Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 17:48 on 29-09-2014, Arthur B
@Arthur B: I agree that "content advisory" warnings will reframe the experience, but I wonder why those warnings should have to be placed there. The BBFC does not place its content warnings on the posters or the DVD cover either, if I'm not mistaken.

Uh, you're mistaken, it most definitely does.

This is not the "hence: we cannot have any of that", I'm just wondering which triggers should be included, which triggers we consider "meritous" enough to be included. Because I think the assessment "some content might be more predictably triggering than others" is not wrong, but ignores that even not completely predictably triggering content could be quite hurtful to people.

I think it's the predictability that is the key. More or less all the examples you've given can be triggering for reasons which should hopefully be obvious to someone who gives the subject due consideration.

Equally, someone might find a particular shade of denim triggering due to strongly associating it with some PTSD-inspiring event, and that isn't predictable by other people - it's sad when people are triggered by that stuff and if they ask us to take that into account we should do so, but at the same time a creator can't reasonably be expected to assume that a particular picture of someone wearing that colour of denim is going to be triggering for someone. (Also, the more predictable stuff like abuse is going to tend to be triggering for a large portion of the audience, whereas the unpredictable stuff is going to be triggering for a small portion of the audience - not to say that there's some sort of democracy of harm involved here, but if there's a good chance that a range of people might be adversely affected there's obviously more cause for action than if there is a remote chance that perhaps one or two people might be triggered.)

A page at the back you can flip to if it is more important to you to get trigger warnings than to avoid spoilers sounds like an elegant solution.
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at 17:08 on 29-09-2014, Bjoern
@Arthur B: I agree that "content advisory" warnings will reframe the experience, but I wonder why those warnings should have to be placed there. The BBFC does not place its content warnings on the posters or the DVD cover either, if I'm not mistaken. And of course we have to consider that a content warning is not the same as a trigger warning.

Also, now I'm using the slippery slope: Which kind of trigger warnings do you want to employ, because - as we all know - there are quite a lot of things that can trigger people and many of those are just as relevant to the people as "rape" or "sexual abuse". Emotional abuse, physical abuse, discriminating language, body shaming, descriptions of physical and mental illnesses, description of colonialist behaviour and attitude, etc. can just as much trigger people quite badly.

This is not the "hence: we cannot have any of that", I'm just wondering which triggers should be included, which triggers we consider "meritous" enough to be included. Because I think the assessment "some content might be more predictably triggering than others" is not wrong, but ignores that even not completely predictably triggering content could be quite hurtful to people.

And then there is, again, the question: Do they have to be prominently featured?

I agree with Chris: If we have them, why not place them inside the book. Maybe on the last page, even after the advertisments in the paperback edition. So if I want to see which triggering elements might be in there, I could look it up. Alternatively: Book companies might offer websites for this that might be edited Wikipedia style (with strong moderation, obviously), so that even triggers you might have missed originally can quickly be added by readers.

I'm just wondering, because I remember reading (was it here?) that having an incestuous scene in your novel might be quite triggering and should be something that you warn your readers about in advance, ideally even on the book. But then again, what's with a book like "Sense of an Ending" by Julian Barnes where the incest is part of the mystery that's being unravelled within the book? I could understand if Barnes as an author tried to avoid placing a trigger warning prominently on the cover of his book, seeing as here it would double as a spoiler.
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at 14:12 on 29-09-2014, Arthur B
@Chris A: I think the reframing thing is the key sticking issue. It's true that a cover blurb, or a content advisory box next to the barcode, or whatever will reframe the experience of the book. On the other hand so will any trigger warning of any sort. I guess the big question is whether the downside of people being surprised by unexpected triggering content outweighs the downsides of that reframing. I think for a long time people took the position "of course it doesn't, caveat emptor", but equally I think people are much more aware of what triggering is and why some content might be more predictably triggering than others and that might change your assessment of where the balance lies.
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at 13:26 on 29-09-2014, Bjoern
I wasn't able to answer but I read the discussion so far with great interest. The earnestness and politeness framing this discussion reminds me why this is a great place on the web.

