On Boogie’s Comments
On June 20th, YouTube personality and the Gaming Awards’ 2016 Trending Gamer Steven “Boogie2988” Williams appeared on the H3 podcast. On the show, he discussed, among other topics, feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian. This is an analysis of and rebuttal to his comments. You’ll need to watch that video for this to make sense. Enjoy.
Obviously, Boogie’s claim that Sarkeesian caused the Charlottesville attack is ridiculous, but you also have to wonder, if making calm YouTube videos about how games could treat women a little better is too radical, what would he consider moderate enough not to provoke violence? Sarkeesian constantly repeated that you can still play and enjoy sexist media. It’s hard to imagine how she could be any more gentle in her call for equality, but that’s my point. There is no push so slight that the right/centre won’t frame it as extremist provocation. Peaceful education on progressive causes has always been treated as wanton disestablishment of the social order, and therefore, something we should all avoid. There is no activist for women and minority causes so non-violent that the status quo did not paint them as a rabble-rouser. The effect of such defaming, whether the speaker intends it or not, is to make any effort towards an equal society impossible.
There’s also a transparent element of victim-blaming here. That may, at first, not seem to be the case because Boogie’s not directly saying Heyer got herself killed, he’s claiming someone else killed her, but follow his logic to its endpoint. If, for example, protesting for LGBTQA+ rights is what gets LGBTQA+ people murdered, that means that in every case where an LGBTQA+ person was killed for their activism, it was, at least partially, their fault. Not only is this claim that violence against women and minorities results from activist movements ignorant of the casual background violence which persists against all these groups, regardless of their actions, but Sarkeesian’s treatment is in itself an example of how Boogie is wrong. Sarkeesian was never violent, rarely raised her voice, her politics were not all that radical, but she was driven from her home for some pretty merciful video game criticism. Yet, we’re meant to believe it’s the left being too extreme which invites violence. It also shows an incredible degree of sympathy for abusers and Neo-Nazis to frame even their murder of women and minorities as the left’s fault rather than the murderer’s. It’s so revealing of the leniency the “logical, sane” centrists have for the far-right.
Then there’s Boogie’s argument that America solves problems through polls and courts rather than on the streets and that’s astoundingly historically ignorant. What about the Boston Tea Party? What about the Revolutionary War? What about the Civil War? What about the Vietnam, gay rights, or black rights protests? There are countless examples. In addition, these disagreements were not dealt with “kindly” or “sweetly” as Boogie claims, nor should they have been. Also worth noting is that elections are reliant on the public making informed votes. Them remaining informed is, in turn, reliant on people being able to express their sincere opinions publicly, not just putting ticks in boxes and hiring lawyers. I mean, weren’t Sarkeesian or gay rights protesters doing what all the detractors claim to want? Expressing free speech in the marketplace of ideas? Or is it only valid when the right does it?
To be clear, allowing the violence of the far-right to limit the expression of and political change implemented by women and minorities is fascist and anti-democratic. Boogie’s call to curb progressive speech may seem like a preventative measure to stop the far-right doing any severe damage to activist movements, but that limitation of speech is already a severe injury to such groups. Additionally, courts and polls are of limited use to the disempowered because they are primarily controlled by the powerful. Therefore, the powerless must seek alternative methods of resistance. That is not to say that judges are paid off and polls rigged in the modern west, but it is to say that we know of disparities in how courts treat people based on attributes like race and gender, and we know that voter suppression and gerrymandering are used to undermine the democratic actions of women and minorities.
Boogie also acknowledges that his rhetoric could pull people on the left further to the right and said that would be bad, but that doesn’t seem to make him reconsider his position in any way. I’m also very sceptical of his belief that you can just talk around violent far-righters. Bigots, especially violent bigots, are almost always that way because they’re unreasonable. Literally, you can’t reason with them, and attempting to appease them has not historically garnered results. Cutting back on impassioned recognition of women and minorities as people deserving of equal treatment may, in fact, facilitate the exact kind of violence Boogie claims to be preventing. Wait for bigots to be happy with progressive change before you implement it and you will never see that change. As ever, the purported centre cannot wait to cede ground to the right and what passes for mainstream political discourse on YouTube and in the gaming space is abject political illiteracy. Thanks for reading.