PART THE FIRST: OPEN LETTER TO ADMINISTRATORS REGARDING #GAMERGATE
RPG Net Administrators:
I have been actually persecuted due to an issue with your site’s Rule 2. Specifically, with the last sentence of your site’s Rule 2 which has actually drifted very far from the first sentence of Rule 2, a very reasonable and laudable prohibition against making attacks against other gamers. The final sentence of Rule 2 is a horse of a very different color:
“Support of Gamergate, Stormfront or any other hate group is not tolerated and will result in banning.”
Gamergate is not a hate group like Stormfront and lumping it in as one, in list form, as though it was a given, is patently ridiculous. The unsupported statement that Gamergate is a hate group is what is known as a false premise. It’s also a very radical, extremist hardline stance to take. Even if you guys don’t like Gamergate, not everything that you guys don’t like is a hate group.
Anyway, if we were to accept for one second the premise that Gamergate is a “hate group”, who is it that this group hates?
Please take the time to watch this video, just slightly over five minutes. Can you please tell me what is the group that the people shown in this video hate?
In the interrim, until this rule is changed, I am willing to follow your unfair and unjust rules and restrict my protestation about them to channels other than RPG.net. Please do consider this matter separately from my appeal.
PART THE SECOND: OPEN LETTER OF APPEAL
RPG Net Administrators:
Sending a second appeal e-mail because my first was lost in transit or ignored. Please acknowledge receipt of this e-mail upon receipt of this e-mail so I will know that it was not lost in transit or ignored.
The substance of my appeal is as follows:
The mission statement of the RPGNet forums appears at the top of your rules and guidelines page, and since it is relevant, I feel that it should appear at the head of this appeal as well:
“To keep the forums friendly and welcoming to as wide a range of gamers as possible.”
It will be most clear how this is relevant in the closing paragraphs below.
I have absolutely not demonstrated a “consistent and determined effort to display simmering hostility and contempt for fellow RPGnet posters”. This is, I must suppose, projection on the part of the person writing it or at the very least an incredibly uncharitable analysis of my behavior. It is not clear from either my posts or my signature that I am doing this deliberately, because I am in fact not doing any such thing.
I know with total certainty that I have not demonstrated any such thing because I do not feel any such “simmering hostility and contempt” for fellow RPGnet posters. What I have demonstrated is a consistent and determined effort to add value to RPGnet through my membership and contributions, and to participate in discussion of RPGs there, because that is my actual goal.
If I had been banned for one month, I would not had felt persecuted. If you had asked me directly at any point to change my signature–which, for the record, did not refer specifically to #Gamergate but to larger issues of censorship, freedom of speech, political correctness that #Gamergate is caught up in–I would not have felt persecuted.
But what happened is this: I noticed that there was a climate of hostility towards pro-freedom of speech arguments on the forums. I noticed that I was red-texted several times for simply expressing my honest opinion in what I genuinely thought was a civil and non-controversial way. Innocent, friendly, and light-hearted comments were read as contemptuous and hostile even though to my mind they obviously were not. Meanwhile, users taking the opposing position responded to me in a way that seemed much more overtly and clearly catty and hostile, and did not receive red text. It seemed to be from this pattern of unfair moderation that it was not my conduct was at issue, and that it was my opinion which was getting me “in trouble” with the site staff when I voiced it.
As a result, I changed my signature. I did this for what I thought were reasons of transparency and honesty as much as self-preservation. I did not want to continuously be drawn into arguments where I would get infracted for having the “wrong opinion”, but I also did not want people to assume that I agreed with some of the toxic fascist bullshit I saw being flung around casually just because I said nothing. So I changed my signature to state basically: “There are topics on here I won’t discuss because I’ll get in trouble for having the “wrong opinion”. That doesn’t mean I agree with you.” And I solicited productive discussion via PM. Because I actually enjoy discourse with people who disagree with me. I think that opening yourself up to other people’s viewpoints is how you learn things and evolve your own perspective.
Over the several months that this was my signature, I was not once directly asked to change it. I inferred from a few people’s comments that it might be taken as surly or confrontational, so I modified the wording to be less so and assumed we were good.
Then, a duplicitous and self-righteous weasel conducted what you correctly define as a “personal inquisition” with me as its target. Nezumi instigated a discussion with me about #Gamergate under what I foolishly assumed was good faith. In good faith, I had a discussion during which I did not so much as “advocate” for #Gamergate as I laid out the reasons I did not believe it to be a hate group. Incidentally: #Gamergate is not a hate group, and your definition of it as such in Rule 2 is extremely problematic, but this has been reserved for a separate e-mail.
