Debate is Dead

Cropped section of the painting Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David, 1787.

Detail from The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louise David (1748-1825)

Okay, maybe not dead but it’s certainly terminal and what’s left of it appears to be languishing in a rarefied hospice somewhere, out of sight and mind of the masses. What passes for intellectual debate these days is often no more than a schoolyard scrap, with each side slinging barbs at the other while their mates stand behind them shouting out encouragement (think parliamentary Question Period and you’ll know what I mean). And even that’s only when someone actually bothers to engage an opposing opinion.

Most, it seems, take a more juvenile approach. Consider, for example, a (now ex-) Facebook acquaintance who, on his FB page, heralded the latest Call of Duty war game, applauding its popularity and financial success, and suggesting we Canadians make more of them. In response I directed him to my blog post about this very issue; he responded by de-friending me and then slagged me off believing, erroneously, that this was now without my knowledge. Unfortunately, FB continued to send me updates of the thread, so his cowardice and passive-aggression was revealed via email. Rather than engage in an intelligent debate about the issue, he elected for public mud-slinging, and did so with the added expectation that he wouldn’t be called to task for his adolescent behaviour.

This response saddens me. I remember as a child family dinners that resembled debate halls, and the excitement I experienced later in university where, for the most part, one was expected to embrace rigorous dissent. There was one philosophy class in particular, Contemporary Issues, in which I had the privilege of witnessing my brilliant and eccentric professor eviscerate a student’s homophobic stance with a measured and deceptively respectful series of questions. I, who tend to be far too passionate in debate, watched in awe and made mental notes on his technique, which I often try to emulate though usually not successfully (a leopard can’t change her spots, I suppose).

Alex Kidd, another FB friend, summed up the current malaise quite well: “Challenging someone to think can be viewed as aggressive. People are not comfortable being challenged and don’t know how to respond. So they argue (which is different than debate) or they ‘slink off.’”

How very sad. What fun and rigour is there in preaching to the choir? Or in being a sycophant? If we surround ourselves only with like-minded souls, our world will quickly become very small indeed — and our minds with it.

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9 thoughts on “Debate is Dead”

  1. Good then, I’ll be brief. If I took apart every point in your argument, it is not to divert attention but to point out that the things lumped together had little resemblance to each other and was done so by overgeneralization.

    I’ll ask for this first, just in case my reply turns out to be too long:
    I would like your opinion about the feminist issue that happened in Germany. What do you think about feminists saying that heterosexual sex between men and women is oppressive to women? Are you for or against that claim?

    Yes violent games “promote” violence in the sense that after playing them you feel worked up. But they don’t cause actual physical violence, especially in civilian contexts. People do have control over their actions and are more than mindless re-enactors. Yes, there is a link between media and public opinion/personal behavior, but it is not direct uninterrupted link with watched violent actions going straight to reenactment without any input from the user. The fact is that if you were raised well there’s no violent game that can cause you to beat or shoot anyone. Violent media is by far NOT the weakest link so there’s no point attacking it.
    As for COD being used in military bases as entertainment, yes, it keeps soldiers in the fighting mindset, unlike, say American Idol would. The game is not CAUSING them to go out and fight, they do it for other reasons some good some bad, e.g. defending their country, or ethnocentrism… They’d be fighting just as much without the game, they’d just be a little bored and have less to do between fights.
    It would be far better and effective to protect our moral codes by promoting positive material such as those listed in my previous reply, than in censoring violent games, which violates free speech. By promoting the positive we’ll be able to shrug off any excess in violence or any violence in the wrong context, the same way Dan Dennett says we shrug off pornography in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzGjEkp772s

    Yes I like to play these games, and I want to play them and I do for about 4 or 5 days after I’ve bought them. Violent games or otherwise. The only time I feel guilty is when I play them too much (which is an issue I don’t have if I only play for a few days just to finish the game), not because the pleasure they give is immoral, but extra time spent on them could be better spent on other things. No, I’m not playing something I’m against, so I don’t have to be cool with it or swallow my guilt, e.g. I played COD4, but I wouldn’t play GTA.
    And if, in fact, they do promote violence and aggression I wouldn’t mind it at all as long as it’s in the right context. If you have read my reply completely, you’d know my views on when violence is justified and should be resorted to.

