Sacha Baron Cohen would not survive his own Facebook reforms
The keynote speech Sacha Baron Cohen gave at the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Never Is Now conference showed that he is in favour of not only censoring others but unwittingly censoring himself. Cohen has been a funny, irreverent, offensive comic for some time. His entire brand is based on saying the wrong thing to the right people. Yet this man, who has made his name and his money pushing the limits of tolerable speech, wants to silence the social media speech of those he doesn’t agree with. Doesn’t he know that when free speech rights are curtailed, no one’s voice is spared?
At issue for Cohen is the political landscape of Facebook. While Twitter’s Jack Dorsey has curbed political ads on his network, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has refused to do so. Cohen blames the way people communicate for the evils in the world, but the methods of speech are not the problem. The problem is the same as its always been: bad actors who use whatever means necessary to spread lies and misinformation.
GamerGate may have happened four years ago, but it continues to be a subject of conversation—at least among the journalists who owe any amount of social relevance to the event.
As I detailed extensively on Human Events, GamerGate galvanized the gaming community against censorship, corrupt journalism, and efforts to marginalize the core audience of video games. The event, which is described one-sidedly by journalists as a supposed attack on “women, POC, and LGBTQ” within the gaming industry, is once again being talked about after a left-leaning YouTuber supporter, Peter Coffin, observed how GamerGate impacted the two factions propped up by the six-year-old event.
He talked about how the anti-GamerGate faction is using the event to denigrate supporters of Bernie Sanders. Posting on Twitter, he wrote: “The anti-Gamergate people who have remained liberal and are mobilizing against Bernie Sanders effectively demonstrates how the overall effect of GG was the cementing divisions between conservatives and liberals.”
“Gamergaters justifiably felt alienated by the neoliberal fetishization of feminism and the reductionism of politics to identity teams – and powerful people with supremacy ideologies have worked a long time to subsume this alienation,” he continued.
While Coffin’s language is unnecessarily academic, it can be translated thusly: Supporters of GamerGate were alienated from their own space by activists. Described as “misogynists,” and “bigots,” these gamers were disenfranchised by social justice activists and game journalists who occupy mainstream platforms, who used the event to virtue signal and marginalize anyone who disagreed with them. Opportunistic figures from “supremacy ideologies” (i.e. the Alt-Right and the Red Pill/manosphere community) saw it as an opportunity to court marginalized individuals and convert them into their own ideologies, using GamerGate as a means to “redpill” them.
If you were anti-GamerGate, you were a “progressive.” If you supported it, you were knocked into the conservative camp regardless of your political beliefs. You were a harasser, a bigot, and a “deplorable” person. The divisions became further entrenched with the election of Donald Trump and the mainstream media’s attempts to disenfranchise conservative voters. This remains true.
Even though those who supported GamerGate no longer talk about the subject and have long since abandoned the gaming press as anything but corrupt, game journalists continue to cling to relevance by bringing it up, and are now taking Coffin to task for daring to share his observations.
Sady Doyle, a vocal opponent of GamerGate and Salon writer, dismissed Coffin’s points, to claim: “TFW you neoliberally fetishize the idea that hordes of men not call you up late at night and threaten to murder you just because you put a lady in a video game.”
There’s no evidence that anyone ever received late-night calls from “hordes of men,” but the narrative has already been set. GamerGate supporters, one and all, are bigoted white supremacist men who live in their grandma’s basements who make harassing phone calls to female game developers because they hate seeing women in video games.
This is also the plot to the Law & Order SVU episode, Intimidation Game. It never happened in real life.
Doyle was joined by other journalists, including Leena Van Deventer, who claims “Gamergate happened because a jilted f*ckwit wanted to outsource domestic violence on his ex. Sympathisers jumped on because they didn’t want women to think they could do whatever they want.”
YouTuber Jack Saint described GamerGate as “a group of mostly middle-class white dudes built an identity around ‘geek culture’ and didn’t like feeling their hobbies were infiltrated by women/PoC/The Gays. it was the result of a culture that told people they could find identities via consumption.”
Fellow left-wing YouTuber Alexander Mixter, who now goes by “they/them” condemned Coffin’s claims. He wrote: “Rewriting goobergate as a white male class awakening has the dual function of rehabing GGrs outside right-wing crankery, & gives a more believable backstory, covering the unbelievable truth that it was all because a abusive dick set a mob of angry fash nerds to destroy his ex gf.”
