To err is human. To forgive, divine.
August 5, 2021 9:13 PM   Subscribe

GamerGaters inundated her with death threats. Now some are apologizing — and she forgives them. “Over 100 Gamergaters have written me over the year asking for forgiveness, and I’ve thanked them and forgiven them every single time,” she wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “If I can understand people can grow past their worst moments, I think the rest of us can too.”
posted by panglos (138 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Maybe there's hope for us as a species.
posted by panglos at 9:14 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I think one of the important takeaways is many of the participants in GamerGate were children, led along by adult pied pipers who whipped them up into a frenzy for ideological reasons or more likely just to make a quick buck. The article makes it very clear that many of the people who have approached her were still growing up, grappling with their own identities, and made the mistake of attaching themselves to a culture that was doing real harm to a lot of people.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:28 PM on August 5 [118 favorites]




Good for her, but honestly, fuck'em.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:06 PM on August 5 [46 favorites]


I'll take any story about assholes deciding not to be assholes any more. That's rare.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:07 PM on August 5 [112 favorites]


Maybe there's hope for us as a species.

As soon as we can replace 'GamerGate' with 'Trump' in this context.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:22 PM on August 5 [8 favorites]


I appreciate that she doesn't blindly continue the conversation post apology.
posted by Braeburn at 12:27 AM on August 6 [30 favorites]


“The important lasting, lingering impact of it was it was one of the first grass-roots campaigns of harassment that had no real consequences for the people who did it,” Golbeck said. “It had a lot of real consequences for the people who were targeted.”

What Wu is doing is noble and fine, but still...
posted by chavenet at 2:29 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]


I certainly do not have a lot of forgiveness for GamerGaters, because what they did to me was take a community that was, to be clear, not great, but starting to see real green shoots of improvement, and tore that all to shreds. Over obvious horseshit. An individual person who was a part of that can't really apologise for what the group collectively did, and I don't know what repentance would look like.

I suspect I will die mad about it.
posted by Merus at 3:18 AM on August 6 [49 favorites]


Unless those who posted the death threats are publicly outing themselves with their own real names and places of residence, the apologies are only slightly less cowardly than the threats. Let the entire world know who these GamerGaters are, so that they may suffer the full consequences of their actions.
posted by JohnFromGR at 3:36 AM on August 6 [10 favorites]


Men who harass women online are quite literally losers, new study finds (Washington Post, 2015)

(I'm not posting this link to make any particular point; I just happened to come across this old link shortly after reading TFA.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:57 AM on August 6 [6 favorites]


Anonymous social media. It really does bring out base instincts.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:00 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]


People who weren't really into the gaming scene in 2014 may not fully realize the significance of GamerGate. GamerGate was the moment that took average young-ish guys with latent shitty tendencies -- many of whom thought of themselves as liberal -- and gave them a right-wing political consciousness. It didn't create the alt-right, but it was a formative event.
posted by nosewings at 4:18 AM on August 6 [118 favorites]


I feel like a response bot whenever the term "alt-right" comes up... can we not lend credibility to the terms used by those groups? there's nothing alt about the alt-right... they are the same right wing politics as the rest of the right
posted by kokaku at 4:36 AM on August 6 [8 favorites]


It didn't create the alt-right, but it was a formative event.

I think some people don't understand how literal this is. Bannon et al used Gamergate/WoW as an experiment in order to learn how to radicalise young men for Trump and the alt-right (Guardian link):
In describing gamers, Bannon said, "These guys, these rootless white males, had monster power. ... It was the pre-reddit. It's the same guys on (one of a trio of online message boards owned by IGE) Thottbot who were [later] on reddit" and other online message boards where the alt-right flourished, Bannon said.

Green postulates that Bannon's time at IGE was "one that introduced him to a hidden world, burrowed deep into his psyche, and provided a kind of conceptual framework that he would later draw on to build up the audience for Breitbart News, and then to help marshal the online armies of trolls and activists that overran national politicians and helped give rise to Donald Trump," Green writes.
posted by fight or flight at 4:37 AM on August 6 [122 favorites]


It didn't create the alt-right, but it was a formative event.

It wasn’t “formative”; it was a recruiting exercise. It didn’t happen accidentally, or coincidentally. [edit: fight or flight has it.]
posted by mhoye at 4:41 AM on August 6 [30 favorites]


I think I'm slightly more of a bastard than she is, because I think, if I were in her shoes, I'd ask these people to put their money or their efforts where their mouth is, too. I'd ask them to make actual amends, perhaps contribute to a charity or put in volunteer hours at an unhoused people's shelter or something like that. Not that I'd ask for proof that they'd done it, but I think I'd make it clear that words alone don't mean much. I'd also get kind of pedantic with the definition of the word "forgiveness", probably, and become really annoying. Call it penance on top of amends?
posted by MiraK at 4:55 AM on August 6 [23 favorites]


Let the entire world know who these GamerGaters are, so that they may suffer the full consequences of their actions.

We do not want this. When people are contrite, or at least sorry for socially destructive behavior, them offering themselves up to the public will not lead to better outcomes or peace. They can offer themselves up in their local groups, they can choose to try forward the movement, but putting their info out there on the internet will lead to 1) current GamerGaters and alt-right swatting them/harassing them for not being pure, and 2) well-intentioned SJWs seeing them as easier targets to extract public justice.

You don't have to like these people, you don't have socialize with these people, and you sure as hell don't have to forgive them, but self-doxxing will never lead to just or compassionate outcomes. I say this also about the literal nazis that became anti-nazi activists (usually out of prison). Antifascists and feminists have better targets than former GGers.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:17 AM on August 6 [98 favorites]


Good for her, I guess, if she finds it personally rewarding to forgive individuals who privately apologize to her, that’s her right. But she wasn’t the only target of harassment, and it was a phenomenon that went well beyond individual targets, it had political implications and consequences for entire classes of people. And these are not even public apologies. There’s been no collective accountability. So I’m not sure how fair it is to suggest forgiveness on a level beyond individual private interactions.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:32 AM on August 6 [9 favorites]


Have they apologized to Zoë Quinn too? You know, the person whose abusive ex-boyfriend was the catalyst for GamerGate?
posted by SansPoint at 5:38 AM on August 6 [36 favorites]


so that they may suffer the full consequences of their actions.

Justice isn't revenge.
posted by mhoye at 5:49 AM on August 6 [19 favorites]


Good for her, but honestly, fuck'em.

I feel bad that this is exactly how I feel about it too. I hadn't quiiiiiite realized how the last 10 years or so have changed me.
posted by JanetLand at 5:57 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]


I really hate this post title - I get the impulse for it - but brutally misogynistic comments towards women online isn't an "error" like a baseball fuckup.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:32 AM on August 6 [33 favorites]


This is honestly great news, so many people come up with endless justifications for how what they did was not really wrong or at least, not that bad. If the people apologizing to Brianna Wu recognize that what they did really was harmful and wrong it's significant.

Anyway. Can the supposedly left-wing children in anime fandom who are harassing LGBTQ creators and in some cases, sending death threats to showrunners please go next.
posted by subdee at 6:37 AM on August 6 [14 favorites]


Wow, I guess that's pretty big of her to forgive them. I wouldnt and don't, there's no excuse in my eyes for jumping on that bandwagon. I see it as an easy litmus test for "is this person a rotten piece of irredeemable shit that only gets to continue existing on this planet because it is wrong and problematic to consider jettisoning shitty people directly into the sun via catapult, if only because such a proposal would inevitably be used against decent people given the disproportionate number and power of shitty people in the world." The nicest thing I can say to a person who "apologizes" for being a gamergator is that we won't launch you into the sun, because we will launch nobody into the sun.
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:53 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]


No one has to forgive someone who was sending them death and rape threats.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:05 AM on August 6 [32 favorites]


No Robots, do you have any sense for how/why they turned around?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:08 AM on August 6 [5 favorites]


This is very good of her, and very productive, where the apologies are sincere and unforced and do not affect the consequences. But were there consequences for these particular offenses?

I hadn't quiiiiiite realized how the last 10 years or so have changed me.

I've been thinking about this a lot. I've gotten mean. I shocked somebody by casually saying a person with a Q sticker should "burn in hell," which is something I am constantly thinking about one person or another in the national news -- and just about the kindest thing, too, considering I don't literally believe in hell. I find my brain housing opinions about, say, anti-vaxxers that would be unwelcome anywhere civilized.

