Through the last year, I’ve been working on a book titled What Steam Greenlight Teaches Us About Anarchy. Since I was also writing (and completing) Dancing in Hellfire, which had a higher priority, as well as daily articles, thrice-weekly podcasts, and weekly videos through most of last year, SGAA (Steam Greenlight and Anarchy) didn’t get much attention, but I did make a fair bit of progress with it–it’s about 100 pages. I’ve actually got several documents that are around that length and in some state of “needing to be finished.”
Unfortunately, Valve is shutting down Greenlight, which immediately made the book obsolete. By the time I finish it, Greenlight will be little more than a bad memory for people, but it’s also eerily pertinent that Valve has, due to community pressure, shut down the anarchic Greenlight to replace it with an alternative that is, without irony, much more state-like, with more power concentrated in Valve’s hands and with Valve employees unilaterally making the decisions that the wider community once made democratically. It basically parallels the rise of the state, and what we would expect to happen in an anarchic society if the underlying mentality is not first eradicated.
The underlying mentality is two-fold:
- “I don’t approve of this, and therefore it shouldn’t be allowed to exist.”
- “We have to take these measures to protect ignorant/naive/stupid people from themselves.”
These statements are never said so bluntly, but those are the hearts of the position that we need Valve to intervene in the process and implement some quality control.
I Don’t Approve
It hardly needs to even be pointed out that “I don’t approve of this” is a subjective value statement, and isn’t an objective truth. Even if there is 100% agreement that the item in question is of extremely low quality, it remains a subjective value statement, because widespread agreement doesn’t turn a subjective value into an objective one. We can go back fifty thousand years and find 100% agreement that the Earth is the center of the universe, but that wouldn’t make that an objectively true statement.
As far as I can tell, this mentality is limited pretty much to Steam, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say something like, “This movie is shit! What is it doing in Wal-Mart, where some unsuspecting person who doesn’t know any better might buy it, believing it to be a good movie?” or “This music album is terrible! What is it doing in this record store? It has no business being in this store alongside Pink Floyd’s A Momentary Lapse of Reason!
Yet when it comes to Steam, we do hear these sorts of arguments.
In a lot of ways, I agree with the premise. I no longer even check Steam’s weekly sales and specials, because it’s never anything more than page after page after page of bullshit games that no one has ever heard of and are on sale at 19 cents from 99 cents. Here is a screenshot I took a few months ago of exactly this. It has actively discouraged me from browsing Steam’s special, which, in the longrun, hurts Valve because it means they aren’t selling games.
I would have rather seen more advanced filtering options, though. Even something simple like being able to filter out all indie titles or all “games” smaller than 100 MegaBytes would have gone a long, long way toward fixing the problem that is an overload of what I consider to be bullshit, crappy games that aren’t worth 99 cents by a long shot. I wouldn’t download and play this shit if it was free. I don’t want to look at it, I don’t want to look through it, and I don’t want to see it.
So… I don’t.
Rather than demanding that what I consider to be bullshit is prevented from landing on Steam altogether, I find it vastly preferable to check my ego and entitlement and to remind myself that there are billions of people in the world, and that my opinions aren’t objectively right. Rare though they may be, there is surely someone out there who genuinely likes Pajama Sam and wouldn’t have found it if it wasn’t on Steam. There’s surely someone out there who likes Temper Tantrum, The Slaughter Grounds, and all kinds of other games that I consider to be bullshit trash. I consider Rise of the Tomb Raider to be bullshit trash, too, and Mass Effect 3. Not to mention Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Basically, what I’m saying is that I have my preferences and you have your preferences. We all know this to be true, and people only get butthurt when they mistake a reviewer’s word as objective truth. But despite the tendency of some misguided people to interpret my or Jim Sterling‘s reviews as irrefutable fact, the only fact is that reviews are opinions and opinions are, by their very nature, subjective. So we need only apply this to our assessment of games on Steam to realize that just because we dislike a game–despite probably never having played it–doesn’t mean that no one likes the game, and that any attempt to remove the game simply because we and 99% of other people like it is nothing more than an attempt to spit on, ignore, and overrule the 1% who do like it.
There’s no escaping this, and constituting a majority necessarily involves power–the power of the mob, peer pressure, and the innate human desire for acceptance through conformity.
This is dangerous.
Some would say that “We’re only talking about video games! C’mon, and chill out!”
But we aren’t just talking about video games, because this same pattern plays out in the real world in very real, damaging ways. It wasn’t terribly long ago that homosexuality was illegal because this minority of homosexuals was overruled and forced to go along with the majority who felt that homosexuality was bad. And while we might say “Yes, but we’re enlightened! We’re on the other side of that argument!” it would be wrong to say that, because right now exercising one’s rights to act in accordance with their religious beliefs is being universally spit upon by the majority. The minority of people who want to live their lives according to their moral values and choose with whom they do and do not associate are being spit upon and, once more, forced to go along with the majority.
