Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Why I Support #GamerGate

Why I support #gamergate:

1) I absolutely agree that there are massive problems with Journalistic integrity that needs to be addressed, not just in gaming (which has been clearly demonstrated by participants in the gamergate phenomenon), but also in the larger mainstream media. Mainstream media is all a giant propaganda machine as far as I can tell. In fact the entire top down 20th century media model needs to go IMO, in favor of a bottom up emergence type of reporting and opinionating. See possible transformation of Government and Media vs the old system and an example of how we can help change.

2) I am pro gay rights, pro womens rights (including abortion), and for many other positions generally considered to be "left." I am even possibly for reparations for slavery if it was given with some specific stipulations on how the money would be used (teach a person to fish instead of giving them a fish). I also grew up as, and continue to be, a Star Trek and XMen style Egalitarian. And in my 10 years of software engineering experience, and 4 years of university before that, my experience is that most computer nerds are similarly egalitarian in some form or other.
In general we (computer/gaming/comic nerds) are not threatened by women in the industry. In fact all the men I have ever talked to about these issues were open, willing, and interested in being proactive about finding ways to make our hobbies interests and profession more accessible and appealing to a more diverse group of people. But just as feminists complain of being "slut shamed", we are generally a demographic of people who have grown up being "nerd/geek" shamed for much of our lives, often by women we very much wished to share these things with (and that in addition to those on the right who thought DnD was from the devil). But there have always been women who were successful and welcome in our supposed "club house". We have had highly regarded female game designers forever. Roberta Williams, for example, created some of the best computer games we remember playing as kids.
But in the last few years there has been a continuous stream of propaganda against gaming specifically, and technology in general (dongle gate for example), coming regularly from many sources including the mainstream media, about how how we are all a bunch of white male misogynists and brogrammers doing everything to bully women out of tech/games/comics and to objectify them, etc. And I find this to be just as dishonest, sexist, racist, bigoted and hateful, if not more so, than what they are falsely accusing their targets of being.
Further, having been a member of the internet Atheist community (ie seeing Atheism+ unfold), an observational supporter of the Occupy movement, as well as a software engineer and game developer, I have watched a very disturbing pattern of dishonesty, propaganda and outright bigotry from self identifying feminists who seem to have a belief system that mirrors all the worst aspects of the stereotypes commonly held about extreme right wing religious zealots, racists, homophobes etc. For just one example: notice Anita Sarkeesian is just the "left's" version of Jack Thompson, but with a prettier face and the added skill of crying a convincing wolf to the less technically savvy who apparently don't know that IP tracing, registered domain names, and server logs accurately pinpoint anyone stupid enough to be making threats online. And much of Patriarchy Theory (actually a hypothesis, not a theory) and it's arguments are no more valid under critical examination than "Creation Science". Their bullshit has been so extreme I have actually given a quite serious and attentive ear to various aspects of the MRM in the last year, which I probably never would have even considered otherwise.

A number of people have said that anyone who supports gamergate and has any decency should abandon it immediately because they are associated with racist and sexist bigots. But the gamergate participants are well aware that they have been painted as thus by the very media figures they have shown to be dishonest, for the sole purpose of discrediting them. Falsely calling gamergate bad names in public and trying to shame gamergaters only makes them/us bolder. Being bullied is something we as a demographic are use to. We are not afraid of you. Nor do we give a shit about your public scorn or ridicule. We have always had to deal with that.
We have spent much of our lives being insulted and ridiculed for being part of the 'untouchable' class of nerds and weirdos. And now it appears that the very people who have ostracized us all along, now that facebook is cool and video games and comics are multi-billion dollar industries, now they want to bully us further by painting US as nothing but bullies and misogynists who somehow kept THEM out of the cool club since before it was cool. They want to say that we are nothing but the evil white male patriarchy oppressors of the world who now must hand over our culture (which they refused to join), and let them dictate to us all their authoritarian, racist, sexist and bigoted views about us, and to have sole discretion in determining what can and cannot be said within something that they are not even a part of. They are not creating anything. They simply wish to take over a medium from the outside that they themselves do not seem capable or willing to participate in or contribute to.
Well as far as I am concerned, you can all get the fuck out! That isn't directed at women. It isn't directed at gays, lesbians, or any ethic or racial minority, nor at trans, disabled, or even at feminists, or even any flavor of extremist for that matter. You are all welcome to put forth your own work in this egalitarian club. You always have been. But you are NOT welcome to come in and hate on us and paint us all as your imagined villains so you can feel morally superior even as you bully others into submission of your hateful ideology. You want to make a game that puts forth your viewpoints. Go ahead and make it. If it's a good game people will buy it, and if it's a good idea, kickstarters will fund it. But this hateful "pop culture critic" horse shit that is trying to bully everyone while playing the victim, and this propaganda claiming everyone who is upset about the failures of journalistic integrity are racist misogynists, this has to be treated as scornfully as Jack Thompson and the Westboro Baptist Church.