New Republic journalist Libby C. Watson managed to drag the Washington Post’s suspension of Felicia Sonmez following her comments Kobe Bryant’s death as a “gamergate style campaign from right-wing psychos”—as if most of Kobe’s fans are unhinged conservatives who also play video games.
Without proper context, it’s possible to see GamerGate as a kneejerk reaction to everything feminine or “diverse” in the game industry—and the presence of actual misogynists and racists who piggybacked onto the movement and used it as a label for their own hateful ideologies lends credence to this belief. But GamerGate was, by and large, a response to the corporate pinkwashing of feminism, virtue signalling by developers intending to court woke game journalists and the corruption of journalists who provide undue amounts of coverage for their friends’ products (which just so happen to carry woke messaging) without proper disclosure.
Efforts by game journalists to protect individuals like game developer Zoe Quinn, who is accused of pocketing over $75,000 from Kickstarter backers for a game that never materialized, further entrenched GamerGate supporters’ understanding that game journalists and their friends in the game industry are corrupt, and boldly so. The same thing can very easily be observed among the rest of the entertainment media, which took to condemning Joker as a movie about “angry white males,” sparking fears of an “incel uprising” following the movie’s release in theaters. With so much information available at our fingertips, we needn’t buy into the official narrative put forth by game journalists when the truth itself is as plain as day.
George Soros has claimed that Facebook Inc. may be working alongside President Donald Trump in an effort to have him re-elected. Soros said that Facebook has nothing stopping it from circulating disinformation. Soros is a billionaire investor and philanthropist.
At the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Soros said, “I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” he added, “Facebook will work together to re-elect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned about the outcome for 2020.”
The National Post noted that Soros did not back up his claims with any evidence. A spokesman for Facebook, Andy Stone responded to the claims saying, “This is just plain wrong.”
Soros has previously made similar accusations against the company during a Davos speech in 2018. He said that Facebook treats its users in a similar way that gambling companies do when they get their users hooked.
Facebook has been accused of shady business by many in recent years. One incident that stands out is the Russian misinformation campaign which was on the website without being detected for months leading up to the 2016 election.
Some people are arguing that Facebook already unintentionally supports Trump by rewarding content that has viral potential which Trump produces a lot of.
The company made the choice not to take political ads that may contain lies down. Mark Zuckerberg noted that a corporation should not make the call on such things and he cited the first amendment.
On Thursday, Soros said, “Facebook basically has only one guiding principle: maximize your profits irrespective of what harm it may do to the world.”
When Soros made comments about the company in 2018, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer had employees investigate whether Soros was making the comments for financial reasons.
In a statement, Facebook said, “That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.”
Sanberg received criticism for mishandling the situation.
The word “woke” has been bandied around in progressive circles since the early 2010s. Ironically, “woke” has become a pejorative term used to denigrate those who signal their virtue without doing much to advance any progressive cause. Woke individuals are, as the rule (that I just invented) goes, more concerned with making themselves look good and using their platform (or building a platform) to abuse others under the guise of combating social injustice.
None of this has, of course, gone unnoticed by the woke progressives who use the term without any sense of irony whatsoever. In an op-ed for the Guardian, writer Steve Rose opines that the word “woke” has been “weaponized by the right.” But whose fault is that, exactly? It’s certainly not the fault of those tired of being moralized and lectured to that they might repurpose the term to mock those who engage in cancel campaigns against any celebrity or public figure guilty of perceived unwokeness.
Citing the Merriam-Webster, Rose says that the term “woke” refers to anyone “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” And much like the term “political correctness,” the term has come to mean the opposite of what it means—or so he claims.
But is that truly the case? Those who elevate themselves through wokeness have little interest in combating social injustices and simply use it as a shield for their own bigotry, and to shut down dissenting opinions. Their wokeness, if it exists at all, is performative.
This isn’t to say that one can simply go about spouting racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted remarks without pushback from any decent and reasonable person. Decent and reasonable people don’t care about being “woke.” “Woke” individuals, as it were, cultivate their entire personalities around the fight for social justice without much to show for it besides preening at everyone else on Twitter.
Wokeness has become a social status symbol more than anything else, and the “Right,” or the “unwoke,” or whatever you want to call us continue to be reasonable people while rubbing our lack of wokeness in the face of those who rally around the hollow symbol.
Case in point: Guardian writer, Steve Rose, attacks actor Laurence Fox for—you guessed it, unwokeness. He writes:
“Laurence Fox nailed his colours to the latter mast this weekend, doubling down on his defence of the privileged white male on last week’s Question Time to a Sunday Times article under the banner ‘Why I won’t date ‘woke’ women’. Toby Young piled in, applauding how Fox was ‘terrorising the Wokerati’, while the Sun last weekend branded Harry and Meghan ‘the oppressive King and Queen of Woke’.”