But I have hope -- when things are concrete, those opinions vanish. When I learn about relatives of mine who aren't getting the vaccine, I am concerned or at worst frustrated, not angry. In order to be willing to forgive, you have to see the whole person and feel a commonality with them. We've lost a lot of our commonality in this country, and that's a deadly problem. Wu is willing to engage with people as people, and that's good. But these boys should have thought of her as a person all along.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:13 AM on August 6 [24 favorites]


No Robots, do you have any sense for how/why they turned around?

They moved out of their parent’s house in Calgary to work in Vancouver, exposing them to housing costs, job problems, and alternative viewpoints. Plus they had a pretty radical uncle ready, willing and able to lead them to the light.
posted by No Robots at 8:15 AM on August 6 [55 favorites]


It's not really about forgiving or not forgiving. Lord Chancellor is right, it's a simple practical question of whether you want less GamerGaters (or Nazs, or whatever) or not.

If so, then you don't have to like or forgive them, but if there are people who genuinely want out and have come to regret what they did, they need to see a path out. If someone is on the inside of one of these movements, is thinking they want out, but all they see outside is that they will always be considered "a rotten piece of irredeemable shit" or have to meet demands for grand acts of public shaming and contrition, they're going to be less likely to leave.
posted by star gentle uterus at 8:17 AM on August 6 [65 favorites]


well-intentioned "SJWs"

FTFY, and frankly should never have had to.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 8:19 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]


I refuse to moderate my tone in case a theoretical person involved with this vile stuff might feel scared to try to leave, based in how they would be viewed after leaving these viewpoints behind. What? Tired of women being the ones who need to watch their rhetoric. Those poor misguided Gamer Gaters.

No.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:20 AM on August 6 [13 favorites]


I see it as an easy litmus test for "is this person a rotten piece of irredeemable shit that only gets to continue existing on this planet because it is wrong and problematic to consider jettisoning shitty people directly into the sun via catapult, if only because such a proposal would inevitably be used against decent people given the disproportionate number and power of shitty people in the world.

Despite the temptation, I think one shouldn't take this position about anyone under the age of ~25. Not only do a fair number of young dipshits eventually straighten up and fly right, but ...they're going to be around for a long time.
posted by praemunire at 8:21 AM on August 6 [16 favorites]


(Appropo of no one's comment please note that I did not call anyone irredeemable. That isn't my point.)
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:23 AM on August 6


Really hating the implications being made here that the real villains aren't the GGers/Nazis/etc, it's actually the marginalized people (who have perfectly valid reasons) not wanting to be used to rehabilitate them that are the problem.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:31 AM on August 6 [23 favorites]


Ultimately, if you want to do the work, great, but that doesn't magically grant you any sort of moral authority to lecture someone who doesn't, especially if they were a target.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:34 AM on August 6 [20 favorites]


In any discussion of forgiveness, I find myself thinking of the book The Sunflower, a book I've reread and reflected on quite a bit.

The first part of the book is an anecdote from Simon Wiesenthal; an account of something that happened when he was a concentration camp inmate and was pulled aside and taken to the bedside of a dying Nazi, who wanted to confess to "a Jew" and ask forgiveness for his atrocities. Wiesenthal heard his confession, but then just left in silence. Later on, he says, he discussed the incident with fellow inmates - some who said he should have offered forgiveness as an act of mercy to a dying man, while others said he should have told the guy off or refused to even hear him out. At the end of the essay he is still undecided about what he should have done - and ends with a question, asking the reader what they thought. The rest of the book is a series of responses from various religious and political thinkers - Primo Levi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Dith Pran, etc., who have contributed their own answers to that question.

Something that always strikes me is the range of responses - there seems to be an even split between the "yes, you should forgive" and the "fuck no" answers. But none of them are knee-jerk answers. They are always extremely nuanced, carefully thought out, and all of them have the utmost awareness for how truly groundbreaking forgiveness actually is. It is never treated as a shrugging cheerful little "aw, that's okay!" kind of thing; nor is it treated as the kind of thing where you are chummy with the person who wronged you afterward. In many cases, the people advocating for forgiveness say that it isn't something that wipes the slate clean - if you're forgiving the person who wronged you, you absolutely remember what they did to you so you are on your guard going forward. But in this case, forgiveness is simply a closing-the-book on your own part and moving forward. You don't talk to your offender or make friends with them, you simply move on and leave that behind.

I'm inclined to go find the book this weekend and reread the ones who advocate not forgiving, as well - because they often have very good things to say about how and when to spot when that forgiveness hasn't truly been earned, and when those apologies haven't been all that sincere. Forgiveness is a really personal and hard thing to do - real forgiveness is, anyway - and sometimes the other person has to do a bit more to earn it than just apologizing. I'm inclined to reread those arguments and consider these apologies in that light.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:37 AM on August 6 [107 favorites]


It's worth doing a bit of research, if you're genuinely interested in having your personal viewpoint gently prodded (and I'm sure many here would), into how radicalisation works and how it's been leveraged against the young male populations of many different communities over the last decade or so through the internet and other means. That's not to say those young men are absolved of responsibility, but IMO it's much more complex than assuming they're irredeemably shitty people and have always been that way. Trace the hatred back to its roots of powerful, wealthy, politically aware men who are personally and financially invested in pushing these views as hard as they can, as well as the social media algorithms and CEOS allowing it to take place.

‘Do you have white teenage sons? Listen up.’ How white supremacists are recruiting boys online. (WaPo)
The Making of a YouTube Radical (NYT)
How I stopped my teenager being recruited online (BBC)
Masculinity And U.S. Extremism: What Makes Young Men Vulnerable To Toxic Ideologies (NPR)
posted by fight or flight at 8:41 AM on August 6 [42 favorites]


Yeah I highly doubt that someone who is genuinely repentant about participating in collective harassment and wants to make amends would be deterred by anyone else’s views on what they did. If anything, having strict standards about harassment should be more of a deterrent and an incentive to make amends.

Also, while I do believe that no one is irredeemable and that it’s possible to forgive anything, even murder, it’s only up to the people directly impacted by that act of violence to forgive IF they choose to do so. It doesn’t imply that society in general has to abandon its standards and avoid all judgment. The family of a murder victim may forgive the murderer, but the murderer will still have to face a judicial sentence, there’s no requirement that the whole of society forgive them too.

And, again, this was a very political phenomenon, as already noted above, with an impact well beyond the stories of single individuals who may have turned around. That’s great at individual level but does not cancel that political impact...
posted by bitteschoen at 8:43 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]


so that they may suffer the full consequences of their actions.

Justice isn't revenge.


And holding people accountable for their conduct is the former, not the latter. I've talked about this in other threads, but while I do believe in redemption and forgiveness, I also believe that they have to start with genuine contrition on the part of the former malefactor, and that there is an acknowledgement that going forward means that they have to accept the repercussions of their conduct, including the fact that not everyone will trust them anymore.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:58 AM on August 6 [16 favorites]


I have the suspicion that an appreciable percentage of the apologies may well stem from shame and growth, in which case that's well enough and I hope it's lasting, but that also draw from the same...not so much well of sexism, but more the aquifer of it. Women keep being expected to regulate the emotions of men, to endure angry tantrums and then be there-there-you-are-forgiven at apology performances after.

Also ask any abuse victim who trusts you enough to tell you just how many times someone acting shitty then gives a whole heartfelt spiel about what a bad place they were in, they're so ashamed, they've changed now. And they may well genuinely believe it in the saying! But...the 'but' carries a lot of weight.

A genuine apology is just as accepting of "no, fuck you forever" as it is with "you're forgiven" because a genuine apology isn't transactional and has no obligations, is the corner of the choir I'm tucked away in.
posted by Drastic at 9:09 AM on August 6 [54 favorites]


Heh. I remember a sign on the door of the office of an organizer for the local socialist party: To err is human, to forgive is not party policy.
posted by No Robots at 9:11 AM on August 6 [12 favorites]


There's no effective legal penalty that can currently be applied to people who say horribly abusive things anonymously over the internet, so it's basically the same as if they threatened someone in person 5 years ago but was never arrested for it (which is very common for young males who end up in bad company). Does it make sense to forgive those people? It depends on what you believe the point of punishment and forgiveness is. If either the physical or online perpetrators are still continuing to threaten and hurt others, it's never good to forgive them. But, it's hard/impossible in either case to know if this is true because there's not enough information so we only have their own words to go off of. This is exactly like hearing someone say "I did some bad things in my youth, but then I turned my life around" in person.