    When playing a game it’s simple to guard against any negative effects it might have, if you’re a child you need someone to put into context for you -a parent. If you’re an adult, you’re not so susceptible. If you are susceptible or if you’re easily swayed or convinced to do bad things, then go back to that person’s education or lack thereof (which made him susceptible) and how he was raised. How many adults have gone out on shooting sprees for no reason except the fun of it? Even the few kids who did it in their schools didn’t do it because of violent games, but because they were bullied to high extents and because they had very bad or no parenting and probably spent way too much time alone blowing their problems out of proportion.

    Instead of going on a campaign trying to remove every objectionable or questionable material in every media item, it would be far more effective to build our “cultural/moral immunities” (i.e. our ability to not be affected negatively by negative messages) by promoting positive principles and critical thinking.

    I go out of my way to make sure a product is made from a country other than China, mostly Taiwan. I don’t buy a product from China unless there’s no alternative and I need it. BTW, sweatshops, which are horrible by our standards, are better than other workplaces in third world countries where children are exposed daily to lethal danger, e.g. logging fields. And you can boycott Chinese products on a personal level all you like but unless importing countries abandon Chinese products en masse then China won’t change their attitude. Sweatshops are hardly the bigger picture, one would think bringing democracy to China and having Chinese workers be on an equal footing with Western workers in terms of rights and freedoms would end the double standard. In a democracy they can demand their labor rights and improve their own standards of living; this comes before the issue of sweatshops and also solves it.

  2. This your idea of brief?? Okay….

    The hyperbole has become a bore: at no time did I advocate banning anything, or even intimate I’m “on a campaign trying to remove every objectionable or questionable material in every media.” I’ve been promoting the critical thinking you claim to endorse but clearly don’t practice. As for your question about heterosexual sex, what has that got to do with the issue at hand? Absolutely nothing. Such questions simply illustrate the inanity of your response.

    So, thank you for the debate, but I’m done with it. I’m happy to debate an issue when the issue remains the core of the conversation, but it hasn’t. This isn’t intelligent discourse; it’s rambling.

  3. Dear Alkanur:

    You’ll have to forgive me, but I zoned out about halfway through your rant. I don’t mean that to be dismissive; it’s just the argument rambles and picks apart minor issues, and that nit-picking is, I think, a strategy to divert attention away from the real, and original, issue: that violent games breed aggression and aggression breeds violence. The issue is not ultimately about what defines violence (or just bad manners), or what is the root cause of war, or whether war is ever justified (we could debate that one for days), or who suffers most — it is about how media, in this case a game, shapes the user’s moral code. That these games foster aggression and the dehumanizing of the enemy, of “the other,” is precisely why they are used by the military as a recruitment tool and are distributed around military bases as entertainment. It is no surprise that the latest version of COD, which allows the player the option of playing the Taliban, has been consequently banned from US military bases.

    Your agenda is simple: you like these games, you want to play them, and in order to do so without guilt you are prepared to perform whatever mental gymnastics are necessary to do so; that is your greed. You try to discredit me with charges of rampant, delusional feminism while simultaneously denying any relationship between game play and aggression, even though we know, instinctively and intellectually, that there exists a relationship between media and public opinion/personal behaviour: if no such relationship existed, there would be no advertising or propaganda; there would be no fads, no new words or phrases coined from popular culture; a TV show would not change our attitude toward a social group; a magazine would not make us desire to change our lives/looks/standard of living. Psychologists would need a different term to describe a “Cinderella complex” or an “Oedipus complex.” And so on ad infinitum.

    Would it not be simpler to acknowledge that these games are your guilty pleasure, that you recognize they promote aggression and that, by buying and playing them, you are complicit in the promotion of violence and aggression, but that you’re cool with that? Or if not cool, then prepared to swallow your guilt?
    We all do this, whether it’s to justify buying cheap goods from a sweatshop in China, or driving when we really should be taking public transport, or buying blood diamonds, or buying the latest electronic gadget that we don’t really need and willfully ignoring the ramifications of the massive volume of electronic waste such avarice creates, and so on. There is truly nothing left anymore that doesn’t come with a price tag attached, whether that price is paid in global conflict, human rights violations, environmental damage, or social degradation. Pick anything on the market today, even allegedly “good” products, then dig deep enough and you’ll find its sin (for example, your organic vegetables are packaged in a plastic bag, and plastics come from oil; oil creates global conflict, corporate corruption, environmental damage. Not packaged in plastic but a corn product? Corn grown for packaging has been accused of taking arable land away food production. Not packaged at all but taken home in your reusable bag? That bag was made in China, the corporate logo contains lead paint, and the cotton used to make it was grown using pesticides). It never ends.