Looking a little wider, I personally kind of wish that gamergate could grow into a full scale battle with the mainstream media, or possibly some kind of new "live and let live" political position or 3rd party (even though I don't consider myself exactly a libertarian as that article indicates).

From Fox and MSNBC all they way down, they need a good kick in the teeth for failing our democracy in favor of one sided propaganda, click-bate, and their bottom line. Neither the "left" nor the "right" supports the views or interests of an increasingly larger number of people. And I for one will probably not go back to, or follow any link to, the Colbert Report, The Daily Show, or in fact ANY comedy central content, until they have given gamergate a fair shake to counter their prostituting themselves to Sarkeesian and then shutting down all comments on that. I have been a follower of those shows for years, and feel that this is a betrayal to me on almost the same level as the "Gamers are Dead" bullshit. I expect this kind of extreme one sided bullshit from Fox, and to a lesser extent HuffPo, MSNBC, and even NPR (which I have financially supported in the past). I realize that Comedy Central has never been unbiased either, but I take Colberts sucking up as kind of a personal betrayal after many years of enthusiastically promoting his and Johns material.

The general lockstep nature that mainstream media has taken with game journalists is unacceptable IMO, and is yet another example of the absolute failure of modern news reporting. I personally hope and think many participants in GamerGate should seriously look beyond just gaming journalism in the future. It isn't just game journalists who fail miserably to represent us. It is also the mainstream media and the mainstream of left right politics as well. If we could get people as engaged as gamergaters have been in a wider social sphere we could potentially break the two party systems "either or fallacy" of Coke vs Pepsi, and left vs right one dimensional politics, along with the constant decent of having to vote for the "lesser of two evils" where Obama ends up being little to no better than Bush on the fascist and militaristic "War on Terror" while at the same time writing a blank check to the corrupt banking establishment. I understand many of us just want to be able to play our games in peace, but at the same time our republic burns while we are distracted by bread and games.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My Response To: "How The Meritocracy Myth Affects Women In Technology"

I just read How The Meritocracy Myth Affects Women In Technology and I must say that while I think there is a real problem with the lack of women in the tech industry which needs addressing, I am profoundly disappointed at the misunderstandings and stereotypes propagated in the article, which in my mind are only likely to exacerbate the problem.

Some background: I have worked in 'the Tech Industry' for 10 years now. (9 if you count the year I took off due to burn out.) Note also that 4 of the 5 companies I have worked for were Video Game Companies, and I am working on my own indie game now. So here are my thoughts on this subject, and in particular what I think the article misses in its aim to aid what is clearly a legitimate problem:

1) Every single tech company that I have worked for WANTED MORE WOMEN.

Unfortunately it is notoriously difficult to find people with the required technical skills (at all, let alone among women) so much so that most places I have worked needed many more people than they could actually find. There is a huge need for talent in the tech industry and a massive shortage of people with skills. Hell, I get notices all the time from headhunters promising me as much as 1000 bucks just to recommend someone from my professional network to take whatever job they need filled at the moment. Most companies without big public names like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc have a REALLY hard time finding enough talent just to do the work they need done. They are in no position to be prejudice, and will very often import workers from poorer parts of the world who have the needed skills out of necessity. In general, and not only with women, we REALLY REALLY need more people to be knowledgeable about Math and Science. Don't skip it because it is hard! Do the work! Please! Please! Do the work! WE NEED YOU!

Note that if you have good programming skills and some good experience, you can go work in just about any country in the world you want with little or no hassle, no matter where you are from, what your gender, and often without even needing to speak the language, as long as your English is passable.

2) The problem with women lacking needed technical skills, in my experience, starts WAY before the job market, and likely even long before college. The percentage of women in my computer science department in University was also low single digits. So it is no surprise to me that it is so low in the actual work force.