If the goal of punishment/forgiveness is to Enforce Moral Judgement, than you should never forgive either group because they probably have not paid their proper atonement. But if the goal is to Make the World Better, than you should forgive both groups because that is more likely to lead to better future behavior on their part, and generally makes the forgiver feel good. In this view punishment/forgiveness are mostly about deterring bad behavior and encouraging good behavior, so hurting someone psychologically just to make a moral point has no value.

I sometimes see the same people say that we should forgive those who committed violent (but not murder-level) crimes as part of a youth gang, but should never forgive GGers for what they did 5 years ago. This doesn't make any sense to me. Lots of people do bad things, many of them never get punished, and we should take the actions that make the world better overall.

Now, I'm not saying that any individual should feel pressure to forgive another individual who wronged them because that obviously can take a lot out of the individual doing the forgiving and in some situations could be harmful. But, for an outside observer to say that someone who committed moderate crimes should never be forgiven seems pointlessly mean to me.
posted by JZig at 9:19 AM on August 6 [14 favorites]


Yeah I highly doubt that someone who is genuinely repentant about participating in collective harassment and wants to make amends would be deterred by anyone else’s views on what they did.

I don't think this reflects a very realistic model of how ethical outlooks develop and evolve. Our ethics do not emerge from a Kantian disinterest. We shape and cultivate them over time, for pragmatic reasons, group identification and the protection of self-image. Our motivations in doing so are inextricably linked to self-interest, although they're not reducible simply to this. Such changes are mostly genuine, or become genuine, but all of us, as far as I can tell, are also hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent. Hypocrisy has its place in making society work. It's not a popular view, I recognise.

Creating a situation which makes ethical development costly and dangerous, and ethical stagnation cheap and safe, will discourage people from learning and changing.
posted by howfar at 9:27 AM on August 6 [20 favorites]


Creating a situation? How?
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:57 AM on August 6


By following advice such as this:

Let the entire world know who these GamerGaters are, so that they may suffer the full consequences of their actions.

And arguing that there is such a thing as:

an easy litmus test for "is this person a rotten piece of irredeemable shit that only gets to continue existing on this planet because it is wrong and problematic to consider jettisoning shitty people directly into the sun via catapult, if only because such a proposal would inevitably be used against decent people given the disproportionate number and power of shitty people in the world."


And various other suggestions that have been made in this thread.
posted by howfar at 10:13 AM on August 6 [10 favorites]


So individual people create a situation? Seems like a leap.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:15 AM on August 6


But, for an outside observer to say

Who exactly have you decided is an outside observer? These people created a harmful environment that affected - and permanently changed - many, many people's lives, relationships, and wellbeing. They invented a new kind of remote-control attempted murder.

that someone who committed moderate crimes should never be forgiven seems pointlessly mean to me.

In all likelihood 99.999% of these people are never going to know about 99.998% of the people who don't forgive them. Being unforgiven does not show up as an indicator over their forehead. They suffer exactly no consequences. Nobody's nephew is crying himself to sleep at night, or unemployable (unlike many of their most serious victims!), or has PTSD because mean old Lyn Never thinks they're kind of crap and doesn't forgive them. Applause all around to the handful who attempt some kind of restorative justice instead of just being sorry and trying to sweep their participation into the oubliette, but I may still choose not to invite them to my dinner parties. They'll live. Even though I'm so mean and my salads are quite nice.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:16 AM on August 6 [15 favorites]


I agree with Wu in principle.

People can definitely change as they mature and encounter the real world outside whatever bubbles of ignorance and hate they grew up in. Even grown-ass adults have been known to learn compassion in the place of bigotry.

That said, if I'd received serious threats of that nature, combined with doxxing etc. I don't know if I would be as gracious.
posted by Foosnark at 10:27 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]


Forgiveness and absolution are not the same thing. It's possible to cease feeling resentment towards someone without exacting a penalty for their actions without setting them free from guilt and the consequences of those actions. Wu seems to be doing the former and not the latter.

Forgiveness doesn't at all mean you have to be okay with something that someone did or the person who did it. It doesn't mean you have to pretend it never happened, and it certainly doesn't mean you have to be friends or even friendly. I would also agree that some things are unforgivable, although this really depends on the person doing the forgiving. Some people have forgiven the murderers of a loved one. I don't know whether I'd have that in me, but it's not for me to decide who or what a person can and cannot forgive. There are people who were unremittingly shitty to me for around a decade during my formative years, and I am still working through the effects of that many, many years later. But they were just as young and unformed during those years as I, and who knows what else they may have had going on in their lives. I can forgive them for what they did and I don't want to punish them, but it certainly doesn't mean I've forgotten or that I would absolve them. I've heard from friends who were approached at school reunions by old tormentors who sought to apologize. I could imagine accepting such an apology if it were offered, but that's where it would end. It's not like I'd ever want to know them, even after all these years. I get the sense that this is somewhere near where Wu is at (not that I'm in any way equating the magnitude of my experiences to hers).
posted by slkinsey at 10:39 AM on August 6 [12 favorites]


I sometimes see the same people say that we should forgive those who committed violent (but not murder-level) crimes as part of a youth gang, but should never forgive GGers for what they did 5 years ago. This doesn't make any sense to me. Lots of people do bad things, many of them never get punished, and we should take the actions that make the world better overall.

Make the world better for who, exactly? Part of the problem with the "redemption narrative" is that it too often relocates the locus of attention from the victims to the perpetrators, and asks those victims to engage in the "rehabilitation" of the people who harmed them, and who may have not addressed that harm which was done.

Needless to say, this does not send a good message to victims.

I was rewatching the Innuendo Studios video on right wing radicalization and recruitment, and Danskin makes an excellent point right before the conclusion - this cannot be the entirety of our praxis, both because there are more effective tactics to go after as well as the message it sends.

Forgiveness and absolution are not the same thing.

The problem is that they are routinely conflated for a number of reasons.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:46 AM on August 6 [14 favorites]


In the article, she gives the one example of someone following up to ask how she feels about that apology, and that's where she draws a line. Forgiving someone doesn't make them someone she's going to discuss her feelings with.
posted by RobotHero at 10:56 AM on August 6 [23 favorites]


Really hating the implications being made here that the real villains aren't the GGers/Nazis/etc, it's actually the marginalized people (who have perfectly valid reasons) not wanting to be used to rehabilitate them that are the problem.

Well said.

This is exactly why "cancel + person" / "cancel culture" must never be allowed to slide into everyday use.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:45 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Anyway. Can the supposedly left-wing children in anime fandom who are harassing LGBTQ creators and in some cases, sending death threats to showrunners please go next.

Ugggggh. Do I even want to know? Is this My Hero Academia nonsense, or some other anime's shitty fandom?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:04 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


I was gonna come in here and talk tough but I see that's been covered already.
posted by some loser at 12:18 PM on August 6 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I think what especially grates on me here is the perpetrator-first (aka white guys first) framework. If Briana Wu - who absolutely did take one of the largest servings of this shit - needs to forgive for her own wellbeing, and if it is beneficial for her to hear apologies, and feels that from her perspective doing so publicly shifts the culture to the better, that is good for her and hopefully for the culture. She should not be made into an inspirational poster that is then rolled up to smack all the other victims who are not choosing to do the same, and she shouldn't be ascribed intentions (absolution) she does not appear to have just because she's "supposed" to by certain rulebooks. This is an act that changes her relationship to the issue, not the perpetrators'.

Nobody deserves forgiveness. It's absolutely nothing to do with them, they should carry on feeling bad about doing bad things and finding their own ways to fix that problem. Do not put this burden, yet again, on marginalized and victimized people to be the bigger person and hand out Feel Better Free cards.

If you do bad things, the only thing you deserve is to fucking feel bad about it. If you don't like it, do the work to change the feeling. Do not ask for cookies. Do not demand free passes. It doesn't matter if you still had a prefrontal cortex the texture of slime mold, if you did harm the right and righteous thing to do is not whine about sad feefees but either go make restitution or, if that's not possible, try to go exert at least as much energy toward doing good.

It is entirely fine to think less of the people who don't do that. (Even if they are white men!) You absolutely get to apply that information to your assessment of their character and that does not make you mean. It makes them accountable.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:32 PM on August 6 [27 favorites]


Creating a situation which makes ethical development costly and dangerous, and ethical stagnation cheap and safe, will discourage people from learning and changing.

