Comics has an outrage problem
July 18, 2014 3:40 AM   Subscribe

We use the presence of passion to first diminish and then dismiss arguments. The offended must play by the rules of the unoffended, or even worse, the offenders, in order to be heard. You have to tamp down that pain if you want to get help or fix it. You can see it when people say things like “Thank you for being civil” when arguing something heated with someone they disagree with. Civility is great, sure, but we’re forcing people who feel like they’re under attack to meet us on our own terms. In reality, passion shouldn’t be dismissed. Passion has a purpose.
David Brothers on outrage, passion, civility and being made to feel welcome or unwelcome in the comics community.
posted by MartinWisse (46 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
We use the presence of passion to first diminish and then dismiss arguments. The offended must play by the rules of the unoffended, or even worse, the offenders, in order to be heard.

Or even worser they are forced to play by the rules that are widely recognized as one of the only ways for humans to successfully communicate about charged topics.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:05 AM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that this piece paints the general comics community as favoring civil discussion instead of passionate arguments and outrage - because I figure that the general proportion of passion vs. civility is about the same as within the SJ/Tumblr/whatever comics community. It's just that when the general comics community gets outraged, it's less of 'Rick Remender is an asshole' and more rape threats.

There can be a discussion about what sort of discussions Tumblr does and not support (as a platform, it's pretty bad for long-form writing), but as someone who interacts with both (and recognizing that the dichotomy that's presented in here is largely fictitious), neither can really claim a dispassionate outlook. At least with the SJ/Tumblr, they usually have better reasons to be outraged.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:15 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


This Daily Dot piece is about coding, but there's a good bit in there applicable to online discourse, especially on traditionally "nerdy" subjects:
Is she still talking? Quick, find excuses to stop listening. Brand certain words as buzzwords that signal that an Agenda is taking place. Make sure as soon as someone drops a buzzword you stop listening.

Privilege. Intersectionality. Misogyny. If words like these find their way into a conversation, take that as a signal to downvote that conversation, or dismiss the person who used them as an angry social justice warrior. Make it clear you don’t approve of anyone who might be a feminist with an agenda coming into your environment and looking for “storms in teacups” to get upset about.

If she keeps talking after all this? Time to get serious.

Is she trying to talk about the way your industry’s products hurt women? Send her death threats.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:57 AM on July 18, 2014 [17 favorites]


Or even worser they are forced to play by the rules that are widely recognized as one of the only ways for humans to successfully communicate about charged topics.

Sarcasm is against those rules, I think.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:02 AM on July 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't have any insight into this as it relates to the comics community (or communities, more likely), but I do have an extensive background in rhetoric and am a passionate person by nature. I negotiate for a living, and work in an environment where flare ups and personality conflicts are not infrequent. Given my tendency to get riled up, but still needing to get things done, it's a frequent battle to control tone and timber in order to better position my argument.
It is may be unfortunate that getting overexcited in the course of an argument is counterproductive to communicating your message, but it seems to me that it is a stone cold fact that it creates a barrier to someone thinking intelligently about your point. At the very least it gives them an out. Again, I'm not suggesting it is ideal, but the goal is to distill your argument in a cogent and compelling way and you want to make it as easy as possible for your counterpart to see it from your perspective. Anything you do that works against that should be excised, if possible.

On a more minor point, I disgree with his choice of terms. To me, passion does not automatically denote getting riled up (as I like to say it). Passion is a great gift, and can be harnessed really well without losing its import.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 5:31 AM on July 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Last thing. These two paragraphs are pure gold and should be the main thrust of the piece.

We’re in a complex place right now, in terms of our culture and people who speak on it. Suddenly a lot of people who were limited by the hateful whims of our culture in the past—non-whites, women, trans persons, gay people, and more—are able to sign up for a platform to express their views and speak their truth in a way that the mainstream has largely never seen before and often doesn’t know how to react to.