At several points during this conversation, which had a long and awkward silence during the middle of it, I made sure that the other person still wanted to discuss this, still felt that this was productive, and so on. My conduct during this private discussion was as you can see for yourself what I can safely describe as exemplary. The exact opposite of harassment. In the end, I was the one who ran out of steam and willingness to debate this: the ideological gap just seemed too far to bridge. Some weeks later, this person asked me if they could share our conversation elsewhere. I asked them why and for what and told them that no, I felt very uncomfortable about that. They then publicly posted my private message of withholding consent of the conversation being publicized as though I was somehow the asshole.
Shortly thereafter, presumably as a result of this incident, I was banned from RPG.net. Permanently banned. Prior to this, the harshest infraction I had received was a one-day suspension several months ago. I had absolutely no idea that discussing #Gamergate or any “banned topic” via PM was against the rules, as several posters agree here that they never would have assumed that. I had no chance to correct or remove my signature. The last red text I received, chronologically, was a request for more substance to a post about why I don’t think that *World games are very good, which I had no chance to provide, because I was permanently banned.
Let me repeat something here: “I had absolutely no idea that discussing #Gamergate or any “banned topic” via PM was against the rules, as several posters agree here that they never would have assumed that.” I was also confused by the fact that it had been pointed out to me that #Gamergate was not on the Banned Topics list associated with Rule #3. This made me think that open discussion of #Gamergate was fair game anywhere, let alone via PM. I will admit that I am used to online spaces that are less heavily moderated than RPG.net, and while I have made the effort to read RPG.net’s rules several times, it seems I have also managed to misread them several times.
Several posters–in fact most posters– in your recent trouble tickets thread on this topic interpreted the rules the same way. To quote one user “I would have never guessed from the rules that banned topics are banned in PMs too, because I expected they are banned because they make thread explode, not because they are “literally verboten”.”
“As you note in your own sig, you don’t feel you’re a good fit here. We concur, and as such, you are permanently banned under rule 10.”
I am assuming here that Holden is being facetious. I am assuming that the reason for my being banned does not come down to the fact that you don’t like me and you don’t like what I think. If that were the case, this entire appeal process would be a ridiculous waste of my time. More importantly, it would be eminently clear that you were interested only in creating an echo chamber for people who agree with each other to preach to the choir, not in an online community where diverse people of diverse opinions are welcome to flourish.
Let me be absolutely clear: it does not escape me that there is a serious culture clash between my values and the values of RPG.net’s moderation team. This culture clash is not enough to motivate me to accept my ban, let alone to voluntarily post elsewhere short of a ban.
Sometimes my rhetoric can get a little heated, so I want to restate that while I do not approve of RPG.net’s policies or its attitude, I still want to add value to the community as a member. The reasons for this are simple: RPG.net is two hundred times larger than the next largest general RPG discussion site, making it valuable to me for both personal reasons (as a gamer that wants to discuss games with other gamers) and professional reasons (as an independent publisher of RPGs, one who has supported RPG.net with thousands of dollars of ad revenue over the past year, as a matter of disclosure). This might seem like a novel idea in this age of “safe spaces” and balkanized internet culture, but a fundamental disagreement with the leadership of a community is not enough to make me want to avoid that community and post elsewhere, nor does it render me incapable of participating in productive discussions in that community.
As you can easily infer, I do not think that the rule against support of #Gamergate on your site is fair. However, as a US Citizen, I am very used to the idea of having to follow rules and laws that I think are unfair. I am willing to avoid all discussion of #GG on RPG.net until such a time that the rule is changed. I am willing to modify my signature to remove the invitation to discuss controversial topics via PM: clearly, this was too much good faith on my part in any case. I can accept never mentioning #GG on RPG.net again. There are many, many other avenues for me to discuss it.
At this point, it seems clear that if you uphold my permanent ban, you are doing so not because you are concerned about me discussing #Gamergate in topics nor because you are concerned about me discussing #Gamergate via PM, but because I privately hold the personal opinion that #Gamergate is not a hate group. (To state the obvious: if I am lying about my willingness not to discuss GG on RPG.net, it would hardly be strenuous for you to reinstate my ban.) I would hope that you are just as deeply uncomfortable as I am with the idea of banning someone for your site just because you disagree with them.
– Devon Oratz