I guess I don’t see such a situation being created simply by virtue of a few comments in this thread saying they would not be as inclined as Wu to forgive something like the kind of harassment she (and others!) received. It’s not lack of forgiveness in case of a potential apology that has been fuelling the growth in size and influence of far-right movements of several kinds...

Sure, people can change and should be encouraged to change, but no one can expect or demand forgiveness a priori. Whether something can be forgiven depends on the nature of the offence, on how sincere the repentance and apology is, and how much that person has actually changed. Wu is being very generous here in forgiving people who reached out to her with an apology in private. I would imagine she feels like forgiving someone when she feels the apology is sincere enough. But here’s Wu herself making an example of someone who has not deserved forgiveness from the public at large. So she herself recognizes forgiveness can only come at certain conditions and is not a given...
posted by bitteschoen at 12:43 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


IMO it's much more complex than assuming they're irredeemably shitty people and have always been that way

The fact that nine out of ten of the dumbfuck dirtbags who did this have shown no inclination at all to offer any kind of apology is what's maintaining my own faith in the irredeemable shittiness of dumbfuck Gamergater dirtbags.
posted by flabdablet at 12:44 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]


It seems like a lot of people on this thread who are taking umbrage at talk of forgiveness feel like their own personal right to remain unforgiving has been usurped by people who are more willing to grant forgiveness. But that's not what's happening.

(1) People endorsing or approving of Brianna Wu forgiving these people != people moralizing or lecturing those who would personally prefer not to forgive. There is nobody on this thread who has said that forgiveness ought to be compulsory or that choosing not to forgive is morally wrong! (There was one person who said "fuck the unforgivers" but that was in response to a comment that was seemingly taking an angry stand against people's right to forgive on their own behalf? So, sigh, the hyperbole cancels out there.) The "pro-forgiveness" voices are pro-choice (to forgive), not pro-compulsory-forgiveness. The benefits of forgiving people are being noted here for the same reasons as the benefits of abortion tend to be noted in a thread where people argue about abortion rights: in order to show that many people see real benefits to making the choice to abort (or forgive), not in order to say that abortions (or forgiveness) must be compulsory for all.

(2) Forgiveness is a personal decision, not a societal one. Brianna Wu didn't forgive these people on behalf of all of society or on behalf of everyone who has been harmed by them - she forgave them on her own behalf only. And just because Brianna Wu forgave those people, doesn't mean you are also obligated to forgive them. Her forgiving them didn't take away your right to keep them unforgiven in your own heart for the damage they have caused to you ( for starters, they didn't even ask for your forgiveness, so the question of you forgiving them doesn't even arise!).
posted by MiraK at 12:51 PM on August 6 [36 favorites]


Also, all of the genuine benefits of forgiveness accrue to the forgiver rather than the forgivee. Forgiving even completely irredeemable shitheads who are never going to change and would never even dream of apologising for their irredeemable shitheadedness is a way to park their shitty interactions with you in the past where it belongs rather than have it eat away at you forever.

In other words, forgiveness can be a way of transmuting corrosive resentment into healthy indifference, and I suspect that this is what Wu is aiming for here.

Forgiveness is in no way absolution, as Wu's pointed comments about not having any intention of being friends with these arseholes and being totally not interested in having them crap on endlessly about their shitty lives to her (I'm paraphrasing) make perfectly clear. The fact of having been forgiven doesn't and can't make a shitty past act any less shit.
posted by flabdablet at 12:52 PM on August 6 [9 favorites]


It would be nice if the FPP at least mentioned the name of the woman at the center of this. There were a lot of "shes" who could be doling out forgiveness for GamerGate atrocities, but I have no free WaPo pagereads, the non-paywall link isn't working for me and I don't have time at the moment to read through all the comments to see if a name is mentioned.

On preview, I see it is Brianna Wu. Still a thing that should have been mentioned in the FPP.
posted by lhauser at 12:56 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]


I have no free WaPo pagereads, the non-paywall link isn't working for me

This kind of repeated annoyance stopped being an issue for me after I installed the Bypass Paywalls Clean extension (available for both Firefox and Chrome).
posted by flabdablet at 1:02 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


In other words, forgiveness can be a way of transmuting corrosive resentment into healthy indifference, and I suspect that this is what Wu is aiming for here.

Yep. As Malachy McCourt once said, “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

(There was one person who said "fuck the unforgivers" but that was in response to a comment that was seemingly taking an angry stand against people's right to forgive on their own behalf? So, sigh, the hyperbole cancels out there.)

They're on to me.
posted by No Robots at 1:05 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


Forgiveness can be a way of transmuting corrosive resentment into healthy indifference

Can I be super ultra annoying and pedantic about this for one hot second, because it really grinds my gears when people use the word "forgiveness" to mean the same as "letting go of resentment". I feel like half the angry arguments about forgiveness (like the one on this thread, even) comes down to people falling back on the latter interpretation when cornered by righteously indignant people who do not want to forgive.... and the problem is, that interpretation is easy to defend but actually bereft of meaning.

Letting go of resentment is something a person does for their own benefit and entirely on their own. It is entirely separate from forgiveness: a person can do both, or only one of the two, or neither. Forgiveness & letting go of resentment are almost unrelated to each other. Letting go of resentment requires no apology from the person who has wronged them. It is work done entirely by the victim of the wrong. It's a pure unadulterated good and should be totally uncontroversial.

Forgiveness is a gift you give to someone who has wronged you, which is at least as much for their benefit as yours. Forgiveness is NEVER granted unasked (like, can you imagine what an utter dickwad you'd have to be to go up to someone who is minding their own business and say to them, "I forgive you"). An apology and a request for forgiveness is a prerequisite for granting it. And then the victim has a choice whether to grant it or not.

Forgiveness can be a sublime and sacred act, one of the highest forms of goodness on earth, a profoundly human grace that can lift genuinely repentant wrongdoers out of their guilt and shame into a feeling of inner peace and an eased conscience - a state of being which gives them an increased capacity to do good in the world. But forgiveness is not always a pure, unadulterated good. Some apologies are transparently fake or inadequate, and yet victims may be eager to grant forgiveness for unhealthy reasons. So it can be controversial!

Oh jeez someone stop me from writing essays on MeFi five times a day. I need help.
posted by MiraK at 1:08 PM on August 6 [42 favorites]


^You make an important contribution in carefully distinguishing between letting go of resentment and forgiving, MiraK. Thanks.
posted by No Robots at 1:14 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Forgiveness is a gift you give to someone who has wronged you, which is at least as much for their benefit as yours. Forgiveness is NEVER granted unasked (like, can you imagine what an utter dickwad you'd have to be to go up to someone who is minding their own business and say to them, "I forgive you"). An apology and a request for forgiveness is a prerequisite for granting it. And then the victim has a choice whether to grant it or not.

I get what you're saying here, but I'm not sure it's forgiveness that you're talking about. Forgiveness, as I understand it and as I believe it is widely understood, is exactly the letting go of resentment and other negative emotions. It is not transactional and certainly does not require a request on the part of the offender. It sounds more like you're talking about accepting an apology which, sure, can be part of forgiveness but doesn't have to be. You can do either one without the other.
posted by slkinsey at 1:43 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Forgiveness can be a sublime and sacred act, one of the highest forms of goodness on earth, a profoundly human grace that can lift genuinely repentant wrongdoers out of their guilt and shame into a feeling of inner peace and an eased conscience - a state of being which gives them an increased capacity to do good in the world.

Speaking as somebody who has long been unrepentantly profane, that's never been my motivation for granting forgiveness on request and it's never been what I've meant when I've told somebody I've forgiven them. To me, the word "forgiveness" has always meant exactly "letting go of resentment", no more and no less, and when I tell somebody I forgive them, what I mean is exactly that I no longer resent them for what they did. It doesn't mean I like them. It doesn't mean I think they're a better person. If somebody wants me to think they're a better person then they need to put in the hours of doing enough good to demonstrate a consistently improved attitude.

If somebody has done wrong then it seems to me that their inner peace, eased conscience and increased capacity to do good in the world is a matter for them, not for their victims, and that if their repentance and demonstrated efforts to make amends are genuine then their inner peace will proceed from that without their victims' intervention. Using the fact that nobody they've hurt has conferred a gift of "profoundly human grace" as an excuse to continue wallowing in their own shit butters no parsnips as far as I'm concerned.
posted by flabdablet at 1:46 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


I just have to say it's pretty disappointing that 20+ members of this site have favorited a comment that is essentially "my family members are great, middle-finger to you, fellow MeFites".

