Mike Krahulik and His New Year’s Resolution

Mike Krahulik, aka “Gabe” of Penny Arcade, has posted a new year’s resolution on the site, talking of some of the things he’s learned about himself in the last year amid various controversies he’s been instrumental in creating, and what he sees as the things he needs to start doing to become a better person. Or as he puts it, “I know I don’t want to be this angry kid anymore. I take medicine to control my anxiety and depression but there is no pill I can take to stop being a jerk.”

I can’t and won’t defend Mike for the stuff he’s talking about in the resolution piece, because he was spot-on: He has been a bully, and whatever the underlying reasons for those bullying actions, at the end of the day the actions speak for themselves. Mike is a grown-up and needs to account for the things he does and if possible make amends to the people he’s harmed. Without follow-up action, none of the apologies and resolutions will mean much of anything. I think the folks who Mike has bullied have reason to be skeptical — and should be skeptical — of him. He’s got a lot to make up for.

I’m not a disinterested observer of either Mike or Penny Arcade. Both Whatever and Penny Arcade started around the same time. I was one of Penny Arcade’s early advertisers in 1999, advertising a self-published book called Agent to the Stars. Later, when the book was professionally published by Subterranean Press, we got Mike to do the artwork for the cover. I wrote the introduction to their book The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade. I’m a long-time and enthusiastic fan of Child’s Play, the charity they use to send games and toys to children in hospitals and shelters. PAX, their gaming convention, has been a launching pad or significant boost for the current careers of several of my friends, including Wil Wheaton, Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton. I like both Mike and Jerry and consider them friends; we’ve been mutual supporters of each other’s work through the years.

None of the above excuses Mike’s actions (or the actions of the rest of the Penny Arcade crew, for that matter, when they step into it as well). Nor does the good that Mike and PA do via Child’s Play and their other initiatives mitigate harm done elsewhere — when you’re an adult, you probably can hold in your mind the idea that a person can simultaneously can do good things and hurtful things, be praised for one and fairly taken to task for the other. People are complicated and occasionally broken. We all know, and most of us either like or love, people like that (hell, we often are people like that). It’s painful to see people you think of as friends and as part of your cohort, do things you know hurt others. You recognize both things can come out of the same people.

I’ve talked about apologies here on Whatever, and I’ve noted that in my opinion that while you apologize to someone, the apology is for you — you do it because your sense of morality, your sense of who you are as a person (or at least who you should be), demands you offer it. You recognize that the apology might not be accepted, and that merely offering the apology doesn’t excuse you from the hard work of both making amends for past action and improving your behavior and actions in the future. I’d like to think that what Mike has written here is him working on a similar level: Making an accounting of, and acknowledging the consequences of, his actions, but also recognizing that the reason to try to change is not because it’s demanded by others (or at least not only), but because he doesn’t want to be that person any more. He wants to be someone better.

And, well. We’ll see how that goes. I’d like to see Mike get right with himself; I’d like to see him work to earn belief from those he’s hurt that he’s trying to get away from who he’s been before. They don’t owe it to him and some people will never believe him, which is their right. But Mike shouldn’t be doing it to be forgiven, anyway. He should be doing it because it’s correct thing for him to do, no matter how anyone else responds to it.

I won’t wish Mike good luck with his resolution. What he wants to do isn’t about luck. I will wish him good work, because it will be a lot of work, and it will be hard. I hope he gets to where he wants to be, for himself and for the people he cares about, and who care about him. I’d like to believe he will.

136 thoughts on “Mike Krahulik and His New Year’s Resolution

  1. I’m going to additionally note that if people assume this is me passing judgement on Mike for his various screw-ups, I will be the first to note the beam in my own eye — I’ve fucked up and hurt people and worked to make amends. I want to believe that Mike can work this out in part because I want to believe when I fuck up (and I have, and will again), I will be able to work it out too. I see Mike’s failures in myself.

  2. Whilst only a start, it is a good start. As you say, if he can carry through with the necessary work then things will get better on a number of fronts.

  3. Yeah. A friend of mine in university used to demur from wishing “good luck” on exams, saying “I’d rather wish you ‘Good Brain’.” In this case, I also want Mike to succeed with his resolution. It won’t just help him–if he gets right with himself and finds the strength to be better about this stuff, the massive platform that is PA, PAX, Child’s Play and the rest of the (now newly-streamlined) PA endeavour lets him and Jerry do a lot of good. A *lot* of good. So much positivity is born out of PAX. It can engender (sorry) a lot of new dialogue and inclusion.

    Good strength, Mike.

  4. I can’t second this enough:

    when you’re a grown up, you can hold in your mind the idea that a person can simultaneously can do good things and hurtful things, be praised for one and fairly taken to task for the other. People are complicated and occasionally broken. We all know, and most of us either like or love, people like that (hell, we often are people like that). It’s painful to see people you think of as friends and as part of your cohort, do things you know hurt others. You recognize both things can come out of the same people.

    Krahulik, whether he wanted to be or not, is a role model in the geek community, and his actions reverberate beyond just him. When people see him bullying others, it’s a signal that they’re “legitimate” targets, so it’s not just Krahulik’s personal actions that are causing harm as that harm is multiplied by the people following his lead.

    I’m skeptical, but I do hope that his efforts yield positive results, for him and everyone else.

  5. Watching Mike evolve over the last couple of years has been rather fascinating; I’ve got a number of friends who have given up on the site for various reasons, several of whom specifically cited the Dickwolves controversy (which Mike can’t seem to learn to just stop talking about) or the transphobic stuff from earlier this year. I dunno; the guy seems like he’s trying, and that gets him a long way with me– although there’s an argument to be made that when you’re grown and when you have as much influence as Mike does that “trying” isn’t good enough anymore. We’ll see how long it takes until we have to reset the “Penny Arcade has not fucked up in XXX days” counter any longer.

    (There’s a post about this on my blog, which I’m only linking because at the time I included the “This is what a feminist looks like” picture of John at the top of the page– the synchronicity entertains me: http://infinitefreetime.com/2013/09/05/this-one-has-some-bad-words-in-it/ )

  6. I’m not sure I’d call that an apology so much as an attempt at explanation. We’ll see.

  7. scribblegurl:

    To be clear, I don’t think Mike wrote an apology. I am saying I see a similar dynamic at play in terms of what it’s doing — i.e., identifying a wrong, expressing a need to fix it, and (hopefully) recognizing that fix is worth doing for him, rather than for others.

  8. I started low with my first new years resolution that I meant (that one was before I could afford beer): “When I swear at somebody who doesn’t deserve it I will apologize in the same venue.”
    Year two I added “and make amends.”
    Year three I added “Unless the fucktard is being a total ice water douche about the amends _And_ another amendment which was [something about explaining to newbies about not feeding trolls or something like that. I don't remember].
    That started late last century (the roaring twenties or most likely much later) and I now that I can afford beer I have a needed update, but, hey. It’s the 01JA2014 so that will have to wait until next year.

  9. It’s a hell of a lot better than an “I apologize if anyone was offended”-style non-apology. In Toronto we’ve gotten like 30 of those from our mayor this year and I’m pretty sick of them.

  10. I think that it wasn’t an apology but a statement of intent and recognition says a lot and holds hope. Here’s to him figuring it out.

  11. BTW, I’ve seen things such as the sites Mr S. links to, and if I recall the penny arcade scandal correctly my view is? Oh, I’ve a bed to change and so much more and Seriously? Get a job. Jobs give you money which you can exchange for shiny things.
    Stop whining on the internet! Put your toys away and go to sleep!
    Please note that I’m not specifying who is lost time = people I don’t bother with/things I know I would have sworn about when I was thirteen.

  12. The whole apology thing is a quagmire, not least because it’s so easy to utter a faux apology whilst demanding that you are entitled to someone’s time and attention listening and then responding to that faux apology, notwithstanding the fact that you have behaved so offensively that the only thing the hapless recipient wants to do is to never see or hear you ever again.

    The Readercon debacle was an egregious example of that particular ploy…

  13. I’ve been reading PA since sometime in 2001 or 2002; since I was about fifteen, in other words. Along with the now-defunct Machall, it was the first webcomic I ever read, a shared reference point with my high school group of friends that had a huge influence on my geekling development. As such, it’s been… frustrating, the older I’ve become, to feel as though the comic – or rather, the creators – are mostly still writing for the same person I was over ten years ago, with some few and notable exceptions. It hasn’t helped, too, that I’ve been reading Sinfest for about the same length of time, and Tatsuya Ishida manifestly HAS evolved, to the point of explicitly saying in the strip that his early decision to use hipster-ironic racism, sexism and the like as a source of humour was “misguided”. His cast of characters has expanded to become more diverse; his humour now is subversive in ways that it originally wasn’t, while still maintaining the same cheeky, philosophical-political core.

    So when I read Mike’s resolution today, it resonated on a few levels. Forever and a day, there’s been this perception that gamers are just teen and twentysomething dudes on couches, and particularly in webcomics, that’s an idea that many a strip has referenced heavily, particularly in their early days, like Ctrl-Alt-Del, Applegeeks, Machall, Hijinks Ensue, PvP, and a few others that aren’t around any more. And the thing is – and this is also true of Penny Arcade – when these strips started out, part of the reason they all played to that stereotype is because *it was reflective of their creators*. But time passes, people change, and suddenly here we all are, thirteen-odd years later, and those twentysomething creator-gamers are now – I think universally, in the case of the examples I’ve just given – married fathers. That kind of transition creeps up on you slowly, and so has found its way into their strips, so that Gabe and Tycho and Brent Sienna and Joel and Hawk and Ethan and Ian McConville, all those formerly-hapless, self-insertion gamer characters, are pairing off and having kids, too. And even when the rest of their work is aimed at the same demographic as always – I suspect because there’s still a tendency to situate their younger selves, the perfect gamer stereotypes, as being more valid, yearned-after expressions of gamerness than the full reality of who they are now, if only in some abstract, subconscious sense – they haven’t been able to keep their new lives from influencing their output.

    And that, to me, has been fascinating; because there’s a real tension there, one that’s representative of something much bigger in gamer culture, too. Because gaming isn’t just multi-generational now: it’s been around long enough to become part of, not just mainstream culture, but the culture *of particular families*, controllers passed down from mother to son or father to daughter, whatever permutations you want there, and for this particular subset of guys who grew up either assuming or arguing that young men were the only REAL gamers (or the most important ones, or the majority, or somesuch else), waking up in their mid-thirties to suddenly realise that they’re living in a domestic gaming ecosystem, where their wives and girlfriends and daughters game alongside brothers and sons and friends and they juggle their own gametime around work commitments and playdates – that’s bound to eventually make one wonder, Shit. Who else have we been excluding, just because I used to assume that only people like I used to be were really invested in this?

    And as a female reader of PA, I’ve kind of been waiting for this particular shoe to drop since FOREVER, because honestly: do Mike and Jerry just not see the contradiction of noting in newsposts that Kara used to get constantly sexually harassed on CS servers until she adopted a non-feminine username, and then making comics where the joke is about Gabe and Tycho making aggressive sexual threats against online players? The contradiction in having a touching strip relaying Mike’s real-life wish for his eldest son to not grow up too quickly and to steer clear of digital predators on the internet in the same year he decided to reignite the Dickwolves malarkey at PAX, or when there’s a strip in their archives about paedophiles molesting Gabe at a kids’ Pokemon tournament? This isn’t about telling creators, “Oh, you should be ashamed of saying fuck online because you’re a parent, HOW DARE YOU” – it’s about the fact that, for a good while now, some of PA’s most honest and touching strips, the ones that are stated in newsposts to be based on their real-world interactions with family and friends, have punchlines and messages that are frequently the *exact polar opposite* of the stuff they make the rest of the time, and maybe that’s worth examining.

    All of which is a way of saying: I’m not just going to be gauging Mike’s progress in this respect with regard to what he says on Twitter, although that’s certainly relevant. I’m also looking for an acknowledging shift in content, too.

  14. I have a hard time believing anything that begins with a long, “Yeah, I did and do bad things, but here’s why it’s not my fault…” prologue. My Mom survived a father that beat the living crap out of her several times a week the entire time she was still at home. When she fell on a sidewalk and broke her back, he wouldn’t take her to the hospital because, “Girls aren’t worth the money”. She wound up with three fused vertebrae in her back. When she outgrew her shoes, he wouldn’t buy her shoes that fit so she had to have several corrective surgeries on her feet as an adult so she could just walk without pain.

    Know what she did? She took that experience and instead of using it as a convenient excuse for child-abuse, said, “You know what? I will *never* hit my children. They will have clothes that fit. My sons and daughter will be treated equally.” That’s what she did. Maybe it’d be nice if Mr. Krahulik took his experiences of being bullied and instead of turning into what he (states he) hates, used it as fuel to treat people the way he wishes he was treated back then.

  15. You know, let’s not actually go deeply into the issues of apologies in this thread. As noted, Mike was not offering an apology, rather something that had similar dynamics, and so going on about apologies in this thread is increasingly off topic.

  16. I wish Mr. Krahulik well with his resolution. I’m glad he has become self-aware enough to make such a resolution in the first place. I hope he also has the strength and self-awareness to make the change to which he aspires.

    I guess I’m not terribly optimistic for that outcome, but I acknowledge that my pessimism is filtered through my knowledge of another game artist who has never been able to leave behind the baggage of being raised by a deeply abusive parent, and who remains a bully in adulthood. It would be lovely if Mr. Krahulik has the strength to overcome his demons. Perhaps that would give other repentant bullies the inspiration to emulate him.

  17. i do not see it as an apology nor do I think he needs to give one. He can say and act however he wishes. I’m really not sure what the big deal is even after having read the links. too much drama it seems.

  18. Acknowledgement of how he’s a fuck up is a good start.

    Hopefully some serious behavioral changes will follow, as well as some policy changes at the convention (I float that maybe they need a dress code policy regarding offensive shirts?), and some writing changes with the web comic.

