On the Devil’s Advocate, and how he can be a real jerk

xkcd makes a brilliant, if sarcastic, statement on the devil’s advocate.
xkcd #1432: check out the link above for more

In short, playing “devil’s advocate” is the act of debating the points of an opposing side of an argument, in an attempt to put one’s own argument into context. (I’m assuming, however, that you already know that.) When done prudently and properly, the devil’s advocate allows us, at best, to gain a greater understanding of our own views and to add more depth to our arguments and, at worst, gives us more ammo with which to assault the strawman.

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What happened to patriotism?

us_flagLet’s talk about patriotism.

Patriotism is, generally speaking, cultural attachment to one’s homeland or devotion to one’s country, although interpretations of the term vary with context, geography and political ideology. It is a set of concepts closely related to those of nationalism.

That’s Wikipedia’s current (30 Sep 2014) definition of the word. Like just about any other subject nowadays, it carries a tone of caution, and almost politically tiptoes around the idea. In recent years, national pride, whether cultural or political, has become a controversial subject. Images like American bald eagles and the stars and stripes pictured above have become the subject of satire and mockery by the general public, with their image tied to fringe conservatives. (and, apparently, Nazis. Godwin’s Law, I guess.) Look at the recent reboots of Captain America — ever notice how drab the red, white, and blue has become? For that matter, even my involvement with the Boy Scouts has drawn questions, to the tune of “But you’re not Republican enough for that!”

Why must I be a “backwoods, fat, snaggletoothed drunk Republican from Texas” to care about my country?

Clearly, there is concern for what blind patriotism has done in recent history. Great atrocities have been done throughout mankind’s history “for the glory of <country>!” Propaganda, fear-mongering, and global big-sticking (and the suffering it has created) have tainted the image of the US, in particular. On the other hand, though, mass media sensationalism, radical individuals, and corruption of power can be held equally to blame.

Despite this, Old Glory seems to have taken the fall for just about everything bad we, the people have done. Contemporary cowardice has driven us away from our nation and the great things it has done (rather, what we have done), simply because, as a society, we are unable to own up and admit our mistakes, and have become very quick to shift the blame onto the country that we, on some level, don’t want to be associated with.

So, when I say I’m proud to be an American, that doesn’t mean I support everything my country’s people have supported, nor does it make me fat and bigoted.

All it means is that I’ve come to love the slice of the world I was born in, and the people that live around me. I don’t love any other people less for it, and by no means do I support my government in all cases.

In short, I’m nothing more than a man who loves his country. Label me how you will.

NPR misses the point on #gamergate

NPR recently did a bit on GamerGate, a movement calling for greater accountability and integrity among video game journalists and “gamer news” sites.

In a nutshell, GamerGate has its origins in a controversy surrounding Zoe Quinn, indie developer of Depression Quest, a game-let centering on living with depression. In 2013, when DQ was placed on Steam Greenlight, a user-driven game submission service, the response from Steam users was unsavory at best; rape jokes, death threats, and the rest of the spectrum of e-harassment the Internet is infamous for followed.

Fast forward eight months, and a disgruntled ex-boyfriend of Zoe’s airs their dirty laundry on a WordPress blog. “The Zoe Post” details, among other things, allegations that Zoe cheated on her boyfriend on several occasions. The rant was published to little effect — that is, until the names of several men listed on The Zoe Post are matched to journalists, bloggers, and devs in the gaming industry. (The Five Guys name and logo quickly became a humorous moniker for the controversy.) The Internet at large cried foul at the implication that Zoe traded sexual favors for favorable publicity for her game.

While the rumors about Zoe eventually turned out to be just that, the controversy sparked questions about the integrity of games journalism. Over the next few weeks, several discoveries were made:

  • Journalists from Kotaku, RPS, and several other sites were contributing to game developers through a donation service called Patreon, creating a conflict of interest in their reporting — in theory, journalists could give positive reviews to games they have financial interest in. Polygon and Kotaku have since revised their policies regarding Patreon.
  • On August 28th, nearly a dozen gaming news sites published very similar articles surrounding the controversy, with many proclaiming that “Gamers are dead.” A few weeks later, a leaker published information about a private mailing list used “to mold and manipulate game industry attitudes towards pertinent events,” which has been tied to the aforementioned articles.
  • #NotYourShield, a banner under which women and minorities in support of GamerGate rallied, was systemically attacked by journalists and game devs, including Quinn herself. (No concise or unbiased source on this, check out this article on GamerGate as a whole for more info — keep in mind that this article has a very clear bias, and doesn’t always cite good sources. Read at your own risk.)

As time goes on, GamerGate garners more attention from bigger names in the entertainment industry. So when I heard GamerGate ring over the radio on ATC, my ears perked up. To my dismay, however, the focus isn’t on the controversy itself, but is instead on the vocal few that have displaced Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, a YouTuber behind FeministFrequency, a channel which has garnered controversy of its own in the past. (Here’s a link dump from various viewpoints, read for yourself.)

In my opinion, the fact that NPR (or any major news outlet, for that matter) has yet to address the concerns on journalistic integrity surrounding GamerGate is of great concern — across the board, the focus of reports on GamerGate has been on every subject except the breaches in integrity themselves. Yes, the doxxing, harassment, and threats toward Quinn, Sarkeesian, and the others is newsworthy, but that doesn’t marginalize the significance of the outright corruption in the gaming news industry. If this trend continues — that is, if our journalists continue to ignore what GamerGate seeks to expose, then the only legacy of the movement will be the unsavory minority that has threatened to rape, kill, and harass these men and women — exactly what that NPR report laments.

 

I encourage you to read more on the subject, as there’s much that I haven’t covered (or don’t care to cover) here. As always, understand that no source is unbiased.

Polishing an image

The other day, I stumbled across a deviantArt account I made six years ago.

Let that sink in for a second. Done?

In the wake of that discovery, I embarked on a noble quest to erase every trace of my 12 and 13 year old identity from the face of the Internet. While most of what I found was mundane and utterly ordinary, I can safely say that, at this point, no trace of the embarrassing and terrifyingly awful fanfiction I wrote in middle school remains, and that no soul shall ever again see YouTube comment wars and Internet fights with my name plastered all over them.

In case you’re ever motivated to do the same, a combination of deleting accounts, updating email addresses and changing passwords did the trick for me rather well.

And to answer the two burning questions:

  • There was no content on that deviantArt account.
  • No, you can’t read that fanfiction. The only digital copy remaining (I hope) is being analyzed by top men.

Top men