    The sad fact is that humans by nature are greedy beings, and we resent any individual or group pointing out this greed; we resent the intrusion upon our conscience. Is it not better to acknowledge our complicity, and make conscious decisions to limit as best we can our negative imprint?

    So, fair enough, play your war games, just stop lying to yourself and others.

  4. Dear M A Demers,
    I apologize for taking so long to reply (I’ve been very busy this past week). Now this is a long post, but it’s worth the read.

    While there are a lot of primitive or destructive reasons to go to war, there are a lot of things worth fighting for. Our values do not exist in spite of war, they exist and survive because of it. All the principles of secularism, the Enlightenment, gender equality… exist because we have torn them from European monarchs and the Church of past centuries and we continue to defend them, fiercely, against present day threats.
    Pacifism and appeasement in the face of evil values is by far a greater evil than war; and war is a great evil, can you appreciate the severity and magnitude of that statement?
    And, of the bad reasons to go to war, powerlust and greed are at the top and in a class of their own and they are the root causes that generate the others.
    The ease with which you discount the great suffering of male civilians horrifies me. I am also baffled by how you (and a lot of women these days) reduce all “guys” to a “guy with the gun”. Most males in war zones are civilians and don’t have a gun, and even if they had what good will it do them against even a small infantry squad? And not all male fighters are not victims.
    In wars, civil wars especially, fighters go from home to home, and *forcibly recruit* young men or any male teenager or adult able to carry a gun. Let me spell it out for you:
    You’re a teenage boy, living in your home or in a bomb shelter for months and even years, with no end in sight, the war erupted either since before you were born, or in the middle of your childhood, the only greenery you eat is the grass outside your bomb shelter. For months now, without interruption or alternation, you hear news of enemy forces advancing and killing everyone in every town they take. You have your back to the wall, either the sea or an enemy state. You know you are going to die and that it’s only a matter of time.
    Then one day, a gang of militias (that are officially on your side, but are only a bit less harmful and abusive than the other side) invade your home or bomb shelter, put an AK47 in your hands and force you to join and fight for/with them if you don’t want to see your family raped, tortured and killed before being tortured and killed yourself. They may also physically beat you into joining them. The psychological damage of this event alone equals that of a sexual rape. So now you joined them, you can now add to the list of things that cause your psychological breakdown the constant and daily exposure *on the front lines or active combat zones* to lethal danger, fighting for a cause that is hardly your own, or simply not your own, and knowing that you’ll be executed if you don’t fight, and if you run you’ll almost certainly be caught and killed, by whatever side.
    The horrors of war are so great that you get to a point where if you were raped, you wouldn’t know the difference or wouldn’t be any more psychologically broken. You have already experienced all the horror and psychological breakdown that war causes, the physical part of rape (i.e. penetration) and the varying degrees of physical beating that accompany it can’t possibly hurt you psychologically more than you are already hurt. You have already experienced all the horror of rape, without physically being raped. You may have already been beaten without being raped, though.
    Both in rape and in a situation where a group of gunmen break into your house, you are something to be toyed with violently (rape, beating, being shot in non-fatal areas of your body for sport) and in the end you will be killed. Rape and other forms of war horror are far more alike than they are different. In fact, sexual penetration is the only difference but that shortcoming of other forms of abuse is adequately compensated for by physical violence: beating, shooting in non-fatal areas.
    You so easily underestimate the non-sexual horrors of war. War is so horrible that if you were raped, you wouldn’t care, so long as you’re alive.
    Men may be born stronger than women, but that does absolutely nothing when you have a bunch of guns in your face or to your head. Men can be victims too. Men are weak against armed violence. Please dissociate the pictures of woman and victim in your head. The two are not one and the same.
    And I don’t think any kind of video games are widespread in Uganda or Sudan, let alone violent ones. Besides, in those countries, people are exposed to real violence, which breeds more violence. Video games are fantasy and exposure to fictional/fantasy violence does not lead to real violence, especially when someone is there to put it into context for you if you’re a child. And if you can tell the difference between fantasy and reality but think others can’t, maybe also that they can’t ever or under any circumstance, then that is the very definition of self-righteousness. The problem is not the lack of separation between fantasy and reality, it is glorification of violence. Violence is a viable and necessary tool and last resort to protect higher values, not an end or an enjoyment in itself.
    In the context of COD, violence is never portrayed as cool. Hell, in COD4 there’s even a segment where you play a soldier dying after a nuclear missile hit close to the helicopter you were in. I haven’t played GTA, but from what I’ve heard is that the main message is that crime pays and beating prostitutes is cool or something that tough guys do. Again, I can’t pass a final judgement, since I haven’t played it or watched enough in-game footage and understood the gameplay mechanisms. If you haven’t either, then you should do that before passing any judgement.

