polish person I knew, nobody was that dumb. But as time went on, the reasons people made those jokes, hearing people describe something that made no sense or didn't work right being referred to as "Pollack", things like that altered my perception, and I stopped making those jokes. I didn't see people being funny, just people being assholes.
I wasn't the only one feeling this way. During the reign of Bush The First, other groups started noticing they were being treated like dirt and started trying to make things change. I remember complaints about the world becoming PC during the time, but I didn't see it that way. It was people standing up for themselves, the very thing the "joke tellers" said they should do if they wanted them to stop.
Since then, we've had the creation of an interesting device called the Internet. People openly cheered the free exchange of ideas the Internet would enable. These people never listened to the Art Bell show. If so, they would know there are people with questionable ideas who are isolated geographically and socially, and granting them a means of interaction would cause problems.
Social media has become a powerful tool for asserting human dignity and rights. We saw that recently with Rep. Alvin Holmes and his racist bullshit in Alabama. In less than a week, 4,000 families organized against his stupidity. People have a voice to express concerns and call people out, voices they would never have in a world of limited exposure from either the financial constraints of traditional media distribution or the limited space available for media distribution (Why don't stores carry your favorite book? Because they only sell a couple of those, and they'd rather devote that shelf space to something that moves). People that see insensitivity and injustice can take on the forces of social darkness poisoning the world. It's wonderful.
But then, two things started happening. There started to be people who would be offended by anything, attempting to rewrite sociology and psychology based on their own perceptions rather than established fact. Admittedly, there were people who would be offended by anything going back decades. This was even satirized on Rocky And Bullwinkle in the 1960's. Pop culture is not just entertainment, but a time capsule showing what life was like, preserved in the amber of art. And Rocky And Bullwinkle were doing just that with things I only thought were recent developments, like the Southern US spokesman correcting the characters constantly during the Whatsamatta U storyline. The immortal Berke Breathed was satirizing it in Bloom County, including one memorable Sunday strip where people literally found something offensive in everything around them, even air. "My God...LIFE is offensive!" Just as the forces for good had organized, so had these people seeking to be the historical footnotes in a new era they were shepherding in.
This gave rise to the phrase, "social justice warrior." Like the words "liberal" and "conservative," it has become a political label meant to dismiss people that the labeler just doesn't feel like dealing with. There is very much still a need for social justice, the fight isn't over, true equality has not been achieved. But just as you have people pushing too hard and saying every little thing is indicative of a deeper social problem, you have just as many people pushing back too hard, saying that everything is an overreaction, and no meeting in the middle.
Which brings me to the guy I was arguing with online. Let's call him Mister X. Now, I've locked horns with Mister X before, but it was much simpler the last time. His basic stance is that "social justice warriors" are not just oversensitive, but they are actually seeking to control social interaction and private thought, censoring the world at large. Usually, he's pretty spot on and does his homework, and I can agree with many of his stances. But several months ago, we got into it over MicroSoft and their E3 demonstration of the Xbox One. For those who don't know -- the demo featured a couple of M$ reps playing a fighting video game, one male, one female. The female wasn't very good at fighting games and was getting her ass handed to her. And the male rep quipped, "Just let it happen, it'll be over soon." Yeah. The guy made a rape joke. At a press conference being viewed by millions around the world.
I wasn't shocked so much as disappointed. I'm a gamer. I have been since my parents got the family a Pong game back in 1976. And I've seen the evolution of misogyny that has exploded in gamer culture. There's this idea that video games are for males, and that women should be attacked for poking their heads in the treehouse, such as the nasty comments left on M$' own forums about the then-new female head of game development for Xbox. And lest you think this is symptomatic of M$, I will simply point out things like the organized and targeted trolling of female game developers and vloggers that frequently is coordinated on 4Chan (the continuing saga of Depression Quest is a good example) and the like. Hell, this is a topic that is discussed quite frequently on the coder channel, where female devs mature their skills in the give and take and supportive atmosphere of their comrades, then step outside of it and find guys emailing them pictures of their shlongs as soon as they set up shop. And I applauded M$ when they apologized for what the dipshit said at the press conference, just as I applauded them for ban hammering people on their forums telling the head of game development to go back in the kitchen, make them a sandwich, and just pop out babies.