I hope that I can weigh in tonight, but so far: Thank you for all your input.
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at 13:15 on 29-09-2014, Chris A
Ultimately, the only reason to present a back cover blurb which doesn't accurately represent a book's contents is if you think an accurate summary of the book's contents won't sell as well. [...] Why not commission someone to write a book to fit the blurb they think will sell, rather than spending the money to print the book they think won't sell?)

While I do wonder whether it hasn't occasionally happened that someone has said "let's make her skin an ambiguous tan on the cover" or "let's not mention his other love interest is male in the blurb," I wouldn't attribute deliberate inaccuracy to most poorly representative cover copy. Rather, I'd say that it can be hard to reduce a novel to a few sentences in a way that is simultaneously appealing and descriptive.

As for the question, why not just commission novels with an eye to what will make perfect jacket copy, well, sometimes a publisher will, especially for a franchise. Otherwise, I think, agents and editors select manuscripts to represent and acquire from among those that are sent to them, guided by some composite idea of what they think will sell and what they're excited about working on.

But equally I don't think including a brief sentence at the base of the blurb along the lines of "Contains scenes of graphic rape and sexual abuse" (for example) necessarily thwarts the advertiser's mission.

Well, it probably doesn't help it, either.

Not that it should, by any means. We require all sorts of things on product labels that advertisers might prefer not to emphasize, and marketers' convenience is not the point.

Still, the publishers aren't the only people with a stake in the question of whether books that depict rape should be labeled as "rape books." I'm sympathetic to the argument that trigger warnings are an unalloyed good in all contexts if they spare people pain. I certainly wouldn't want someone who is triggered by depictions of rape to be caught off guard by the contents of The Doctrine of Labyrinths, which I had to put down myself.

At the same time, I think it would be naive to imagine that the impact of a rape warning doesn't go considerably beyond its intended function. Warnings are signposts, but they're also judgments. A blurb that includes "caution: depicts rape" is going to reframe a book, and alter our experience of it. I can imagine an author not wanting her book framed that way. As a reader, I can think of a number of books I'd hesitate to frame that way myself.
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at 10:25 on 29-09-2014, Arthur B
I think Arthur is right to acknowledge that the function of cover copy is advertising: if fanfic summary aims to help the reader decide whether this is the kind of story she likes, while "profic" summary aims persuade the reader that, yes, this definitely is the kind of thing she likes, the latter almost has to be more calculated in what it reveals and conceals.

On the other hand, only a particularly clueless advertiser believes that their job really is to try to sell their product to everyone; the idea that different products have different audiences is not novel.

Of course, almost all the advertiser's energy is directed towards pushing a product towards its intended audience, rather than warning away audiences who won't enjoy or want the product. But equally I don't think including a brief sentence at the base of the blurb along the lines of "Contains scenes of graphic rape and sexual abuse" (for example) necessarily thwarts the advertiser's mission.

Ultimately, the only reason to present a back cover blurb which doesn't accurately represent a book's contents is if you think an accurate summary of the book's contents won't sell as well. Which I guess speaks really badly for the publisher's confidence in the books Chris A mentions. (It also raises the question of why they published the books in the first place. Why not commission someone to write a book to fit the blurb they think will sell, rather than spending the money to print the book they think won't sell?)
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at 09:07 on 29-09-2014, Chris A
I've certainly seen cover copy that has distorted a book's subject matter in ways that are hard to put down to avoiding spoilers. And books with LGBT protagonists whose blurbs have concealed a romance (often thereby hiding that the protagonist is LGBT at all) that would almost certainly have been signaled ("Now Millicent must retrieve her cactus, save the city from amphibious sharks, and decide whether to trust the incorrigible young man trying to kill her - all before the men in white coats arrive to take her away") were the protagonist straight.