  19. Ho-Hum

    People cannot, in fact, say and act however they wish; if you try it you will rapidly discover that nasty old spoilsports like police officers and judges, not to mention jury persons, most certainly do not recognise you, or anyone else, as possessing a magical get of jail free card.

    And, whilst you are perfectly free to conclude that there is ‘too much drama’, you will discover that cries of ‘too much drama’ also will not provide a magical get out of jail free card to someone who believes, as you do, that you can say and act however you want to…

  20. I think my reaction is pretty well summed up as “that’s nice, let’s see how it plays out, shall we?”.

    Which is to say, much of what @fozmeadows said (particularly about sinfest’s changes over the years as an example of How To Quit Fucking Up Without Making It All About You), except for me being older and not having ever read much of PA at all.

  21. Ho Hum:
    Keep in mind what another poster already wrote: “it is very, very, easy to hurt people, and possibly sort of fun.”

    It is easy because many times you do not even realize you are doing so. To see one’s own actions from someone another person’s perspective is difficult. That you don’t see ‘what the big deal is” ought to prove this fact if you reflect on it. Clearly, many reasonable and intelligent people, who do not necessarily share your background and life circumstances, have been negatively effected in non-trivial ways. What is no big deal to you is a big deal to them, and their perspective deserves just as much respect as yours.

  22. It’s nice that he wants to do this. However, what came across loud and clear to me in his writing is that he has no idea of how he’s going to do what he wants to do (become less of an arsehole), or even where he’s going to start. Plus, he still sees too much good that came out of his previous pattern of behaviour, and what that’s created, to really want to discard it completely.

    So, to be honest, I don’t really hold out much hope for the immediate future. I think this is the first step, and I do think he needs to be encouraged to show his better self rather than his arsehole self, but I also think he’s going to have a lot of people who have been using Gabe’s arseholishness as an excuse for their own busy attempting to sabotage any progress he makes. He’s too tied up in the persona of “Gabe”, and people are going to expect to see “Gabe” doing the things that “Gabe” does. So it may mean that “Penny Arcade” has to find itself an end-point, to allow Mr Krahulik to step fully away from “Gabe”, and become someone else.

    If he can divorce himself from the persona a bit more, if he can step back from the anger, and maybe stop seeing criticism of his work solely as a personal attack (which from what I understand is a real issue when it comes to himself and his co-writer); when he can figure out how to listen to criticism and take it on board, rather than reacting to it in a knee-jerk fashion, then maybe he’ll be able to change. I do hope he is, because it’s part of growing up, but hey, it’s a tricky process.

    Best wishes to him, and I do hope there are people willing to stop and help him up when he stumbles on the path.

  23. What Megpie said, essentially.

    He’s gained weath and fame for being as he is, and it’s going to be a hell of a hard road to break the habit, and to learn to forego the instant-satisfaction of a stinging, self-righteous rebuke in favour of a bit of reflection and restraint.

    Still, more strength to his arm. I hope that with time, work and help, he can be the person he aspires to be.

  24. Ho Hum -

    You’re entitled to that viewpoint, of course, but please do realize that all that “drama” is, for many people, attached to a lot of pain. It’s easy to dismiss the issues in those links as “drama” if you haven’t been the target or collateral damage, and frankly dismissing these issues as “too much drama” is just the sort of thing that contributes to the problem.

  25. Well said. Going to PAX was a dream of mine until recent years, when his harsh comments and blatant insensitivity soured me on his brand. So I wish him good work, too. A lot of it.

  26. My feeling is that many of the “we’ll see” responses are at least unwittingly wrongheaded. If you really are willing to withhold judgment and allow someone to battle their demons, then don’t make the mistake of keeping tabs or specific expectations. We’re talking about a human being here, even if it’s a human you find offensive. Change on that level takes a very long time for the best of us. It’s too easy to let “we’ll see” turn into “when will we finally see?!” I can already see the next mistake being used as proof of his resolution’s insincerity, but that’s not how real life with real human beings works.

    There’s also a matter of how this affects the individual and his life in ways none of us see. He could work really hard and make progress to which we aren’t privy. It’s profoundly easy for observers to make black and white judgments in the specific absence of evidence – frequently because we see what we want to see.

    So, if you really believe in the idea of “we’ll see,” forgo active watching that will result in impatience and imprudent judgment. Instead, wait for adequate information and wait until he’s ready to show you. Just because he shared his pain and intentions, that doesn’t actually invite you to vulture in on the rest. And among all of the legitimately injured, there are certainly vultures. If you find yourself saying you don’t care about Mike out of one side of your mouth while taking the time to opine out of the other side, you might just be one.

  27. John, thank you for a clearly-thought out and stated discussion of both the reality of human error (the same person can do both praiseworthy things and bad things) and the reality of the errors’ effect being independent of the doer’s feelings of regret that he/she did them.

  28. Very much ado about nothing. It’s bad Mike felt the need to post about this publicly. You will not please the critics. There are people who will be hurt by anything you do or don’t do. The more famous you get the more likely you are to run into these people. It is best to put them out of your mind.

    Our culture is being, not so slowly, completely averaged out, to the point where creative and great people are no longer as creative or as great.

    The entire history of Western civilization is composed almost exclusively of people who are judged as assholes, doing things that are judged to be Dick moves by some. This is a time period that future historians would determine to have no heroes, not great men or women, and no cultural icons. Because they are all flawed.

  29. dpmaine:

    “Very much ado about nothing.”

    Well, no, that’s completely wrong, and you’re either foolish or ignorant (or both) to suggest so. To begin, Mike is in a rather better position than you to be able to assess the damage his actions have taken on both his personal and professional lives, and believes that his actions have indeed damaged both. For you to minimize that assessment because you don’t like it, for whatever reason, is a dumb thing to do. If one has to choose between Mike Krahulik and dpmaine for an accurate estimation of the gravity of this particular situation specifically involving Mike Krahulik, I think we know whom to rely upon.

    Second, simply as a practical matter, your assessment is flat wrong. Mike’s actions as they relate to PA and its various endeavors have been written up in mainstream media and have been extensively chronicled elsewhere, which is to say that in fact his actions are in fact actual news with an impact beyond his own private sphere. You may want to think it should amount to nothing, for your own reasons, but out here in the real world, we deal with what is, rather than what we’d like because of our own personal inclinations. Mike has again rather more accurately assessed the gravity of the situation than you have.

    The rest of your post, which is basically an attempt to give cover to people being assholes because they create work you want, is also deeply dumb. Yes, many significant creators of art are or were assholes, but you’re making the rookie error of assuming correlation is causation. Creative people are sometimes assholes not because being an asshole is the key to creativity; creative people are assholes because they are almost always people. Some people are assholes all of the time, and all people are assholes some of the time. Grown-up people, even the creative ones, are marked by their ability to control the asshole side of themselves, at least in public.

    The suggestion that someone acting to not be an asshole in their personal and professional lives will make them less creative is a) not in evidence, b) strongly suggests you have no idea how creativity actually works. It also suggests that, like people who valorize alcohol or drug use in creative people, you don’t realize how much art is lost by people acting in a self-destructive manner. Here’s a funny thing about creative people: Their pain can paralyze them creatively as often (indeed more often) as it inspires them.

    Now, I realize that this has gone completely past you, but let me point this out anyway: It’s pretty clear to me Mike is in some rather obvious pain at the moment — he sees himself being someone he doesn’t want to be, he sees the negative effect that it has in his personal and professional life, and he doesn’t want that anymore. He says so explicitly in what he’s written. And what you’re doing here, dpmaine, is blithely saying that almost none of that matters. Which means you’re telling him that his actual pain really isn’t all that bad, and that he shouldn’t want to ease it. Well, again, you’re wrong about that, and that’s really the most polite thing I can say to you about that.

    What you’ve clearly not taken into consideration is the idea that Mike isn’t doing this because others want him to — that he might be doing it because he wants to: He sees the mental state that causes him to do asshole things compromising his personal and professional lives (the latter of which includes his actual art). You apparently only believe he’s doing it because he’s being forced to, not because he wants to, because why would anyone want to stop being an asshole when they didn’t have to? Which is an interesting perspective to have, dpmaine.

    So, yeah, dpmaine: Whole lot of wrong in your comment, and also a lot of dumb.

  30. Mostly, I don’t think Mike is going to meet his goal because his apology was mostly about him, and not about the people he hurt the damage he did, and the culture of bigotry he reenforced.

    And of course there’s the chorus of people *just like him* who’ll tell him he did nothing wrong, that he was actually being heroic, and that the people who’re criticizing his behavior are some sort of plague on western civilization. People like dpmaine think he’s doing it to please critics, which shows clearly that dpmaine doesn’t care about Mike at all as a person.

    Stopping being a bully is going to be harder than quitting drinking. You can stop going to bars if you quit drinking because of a problem. Mike works on the internet. He’s going to be in a bully-bar every day of his life, and his drink of choice is going to be pushing his buttons just by being angry at him for his past behavior. Going back to attacking them when he feels hurt, disrespected or insulted is reflexive at this point.

  31. I agree with John, that what we read there wasn’t meant to be an apology. It’s a publicly-made statement, a resolution. People do that from time to time to help them be accountable. Hell, it’s in a lot of literature for 12-step programs etc. It’s not the ENDS it’s the MEANS. Part of the process of improving.

    I’ve noticed a lot of stuff happens with Internet-Famous persons where they do or say hurtful things and either they apologize and move on and hope everyone accepts it, or they continue their behaviour and people stop liking them. Both are a way of handling things, of course. But as someone upthread mention, Mike is a Human Being, who happens to be known widely due to his job.

    So if this were your uncle or brother or something, maybe he’d make a statement like this to your family at the holidays and the family would nod and listen and see that there’s a lot going on beyond what he happens to do for his day job. People are complicated, and for all any of us know, maybe there’s even formal therapy involved (not to speculate too deeply, but saying it’s possible).

    My own resolutions this year are based around embracing compassion and non-judgement. It doesn’t helps me be cynical of others or myself, but rather just continues a cycle of pain. I take Mike’s words of resolution and I listen, and to him I say, good on you. I wish you compassion.

  32. Josh Jasper – The fact that his resolution (not an apology, as John pointed out) was mostly about himself is the reason I think there’s a chance he might change. He cannot directly control the culture of bigotry or his influence on it. He can only control himself. If he truly realizes that he is not the person he wants to be, then he has taken the first step towards fixing it.

    Perhaps, as part of the process, there will be genuine apologies. Perhaps not. He cannot undo whatever damage he has done so far, and who knows how far he’ll go towards making a positive contribution, but if he stops making a negative contribution from now on then that’s still progress.

    Will he succeed? I don’t know. It’ll certainly not be easy, and yes, there are plenty of people out there who will want to make sure he doesn’t, because his actions reinforced their own bigotry. But it’s good to see a willingness to try, and it seems that, for the moment at least, it’s a genuine willingness.

  33. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem, and he’s certainly done that. Even if this resolution goes the way of so many others, that’s still a big step forward. Hopefully he’ll be able to stick to it.

  34. Eytan Zweig – A large of being a bully is a lack of empathy for the people you go after. You rationalize hurting them because they deserve it. They’re no longer people, they’re targets. If you can’t see them as people, you can’t stop being a bully.

    And you’re being too defeatist by saying he “cannot directly control the culture of bigotry or his influence on it”. He can. It’s just really hard. The easy way out is to say that he has a problem in himself, and shrug at all the damage he’s done and tell himself that that was some other guy, not the new, improved Mike.

    And to be honest, his damage to the brand isn’t all him being a bully. It’s also because he’s glorified rape jokes and made comments supporting anti-trans bigotry. I don’t care what his “trans friend” said. He essentially told her that she was really a man, but that he didn’t mean it to hurt. Because you see, she was his friend and he didn’t want to hurt *her*

    See the issue there? He didn’t and still does not care about the people he doesn’t know that he continues to hurt. He has his trans friend to tell him he’s a good person, and that everyone who didn’t like him is bad.

    This isn’t going to fix him being a bully. It’s going to fix the “Mike feels bad” problem. Mike doesn’t want to feel bad about himself. Mike doesn’t care about other people hurting because of his actions, if they’re not his friends, or his brand, or his conventions or whatnot.

    Mike lacks empathy and he’s not out to fix that. Sure he might think more before getting into it, but the core of vindictiveness and inability to care about people he hurts is still going to be there until he fixes that.

  35. Josh Jasper: “Mike lacks empathy and he’s not out to fix that. Sure he might think more before getting into it, but the core of vindictiveness and inability to care about people he hurts is still going to be there until he fixes that.”

    And you know this, with certainty. Because you are… related? Live with him? Are inside his head?

    I’m just astonished that we have someone in-thread who is so close to the actual person.

  36. Josh Jasper – I’m not sure that the best way to teach someone empathy is, when they make a personal, clearly painful confession and resolution to improve publicly, to immediately tell them that their feelings and motivations are not good enough. Nor is saying that the fact that that person feels bad about himself is not a problem worth solving on its own.

  37. From where I sit, and I don’t have exhaustive knowledge of this whole situation as it’s been going on for years, Mike wears the hat of creator and CEO (or whatever his business title is) and, at times, you can’t be true to both. Those are the times when you need to know yourself well enough to decide which is more important to you and act accordingly. Ideally he could take a one year sabbatical to focus on himself and his life goals but,as with most of us, that probably isn’t an option. It’s going to be another difficult year for him.

  38. I wasn’t aware of this before reading your post, but I predicted at the outset that this would have some relation to a culture war issue. I was right.

    I’ve been following the “rightwing writers vs. leftwing writers” debates over the past year (ever since the flame war between you and the never-to-be-named one heated up).

    I’ll admit, it was interesting for a while. But then it devolved into a very predictable pattern.

    To your credit, John, you seem to have deemphasized the political/culture war topics of late. But others still seem to be obsessed with them.

    I would vote for a community-wide moratorium on *any* blog post that contained any of the following words (or their various derivatives): feminism, racism, men’s rights, LGBT, Obama, Ted Cruz, political correctness, misandry, sexual harassment, Tea Party, etc. I would apply this equally to those on the right as well as those on the left.

