All in Good Fun?

Although I attended Blizzcon in 2011, I did not attend the closing ceremony. Frankly, I’m glad I didn’t, since the Corpsegrinder video would have bothered me. For those of you who haven’t read about that controversy, go check out some links. I’ll wait for you.

Welcome back! When discussion of the content of the closing ceremony picked up steam, I didn’t have much to say that wasn’t said better by many others.  Two things stood out to me, though.

First, I read a few tweets regarding the ceremony asking why there was such an uproar over someone trash-talking the Alliance. I was a bit thrown by that take on the events. When I saw them, I did my best to explain the issue wasn’t Alliance bashing, the problem was Blizzard’s tacit endorsement of Corpsegrinder’s homophobic, pejorative language. My responses fell on deaf ears, as the conversation continued about how people are too sensitive and that the game is set up to be faction vs. faction.

Second, in the initial “apology” post by the band, these two sentences particularly bothered me: “The Corpsegrinder bit was never intended to be taken seriously. We are sorry that we offended anyone; everything at our shows is just meant in fun.” The implication here is that if you are offended by the things they said, you are at fault for taking it too seriously.

Those events transpired a month and a half ago, and I wouldn’t be bringing them up again, if it weren’t for a similar situation that took place yesterday. A fairly well-known blogger and podcaster whom I’ve followed fairly closely (but will no longer) tweeted about recruiting a work friend of his to play World of Warcraft. He recounted the story of his friend choosing to roll Horde after asking, “Why are Alliance so gay looking?” That in itself is cringe-worthy, using “gay” as a negative adjective, but it didn’t stop there. Further references (not quotes of his friend this time) followed: “dancing nancies” and “prancing… fairies” were two of the “milder” ones. There were several that went much further, but I do not feel comfortable quoting those on my blog.

Okay, fine. This guy’s a homophobic tool. But why write about one person’s tweets? Well, the answer to that comes in the tweets after. Here are two examples:

“I guess I’m held to a higher standard than others, even when it’s common knowledge I hate an Alliance (sic) all the time.”

“People just get butthurt instead of going with the fun of talking trash.”

See a connection here? Similar verbiage, both in the original messages (video/tweets), and the attempted justification that followed. In both cases, Alliance-bashing is thrown out as a straw man, when that wasn’t the issue. In both cases, the excuse “it’s all in good fun!” is put out there. Finally, both use the same technique to deflect blame on the offended rather than accept wrongdoing themselves.

To be very clear here: the issue lies in the homophobia and slurs. This isn’t good fun, it’s divisive speech, and the intent does not matter. The blame lies squarely on the offender, not the offended. Also, don’t get this confused with a free speech issue. Corpsegrinder and the blogger can say whatever they like. But we can judge them for doing so, and we can judge Blizzard for giving the former a platform. Say whatever you want. But realize if you say bigoted things, people will call you a bigot.

I am not suggesting I think Blizzard is responsible for this individual’s bigotry. I’d bet he had his beliefs set well before he started playing. What I am saying is that Blizzard sets a tone of what is acceptable in the game and in the larger community. When Blizzard tolerates these views, gives them a platform, and is slow to react when their player base expresses legitimate issues, they are perpetuating those views. Blizzard needs to implement and adhere to a zero tolerance policy, or we can expect similar things to happen. You know, all in good fun.