    Is Grand Theft Auto distasteful? definitely. I think it is also low-class, even though I almost never think in such terms. The whole glorifying of that “hood/minority” subculture where more noble thoughts and principles such as reason, scientific advancement, secularism, civil liberties, labor unions, worker rights, consumer rights… are quite simply absent, makes
    Those materials
    I am trying to find a word that describes the absolute low quality of any product or media item that is made solely with ratings and profit in mind, that is marketed to the masses, that does not promote or provoke thought in the least. I have no idea what could describe it other than maybe “culture of trash”.

    ***

    Please keep in mind that when speaking of psychological, verbal, sexual, financial violence, the word “violence” is more or less loosely a metaphor for abuse, corruption.
    Please be accurate when you accuse somebody of something this negative and severe. Use accurate, well-defined, clear terms. Violence is not some gaseous form that we should allow to extend to whatever is convenient at the time or at a specific point in the debate.
    Causing or inciting violence is a severe and serious charge and should be pressed seriously and responsibly. When you say violent video games cause violence, what is inferred is violent video gamers go out and commit violent crimes, or at the very least, cause a significant increase in violent crime rates. You can’t be taken seriously, and it would erode your credibility, if upon closer inspection of your argument you then reply “oh but I was talking about violence in general, like cutting off a motorist”.
    I also don’t respect the lack of rigorousness and self-transcendence that moral crusaders and would-be reformers have that is tantamount to irresponsibility and insincerity (the lack of self-transcendence leads to narrow-minded views that are little more than selfish whining). Such things contribute to “killing” debate and often turn it into scaremongering or moral panics.

    Violence is not an attitude, it is not anger (even though anger can lead to violence), it is an act. For the sake of precision, clarity and honesty, I would class only the physical aspect as violence.
    Too often have I witnessed court cases where a feminist brainwashee woman accuses her partner of violence (understood, by the jury and by society, as severe as physical violence) when all they did is have an argument. He didn’t play mind games on her, or try to lower her self-esteem, let alone verbally threaten her (which, you’d think, is the definition of verbal violence; the former two things would be classified as psychological abuse) they just had an argument and that meant he was abusing her.

    Cutting off a motorist is hardly the level of violence we are talking about, and definitely not comparable to the horrors of war. Frustration, stress, or just a bad day is enough to explain this. Cutting off a motorist, does not necessarily make someone a bad person. If you really get upset over something so trivial, then it is you who needs to control your anger and violence, and if you really see this as an aggression on your self, then you need to develop your sense of security.
    A worldview that holds the ideal world to be a place where everybody is serenely fluttering around (probably sedated) is severely distorted, unrealistic, and can even be dystopian.

    Here’s a golden rule: before judging people, put yourself in their shoes first. If a motorist cuts you off, try to see from his point of view. If a boyfriend says something that upsets you or hurts, puts yourself in his shoes. Did he really say that to hurt you or was it something he said that he didn’t would hurt you? Do not allocate adjectives to entire categories of people. It is all too easy to see, for example, the opposite sex as untrustworthy, especially given the number of trials and errors involved before you meet someone that’s reasonably compatible with you in terms of values, desired relationship type… I think people who brand entire groups of people based on their interaction with very small number of that group are inexperienced, even pampered and have a false and distorted sense of entitlement, even selfish, e.g. the entitlement of going through life unhurt.

