The internet makes it hard to believe. Theist or secular humanist, and I've been both, belief in essential goodness lies at the core of it all, be it the goodness of an exterior deity or the belief that we as humans have it within ourselves to assume total moral responsibility for our actions. Hell, regardless of how I feel about God on any given day I want to believe the latter idea.
And the internet makes it so hard some days.
Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist video gamer blogger, has been receiving threats of murder and rape for some time now. The Escapist yesterday reported that she'd cancelled a speaking engagement at Utah State University following someone claiming to be a student threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history”. Due to Utah's gun control laws allowing concealed carry permits the local police were unable to search for or confiscate weapons at the event and she cancelled the engagement.
The story itself is bad enough but then you get to the comment section and...
Some commenters accuse her of cowardice for this, accusing her of not believing in her cause enough to get ahead with her engagement. Her cause is feminist criticism of tropes in video games. There are causes worth dying for, worth risking the lives of others for, THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM.
Some accuse her of trying to create a gun control debate, having cited the police inability to stop people bringing guns to her talk as her reason for cancellation. I... I just don't know where to begin on that one. Its hard to be pro-gun when you're British because the number of firearms in this country that aren't either a) “working weapons” for pest control on farms or b) outright illegal is minuscule. Still, even in this country the phrase “school shooting” is one with a long and tragic history but, significantly, one that pales in comparison to the history of these horrific, genuinely evil crimes in the US.
Some have accused her of sending the threats herself to heighten her profile. Whilst I can't prove this one way or another given the history of other threats and harassment (she had to move out her home because of them) I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Then there's the whole #GamerGate mess that this sort of ties into... in some ways... and I don't have the damn energy to recap that shitstorm. I'll just say that in this specific instance no one had made a clear link between the threat and GamerGate but the vast majority of comments reference the issue.
I'm not naive, right? It isn't somehow unreasonable to believe that the response to this story should just be outright condemnation of the threat, is it? Whether a person believes the threat came from a random nutcase, a nutcase who affiliates himself with (note language, please) #GamerGate's politics, Sarkeesian herself or is in the nature of a particularly sick joke... whoever you place blame with the proper reaction is “This is sick and should not be.”.
Right? Because that really isn't the sentiment I'm getting from far too many quarters on this thing.