The comment noted that a family member, once a "gamergater", is now a social activist. This progress is to be celebrated and recognized. People do change.

“Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering—remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don't want to repeat what happened.” Many here would do well to read Desmond and Mpho Tutu's The Book of Forgiving.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 1:53 PM on August 6 [16 favorites]


/deep sigh/

/walks over to the sign, flips the numeral/

It has been 0 days since a mefite has declared mobs and strugggle sessions to be the most viable path to universal justice
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 1:55 PM on August 6 [26 favorites]


Y'all , I do know that the distinction I've tried to make here between "letting go of resentment" and "forgiveness" goes against common usage and meaning attributed to forgiveness. I'm arguing for a change, that we should be more deliberate and careful about what we mean, that we should take the time to make this distinction. We are all so often at cross purposes when we debate about forgiveness because we are mixing up the two meanings. It would be useful to use these two separate terms rather than muddle them both into one word and nobody knows what anyone's talking about but we're all yelling at one another.

> To me, the word "forgiveness" has always meant exactly "letting go of resentment", no more and no less,

Really? I don't believe you! Look, there is literally nobody on earth that would object to the concept of letting go of resentment. It's totally uncontroversial. It's always good and always right to let go of resentment. We should all have the goal of eventually letting go of all our resentments.

But I strongly doubt that you would agree with the statement: "It's always good and always right to forgive people. You should have the goal of eventually forgiving everyone in your life who has wronged you". If I said that to you, I bet you'd be pissed off at me! As you should! Because forgiveness is NOT the same as letting go of resentments.
posted by MiraK at 1:56 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]


I just have to say it's pretty disappointing that 20+ members of this site have favorited a comment that is essentially "my family members are great, middle-finger to you, fellow MeFites".

Perhaps they were favouriting it for reasons that were less simplistic and out of context than your read?
posted by biffa at 1:57 PM on August 6 [13 favorites]


But I strongly doubt that you would agree with the statement: "It's always good and always right to forgive people. You should have the goal of eventually forgiving everyone in your life who has wronged you". If I said that to you, you'd be pissed off at me!

Speak entirely for yourself on that. I do, in fact, agree with that statement completely, though I often fall quite short of its goals. I want to be able to forgive everyone who's wronged me. I want them to come to a place where they can recognize and admit that fault, and I can forgive them, and we can move forward as members of a community of humanity. I pray, quite sincerely, every night that every heart be moved to justice, mercy, repentence, and compassion. I want to live in a world where forgiveness can flow like water, because people work hard, every day, to learn from their mistakes and let go of the incredible appealing ego-trip of holding grudges.

Tell me my face that I'm virtue-signaling, or can only say that because I've never known pain, and you know what? I'll forgive you for it, because you'd be saying those words in anger, when if you stopped and thought for a moment you'd realize instantly that you don't know me or my struggles or what wrongs have been done to me.

Moving on, as a coda:

Justice and forgiveness are not the same. Those who seek forgiveness should also welcome justice being done. Their repentence should be factored in to the nature of that justice.

Mobs and public shaming are not justice.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 2:05 PM on August 6 [9 favorites]


> Speak entirely for yourself on that. I do, in fact, agree with that statement completely,

That's so interesting. Sorry for speaking in absolutes. I just genuinely haven't encountered anyone before who would argue that forgiveness IS compulsory.

(edit: compulsory not in the way that death and taxes are, but in the way that healthy food or clean air is)
posted by MiraK at 2:07 PM on August 6


So, fuck the unforgivers.

That includes people here, so yes, I think that's against fellow Mefites, and against the spirit supposedly established on this site. I'm disappointed it wasn't deleted or asked to be reworded.
posted by tiny frying pan at 2:11 PM on August 6 [7 favorites]


Against people who did nothing wrong originally so it's especially strange as a sentiment.
posted by tiny frying pan at 2:12 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


> That's so interesting. Sorry for speaking in absolutes. I just genuinely haven't encountered anyone before who would argue that forgiveness IS compulsory.

I think it's the ideal. Not compulsory. Nothing in that hypothetical statement indicated it was compulsory. It indicated that the speaker believes a world of forgiveness is the highest goal, and I agree with that statement. Did you read anything else I posted? Let me quote for you

I do, in fact, agree with that statement completely, though I often fall quite short of its goals. I want to be able to forgive everyone who's wronged me. I want them to come to a place where they can recognize and admit that fault, and I can forgive them, and we can move forward as members of a community of humanity.


Justice and forgiveness are not the same. Those who seek forgiveness should also welcome justice being done. Their repentence should be factored in to the nature of that justice.

Mobs and public shaming are not justice.


Please read these statement carefully and then say in exact words what precisely you believe I believe.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 2:14 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


It does seem like people are using Forgive in different ways here. Personally I was using it to mean "thanking the other person and telling them that they are forgiven" as described in the article, but it could also mean "forgive in your own heart" or "forgive publicly for the benefit of observers". That's not even getting into the emotional part of what personal forgiveness actually is. I'm not sure how separable these are in English, I wonder if there are better words in German or something.

Up until this article was posted, the only people directly impacted at all by the acts of forgiveness were Brianna and the other people. That is no longer true because this article kind of makes those acts public, but we're all still third party observers of Brianna's specific acts of forgiveness.

This last bit is just my personal moral philosophy but I feel like internal forgiveness is almost always good, unless it leads to the victim getting back into a dangerous situation. Person-to-person forgiveness is similar but involves the person being forgiven. I think the discussion around "public forgiveness" is way more complicated morally and is related to rather public punishment in a specific situation is "good" or not.
posted by JZig at 2:14 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


Can I be super ultra annoying and pedantic about this for one hot second, because it really grinds my gears when people use the word "forgiveness" to mean the same as "letting go of resentment".

I think it's too simple to directly equate forgiveness with letting go of resentment, but I do think there's a strong relationship between the two, for a lot of people; the act of forgiving is a symbolic gesture that's tied to the letting go of resentment, the same way you might write down your negative thoughts in a letter and burn it into order to let go of those negative thoughts. (Or burn a box of your ex's stuff to get over your ex.) Obviously there's not a direct correlation - nothing about the actual fire itself directly affects your brain, nor does forgiving someone make it impossible to hang on to resentment - but that symbolic act can and often does have power, because we imbue it with meaning. (And it's more practical than finding an actual hatchet to bury, these days.)

So: you can let go of resentment, without forgiving someone. You can forgive someone, without letting go of resentment. But in practice, the act of forgiving someone is often a symbolic act that powerfully signifies (to both parties) our intention to let go of resentment.

"It's always good and always right to forgive people. You should have the goal of eventually forgiving everyone in your life who has wronged you". If I said that to you, you'd be pissed off at me!

See, I disagree with your first sentence and agree with your second - it is not always good and right to forgive people, because sometimes you're in a position where those people can still wrong you you. But it should absolutely be your goal to forgive everyone in your life who has wronged you - by first getting yourself into a situation where they can't, or won't, wrong you again, at which point there stops being a benefit to holding onto resentment and there's only downsides.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:19 PM on August 6 [6 favorites]


Two thoughts, neither of which is original:

The quality of mercy is not strained

&

Use every man after his desert and who shall 'scape whipping?
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:21 PM on August 6 [9 favorites]


MiraK, so sorry for the above comment. I wrote and posted it before I saw your edit - this is what I get for threadsitting.

I'm not sure what you mean exactly, still, but I think clarifying my terms will help.

Forgiveness: someone comes to you and says "I fucked up. I'm sorry," and you either know or choose to believe they mean it. You then say "I accept your apology," and generally spend some time talking honestly without blame to understand how the moment of harm happened - unpacking it, if you will.

Justice: the thing that must happen regardless of forgiveness or lack thereof, though sincere repentence should be a factor in what that looks like. This is not about reconciling individuals to each other, but reconciling an individual with the community.

Letting go: the thing you have to do eventually when neither forgiveness nor justice are possible, lest you become a tiny shriveled ball of hate and bitterness - at least that's how it works for me.

An ideal world: one where justice and forgiveness walk hand in hand, and all justice is restorative in nature.

How do we reach this ideal world? No fucking clue. But not by wanking ourselves raw about the decision of a person who is not us to forgive people who hurt her when they asked, and certainly not by advocating for mobs and public humiliation.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 2:23 PM on August 6 [10 favorites]


So, fuck the unforgivers.