    These issues seem to have more or less taken over the blogs of late:

    Your main opponent seems unable to make a post without insulting gays/blacks/etc.

    NK Jemisin (who seems to be a gifted fantasy writer) fills her blog with angry posts about race and ethnicity.

    Jim Hines goes *way* overboard on the sexual harassment/sexism schtick.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t an appropriate time and space to discuss these issues. But I also have to wonder, has this not devolved into two camps simply shouting back and forth at each other on one hand, and preaching to their respective choirs on the other?

    Is it time for *everyone* to give these issues a rest?

  39. Todd:

    “Is it time for *everyone* to give these issues a rest?”

    Todd, your post boils down to “This all makes me uncomfortable, why doesn’t everyone just shut up about it?” and the answers is because you’re not the boss of them, and because just because they make you uncomfortable doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be discussed. In point of fact, you don’t get a vote on it, nor does anyone else.

    Also, the fact you admit up front that you don’t know much about the specific incident, but then use that as an opportunity to haul up a soapbox and then opine on a number of people who are entirely uninvolved in the specific event because you think this a fine time to do it suggests you might have misjudged the moment.

  40. Todd, there’s a much easier way to handle your frustration: Don’t read the blog posts that use the terms you dislike. Don’t read the comments on a post when you find that they have developed into a discussion of those issues. Don’t click on links that are clearly going to take you to an article, blog post, or comment about those things. It’s in your power not to have any involvement. Others, who do find value in these discussion, can continue on without you.

  41. The thing that jumped out at me in Mr. Krahulik’s post is that, over and over, he talks about his actions as being responses to people who “attack” him.

    I hope it’s just some indelicate word-choice, and not an apt expression of how he, even now in the cold light of hindsight, regards the controversies he’s caused. Does he regard criticism over the dickwolves strip as an “attack”? Does he believe he was somehow “attacked” going into the “the word ‘cis’” affair?

    NK Jemisin (who seems to be a gifted fantasy writer) fills her blog with angry posts about race and ethnicity.

    Jim Hines goes *way* overboard on the sexual harassment/sexism schtick.

    I keep meaning to subscribe to both of those. I am now duly reminded.

  42. I’m rather glad to read his resolution, honestly. I think fozmeadows pretty much summed up, fairly eloquently, my feelings on the matter. I’ve followed PA since the very beginning of their site (in point of fact, I wouldn’t be HERE if not for them linking to John’s site around the ‘Agent to the Stars’ time frame) and have watched them evolve. Sometimes for the better and sometimes not.

    Folks like to point out the Dickwolves controversy for obvious reasons, but one that stands out to me as a worse indicator was the Ocean Marketing affair. It started out as a ‘man, this guy is kind of being a jerk’ to ‘wow, let’s talk about disproportionate response, guys’. Watching PA develop, some of their stuff echoes with me directly (specifically the stuff about being a father), while other stuff…just isn’t funny anymore, if it ever was.

    I wish Mike luck in finding his balance. That’s it.

  43. If mocking, making fun of, talking rudely to someone concerning what they are or what they believe is evil or makes one a jerk then I find some posts and many comments made throughout this website fall into that category. Sort of ironic I think.

  44. Stephen Dunscombe – I think he’s acknowledging the pathology of his reaction. He’s reacting with habits and patterns cultivated over years, which are now extremely problematic; if he feels threatened or uncomfortable as a result of an exchange, he sees it as an attack, and responds by counterattacking, as hard as he can.

    I don’t envy Mike the road ahead, but I hope he can hold to it. It hurts to have to face the worst parts of yourself, but it’s so worth it if you make it through.

  45. Well said, John. This is but a hesitant first step on a long and difficult path. But it’s a significant first step, and as they say that’s usually the hardest.

    I am cautiously optimistic because this is, to my recollection, the first time Krahulik has actually acknowleged that he, specifically, has a problem; his comments and apologies on past messes have always had a strong sense of sullen nonpology and self-justification. This is also, IIRC, the first time he has considered that having been a victim of bullies is something other than carte blanche to behave badly towards others. It also seems significant that his statement isn’t a damage-control reaction to a single crisis. What exactly precipitated this isn’t clear (and really, probably isn’t anyone else’s business but the people involved), but there does really seem to be a sense that he is looking back on his behavior as a whole, and noticing a very ugly pattern. (I mean, when the people who developed Cards Against Humanity fercryinoutloud think you’re a serial doucheclip, it may be time to step back from the idea that people who criticize you are all PC-worshipping wimps.)

    As megpie and Eytan Zweig and others have noted, the biggest stumbling block is likely not going to be Krahulik’s intentions but his enablers. He and PA have cultivated strong elements in their fanbase of people who think everything Mike does is awesome, and worse, the Crabbes and Goyles who like it when Mike is a bully. As even some of the comments here show, those people will do everything from ignoring Krahulik’s own words to pretend there is no real problem, to shut down discussion, and if that fails, to treat his statement as a noble act worthy of a “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”-scale rain of Cookies of Justice, after which everyone should stop saying anything bad about him ever. To riff off Krahulik’s metaphor, it’s like trying to lose ten pounds after you’ve trained all your buddies that every meal ought to be double bacon cheeseburgers with chocolate milkshakes and a side of creme brulee, and that it’s cool to bully anyone who skips dessert.

    I was going to add something about hoping this means that, someday, I will feel comfortable being a PA fan again, but this isn’t about me, or about winning back people whom Krahulik’s behavior (and PA’s enabling) have driven off; it’s about Krahulik fixing himself. If that results in PA being great again, that’s a nice side effect.

  46. There’s an interesting assumption I think some people make that any public statement showing contrition and announcing a desire to change is automatically an apology. While skepticism is totally a totally understandable response – actions speak louder than words, after all – cynicism seems to be more about making it about oneself. The difference between I’ll believe it when I see it and I know he’ll/she’ll/they’ll never change is that the former is rational and the latter is self-affirmation, IMHO.

    @Josh Jasper

    I would humbly suggest that you ask yourself if your cynicism about this Gabe fellow’s apparently unknown underlying motives might in fact be about a need on your part to reinforce your own assumptions. Unless, as others have said, you know him personally or have inside information unavailable to the rest of us about his current state of mind, in which case it would be helpful if you would at least clarify that that’s the case, even if you don’t want to go into details.

    @Todd

    So basically you’d like those handful of authors, out of a much larger industry (a fact you hyperbolically gloss over by implying that they’vs taken of the blogs), who choose to address these issues from either side, to instead blog about something else because it isn’t your cup of tea? Well, they’re as welcome to ignore your request as you are to make it. The fact that you do so instead of simply reading other blogs suggests that what bothers you is not that you can’t possibly tear your eyes away but that anyone is talking about these issues at all. Tough cookies.

  47. I think part of the problem those guys have to contend with is that, the thing that originally made them popular (the irreverence) is currently what is sinking them.

    More generally, I’m concerned that this is becoming an internet pile-on. I think we should ask ourselves, and write down “What does Mike have to do get back on the right-side of this thing?”, and be specific. If the answer is “There’s nothing he can do” or “I’ll know it when I see it”, then I think that’s hardly fair, and you (the rhetorical ‘you’, not ‘you’ John Scalzi) should consider whether you’re arguing in good faith or not.

    These guys do, and facilitate an awful lot of good and positive effort and energy that didn’t previously exist in the gaming community. Stumbling over ourselves to write them off (as some have done, not necessarily anyone here) because they haven’t evolved from the insular dudes they started out as quickly enough, while satisfying, seems hasty to me.

    So, what does Mike have to do?

  48. It is *so* fascinating reading people’s various responses here, and how each person reads their own meaning into Mike’s post based on their personal feelings towards him. I have always liked the guy and found him quite funny, despite his personal shortcomings (which, thankfully, have never led to hurting me directly, which certainly colours my feelings towards him), and I’m glad to see him doing a bit of self reflection.

    Whether or not he succeeds isn’t really germane, at least in the context of his resolution post – the fact that he’s made this resolution at all is a hell of a good start. I really hope he *does* succeed, but I don’t imagine it will be something that we can point to a year from now (or even *5* years from now) and say “Yup, he did it, good for him.”

  49. “So, yeah, dpmaine: Whole lot of wrong in your comment, and also a lot of dumb.”

    Yet, the underlying remains: you cannot please everyone and you shouldn’t try. It’s literally not worth the time. It’s bad he went public with it, because as you can see, even people who have every reason to support him won’t, because, whatever justification or wishy-washy feelings talk you dig up.

    The work will stand or fall on it’s own. The best creators are almost always assholes, and sure you can argue causation, but it doesn’t matter. The asshole always dies, and the work remains. Except if it’s been averaged out by the endless tide of critics.

  50. ben–

    So, what does Mike have to do?

    There is nothing. Even people here who are sympathetic to him talk about a long journey, the first of many steps, etc. It is a moving target that will never be met.

    The penance will never end. The best bet is to simply ignore the critics. All of the hand wringing and complaining will fall away. If they boycott, so be it. Work out whatever you need to work out in private and let your work speak on it’s own.

  51. @ben

    I think that’s asking the wrong question. Trying to make it up to the people he’s offended would be a fool’s errand. His efforts shouldn’t be about seeking their forgiveness. That’s theirs to give or not on their own based on whether they want to forgive him. His efforts should be about not being the bully he recognizes in himself, now that he’s recognized it and it’s damage for what they are. Whether or not he’s correct, and I’m not familiar with Penny Arcade or the gaming community so I can’t say if he is, he sees a flaw in his own behavior. He needs to get right with himself first. Then, if his ethics are congruent with others, they may choose to help rebuild the bridges he’s burnt. Or not, and that’s their prerogative. Everyone deserves a chance to make up for their follies, but no individual is obligated to be the one who gives them that chance.

    Nor will he ever please everyone. But a mature person recognizes that that’s no excuse for simply pissing off everyone. If he follows the true north of his moral compass, it will lead him to the friends and allies that naturally extend from his own values, and give him clarity as to his value’s natural opponents. The question is not whose side are you on, but at whose side does your conscience place you.

    @dpmaine

    Your making the arrogant assumption that he posted it for their benefit. It’s arrogant because you’re in the audience and you’re assuming everything is about the audience. If you were self-honest about what you’re saying, you’d acknowledge that he shouldn’t care either way. Your hypocrisy reveals that your real problem is with his acknowledging the flaws he sees in himself because you’re afraid that it encourages his critics, with whom you disagree and therefore want him as an ally against.

  52. dpmaine:

    “you cannot please everyone and you shouldn’t try.”

    Again, you are making the assumption that the reason Mike is doing this is not for himself, but solely for others. As long as you continue to make the assumption, you will like continue not to understand why he’s doing it.

  53. Luna – You could say he *displays* a lack of empathy, and count what I’m saying as a shorthand, but I’m not offering a medical diagnosis. I’m talking about his behavior.

    Look, if someone *acts* like a dick, people call him a dick. They don’t have to know him personally to know he’s a dick. Dick behavior is just that.

    Mike is not acting with empathy. He’s acting out of guilt because he feels like he’s acting like the people who used to hurt him. Not because the victims of his attacks got hurt. There’s a distinction in how he writes about it. I see it. You may disagree that it’s not there, but he’s not immune to being called out on things just because I don’t know him personally.

  54. I’m not saying that there isn’t an appropriate time and space to discuss these issues. But I also have to wonder, has this not devolved into two camps simply shouting back and forth at each other on one hand, and preaching to their respective choirs on the other?

    Is it time for *everyone* to give these issues a rest?

    Todd, I’m guessing you think the “appropriate time and space to discuss these issues” should be determined by your choosing and no one else’s, lest you actually have to engage with the problems. Getting to determine an “appropriate time and space” to talk about issues is often a luxury afforded to the very people who aren’t being directly affected. Funny enough, many of the people who are affected by these issues? Don’t get that luxury because they live with those problems 24/7. If *you* want to give those issues “a rest” go ahead, you’re not obligated to participate in those discussions, but you don’t get to tell other people that they need to shut up just because you’re tired of hearing about it. And you might want to think about how nice it is *for you* that you have that ability to just walk away when others can’t because it’s part & parcel with their lives.

    Yet, the underlying remains: you cannot please everyone and you shouldn’t try… The best creators are almost always assholes, and sure you can argue causation, but it doesn’t matter. The asshole always dies, and the work remains… It is a moving target that will never be met…The penance will never end. The best bet is to simply ignore the critics. All of the hand wringing and complaining will fall away.

    dpmaine translation: “Krahulik shouldn’t care if he’s hurting other people because who cares? So he’s an asshole – he creates things, man! That’s more important and who cares who gets hurt in the meantime? You can’t satisfy everyone so why put any effort into not being an asshole?”

    I might be skeptical of how positive an outcome will result from Krahulik’s efforts, but at least he’s showing an awareness that he’s hurt people, said it’s something he doesn’t want to do and is engaging in self-reflection because he doesn’t want to be that bullying asshole because it hurts others and hurts the good work he’s tried to do. If anything’s going to screw that up, it’s not the people being (justifiably) skeptical about Krahulik, it’s the people like dpmaine who will tell him he shouldn’t even bother.

  55. What fascinates me about this situation, and others like it, is the multi-dimensionality of it, and how difficult it seems to be to navigate unless you decide to go to either extreme — the fuck-you-I-love-being-offensive choice vs the Dalai Lama. *Especially* for humorists.

    We all know that there are going to be people whose tolerance re triggers is almost zero. And people who just don’t give a shit at all, no matter how offensive it is, as long as there’s a little of the Funny. Hell, those people *want* some offensiveness. Of course, the vast majority of people are going to be in the middle — they want some bite, but they have their soft spots. How do you negotiate that minefield? Combine that with the “Failure mode of clever = asshole” fact of life — something that one might normally find offensive may be forgivable, or even awesome, if it’s done sufficiently cleverly.

    So, Joke X gets told. Maybe it’s dickwolves. Maybe it’s the Onion joke about whatshernuts being a c***. Maybe it’s some shitty Tosh.0 routine. Some people love it. Some people are offended. And no doubt some people that were offended might love it if it was done better. You’ll hear from all of them, given what social media is nowadays.

