#RPG #TTRPG – More on Sean Patrick Fannon & Con/Community Issues

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I felt the need to comment on a forum, but me and forums (or at least moderators) don’t tend to get on, however reasonable I’m being at the time. So I’m putting a copy here since I want to preserve what I’ve written, just in case.

Update: Seems this was a good idea and that ENWorld is also lost!

“Welcome back. Probably should have checked the rules before trotting out derogatory terms like “social justice warrior” and “virtue signalling”. Don’t post in the thread again, please.”

Oy gevalt… the below was me being PAINFULLY diplomatic and careful.

***

Eh, probably not a good idea to stick my neck out and make this my ‘re-entry’ to this forum, but what the heck. There’s a heck of a lot of stuff here to address and talk about.

I can’t say that Sean and I got on and, in fact, I probably have every reason to celebrate his ‘fall from grace’. As a member of the extreme end of ‘social justice warriors,’ he’s in good company having had this happen though. It’s almost a trope. He helped the campaign to have at least one of my games pulled from sale – and yes, that is a form of censorship according to the ACLU and I’m sure other people can point to other well-meaning misdeeds on his behalf. That seems to be something that has been mentioned in this thread.

From what I can decipher of what he’s said, this seems roughly analogous to the accusations made against Lawrence Krauss, which read as socially awkward misunderstandings and cringeworthy obliviousness. Social awkwardness and people on the spectrum may be something both the skeptic community and the gaming community have in common, which could account for the bacchanal atmosphere some ‘Nerd Proms’ descend into.

Even though I’ve got a good reason to personally dislike him on that basis, I’m just not prepared to throw him under the bus any more than I would anyone else. There are accusations, but that doesn’t make them facts. As others have pointed out we have a legal principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Others have suggested that this is somehow a bad principle or limited to a purely legal context. That isn’t the case, it’s a basic logical principle – the burden of proof – which is why it’s utilised in legal cases as well as science, and why it’s a good general rule for life. Sure, personal bias and relationships can get in the way, but that’s precisely why we have processes in both these spheres to encourage objectivity.

We are, however, operating in the social sphere and it seems unlikely that any legal action will result from this. So we have a largely anonymous set of claims against a publicly identified figure, with no way for most of us to confirm whether or not any of it has happened. Furthermore, he’s apparently not allowed to present his side of things without being censored. This hardly seems fair or just, though one can certainly appreciate why it would worry people for accusers to be identified. Ideally, this would be handled by the courts and both accuser and accused would remain anonymous until such time as a judgement was rendered.

The world is less than ideal though and we must make do.

Part of that ‘making do’ should be extending the benefit of the doubt. Accusations such as this, true or false, ruin people. As little as a couple of tweets can see people lose their relationships, jobs, future prospects and end up with an internet profile that renders them socially toxic and unemployable for years to come. This happens whether or not they’ve actually done anything at all. Surely we can agree that this isn’t a good way to proceed? To – metaphorically – lynch someone, purely because an accusation is made? That can lead to some very dark places.

By all means take precautions, investigate further, but don’t lose sight of the principle of justice and fairness in the pursuit of social ‘justice’.

Contrary to what some likely think, I’m all for social justice in terms of treating people equally and fairly. Ironically it’s these left/lib values that are the very things that have lead me to oppose the ideologically drive ‘regressive left’ which seems to be in full voice throughout this thread. That doesn’t mean I’m on the side of the populist right, the Jordan Petersons and their ilk either, certainly not on the side of them ‘they’re all lying’ kind of people in this thread.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that this kind of thing isn’t unknown, certainly in activist circles. There was collusion and plotting in the case against Gregory Allen Elliot and, more sinisterly, in the Jian Ghomeshi trial – both instances in Canada. I’m most aware of issues in Canada thanks to Diana Davison’s work with The Lighthouse Project. The fact of the matter is that we really have no idea how many accusations are false. Estimates vary horrendously and while people rightly decry how few sexual misconduct or rape cases are prosecuted, the same is true – perhaps even more so – for false accusations. They’re hard to prosecute for many of the same reasons that sex crimes are hard to prosecute, with additional political issues not unlike the ones that have caused problems with prosecuting grooming gangs in the UK.

