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Monday, November 10, 2014 

ICV2 writer scared of "comicsgate", but is it for the right reasons?

Author Rob Salkowitz wrote on ICV2 that if "Comicsgate" - the variant on Gamergate - ever happens, it'll be a catastrophe for the medium. He doesn't start out well:
On election day, a grim forecast of how political divisions could tear apart everything comics culture has built in the 21st century.
I think that's already happened a long time ago. Nothing new here.
Over the weekend, political journalist Ezra Klein posted a provocative analysis of Gamergate at his news site, Vox, arguing that the amorphous, often bitterly misogynistic controversy in the videogaming community is actually a proxy for larger cultural anxieties that have already divided our politics.
A repeat of the cliche that misogyny was literally the intent of the folks who launched the campaign that fails to note some of the opponents were misogynist themselves, nor how one of the people involved in the controversy made a joke out of her standings by staying oblivious to any female game protagonists who are effective combatants, for example, like Lara Croft. Nobody's saying the pro-Gamergate side is innocent, but if Salkowitz and the otherwise questionable Klein won't be fair here, then I don't see what their business is commenting on the issues.
The rage of the "true fans." On one side is the "original" tribe; the true believers who feel justified by their identity, their historical position and the intensity of their attachment to define the nature of culture--whether it’s something as specific as gamer culture or as broad as authentic Americanism--for everyone else. Others are welcome, as long as they acknowledge the fundamental legitimacy and supremacy of this group.

The troubles start when newcomers try to redefine the culture in a broader way. Dissidents frame this in terms of social justice and inclusion, but originalists feel it as a loss of their core defining identity.

GamerGaters are more or less explicit about this point. Scrape away the surface arguments about journalistic ethics and ignore, if you can, the sexual insecurity and misogyny: most GamerGate folks I’ve talked to are sick and tired of games being reviewed and discussed on the basis of how socially relevant their storylines are, how many female characters are represented, and other issues that, in their view, are subordinate to the real point of gaming, which is how cool and playable the actual gaming experience is.

Then they are incredulous that others don’t simply acknowledge they are right about this. Then they get angry that they don’t get to be right about this just by virtue of their privileged (and self-evident) status as "real" gamers: after all, "it’s our culture; we’ll show them who’s boss."

And then it gets ugly. Really freakin’ ugly.
Oh, I see. He's claiming reporter ethics are just a facade, and not the real thing. I think he's putting words in the Gamergate supporters' mouths too: there's so many games now with lady protagonists, I'm not sure where he gets the idea they have a problem with that. On the other hand, if today's computer games suffer problems like "progressive diversity" calling for LGBT issues, leftist politics and hostility to conservatives to be injected into the game at all costs, that's certainly disappointing.
Can it happen in comics? The gaming community happens to be the one stuck with this problem right now. And despite the fact that videogames are an enormous global industry, it feels like something that’s still isolated in a pocket of the pop culture universe, unlikely to spread unless you come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of the infected.

Unfortunately, all the essential ingredients of Gamergate are scattered around comics culture like leaky specimen jars in the basement of the CDC. The same tensions exist between the traditional base of older, male superhero comics readers and the more diverse younger demographic. Big publishers face the same conundrum of pandering to old-style fanboys or trying to reach a wider audience, and often step on the same kinds of landmines as their counterparts in the gaming industry. Every weekend, another massive comic convention rubs old-timers’ faces in the reality that everything has changed, that all the old customs of the hobby that they know and love (and helped build) are being yanked from their grasp and remade in the image of consumers rather than fans. Arguments about "fake geek girls" remain depressingly common, along with occasional disgusting attempts to silence female voices.

Every so often, you hear a more pointed political appeal; for example, that conservative political views are being marginalized within comics and that the good vs. evil purity of comics has been supplanted by leftist "moral relativism." This type of argument seems deliberately engineered to create explicit ideological divisions within comics culture that mirror the broader debates in national politics.
As a matter of fact, the comics medium suffers a lot more from misogyny than games medium actually does, and not just in the employment division, but in storytelling too. Again, let's remember how Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled precipitated a lot of the ruins mainstream comics have fallen into now. And the worst part is, some of the remnants of audience still addicted to DC & Marvel - even as they've sunk into terrible writing - lent their support, and yes, some of them fueled misogyny online. Politically speaking, leftism also changed comicdom for the worse.

And Salkowitz is taking a stance similar to that of the anti-Gamergate crowd: he's claiming any and all arguments by conservatives that their positions have been denigrated for many years now are false. Mr. Salkowitz, what about Civil War? What about Y the Last Man? What about the New52 take on the 2nd Mr. Terrific? I guess he thinks they're all peanuts. On the other hand, what if he secretly sympathizes with their unfriendly viewpoints, and isn't brave enough to tell anyone?

I don't know if "Comicsgate" as a protest of bad ethics in comics journalism has already happened per se, but I've certainly been doing my best for nearly a decade now to explain what's gone wrong with all these ethics. The now defunct Wizard magazine was a major precipitator of bad ethics in reporting, acting soft on bad ideas like the Clone Saga, Emerald Twilight, Zero Hour, Heroes Reborn, Identity Crisis, Avengers: Disassembled and more recently, erasing the Spider-marriage, recalling an article I once spotted where they said Marvel could be laughing all the way to the bank. They often wrote material insulting to women too, and some of their letter pages reflected a sick attitude towards the fairer sex.

