I feel like I’m having a weird relationship with the way that news media is being handled. As an observer, since I don’t work as a journalist, I feel like I’m more capable of watching the impacts of what is being done than the people producing it; I also feel like my conflict of interest is decreased, as many of them are pursuing clicks and views. This sounds like an insult, but I don’t mean it to be one.

This click-and-view culture is a bit problematic; for many journalists and creators, this is how they survive within their career. Getting these enables them to have more opportunities to cover other stories or participate in coverage that they might not be able to work with otherwise. This is the environment that has been created for – not by – them to have their work presented. If it doesn’t gain enough clicks or views, they don’t get paid and may lose access to the platform they’ve been given. I don’t fault them for this because it has become a major part of their job, but it does take away time from seeing how their work is impacting their audience.

And I feel like this should be a major consideration of the work that is created by anyone in media, regardless of the form (video games, movies, television, books, and so on). They should have to focus on the impacts of what they’re doing or whether or not the intentions they have are being met rather than accidentally creating a platform for people who don’t need one. But I am aware that there are people who do this and are very good about doing it; Sarah Kendzior is probably one of my top journalists, and she is incredibly cautious about how and what she reports. I would argue, however, that the industry itself has been lacking in caution while specific and individual journalists have been taking on this duty of care that the system has forgotten it needs to do.

What I’m talking about, in particular, is allowing people like Tomi Lahren, Kellyanne Conway, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, and so on to access platforms that enable them reach more people. We’ve seen articles written about interviews with these “dapper and polite” neo-nazis, we’ve had people mourning Milo’s “right to free speech” (while being incredibly silent as one of his supporters shot a protester in the stomach), we’ve had “liberal” satirical comedy shows asking for Tomi to come on so they can “roast” her (but providing her more time to speak and gain a following because she’s “so likeable”), and traditional news networks allowing Kellyanne to lie (then lie about her previous lies in the form of so-called apologies) and go completely unchecked (or trying to call her out but giving her three-quarters of the segment to lie about everything rather than just cutting her mic like they do to women of colour that they disagree with).

For years, we’ve had people talking about “journalistic integrity.” The unfortunate thing is that the people discussing this were focusing on stories that defamed people from marginalised communities; we saw that GamerGate pretended to make an attempt to talk about “journalistic integrity,” but they actually focused on abusing Zoe Quinn because of nonsense her ex released. As the “movement” went on, they focused on many other prominent women (and any of their supporters, regardless of following, were harassed along the way – I should know, as I managed with my small following to have a ridiculous number of pro-GamerGaters in my mentions and inboxes). Statistically, GamerGate’s goals were nothing more than testing the water for fascism and white nationalism. How far could you push before someone did something?

They merged with or created various MRA and PUA groups, which continued this project. The same sorts of men who are on forums like Roosh V’s are the same people who persist in harassing women. That literally is his stated goal. (And every time the media covers people like Roosh, Milo, and Richard? The media loves using pictures that show men who could be kind, polite, and attractive! They receive humanising imagery despite the fact they seek to systematically remove the humanity of groups they don’t like and are utlising oppressive language to incite violence.)

People who didn’t need a voice – both because they were misusing it to spew oppressive language and because it they were talking over people who were genuinely affected by the issues being discussed – were given space to harass people in the name of “journalistic integrity.” Having met and discussed GamerGate with academics who were attempting to archive video games and lost support as a result of the misogynist movement, I can safely say that their desires were anything but journalistic integrity or an improvement in ethics; their goal was to silence the people they disagreed with for “infiltrating” their hobby (while neglecting to realise that we were always there, and they were the ones who infiltrated our communities to harass us). Instead, they decided to divert traffic and essentially steal content, hurting people they disagreed with.

A lot of what happened in GamerGate happened again, except this time it mobilised a population of people outside of nerd culture (which has always had its own problems with neo-nazis and fascists, despite the recurring theme of Nazis Are Bad that they keep ignoring in their favourite media). They were clearly the antecedent to the election of POTUS 45 and his white supremacist administration; they insisted that we allow Milo Yiannoupolis his “right to free speech” (and freedom from the consequences), despite the fact that they were quick to silence groups like Black Lives Matter or scream over women talking about sexism. In fact, they love to do this while being simultaneously sexist, racist, and Islamophobic in their comparisons of women in the West who are “whiny” and “over-sensitive” while there’s “real suffering in Islamic countries” that they’ve vaguely heard about on the news. They use male abuse victims to gaslight women who are talking about issues while doing absolutely nothing to help them, and they ignore very real and very scary statistics about how many women (and people) are hurt or killed through domestic violence. They also really love using male abuse victims to gaslight women while doing absolutely nothing to help the victims their using.