And this was where Mister X and I first threw down. The report of the rape joke started on Kotaku, and his belief was that, given all the things the writer could have talked about, she wrote about the rape joke as click bait, pointing out that her report had over five times as many views as any other report on the press conference at the site. I fired back that, click bait or no, rape jokes weren't funny. Who spread the news and what, if any, agenda they had didn't matter, what the guy said was reprehensible and he deserved to get nailed for it. Mister X called me a pawn and told me to stop white knighting her, it was just a joke, and I of all people should be able to take a joke. Basically, it boiled down to what jokes are okay and which aren't. I feel (still do to this day) that the "rape culture" talked about in the original article is very real, has gained major ground in the last few years, and until the atmosphere of intimidation is gone, such jokes should be off limits. Mister X, apparently a 1st Amendment Absolutist, countered that it would be very easy for my arguments to be made about my jokes, so I am either living in denial or a hypocrite. We ended the exchange by having verbal sex (shouting, "FUCK YOU!") and, I had hoped, that was that.
Nope. Mister X is back, and unlike the relatively cut and dry M$ rape joke debacle, this time, he's admitting he didn't bother doing his homework, he doesn't see any reason to, as his point and statement is important enough to transcend his lack of exposure. I told him his lack of exposure is the very reason he doesn't see the big deal. And the whole thing went boom.
Longtime readers are aware that I am a fan of the new My Little Pony cartoon, but I refuse to identify as a Brony. I was there almost from the beginning, and saw the Brony culture develop almost overnight. So I have had a front row seat as a bunch of idiots turned an uplifting show about female empowerment and friendship into another masturbation aid. Among the things that have happened in the scant four years since the show started:
* The Max Veers Incident, where a man raped an underage girl, then got his buddies to white knight him and shame her into hiding for "leading him on."
* The female characters being depicted as lesbians instead of just friends
* Fistfights breaking out about who is "best pony"
* Grown-ass men pushing and shoving little girls in the toy aisle so they can get the newest stuff
* Men saying they are the true fan base and the show actually isn't for little girls, so little girls should fuck off
* Men telling Hasbro that girls should not be allowed on the online Q&A sessions as they aren't true fans
* Lauren Faust, the show's creator, getting attacked on social media for saying the Brony behavior is starting to creep her out
* Andy Price getting hate mail for not refusing to draw Twilight Sparkle as she is on the show now instead of insisting Hasbro redo the show to suit the Bronies' whims
* A musician making songs advocating the rape and murder of a fan who felt a character was a negative stereotype
* A guy planning to "marry" Twilight Sparkle, and being told by another guy he can't do that because she's already HIS waifu.
* Creepy fan animations deliberately depicting the characters as sexual fantasy objects, some of which are actually encouraged by some of the production staff (Tara Strong, the voice of Twilight, even voiced a short animation of Twilight welcoming the viewer to her bedroom), despite the fact that 1) it's a show for kids and 2) THEY'RE PONIES, NOT HUMANS, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?
* The Pony Plot Perfection Project, which seeks to redraw the show animations so the ponies have anatomically correct parts (see my reaction above)
So, obviously, I have a biased view about the fandom and its sexual identity.
It was maaaaaaaaaaybe half a year ago that the DWM movement started. For those that (thankfully) are unaware, there was a fan comic started on Tumblr called "Ask Princess Molestia." It depicted the show's Princess Celestia as a sex fiend and predator who was constantly violating the other ponies.
This was presented as being "funny."
The site was a pretty open secret among the Brony fandom, and it gained thousands of subscribers. Then, one day, one of the staffers from MLP made a post celebrating the show's anniversary. He posted a pic of Celestia and Twilight sharing cake.
Only it wasn't MLP fan art. It actually was a post from APM.
Hasbro has dropped the hammer on several sites, fan arts, and fan videos as soon as someone complains about how inappropriate for children the art is ("appropriateness" is pretty much the only reason I haven't been C&D'ed out of doing my Doctor Whooves fan comics that run on Bleeding Cool. Hasbro knows I'm doing it and that Rich Johnston is running them, but as long as I don't go over the line, they're content to wink a blind eye), and finding out about APM made them send out the lawyers to zerg rush the Tumblr. As of now, APM is no more.
Now, at this point in the story, it is plainly obvious that Hasbro discovered this when their staffer posted a piece of fan art and was then informed where it came from. However, that hasn't stopped Brony conspiracy theorists from thinking that APM went down because someone told Hasbro to get them to take the site down. Suspicion settled on an individual calling herself PinkiePony. PinkiePony was the originator of DWM, or "Down With Molestia," a campaign in the fandom to shut down the site as offensive and inappropriate. Her Tumblr was the site of some really weird debates, such as APM fans discussing why rape jokes are funny and sexual harassment jokes aren't, some discussing the other way around, and so on. PinkiePony claimed RL stalking by Bronies upset with her. So, despite the transparent chain of events, PinkiePony got blamed as she was the spearhead of the movement.