The attitude hasn’t gone away. It’s just a new majority tyrannizing a new minority. Nothing has changed beyond which side of the aisle has the power. Tyranny today remains alive and well, such that this woman has lost the right to choose with whom she associates, simply because she is in a minority of people who would choose not to associate with people who partake in behavior that she doesn’t approve of. Of course, we say that we don’t approve of her behavior, don’t we? We don’t approve of her lifestyle choice to not associate with LGBT people, and therefore we won’t even allow her to do it. It’s no different from fifty years ago, when the majority didn’t approve of the lifestyle choice to be LGBT, and therefore wouldn’t even allow people to be LGBT.
Same shoe, different foot.
It’s my contention that this mentality has to be assaulted and addressed everywhere that it appears, because we do readily see it playing out in the real world. It’s not the application to LGBT issues or to video games that is the problem; the problem is the underlying mentality that connects both, that arrogance and ego that suggests, “I don’t approve of this, and thus it shouldn’t be allowed/shouldn’t exist.” How can we say we’re just talking about video games, when we see exactly the same thing happening in the real world, and real people being demonstrably tyrannized and prevented from being free to choose the people with whom they associate, simply because they are in a minority?
We find ourselves arguing opinion against opinion. Bob is a fundamentalist Christian who hates LGBT people, believes they are the product of Satan, and believes they’re going to hell. Tim is what we’d call a Social Justice Warrior, and as such Tim hates fundamentalist Christians. Bob thinks that being LGBT constitutes “abhorrent behavior.” Tim thinks that hating LGBT people constitutes “abhorrent behavior.” Bob wants to make it illegal to be a practicing LGBT person, and Tim wants to make it illegal to be a practicing fundamentalist Christian*.
Once upon a time, the majority agreed with Bob, and homosexuality was illegal and transsexualism was a mental illness. Today, the majority agrees with Tim, and fundamentalist Christianity is illegal in practice. There aren’t too many people who are more impacted by this than I, since I’m an openly transsexual lesbian resident of the state of Mississippi. And yet I stand, and will continue to stand, for people’s right of free association, even when I am the person they don’t want to associate with. It would certainly suck to walk into a gas station and have the owner tell me that I wasn’t welcome there, but it’s the owner’s business and property. At what point did we forget this?
We have to separate ourselves from the situation and recognize that we are arguing opinion against opinion and that neither side is objectively right. Bob isn’t objectively right to say that being LGBT is evil, and Tim isn’t objectively right to say that wanting to disassociate from LGBT people is evil. Why? Because morality is a set of subjective value statements built from assumptions. Even something like murder can’t be definitively stated to be good or evil, so how can something infinitely less destructive be objectively good or evil? The only exception to this might be rape, because, despite many attempts to do so, I have yet to come up with a theoretical scenario wherein rape would be considered morally good. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched our hypothetical scenario is; if we can come up with even one example wherein murder would be the morally right thing to do, then the conclusion must be that murder is not objectively wrong. So, to reiterate, with even murder being morally ambiguous, how could we ever attempt to make the argument that something with consequences considerably less dire and permanent can be absolutely morally clear?
Right now, you and I are on the wrong side of historical morality in countless ways. Two hundred years from now, people will look back on us and will decry us as heartless, immoral fiends, just as we do today when we look back at the ubiquity of slavery, sexism, and racism. We shouldn’t delude ourselves into believing that the set of moral values we currently have are eternal and will never change, because they will, and I can point to at least one specific area where, in a few centuries, you and I both will be known as evil barbarians.
We are horrific to our non-human brothers and sisters. Not only do we kill them and eat them after they’ve lived their lives in abysmal conditions that we would quickly identify as torture if a human was forced to endure them, but we actively consider animals to be our property. Does that sound familiar? It should, because the arguments people use today to justify their treatment and perception of animals are exactly the same arguments people put forward 150 years ago to justify their treatment and perceptions of non-white people. Even though we know now, scientifically and beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt, that animals think and feel things, we continue to largely treat them like unthinking, unfeeling automatons who are our property.
“‘My’ pets,” people say, claiming ownership of these living, breathing, thinking, and feeling creatures. Even I say “my cats,” though my position on them is clear, and I generally use the expression as shorthand–“my” cats are mine in the same way that my friends are “mine.” But even without going into how we commonly have to do things that animals don’t want “for their own good,” the fact remains that we participate in the widespread enslavement, torture, and murder of, if I recall correctly, eighty-five million animals a day, just in the United States. Society will one day look back on us, having ruled that eating meat is immoral, and call us evil barbarians.
My position is almost identical to Richard Dawkins’ position on this. Strictly speaking, yes, the vegans are absolutely right. It is unconscionable, and it is unjustifiable, yet I continue to do it. I eat meat. I passed through a vegetarian, and even a vegan, phase, but today I eat meat. But they’re right–the vegans are right, and their logic is unassailable. I’m not trying to convert anyone to vegetarianism or veganism, but it’s simply true that there’s no way to justify it in the modern world, and that a rational evaluation of the situation leads inexorably to the conclusion that eating meat and using animal products are immoral things to do.