As a result, we’re realizing the way we enable -isms and hate by simply going about our daily lives the way we always have. We’re seeing the anger and sadness and passion that has been tamped down and ignored for years bubble up, and the conversations are often fraught with tension thanks to both sides and every participant coming from different places and contexts. There are more moving parts in these conversations than in two Space Shuttles.

posted by staccato signals of constant information at 5:32 AM on July 18, 2014 [13 favorites]


Passion and incivility are not the same thing. You can be both passionate and civil. That's a totally false choice.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:00 AM on July 18, 2014 [34 favorites]


It's grimly amusing how many people will proclaim that any attempt to moderate tone is a mean ol' bad faith tone argument, then are shocked, shocked! when conversations turn vicious, go south, and cause people to shut down.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:07 AM on July 18, 2014 [10 favorites]


Is there any other interest-based community that has had such long and intense battles over inclusion and exclusion? I don't even read comics and I've been aware of the arguments about it being exclusionary to women and others for many, many years.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:08 AM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there any other interest-based community that has had such long and intense battles over inclusion and exclusion? I don't even read comics and I've been aware of the arguments about it being exclusionary to women and others for many, many years.

Pretty much all of them, I think!
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:10 AM on July 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Passion and incivility are not the same thing. You can be both passionate and civil. That's a totally false choice.

But passion is often seen as inherently incivil in a lot of places, especially when the dominant culture in the situation has a vested interest in not hearing the complaint in the first place. This is especially true in places that privilege the appearance of logic (eg geek culture, skeptics) where "being passionate" is seen as "peint emotional," ie "losing," and doubly so when the arguer is a woman.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:14 AM on July 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


Free speech means I get to call your rant a rant. This idea has its genesis in the Right, who ever complains that they are being "censored" because they are constantly getting called out on their bullshit. Same exact thing.

You know what? Bush was an asshole. That doesn't mean Kanye's rant about Katrina was true.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:26 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Obviously, that's supposed to be "being emotional." "Peint emotional" sounds like some kind of penis-related psychological disorder, which is, I guess, apropos.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:27 AM on July 18, 2014


Yes, I have plenty of experience with being told I'm being emotional, that I should calm down, that I'm taking things too personally, etc. I am a frequent recipient of this message.

But trying to frame a desire for civility-meaning-silence as in any way reflective of a lack of validity when it comes to the need for actual civility is, for me, off base.

For what it's worth, I think this part, the part highlighted in the FPP, is the weakest paragraph in the piece, which had many good things to say, but not that.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:28 AM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


the goal is to distill your argument in a cogent and compelling way and you want to make it as easy as possible for your counterpart to see it from your perspective.

Sometimes, it's not about actually persuading the people on the other side. Particularly in online spaces, where a lot of fans still don't really expect creators to respond directly and personally, it's about letting other people in your marginalized community know that it's OK to be visible and angry.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:33 AM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Free speech means I get to call your rant a rant. ...

You know what? Bush was an asshole. That doesn't mean Kanye's rant about Katrina was true.


You mean this? He says, in essence:

1) The media reports black people as looting and white people as gathering supplies.
2) He feels like a hypocrite for telling people to give when he has not, so he has asked his business manager how much he can donate.
3) Many of the people who could be helping - that is, reservists and guardsmen - are currently away, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Those who have been sent in have been "given permission to shoot us" - "us" here meaning black people who are "looting".

Arguably, it's a ramble, but it isn't a rant (and I think none of those points is self-evidently false). It also doesn't mention George Bush - that happens after another scripted section by Mike Myers.

If you mean that very last thing he said - "George Bush doesn't care about black people" - that definitely isn't a rant. You may not agree with the statement being made, but it doesn't fulfil any of the requirements of a rant. It's short, it makes a single clear point, it contains no emotional language or invective. The fact that it's being remembered as a rant is perhaps interesting in itself.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:41 AM on July 18, 2014 [30 favorites]


Pretty much all of them, I think!

