snarke (snarke) wrote,

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I Wish I Were More Surprised . . .

I just read a short article entitled “Playing with Hate”. The author talks about how he’s noticing an overwhelming amount of trash-talk that relies on anti-homosexual hate speech, such as “All fags like you should die,” and “You’re so gay!”

Sad, and so juvenile, but not worth blogging about. So far.

Then he mentions how he’s noticed that some people celebrate killing an opponent in some first person shooters by having their avatar perform some brief act of simulated sex with their opponent’s corpse. OK, first of all, ewww! However, I don’t know if I think some pathetic gamer making his avatar hump another (‘dead’) avatar is necessarily an anti-gay statement; he’d probably hump a ‘dead’ female avatar as well, if any women were willing to get in the same game as somebody that juvenile.

No, the little tidbit from the article that raised my eyebrows was an experiment the author tried in some of the chat rooms (I think they’re PS3-online-gaming chat rooms, but he doesn’t definitively identify them). If he typed a profanity, the system automatically substituted asterisks. I’m guessing that we’re talking words like f**k and s**t, but with more asterisks. If he tried to use racial slurs, they were also redacted. “Fag,” however, came through untouched.

The author’s irritating unwillingness to name names means, unless I had some way of accessing a similar system, I can’t confirm the veracity of these statements, but it appears that it is Sony’s corporate opinion that “Nigger is naughty, but Fag is fine.”

I would love for somebody to be able to tell me that this isn’t really true.

A thread on a Bungie message board asked a similar question. The poster was wondering why “kike,” “wop,” “coon,” “guido,” “jap,” “mick,” “niglet,” “beaner,” “wetback,” and “jigaboo” weren’t being blocked. {roll eyes} One poster said he’d never heard some of those; another poster accused him of being sheltered. Reality check: in my ENTIRE LIFE, I have heard EXACTLY ONE of the words in that list used as a functional slur by a contemporary source. (That would be “wetback,” by the way.) Possibly two; I’m not sure I would have identified “beaner” as insulting rather than just silly. I’ve certainly heard low-riders called “beanermobiles,” but if the speaker was intending to denigrate them, they utterly failed; I left with the impression that Hispanics were being credited with unusual talent (if sometimes dubious taste) in modifying cars. Is anybody using these words in chat rooms as slurs? I rather doubt it.

Do I want chat rooms to add “fag” to their redaction lists? No. (A brief aside. Replacing naughty words with stars is NOT censorship. Even throwing somebody off the site entirely for what they’ve posted is NOT censorship. “Censorship” is really important, and it irritates me greatly when people throw that word around at the drop of a vowel, instead of saving it for when it’s actually happening. If you delete my nasty words from your blog comments, that’s editing. If you hack my blog on my server, or crash it, or run a DoS attack on it, that’s censorship.) Blocking ‘nigger’ won’t stop some l@mr from insulting blacks. Redacting ‘fag’ isn’t going to have much effect on the amount of gay-hate speech; there’s lots and lots of other ways to say the same thing.

The swear filters are there, of course, not because they’re useful in any meaningful way, but because they make it look as if the company in question is making an effort to protect poor innocent children from nasty potty-mouths that might be roaming the Internet in feral packs. In fact, I really don’t have a problem per se with companies making ineffectual gestures as a public relations move to placate parents (or other parties) that are too stupid to realize that those gestures are ineffectual.

HOWEVER, this particular ineffectual gesture has a side effect: it makes any ‘bad word’ that is not redacted a ‘second-class insult.’ “These words here? These are Bad Words, and we need to redact them. Those words there? Those aren’t as bad.” Of course, any word can be made into an insult with the right tone of voice (or the written equivalent); that’s why swear filters are stupid and ineffective. The LGBTetc movement has, remarkably, seized “gay” and through the application of phenomenal linguistic force, made it a term of pride (pun intended) as well as opprobrium. Yay gay! I strongly support freedom of speech, and that includes juvenile trash talk, even juvenile trash talk that uses non-majority forms of sexuality as the insult. But having a corporation condone, even implicitly, such speech is an entirely different matter. I’m willing to bet that “fag” and “gay” appear in trash-talk more often than any other terms, with the possible exception of “fuck” and its alternative forms, and if there are companies who are redacting chat rooms, but don’t include one of the most commonly used words in their block list, that Sends A Message.

And when that’s the case, well, I think it’s time to Send A Message Right Back.
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