Two Minutes Hate: FAQ

Since posting “Two Minutes Hate,” I’ve received dozens of emails, read hundreds of comments, and spent 20+ hours talking on phone/Skype with people from multiple communities. After those conversations, I feel I need to both make some apologies and clarify my position. In the interest of keeping this brief, I’ve summarized it as a FAQ:

Why are you apologizing for Zak? Why are you supporting him?

The biggest mistake I made in this piece was not adequately addressing Zak’s behavior. Let me be clear: I find Zak’s behavior on the internet to be deeply irresponsible. It causes a great deal of unnecessary harm. He aggressively questions people in any conversation in which there is a conflict. His interactions with members of our community have left them traumatized to the point where discussing him gives them panic attacks. For example, here’s Zak calling 36 people psychotic on his blog. I’m sure that Zak would disagree and call my online behavior deeply irresponsible. He has a set of norms he follows, and he views following those norms as essential to maintaining the kind of RPG community he and his friends want. Those aren’t the norms I want. I assumed that other people in our community would take my feelings about Zak’s behavior as a given. Yet the internet is in the middle of an ongoing conversation about how to deal with conflict and harm caused by online speech. I should have been more clear about my stance. It’s by far the greatest failure of the piece, and I absolutely understand this point of criticism. I’m sorry.

Why do you want us to welcome people like Zak into our spaces?

I believe that everyone should have control of their own personal spaces online. I didn’t intend to tell people how to run their spaces. I’ve never, never, never advocated against people setting boundaries or blocking people. I’m in favor of anything that both respects everyone’s humanity and keeps everyone safe. People have the right to choose their level of engagement with others. I think some people in our community might decide they would like to build relationships with new people from different communities that they had previously overlooked or prejudged. But that’s up to them. I wasn’t clear about how I envisioned these boundaries in my original post, and I’m sorry for the confusion I caused.

Are you doing a book with Zak? Is this a setup for some future announcement?

No. Absolutely not.

Why are you telling people not to be angry?

Anger is an incredibly useful emotion. It helps us identify when we are being treated unfairly, and it gives us the strength we need to get through tough situations. I don’t want anyone to stifle or suppress their emotions in the service of civility. I don’t want anyone to swallow their anger so that we can just get along. Anger is valuable. I am asking those who have wronged someone to apologize in the hopes of finding peace between communities. If you haven’t wronged anyone, then there’s no need for you to apologize for anything. But remember that people—often marginalized people—have been harmed by our community’s actions. And if you think you have wronged someone, then I’m asking you to take the brave step of apologizing for your actions.

Why are you asking people to apologize to their abusers?

I would never ask anyone to apologize to their abuser because it might make abuse stop or the abuser comfortable. Nor will I ask someone to listen to people who they feel are abusing them or to collaborate with people they can’t trust because of their past actions. I will, however, demand that anyone abusing someone stop with the abuse immediately and apologize to the abused party.

Why did you call Rob out by name? Why not just anonymize his post?

I hate call out culture. (Ironic, I know). I think it’s often used to enforce terrible community norms and exclude people because they use the wrong social justice terminology or don’t fit in with a clique. I’m more inclined to call someone in when problems arise within a community, and that’s what we did with Rob first. In this case, I felt that it was appropriate to call Rob out for the following reasons:
  • Marissa, myself, and Brendan had already tried to work with Rob to address the situation in private. He was not receptive to our attempts to call him in.
  • I felt that the wrong was clear; Rob’s language was inflammatory and hurtful. I expect better from our community, especially in public forums.
  • I evaluated the potential harm to Rob as best I could, given his actions. As a long-time member of our community, Rob isn’t going to be ostracized on the basis of one action.
I wrestled with how to present Rob’s post for weeks. I felt that if I didn’t include Rob’s name, it would be easy to dismiss him as a random person instead of someone whose work will appear on Tabletop this year. If I anonymized the post, then it would create a guessing game where everyone would focus on who it was rather than the argument I made. Though I have reasons for the call out, I still have doubts about how I handled it. I hurt my friend—probably to the point that he’ll never forgive me. It’s something that I struggle with now and will struggle with for a long time. I found it necessary, but I will always be deeply saddened that I put him out there like that. To Rob: I’m sorry that I hurt you.

What about the other people you called out? Was calling them out fair?

I had two purposes: demand a higher standard of behavior from our community and build a case that we needed to reinvest in diversity. In order to accomplish the first goal, I had to be clear about the behavior I considered destructive and harmful. In order to accomplish the second, I had to alert our community to the persistent problems with our power structures. I stand by my claim that there is a pattern of behavior stretching back for years. But I understand that many people feel I did undue harm by resurfacing old wounds and dragging up ancient history. In retrospect, I could have done more to make each incident clear or left out links that might point unwanted attention at vulnerable people. I was also wrong to use a private post. I’ve removed it and apologized to the person I called out. I was totally wrong, and I hope they forgive me. Describing conflicts between communities is hard; I needed to make a persuasive case that our community bears responsibility for harms while also being fair to the people I call out. I surely failed in some cases. I want to apologize to those people who felt that I misrepresented their position or caused them to be retargeted for abuse—I’ve talked with a few already—and I’d be happy to address their thoughts on the matter in private if they want to talk further.

Why did you post this through the Magpie Games site? Are you trying to make money?

I thought that it would be disingenuous to post through another channel and say “But this doesn’t have anything to do with Magpie.” It does. Our stance on what we will tolerate from our partners and what we want from our community isn’t just a private matter. We want to be straightforward with where we stand. At the same time, we never intended this to bring people to our site to buy our books or support our projects. In fact, we knew that this could hurt our sales, and we accepted that possibility because we thought this was an important stand to take.

Why do you call Story Games and OSR networks “communities”? Aren’t they just different types of games?

From my experiences—both traveling the country and working in online spaces—I see distinct cultural, economic, and social clusters in which people are making games and working with each other. Some folks work and play in both spaces; other people work or play in just one. But I think of them as communities with their own norms and expectations. I am deeply suspicious when community leaders insist that there are no communities and there are no norms. That can often be a way to protect the powerful. I think anywhere people gather and spend time together is usually a community with informal norms. When someone attempts to keep me from calling attention to the norms, I question who those norms currently serve.

What happens next?

Ultimately, what happens next is up to the community. I want to inspire conversation and self-reflection, and I believe that people have engaged in productive discussions both online and offline as a result of the post. If folks want to talk directly with me, I’m available. I’m hopeful that our community can affirm our collective values, reform some of our worst behaviors toward other communities, and start to give minorities in our community a more central role in our efforts.