Depends, kinda. If we're talking about "comics" in the literal, broad sense that includes all the indie stuff and the web stuff and the great, weird stuff that most people don't know about, then that's a pretty big tent that on the whole is probably no worse off than most media (which is damning with faint praise, I know).

But if we use "comics" in the sense that most people do to mean "superhero stuff from the big two", or if we're talking about many of the small market "adult" titles, or if we're talking about the experiences that women and people of color have when visiting physical comic book shops, then in that sense comics are way behind the times even compared to movies and TV. So far behind that the Bechdel test is considered way too advanced, so Kelly Sue DeConnick came up with the sexy lamp test.

Fortunately, that all seems to be (slowly) changing, but it's mostly changing because the fans have been screaming so loudly for it online.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:43 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


civility-meaning-silence

Civility does not mean silence. It means not using certain words or approaches to arguing. If you really think it is impossible to say what you mean while not screaming at people, then you are part of the problem.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:45 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's very hard to scream while typing, TFB. I mean, I imagine you might be screaming all the time when you are typing, but we can't hear it. It probably wears on your neighbors somewhat, though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:51 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


That dismissal about anyone being very upset about very upsetting things is precisely what the article is pointing out. Thanks for the illustration!
posted by zombieflanders at 6:53 AM on July 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Civility does not mean silence

Yeah, that was my point.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:05 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Some arguments, while delivered in a dispassionate tone, are not civil arguments.

I recently got into an argument with someone about inebriation and consent – the crux of his position was ‘ since we hold drunk drivers responsible for their actions while drunk, why don’t we hold drunk women?’. My counterarguments didn’t seem to be getting through, and my attempts to shut down the argument. I felt like I couldn’t leave the room without being seen as overdramatic, so I stayed and tried to keep my calm. Eventually, I snapped. And the thing that I felt worst about afterwards was that, because I eventually lost my cool, anything I’d said before was automatically invalid. Because I’d gotten angry after a long time listening to a shitty argument defending rape.

But people do this shit all the time – whether they realize they’re doing it or not, they’ll deliver insulting and demeaning lines to women and minorities as if it’s a completely objective position, and that those people should respond completely objectively. There are things worth getting angry about.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:16 AM on July 18, 2014 [13 favorites]


OutrageFilter

I'll see myself out
posted by rebent at 7:16 AM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


As we all know it's usually the types that insist the most on civility and calmness in public conversations that end up sending rape and death threats in private. It's yin and yang: you need to have both the public signal to shut somebody up, to paint them as a target and the threats to get people fearful enough that they shut up.

Therefore those who do insist on civility in online discussions without regard for context first need to make clear they don't bring this agenda with them before their complaints can be taken seriously and not just dismissed as noise. But usually it's the same civility scolds that turn up again and again in discussions like this and it's clear they do have an agenda.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:17 AM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


As we all know it's usually the types that insist the most on civility and calmness in public conversations that end up sending rape and death threats in private.

WTF?
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 7:20 AM on July 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


As we all know it's usually the types that insist the most on civility and calmness in public conversations that end up sending rape and death threats in private.

As we all know we should take the assertions of political types at face value.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:20 AM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


actually I'll see myself back in and contribute -

There's a venn diagram between True Expression and Emotional Expression. I think that adding in the chunk of Emotional And True expression is great, but it won't be easy. There's already enough OutrageFilter-type Emotional and Not True expression. I really really love that Metafilter tries to weed out the Outrage Filter type stuff using its collective outrage filter. I'm glad that conversation about what is and what is not true, and what is and what is not worth talking about, continues.
posted by rebent at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there any other interest-based community that has had such long and intense battles over inclusion and exclusion? I don't even read comics and I've been aware of the arguments about it being exclusionary to women and others for many, many years.

