Media Analysis and the border of rational discussion

July 23, 2008

Over on Cultures of Play, there’s this really great thread analyzing the use of facist imagery in gaming. It looks at the way in which fascism is glorified, made awesome, and generally, thoughtlessly, tossed about left and right. Joshua even talks about in context to other media, society, and basically why the preponderance of it is problematic.

Though 80% of the points there apply equally to racism, sexism, etc. in terms of gaming, we don’t see the same rational discussion carry over (yes, even in the indie-tabletop-rpg niche). Why is that? Well, in the case of discussing fascism, no one is identifying their privilege with it. You don’t see completely unconnected people jumping up to irrationally defend against his critique because there is no ingrained hierarchy of roles in society based on your role in “fascism”. Though I’m sure no one identifies being a fascist anymore than they identify being a racist, a sexist, or heterosupremacist, what happens when you attack these latter things is that you are attacking a privilege which they have taken for granted- in fact, being asked to actually consider what the world would be like if it was equal in fact, instead of equal because 70/30 sounds fair and you should be grateful you’re even getting that much.

It is even more telling that these rational discussions do take place, about parallel media issues that tells you even more where people are coming from when they get irrational. That is, I don’t have to call you a racist, I just have to watch you show up to defend one for you to tell me, what you’re about.

Of course, it’s not like any of this is news to anyone. Except maybe folks who don’t know how to listen anyway…


  1. Merlin Missy’s rant made my day.

    “That is, I don’t have to call you a racist, I just have to watch you show up to defend one for you to tell me, what you’re about.”

    Truer words…

  2. It’s just as easy (at least in my country) to get people to defend fascism as it is to racism and homophobia. Perhaps not the historical fascim, like it is harder to find people which defend slavery. But if one does fascim analytics of orgin and function and applies them to the state of the world of now. Like every day surveillance, immigration ploitics, anti-terror laws and stuff you could get similar reactions.
    But even for historical fascism exits a diverse pattern of defense like historical revisionism and Holocaust denial or trying to compare facists crimes with other historical events to make them appear as a probably harsh but justifiable action, that is not different from the actions of other political states. (Primus says:Fascist crimes – Secunda answers: Comunist crimes).
    It is propably because the USA never had an official form of fasicsm you find less people willing to defend it than in countrys who had a fascist history. But in countrys with a fascist past many people don’t want to be reminded of the past because it makes it harder to be a proud patriot or may brand your parents or grandparents as criminals.
    In addition in most geeky media fascism is portrait evil, perhaps aestheticised, but still evil. Thereby no one realy attacks the display of fascism and no one needs to rush to its defence. Obvious Fascim in the geek media is not projected by real world still existing fascism, unlike racism and sexism. Thereby I think is mostly unproblematic.

  3. I disagree, I think you’re missing two key points.

    First, America wrestles with fascism quite regularly (the last 7 years being a prime example in it). If we consider the larger context of our corporations on our government and our military endeavors, you could say we’ve been there, we just allow more free speech along the way.

    Second, while people do defend the policies of fascism (here too), it’s not the same level of self-identification- if you go, “Hey, that picture is fascist” you don’t get random folks who weren’t interested in the topic to begin with suddenly jumping up to defend the issue.

    For example, every time I’ve talked about racist imagery in D&D, people who in fact HATE D&D, would join along with the rest freaking out. They’re not defending D&D, they’re defending their whiteness.

    In the case of fascism, and the thread I linked, people are mostly defending what they perceive to be an undue criticism of their hobby, which, you know, is simultaneously supposed to be taken seriously AND yet remain unaccountable for it’s role in larger media.

    But you know what? If you want to argue the issues of fascism, go talk to Joshua. I’m here talking about a different set of media issues and the context, that in my hobby, people can talk about that, but not these.

  4. At my place you would get the same random folks to jump into defence if you would say “Hey, that picture is fascist” as you would get for “Hey, that picture is racist”. Propably because for many people fascist is sort of synonymous for racist or antisemtic around here. But I didn’t realy wanted to argue with you. It seems my english is too bad to overcome our different backgrounds and I’m afraid I there will be misunderstandings. I’m sorry if it seems that I tried to redirect the discussion to something you’re not interessted to talk about. It was not my purpose.

  5. Ah, I see.

    Here, people instead use codewords to uphold racist/sexist/heterosupremacist ideals- “Immigrants”, “Terrorists”, “At-risk youth”, “Special Interest Groups”, “Militants”, “Politically Correct”, “Real Americans” (opposed to what? Unreal Americans? We know who they’re talking about…)

    My point is that while the logic issue is the same, the fact is, here, gamers are unable to connect the two. While they might go, “Yeah, I can see how the glorification of militarism is a problem, especially in light of our media and current situation in the world”, they can’t connect how the other problematic stuff links to say, the constant violence against women of color in our country, much less the idea that maybe people wouldn’t want to play with people who’s idea of fun consists of shitting on them, even fictionally.

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