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 15:45 on 04-01-2015, Arthur B
So... it's Jurassic Park, only in China, with a dragon?

at 15:31 on 04-01-2015, Sonia Mitchell
Oh man, a novel due on 12th Feb is hitting my interests.
It's a monster book! Set in a zoo! Written by Matthew Reilly!

(Warning: there is almost certainly a fair amount of fail coming from it being set in China)
at 05:36 on 01-01-2015, Robinson L
Happy New Year to all. Here's hoping for Adrienne's sake that 2014 was a great improvement upon 2013, but that 2015 bring even better things.
at 23:48 on 31-12-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I'm going to change the subject!

Over the past few years, I've been cooling pretty hard on the rise of superhero franchise films, partly because there's just so damn many of them, and partly because most of them seem to be so flashy, and kick up a huge groundswell of fan hype...and yet the movies themselves are so inert, the cinematic equivalent of eating packing foam. There's exceptions, of course; at times it felt like Guardians of the Galaxy felt like an actual film that was trying and failed to escape Marvel's claws, but even things like the Captain America movies I just boring.

A few days ago, I found an article on Grantland that talked quite a bit about how Hollywood's been changing over the last few years, and I gotta say, I have concerns. The basic argument is that the great problem isn't superheroes per se, it's the fact that Hollywood is starting to think in terms of five-, seven-, and ten-year plans, that studios are increasingly thinking in terms of nothing but franchises, and we're going to see more and more studio heads that come wholly out of the corporate track.

This is not good.
at 22:55 on 30-12-2014, Alice
So it's not about ethics in games journalism, then? ;)

I think my favourite quote from that piece has to be

Even to this day, the opposition to GamerGate has focused on smear tactics, name calling, false equivalencies and a variety of other dirty tricks.


*gasps, clutches pearls, etc.*
at 11:29 on 25-12-2014, Alice
Goodness, two new articles in one day, what a Christmas treat!*

Hope everyone's having a delightful/festive/restful/survivable (delete as appropriate) holiday season.

*this came out about 90% more snarky than it sounded in my head, I promise ;)
at 16:20 on 14-12-2014, James D
Yeah, GURPS had a real good run in the 80s/90s, and a lot of rad cover art.

at 19:45 on 13-12-2014, Jamie Johnston permalink
at 00:17 on 13-12-2014, Sonia Mitchell
I also have one - Catharsis By Rabbit, article 982. It's not time-sensitive though, so after Christmas is fine by me.

In festive news, I wish this nativity scene was somewhere near me.
at 23:30 on 12-12-2014, Robinson L
Sure thing; thanks, Arthur. And like I said, no great hurry.
at 23:18 on 12-12-2014, Arthur B
No, I see them. Let me get back to you about that.
at 23:15 on 12-12-2014, Robinson L
In my case, as I said, no great hurry; if nobody gets to until after New Year's I don't mind.

As for the articles - there are a couple of them, and they're all marked "ready" on my admin screen. "The Wonderful Shitbag of Oz" was one, and "Book Review: Sir MacHinery." I can post the whole list to the Playpen, if that'll help.
at 21:19 on 12-12-2014, Arthur B
I will check with the editor again but, due to busy-ness all round, can't make any guarantees.

@Robinson - which articles in particular were you thinking of?
at 20:00 on 12-12-2014, Robinson L
Now that you mention it, I have a couple of articles that I submitted a while ago, and haven't heard back about. My submissions tend to be hit-and-miss, so I wouldn't be surprised if some are deemed unsuitable, and I'm not in a particular hurry, but I'd like to find out for sure one way or another in the not too distant future. Any advice from folks in the know about how to go about doing that? I tried e-mailing the editor, but I didn't get an answer.

(Good luck, Alasdair; I look forward to your articles.)
at 04:38 on 12-12-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj posted two things for Ferretbrain in early November, and it's the middle of December, so...can those get up before the end of the year? Please?
at 00:30 on 10-12-2014, Robinson L
I guess that's part or all of the problem: conflating public opinion (where, as you point out, the presumption of innocence rarely ever holds sway - certainly not for women like Jackie or for Zoe Quinn) with judicial proceedings.

I think the wording in my friend's article could be misconstrued to read like it's advocating reversing presumption of innocence - which is certainly not the case. Not that I expect most of the people calling "false accusation" and trolling Twitter are acting in good faith in the first place.

Arthur: the detail that I'd previously missed that Jackie changed her mind about being involved in the article and asked not to be included

I know. The more you learn about the story, the more fucked up it proves to be. Yet another point that has been curiously obscured from most of the discourse.
at 11:38 on 09-12-2014, Arthur B
We Hunted the Mammoth has a link roundup for people wanting to know more about this UVA deal, including the detail that I'd previously missed that Jackie changed her mind about being involved in the article and asked not to be included.

Actually, it's about ethics in rape journalism???
at 07:43 on 09-12-2014, Arthur B
I was just curious if anybody here knows of a good write-up which debunks this "presumption of innocence" line which I could archive for future use?

Is your friend talking about criminal liability in court? Then, er, I don't really have anything for you because the presumption of innocence exists there for extraordinarily good reasons - drop it and you're effectively saying that you would rather accept the possibility of innocent people being punished than guilty people going free and that's not a battle you're going to have my back on.