I think Arthur is right to acknowledge that the function of cover copy is advertising: if fanfic summary aims to help the reader decide whether this is the kind of story she likes, while "profic" summary aims persuade the reader that, yes, this definitely is the kind of thing she likes, the latter almost has to be more calculated in what it reveals and conceals.

On the other hand, much of the work that good cover copy should do - capture the reader's attention, describe a world, establish a voice - isn't an issue for fanfic. I'm not sure the kind of warnings you find on fanfic would be all that easy to crowbar in. Though there's no reason such warnings couldn't be included along with the rest of the paratext between the title page and start of the book. Sticking them with the publishing information, or in a foreword, might also mollify some people who'd object to more prominent flags on content.

Though people will still come up with all sorts of objections on artistic and ideological grounds, just as with film advisory rating systems, or trigger warnings on college syllabi. And I do think there are legitimate questions there, sometimes...
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at 05:55 on 29-09-2014, Melanie
Of course, it is used mostly to advertise and draw people in


Yeah, and it's not necessarily even accurate. I've noticed that fanfiction summaries (plus tags) actually seem to be way better about honestly telling you what's in what you're about to read (probably since it's usually going to be the author themselves writing the summary). I mean, you get plenty of people saying things like "I suck at summaries", but even so....
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at 01:05 on 29-09-2014, Arthur B
In principle, books already have a voluntary scheme to give readers an idea of the content - namely, the cover blurb. Of course, it is used mostly to advertise and draw people in, but at least a passing mention that graphic rape is involved in a text is surely not too hard to crowbar in. And "your advertising copy made me expect a different, less rapey book than the one I got" is a legitimate complaint.
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at 00:48 on 29-09-2014, Cheriola
True, even just voluntary labels would probably be way to complicated to implement. Though from several conversations I've had with women and genderqueer people about fantasy literature (and because the last episode of Outlander just put it in the front of my mind), I think a lot of people would appreciate at least a very basic trigger warning for graphic rape scenes or attempted rapes of major characters in the story. I know that would result in endless discussions about what constitutes rape, because rape culture. (I just saw someone claim in an Outlander forum that marital rape and violence wouldn't be abuse in a time period when it was still considered legal... *facepalm*) But at least for something undisputed like the detailed, violent scene in the first chapter of Mèlusine, a lot of people would like a warning either in the text (earlier threats, world-building details, rumors about the perpetrator, etc.), or if that's not possible, outside of it in the flyleaf or something.

I mean, really, would that be so hard? The etiquette of every fanfic archive I know requires at least a "non-con" warning if that's what the author wants to write about. But about a quarter of the authors/publishers I have on my fantasy shelf right now (not counting the numerous Discworld novels) apparently think they can spring that sort of thing on their reader without much or any warning. And no, most of those books are not particularly sexual in focus.
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at 18:05 on 28-09-2014, Alula
Why limit this to nerd culture? Western culture in general is built on homophobic, transphobic, sexist and racist foundations, and when you poke at them the reaction you get is just as virulent as GamerGate, if not more so.

This was the bit that leapt out at me. It may be that I'm not as involved in "nerd" culture--I don't game, I tend to only read sf or fantasy when it attracts my attention through an interesting review, etc. I found ferretbrain because of Dan's reviews of Harry Potter 7 and stayed because y'all are funny and interesting, even if/when I have no idea what you're talking about. I'd be kind of curious about what the underpinnings of the discussion that led to that proposal would be, because it does seem to be a bit--misguided? elitist? to suggest that this is endemic to nerd culture in a way that is so deeply separate from culture in general.

It also strikes me as exceedingly impractical to try to apply that kind of definitive classification to most creative works, let alone by committee. And that's without broadening the parameters to stuff like Ender's Game.

I definitely don't have an answer, but it does seem to me that in general those kinds of changes have to be bottom up, not top down.
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at 15:44 on 27-09-2014, Arthur B
It's worth noting that, what with next year being the 70th anniversary of Hitler's death, Mein Kampf is entering the public domain. The Bavarian government has decided that the best thing to do is to put out a version with commentary by historians and others to contextualise and criticise what Hitler says (presumably the academic equivalent of putting "citation needed" next to every sentence), because after investigating all the options they decided that there was no way to stop it being disseminated, so they may as well put out a scholarly version for those who want to get it for research in order to deny sales to far-right groups who will doubtless be keen to put out their own editions.