And because of all of this, I’m confused about how media is going to continue covering these actions that show clear fascism without accidentally supporting it. In 1988, Oprah Winfrey had skinheads/neo-nazis on her show in an effort to show her viewers how tragically ignorant, hateful, and grotesque they are. The problem? She accidentally gave them a platform that helped them build their following, which she has since admitted in an explanation for why she never did it again. She realised that, by letting them speak for even a moment, she was giving them more power to reach an audience; you’d think that it would be the other way around, but it’s not. It’s a form of validation for people who already have tendencies leaning toward similar views (the same was seen with sitcoms like All in the Family and satirical comedy like the Colbert Report).

This is due to our natural inclination to engage in “selective perception.” We perceive or “see” things – in this case, the media we consume – in ways that are more in line with our frame of reference and experiences. While left-leaning people are more inclined to see the absurdity in the characters of Stephen Colbert and Archie Bunker and understand the intent of the jokes, people who are more ideologically similar are going to feel validated by their existence. This is also why many people have spoken out against rape jokes when they use the victims as the punchline; rapists/PUAs are more inclined to feel validated when they see people laugh at them. (They are, however, funny when the right target it is in the punchline: rapists, enablers, and rape culture.)

It’s also because oppressive language is inherently violent. You may not be directly harming people, but you’re still inciting the violence that takes place. We’ve seen this throughout history; we’ve watched this happen a number of times. The most egregious example of this is Pizzagate, where a shooter was so influenced by fake news about Hillary Clinton that he went to a pizzeria “to rescue children” and shot off an assault rifle (thankfully hurting no one).

And because oppressive language is violence and language can be weaponised to hurt, that’s why I feel that the media needs to start denying access to their platforms for people who are willing to do that. We shouldn’t be allowing Kellyanne Conway with the ability to try to talk her way out of the Bowling Green Massacre (which did happen, just in the 1600s to Native Americans – she wouldn’t ever want to talk about that, even in a history class) and call it a “mistake.” We shouldn’t be providing Richard Spencer with the opportunity to happily talk about himself and his goals for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” (an oxymoron, as ethnic cleansing is never peaceful), nor should we allow him or anyone else to even ask if human society “needs the Black race.” This is also particularly true because we’ve seen that 45’s favourite news network is already doing the same, as they rid themselves of George Will who was definitely not known for his support of the Trump administration (while making a questionable decision in deciding to sign pro-Trump, Brexit-liar Nigel Farage). [Update: We also recently learned about family ties to the Murdochs, as Ivanka recently stepped down as from her position of trustee for one of his daughters.]

We’ve had so many people explaining these concepts, and many of them have been women of colour (particularly black women). So to end this, here’s a quote from Toni Morrison during her Nobel Lecture:

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

*Bolding is mine.

NPR recently published an article titled: “Is It OK To Vote For Hillary Because She’s a Woman?” This line of questioning frustrates me because I, like the 8-year old girl, do believe that it’s okay to vote for Hillary because she’s a woman; I believed it was okay to vote for Obama because he was black. I don’t care if that’s how some people are voting because that is their choice, and people have been guilty of it for decades, if not centuries.

How many women are in politics today? There was a great photoset done by Elle UK that showed what rooms in some of our governmental spaces would look like should we remove men from them, and the results were strikingly empty rooms (they also showed that some University Challenge teams ceased to exist). We have had centuries where women have been represented only by men, and we’re even finding out that many of these men know literally nothing about the people they’re legislating for (with Vito Barbieri going as far as to think people with uteruses could swallow cameras to get ‘pregnancy pictures’). If people want to vote for someone because she’s a woman, I have no problem with them doing it.

