Salon was a revelation. Perhaps my memory has been corrupted in the fifteen-plus years since I first logged on, but Salon was a place to go for meaningful comment on important social issues. The writers were passionate but fair; Salon seemed intent on living up to the marketplace of ideas for which it was named.
So what the hell happened?
Salon disappointed me deeply in the past couple weeks and their turn toward authoritarian leftism is exemplified in a couple recent articles. In the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, Salon published a Benji Hart piece in which the gentleman seems to advocate the use of violence as a political tactic:
I do not advocate non-violence—particularly in a moment like the one we currently face. In the spirit and words of militant Black and Brown feminist movements from around the globe, I believe it is crucial that we see non-violence as a tactic, not a philosophy.
Mr. Hart very helpfully offers the beginning of a how-to manual that one should consult the next time one wishes to use violence to accomplish one’s goals:
Acknowledging all of this, I do think events this weekend in Baltimore raise important questions for future direct and militant action in all of our movements. In addition to articulating our goals, crafting our messaging and type of action, we need to think carefully about what the longer term results of militant action might potentially be. Strategies I might suggest, and important questions I think we should try and answer as we plan or find ourselves involved in political actions are these:
- Are we harming state and private property, or are we harming people, communities and natural resources? Is the result of our action disrupting state and corporate violence, or creating collateral damage that more oppressed people will have to deal with (i.e., Black families and business owners, cleaning staff, etc.)? Are we mimicking state violence by harming people and the environment, or are we harming state property in ways that can stop or slow violence? Are we demonizing systems or people?
- Who is in the vicinity? Are we doing harm to people around us as we act? Is there a possibility of violence for those who are not the intended targets of our action? Are we forcing people to be involved in an action who many not want to be, or who are not ready?
- Who is involved in the action? Are people involved in our action consensually, or simply because they are in the vicinity? Have we created ways for people of all abilities who may not want to be present to leave? Are we being strategic about location and placement of bodies? If there are violent repercussions for our actions, who will be facing them?
We should attempt to answer as many of these questions as possible before action occurs, in the planning stages if possible. We also need backup plans and options for changing our actions in the moment if any of the agreed-upon conditions are not the same when it comes time to act.
Mr. Hart’s defense of violence as a political tactic would not seem out of place in any society that has experienced great upheaval. The rich are getting too rich? Why, let’s make sure we aren’t harming homeowners as we put Marie Antoinette into the guillotine! Thankfully, Mr. Hart does not advise violent protesters to plant the heads of their enemies on pikes outside the city walls as a warning to others.
I saw surprisingly little pushback against this advocacy of violence and I suspect you saw little, too. I hope you are as puzzled as I am. We are the Left. We are supposed to believe in the rule of law. We want officers who shoot citizens to be investigated fairly and completely and punished if the shooting runs afoul of the law. We expect employers to follow all of the laws and to treat men and women equally; those who feel aggrieved can avail themselves of the courts. Most of us believed George Zimmerman and O.J. Simpson were guilty as hell, but abided by the decision rendered by juries of their peers.
Now we are being urged to have a 21st-century hootenanny to decide how we will engage in violent protest with the least possible collateral damage.
Item the second:
Salon editors published a piece by Arthur Chu, famous for being on Jeopardy!. Mr. Chu has somehow been named King of the Geeks by authoritarian left publications because his public speech often falls in line with their authoritarian left stances.
Mr. Chu, among other things, opposes GamerGate, a consumer revolt dedicated to exposing media hypocrisy. The conflict has been long in coming; gamers finally got sick of reading coverage and reviews granted in exchange for favors of various types. Cronyism is unbecoming to any industry and any community; those in power are circling the wagons to try and preserve what they have.
His profile heightened by all of the GamerGate coverage, Mr. Chu has become a voice for anti-GamerGate forces, appearing on television and writing essays for publications such as Salon. Let’s take a look at Mr. Chu’s most recent Salon post. Mr. Chu denies that Joss Whedon was “bullied” off of Twitter by those who felt that his depiction of Black Widow was insufficiently feminist. He blames Mr. Whedon’s departure instead on “harassment,” a particularly flexible smear for the authoritarian left. Mr. Chu points out that he, in fact, receives a “relentless steady stream of people deliberately trying to fuck with you and ruin your day.” (Mr. Chu won Jeopardy!, but he can’t look up the word “redundant?”)
So you might think that Mr. Chu is a fantastic spokesman for geek culture and for the feminist movement we all hold so dear.
You would be wrong. Salon‘s editors posted Mr. Chu’s essay only a few days after he made a threat against a number of prominent GamerGate figures. People like Milo Yiannopoulos, Christina H. Sommers were getting together at a restaurant in Washington D.C. Mr. Chu did not like this, tweeting:
Mr. Chu further e-mailed the restaurant, insisting that the GamerGaters had no right to meet up at a restaurant, have drinks and chat.
I hope you are sitting down: the restaurant received a bomb threat and had to be evacuated. No one knows who is responsible for the bomb threat, but aren’t you disturbed that Salon didn’t feel the need to point out that one of its columnists wrote a piece about leaving Twitter mere days after receiving criticism (not from Salon of course) for tweeting a threat? Can Salon really be proud of its blinkered worldview, allowing criticism of only one side in a debate? And it must be noted that Salon is supporting the privileged game journalists instead of the plebian gamers they declared “dead?”
Perhaps Salon didn’t mind Mr. Chu’s threat. After all, according to the authoritarian left, violence is now a valid means to achieve political goals. Mr. Chu was just working from the playbook.