What I mean by that is that those who have repented should not persist in demanding forgiveness from those who refuse it. Rather, the repentant should move on, and allow the unforgivers to own their own response.
posted by No Robots at 2:39 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist, your definitions and distinctions are quite close to what I was trying to put forth - except that I think Letting Go isn't just something that happens as a last resort when justice and forgiveness aren't possible, but rather it is compulsory work that everyone MUST do as part of our responsibility towards maintaining our emotional and psychological health. We have to do it even when justice and forgiveness have already occurred. While justice and forgiveness can sometimes make letting go of resentment easier, they are not substitutes for it.

In any case, the distinction I wanted to note is that I feel quite comfortable saying, for instance, to someone on AskMe, "You should let go of resentment," but I would consider it flagrantly disrespectful to say, "You should forgive this person who wronged you." And I had honestly believed that any reasonable person would agree with me here, so it is coming as a surprise to me that people don't agree! Blows my mind that some here on this thread would find it equally acceptable to say either of those statements interchangeably, because they see no distinction at all between forgiveness and letting go of resentment.
posted by MiraK at 2:40 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


I feel like you're responding to me with some passive-aggression here, which I'm not sure is warranted and don't appreciate. I admit fault in that I assumed bad faith initially. I thought your edit clarified that you were speaking in good faith. I am now no longer sure what is going on.

As a rule, I do not say anything on AskMe, because I don't believe in advice columns or websites. I generally give non-technical advice only when asked, by individuals, for my specific take on it. If a friend said "this person who hurt is apologizing and asking to meet" I would ask a series of questions about the nature of the harm, the liklihood of sincerity, and the feelings of safety of that individual. When giving advice, it is appropriate to consider the worldview of the advisee before your own, so while I might mention my feelings about forgiveness if asked, I would not impose them on someone who indicated they did not desire to forgive.

On the other hand, if the problem was that the person had a pattern of insincere apology/apology as manipulation, and/or that seeking justice had also failed, I would recommend - after safety and security were secured and assured - letting go of it for the wellbeing of that individual in almost any situation involving a grudge that will essentially go nowhere - the person is not repentent, and the courts don't care, so all you can do is tend to your own wounds.

Believing in forgiveness doesn't make me an idiot or an evangelical.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 2:48 PM on August 6


Definitely not trying to be passive aggressive, just fyi. And I'm pretty confused about what you think I'm trying to say. If it helps, none of that is personally directed at you. I don't know you or your habits at all. Your comment comes across as if you're defending yourself from an attack, so I want to reassure you I am not attacking. I am certainly not calling you an idiot or an evangelical!
posted by MiraK at 2:50 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


All right then! I'm autistic and I really struggle with tone even in text. Again, my sincere apology for all this.

But yes basically I really do think that forgiveness and reconciliation are the highest possible good. Unforch we do live in the real world and sometimes we have to settle for an acceptable possible good. Or even a least possible good. As for why, other than "it's what I intuitively feel is right and no arguement otherwise has managed to sway me for long" all I have is that I am follower of the Abrahmic god and I take that seriously, including the really difficult parts.

I wouldn't impose that on anyone else, of course. The thing that I percieve as happening here in this thread, a lot, is that people are saying "Brianna's choice isn't one I could make" a lot less loudly then they're saying "this isn't a choice anyone should make."

I don't find that really a kind or useful thing to say, because her forgiveness isn't theirs to deny any more than their forgiveness is hers to give. And I am really deeply uncomfortable with calls for ritual public humiliation or other retribution as the barrier to re-entry of civil society, for reasons I would hope would be obvious and secular.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 3:10 PM on August 6 [6 favorites]


I guess my perspective is women are angry for a multitude of damn good reasons. Asking for forgiveness or expecting an apology listen is awfully forward, to me.
posted by tiny frying pan at 3:22 PM on August 6 [7 favorites]


But yes basically I really do think that forgiveness and reconciliation are the highest possible good.

This is something that I have to disagree heavily with, because it places reconciliation ahead of the well-being of those who were harmed, and I've seen this sort of argument used to pressure those victims into making a "reconciliation" that they were not wanting. As I've said before, I believe in restorative justice - but I also believe that it must start with contrition, because you can't rebuild with someone who does not understand what they did wrong and the harm they did. Placing reconciliation as the goal above the well-being of those harmed, no matter how good intentioned it may be, in my mind sets up a problematic tension that too often gets resolved at the expense of victims.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:30 PM on August 6 [7 favorites]


too often gets resolved at the expense of victims

Or even simply by invisibling victims altogether. That was one of the things about Brianna's position as described in this article that doesn't sit right with me. All the focus is on "but what about the ones who apologize? don't they deserve a way back?" and it does come at the expense of "but what about the ones who were victimized? don't they deserve a way back?" We have on the internet (and in culture at large) literally 100x more articles and think pieces and novels and music and dramas on how to guide the repentant wrongdoers back into the fold than on how to nurture victims back into a healed state. It IS either-or at least to some extent, because resources are scarce and so is attention.

The irony is that I'm saying this even though I totally agree with a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist that forgiveness is one of the highest forms of good and her observation that many on this thread seem to think Brianna's individual right to forgive creates some kind of obligation on *them* to do the same?, and even though I think what No Robots did for his nephews is what will save humanity from itself. It's 100% both-and for me. I begrudge every moment we spend talking about perpetrators and also I'm beyond grateful for those who are able to guide perpetrators towards becoming worthy of forgiveness.
posted by MiraK at 3:47 PM on August 6 [6 favorites]


Asking for "forgiveness" is a pretty craven thing. I mean, put the work in to be better and definitely genuinely apologize, but actually asking to be forgiven is once again putting a burden on the person who was wronged in the first place. Granting forgiveness can be one of the noblest things a person can do, but it should not be asked for, indeed the asking may, depending on the wronged person's state of mind and personal distance from the wrong, just be salting the wound.
posted by maxwelton at 3:49 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]


it places reconciliation ahead of the well-being of those who were harmed, and I've seen this sort of argument used to pressure those victims into making a "reconciliation" that they were not wanting.

The fact that something can be used badly may warrant caution and even various forms of restraint around it, but it's not really an adequate reason for rejecting it outright. There are not many tools or principles that can only be used well. Most can be worn as pretenses for personal failings or even outright intentional disguises for bad faith. This likely includes some things you think of as high ideals too.

And I'd say any engagement that doesn't care about the well-being of those harmed can't be justly called reconciliation. The vision of those recommending it here almost certainly includes concern for that well-being. Which means it's probably more productive to make wise judgments about what qualifies as reconciliation worthy of the name using that distinction than it is to reject the entire ideal.
posted by weston at 3:51 PM on August 6 [7 favorites]


I am a woman who has been semi-doxxed and harassed online. I no longer participate in some social media spaces because of it.

I also belong to a faith that puts a ton of emphasis on reconciliation, forgiveness, justice, and peacemaking as part of a commitment to nonviolence, and this thread really demonstrates to me how far our culture has to go with developing the complexity needed to work through these painful topics. I share the concern of others who are noting the strong reactions to Brianna Wu's approach ("well good for her but *I* could never and fuck em"). And that bums me out.
posted by mostly vowels at 3:54 PM on August 6 [15 favorites]


I am in agreement with weston, re: care for victims, not throwing the baby out with the bathwater and the ultimate falliability of any human system or ideology.

I don't think that assumption of bad faith on my part is merited. I would have clarified more fully on the subject had I been asked. I had thought my repeated emphasis on the sincerity of the repentence etc would have been enough, but apparently I did not say so loudly or absolutely enough to be heard.

edit: deleted a sentence that didnt say what i meant it to re: bad faith getting hurled at other mefites and unwillingness to believe this is a place with nuance, may have to duck out of this thread for a while.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 3:59 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


I am about one million places towards the back of the the line of people harmed by gamergaters, but I did get called into a meeting with my employer when one came at them by way of my twitter bio. If my read on this issue is simplistic, that’s why.

I’m glad the nephews turned out well.
posted by FallibleHuman at 4:06 PM on August 6


There is apparently still no Correct Way to be a woman who has survived abuse, but damned if society isn’t perpetually throwing ticker-tape parades for every man who tearfully swears he doesn’t abuse women anymore.