In terms of gender, comics weren't always such an all-boys club -- there were plenty of comics aimed at girls, once upon a time. I am a second-generation comic book reader as my mother used to read them when she was a kid. When comics became synonymous with "superhero" -- things started to get more skewed than they were before...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:25 AM on July 18, 2014


To build on what MartinWisse's point, I think that civility does mean silence for a lot of people in these conversations, and that was a good part of what the article was touching on. It's not that people are angry about rape, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other forms of discrimination and oppression; it's that people are talking about any of that at all. We see this over and over and over again, regardless of how "civil" the argument initially is, that merely speaking up is overly-emotional and worthy of scorn. We even see it here, although less so than in the past.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:28 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I suspect this is probably partially in response to this: “Fire Rick Remender”—a timeout for the Internet’s outrage-o-matic
posted by Artw at 7:36 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, talking about this at all moves you from being a mainstream comics fan to a tumblr comics fan (with a whiff of ‘not a real fan’ attached to those on tumblr). There’s a weird dichotomy set up in the comics community that David Brothers is buying into in his essay – that there’s the mainstream comics community that doesn’t talk about representation issues at all and then there’s a group of people on tumblr and twitter that talk about nothing but representation and never in the twain shall they meet (well, not civilly). When, in reality, there’s a spectrum of caring about representation across various media (whether online or in your comic book shop), and people who talk about representation are still participating in mainstream comics discussions. But the second you mention something that hints at social justice, you become a tumblr comics fan.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:41 AM on July 18, 2014


You know what bothers me about the comics community that often appears "outraged?" Often they're more interested in expressing outrage over press releases and nuggets and by the time actual comics come out, no one talks about them. Then again, that is a symptom of most comics writing, which often hypes books before they come out and then forget to even acknowledge their release (not to mention looking at whole story arcs).

There are a lot of problems in comics, and I'm not going to dismiss that. I just wish there was more talk about the actual comics, and acknowledgement of the awesome stuff comics are doing.
posted by lownote at 7:42 AM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


You know what bothers me about the comics community that often appears "outraged?" Often they're more interested in expressing outrage over press releases and nuggets and by the time actual comics come out, no one talks about them.

It depends on who's upset over what. Most of the reporting on sexism, racism, etc. that I see is based off of released art or stories, whereas the freakouts over Heimdall being black or Thor being a woman are before anything hits the page or screen.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:50 AM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


My gut feeling is that the Rick Remender controversy is a little different from, say, the recent attacks on Janelle Asselin, although I don't have a clear proof of that. It felt like the protests were coming primarily from people who didn't like his work, and were happy to apply any lever against that, than people who didn't like his politics.

The tendency of dislike for work to overspill into personal judgment is by no means limited to comics, of course...
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:24 AM on July 18, 2014


What actually happened in that storyline – from what I understand of it – was that a character that had (if you’d taken in a lot of timey-wimey aspects of alternate dimensions) been a toddler about ten-ish years ago in her own timeline was suddenly revealed to over 23, then she and Sam Wilson have sex while Sam is blackout drunk. Captain America, everybody!

So, while it is specified that Jet Black Zola is not underaged, I’m not really leaping to defend Remender’s stint on Cap.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:34 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are more moving parts in these conversations than in two Space Shuttles.

Side trivia note: each Shuttle had over 2.5 million parts.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:48 AM on July 18, 2014


(Also, it was just announced that Sam will be taking over as Captain America due to Super-Soldier Serum Reasons.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:28 AM on July 18, 2014


Generally, when Sam Wilson does something questionable, I just assume the Red Skull made him do it.

What actually happened in that storyline – from what I understand of it – was that a character that had (if you’d taken in a lot of timey-wimey aspects of alternate dimensions) been a toddler about ten-ish years ago in her own timeline was suddenly revealed to over 23, then she and Sam Wilson have sex while Sam is blackout drunk. Captain America, everybody!