    What’s the proper response? (FWIW, I don’t believe that “Never tell a joke that might be a trigger to someone without at least a half-page trigger warning” is an appropriate way to address the problem.) I guess one of the lessons Mike learned is that you don’t make fun of the people who say they were offended, even if you think their skin is micron-thick … on the other hand, if the complaint goes from “I didn’t find that funny” to “you are a horrible offensive person and I am going to scream about how disgusting you are from the highest rooftop,” I can see how you’d want to say something more than “I’m sorry you were offended,” not that that works anyway.

    Sorry for rambling. Just something I’d like to see written about by you, sir John … obviously, “know your audience” is part of it, but if just 2% of that audience has an issue, things can still blow up pretty big.

  56. “So, what does Mike have to do?”

    That depends on the goal. His stated goal is to become a better person, and only he knows what that means to him and therefore the steps needed to reach that ideal.

  57. Ben asked what Mike can do and I think the best answer at this stage would be to put a lot of effort into understanding exactly why his contentious actions over the past few years were punching down ( striking out at those with much less power than himself).

    He’s admitted he is a bully which is necessary step (and had to have been hard for him in particular given his history) and he seems to be putting effort into understanding why he does the things he does.

    I’m not really one of the wronged parties but in my uneducated opinion he could gain a lot by understanding the obstacles faced by the people he’s wronged (and hopefully an understanding of how he helped add to some of those obstacles).

    I hope Mike keeps striving for this and that he recognises that it is something to continually strive for, not something that you ever really properly achieve. Almost everyone in the world will unthinkingly punch downwards at some point in their lives, the best thing they can do is apologise, make amends and try their damndest not to make the same mistakes twice.

    I really loved the PA show Strip Search and I’m still reading the comics produced by the participants. The sheer amount of awesome on that show (especially from the 6 women who knocked it out of the park) is amazing and selfishly I would like to be able to recommend it to people without reservations about some of its creators.

  58. @Josh Jasper

    I’m genuinely confused by what you’re saying. Are you talking about his behavior or diagnosing his mental state based on his wording of his resolution? You say you’re not psychoanalyzing him but that seems to be exactly what you’re doing.

    As I read it, he’s contrite about emulating his own bullies because it’s wrong to bully people, and it’s wrong because it hurts people who don’t deserve to be hurt. How does guilt preclude empathy? Is empathy made somehow less “pure” by recognition of one’s own responsibility in hurting others?

    You may disagree that it’s not there, but he’s not immune to being called out on things just because I don’t know him personally.

    Has anyone here said you couldn’t say what you said? Reproach is not censorship.

  59. Josh Jasper: “He’s acting out of guilt because he feels like he’s acting like the people who used to hurt him.”

    In addition to what Gulliver said quite well above, I wanted to mention this quote you just made, because again, I see you saying you know this person’s mind. I say that is attempting to be inside someone else’s head. And by all means, I am not trying to say don’t handle it that way if that’s what you really want to do. Just rather suggesting, maybe rather than deciding that this person is going to fail out of hand at what they’ve only just set out to do just now, maybe listen and give the benefit of the doubt. Calling him out? He already called himself out. Other people doing it is just adding to the cacophony. He says: “I was a dick.” You say: “Yeah, and also you were a dick!” What has that added?

    If I’m reading wrong what your points are, then I apologize. I hope that isn’t the case.

  60. BW: Todd, there’s a much easier way to handle your frustration: Don’t read the blog posts that use the terms you dislike.

    Try telling that to the people upset about a joke mentioning rape and report back whether they think that advice is valid.

    Stephen: Does he regard criticism over the dickwolves strip as an “attack”?

    I didn’t have a problem with the original strip. Horrible, inhumane things happen on an industrial scale all over the world, and have been used in comedic works. Mel Brooks has a lot of comedies that bring in Nazis (or specifically Adolph Hitler) for no other reason than to mock them.

    The original Penny Arcade strip mocks what could be viewed as an almost psychopathic “hero” who rescues 5 slaves and leave the rest because 5 slaves is what will advance him in the game, rather than because slavery is a bad thing and all the slaves should be rescued.

    The original strip didn’t put down rape victims, or dismiss rape victims, or belittle rape victims. The original strip wasn’t even really about rape, nor was rape the “punch line” of the original strip. The punch line was “don’t make this weird” which goes back to the slave asking the hero to rescue him and the hero saying he already had the 5 he needed and he was moving on. The original strip was mocking a selfish, amoral game engine, which I think was worthy of being mocked.

    I do get that using rape in something comedic or non-serious can bother some peopleno matter what the intent of the comedy is. Some people might find Mel Brooks’ use of Nazis in non-serious venues to be offensive. Some people might insist that his comedic use of the wrongdoers to be an attempt to make light of the victims. But I don’t see it that way, nor do I think it MUST be seen only that way. (no doubt, some people will insist it can be viewed no other way.)

    That doesn’t mean I defend everything Mike has done or said. (No doubt, some people will be unable to read this any other way.) But I didn’t have a problem with the original strip. And I do think some people have a tendancy to condemn everything a person says or does if they disagree with them on one point. I might condemn some of Mike’s other statements but I don’t condemn the original comic and I think it actually makes a good point: some games are appallingly amoral or even immoral while presenting the player’s character as the “good” guy.

    If Mike is looking for a first step to take in his new year’s resolution, it might be to figure out a way to accept that some people are going to see what they want to see in his strip, even if it wasn’t present in his intention for the strip, and let them be wrong, possibly even attack him, without him reacting in kind.

  61. I’ve read what this Krahulik guy said (the controversial stuff), and you know what? I agree with all of it. His comment on the word “cis” made me want to cheer. His only crime is saying stuff that the PC morality police disapprove of. 20 years from now he’ll probably be seen as a hero of free speech while you lot will be seen as censorious dinosaurs.

  62. I am very sad to see one of the last free spirits and warriors against political correctness in this sick society go down this path. It’s obvious he has finally caved under pressure and realized it’s easier to just conform instead of fighting all the time. For this I cannot fault him – he has done much and if he’s realized he has to concentrate on providing for his family and future I wish him good luck. Maybe he will also be happier person when he won’t be spending most of his energy on fighting prevailing idiotism inherent in modern society.

    I will continue to proudly wear my dickwolves t-shirt in his honor.

  63. John Scalzi: “You know, let’s not actually go deeply into the issues of apologies in this thread. As noted, Mike was not offering an apology, rather something that had similar dynamics, and so going on about apologies in this thread is increasingly off topic.”

    Mr. Scalzi, you have my abject apology. I honestly didn’t mean to dive into “Not-Apology-Land”, but intent is truly not magical. I should’ve relegated my rant to telling the house-rabbit about it. He really isn’t interested but he does feign it well as long as there’s pets in it for him. Again, my apologies.

  64. Bryn:

    No worries.

    Unrelated, I see two uses of the phrase “political correctness” within two comments of each other. I do hope you guys are aware that using “PC” or “political correctness” is a pretty obvious tell for “I’m probably an intolerant jerk.” And if you weren’t, well. Surprise!

    And yes, I understand that you’re sad when someone decides it’s no longer a good thing to be an intolerant jerk. The rest of us feel otherwise.

  65. John, *everyone* is intolerant jerk. Only difference is to whom is someone a jerk. For example, you are very intolerant of every opinion that clashes with your values. You also, like Mike used to, use your significant internet influence to bully people you don’t like.

    What’s the difference between you and someone like Mike? I will tell you: he *never* pretended he wasn’t jerk and he never argued it’s unfair when someone else responded to him the same way. He said “fuck you asshole, I’m a jerk, and you are welcome to respond in any way you want”. He never pretended he’s morally superior. He was never a hypocrite.

    We are all jerks. Some of us acknowledge it.

  66. @Nex: Your half-assed self-serving attempt to discredit his apparent self-realization because it conflicts with your worldview is transparent. Also, there is no objective viewpoint to which you can make a call to authority. Someone is only a hero or villain or otherwise to other individuals, and individuals always have and probably always will disagree with one another.

  67. My two cents – for what they’re worth – when you gain success you earn a public platform, but like it or not, you also take on the onus of using it responsibly. If you speak for something larger than yourself – like a company you’ve worked hard to turn into a cultural icon – you have your role as a creator, but you also have your role as a representative of the culture.
    The marketplace of ideas has a right to rule on your output in both roles and judge you in both capacities. Realizing your impact as a public figure and using it responsibly is a process for everyone, and if Krahulik really hasn’t done the job he’d like to do, well more power to him in doing a better one. I’d rather he try to go that direction than not that direction.

  68. @Greg:

    I didn’t have a problem with the original strip.

    Note that the content of the original strip is irrelevant to my question. The strip could be a charming landscape full of daisies, with no characters, action, or dialogue, and my question would be the same. (Well, with one difference – I’d be less likely to refer to it as “the dickwolves strip”.)

    My question is: does Mike Krahulik regard criticism over it as an “attack”?

    If Mike is looking for a first step to take in his new year’s resolution, it might be to figure out a way to accept that some people are going to see what they want to see in his strip, even if it wasn’t present in his intention for the strip, and let them be wrong, possibly even attack him, without him reacting in kind.

    [nods] That’s fair.

  69. Gulliver et. al

    I guess I’m trying to ask a more functional question. As someone who disapproves of some of the things that Mike has said in the past, but someone who sees enormous value in PAX and Child’s Play, how should I decide when to modify my interactions with the Penny Arcade brand based on how one of it’s founders has either shown his ass, or apologized for it?

    For some people, clearly, attending with PAX has become a moral hazard, and they have pulled out of either attending or exhibiting there.

    Does this new years resolution of his count for anything, or do we want structural changes to how their operation is run? If so, which changes?

  70. This is promising, because it addresses something I noticed early in every single one of the controversies that Penny Arcade have been drawn into: both of them, but Gabe especially, are incredibly thin-skinned. They have always taken any criticism of their work as a personal attack, and always treated every criticism as if the critic couldn’t possibly have meant it as an honest sincere criticism but could only have crafted it as an insincere attempt to cause pain to them. Believing this, their first reflex (both of them, but especially Gabe) has been to try to craft some barb or some method of attack, whether true or not, that would hurt their critics as much as they were hurt.

    Anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months after every criticism, Tycho and/or Gabe would address the substance of the criticism. About half of the time (not often enough, I think, but that’s neither here nor there) they would, at that point, agree with the substance of the criticism and offer to do better or to make amends. But having spent the preceding several days, or weeks, or months heaping scorn on their critics and inciting internet riots, by that time, nobody was willing to credit the sincerity of anything constructive or conciliatory that they had to say.

    Which, of course, makes things worse. Because now, in their minds, they’re the ones that made reasonable comments or gestures and now they’re the ones who are facing people who won’t listen to the comments or respond to the gestures because they’re having too much fun hurting Tycho and Gabe. So Tycho and Gabe lash out again. And the cycle never ends.

    I’ve long thought that Penny Arcade would do themselves a huge favor if they simply imposed on themselves a 36 hour rule: if anything that anybody says about Penny Arcade makes either of them, Gabe OR Tycho, angry, they should wait 36 hours before responding and see if they change their minds about how to respond after that time. Maybe it wouldn’t work. Maybe, especially given what he just wrote, Gabe would nurture his grudge that whole 36 hours and spend that whole 36 hours crafting an increasingly vicious counter-attack. Maybe they both need help taking things less personally.

    (Or maybe they need to get out of games journalism and turn it over to someone who, not having kids, has more time to keep up with the games industry. I don’t know.)

  71. Awhile back I decided Penny Arcade had become a brand I couldn’t support anymore. They took swings in comics that were meant to be funny; their responses to the outrage some of those swings caused were ugly and bullying and mean. If you’re going to make a really off-color joke, have the grace to blush when it falls flat. Don’t punch down as hard as you possibly can to try to silence the offended.

    And yet that bullying assholery you see from Gabe is lodged at the very core of gaming. It has taken root at the heart of it. What is he doing but being true to the community when he pulls that shit? Being nestled into that well of molten fuckery the way the PA guys are and attempting to change from within it? Yikes, I don’t know how that’s even possible. The idea is daunting to me.

    Good on him if this is a true declaration of intent. I hope to see it. Maybe it will encourage some of his compatriots – they are legion – to jump on that bandwagon.

  72. @ben

    It’s entirely reasonable to wait to see if actions follow words before judging how one will choose to interact henceforth with a person or organization, especially when their credibility has, in one’s eyes, been tarnished by past actions. Indeed, any good skeptic would say it’s the rational course. Just recognize that a personal resolution is a promise to oneself, not others. Since this was framed as a personal resolution, I think it would be a mistake to read it as seeking rehabilitation in the eyes of his critics. It may ultimately have the effect for some of them if he follows through, but that’s not the primary goal the piece in question sets.

  73. Well, this has been a frustrating and gratifying thread to read. Frustrating, because people (especially our esteemèd host) keep saying just what I want to say to the…people who come in here from the assholiverse. Gratifying, because others (especially OEH) share my view of them (and OEH has the authority I don’t have, which is to tell them “if you don’t like it, FOAD”).

    Just a couple of things to add.

    Nex: I will continue to proudly wear my dickwolves t-shirt in his honor.

    You just won’t get into the good parties, that’s all. Don’t know what the good parties are? I’m not surprised.

    John, *everyone* is intolerant jerk.

    Wrong. It would be nice for you, as a self-avowed intolerant jerk, if that were the case, because that would mean you’re just like everyone else, instead of being in the 45th percentile on the ethics test, but it’s not the case.

    As for the main topic, I hope this self-examination will lead to change. We’ll see what happens. Sure would be nice if there were a 12-step program for bullies. No reason there couldn’t be; there are a couple for overeaters, and no one advocates giving up food entirely. A friend of mine has lost over 200 pounds on one of them. Similarly, no one will advocate leaving the internet entirely (that is, temptation to bully), but maybe the 12 steps could still help.

