Getting in a couple of points before I ignore you all for the rest of the day to write fiction:
* One of the side effects of writing about the Gawker/Reddit kerfuffle, and subsequently having Gawker pick up the piece, is that now people seem to think I am Team Gawker, which if they are on Team Reddit means I am a bad man.
To which my response is: Seriously? There are actually teams now? Do we divide on the field of battle, in t-shirts with the Reddit android on one side and the Gawker “G” on the other, and huff and puff our doughy, chair-bound bodies to the center of the field, therein to engage in face-turned hand-slappery? Because that seems tiring. And silly.
For the record, I am neither Team Gawker nor Team Reddit. I am Team Scalzi. Team Scalzi, or this member of it, actually visits both Reddit and Gawker on a daily basis, because he likes to wander the Web and be distracted by its shiny objects, and Lord knows both Gawker and Reddit are full of shiny, linky objects. He also believes that neither Gawker or Reddit are full-time paragons of either virtue or of vice, and that in both cases their owners (Nick Denton and Advance Publications, respectively) are perfectly happy to grub about if there are coins to be found in the dirt. It’s a living.
This is not to say that maybe Gawker and Reddit, as organizations, don’t have an antagonistic relationship going on. Maybe they do. But if they do, as I work for neither nor feel an intense association with either, I don’t know how that ends up being my problem.
Now, in this particular case, Reddit’s (rightly) on the defensive, because this Brutsch character is manifestly a creep and Reddit as an organization profited from its association, and that association throws into sharp relief some of Reddit’s less savory corners, characters and practices. This fact undoubtedly makes some folks who strongly identify as being “redditors” a little defensive and pissy, and of course that’s totally understandable. It doesn’t mean that those of us commenting on the event, and pointing out what we think it means for Reddit, are automatically the enemy. Even if our pieces are reprinted on Gawker.
In short, there may or may not be a slap fight between Team Gawker and Team Reddit, but it’s not my slapfight. If you invite me to it, I’ll decline the invitation. I’ll watch, however.
* This may lead to the question of, if I’m not on Team Gawker, why did I let them reprint the entry? In short, because they asked. If someone from Reddit had asked, I’d’ve been likely to let them reprint it, too. Seems relevant to both parties. That said, because of what Reddit is, it seems more likely the site would link out anyway rather than ask to reprint.
As it happens the piece has been linked to on Reddit, although I’m not seeing a whole lot of follow-on traffic; most of what traffic it’s getting is coming from the “ShitRedditSays” subreddit, which is (in a grand example of Redditors policing themselves) dedicated to highlighting the particularly asshatted things that are said on that site itself. This may mean something, or it may not. I would understand if the mass of Redditors who regularly upvote things decided they wanted to leave this particular entry alone. It’s been a rough week for them.
I’ll note that Gawker sites reprint stuff from Whatever from time to time; Jezebel reprinted the guest post I had on transvaginal ultrasounds earlier in the year, and Kotaku did the same for my “Straight White Male” piece and its follow-up. Again, it’s because they ask and because I thought in those cases it would be useful to get those pieces in front of more readers (and also, because I’m not entirely the selfless type, to give them a secondary boost after their reader numbers peaked on Whatever).
That said, lots of sites and publications reprint my stuff from time to time and the act off allowing a reprint doesn’t bind me to them. I am no more in the tank for Gawker than I am, say, for CNN, which reprinted my piece on Klout last year, or for any of the several dozens of sites and publications which have reprinted “Being Poor” over the years.
This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t practice discrimination; if someone from Stormfront wanted (unfathomably) to reprint something of mine on its forum, as an example, I’d pass. But Gawker’s sites, generally speaking, get over that particular bar. I’m sure they’re relieved to know that.
* One of the things that has been suggested by some of those affronted by the piece is that I must be one of those people who thinks free speech is okay, so long as only nice people use it. Well, no. If you don’t give even the scumbags a right to free speech, etc. But again, this isn’t about free speech, it’s about what speech Reddit, a private company, decides it wants to tolerate on its site, and, separately but not less importantly, why it chooses to tolerate that speech.
I understand many Redditors want to believe Reddit has a high tolerance for the creepy because it has high-minded moral and ethical principles on the matter of tolerating even the most controversial types of speech, and, well. I think that’s adorable of them to believe so. I am less convinced, personally, as I have noted, although I certainly understand why Reddit would choose to invest itself in the cloak of high-minded principles of unfettered speech than jangle unabashedly down the street wearing only the jockstrap of unfettered commerce. But again, just because Reddit finds it convenient doesn’t mean I’m required to sign onto it, nor should anyone else.
* Likewise, I’m personally not enjoined to believe that every creep who enjoys whacking off to pictures of women who didn’t consent to have their pictures used in that fashion actually gives a squirt in a bucket about free speech, in any other sense other than a dread fear that someone will make it more difficult for him to find all his masturbatory fodder in one convenient, semi-respectable location. It’s like the dudes burbling their way through a bowl of weed who talk about the medicinal properties of marijuana and how awesome hemp is when all they really want is to not worry about their own supply.
Yes, some mouth-breathing upskirt enthusiasts actually are ardent defenders of free speech in a constitutional context, just as some couch-surfing stoners are actually deeply committed to stumping for recognition of cannabinoid compounds as legitimate instruments of medical therapy. Speaking as someone who is both for free speech and for the disprohibitionmentation of marijuana, however, I will suggest their actual number, as a ratio against those dudes who just want their whack and weed, is low indeed.
Which is why, upskirt dude, when you come at me with your “free speech” argument, I am skeptical, shall we say, concerning your sincerity regarding, knowledge of, and commitment to, free speech. I will judge you if it quickly becomes apparent — as it so often does — that you haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about on the subject. Because then not only are you a creep, you’re an insincere creep, and you think I am as ignorant as you are, which is also unsurprisingly offensive to me.
If all you want to do is be a creep, then please don’t drag free speech into it. Free speech really does deserve better.
* Finally, no, “disprohibitionmentation” is not a real word. But I really think it should be, don’t you?