Rose argues that rather than simply rejecting the concept of wokeness, detractors of the term, like Fox, only criticize wokeness as “way of claiming victim status for yourself rather than acknowledging that more deserving others hold that status. It has gone from a virtue signal to dog whistle.”
On the contrary, any individual who makes claims to wokeness isn’t so much of a victim as they are a participant in the race for social status. Being unwoke doesn’t give you an entry pass into a separate league of oppression.
Laurence Fox has been outspoken in his lack of wokeness, simply speaking his mind and saying it like it is with no regard for how supposedly offensive it is to not be mindful to those who hold wokeness up as a virtue in and of itself. He isn’t claiming to be a victim—like any decent and reasonable person, he’s rejecting victimhood entirely. And it’s working.
A New York Times book reviewer called herself out as unqualified to review the book she was reviewing, and then said the author shouldn’t have written it. The charge against the author is cultural appropriation, the charge the reviewer levels at herself is the maintenance of the white gaze. The weirdest part? She seems to have liked the book. Lauren Groff wrote about Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt, a novel about mother and son refugees from a violent Mexican drug cartel.
It is frankly mind-boggling to see this in print. It should fill us with hope, not anxiety, that the wealth and breadth of human experience allow us to understand the experience of others. People are not as different as we have conditioned ourselves to believe they are. The most imperialist thing of all is to assume that we can’t understand one another because our backgrounds and skin colours are different. The Civil Rights movement fought against objectification based on skin colour, and now The New York Times and their cadre of anxious writers are bringing it back.
Groff found the narrative to be powerful, notes that she felt afraid for the danger the main characters faced but then states this absurd concern:
“But another, different, fear had also crept in as I was reading: I was sure I was the wrong person to review this book. I could never speak to the accuracy of the book’s representation of Mexican culture or the plights of migrants; I have never been Mexican or a migrant. In contemporary literary circles, there is a serious and legitimate sensitivity to people writing about heritages that are not their own because, at its worst, this practice perpetuates the evils of colonization, stealing the stories of oppressed people for the profit of the dominant. I was further sunk into anxiety when I discovered that, although Cummins does have a personal stake in stories of migration, she herself is neither Mexican nor a migrant.”
American Dirt made The New York Times list for highly anticipated books, but even the author questions her own authority to write the book. In the afterword, per a contrasting review from Parul Seghal, Cummins wrote “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.” Seghal didn’t like the book, because she didn’t think it achieved its aims. That’s fair. What isn’t fair is judging a work of fiction by the colour of the author’s skin.
It is a nauseating inclination to question her own inspiration. The colour of her skin has nothing to do with the story she felt compelled to write. Once she had the idea, should she have shopped it around to writers who were “slightly browner” to see if they wanted to tell it instead? Writers have their own stories that they want to tell. Cummins had this one. She told it. Groff had a review to write. She wrote it, but she questioned the validity of her voice, and the author’s, the entire time.
Groff ties herself up in knots, chastising herself for liking a book she thinks she shouldn’t have written about because her skin colour doesn’t give her the authority to do so. To put that in perspective, a New York Times writer, an author, an intelligent, educated, intellectual person, believes that there is more authority in the perceived experience of her skin colour than in her own voice.
Cummins did exactly what social justice rhetoric would say she ought to do—use her place of privilege to speak of the social ills affecting underrepresented voices in our culture. In using her voice to elevate the plight of Mexican refugees, she brings Groff, for one, a greater understanding of that horror.
If authors can’t call attention to anything other than their own experience, if authors have to colour within the lines of their own skin tone, then their only other option is to stop writing, to give it up, to do something else. But ideology cannot dictate our life choices, and the odds are that if Cummins didn’t write this book, no one else would have. Is there no value in telling the story of a mother and child forced to flee their home under threat of death? The story itself is more essential than who wrote it. And for sure it gave Groff some new perspective, even if she thinks it’s poisoned by her white gaze.
Cultural appropriation is a term best levelled at basic girls and boys in madras bikinis wearing native headdresses and platform Tevas at Coachella, not well-researched novels that give insight to the plight of refugees traversing America’s southern border.
This hand-wringing over whether or not we can think for ourselves or have to think in accordance with a mob mentality that diminishes our intellect in favour of social justice norms has got to stop. An author’s lived experience is not their only palette. Skin colour is not authoritative.