    Back to the motorists: Are you suggesting that violent video games cause gamers to cut off motorists? Maybe in the case of GTA, but that’s the exception, because it has the reckless car-driving gameplay element, and I can only imagine poorly raised immature teenagers re-enacting this in real life, after they stole their parents’ car. Is cutting off a motorist occasionally the same thing as reckless driving? No. Cutting off a motorist doesn’t even compare to a reckless driving spree, let alone war. For one, there’s hardly ever any harm done, unlike in a reckless driving spree.

    Calling someone, especially if he really is a homosexual, a fag is explained by religious beliefs and prescriptions against homosexuals in the Bible, as well as not being comfortable with sexuality or your own sexuality even if you are heterosexual.

    Sexual violence is rape, period. Telling someone they have a small penis/breasts, or mocking them for little sexual experience/performance… is psychological abuse.

    Pointing out that a girl/boyfriend’s breasts/penis are too small wouldn’t even be that much of a hurtful comment or an issue if it weren’t for the Americans’ culture of obsession with size. This obsession, and the problems it creates, is far less common in other parts of the world. But yes, depending on the context, it is psychological abuse and manipulation. And though it is almost always said in the context that indicates a purpose to hurt, there are some contexts where pointing out that your girlfriend has small tits is either good, or just descriptive, e.g. when the guy likes girls with small tits.
    Now the following is different from deliberately wanting to hurt your partner psychologically so you get a kick out of it and lower their self-esteem so you control them better, but ironically, trying to poke at your partner’s self-esteem may be a backlash against rampant distrust between the two sexes, caused by backwards views, but also by feminists, by seeing misogyny and inequality everywhere and situations where when asking your girlfriend to hand you something turns into a discussion about civil liberties.

    Financial violence? In the case of Wall Street, it’s corruption, not violence. The only thing I can imagine “financial violence” can mean, and it would still be highly metaphorical, is financial extortion, or pressuring or manipulating someone, e.g. a boy/girlfriend, to spend all or too much money on you, while autonomy (which is necessary for symmetrical equality) goes out the window.
    The corporate pathology of Wall Street exists only because of the absence of accountability of those companies, and that exists only because Americans have been brainwashed for decades into equating any and all demands and interests of business and corporations with noble ideas such as free economy, democracy… and the level of demonization of socialism that has happened in the United States, by the corporations, so as to equate any form of healthcare with all-out socialism.

    ***

    Are you seriously comparing violent games with child porn? Are you seriously comparing cutting off a motorist, calling someone “fag”… with raping a child on camera? I’m going to have to assume you’re serious.
    The controversy about child porn and the constant hounding (of the public, not the real perpetrators) by moral crusaders has caused more interest in child porn than any child pornographer can ever hope for.
    Child porn is almost entirely a myth, meaning that though child porn may exist in very, very rare cases, the child porn epidemic and the propensity of child porn is utterly a myth.
    I am absolutely sure that the propensity of child porn is utterly a myth. If that propensity existed, and the masses of adults (male and female) were so “normalized” or predisposed to it, or easily swayed, the expansion, prevalence and normalcy of child porn would have already happened by now. By contrast, regular porn has been mainstream, privately, for decades. At least since the ’80s.
    I challenge you to find a single video of child porn on the Internet. There isn’t any, or if there is, none are findable. Now I challenge you to find regular porn on the internet, internet porn is abundant, even ubiquitous. Now try to find bestiality porn on the internet. This is an extremely tiny niche and even that can be found on the internet, but Internet child porn, which is supposed to be an epidemic, or on the brink of becoming one, can’t be found.
    Clearly, such “normalization” has not occurred.
    And the reason we, as a society, instated taboos against child porn is because they involve and spread or promote sex with children. This refers to another taboo, sex with children. We instated this one because sex with children (i.e. between an adult and a child) is harmful both physically and psychologically to the child, plus the child isn’t autonomous and unlikely to make decisions that protect him from abuse.
    Losing the taboo doesn’t mean losing the reason for not doing something in the first place, the very reason the taboo was created. Taboos, I think, cause more problems than they solve. Taboos are rarely, if ever, good. Instead of trying to create a broad taboo against violence, we should look at the reasons why violence in each context is either right or wrong. Taboos, demonization and scare tactics are no substitute for the solidity and strength of a true ethical framework based on true understanding.