And here comes Mister X. Mister X has never watched the show, doesn't observe the fandom, knows nothing of the war going on between the segment of the fandom that just wants to enjoy the show for what it is and the Bronies who insist on corrupting it. HE HAS OPENLY STATED AS MUCH. In fact, it was how he led off, so this isn't supposition on my part. I'm not saying everybody needs to go Woodward And Bernstein just to form an opinion, but if you are going to declare your stance is absolute and everyone should be agreeing with you, you should put some effort into it.
He is blaming PinkiePony and holding her up as a symbol of how people are seeking to control what is acceptable and what isn't. He argues that sites APM are actually funny like how Tijuana Bibles (sex comics with superhero characters, brought to the forefront of general awareness by Watchmen) are funny, because they depict the characters in ways they aren't supposed to be depicted. The contradiction is funny. Saying that such depictions can't be done is basically censoring comedy.
Mister X would have a point if the Tijuana Bibles and such were the exception, not the rule. Sex is commerce. In Japan, manga and anime creators intentionally design the characters and relationships to inspire people to make hentai doujinshi, considering it free advertising. As a result, fans are more about shipping the characters than following their adventures. Rule 34 is not only common on the Internet, some people even make a comfortable living drawing the characters as such at conventions. This is something they openly advertise (the aforementioned Andy Price, his table usually has a large image of Batgirl sitting on a bed wearing only her cape and cowl and covering her breasts with Robin's tunic, thinking to herself, "Boy Wonder, indeed"). Comic book characters are not only redesigned to be more sexual, but if anything is done to remove that sexual identity, like removing the boob window from Power Girl's costume, fans threaten to go to war. Mister X states that the humor comes from the characters being depicted in ways they aren't supposed to or that aren't seen every day. But the characters are expected to be depicted that way and it does happen every day. Ergo, it's not funny, it's typical.
His stance also denies the right of a fandom to present itself. There is a very sharp division among MLP fans about the adult nature of some fan art. A furry art board famously asked for a separate thread for the Rule 34 so those that wanted to avoid it could do so. This is the furry subculture, which has a near-totally obsession with sexuality, and they are saying that, yeah, it should be allowed, just don't mix it with the general stuff. Many people, of both genders and all ages, have decried how the fandom has been hijacked by the perverts. Saying we should let anything go can't happen. It's like the village idiot -- people see him, and assume everyone in the village is like that. Most Christians are decent live and let live people, but they are regarded as intolerant nut jobs because those are the kinds that get the headlines, those are the ones people see, those are the ones people think represent the group. Same with Muslims -- your everyday average Muslim lives in peace, but because of a bunch of terrorists who do not represent the group, everyone associates them with war and violence. Democrats. Republicans. Liberals. Conservatives. Any religion, any social movement. We are frequently pigeonholed by people who are the vocal minority, and insisting we not be allowed to shut them up only makes us look worse.
And Mister X is doing this by turning a Tumblr user into a straw man.
Look, I'm not stupid. I know this stuff is always there and always will be there. You're going to have people drawing Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in the throes of passion from now until the heat death of the universe. But there was a time when this wasn't everywhere. You saw it once in a while, and if you didn't want to see it, you could simply avoid it. But now, there are people shoving it in your face and insisting something is wrong with you if you object to it or are squicked by it or if you are just plain apathetic about it and want to do something else.
Critics like Mister X complain about oversensitivity and people not adequately thinking things through before making their stances. However, in this one instance, Mister X has shown himself to be just as guilty of the things he charges the social justice warriors of being. More tellingly, he doesn't engage the moderate people, only the extremists he can paint as damaging to Freedom Of Expression.
The radical social justice warriors and the radical critics are identical, reflecting each other in the mirror. They are both determined to find things that offend them and publicly shame them out of existence. The two sides are locked in this sad, sick little dance, loathing each other for reasons they also loathe themselves for. Attempting to guilt trip the world into following their order, one claiming altruism, the other claiming objectivism. No give, only take.
Yes, censorship is bad. Yes, people should be able to express themselves. But there also a lines you don't cross, that you shouldn't cross. Those lines move constantly depending on the social values and moors of the times. Before you argue about which side of the line is the correct one, you should at least know where the line is. Either that, or make sure your opinion can move with it.