I do not know for sure what prevents women from choosing Math and Science degrees (but will express some of my opinions below), although one female friend told me recently on Facebook that she was told as a kid that Math was too hard and she should choose something else. If this is the case then prejudice starts with (and may even entirely be from) guidance counselors and other early mentors, not tech companies. Although I will add that women are not unique in this regard. A coworker at my current job told me how his High School guidance councilor generally discouraged kids from their dreams because it was a poor neighborhood and he wanted them to be 'more realistic' about the fact they would probably just end up brick layers or whatever. I would say that we seriously need to examine what ALL kids are being told about their capabilities and dreams in life. I also think that while this might be a little bit cheeky, it makes a very valid point on the subject as well. If you think it is an unfair statement, consider this.

3) In my experience, technology companies generally have single digit percentage of women at all levels except HR, not just at the top. So complaining that there are not more women heading tech companies is kind of absurd. If women don't/won't/can't even take jobs at the entry level, how can one complain they are not at the top? Generally speaking, nobody walks in to any company or industry with no experience right out of school (or without any relevant schooling at all) and takes the lead. If someone does walk in with such expectations they are most likely going to be in for some profound disappointment. (Note: I realize that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg didn't complete University, but they were all the sort who had been constantly programming for years instead of going to parties or otherwise living a 'normal' life, and they invented or perfected entirely new industries for the public.)

4) Brogrammer culture: I really wish people would just drop this entire negative stereotype all together. I realize that there were a couple people out there making titstare (which is easy to target and bitch about), and even Mark Zuckerberg supposedly make this 'hot or not' app back in the day. However most programmers I know, or have known, are VERY far from the brogrammer stereotype. If anything, I would expect that propagation of this negative stereotype is only going to convince more women to stay away from technology, so stop bringing it up. => And before you tell me not to act like this then, why don't you first go up to random black people and tell them not to steal? It reminds me of an extremely offensive short film I saw recently in regards to Augmented Reality, which I think gets us closer to part of the real issue.

This film has several big problems. For one thing, it is profoundly unscientific and ignorant to believe that AR contact lenses will give you the ability to control someones mind, and it plays directly into the Anti-Science/Anti-Intellectual culture. But even more importantly, it portrays an extremely damaging stereotype of programmers specifically, and men in general. I realize there are some criminal rapist types out there, but why is it that men in general are so often portraid this way? The whole idea of 'rape culture' is a giant insult to decent men everywhere, who are by and large the majority. Who is it out there that thinks we all need to be reminded every two seconds that forcibly degrading another person is wrong? And to whoever it is propagating this crap: Why do you hate men so much? Stop stereotyping us this way!

Seriously: Why do people feel the need to make things in such poor of tastes as the ending of this film? Because all programmers (and scientists in general) are 'evil geniuses' and socially incapable of legitimately interesting a woman? Yeah, that's a GREAT message for boys and girls alike! No wonder more women (and men) don't become interested in technology, except in bitching about how it is "the patriarchy". Maybe we should stop portraying scientists and engineers in the media as social retards who only speak in techno babel, and must be relegated to the position of sidekick to some Johnny Knoxville type who is just perpetually lucky through all stupidity before getting the girl.

In closing:

The lack of women (and more people in general) in the tech industry is a serious problem. I appreciate the fact that there are people outside of it who also recognize the difficulties we face in this regard. However, oversimplifying things does not help. Insinuating that there is some 'white male conspiracy' to keep women and others out doesn't help any more than pretending all scientists are in a giant conspiracy to disprove God so they can be gay and sin all they want. Pointing fingers at the imagined "brogrammer/rape culture" doesn't help but just creates more segregation. Demanding acceptance of 'more diversity of thinking' from people who don't understand technology at all isn't going to help any more than pretending mumbo jumbo quantum meditative healing is a substitute for real medicines like vaccinations and chemotherapy.

What will help is getting rid of the negative stereotypes our culture has about programmers, engineers, scientists, and also men. What will help is telling girls (and boys) at a young age that science and technology is cool and that they can do it if they apply themselves and work hard, which they are expected to do. What will help is discouraging kids from giving up Math and Science and Technology. What will help is to no longer accept the attitude that it is somehow cool to be an ignorant flunky in Math. When you start looking at THOSE things, then I think maybe you will start to get close to the real issues and how you can fix them.

Thank you for your time.