  74. His acknowledgment of his own tendency to bully is an important step in changing that behavior. Hopefully he has a plan to help him change, and close friends around him who will hold him to that plan and it’s goal.

  75. Two things moved me to tears today. First, the rawness of Krahulik’s expression. I understood his explanation, and his pain. Not that it excuses the pain he has caused others. But his pain is causing the second, so, I hope he succeeds.
    The second thing was reading Fuzzy Nation where main characters die. One of the few times a book has gotten my eyes to leak.

  76. Stephen: Does he regard criticism over the dickwolves strip as an “attack”?

    The content of the original strip is relevant because your comment specifically called out criticism of the original strip, and as far as I’ve seen, most of the criticism is directed at something AFTER the original strip, not at the original strip itself. The only criticism of the original strip that I’ve found boils down to “rape isn’t a valid topic for non-serious genres because rape is real and bad”. I mentioned Mel Brooks as an example in direct contrast to this kind of criticism.

    So, what’s left to criticize of the original strip?

    I ask because you put “attack” in scare quotes, implying that no attacks ever could have possibly happened in any of the criticism of the original strip. Your entire question is worded so as to bias the reader to the notion that Mike couldn’t possibly have any legitimate reason to view any criticism of the original strip as an unfair attack.

    You’re presenting the original strip showing Mike in the worst light possible and everyone who criticized or attacked him in the best light possible, which, if I were Mike, I might view as an unfair attack.

    Mike’s most recent post seems to indicate that he realizes he isn’t perfect. How many of his detractors would be willing to admit that not all of Mike’s detractors were perfect and fair and just?

    That you put “attack” in scare quotes suggests you don’t think anything negative said about the original strip could possibly be anything but valid criticism. And I think that’s whitewashing his detractors as a whole.

  77. I have to say, it’s really hard to reach that point where you say, “Damn, I’ve been a huge jerk.” We want to believe the best of ourselves, and people fight hard against change and against recognizing their own faults. So just the fact that Gabe is acknowledging that a lot of his past behavior is just inexcusably bad, and that he desperately needs to change his approach to the world and to dealing with people, is a pretty big step.

    However, I agree that by itself, it’s nowhere near enough. I hope Gabe puts his money where his mouth is. Changing something that’s been part of your personality since you were a kid is really hard, but this is a case where it’s definitely necessary. (I say this as someone who internalized a strong desire to be invisible and avoid rocking the boat. It’s been hard for me to learn that sometimes, confrontation and standing up for yourself really are necessary, even if they can be difficult sometimes. So, I guess I’m starting from the opposite end of the spectrum from Gabe, and we’re both heading toward the middle.)

  78. However, I agree that by itself, it’s nowhere near enough. I hope Gabe puts his money where his mouth is. Changing something that’s been part of your personality since you were a kid is really hard, but this is a case where it’s definitely necessary.

    I’m going to say that if there’s small steps to improvement AND he realizes that they’re small steps that he can improve upon, I’d be fine with that.

    That’s my standard for forgiveness—expectations of perfection is too much, but there should be SOME expectations.

  79. Greg

    I think you are missing the point; Mike’s statement is about himself and how he wants to work on himself.

    You are not Mike, and your desire to construe this in terms of ‘if I were Mike’ suggests that you still have not grasped that this is about Mike and not about you…

  80. I mentioned Mel Brooks as an example in direct contrast to this kind of criticism.

    Mel Brooks:

    “Brooks: For example, Roberto Benigni’s comedy “Life Is Beautiful” really annoyed me. A crazy film that even attempted to find comedy in a concentration camp. It showed the barracks in which Jews were kept like cattle, and it made jokes about it. The philosophy of the film is: people can get over anything. No, they can’t. They can’t get over a concentration camp.

    SPIEGEL: But the film has deeply moved a lot of people.

    Brooks: I always asked myself: Tell me, Roberto, are you nuts? You didn’t lose any relatives in the Holocaust, you’re not even Jewish. You really don’t understand what it’s all about. The Americans were incredibly thrilled to discover from him that it wasn’t all that bad in the concentration camps after all. And that’s why they immediately pressed an Oscar into his hand.

    SPIEGEL: So there are limits to humor?

    Brooks: Definitely. In 1974, I produced the western parody “Blazing Saddles,” in which the word “nigger” was used constantly. But I would never have thought of the idea of showing how a black was lynched. It’s only funny when he escapes getting sent to the gallows.”

    So, no, invoking Mel Brooks is not a way to say that comedy can use anything and still escape criticism. Brooks draws limits, too.

    from http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/spiegel-interview-with-mel-brooks-with-comedy-we-can-rob-hitler-of-his-posthumous-power-a-406268.html

  81. As a Jew, I very much enjoyed Life Is Beautiful. I found it meaningful and beautiful, and I, at least, would be the poorer had the film not been made because Benigni or others decided that it was inherently offensive to produce a “comedy” set in a concentration camp (I don’t actually agree that the film’s a comedy after the family arrives in the camp–there’s too much of an air of desperation around the father for that to work for me–but even granting the point). In particular, I believe in its message–that the Nazis, contrary to their own self-serving mythology, were not the omnipotent gods they said they were, and Jews lived, and loved, and laughed, despite their best efforts to make the Jewish life nasty, brutish, and short.

    I appreciate that not all Jews share this opinion, but please don’t act like we’re a monolith who thinks that the only way to discuss the Holocaust is by focusing on the grim horrors of it, and that any attempts to portray it otherwise is inherently offensive.

    More broadly, it is possible to make beautiful art about horrible things, even if the art treats those things lightly or irreverently. I think we’d be the poorer if we as a society decided that artists shouldn’t do such. And while this can put us at risk for works that get it wrong and that any one of us may find offensive (I, for instance, despise the Jerry Lewis concentration camp comedy “The Day the Clown Cried”), it also gives us the chance of seeing brilliant works we would otherwise have missed.

  82. 20 years from now he’ll probably be seen as a hero of free speech while you lot will be seen as censorious dinosaurs.

    Nothing Mr. Krahulik has experienced amounts to censorship or an infringement of his right to free speech. Criticizing someone’s discourse, or declining to do business with someone who espouses values that are contrary to your own, is not censorship.

  83. CLP

    Thank you for that; I am on the other side of the Pond, where is past 3.10 am, and I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get some sleep.

    Turns out that sleeping is not easy when your mind cannot turn off the sheer unpleasantness of some of the stuff we have read on this piece; if they could bottle your calm and measured response then there would at least one customer in the line at the checkout..

  84. I appreciate that not all Jews share this opinion, but please don’t act like we’re a monolith who thinks that the only way to discuss the Holocaust is by focusing on the grim horrors of it, and that any attempts to portray it otherwise is inherently offensive.

    Well, 1) I’m Jewish, too, and 2) nowhere did I imply what you’re saying. What I did say was that Greg can’t simply invoke Mel Brooks as as “We can make jokes about anything we want to without any criticism” card. You can make jokes about anything you want, but people may well still criticize it, just as Mel Brooks criticized Benigni. Would you say to Mel Brooks that he can’t criticize Benigni? Really?

  85. What does Mike have to do? Start realizing that the situation has little to do with him and his personal attributes and demons, and everything to do with the common cultural and social attitudes he was taught about women, trans people, gays, black people, etc. and accepted as beliefs.

    I’m sorry, but soul-searching was hardly necessary in this case and his learning to put people down in junior high has nothing to do with why he went after specific people who weren’t attacking him but whom were in groups he’d been taught to see as annoying and should be put in their place. It’s not the going after, but the who he went after and the prejudicial beliefs about them that he parroted — beliefs commonly taught to and absorbed by young men in the 15 to 30 age range because the systemic society encourages them in those beliefs — that these specific people are strange, unreasonable when they speak up, threatening their territory, etc. It’s not a matter of Mike learning not to verbally snarl at anyone. It’s a matter of Mike understanding he has bigotry and bias against people in certain groups, some of whom he may consider friends despite those prejudices, because he’s been socialized that these were okay attitudes to have about them, because the society at large supported these attitudes in the first place and validated mocking these people as a way to keep them down.

    When enough people, including those he trusted, protested enough, and the cost was high, Mike started to question the prejudices he held. But like many who get called on the carpet for hurtful and repressive actions, he is still at the all about him stage, with the melodramatic statement that he must revise himself as a person. But Mike doesn’t have to revise himself as a person. Mike is, from many accounts, largely a good person who has tried to give back. Mike has to simply drop beliefs and assumptions about the groups he’s gone after and listen when people in those groups talk about where they are and what’s happening from their perspective. He is just a small cog in a big social machinery which led to his beliefs far more than any personal experiences.

    The people on the other end being sat on by that social machinery have no obligation to care about Mike’s personal pain, business, efforts to stop being a cog, etc., and saying that they do is exactly an example of that social machinery of prejudice and bias itself (which is why Scalzi very carefully didn’t say it.) Because Mike’s personal pain is not their concern nor the cause of their problems. Mike could do more looking outwards, instead of inwards. He could try to understand that his declaring of others overreacting is part of the larger social campaign to repress these people and keep them out of the arts, the Internet, jobs, etc., to undermine any efforts they make to dismantle the social machinery specifically aimed at them. He could understand that his reaction to his trans friend comes from the socialization of young males to control them as a powerbase through fear and ritual, especially concerning sexuality. He could look at what the groups he attacked go through, rather than what he has gone through.

    “Gamer” culture is nothing more than regular young male culture, the same in sports, music, science, etc. — it’s part of the larger social attitudes. Getting rid of prejudicial beliefs and letting people in repressed groups in doesn’t require a big change in gaming communities, no soul searching required. It just divorces gaming communities from repression. It replaces old social attitudes with new, more equality-based ones. These sorts of shifts happen every day, but they’d go a lot faster if many of us didn’t make a big honking deal about trying to drop old prejudices, as if it was an enormous personal effort to stop taunting black artists and making rape jokes at women.

    I hear a lot of “the problem is that I like to win arguments and get carried away” statements about these sorts of situations — i.e. that it’s just a personal problem of that particular person. But the problem isn’t that one person likes to win arguments. The problem is that the person has an ingrained social belief that he should win an argument with a black person about the black person’s life, that he should win an argument with a woman about her life, that certain groups should defer to him (or her depending on the axis.) And when the people on the other end don’t agree with the assessments of their lives, they are unreasonable, unimportant, humorless, mistaken, etc., because the social culture says that they should defer to him and others’ assessment of their lives and experiences and societal standing — that they have no agency, individuality or social power.

    This Mike guy still seems to be aping these larger social beliefs, but he’s now aware of some of them. So he might start listening. But right now he seems to be mostly still talking. About himself. And if there’s one thing we constantly hear in our culture, our literature, our media, etc., it’s straight white guys talking about their inner soul searching, because that’s supposed to be the main thing. Maybe he can keep up and drop his prejudiced beliefs; maybe he can’t, but no one is waiting for him. We all have our battles with these beliefs and good luck to all the efforts we make.

  86. Stevie: your desire to construe this in terms of ‘if I were Mike’ suggests that you still have not grasped that this is about Mike and not about you…

    Ah, no. Mike’s post, and specifically the part that said “there is no pill I can take to stop being a jerk” was of the sort that says “I want to lose 10 pounds but I’m not sure how”. I was providing a possible “how”. You might not like my suggestion, but I was clear it is a path that Mike will have to take and I can’t take it for him. I am clear that I cannot, metaphorically speaking, go on a diet and have him lose the ten pounds.

    DAVID: So, no,

    I think on a thread about someone apologizing (or not) for being a jerk and resolving to do better, I think it ironic (in a Allainis Morrisette kind of ironic) that you have anything at all to say to me here. Given that you held a grudge for a year, was a jerk because I pointed out that you were wrong, and even now you’ve never apologized, I think it probably safer for me to assume that any time you have a disagreement with me that is probably has a lot more to do with me proving you wrong about firearms law than whatever the topic at hand happens to be, mister tank man.

    Someone did already prove you wrong about Brooks, which I take as some sort of karma for you. But rather than acknowledge it you doubled down, as usual, with this:

    What I did say was that Greg can’t simply invoke Mel Brooks as as “We can make jokes about anything we want to without any criticism” card.

    That piece you have in quotes is pure strawman. I know you’ll likely never acknowlege it, and you’ll probably make excuses and justify it (or ignore it completely). But I never said anything like that, which only reinforces my assumption that this is simply more axe grinding on your part.

    So, in the future, if you disagree with me about anything, save your breath cause I’ll assume it’s just axe-grinding on your part, and even if I do engage you in the current topic, even if I prove you wrong, you won’t admit it anyway, and you’ll probably get mad about it, so why would I even bother, eh? It’s what you do. Why would I expect any different?

    VilcMania: More broadly, it is possible to make beautiful art about horrible things, even if the art treats those things lightly or irreverently. I think we’d be the poorer if we as a society decided that artists shouldn’t do such.

    That is probably the most beautifully stated truths in this entire thread.

    Some people were offended by the mention of rape in the original PA strip, and its their choice to be offended that I wouldn’t deny them that right, but I think they overstate their case when they insist that no mention of rape can rightfully be made in a non-serious genre.

  87. Kat: He could try to understand that his declaring of others overreacting is part of the larger social campaign to repress these people

    Right, because only the whites, the males, and the straights every overreact. Saying any individual in any other group ever overreacted can only be a lie propagated to repress that individual.

    I think this gets filed under the “only white people can be racist” kind of nonsense.Even in war, the defending nation may end up violating the rules of war and can be held accountable for such actions. That the other side attacked first is not enough to say the defenders can do no wrong.

  88. Stevie wrote:

    I think you are missing the point; Mike’s statement is about himself and how he wants to work on himself.

    You are not Mike, and your desire to construe this in terms of ‘if I were Mike’ suggests that you still have not grasped that this is about Mike and not about you…

    I don’t know him from Adam; I have absolutely no idea whether he’s being sincere about this. The form his comment has taken is that of PR, and it looks like damage limitation. Any wonder people are cynical? When something takes the form of PR and function of a PR announcement relating to his business, it’s no longer about him, it’s about what he wants us to think about him. So yes, it is explicitly about us.