We Have To Protect People From Themselves
I noticed last year that a scary number of people want to speak for me, to the extent that if I dare try to speak for myself, I was frequently slapped back down and told to shut up. The most jarring example was my video about the Liberal Redneck, where I criticized him for criticizing a fundamentalist Christian woman, and criticized him for asserting that she was a racist, simply because the woman was a white Christian. The response to this video was so bad that I actually took the video down. The video had like 5 likes and more than 80 dislikes, and one comment after the other, it was just “Uh… He’s speaking up for you, you idiot!” and “He’s on YOUR side, dumbass!”
It was one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever experienced, because there I was, speaking for myself and expressing what side I was on (neither the Christian’s nor the Liberal Redneck’s), yet people were disregarding that and telling me to shut up so that the Liberal Redneck could speak for me. This continued through all of last year. I remember seeing one Facebook post from Occupy Democrats that I remarked, “This had better have been written by a black female Muslim lesbian. If not, whoever wrote it needs to seriously re-evaluate why they think they have the right to speak for so many people.”
We have divided ourselves into these groups, and these groups demand our loyalty, to the extent that if we dare speak for ourselves or show any disloyalty, then they will turn and hang us alongside the other group. It’s an attitude that is rampant in the United States: “If you aren’t with us, then you’re against us.” Take, for example, how I repeatedly attacked Hillary last year, which led to countless people assuming that I supported Trump. This is especially noticeable on my Quora profile, where nearly everything I said about Trump or Hillary led to someone calling me a Trump supporter. I don’t know why. I have never supported Trump, and never would. His positions are contrary to almost everything I believe.
The recent women’s march showcases this, too, because it wasn’t a “Women’s March,” was it? No, it was a Democratic Women’s March, but no one is allowed to say that. When a Pro-Life group of women expressed the desire to join the march, they were told that they couldn’t. So it couldn’t possibly have been an All Women’s March; it was a Women’s March As Long As You Side With Us Politically. It was the same thing I experienced with the Liberal Redneck–neither he nor the dozens of vicious people who attacked me were interested in LGBTQ people. They were demonstrably only interested in Liberal LGBTQ people.
I’ve written before about how the Democratic Party doesn’t care about women, Muslims, Mexicans, black people, or LGBTQ people. They only care about votes and support. I couldn’t begin to convey how ostracized from the LGBTQ community I am simply because I’m an anarchist, never mind that I choose–for very good reason–to identify as a shemale. They demand that I be quiet and sheepish, that I nod and go along with whatever they say on my behalf, and Cthulhu help me if I dare speak up on my own behalf. No ally would demand you be silent while they speak for you, it’s as simple as that. Anyone who demands you sacrifice your voice to the mob isn’t your friend. Anyone who demands that you conform to what they want and what they say isn’t your ally.
You speak for you.
I’ll speak for me.
The only “group” I speak for are the lesbian shemale anarchists, and, the last time I checked, I’m the only one of those.
More to the point, a few years ago the Russian government made gay pride parades illegal. The reason they gave was that they had to protect children from being corrupted. While I’ve no doubt that the person reading this disagrees with the Russian Government about what constitutes “corruption,” the fact remains that their desire to protect the “innocent children who don’t know any better” from things they deem to be bad is what led them to do it. Again, that should sound familiar, because it is precisely what people have argued in regard to Steam Greenlight–it is necessary, they say, to protect the people who don’t know any better from being exposed to these things that they deem are bad.
If you haven’t seen that mentality playing out in the United States, then you haven’t been exposed to what we call the Social Justice Warrior. This isn’t an insult aimed at anyone who advocates social equality–I’m an egalitarian, after all. No, SJW refers to a specific type of person, like the kind of person who would say something like “I can’t wait for all these people who disagree with me to hurry up and die.”
That’s fucking scary.
That should fucking scare you.
And these are the people who say that their positions come from empathy! This guy honestly and truly believes that he came to his beliefs because he’s just so filled with empathy toward Group A–and all this empathy that he feels with Group A just accidentally leads him to talk like a fucking psychopath about the people in Group B. I can barely imagine something more psychopathic than “People who don’t agree with me need to hurry up and die.”
And it’s got a like!
This is the long-run result of the extreme divisiveness that has characterized American society for the last several decades. “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us. And if you happen to have any of these characteristics by which we’ve divided ourselves but you still don’t agree with us, then you’re an idiot who should shut up and let us protect you from yourself and your stupid opinions.”
* Many would instinctively reject this assessment, but they would be wrong. It is currently illegal to live according to fundamentalist Christian values, as the previous link about the flower woman shows. It would be illegal for someone to tell me that I wasn’t welcome in their store because I’m transsexual. We are willing to allow them to quietly believe these things, but the moment they attempt to act in accordance with those things they believe, they are committing a crime, and we will prosecute them. So yes. It absolutely is illegal in the United States to practice fundamentalist Christianity.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 through 5, which will be posted over the next week and are from the actual book What Steam Greenlight Teaches Us About Anarchy, instead of this precursory explanation.