File forgiveness alongside smiles, sex, and a captive audience for your boring stories. Women don’t owe you any of these things just because you feel bad. Do the work on your own. Sit with the guilt instead of making it our responsibility.
posted by armeowda at 4:12 PM on August 6 [18 favorites]


Armeowda, this sneering conviction that anyone not in total agreement with you must be the enemy is exactly the counterproductive thing I was talking about.

I am not throwing them a ticker tape parade. I am admiring a decision I find highly moral by a woman who had every justifiable reason not to make that decision, and nonetheless chose to have faith that at least some of the people who approached her really meant it, and were really trying to change. I do not believe people are incapable of change. I do believe victims have a right to set boundaries with their victimizers. I would never tell someone to set a boundary somewhere else.

And I would appreciate not being told that my boundaries are wrong and evil for not being set where yours are when I have never done the same to you.

As I said before, my forgiveness is not yours to deny any more than yours is mine to give. I have never claimed otherwise. Do not put the words of abusers and malicious actors in my mouth. Do not put them in Brianna Wu's.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 4:20 PM on August 6 [12 favorites]


all I have is that I am follower of the Abrahmic god and I take that seriously, including the really difficult parts.

I'm so glad you said this! As I have been reading this discussion, I have been thinking a lot about the parable of the prodigal son, especially how, when the father forgives the younger son, the older son says "WTF?!" and the dad says "you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours, but thy younger brother was lost and now he is found." That makes a lot of sense to me, largely because, as has been pointed out in this thread, it's a good policy for encouraging people to stop being jerks.

As I was reading about the prodigal son, I learned that there is a similar story in the Buddhist Lotus Sutra, in which a wayward son comes back to his father and gains forgiveness, but the details work out somewhat differently. It's an interesting contrast.
posted by factory123 at 4:22 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


I'm so glad you said this! As I have been reading this discussion, I have been thinking a lot about the parable of the prodigal son, especially how, when the father forgives the younger son, the older son says "WTF?!" and the dad says "you are ever with me, and all that I have is yours, but thy younger brother was lost and now he is found."

I'm looking at the person angry and shocked that other people favorited the comment about the young GamerGaters who came to their senses and wondering if they're familiar with this story:
Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
I'm an atheist and don't attempt to live by Biblical values, but as a person who has observed the perpetual frailty of humankind I can at least understand this approach. It's at least not a shocking injustice.
posted by praemunire at 4:52 PM on August 6 [6 favorites]


I think I'm hung up on the distinction between an expression of apology and a request for forgiveness.

Nobody who expresses contrition deserves forgiveness, but it is a good thing that they are expressing contrition, and that Ms. Wu isn't throwing that back in their faces. Regardless of whether she is letting go the resentment (which I think would be very difficult), that she doesn't overtly reject their apology is beneficial for public discourse and good for the contrite former GGers.

I don't know that I need to know if Ms. Wu actually forgives them: it's the expression of contrition that is the most important thing here, I think. It would be better if they went on to actually make amends, but I guess that's outside the scope of the article.
posted by suelac at 4:55 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


I really hate this post title - I get the impulse for it - but brutally misogynistic comments towards women online isn't an "error" like a baseball fuckup.

I take responsibility for the title, tiny frying pan. It's an old saw that's lost its original meaning. I read it as, "People screw up and hurt others every day. It takes something far beyond human understanding, something akin to divinity, to forgive them when they do."

In Brianna Wu's shoes, could I forgive them? Not a chance. So I admire and recognize her for having the soul to do it.

If there's no path back for these people when they realize the awfulness of what they've done, and express remorse, why would any of them ever come back at all? They'd remain permanently aggrieved, permanently self-justified, and permanently weaponized by the unethical, sociopathic forces that abuse them to seize power.

Maybe I can't forgive them, but I'm glad somebody can.
posted by panglos at 5:01 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Disappointed is not the same thing as angry or shocked. I see now that i should have omitted the nephews from my first post, which was always about the next part.

Apologies to everyone for the derail.
posted by FallibleHuman at 5:08 PM on August 6


If there's no path back for these people when they realize the awfulness of what they've done, and express remorse, why would any of them ever come back at all?

Because it's the right thing to do?
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:52 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


Broadly speaking, we on the left have a huge problem, and that is our lack of a script for forgiveness, and our contempt for the idea that we should even have one.

Brianna Wu is doing exactly the right thing, at what I can only imagine is considerable personal cost.

To the many, many people in this thread expressing exactly that kind of derision, I would gently ask whether 20 years of open contempt towards (just as an example) Men As A Concept have led to the achievement of the political goals we purport to be aiming for. In my view, it has not.

Let’s set aside the notion of whether we “should” have to do something, and instead ask whether doing that thing will further the project of achieving progressive social goals. Sometimes it’s useful to consider whether an action has strategic utility even when it lacks moral necessity.

Forgiving genuinely remorseful men and thereby showing them that there is a place for them in the world we want to build furthers the project. Spitting in their face—no matter how satisfying, no matter how warranted—does not.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:59 PM on August 6 [21 favorites]


Because it's the right thing to do?

just gonna comment howfar:
I don't think this reflects a very realistic model of how ethical outlooks develop and evolve. Our ethics do not emerge from a Kantian disinterest. We shape and cultivate them over time, for pragmatic reasons, group identification and the protection of self-image. Our motivations in doing so are inextricably linked to self-interest, although they're not reducible simply to this. Such changes are mostly genuine, or become genuine, but all of us, as far as I can tell, are also hypocrites to a greater or lesser extent. Hypocrisy has its place in making society work. It's not a popular view, I recognise.

Creating a situation which makes ethical development costly and dangerous, and ethical stagnation cheap and safe, will discourage people from learning and changing.
posted by schroedinger at 8:06 PM on August 6 [15 favorites]


Broadly speaking, we on the left have a huge problem, and that is our lack of a script for forgiveness, and our contempt for the idea that we should even have one.

I have neither seen a lack of a script for forgiveness nor contempt for the idea on the left. Instead, what I've seen is opposition to the idea of forgiveness as the obligation of the victimized. Victims are not obligated to forgive their abusers, and when we act otherwise, all that serves to do is revictimize them, and tell them that we will not keep them safe. Opposition to toxic masculinity comes not from a place of contempt (far from it, actually - one of the points is to help men to stop hurting themselves), and to read it as contempt is to buy into the arguments of its defenders wholesale.

Creating a situation which makes ethical development costly and dangerous, and ethical stagnation cheap and safe, will discourage people from learning and changing.

Ethical development is by its very nature costly and dangerous, because that's how personal development works. Too many times, making ethical development "safer" turns out to be asking the rest of us to turn a blind eye to ethical lapses.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:51 PM on August 6 [17 favorites]


When discussing or asserting meanings of the word “forgiveness,” it may be of interest to watch or read the transcript of a 2015 talk on “Forgiveness and the African American Church Experience,” by Dr. Albert Raboteau of Princeton University.

I recall hearing this discussed at the time. The immediate context was the fact that some of the family members of those killed in the Charleston church shooting publicly forgave the shooter. But it led to a broader conversation about the meaning of forgiveness in African-American Christianity, which really changed and challenged my white-American-Catholic understanding of what forgiveness can mean and be and do. It isn’t about absolution, or the personal growth of the people being forgiven. It is more “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

(I am aware that Brianna Wu is not an African-American Christian, but the discussion seems to have expanded to the nature of forgiveness in general. So I felt that this link might be relevant.)
posted by snowmentality at 9:04 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


I guess the trick there is, do you want the right thing to get done even if it's for the wrong reason or do you want to ensure only the right sort of people ever do the right thing? I admit there, I'm just kind of counter-responding to the quippiness of this, you'll have to forgive me the indulgence.

On the other hand, are we placing the burden of forgiving people to "get the right thing done" on those who were already bearing the burden of being harassed by those people in the first place? Do we want to go full Those Who Stay at Omelas for this? We get out of it with the fewest alt-right assholes as possible, but at the expense of certain people bearing the full brunt of the experience?
posted by RobotHero at 10:13 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Part of what's infuriating about trolls isn't just their aggression, it's their aggressive cluelessness.

To the extent that the people writing to Brianna Wu (not all of them men) have acquired clues, that's a relief. I think I'd feel relief in her position. This doesn't mean she's obliged to forgive them, but I don't think she's made a mistake to do so.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:14 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]


> I have neither seen a lack of a script for forgiveness nor contempt for the idea on the left.

Then we have not read the same thread, and more broadly have not witnessed the same interactions and statements. To me, the contempt—here and elsewhere—is palpable.