  89. Greg, David: I think we’ll all be happier if the two of you didn’t talk or respond to each other for the rest of this thread. It’s become clear the two of you have issues with each other independent of the topic. If you two want to sort them out privately that’s fine, but the rest of us don’t need to be around for it.

    Additionally, Greg, your response to Kat is a classic example of you doing a Libertarian Dismount, i.e., wrenching the discussion away to your own hobby horse. The point you bring up is in fact irrelevant to kat’s argument and is designed to allow you to have a discussion that is not on topic and is also something that historically you can’t argue without turning into a jerk.

    In general, Greg, I suspect this is not a very good thread for you to be on. I am not throwing you off it yet (aside from telling you and David to settle your issues elsewhere), but I am telling you of you keep doing what you’re doing it won’t be long before I tell you to back away. Consider this a yellow card, basically.

  90. Kat, I tend to disagree with your assessment. It’s not that he was trying to put those groups “in their place,” or that he was annoyed at those people for being in those groups, but rather than people who annoyed him for other reasons (generally for criticizing his work, wrongly or rightly) belonged in those groups, and so he used that as a way to attack them (which had the effect of insulting a large swath of people who were uninvolved in the discussion, thus opening him up to even more criticism). This isn’t any more admirable, but it does point to a slightly different pathology.

    This isn’t to say that he doesn’t subscribe to any problematic beliefs. Most of us have some that we consciously or subconsciously believe. However, he’s saying that a lot of stuff he said not because he believed it, but because it was the most hurtful thing he could think of to say at the time. Given the point of this piece (“I need to learn to stop being an asshole”), the reason he lashes out that way is definitely important, in the context of him working through that issue and learning to be a better person.

    As has been said, it will be his actions going forward that determine how well he succeeds. The resolution is only the first, and the easiest step. I predict that he’s going to screw up at least once or twice. Hopefully, he keeps going.

  91. I think we’ll all be happier if the two of you didn’t talk or respond to each other for the rest of this thread.

    I agree. The point of the “in the future, if you disagree with me about anything, save your breath” was to extend it to all threads.

    The point you bring up is in fact irrelevant to kat’s argument

    Kat’s “argument” is nothing but a [the rest deleted as Greg tries for a second bite at an apple that I've strongly suggested he not bite at. Greg, see my comment below -- JS]

  92. “That’s more important and who cares who gets hurt in the meantime? You can’t satisfy everyone so why put any effort into not being an asshole?”

    Yeah, that is exactly the point. Virtually everything you do online will hurt someone else. If you obtain a level of popularity things you do will affect other people.

    We are all well aware that JS treats creationists rudely and badly, and has a lot of fun mocking them. To these people, JS is an asshole. He doesn’t lose any sleep over it, because hey, those people are loon bats and deserve to be mocked!

    This is literally the same thing. It’s too bad Mike has taken it on himself to feel the need to make people who disagree with him not disagree with him that much anymore. It will never work and he will still feel bad about himself at the end.

    He should take the JS approach and be a happy asshole to people who don’t like him.

    As evidenced by the large number of people who see his public acknowledgement as just a first step, no matter how low he prostrates himself he will never gain the approval of those who dislike him or disapprove of him. He should literally just give up, and get on whatever meds take him out of his depression, and ignore the people who claim to dislike him and boycott him and whatever.

    His work stands or falls on it’s own. Producing is what is makes a creative person who he or she is. Those negative forces seek to stop you producing, or to control what you produce. It is unwise to listen to the unproductive. In 50 years no one will care that you were an asshole.

  93. Greg:

    “Kat’s “argument” is nothing but –”

    Ah, but, see, we’re not talking about Kat’s argument, are we? We’re talking about your need to drag things over to a rhetorical ground that you feel comfortable with, which is not relevant. So, stop it, Greg. In fact, why don’t you go ahead and sit out the rest of the thread.

    dpmaine:

    “He should take the JS approach and be a happy asshole to people who don’t like him.”

    But he’s not happy, which is the point. And yet again you want to make this about what other people want from him, rather than what he wants for himself; yet again you think he should do what you want him to rather than him doing what he wants to do.

    dpmaine, you should probably simply accept that you are not the boss of Mike, and what you want him to do or think he should do means very little. Likewise, you should probably accept that Mike knows better in this situation what he needs (or at the very least, what he would like to try), and that your continued attempts to suggest that’s not what he needs or should do are a bit arrogant, to put it charitably.

    “In 50 years no one will care that you were an asshole.”

    This rather strongly implies that the only value of people who create is that they create, and that their own happiness in the lives they lead is a negligible consideration. Which is, frankly, stupid. No one in 50 years will care if you’re an asshole (an assertion which is not entirely true), but they do care now, and many of those who care are likely to be people the creative person cares about.

  94. Re the ‘no one will care in 50 years…’ type of comment… Consider Wagner. Consider how many people even today cannot bring themselves to listen to his music because of his anti-Jewish beliefs. Consider how many people, even though they do listen, cannot do so without also thinking about his beliefs, and how much they disagree (and admittedly, some will agree) with those beliefs.

  95. In 50 years no one will care that you were an asshole.

    Mike Krahulik appears to care a great deal whether he was, and is, an asshole. If, as you say, his work stands or falls on its own and in fifty years nobody will remember how much of an asshole he was, that also means that if he stops being an asshole, nobody is going to regret that in fifty years either.

    Fans like dpmaine and nex remind me of one of my favorite Penny Arcade comics. They can’t accept and don’t care what acting like an asshole and a bully does to Krahulik, or those he cares about, or things that are important to him, like Child’s Play. All that matters is that he play that role for them. In other words, they think Krahulik is their bitch and are flailing at the idea – coming from Mike himself – that perhaps he isn’t.

    @Xopher: Good grid, man, why are you discouraging them? By all means, let assholes wear symbols that proudly identify them as such, so that others don’t have to find out after wasting precious moments of life talking to them. This will be particularly entertaining at PAX, which is making attempts to be more inclusive. And can’t you picture particular dudebros swaggering into areas of the convention where they’re sure that their perceived brand of truth-to-power is welcome, and being gently informed that it isn’t? Can you not imagine the butthurt dudebro standing outside the Cards Against Humanity booth complaining that they kicked him out because they’re all politically correct? COMEDY GOLD.

  96. dpmaine: “In 50 years no one will care that you were an asshole.”

    In fifty years the odds are I will be dead. In the present I care if I’m an asshole. Am I an asshole? Sometimes.

    Sometimes (as with aggressive creationists, manospherians, Randist Libertarians, Freeze Peach idiots; who confuse my right to call them assholes, with censorship, anti-vaxxers,etc), I am an asshole on purpose, because the individual, and collective, actions of those people is causing active harm.

    In those cases I am not all that torn up over it, because I am dealing with a social ill.

    That’s the first difference.

    I don’t see that Krahulik being a shitheel with the dickwolves thing, or his ignorantly (I hope) offensive comments about transpeople, or his generally dismissive tone of any critique, falls in the category of dealing with groups/individuals who are causing a social harm.

    That’s the second difference.

    Krahulik claims his assholery has caused him emotional harm. He says he want’s to stop that.

    And you are saying he ought to suck it up. Keep letting it hurt him, so your desire to see “creative” people be assholes can continue.

    Which makes me wonder what your stake in all this is. My stake in it is small. I am not a follower of PA. I read it on occasion. I see the blow-ups, etc. But it’s not that big a deal to me; one way or the other; except when I see them doing things which hinder (at best) the reduction of general assholery in the world (and in the gaming community specifically).

    If this is an insincere move, meant to deal with business issues (as the more cynical have posited) then “the censorious” types are winning (and will probably continue to win, there are words which aren’t used much anymore, things like Kike, and spic, and beaner, because society has changed. Generally tolerance of others is on the increase, which is a good thing; unless one is a bigot, or an unrepentant asshole).

    In which case, if he want’s to continue to create, he needs to adapt; or PA will sink, and become a footnote, the way Bulwer-Lytton and Horatio Alger did. That’s a market force; and like most it’s driven by social forces.

    If it’s a sincere move (as I would like it to be) then, taking it at face value, this is a trait which is causing him pain. In which case you are telling him that, to salve your ego, he needs to refrain from working on it, stop trying to reduce the pain in his life because it gratifies you to think (contrary to fact) that “creative people are assholes”.

    Which is an asshole move.

  97. I think we’ll all be happier if the two of you didn’t talk or respond to each other for the rest of this thread.

    No problem, and my apologies to those watching.

    On an on-topic note, I’m vaguely uncomfortable with one of the themes running through the thread, which is the parsing of Krahulik’s comments so closely. He’s trying to make a change and it seems a bit nit-picky to be annoyed that it’s not phrased precisely as we like it. It doesn’t seem to me to be akin to the non-apology apology (“I’m sorry if anyone is offended”). He seems sincere and that – I think – is what’s important about the post.

  98. I agree, David. Like Scalzi said, this seems to be something he wrote more for himself than anything else. And that’s not a bad thing. The person who most needs to hear these things–that he’s fucked up–is Krahulik himself. Maybe he could have made it a bit clearer when he wrote it out for everyone else, but the most important part of the message, the one he needs to understand, is clear enough: He needs to change, and here are the things he needs to change. That’s the big thing. That’s what’s been missing from his dialog on the subject. Not, “Well, I’m sorry people were offended,” not “I suppose I’ll try not commenting on this particular subject,” but “My general behavior has hurt my reputation and made me a person I don’t like being. I need to change.” Maybe he’ll never get beyond this. But if he is, this was the step that he needed.

  99. Maybe he’ll never get beyond this. But if he is, this was the step that he needed.

    In other words, necessary but not sufficient.

    Which I’m comfortable with….

  100. @mythago, you have a point, and if I thought there was any chance of them actually listening I’d worry about it. Fortunately, they won’t ever listen to me or anyone like me…and probably not to anyone at all who tells them not to do something they feel like doing. So their self-labeling will be intact.

    So I wasn’t so much warning them off as…hmm. Something between hanging a lantern on their assholism pour l’encourager les autres, and counting coup.

  101. My first reaction to Krahulik’s post was sort of anti-charitable. But before I got around to writing it down, friends of mine independently posted much more temperate kinds of thoughts and I reconsidered. Yeah, I know what it’s like to be stuck in a rut that’s not what you want but that you genuinely can’t seem to change, and I didn’t have the disadvantage of attempting change while in the midst of blazing spotlights. Being uncomfortable in your own skin stinks, and I do wish him success in getting over to a way of life that leaves him feeling a lot more fulfilled.

  102. JS–

    I agree I am not the boss of Mike. I am publicly lamenting that he is trying to appease his critics who think’s he an asshole, and that he falsely believes that this will do some sort of long-term good. The critics will not be swayed, as they haven’t been so far, they will not be allayed, he will not win them over, and he will still feel badly about it.

    The fact that Mike took to the public to tell about his resolution, apparently in homes that he is going to get something from not being an asshole, or trying to be less of an asshole, or whatever, is just proof positive that it’s already not working. Either no being an asshole is a reward unto itself, or it’s not.

    Mike’s method of handling his problems is what leads creative people to off themselves.

    There is no pleasing the endless waves of critics. The fact that you agree with some of his critics about him being an asshole from time to time, and that you’d post it publicly, doesn’t show that his resolution has merit, it just shows that you are an enormously bad friend.

  103. John Beattie: What I’m trying to point out, is that Mike K. went after the people because they belonged in those groups, not simply making use of their membership in those groups as if it was just an unimportant, incidental thing instead of the whole main thing of the conflicts. He went after them because the social environment that he grew up in taught him that the people in those groups talking about their situation were unreasonable, secondary and delusional and needed to be put down, were a threat to the power base/community he was part of and created in. He didn’t go after them because he hates them, but because he discounted them as people because of the groups they were in, as he discounted the social issues that they were dealing with. Socially we are taught discrimination — and we’re taught to rationalize it, which keeps the social machinery in place.

    Mike K. says he suffers from depression and anxiety. Those are difficult medical conditions to deal with and can be crippling. Hopefully things improve for him there. But they also often cause a tendency to attribute problems and events to personal defect — i.e. I’m a bad asshole who has problems functioning rather than I have some asshole social beliefs and world views I never questioned before. So it becomes about fixing Mike K’s personal foibles but that’s not what the conflicts were about. They weren’t about Mike K’s personal foibles. They were about the larger social system that Mike K. was supporting that does things like make PAX a place and event of fear for many people. They were about the damage that social system does to people in those groups.

    Everybody has these social scripts, these beliefs we don’t think about, don’t question immediately, the blind spots we sometimes then stubbornly cling to rather consider changing, these testimonies of people in groups we don’t regard as inferior but which we treat as inferior, the insistence that any criticism in the area of social justice is always about our personal value in order to try and make the conversation go away, the insistence that upset people are always, always unreasonable no matter how much factual evidence and statistics get trotted out. Everybody does it. I’ve done it and either have caught it or had others unfortunately have to point it out to me. Discrimination and prejudice are not simply confined to big, loud firehose blasts. Most of it is slow, steady dripping from millions of sources, often incidental and ingrained, wearing things away — the one person after one person removing one rock from the river bed until the bed is eroded and empty as Gulliver once very aptly described it.

    So I do hope that Mike K. does what he needs to do for his personal health. But his personal issues were never central; the social issues were. I hope that his personal decisions do not simply involve stepping down from the organizations and areas where he has had power and influence, but instead championing a shift in the social system, better openings for dialogue, and better access for the people in the groups he tried to shut out and intimidate. The people who criticised him — punishing him was not their goal and they wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t think he was worth something. But they aren’t going to wait for him. If PAX, for instance, does become more inclusive, it will help it grow. If it doesn’t, then people will go elsewhere and build different communities that push for further, equal change in the social system.

  104. dpmaine:

    “The fact that you agree with some of his critics about him being an asshole from time to time, and that you’d post it publicly, doesn’t show that his resolution has merit, it just shows that you are an enormously bad friend.”