Not quite - she actually reveals that she is over 23 after she and Sam Wilson have sex, at least within the narrative frame - she very lampshadily says "I had wine on my 23rd birthday" when they wake up together.

The timey-wimey stuff is a bit timey-wimey, but the argument that John Romita Jr's tendency to draw all children and teens with adult-sized heads and miniature-adult bodies makes it hard to pin down how old Jet is actually supposed to be, but she is clearly a lot older than her brother, because she is walking and talking while he's a newborn, seems broadly convincing.

So, it's not quite an Arisia situation, let's say.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:40 AM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Also, it was just announced that Sam will be taking over as Captain America due to Super-Soldier Serum Reasons.)

Hey, he's black!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:41 AM on July 18, 2014


There is a big middle ground between "C'mon, you aren't making a good argument if you just scream at someone and call them 'shithead.'" and "If you even dare to mention this Thing I Am Violently Uncomfortable With, you are breaking the rules of civility and have invalidated all your arguments."

People who want to shut you down may try to prod you till you resort to the first one, or may try to rules-lawyer you with the second one.

At the bottom, it's about power of course; if you define the rules, you have some control over what is said, or even what can be said. For a long time, it was easy to exert this power for a small group of folks, but things have changed, and to them, it all looks like anarchy, even though a lot of it is actually really good discussion that needs to happen.

In the end, if you can't win a debate without having to resort to threats, dodges, and moving goalposts, you've as much as admitted that you have no case.
posted by emjaybee at 9:49 AM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh my, The Sexy Lamp Test, an even lower bar to clear than the Beshdel and Mako Mori tests:

If you can replace the female lead with a sexy lamp and the plot still works, then fuck you.

Kelly Sue DeConnick, via Ed Brubaker
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:53 AM on July 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Perhaps this is more about civility as active listening and respect and understanding.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:20 AM on July 18, 2014


Not quite - she actually reveals that she is over 23 after she and Sam Wilson have sex, at least within the narrative frame - she very lampshadily says "I had wine on my 23rd birthday" when they wake up together.

This Tumblr post -- three links removed from what Artw linked to because all comics "journalists" are lazy shits and rather link to a post linking to a post linking to the original tumblr entry -- gives a good summary of Jet's history and age where it is clear that she cannot be 14 years old as claimed.

That Sam Wilson / Jade scene therefore is just cliched, not rape. (The overall storyline Remender pushed on Cap is still shite though).
posted by MartinWisse at 12:48 PM on July 18, 2014


But Jet still slept with a dude so drunk he couldn’t remember it in the morning while she herself was resistant to the effects of alcohol, right? Because in that case, yeah, there was still a rape in that scene.

Anyway, the fact that the main defense against this was ‘the artist is completely unable to differentiate between different stages of childhood’ is still not making me feel like this is a work that I want to spend a lot of time defending. Did the tumblr noise machine get facts wrong? Yes. But there have been a good chunk of other issues with the Remender run (fridging Sharon, for instance), and I question Marvel’s decision to release a Cap book that is so far away from the tone of the movies. Not to mention Remender hasn’t exactly been gracious with criticism about his writing in the past.

FWIW, when I read the first few issues – before I dropped the comic – I got the impression that Jet was maybe 3-4 years older than Ian. Not …eleven? That, admittedly, was a while ago.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:32 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm okay with the general tone of this Cap run – both because Brubaker did the suspense/spy action thing so well for so long that I'd rather see a change than a pale imitation, and because so much of Cap's history in the Kirby era is crazy stuff that a story called “Castaway in Dimension Z” would be right at home in. But man, has the execution not been there, both in terms of how the story played out and in that Romita Jr. has lost many, many steps since his glory days.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2014


Question for those of us who are behind on the comics - is Sam!Cap super-soldiered up, or similar? Or is he going to be using his affinity with birds to supplement his Capage, as Bucky!Cap used his metal arm and second amendment rights?
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:11 AM on July 24, 2014


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