If Germany, with its stringent anti-Nazi laws, can't put a lid on Mein Kampf, I think it would be hard for any country in Europe to start banning books without a very fundamental shift in the legal landscape. (For starters, based on what Jamie's pointed out they'd probably have to drop out of the Charter on Human Rights, which I would hope most people working to condemn hate speech would regard as an own goal.)
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at 12:40 on 27-09-2014, Jamie Johnston
They report back with findings on any problematic context and the publishers have a chance to rectify their texts. If they refuse to do so, the body files a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights, framing this as "hate speech" and lets the courts take care of this. (A Indiegogo campaign could fund the first few lawsuits.)

Sorry to jump in a bit late but it's worth adding that this stage of the Big Plan also needs a lot of work. The first thing is you can't just bring a case directly to the European Court of Human Rights: you have to have tried the domestic courts of the relevant country and reached a dead end first. Though in theory that shouldn't matter because the domestic courts of any contracting state should in principle be applying the same law as the European Court on issues covered by the Convention.

The bigger problem is that 'hate speech' is not in itself contrary to the Convention. These groups would have to say that the publishers they're targeting were breaching one of the specified rights, which are (in very brief summary) life, freedom from torture, freedom from slavery, freedom from imprisonment, fair trial, freedom from arbitrary punishment, respect for private and family life, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, freedom of association, right to marry. Some of those have proved quite stretchy concepts but I can't think how any of them could be stretched to include a right to stop publishers publishing material that contains oppressive ideas. In fact in the past it's been quite difficult to persuade the Court that the Convention permits, let alone requires, contracting states to ban books.

I suspect in most countries the 'use the courts' idea wouldn't have much success because for courts to take action there has to be some relevant law for them to apply. There would need to be a prior step of persuading governments to legislate.
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at 00:39 on 27-09-2014, Chris A
There's also the problem that while one can usefully label a film that depicts incidents of graphic violence a "violent film," the same can't be said of a work that depicts incidents of sexism.
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at 00:20 on 27-09-2014, Arthur B
Yeah, doing it for books is probably too much of a burden. Doing it for AAA games isn't, though, particularly since they already have content rating systems for those.

Then again, adding homophobia/sexism/racism to current content rating systems falls well short of what Bjoern's friend was proposing.
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at 23:28 on 26-09-2014, James D
To be fair, it's the same sort of work that the BBFC and similar bodies are expected to do when ascribing age certificates to films - I regularly see labels on Blu-Rays which go beyond just saying "contains violence" to "contains fantasy violence" or "contains strong violence" or "contains strong gory violence".


Sure, that's done in the US already with TVs, movies, and video games - but doing that with books too would add a gigantic amount of work. To compare, approximately 800 films were rated in the US in 2011, while nearly 50,000 fiction books were published, counting only new titles and editions. That's not even factoring in that watching a movie requires much less time and effort than reading a novel, especially if you start introducing numerous ratings based on a variety of content like sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, whatever.
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at 21:32 on 26-09-2014, Arthur B
@Cheriola:
And if I, as left-wing as they come, cringe and have alarm bells ringing "slippery slope" in my head, you can bet that people on the right will immediately claim it as evidence for some kind of masterplan for 'PC dictatorship' and retrench to become even more ferocious in their battle.

Exactly - and they'd have a point.

@James:
The next logical step might be to include some sort of severity rating, maybe A through D or something, but at that point you start increasing the amount of work required to a ridiculous degree.

To be fair, it's the same sort of work that the BBFC and similar bodies are expected to do when ascribing age certificates to films - I regularly see labels on Blu-Rays which go beyond just saying "contains violence" to "contains fantasy violence" or "contains strong violence" or "contains strong gory violence".