    People are not as hopeless and helpless as you make them sound to be, we have made it this far in the progress meter, we still have ways to go, but, not only portraying, but actually believing that all people are animals (utterly unable to think for themselves and who can only be restrained by taboos) who have to be domesticated by us know-it-alls reveals a horrible sense of self-righteousness. We should ask ourselves: what deficiencies are we trying to compensate for by relegating the rest of humanity to a subform that can’t think for themselves and must at all times be controlled by taboos and the like?

    When opinions are so poorly thought out, they denote an attitude that is born of a need to feel superior. This thirst to find noble fights and just causes, without doing much research or gathering enough evidence.

    Cutting off motorists is not a gateway to the enslavement of women (e.g. the situation of women in Saudi Arabia) or all-out war. Calling someone a fag is not a gateway to the hatred of women, because the former is not the cause of the latter, instead, they are both the effects of one cause: religious dogma, mainly biblical or koranic.

    I haven’t seen such sloppy reasoning in a long while. I would describe it as “mental gymnastics […] we perform […] to disregard or dismiss the harm our” insecurities and covert, rationalized, sexism “inflicts”.
    “What deficiencies in ourselves are we trying to compensate for by demeaning others” (e.g. male populations in war zones) by dismissing their suffering completely?
    “We have an obligation to deconstruct our moral codes [e.g. the ones that sound noble, such as feminism, pacifism] and ask ourselves what covert agenda they might be hiding”, could it be that they have lost their original purpose and are now concerned, in the case of contemporary feminism, with female favoritism and securing a superior position for women in society while relegating males to second-degree citizenship?

    ***

    Violence is, and should always remain, a viable means of conflict resolution, it may not be acceptable or permissible in the home for example (in fact, in that context, it is always destructive), but when diplomacy leads to nowhere with a totalitarian regime, we should force regime change via military intervention (The world would be far better without totalitarian regimes). In this latter case, not only is violence constructive but the other options (after a certain point of fruitlessness) of appeasement, respectful, peaceful talks are destructive, against the country that’s engaging the totalitarian regime in diplomacy, and against the oppressed population, or population section, that’s living under that regime. Violence does not equal aggression (i.e. attack) or aggressiveness. Violence is not inherently evil. Violence is the actual act of committing physical violence.
    Should violence be kept as a last resort? definitely, and that’s only because it tends to create more problems. Should violence be ruled out? no. Ruling out violence creates more violence by those who are not so civilized, who are not like those who are willing to look for ways to peacefully co-exist, and who see violence and domination as just another way of getting their way. Violence cannot and should not be completely eradicated, it should however, be reduced.
    As an personal example, I don’t look for trouble yet I am not the type of guy who runs from a fight when someone comes to me or someone I care about looking for a fight. In such a case I will beat the living shit out of him, I will be right to do so, and I will enjoy doing it. And the last fight I had was in high school. Running from trouble or from the fight will only invite more violence and cause trouble to keep chasing you until you are cornered and you have no choice but to fight back.

    Ideally, the world would be a place where countries and/or super states have too many commerce, technological and economic interests in common for them to rationally consider going to war with each other. These states would be ruled by rational and ethical people (as opposed to those deluded by faith and other non-real mental constructs, and Apocalypse-mongers for example), elected by and accountable to a mass of educated, well-informed, concerned and rational citizens. In civil matters, a cultural and legal framework would make home violence nearly non-existent. Public debates and agreement on reality (as opposed to the idea of having the right to your myth, i.e. the right to believe one of a variety of worldviews whose world model is not firmly grounded in reality, i.e. religious freedom, if we value reality instead of and/or above of faith, we can’t create or have false beliefs that are untrue, unprovable and lethally incompatible) will make that differing ideologies will never lead to civil wars. A certain ideology can be tested in a limited context (e.g. in a county/province and/or over a limited period of time) and if it looks like it’s working, the scope of the experiment can be gradually widened (as opposed to the reckless and irresponsible “freeing up of the economy”, throughout Russia and all at once, that Russians did in the rely ’90s).