(Yes, rape conviction rates are horrible and false accusations aren't the plague that apologists claim they are. Switching about the burden of proof won't necessarily improve the former and might actually make false accusations a genuine problem. Currently, the idea that you can falsely accuse someone of rape and they get unjustly railroaded to jail and their life destroyed is an utter myth. Flip the burden of proof and suddenly the myth has the real potential to become true.)

Are you talking about civil liability, as in libel? Well, the standard there varies a lot by jurisdiction already; google around for libel reform and you will probably find good sources arguing for the idea that people accused of libel shouldn't have to prove the ironclad truth of what they have asserted.

Are we talking about the court of public opinion and gossip? Well, the presumption of innocence has never held sway there - in general, mud sticks. Rape is a weird beast where mud often sticks to the accuser more than it does the target.

In this case, though, I think the better rhetorical tack to take is to stress that there isn't actually an accused party, so nobody's on trial in the first place.
at 03:00 on 09-12-2014, Robinson L
Orion: it's worth noting that there isn't an accused party

Not that you'd know it from the haters' tweets - but then, what more would you expect?

In fact, one intriguing (which is to say "I would find this hilarious if it weren't so goddamn awful") trend I've noticed is the way said haters are excorciating the people who proclaim #IStandWithJackie for condemning these unnamed fraternity boys for something where the positive evidence (other than a woman's testimony) is lacking ... and then turn around and hitting that same woman with words like "liar, hoaxer, falsely accused, etc." based upon the ironclad positive evidence of ... a couple POTENTIAL discrepancies in her narrative. Tell me again about double standards, guys?
at 22:00 on 08-12-2014, Orion
I thought better of my comment almost immediately, but I want to let it stay up. On reflection, I don't think it's a survivor's job to screen their story for identifying details while thy're trying to recount a traumatic experience. It's on the reporters to check over their story to make sure it matches the intended level of anonymity. This is another fuck up by Rolling Stone.
at 21:57 on 08-12-2014, Orion
I have a family member who teaches at UVA. I've taken a couple of classes there myself. Rolling Stone fucked this up epically. UVA has a huge problem both with their fraternity culture and their administrative response. Rolling Stone did signal boost the problem, and the school did change some policies, but people in VA had been talking about this all year, since well before Rolling Stone went to press.

There's basically no excuse for their failure to check out any of the details. I imagine it's quite likely that she honestly misremembered, but if they had found those inaccuracies before they printed, they could have avoided exposing her to the huge backlash she's open to now.

As for your question about burdens of proof for the victim or the accused, it's worth noting that there isn't an accused party. There's the fraternity itself, I guess, but Jackie hasn't named any of the assailants, even off the record. Washington Post was able to use some details of her story to track down someone they think might be one of the accused, but they can't even confirm that. This is one thing I do wish Jackie would have handled differently. I can understand not wanting to name the perps, but if you're not naming them I think you ought to avoid giving out identifying details. I think people do deserve to know whether or not they've been accused of rape in the national press.
at 20:00 on 08-12-2014, Robinson L
I don't know how many people have been following this (I had not until yesterday) but Rolling Stone recently published an article about rape culture at the University of Virginia. Major trigger warning the rest of this comment and for the links.

This exposé unsurprisingly sparked a major backlash, particularly against the story of the primary witness, a woman named Jackie. Rolling Stone execs seem to have been completely unprepared for said backlash, and a couple of days ago, they published a retraction. The current version of the retraction's most-cited passage reads thusly:

We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.

Further in that paragraph, they affirm "These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie."

However, multiple sources give this as the original wording:

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.

"We have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced" - and no mention in the original of who was at fault for their journalistic mistakes.

From a websearch, it is apparent that rape culture apologists are taking the retraction as proof positive that the whole thing was a hoax, and their Google rankings suggest these articles are getting the most traffic.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine has published an article castigating Rolling Stone for failing to prepare for such backlash; for turning upon their primary witness (especially after denying her request to be removed from the article); and, ultimately, for printing a retraction in the first place, thus tacitly agreeing that the existence of potential discrepancies renders Jackie's story invalid or at least highly suspect. (The piece was published before Rolling Stone updated their retraction to walk back some of the victim-blaming.)

In light of how bad the discourse has become following Rolling Stone's retraction, my friend is asking for a signal-boost. (In my research into the whole sordid business, I also discovered this excellent blog post which also takes Rolling Stone to task and gives a stomach-churning breakdown of why a woman's memories of the rape perpetrated against her might not be %100 accurate.)

(Incidentally, while I'm not on Twitter, I've had a gander at the #IStandWithJackie twitter feed, and the name of one of the male trolls on it struck me as familiar: Mike Cernovich, also name-dropped in the Eron Gjoni/gamergate article Arthur posted the other day. It figures there would be an overlap.)

On a tangential note: in the final paragraph of my friend's article, she notes: "he burden of proof, in cases of rape, should lie with the accused, not the victim." This reminded me that in the past, I've often seen this argument met with "but what about presumption of innocence/innocent until proven guilty?" (and in a couple more intelligent cases, citation of black men in the Southern USA lynched in the late 19th-mid 20th centuries due to false allegations of raping or sexually harassing white women). I was just curious if anybody here knows of a good write-up which debunks this "presumption of innocence" line which I could archive for future use?
at 13:41 on 07-12-2014, Arthur B
Never has your username been more appropriate.