Qualifiers like that are probably more intuitive and easily understood than "Sexism-A" or "Sexism-D"; just say something like "Contains sexist incidents" if it's the occasional isolated thing or "Contains strong, overt misogyny" if you're talking something like latter-period Cerebus.
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at 20:48 on 26-09-2014, James D
The problem with any kind of label like that is that there's pretty wide spectrum of what could be considered sexism/racism/etc. in fiction, from the ridiculously blatant, cartoony sexism of Gor, which forms essentially the thematic basis for the entire series (as well as the personal life of the author), down to, say, one instance of one character calling someone a cunt. Both are clearly sexist, but the severity is definitely unequal, and it would definitely devalue the usefulness of any kind of labeling system if they were both simply labeled "contains sexism."

The next logical step might be to include some sort of severity rating, maybe A through D or something, but at that point you start increasing the amount of work required to a ridiculous degree.

Really, I agree with Cheriola that what makes the most sense is just for people to check out review sites they trust like FerretBrain and others, and vote with their dollars. If our dollars don't end up having much impact on the industry, well, that's just the society we live in right now, which also means that an oversight board/rating system like we've been talking about is probably a pipe dream for the time being as well.
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at 19:21 on 26-09-2014, Cheriola
Of course, instead of blacklisting the stores, you could organise this thing more like a consumer advocacy group. Here in Germany, Stiftung Warentest ("Product-testing Foundation") regularly test all sorts of consumer goods in groups of rivaling brands and publishes the results both in a dedicated print magazine and in various news outlets. They have enough clout that a bad result will reach a lot of consumers and keep them from buying your product, so companies have an incentive to care about making their value/price level realistic and not to promise utter nonsense in the advertisements.

But in a way, the media already have this sort of control in the form of various reviewing sites. If you care about social justice, you'll likely choose your media consumption based on what blogs like Ferretbrain or the Backlot or BorderHouse recommend or pan, or based on recommendations you get from the more social justice oriented corners of Tumblr. And then you just have to put your money where your mouth is and not buy that sexist AAA game just because it has pretty graphics and all your friends are playing it.

The only thing I could imagine - though Michal is right, the logistics would be daunting - would be a kind of voluntary label, either applied by the publishers or by stores who want to appear as progressive. Like the age recommendation on games, or the "contains nudity/violence/strong language" that you sometimes get even with TV shows. But instead it could on the surface be a trigger warning label, with the added benefit of also informing everyome who wouldn't be triggered that something is amiss with this book or comic or whatever, and thus shaming the original creators into doing better next time. I.e. "contains racism", "contains sexism" etc. Like the trigger warnings that fanfic archives sometimes encourage.

It would be almost impossible to get publishers to put on labels like that, of course, since these terms are seen as putting a black mark on things. Which would be the point, after all. But that way, book stores could at least mark their awareness of and refusal to endorse the problematic attitudes in the great classics, for example. And also make clueless new readers aware that there are things in there that aren't considered socially acceptable anymore or that might be upsetting to them.
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at 18:28 on 26-09-2014, Cheriola
I agree with Arthur that banning any kind of media or art (or blacklisting the stores) would just play into the bigots' hands. Maybe it's because I live in a country where that kind of thing has happened several times before, but the whole proposal reminded me way too much of the kind of attitude dictatorships have to art and media that don't toe the party line. (i.e. labeling things as "degenerate art", or not letting my highschool art teacher display his paintings in public spaces because he refused to join the Party)
And if I, as left-wing as they come, cringe and have alarm bells ringing "slippery slope" in my head, you can bet that people on the right will immediately claim it as evidence for some kind of masterplan for 'PC dictatorship' and retrench to become even more ferocious in their battle.
I mean, yes, my country does have some censorship (mainly regarding anything that glorifies the Nazis or denies the Holocaust), but that's seen more as a necessary measure to keep control over social movements that might upset constitutional order if they gain too much power. And, as was said before, hate speech laws do require actual incitement to do violence against whole groups of people based on a common trait like ethnicity, not against specific individuals. (Of course, someone who incites violence against specific people could still be convicted of harrassment.)