    You shouldn’t be a feminist, you should be gender-blind. Feminism had a historical purpose, and a just one at that, that it has already achieved. In this age, feminism is pure paranoia or unadulterated sexism and female supremacism. Feminism presupposes that men are not persons, they’re a mindless mass or force bent on oppressing women. There are many examples of feminists seeing inequality or discrimination where there is none, but I’ll cite just one example that we can agree on for reasons that, I hope, are obvious. Recently, feminists in Germany have started declaring that heterosexual sex between men and women is oppressive to women, they had a bunch of arguments, one said that it’s because the woman is passive during the sexual act. When a German female politician denounced such declarations, they accused her of being controlled by men.
    I am all for Human Rights to be given equally to all humans regardless of gender, race… but I am against Women’s Rights. I am for Gender Equality, but not Gender Rights. The very concept of Women’s Rights, or Men’s Rights for that matter, is sexist, divisive, anti-egalitarian, misses the point and is altogether evil. Such a concept is as absurd as Black Rights, Christian Rights, Muslim Rights, Minority Rights… The term “Justice is blind” is not descriptive, it is definitional. Such concepts are against both justice and equality.
    I would call myself a humanist (as opposed to theist, but also to feminist) and anti-sexist; or an egalitarian humanist (not that humanism is compatible with non-egalitarianism, but just to make it clear). To speak of or adopt principles of feminism, or masculanism, is to miss the point and have the wrong reaction and solution to the problem of gender inequality. I believe that we should move into a post-feminist stage of Human History.

    You’ll find this interesting:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/patcondell#g/c/5519F782A0B06DC1
    Brigitte didn’t suffer any more for being a woman (e.g. she wasn’t raped), and she suffered just as a male child would.
    You should also check out the ‘Penn & Teller: Bullshit!’ episode entitled “Violent Video Games” (Season 7, Episode 3)

    Your blog is a place to vent, sorry if I frustrated you by “blocking the venting”.

  5. Dear Alkarnur:

    Thank you for your post comment. While I agree that COD is not overtly misogynist, a deeper understanding of war in general reveals a patriarchal construct that by its very nature is not only misogynist but misanthropic. Think about the values reflected in war — power, greed, machismo, dehumanizing one’s opponent, to name the most obvious — and then think about the easiest targets in any society: women, children, the elderly. Reflect upon current conflicts, particularly in, for example, the Sudan or Uganda, where rape is considered an actual weapon of war. Think about Iraq or Afghanistan where there are more civilian casualties than military ones. Ask yourself, who is dying in these conflicts? Who is suffering the most? It isn’t the guy with the gun.

    Violent games do in fact lead to real-world violence because they normalize violence as a means of conflict resolution. And so, sure, not everyone who plays these games becomes obviously violent, but you have to ask yourself “What defines violence?” It’s too easy to say that avid war gamers don’t go around shooting people or beating up their girlfriends, but violence isn’t limited to such obvious physical assaults. Violence can be psychological, verbal, sexual, financial; it manifests itself in covert acts of aggression such as cutting off other motorists, calling someone a “fag,” or deliberately undermining your girl/boyfriend’s self-esteem by pointing out that their breasts/penis are too small. It manifests itself in the corporate pathology of Wall Street: blatant greed, disregard for victims, and absence of remorse.

    Violent games (and other media) normalize our inherent violence and weaken the restraints of civilizing values in the same way the proliferation of Internet child porn normalizes the exploitation of children: those with such predilections no longer feel like outsiders, constrained by social taboos, but instead feel vindicated by the popularity of their deviant appetites; they feel “normal.” The purpose of socialization is to take the animal born and make it human, so if we no longer provide restraints, civilization crumbles; the sociopath becomes the norm instead of the exception. That’s not to say we should be mindless moral crusaders; it means we have an obligation to deconstruct our moral codes and ask ourselves what covert agenda they might be hiding. What deficiencies in ourselves are we trying to compensate for by demeaning others? What mental gymnastics do we perform so as to disregard or dismiss the harm our avarice inflicts?

    As we increasingly accept more and more covert acts of aggression we pave the way for overt acts of violence, so anything that normalizes aggression must be strongly scrutinized; it mustn’t be passed off as “entertainment” or “only a game.”