It’s anywhere from that tiny percentage we’re aware of, up to the full number of claims that are never prosecuted. Neither extreme is likely, but anecdotally police officers and investigators state that it’s higher than we might think. Still that’s colloquial and we shouldn’t put too much weight on that either.

It’s a conundrum. How do we address the clear issues that there are in prosecuting these cases while still providing due process and consideration for the accused? That’s a problem more for the courts than us, but not prosecuting witchhunts also seems like a no-brainer. ‘Trust but verify’ rather than ‘Listen and believe’ as we used to say in GG. Speaking of which, it was brought up in the context of supposedly being a hate movement, which it was not and actual evidence exists contrary to that belief. That just goes to show that even evidence won’t convince some people.

Some people want to address it by lowering the standard of evidence, but the advent of genetic forensics has cleared a lot of people who were convicted on the basis of testimony and accusations. Lowering the standard of evidence doesn’t seem like a good idea and that does mean that guilty people are going to go free. Blackstone’s Formulation remains a useful ethical guide and it was rather horrifying to see people in this thread decrying it and being willing to see innocent people jailed, or worse.

Others, even more horrifyingly, have tried to get things shifted to an inquisitorial system of justice in sexual cases. Why this is a terrible idea should be clear to anyone.

So there doesn’t appear to be any good solutions to that problem, but that’s one for the legal systems and the courts. I would suggest that we – as individuals – give the benefit of the doubt and try to take some of the heat out of this febrile atmosphere, but I don’t see that kind of logic going over too well with many people. In fact, it – and much of this post most likely – will be taken as something that it isn’t. A protection of abusers, or an attack on the (allegedly) abused. That’s how bad things have gotten. Not to mention that often the people you have to defend the rights of, are unpleasant. They might be creepy, they might be fascists, they might be paedophiles, but even genuinely, provenly repugnant people still have human rights.

As to conventions? I don’t think anti-harassment policies are a good idea. I think we already have a societal one called ‘the law’. This doesn’t mean I’m pro-harassment, and I have had to intercede myself at events in the past. I am, however, concerned about these policies as many of them seem to be ideologically driven and to ‘Trojan Horse’ agendas and censorship. I’ve attended more than one convention which, if the policy were strictly enforced, would have had no sales room and no games. Many of these policies derive from the pattern on the Geek Feminism Wiki, and this has caused problems elsewhere, let alone gaming cons. I am very pleased to see that Dragonmeet has walked back their version some since the last one I attended. Still, they seem completely unnecessary and very open for abuse. All it takes is one person to be a jerk and either the con staff will be outed as hypocrites, or things will go horribly wrong.

Between the law and looking out for each other, I think we have all the tools we need. Having anti-harassment policies seems pointless and, I hate to say it since the term gets abused, but it seems like ‘virtue signalling’. I mean, they’re even measuring skirts at PAX now. It’s like we’ve gone back in time 70 years, not forward, and yet it’s being driven by people who call themselves ‘progressive’. It’s all rather confusing to a grumpy old leftie libertine.

Of course, these things all move so fast that something else may have come out even while I was writing this, but I think there’s enough there that’s generally applicable to the broader issue I think.

To reiterate, because people tend to be a bit hard of understanding on these issues and to infer things that aren’t said.

  • These are serious issues, which I take seriously.
  • Sexual crimes and misdemeanours are horrible and a strong stance should be taken against them.
  • Accusations should be taken seriously.
  • I don’t think the current witchhunt atmosphere is productive or useful and may have gone too far the other way.
  • Justice and fairness demand we consider people innocent until proven guilty, even in our personal lives.
  • People shouldn’t be ruined on the basis of a mere accusation alone.
  • These things are business for the courts.
  • Antiharassment policies are unnecessary, which doesn’t mean I accept or condone harassment.

Hopefully people will address the points.

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