Personally, I think the anti-progressive backlash is the result of a combination of "traditionally male" social expectations together with some neo-liberal economic behavioural ideals and entitlements that started in the 80s and the consistent othering of non-white, non-cis, non-straight and non-male people in the media, training a subset of the white, cis-het male population from birth to develop a kind of sociopathy (i.e. incapacity for empathy) towards anyone who isn't in their very narrow group. It didn't show up as much before because they were at the top of the social heap and could afford to be somewhat magnanimous. Now that for the first time they are actually asked to truly share power and public attention to their needs, they feel threatened and lash out just as viciously as you would expect a sociopath to do. Unfortunately, I don't think that attitude is cureable. If someone refuses to change his mind when he is asked to consider the pain he is causing others, then there is really no way of ever reaching him. All the feminist education, no matter if delivered by the affected or in-group allies who try to capitalise on the fact that people will find arguments more convincing if they come from people who look like themselves, can only ever touch those who still have the capacity to empathise with people who are lower in the kyriarchical system than they are.
(As an aside, and I wasn't originally planning on showing this around because the poll seems to have had major problems even aside from the usual self-selection biases and so on, but it fits too well into the topic now: This breakdown of the demographics of people who consider themselves MRAs and participate in a dedicated reddit forum is really rather telling.)

All we really can do is try to catch the next generation before their attitudes fossilise. And for that we do need the education. But also relentless peer pressure - not in the form of banning the media, but by writing bad reviews, mocking the creators, and giving people the hairy eyeball for fanboying without any reflection on the nasty parts of the media they enjoy. And of course, by deleting harrassment and excluding obvious trolls from the discussion, or at least giving them harsh blowback.

I don't have the psychological fortitude it takes to take on trolls and belligerent bigots, and I admire anyone who does. But even I and my social anxiety can still do a little bit by giving indepth but semi-anonymous feedback to creators who I think might be pulled to our side, or who are at least claiming to be on our side, whenever they mess up in ways that I feel equiped to explain.

[... In that spirit: James, can we please not use terms for disabilities to make value judgements? You wouldn't say "that's gay" when you mean "that's bad/asinine", would you? I know that words like "dumb", "lame", "crazy" or "idiotic" are in widespread use for this kind of thing, but just because everyone does it doesn't mean it's okay to imply disabled people are inherently of lesser value than healthy ones. There are plenty of other words in the English language to express that something isn't well thought through. Ignorant, inane, asinine, silly, foolish, mindless, brainless, fatuous, vacuous...]

By the way, what's so bad about Dragon Age? I never played the games, but last time I was paying attention, people were very appreciative of the fact that the first game in the series had several homosexual romantic options and that a few characters were canonically bi. Did that series make a complete 180 turn around later on? Or is this more a case of good on one social justice issue, but bad on another?
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at 10:36 on 26-09-2014, Arthur B
Oh, one more thing:
In effect, the idea of "We don't want to ban anything", is seen as part of the problem. Because as long as those people need not fear that their toys are taken away from them, they will continue to shame, harrass and threaten those who work for change.

I think this betrays an enormous misunderstanding of the GamerGaters' thinking on the part of your friend. A lot of GamerGate rhetoric is based on the very notion that someone wants to take away your games, replacing your Call of Duties and Dragon Ages with casual games and indie experimental bullshit and thereby profiting under the classic Underpants Gnomes plan:

1) Steal underpants man-games.
2) ?????
3) Profit!