But most "journalists" today either don't bring that up, and if they do, it's just to be self-serving, acting like they're better yet when publicity stunts like the above are published, they side with the publishers no matter how bad the ideas are, which makes them just as bad as Wizard's staff were. They even talk out of both sides of their mouths. And they're superficial in the extreme. The mainstream newspaper writers certainly are. None of which seems to bother Salkowitz, who goes on to say:
It is only by luck that these tensions haven’t coalesced into the unified field of resentment, grievance and reaction that we’ve seen on the gaming side. If it ever should, the impacts will be far more consequential.
I guess everybody offended by Identity Crisis, Avengers: Disassembled, Civil War and Infinite Crisis was wrong to protest, eh? There's already been greivances and reactions, and they're not by whom he seem to think are the problem. No, they're by the zombie apologists for the Big Two who act hostile to whomever protests.
The last redoubt. I’d argue that one of the big reasons for the explosion of comics as a commercial and cultural phenomenon since 2000 is that it is the one part of American society where political divisions are, if not absent, largely irrelevant. Injecting partisan politics into fan discussions is generally frowned on, allowing the maintenance of relationships across the political divide that are increasingly uncommon in general US society. Comic conventions are "big tents" (sometimes literally); practically the last economically, socially and ideologically integrated public spaces in the country.
At this point, I'm on the edge of my seat giggling at Salkowitz, because politics, for better or worse, have been a part of comicdom ever since the beginning. The earliest Superman and Capt. America stories concentrated on WW2. That's not political?
Sure, there are plenty of politically relevant works being done in graphic format, including superheroes, but generally speaking, the specific folklore of superhero comics may be the only point of common reference between the warring ideological tribes of the US. This unique consensus makes them low-risk, bankable properties for media giants terrified of being pulled into political disputes that divide their consumer base.
I thought media giants already had their share of political disputes. This only confirms the most annoying problem surrounding comics: the real reason a phenomenon is because the movie studios came to see them as the perfect moneymaking vehicle. Yet the printed books have been stuck firmly in the ghetto. No, the franchises themselves may not be political, but if some people knew what the publishers were up to under the confidence nobody cares, they would be let down.
If a "Comicsgate" were to erupt with the same visibility and intensity as Gamergate, it would not only tear apart the fabric of comics culture, it would threaten the viability of that whole commercial ecosystem as well.
I think the industry's already had its share of Comicsgates, with cybertrolls from neither side exploiting the subjects for their personal pleasure too. And the viability is being affected even as we speak. The dismal sums of audience should attest to that.

If it matters, I do think there should be a Comicsgate, if the focus will specifically be on ethics in comic book journalism and what it's doing wrong, wasting their time more on inclusion of partisan politics, diversity and progressivism instead of judging a story by its own merits in writing to see how entertaining or engrossing the tale is. No doubt, there would be cybertrolls taking advantage and doing their worst to stuff offensive tactics into the subject and frame supporters as "misogynists", even as the opponents could potentially be in favor of abominations like Identity Crisis and Avengers: Disassembled. But that doesn't mean anybody who wants to build a serious Comicsgate campaign should be discouraged, so long as they can prepare to expect what might come. What is needed to effectively run a Comicsgate campaign is a solid idea how to do so. It could be by asking advertisers not to run ads on comics news sites and in comics companies that are wasting their time being petty. Some of these suggestions may already be taking place: I think some DC and Marvel output now only carry in-house ads. But if there are advertisers who realize how bad their products are still running ads in their books, they should be asked to remove them. Similarly, and I have no qualms saying this, they shouldn't advertise on sites like CBR and Newsarama if their ethics are bad. That's exactly what's happened with a couple sites like Gamasutra, and anybody wanting to launch a campaign against bad journalism ethics in comicdom can work on the idea the same way.

Not only that, let's say you're let down by writers like Rick Remender for the offensive content he foisted on Steve Rogers. Calling on Marvel to fire him isn't the answer, since they pretty much greenlighted all his bad ideas to start with. Boycotting his work, on the other hand, and not plunking any hard-earned money down on his junk, is a far more effective way to go. If fans launched a serious campaign urging everyone to save their money and not buy Remender's work, it might have an effect for the better.

So I hope that'll come as good advice for building a campaign to convince people, speculators included, why it's better to stop buying books that won't be worth their weight in gold, and are bound to be viewed with great embarrassment by future generations. The time has come to stop buying products plagued with politics and bad writing, and that's what any campaign now should emphasize.

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I still have no clue to what this Gamergate thing is about

http://comicsbeat.com/jerks-of-the-world-three-examples/

I remember this line from a "comic journalist"...this is the one Dan Slott used to say was fair and not bias when he was called out on making up false statements about sales and denied that sales actually went down under his writing.

"We admit to being a little biased here, as Slott is a neighbor and friend that we often chat to at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, and he’s always talking about work and how much of it he has to do. The man is a unique talent who is beyond passionate about his work. Anyone who slags Dan Slott for not caring is an idiot."


Yet this person is not bias? It makes sense why they treid to hide the truth that the book was shedding readers.

Comicsgate!

Gamergate explained, long version: Female game developer slept with game journalist(s). Coincidentally received gushing praise from journalist(s). Affair(s) exposed. Rather than admit the ethics stunk, leftist game journalist types screamed bloody murder about sexism or some such nonsense.

Alleged death threats from people allegedly on both "sides" ensued. Note that to date, no one has been arrested for these threats, though at least one major gaming media figure has publicly boasted of "false flag" operations.

Guess which side's alleged death threats the leftwing media *didn't* report?

Shorter version: Right-thinking gamers tell unethical and condescending leftists where to go and what to do with themselves when they get there.

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