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Monday, March 23, 2015 

Charlie Hebdo and the American comics medium's problems with online harrassment

2 months ago, Comics Should Be Good wrote about the jihad murders in France of several cartoonists working at Charlie Hebdo. While it's admirable they published the Muhammed cartoons from the paper, they unfortunately take an ultra-cheap path on religion:
Look, you can talk about religion all you want. But religion doesn’t make people homicidal and crazy. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, any more than every Christian is blowing up abortion clinics. People don’t commit violent acts like that because of their faith. For that matter, they don’t do it because of their fandom, either. Let’s be very clear about that, for those of you out there starting to bristle. These people do it because they are sociopathic murderous derange-os who need to be locked up where they can’t hurt anyone. Full stop. Anything beyond that, you can safely file under ‘excuse’ and there is no goddamn excuse.
Oh for heaven's sake. If you've been educated largely by a religious belief system that advocates these kind of horrors, there's always a chance it could veer into that, especially if the culprits were raised in a form of isolationist environment where sharia - the Arabic word for religious law - were the norm. And there's long been plenty of neighborhoods like that in France, thanks in part to Valery Giscard, one of the politicians who approved of letting in so many Muslim immigrants whose offspring - if not the immigrants themselves - could end up causing the chaos they're facing now. There are moderate Muslims - that's the argument CSBG could make, which would work better - but there's no moderate Islam. And suppose Stalinism were a religion? Nobody's influenced by that to be a socialist and warmonger? If certain religions don't make people murderous, then satanic cults like some that dwelled in America in past decades, don't educate or brainwash people into hostility either.

CSBG also wondered if an act of violence could one day happen in the US comics industry. Like, for example, in revenge for turning Hal Jordan into a mass killer, and they did have quite a tense atmosphere of division over the Green Lantern fiasco in the 1990s. In response, I think it's safe enough to say that there is a difference between the Emerald Twilight affair and the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath. The former involved introducing a new protagonist at the expense of an old one, and by that I mean turning the earlier hero into a crazy cartoon monster. The latter was some religious fanatics whose very religion approves of committing murder in the name of the "prophet". Most USA comic book fans aren't typically people who adhere to specific ideologies, nor are they usually known to be from educational backgrounds that bad.

Also, here's something involving Gamergate, another subject CSBG brought up, that makes a point of how real assassins really operate:
You repeat at length the absurd claims from a supposed threatener of Sarkeesian at the start of your story, but fail to state the obvious: that it is an ostentatious and transparent fake and Utah state police declared that there was no credible threat. Murderers do not announce themselves in this fashion. None ever has. Not a single threat made to a feminist activist via social media has ever been credible or ever amounted to violence, although there have been several prosecutions for threatening language in the UK.
Yes, this part does make sense, and the jihadists at Charlie Hebdo's offices certainly didn't announce their plans. If a maniac really wanted to carry out an attack, they wouldn't send out messages that'd only put people on their toes, because then, the element of surprise would be gone. I think you can certainly say that video gamers and comic book readers are less likely to commit violence than Islamofascists. That said, I will say it's still extremely reprehensible to post rape/death threats, and those who do should by all means be prosecuted and ostracized for the astoundingly distasteful example they set. If they really care about pop culture, why would they want to send out vile messages that only give a poor impression of it's clients?

Whatever the validity of Anita Sarkeesian's complaints of harrassment though - and it's worth reminding that some of them, as her detractors argue, may be contrived - it does not change the fact that she's simply not an interesting nor talented commentator, and whatever legitimate points she might have get buried in a sea of deliberate biases. In that sense, she reminds me of Michael Moore, who might've had a few worthy arguments hidden in a few of his documentaries, but didn't seem to know what to do with them. Sarkeesian may fit into the same catagory.

Since we're on the subject of fake threats, such things, as I'm aware can occur in the comics medium too, and if there's one writer whose claims of having harrassing messages posted against him I've been skeptical of, it's Dan Slott, if only because he never seemed to provide any screenshots of the threat letters he speaks of (over ASM #700), in an age when there's programs for taking pictures on the computer screen itself. In this item, he's quoted saying he had a screencap, but if so, I'd assume he'd post it immediately, so everybody could see. How come he didn't?

I wonder if this could explain why he thinks so highly of Sarkeesian and that atrocious producer of hers, Jon McIntosh? Could it be it's because he thinks they make better victimologists than he does?

Those leftists who detest the Gamergate campaign, however, might be surprised to learn what the politics of those who do support the campaign are like:
[...] Although Gamergate does have some supporters who are conservative, libertarian, or Objectivist, most Gamergate members are center-Left—they support the laissez-faire liberal position on gay marriage and pornography, but favor the regulatory-entitlement state on economic matters. Gamergate’s battle against Mr. McIntosh is therefore not one, respectively, of right versus left, but respectively of center-Left versus extreme Left.
Some comics writers who signaled dislike for the campaign might've realized that by now, which might explain why they quietly dropped or downplayed their opposition. But those who didn't will probably be stunned when they find out these are their fellow leftists they're squabbling with. I'm honestly not surprised there's video game players out there who're left-wing; their interests aren't all that different from everyone else when it comes to computer games. Probably few ever bothered to do surveys until recently, so what did they expect?

All this aside, I really try not to care too much about computer games, because in my mind, they successfully burglarized much of the audience for comics, and I'm sure there's evidence or research out there somewhere to back up my theory. But, as I realize, that's mostly because mainstream comics publishers did nothing to maintain steady writing quality, throwing it out the window for the sake of speculators, make no serious effort to shift from pamphlets to paperbacks, or any other steps that could offer redemption. That's why computer gaming keeps such a high profile, while comic books don't.

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After the Isla Vista murders last year, Chris Roberson blogged that "all men are part of the problem" because of a "sexist and misogynist culture." After the ambush murders of police officers in Las Vegas, Mark Waid tweeted that the killers were right-wing "Cliven Bundy fans," and "spawn of Glenn Beck." (Which, BTW, turned out to be inaccurate.)

But every time Muslims commit an act of terrorism, we are told that the killers are atypical, that Islam is a peaceful religion, and that ideology is not relevant.

CSBG tries to equate random kooks and thugs (cyber bullies, geeky comic book fanboys) with real terrorists (ISIS, Al Qaeda, Hamas). But the former do not have a Koran inciting them to wage jihad. They don't have Iran (or Obama) supplying them with weapons. And they don't have a specific ideology.

I hate to burst your bubble, but that link you posted also shows that the Bible isn't exactly filled with peace and love, sunshine, and rainbows all the time.

Well the difference between the Bible and the Koran is that the former is descriptive of many opinions offered by past men and women, while the the latter is prescriptive in its twisted visions of how life should be led. That said, pro-Islamists have almost never publicly cited any verses from the Koran, which only suggests they have what to hide. That's one of the reasons why the pro-Islam crowd isn't helping.

I'm sure computer games have siphoned off much of the potential audience from comic books, but I wouldn't go as far as to call it "burglarizing." It may be a simple case of a medium becoming obsolete, and being replaced by a more modern one.

TV also drew away some of the same audience. And, in the 1930's, comic books probably drew some fans away from pulp magazines.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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