  6. Dear M. A. Demers, while I agree with you that debate is dead and seen as confrontation and we need a whole lot more of it going on in society, I also would like to point out, that debate with people who have such a backward or puritanical or overly moralist point of view is quite simply unpleasant, even to those who crave debate and think it is crucial for a free democratic society.
    You said that Call of Duty is a violent and misogynist game. I’ll address the topic of violent games in a sec, but how can you possibly perceive Call of Duty to be misogynist? It’s a game about countries going to war, and you play the role of a soldier in a first-person shooter. There’s no killing women and hate speech against them. People who are too “allergic” and see evil or inequality or just causes where very clearly there is none are repulsive, so it may not be that that guy/girl unfriended you because debate is a hassle, but because your claim is so inept, absurd and denotes so much insecurity. It’s like listening to someone going on and on about how “all men are pigs” or “all women are whores”: it doesn’t say anything about the subject, but it says loads about the speaker.
    As for violent games, they don’t translate into real-world violence, let alone violence against women. Could we be making games about other things than violence? yes, and we are. There are edutainment games and there are educational software. It’s the idea that to do “something better” requires us to not do violent games and that the two are mutually exclusive that I don’t agree with. Violent games do not stimulate your thinking very much. If you’re going to make something that does, clearly something that effectively turns people into violent criminals or just people with instincts run amok or high levels of aggression that those “shut out” higher levels of thinking from your mind. But violent games don’t do that, they just don’t stimulate thinking, so there’s room for both in a single person’s mind.
    It’s not that violent games are too popular, it’s that the other types are not popular enough. Would I prefer the balance to be shifted towards thought-provoking media and software? definitely. Will this have to decrease time spent playing violent video games by the mass of gamers? yes. Do violent games and “baser forms of entertainment” have to become completely nonexistent or extinct in order for thought-provoking material to thrive? no. Do we have to completely abolish violent games? no. Are there some shows/games/movies that are just too cheap, mindless and trashy to even think about watching them? definitely (e.g. shows about New Jersey).

  7. Although I missed the initial back and forth comments that resulted in a FaceBook friend disagreeing with you so strongly that he “defriended” (or is that “unfriended”?) you, reading about your experience has led to interesting discussions in my home. I am always surprised when I meet someone (I’m thinking of some of my past students, sigh) who seemed to be without curiousity–I like to equate curiousity with good willed interest–about many things, not that that stopped them from sharing, often loudly and vehemently, their own opinions about other people , places they’ve never visited, movies they had never seen, or food they had never eaten. They seemed unwilling to hear or consider that there might be a different way to look at an issue or experience. Somehow it was implied that the final result must be agreement of some kind (with them, of course) and if there wasn’t agreement, then the other person was a jerk. I like to think one of the reasons Evan and I have made it through 22 years together is because we don’t assume there is only one way to look at things (ok, we both have exceptions to that statement). Perhaps debate these days is confused with confrontation, and discussion about issues and beliefs is no longer something many of us make time for.

  8. You didn’t miss anything. That’s what’s so sad: the guy posted about the success of Call of Duty and suggested we should make more such games; I replied that I didn’t think violent, misogynist games of warfare were the best use of our creative talents, and added the link to my blog page. And that’s all it took to be summarily deleted. Pathetic, eh?

    I still had his email address, however, so I called him on it. Included in his response was the assertion that “Given our vastly different positions on this and other topics, we probably don’t make the best FB friends regardless.” Putting aside the inane position that differences of opinion negate an ability to be friends, or this case acquaintances, what makes the comment so hypocritical is that he and I have been in agreement on other issues, including the assertion that the Canadian film/entertainment industry needs to appeal to a broader audience (and which makes his comment, below, all the stupider). Yet it took only one alternate viewpoint for him to forget all that came before.

    He concluded his email thus: “The fact is, we have a thriving video game industry in this country that does not rely on government handouts (shy of the regional tax credits that convince them to set up shop here) to produce wildly popular titles. Now I know ‘popular’ is code for culturally inferior in your circles and nothing I say will change your mind, however, these entertainments are for the masses and the masses could care less about being told what they should and should not be watching/playing/interacting with. If you personally find some titles to be morally repugnant, then form a video game temperance league and march in the streets. That’s your right. I, on the other hand have a right to play whatever game titles I choose, listen to NWA [Niggaz Wit Attitudes], watch porn and ignore self-righteous, moral crusaders on my FB page and personal email accounts…oh, and also to enjoy killing digital Nazis.”

    I think that email goes a long way to explain why he is incapable of intellectual debate: porn, video games, and rap hardly stretch one’s brain. And his behaviour also makes my point that entertainment informs our social values: he ingests violence, rap, and sexual debasement, then dismisses as a moral crusader anyone who objects to his crude appetites. It would be funny if it weren’t so common.

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