But let’s push this farther. How many people of colour are there in varying levels of the US government? When you look at the 114th Congress, which is the “most diverse ever” according to the Pew Research Center, you still have white people representing 83% of the Congressional population despite the fact that white people make up 62% of the overall US population. If there are people who want to vote for their Congressional representatives based only on their race, I see no problem with it because that is the decision they have made. For some people, that representation really matters and opens up doors that weren’t previously open to people like them. And why should it matter to me if people are voting based on race alone when, previously, non-white people weren’t allowed to participate in government?

It’s not even a coincidence that this same argument cropped up when, as a junior senator, Barack Obama ran for president. And it wasn’t just the first time he was elected that it happened, we literally saw it happen in both 2008 and 2012. In fact, we still see that racist logic – that all black people only voted for him because he was black – in varying ways today, including a reference to something Romney said during his 2012 congratulations to President Obama that popped up in David Axelrod’s memoir.

Now let’s keep going: How about the number of LGBTQ+ people represented in government? If you can name people beyond Barney Frank and Mark Takano, that’s fantastic; I’m literally struggling to think of many other LGBTQ+ individuals in the US government because there are so few of them (and this list proves it). Honestly, the only other person I can think of is Penny Wong, and she’s over in Australia. It’s fantastic that many of these people exist, but we’re missing huge chunks of our society; there are significant portions of the queer community missing, and that representation is necessary. How many transgender people are visible? And how much influence are they having in creating these awful pieces of transgender legislation?

And let’s add a couple other aspects to this list of identities. How many individuals in government have a disability (physical or emotional/mental)? We continually make laws and legislation for disabled people, but we seem to forget that they should be included in creating it. How many people in the US government are non-Christian? We’re supposed to be non-secular, yet the justification for so many of our laws about reproductive health include the Christian God. How many of these people are from poor backgrounds? We’re creating legislation and massacring social safety nets, but we’re not even talking to the people who are genuinely affected. And we can even sub-divide many of these identities further and continue asking these questions over and over, but the answer would still be the same: There aren’t enough people in our government who genuinely represent the diversity of people in our nation.

Regardless of whether or not we agree with these individuals on their positions – and I am the first to stand in line explaining why I don’t believe in Hillary, while there are numerous think-pieces being published telling me that we “shouldn’t hold her to higher standards of feminism because she, too, has faced sexism” – the simple fact is that these people are there and, usually, are going to support further representation of people like them; it may create an environment where marginalised communities are capable of participating in the government that, at the moment, pretends to represent everyone equally.

We have seen Obama be an inspiration to many people, and there are children who are growing up today who have never known anything other than a Black president. It’s hard to deny the impact he has made on these children, especially when you see how much he meant to Kameria Chayten, a first grade girl who cried because she wasn’t ready for his final term to be over. How many people who share at least one of her identities has she seen in positions of power? Him being president now shows that it’s more possible for black people to participate in all forms of government, including the highest positions. (It’s still bloody difficult, though, because of how systemic racism is. It just means that it’s finally not impossible.)

People are allowed to use their vote how they see fit, and that is the very purpose of giving it to them; we don’t have the right to deny them that, no matter how many times politicians seem to think so (by gutting the Voting Rights Act, forever increasing ID laws, the constant gerrymandering, decreasing the number of polling stations, and so on). Some people are going to use a much more simplistic set of standards than others, and that’s okay; it’s based on what they believe is important, and it’s not my place to tell them otherwise. (Similarly, how about we point out that many of the Republican candidates seem to be doing just fine with going in on single-issue platforms – we hate everyone who isn’t like us – with no one really crying about that?)

If identity is your most important criteria for voting for someone, that’s fine. I may disagree with you (and that’s okay), but I want you to make your own decisions; it’s not my place, or anyone else’s, to tell you how and who to vote for.

But it is interesting to consider: Why is it that identity is only a factor when it’s a person who isn’t white, isn’t straight, and isn’t a cissexual man? And how many times are we going to hear “Women only voted for Hillary because she’s a woman?” should she win the nomination? And if Bernie’s to win, how frequently will we hear “Jewish people only voted for him because he’s Jewish?”

Because I’m betting it’ll be quite a lot, and it will most certainly ignore the numbers or logic as to why they won, especially over any of the possible Republican nominations. I mean, it’ll be obviously difficult to figure out why we would vote for either of them when we’ve got some amazing xenophobic contestants on the other side. (And we’re kind of stuck with two options because of ballot access laws, but that’s a topic for another day.)

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