    Well, in point of fact, I was agreeing with his own assessment of the situation, which is noted in the entry itself. I understand that fact has conveniently slipped past you, of course, or that you simply choose not to acknowledge it.

    You still refuse to acknowledge the possibility that Mike is doing this for himself rather than for anyone else, which ultimately means that all your argument boils down to is one verifiably incorrect assertion, based on what Mike actually wrote, plus some digs on me, because you’re apparently a bit of a dick that way, dpmaine. Which is fine, because, eh, I’ve heard worse.

    Either way, since it’s clear you have no interest in actual discussion, it’s time for you to exit this particular thread. You haven’t added anything useful to it since your first comment.

  105. “Xopher, why are you doing the happy dance?”

    “Never mind why! Just dance with me! Who’s with me?”

  106. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    Teddy Roosevelt – http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7-it-is-not-the-critic-who-counts-not-the-man

    Personally, I think I agree with Mike. Who among us hasn’t been an asshole at one time or another? I know that I, for one, certainly have been and know the struggle to be less of an asshole every day. Like anything else, it’s a bit of work. And, like any difficult task, people who sit on the sidelines will always have something to say, either in favor of or against that effort.
    I don’t care what his motivation is or was, the goal is a worthy one that I wish more people in the world would embrace. Just think how lovely the world would be if we all tried to be a little nicer to one another and a little less assholey.
    Happy New Year, etc.

  107. J.K. Hoffman — But the “critics” aren’t on the sidelines — they are the ones in the arena. They are the ones forced to fight, to battle monsters/obstacles those on the sidelines set on them and don’t have to fight, to face the possibility every day of dying for the color of their skin, their gender or their sexual orientation, to try and change society so that they aren’t in the arena anymore for those parts of themselves. And when they cry out that they shouldn’t be in the arena, it’s the Mike K.’s, the perfectly ordinary citizens, on the sidelines who tell them to stop complaining, they really aren’t in an arena and even if they are, the important thing is that they don’t complain to the people safely on the sidelines because it makes the audience feel bad. So if you want to try to be a little nicer to other folks, maybe you could start by realizing a lot of us are stuck in various arenas through no choice of our own and that some people on the sidelines think this is normal and good. But we don’t, and no matter how many names those “critics” in the arena get called or how many Teddy Roosevelt quotes are misused against them, they aren’t going to shut up. Mike K. has been a critic on the sidelines, and now he’s starting to think about the people in the arena, and maybe from that some other people will too. But again, it’s not about Mike K. on the sidelines. It’s about the existence of the arena where actual life and death and imprisonment occurs.

  108. “Xopher, why are you doing the happy dance?”

    “Never mind why! Just dance with me! Who’s with me?”

    *Dances with Xopher*
    This whole discussion is really strange. Like now that I think about it more, I’m not even sure why Mike’s personal development goals are part of the public discourse. It feels voyeuristic.

  109. Kat, I’m sorry you thought the quote was misused, and perhaps I’ve missed a larger issue, but I thought the post here was related to Mike K. realizing that he had been, as he put it, “a jerk” and that he wanted to change that. The critics I was referring to were people criticizing Mike K. for publicly stating his desire to change and doubting his sincerity. I think anyone trying to be a better person is a good thing, especially when it means being less of a jerk to people. And, I think that kind of positive change should be encouraged.

    I’m also sorry you took that quote to be a criticism of you in some way, because I certainly don’t know you well enough to criticize you for anything and it was not my intent. If anything, I’d hope you take it to heart and realize that the people who criticize you aren’t as important as whatever you struggle with or against or to do. Being a “doer of deeds”, as mentioned in the quote, is not a zero sum position.

    So, I sincerely apologize for whatever offense I may have inadvertently given and I hope the new year brings you an easier path or greater success.

  110. @dpmaine

    The fact that Mike took to the public to tell about his resolution, apparently in homes that he is going to get something from not being an asshole, or trying to be less of an asshole, or whatever, is just proof positive that it’s already not working. Either no being an asshole is a reward unto itself, or it’s not.

    What you seem to either not understand or perhaps just refuse to believe is the possibility that people may state their personal resolutions publicly as a way of throwing the gauntlet down against the things they want to change in themselves. Mind you I don’t think you’re unique in this regard. I suspect it’s at the root of the assumption, which seems held by many, that any public statement of contrition is an apology. It’s even an understandable bias. Many of us don’t work that way, we keep our own counsel and don’t lay it on the line to enforce our own self-discipline. I tend to shy away from it myself, though I do occasionally announce my resolutions in order to reify them outside my own internal commitment.

    @Kat Goodwin

    How does addressing one’s own personal flaws (in this case being a bully) preclude also addressing one’s cultural indoctrinations? He may well choose his targets because of the latter, but he still behaved (according to him and many others) like a bully. This comes down to how you deal with your prejudices. You can engage empathy and listen to what people say, or you can dismiss them and keep punching down.

  111. (late to the party, I know)

    I think this explanation is best considered in context with the recent (November) job posting by Penny Arcade. Khoo (their business manager) advertised for a top-tier IT generalist (developer, sysadmin, systems engineer and desktop support expert wrapped up into a neat one-person package) with a tremendous level of experience to work a job with no work-life balance and bottom-level pay.

    Because, ya know, an industry-leading-level professional is really going to work for peanuts for a multi-million-dollar company because he’s a fan of a webcomic, and the multi-million-dollar company isn’t “money-motivated.”

    I will applaud Gabe if he gets past being a bully. But he’s also got to get past being a user to stop being an asshole.

  112. I identified with Mike as he described himself in that resolution. At least, in some respects.
    I experienced bullying. Pretty much nonstop from the first grade through my junior year of high school, though I know people who had it worse (hospitalizations for injuries) and I know that I used laconic humor and vicious sarcasm as a personal defense because I wasn’t physically capable of defending myself.

    I recognize his reflex from my own history. I tried hard to expunge it. The early days of the internet were one place where I discovered just how easy it was to misunderstand a neutral comment or an ill-phrased response as a personal attack, and to return it in unmistakable kind.

    Mike’s awareness of his reflexive attacks being something that happens when he doesn’t even know he’s doing it – that also rings very true. I was told once that even though it would be better for me to dress on the more professional than casual side at work, I deflected such feedback with a remark “I went into programming because it meant I didn’t have to strangle my brain with a suit and tie,” which made the speakers feel terribly defensive and ashamed.
    That was just one such incident, where the necessary assertiveness to survive oppressive social venues turned into aggressive obnoxiousness in the workplace. And it doesn’t matter whether I was right or not – it affected how people related to me, and what they thought of me as a person, not necessarily in a good way.

    I am probably smug in thinking that I’m better now, but I suspect I am because the feedback of “stop being a jerk” stopped about fifteen or twenty years back; I did do some considerable work in training myself in active listening technique, and I benefited greatly from “The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense” by Suzette Hadyn Elgin (and I miss her excellent perspective these last four years.)

    If Mike wants to be a better person to his own vision of himself, he’ll be well served to find an honest sounding board and an honest critic, preferably not the same person, preferably not wife or close friend, who can tell him when his ideas are biased, and when he’s doing well or not. And it will help if his friends and family can say “do that more, that’s good” when he does in fact do things in a novel and non-rectal fashion.

  113. J.K. Hoffman: “The critics I was referring to were people criticizing Mike K. for publicly stating his desire to change and doubting his sincerity. ”

    Many of those critics are the same people he attacked, or are people in the arena with them. They have every reason to doubt his sincerity and to remain skeptical until his actions prove that he has an actual interest in their situation, not simply his own. They have no obligation to be sympathetic to him or pat him on the back for saying he’s going to try to change. You’re telling the victims that they should be his cheerleaders in his struggles after he attacked them. And you’re telling them that because they are in the arena and you have a blind spot. If I got offended every time somebody did that, I’d have no time for anything else. But that doesn’t change the fact that Mike K. being sorry doesn’t help me with squat in the arena. And people trying to police others’ criticism with him doesn’t help us in the arena either. This isn’t about offensiveness. It’s about letting people talk, J.K. Mike K. tried to stop people from talking, aggressively supported the social system that tries to control them and their speech. So they don’t trust him yet. And history backs that up as the smart move.

    Gulliver: “How does addressing one’s own personal flaws (in this case being a bully) preclude also addressing one’s cultural indoctrinations?”

    It doesn’t preclude it, but it does distract from it. The discussion then becomes about Mike K’s personal demons and not the society he was exploiting just to win verbal arguments, not about the people in the arena taking the shots but about the people on the sidelines. It becomes a personal problem, not a social problem, that then allows the bigger social problem to be dismissed and everyone on the sidelines to breathe a collective sigh of relief, because hey, they don’t have Mike K’s personal problems so they’re not like him, supposedly, and they don’t have to worry about the people in the arena. Which helps us with squat in the arena.

    Consider it on the basis of Mike K’s personal demons if you like. He says that because he was bullied and other problems, he learned to find a person’s weak spot and go for that, trying to enrage his target. So in dealing with the women criticizing him, he decided that their weak spot was…that they were women. Think about that for a second. He didn’t go after their individual, personal weaknesses, as if they were people equal to him. He went for the obvious — that he knew they were in the arena for what they are, without choice, as well as the women in his life and women he works with. That we are all in societies that historically use and advocate physical force to control, silence and marginalize women, and regulate and discriminate against them in thousands of ways to being lesser and inferior in the society, and that they continue to do so today, including using the law.

    And he took the position that this was right and good and funny and unimportant. Because that’s what the society he grew up in says. That’s an issue way beyond bullying. The women challenged him and as women, they aren’t allowed to do that. He threatened them with force, to keep them out of PAX, out of his multi-million dollar company, out of what he saw as his turf. It is a belief system of discrimination so ingrained, so automatic that he, like all of us, didn’t even really realize he was doing it.

    I would happily give up any one of the insights Mike K. feels he has about his personal demons for the simple insight that he and millions of other men and women build bricks of the arena out of habit, out of how they’ve (we’ve) been taught to view women, because it’s convenient, because it’s an unthinking advantage. I disagree somewhat with Scalzi (and Wil Wheaton, etc.) on the focus of individuals being an asshole. It’s not the asshole behavior of one person that is the issue; it’s the suffering of the arena and how utterly banal we remain about that suffering unless pushed, regulated, protested and pleaded with.

    In the analogy of the dog and the lizard in the shack in the winter, the lizard is dying of cold (in the arena,) and the dog, who controls the thermostat, dismisses it not from malice but from a lack of comprehension. He has never experienced cold, he doesn’t understand what it is, it’s not in his world view. Mike K. understands what bullying is as he has experienced bullying. He knows what hiw own arena of mental illness is like because he’s been in it. But he doesn’t know what being in the arena as a woman is like; he doesn’t understand it, it’s not in his world view. Up until recently, he didn’t even understand that it involved bullying. So yay, anti-bullying! But if you got rid of all the bullying in the world, all the really loud assholes in the world, women would still be in the arena.

    It’s not that we don’t appreciate that a guy has a catharsis or will ignore it; it’s just not that impressive because he should have had one already. And if the catharsis is all about him and his past; then it’s not really a catharsis. It doesn’t knock out a brick of the arena. We’re still freezing in the shack. Pay his employees decent salaries with benefits, and seek out more women to be those employees — that knocks out a brick. Make PAX a place where gays and women aren’t afraid to attend — that knocks out a brick. Talking about what women go through, and even better, letting women talk about it — that knocks out a brick. Those are the kind of resolutions that I would be more interested in.

  114. As far as what Mike would need to say or do that would qualify as “enough,” and how his actions will or won’t affect the PA brand, I have a few thoughts. I can’t claim to be speaking for anyone beyond myself, as survivors of sexual abuse or assault are not a monolith.

    I am genuinely sorry that Mike is in pain. As contemptible as I have found his ongoing response to the whole “dickwolves” thing to be, I have never wished him ill. I am glad that he seems to have realized some very unpleasant truths about himself. I hope he is able to follow those realizations with real efforts to change.

    What I would like to see from him: specific apologies, made in the same fora as his attacks. Actual apologies, the kind that start with, “I’m sorry that I did/said X, Y, and Z,” not the “I’m sorry that my doing/saying X, Y, and Z offended/hurt you” kind. I’d like to see some follow-up that involves listening to people he hurt, and working with organizations like RAINN or the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition.

    That would go a long way toward improving my opinion of both him and Penny Arcade. I’d probably go back to occasionally reading it. If Penny Arcade is included in another Humble Bundle that my husband and I buy, we’d probably stick with the default distribution rather than setting the slider to 0%.

    What it wouldn’t do is get me to go to PAX. PAX East had been on my list of “cons I’d like to go to once I’m out of grad school and have free time again,” due in no small part to the “no booth babes” policy. I finally finished my degree, just a few months before PAX 2013, where Mike said he wished they hadn’t pulled the dickwolves shirt, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of people applauded. There is no force on earth that could get me to attend a convention with those people.

    And no, I’m not saying that the people who applauded that statement are rapists, or are pro-rape, or anything like that (although basic statistics would suggest that some of them were). But the fact that there were so many people who apparently believe rather vehemently that it is so important to maintain a space where making rape jokes is fine but criticizing them is not, and so unimportant to maintain a space where sexual assault survivors feel safe… no. Just, no.

    tl;dr: it wouldn’t be all that hard for Mike to redeem himself in my eyes. It would be well-nigh impossible for anything he does to salvage my opinion of his loyal fan base, at least in the foreseeable future.

  115. I think that now a lot of people are just waiting for him to fail, and are poised to tear him to pieces when he does so.

    After his behaviour over the last few years, I have to say I’m one of them.

  116. @Kat You seem to be making the mistake of assuming the people Gabe will attack are only those he has a philosphical difference with. History and Gabe’s own words show that he will lash out at anyone who he percieves as attacking him, regardless of what position they hold and how it aligns with his thinking. For him it is not about the issue, it is about his bruised ego and if he has to attack the issue in defence of his ego, he will.

