With the demise of my relationship, it seems, I’m far less interested in writing about the personal and far more interested in the political.  Excuse me if this blog becomes a place for polemic for awhile.

The sex blog community, such as it is, was in a twitterific uproar yesterday over a Facebook page called “Kill a Hooker and Get Your Money Back”.  Like any curious, civic minded person snowbound in the greatest storm of the last century with nothing to do but surf the internet, I visited the webpage that was causing some of my favorite bloggers to bust a 140-character gasket.  It was really quite appalling.  Some idiot had set up a fan page on Facebook recommending that you kill a prostitute?  I couldn’t even imagine what would prompt such a thing, nor why the folks involved were bragging about how awesome it was that their “lesson” was spreading fairly rapidly in the fertile climate that is Facebook, where over a million people have become members of a group called If your name starts with A, C, D, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, S, T…join!!!

But if Facebook is increasingly the stomping grounds of inanity, Twitter is increasingly the forum for urgent action.  So, at the prompting of the people I follow, I dutifully reported the offending Facebook page for violation of Facebook’s terms of use.  I really couldn’t see how advocating killing women was anything besides hateful, malicious, and threatening .  I patted myself on the back for my righteous leftist piece of political action accomplished for the day, and went on my way.  As it happened, my way on this particularly depressive, snowbound day involved hours of playing a video game that involved killing aliens (and occasional humans and humanoids) in order to save the galaxy, a fact that might become relevant in a moment.

This morning I woke and checked first my email and then my twitter feed, as is my morning routine.  (I know.  I need to get a job.  Shaddup.)  The sex bloggers were now sending out alarming “RETWEETS” urging us all to “REPORT” the new version of the “Kill the Hooker” page, which, I was informed, had simply renamed itself and moved after being shut down by FB. What was worse, according to the exclamatory tweet, was that the page had called the excellent bloggers over at Feministing “worthless cunts”.

So I dutifully went to the new Facebook page.  Only, it wasn’t the same as the old facebook page.  This time, it was called, “GTA Taught Me That If You Kill Your Hooker, You Get Your Money Back”.  Verbally, the difference is that the title reports information received rather than advocating an action.  Culturally, the difference is that I now had context for what the whole thing was about in the first place.  Grand Theft Auto is, of course, one of the most notorious and controversial video games of all time.  I didn’t know that it rewarded you for killing a hooker, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  The moral universe of video games is a dark, disturbing place, where you rarely get penalized for anything but dying.

I read most of the posts in what passed for this group’s “discussion”, and they were, in fact, about the video game, which gave me pause.  I may not like the premise of GTA, but I don’t have a problem with a bunch of gamers discussing what they did like about it.  And you know what?  Anger about the content of GTA is misdirected, if directed at the gamers themselves.  It might be warranted, but as politics and activism, it’s not effective.  It’s like going after smokers and gun-owners instead of cigarette companies and hand gun manufacturers.  You have a problem with getting rewards for virtual murders of prostitutes, take your complaint to where it really belongs and where it could really make a difference: Rockstar Games, the developer.  (I’m not kidding.  This is a technically excellent and proficient game developer, and they’re only going to make more of this stuff.  If you don’t like it, here‘s how to contact them.)

More: if we’re going to complain about what other groups do, let’s at least get our facts right.  No one in the new Facebook group called the Feministing bloggers “worthless cunts”.  That was a member of the new group.  If you think the term is malicious, hateful, or threatening, I suppose you could report that specific user–not the group.

But perhaps we could have a sense of proportion here, and look to our own glass houses.  As a recent book whose author I don’t know but whom I will locate soon argues, the Internet is probably the primary source of the atmosphere of incivility and nastiness that plagues our society and our politics right now.  A decade ago, the most idealistic among us believed that the internet would breed democracy, openness, and connection.  Instead, it’s let us connect with only those we choose to–only those, for example, who also like to kill hookers for money while playing video games.

It’s tempting to get angry at people who would do this, who would call women worthless cunts, and to shut them up for good.  But there are two problems with doing so.

First, it’s hypocritical.  I did a quick search on Feministing this morning and found at least half a dozen examples where the authors called men with whom they disagreed assholes (here, here, and here) or dickheads (here, here, and here).  If I could search the comments, God knows what I’d find.  So let’s look to our own glass houses: if we don’t want others to reduce us to body parts, we shouldn’t either.  If we want to elevate the discourse, the place to start is with ourselves.

Second, it’s the wrong approach–morally and practically speaking.  It’s an old chestnut (well, as old as John Stuart Mill, which is pretty old) that the remedy for bad speech is more speech.  And that’s not always true; the proverbial cry of “fire” in a crowded theater really doesn’t brook an eloquent reply.  But in this case, when there’s no direct, imminent threat–when it’s a small group of misguided folk talking about a video game, for example–there is time for measured reply.  And I’ve increasingly noticed as I’ve spent more time in the trenches of those who write and speak about sexual politics that responses aren’t measured.  I’ve noticed that they are knee-jerk, that they “follow the news cycle”, as the President would say, that they tap into anger, outrage, and an impulse for feel-good “activist” solutions (boycott!!!) rather than thoughtful prioritizing of problems and approaches at solutions.

It’s really easy to trawl the internet looking for the outrageous things people say about your kink, about your gender, about your politics, and to get angry.  It’s much harder to spend time articulating what you think kink, gender, or politics today should look like–but it’s much more useful.  And, unfortunately, it’s not the sort of action that lends itself to 140 characters.

Perhaps too much on a topic of only marginal interest, but that’s what struck me this morning, as the snow melts and the temperature rises.

Photograph by Anthony Koeslag on Flickr.

Edit: The book I mentioned is Jared Lanier’s You Are Not a Gadget.