This conspiracy theory is, of course, incorrect. Making it correct by setting up ethics boards to brand man-games as hate literature would be something of a rhetorical own goal, and would send the GamerGaters into overdrive. It'd be like tabletop RPG players responding to 1980s accusations of Satanism by going "Well, fine, we really will start incorporating human sacrifices into our games - that'll show ya!": responding to hateful rhetoric by conforming to it is a losing game.
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at 05:58 on 26-09-2014, Michal
This could easily be done

Easily? The logistics behind this proposal are already making my head hurt.
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at 22:57 on 25-09-2014, James D
Also, I really dislike the idea of blacklisting stores just for selling certain books - after all, while Conan certainly has some racist/misogynist stuff going in, it's also massively important to the history of fantasy. Same with Lovecraft's work, and even Orson Scott Card's (wrt sci-fi). Of course it's important to acknowledge any kind of questionable themes, and depending on how strong they are some people may not want their money supporting the author, but just blackballing anyone that carries their works doesn't seem helpful. And is it even feasible? How could a non-megachain bookstore ever hope to read and evaluate every single one of the books it carries? What about used bookstores?
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at 18:41 on 25-09-2014, Arthur B
I am inclined to say that you are correct in your doubts - this is the sort of solution that is very simple, but only because it doesn't engage with any of the complexities. In particular:

- The very idea that change must come from without denies the existence of a progressive wing of nerd culture and makes like all those women and people of colour and QUILTBAG sorts and others working to effect change within the nerdosphere are just spinning their wheels uselessly. GamerGate wouldn't be the shitstorm that it is (and Racefail wouldn't have been the shitstorm it was, and so on) if there weren't people within geekdom arguing on the other side, because consensus does not yield controversy.

- Comparing The Turner Diaries to Conan is simplistic because whatever his faults, Howard was not actually a propagandist; yes, he expressed some noxious racial theories, but the Conan stories are not a platform for promoting a political party or manifesto in the same way that The Turner Diaries are. Hate crime and hate speech laws are finely balanced beasts and in general they tend to point at overt calls to action more than anything else, because if you don't draw that line what you end up doing is banning ideas, and the authority to ban ideas is something I'm not really comfortable with any institution having.

- Comparing The Turner Diaries to Ender's Game is extra-simplistic with crushed chocolate-coated simplistic on top. Although Card is a notorious homophobe, my understanding is (I admit I haven't read the book myself) that this isn't really expressed in Ender's Game - he only got on this bandwagon in later works and statements. If you are going to put booksellers on the "support homophobia" list because they sold a copy of Ender's Game, that's purely down to your dislike of the person who wrote it, not the actual content - at which point your content review committees are a joke.

- Why limit this to nerd culture? Western culture in general is built on homophobic, transphobic, sexist and racist foundations, and when you poke at them the reaction you get is just as virulent as GamerGate, if not more so. It's worth noting that, as despicably specific as some of the death threats that Sarkeesian and Quinn have been subjected to are, at the same time nobody's actually known to have been physically harmed over the GamerGate issue (indeed, nobody has, to my knowledge, actually made any effort to actually follow through on their threats); other reactionary movements have done and continue to go well beyond verbal abuse.

I'm not saying this to minimise how monstrous the harassment and intimidation and hate speech surrounding GamerGate is, and I'm not even saying that just because there are bigger problems out there that that necessarily means that we shouldn't take a good look at giving the nerd stables a clean-out. What I am saying is that nerd culture is not uniquely bad; it's a poorly-socialised and somewhat eccentric outgrowth of Western culture which inherits a lot of its bad habits from the wider culture. And if the work isn't done in the wider culture as well, then it's going to be difficult to turn nerd culture into some sort of progressive beacon, let alone clean out the trash which is currently cluttering it.

So if you're going to take these measures, you're going to have to apply them to everything, not just nerd culture - it is transparently unfair and obviously counterproductive if an author can get around the hate speech review boards by shifting their work's genre to literary fiction, for instance.

- Where's the statute of limitations? All sorts of old works look awful these days because of the culture they were written in. Are book shops going to end up on a list because they sell vintage literature? What about works which have gone into the public domain?

- What about the online sphere? Censoring brick and mortar bookshops is terribly 1980s. Given how trivial it would be for people to set up some sort of Steam-for-shitlords to distribute "uncensored" versions of works, would the content review boards even be effective at stopping distasteful material from getting into distribution?
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