    A classic case in point is the juxtaposition of the PAX Booth Babe ban and his later over-reaction to critisism that he and Tycho didn’t go far enough in the whole Hitman: Absolution debacle. Both are from the same man. Just because he went nuclear against the groups(and on the internet it does tend to be a group or a cause who is doing the attacking in cases like these) doesn’t mean he renounces his ideals regarding objectification(in this case).

    @Marionette You are sounding a lot like Gabe’s enablers(although with cleaner language). While I understand you may have been hurt, this is exactly the sort of reactive behaviour Gabe indulges in. Please be the better person.

  117. I really hope that Gabe can work out the issues he is grappling with at the moment. In a very real way he can be seen as a posterchild of the bullying culture that infects the nerd/geek community that still sees itself a s a victim and refuses to see the bully within. I don’t want to lay too much on him, but his efforts could also shine a light on how our community needs to change. His (fingers crossed)success would be a signal of hope, since what is a community except a group of individuals, and where one goes, others may follow.

  118. Marionette: I certainly am not one of the people who want him to fail and go back to attacking marginalized groups. I’m not certain why you would wish that on marginalized groups and the damage that brings in those sectors of the SFFH/tech community. Why would you wish the current social machine that causes so much pain to so many people to be helped to stay in place?

    Brendan: “You seem to be making the mistake of assuming the people Gabe will attack are only those he has a philosphical difference with.”

    No, I’m not. You’re making the very assumption that I’m afraid of — you want this to be all about Mike K. personally, that it’s just his personal problems, so the social problem can be ignored and we can all pat ourselves on the back for not being like him. But it’s not about his personal argumentativeness. It’s about those arguments he deliberately targeted at marginalized groups. That he also argues with other people on other topics is irrelevant to the social issues at the heart of the conflict and the damage therein. It is comforting to believe that it is just a personal issue — that’s how ingrained social discrimination continues. Whether he’s argumentative or not, the arguments that Mike K. specifically used in the instances of conflict were the arguments that society uses every day to attack, control and discriminate against people in marginalized groups — he got those from society. They are us, not just Mike K., and they are done out of complacency just as much as argumentativeness. The SMOF’s who rant about those annoying women and black people bugging them over harassment policies are saying the same things as Mike K. Mike Resnick was saying the same sort of stuff with the same lack of comprehension. It’s habit, the very fabric of our society, and it takes a lot to unravel those threads.

    Perfectly nice people who stand up for civil rights can say incredibly prejudiced things (see a SMOF comparing black people to aliens and monsters, the Amazing Stories debacle about the use of non-white characters and other continual cock-ups.) And then freak out if those they are bashing speak up about it. Because they’re nice people (and used to being in charge and deferred to in polite society,) and nobody is allowed to say or feel that they did something damaging. Mike K. certainly isn’t alone in that attitude in life. For instance, talking about “no booth babes” is a slur. They aren’t babes. They’re women — and men — who are models hired for advertising and parts playing at events. It should be called a no models policy. But we call it a no booth babes policy. Why? Habit. Women are disposable and contemptible objects in society so we call them booth babes.

    As Other Becky pointed out, she might eventually be able to overlook Mike K. being stupid, if he tries not to be stupid anymore. But she’s not going to PAX. Because Mike K’s expressed attacks on these particular areas were supported and shared but thousands of people in that community. So Mike K. being an argumentative grumpy man versus thousands of people who cheered for his attacking women and gays specifically for being women and gays — which do you think is the really big issue in those conflicts he had?

    Again, I don’t wish Mike K. ill, but I don’t really give a crap about a conversation over how argumentative, temperamental or illogical he personally is. I care about a conversation over how he and the many, many people who supported those attacks knew exactly what sort of attacks to make for the people in those groups and the damage those attacks did. I care about a conversation about the social issue facing his victims, because that’s the actual thing that will hopefully change. That’s why they criticized Mike K. and PA stuff in the first place — to change things, not to deal with Mike K.’s personal issues. I care about a conversation about the people who are disadvantaged and what they go through, not yet another conversation about the tribulations of one white, straight privileged guy. If the only thing that comes out of this is Mike K. waxing about his childhood, then it isn’t helping anything.

  119. I’ve been following this situation closely and carefully for a long time. I have some thoughts on PAX, safety, Gabe, and the dickwolves.

    Various people have said that they care about making PAX a place where gays and women feel safe. As a woman in the game industry who has attended E3, SDCC, the Tokyo Game Show, and PAX, I have to say that PAX is by far the safest and most welcoming of the large shows. There are many women, queer people, and members of other marginalized groups among the staff of semi-volunteer “Enforcers.” Yes that’s an odd name, but it makes sure that when a petite woman with a cape is trying to wrangle a line full of people, she gets listened to. I know of vendors who have been removed from PAX for harassing women, and told they were never going to be allowed back. PAX is not perfect, but it is head and shoulders above every other large show in the industry.

    That said, the few times I have felt genuinely uncomfortable at PAX have all directly involved the Dickwolves controversy. I was in the audience when it reared its ugly head again at Prime this year. It made me feel awful and sad and upset about the gaming community at large.

    And it sucks, because the dickwolves controversy is the perfect teachable example of the cancer at the soul of a lot of geek culture. I mean, the PA guys making an offhanded joke about rape directly inspired a fan of theirs to make a twitter account called “teamrape” and use it to harass and threaten women. I couldn’t make up a better example of how speaking flippantly about assault can inspire people to be cavalier about harassing and assaulting women if I tried!

    I wish I were friends with Gabe, or that I knew someone who was close friends with him, because I honestly think nobody has ever sat down and had a calm conversation with him about this.

    I’d point to the “teamrape” twitter account and say:

    “Look, this guy is doing this because of you. He says so.”
    “Yeah, it’s terrible, but I didn’t tell him to do that!”
    “Then reject him. Seriously. Post on your front page ‘My eyes have been opened. People are going around harassing people while invoking my name, but they are no friend to me. They are dicks, and I don’t want them around, and I hope they don’t come to PAX.’ Look, when you first made the joke, you didn’t think it’d motivate your fans to harass and threaten women. And maybe the joke alone wouldn’t have. But now there’s a clear causal link between a joke you made and women’s lives being threatened. You need to shut that down, or women will never feel safe at PAX.”
    “But I’ve been harassed too… dozens of people who don’t like the comic have threatened my wife and young children with rape and murder. Both sides are doing it, so I don’t know why I have to worry about a few loonies on my side.”
    “Because both sides have to take some responsibility for distancing themselves from those who would try to pursue their goals through harassment. But even more than that, because gamer culture is always encouraging these guys. How many times a day is your family threatened with rape and murder, on average? ’cause I can guarantee that average is higher for any woman who is a public figure in geek media or video games. A friend of mine once turned down a job because the previous holder mentioned, offhandedly ‘Oh yeah, you’ll probably get a few rape threats every week, and a few actual stalkers every year. Just make sure you watch for real warning signs and call the police asap.’ And now you have a great opportunity to speak out against that bullshit, and potential to reach people who care what you have to say, who might otherwise start a twitter feed to harass women.”
    “We’ve had a lot of trouble with kicking the hornet’s nest in the past. I even have a sign with ‘do not engage’ engraved on it…”
    “That’s part of the problem. When guys like this harass women, everyone says ‘it’s not my problem’ You have a real chance to make a difference here.”

    It just seems like a lot of people at Penny-Arcade are either bad at explaining, or they don’t understand the situation. Maybe they’re too nice, or too far removed from Mike, and don’t feel like it’s their place to have this kind of conversation with him.

    It’s frustrating, because it’s pretty obvious from how he communicates that Mike is not all that good with the written word – either composing it or parsing it. He’s a pictures guy, and when people write things at him that are unclear or angry he just shuts down rather than trying to deal. I used to work with kids with learning and behavioral disabilities, and Mike’s behavior reminds me a lot of that.

    It’s tough, because Mike comes from a background we don’t see often in geek public figures. Most of our geek celebs went to college, and a lot of them came from urban or suburban areas in the culturally-left coastal areas of our country. A lot of the time when Mike struggles to explain his thoughts and feelings on an issue, it reads to me more like someone uneducated trying to explain the basics that he thinks he knows, rather than a bigot rejecting all other possible interpretations.

  120. @Kat

    I had the same thought when I read Marionette’s comment. But it also occurs to me that Marionette may simply mean she or he expects this Gabe/Mike person to fail and is ready to tear to him to (hopefully metaphorical) pieces upon fulfilling said expectation. While certainly cynical and unhelpful, it doesn’t necessarily imply Marionette hopes for that failure, though it could mean that and, if so, shows more interest in having a target for vengeance than an improved gaming community, which would make Marionette, as you say, a sort of perverse enabler.

  121. L. “because I honestly think nobody has ever sat down and had a calm conversation with him about this.”

    Well no, numerous friends have sat down and had a calm conversation with him about it, including Scalzi. Not that your blueprint of conversation is at all bad — but he’s already had it said to him many times by all reports, as well as public arguments. It’s not a matter again of simple personal issues. It’s social teaching.

    Society tells men to be argumentative, take on all challenges from others, reject any criticism they don’t immediately understand, and win, win, win, defend, defend, defend, and that’s how you are a man. That’s how you are an honorable man, who is never, ever the “bad guy.” And society tells them that not being the bad guy is infinitely more important than any other social issue other people are dealing with. Society tells men and women that women are not supposed to be at all argumentative but conciliatory, couch criticism and not make it at all if it’s about treatment of women, and not put themselves forward or be dissatisfied about anything bigger than whether the toilet seat is left up. Otherwise they are the b word, the c word, the s word, hysterical and overwrought and wanting to castrate and punish men by simply offering an opinion or talking about systemic social repression, and clearly trying to assert that all women are perfect and all men are always the “bad guy.” People in marginalized groups are supposed to talk about only really egregious, violent threats against them, be grateful for any niceties they are given and never make an argument or provide statistics that make the people in the majority group uncomfortable and feeling like the “bad guy.”

    If people talk about the systemic power given to WSM’s as a social group and the need for more awareness of this, society teaches that this be seen as saying that all WSM’s are bad guys. This is what happened with Scalzi’s lowest common denominator piece. If a woman or a marginalized person reacts out of anger or other motivation, makes a threat (or a WSM makes a threat as supposed helping because arguing,) then it is of course open season on all women or people in the marginalized group who may be arguing or criticizing.

    These are the social scripts Mike K., like millions of others, was taught and was reluctant to give up because if he did, then he would be the “bad guy.” And then he could not be an honorable man. And that was the most important thing. So the “dickwolves” may be all for enforcers taking out sexual harassers at PAX, because that’s being honorable men (people) and combatting what they now accept is an egregious threat. (Unlike many SFFH convention organizers who still regard it as just making them bad guys.) But they aren’t for dropping the rape jokes (and threats,) because doing that would then make them the bad guys for having made the jokes. And that’s more important than whether women are made uncomfortable and threatened. And since they are in the advantaged group, they don’t see why they have to bother about it or care about what people in the disadvantaged group say about it, because those people are always unhappy and they are not bad guys, so there.

    But whether a person is a “bad guy” or not is the least important part of any social justice conversation. The key focus is ending discriminatory bias in our society, and legally protecting each individual’s civil rights. Pretending that discrimination isn’t there so as not to feel bad does not help this. We have advanced civil rights in only a few corners of the world and only partially. We do not have equality and freedom in any part of the world. Democracy is a baby in political systems, and people constantly try to subvert it with tribalism and authoritarianism. The “dickwolves” stuff is a classic example of tribalism, and the good old “I have free speech, you don’t” argument.

    You working in the gaming industry as a woman, L., that’s great, and it’s probably done more to help with discrimination than anything Mike K. has done. You talking with people like Mike K. is great, and it’s a risk and hard to do. I hope that part of Mike K’s resolution is to do some of that talking too, not “I was a bad guy” but “this is behavior we all need to look at and consider not having be part of how we look at things because it’s hurting these people and creating discrimination.” I really hope that’s the springboard.

  122. Kat Goodwin:

    “Well no, numerous friends have sat down and had a calm conversation with him about it, including Scalzi.”

    To be clear: I’ve not specifically had a sitdown with Mike on this topic, although I don’t doubt he’s aware of my thoughts on things.

  123. “There are none so blind as those who will not see, none so deaf as those who will not hear.” — the Bible?

    It can take a long time, more than fifty years, to see or hear. I’m not sure if having more people pointing out your blindness helps or hinders (although I suspect they can hinder.) Once you see, you have to deal with the consequences of what you’ve done, both to the other(s) and to yourself. You have to understand what you’ve done, how you came to do that, deal with the shame and guilt and grief, that pile of remorse, and then if you can without doing more damage, explain, offer to make amends, offer an apology, beg forgiveness …are you sure you can do these things and not damage them more?

    Sometimes the “right thing” is to suffer in quiet and just not offend any more. If your offense was public and people are complaining about your behavior, this isn’t always a practical solution. You will always have been blind, even if you now see. You can’t undo what you’ve done. You can say you’ll change, and many people will not believe you (for various reasons.) Some will be eager to embrace the new you, others will demand you not change, others will over-parse your words seeking secret meanings.

    Sometimes the easiest difficulty setting is not so easy.

  124. What I’m getting from some comments — and I may be the only one — is “complaining is just what feminists (etc.) do, so not being sexist (etc.) is just more work that won’t accomplish anything.”
    Even if the premise were true (and on the whole it is not) that doesn’t justify the conclusion. If you subtract out the people who will complain no matter what, you’re still left with better to not be an asshole than to be one. And if you’re not left with that, no wonder some people are complaining about everything. As it is, this just comes across as an excuse not to do anything.
    An alternate interpretation of these comments is that no matter what you do, someone will complain, and the only thing you can do is choose who that is. That is probably so, but there are complainers I care less about — the ones who are assholes themselves, say.

    Gulliver 1/2 17:48

    Just recognize that a personal resolution is a promise to oneself, not others. Since this was framed as a personal resolution, I think it would be a mistake to read it as seeking rehabilitation in the eyes of his critics.

    Now there’s a get-out-of-criticism-free card. “Well, he’s not saying he’s going to actually change his behavior or anything drastic like that, just trust him that he’s being a better person now.”

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