> Instead, what I've seen is opposition to the idea of forgiveness as the obligation of the victimized.

I certainly didn’t say that, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else in his thread say as much.

> Victims are not obligated to forgive their abusers, and when we act otherwise, all that serves to do is revictimize them, and tell them that we will not keep them safe.

Nobody has said otherwise.

Eventually we are going to have reckon with the idea that if we want a better society, we have to be willing to exceed our obligations. If the argument is that this constitutes a slippery slope that must never be approached, well—I simply don’t agree.
posted by Sokka shot first at 12:30 AM on August 7 [9 favorites]


20 years of open contempt towards (just as an example) Men As A Concept

What?

Really?

I definitely didn't think the trope of man hating feminists would be brought up here simply because some people think the onus is too frequently on women to be in raptures over a man who has done any kind of minor reparation work after they sent rape and/or death threats to anonymous women.

It must be that women are overreacting.
posted by tiny frying pan at 3:37 AM on August 7 [24 favorites]


No one "creates a situation" that hurts abusers with their individual feelings and its really rude to put that on anyone here for feeling how they do. Victim blaming indeed.
posted by tiny frying pan at 3:39 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


>> Victims are not obligated to forgive their abusers, and when we act otherwise, all that serves to do is revictimize them, and tell them that we will not keep them safe.

> Nobody has said otherwise.


Hmm there have been several comments in this thread judging "unforgivers" negatively and arguing that lack of forgiveness alone would be "causing a situation" that blocks the growth and change of former abusers. If that’s not putting the burden on the victims... It does seem to be implying an obligation to forgive, for the greater good of allowing the abusers to achieve growth and redemption.

Brianna Wu wrote "If I can understand people can grow past their worst moments, I think the rest of us can too. We need a conversation about redemption". I somehow don’t think that "can" was meant to be read as "must". We’re talking rape and death threats here. It’s perfectly legitimate for other people who commented to say they wouldn’t forgive rape and death threats! I personally admire what she’s saying, but I don’t know how I would respond if I received a private personal apology after something like that. I’d rather be left alone and not have to face a former harasser again. Wu herself says she responded like this to someone who wanted to continue the conversation: "leave me alone and never do this to anyone else". That’s probably all I could manage myself.

Forgiveness is not some magic power that the victims of harassment have to use in order for the harassers to reform. Reform and change is entirely the work of the person who has committed the offence.

Anyhow, there’s been a lot of talk here already about the meaning and nature of forgiveness in general, at the risk of losing sight of the actual context of the post. Let’s keep in mind that what we’re talking about here was a form of collective targeted harassment that went well beyond single individuals, and its lasting impact on a cultural and political level unfortunately doesn’t get magically canceled out by means of a few individual examples of people feeling sorry, or even going beyond that and becoming "fully engaged social activists". Sure it’s great that some people (a minority, by Wu’s own admission) have apologized and become better persons, but beyond that? There’s been no public accountability and growth and change at the collective level. Here’s what Anita Sarkeesian, who was one of the women targeted, wrote a couple of years back about that lack of accountability - some relevant quotes:
No look back at video games in the last decade is complete without an honest, clear-eyed reckoning with GamerGate, the massive, decentralized hate-mob temper tantrum that upended people’s lives in the late summer of 2014. Nor can we ignore the game industry’s complicity in GamerGate, through its shameful silence in the face of a reactionary mob of “gamers.”

...It can sometimes be difficult to explain just how vicious, violent, and cruel GamerGate was. Or how it has metastasized across our culture.

...While women were being attacked, enduring the emotional and psychological abuse of brutal, nonstop cruelty and dehumanization, and fleeing their homes in fear, the vast majority of the games industry stayed silent.

...Most major game publishers and developers remained deafeningly silent, and their silence spoke volumes about what really mattered most to them.

Much of the games press remained silent, too, until enough pressure mounted that they made statements, often milquetoast statements, that were insulting in the face of what so many women had endured.

Thankfully, in the years since, we’ve seen real change begin to manifest in games, but we’ll never know what impact it may have had if the industry had roundly condemned GamerGate at its peak.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:57 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


Let the entire world know who these GamerGaters are, so that they may suffer the full consequences of their actions.

A situational irony: this exact approach to bullying was the initial project of one of the drifting grifters of the right wing, whose resumee of infamy includes a stint as a useful idiot for GamerGate.
posted by jackbishop at 6:10 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I don't believe you!

I meant exactly what I said, so obviously I believe me, but whether or not you do is entirely your call.

The word I generally use for the concept that you appear to be labelling as "forgiveness" is "absolution", and I agree that the distinction is worthwhile even though properly absolving another person for the hurts they've inflicted is not something I actually believe it is possible to do.

Absolution, to my way of thinking, has to come from within, and mistaking somebody else's forgiveness for one's own absolution is an error.
posted by flabdablet at 6:29 AM on August 7


This is a really long thread, and I would like to call attention to one of the first comments and underscore it: many of the participants in GamerGate - not the instigators, but those who followed - were children, literally children and teens. We were all a bit sociopathic and swayed by our peers at that age. Just like I don't think any child should ever be tried as an adult, I think age makes a huge difference in culpability.

Secondly, if you had read the article, you would know that Wu describes the people apologising to her as both sincerely repentent - and also that several had told her about their own struggles and pain that contributed to their lashing out. For everyone in the thread talking about "men getting away with things", please note that this also includes a trans woman who was closeted and in denial at the time - and yes, she is now in a very different place (and never a man).

Things are complicated; people are complicated. Those of us who have never hurt anyone, never done anything in anger or fear or hurt or plain ignorance that ended up hurting someone much worse than we realised -- well, maybe you're just angels, because I have. I have done things I am very ashamed of (and nope, not going to itemise them).

No one is owed forgiveness - and forgiveness is not forgetting or absolving.

I do happen to think that forgiveness is a kind of letting go - certainly when I forgive someone, it has that effect on me. I admire Wu's choice - and I also recognize that (if she's like me) this may also be a part of her healing.
posted by jb at 7:34 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


To follow on: at no point have any of the instigators or power enablers actually apologized, so that's not an issue. The people apologising are sincere.
posted by jb at 7:36 AM on August 7


Eventually we are going to have reckon with the idea that if we want a better society, we have to be willing to exceed our obligations.

Here's the thing - the idea that we need to "exceed our obligations" always just gets applied to one side of the matter, and it's the one that has the victims. We see this all over - we're told that we need to show "understanding" to anti-vaxxers who are putting the lives of those who can't be vaccinated at risk, or how we need to be understanding of the people who are spouting hateful, bigoted rhetoric and causing the targets of that rhetoric to hide themselves for safety.

Which is why I am at the point of fuck that noise. We don't get to a better society by demanding that people who have been abused and harmed pick up the slack for their abusers, as the numerous threads here discussing emotional labor have pointed out. Telling the abused that they "need" to forgive their abusers while doing nothing to hold those abusers accountable only serves to continue to abuse them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:16 AM on August 7 [14 favorites]


Accountability gets brought up in these threads a lot, but noticeably nobody who does this seems to step further than saying that someone should be held that way.

This is a clear hole in the process, because I notice that people don't have agreed upon definitions. More than that, I really notice a lot of people who were only peripherally or not at all involved in issues at large being very concerned that someone who did wrong is adequately "accountable".

I think it's a nuanced point, but there is also shades of self defensive moral rejection. As well as shades of people getting upset at ethical vegans for existing because they feel judged, I feel in this case forgiveness is being used as a stand in for some people as a particular kind of indulgent "boys will be boys" enabling, and I think any conversation about forgiving or not probably should include what the expectations of outcome the person has.

In the case of Gamergate you can argue it made the situation shitty for the entire population, not just the direct targets of the abuse. So the general population could argue those on the other side harmed them too, but what precisely does accountability look like, other than an apology and an understanding that they know they did wrong and you can therefore trust they won't keep doing it? Deterrents that "make an example of them"? A tax? Volunteer labour? Public shaming for educational re-enforcement?

It's not to say people are *wrong* to be reticent, but as a largely soft pacifist weenie, I do notice that outside of reasonable banishing the "both sides" inclusion of perspectives that are hostile to the existence or safety of vulnerable groups, the same population that wants to abolish prisons, eternal felon status, and police can get mighty punishment oriented.
posted by Phalene at 9:34 AM on August 7 [10 favorites]


I also think it's worth considering...for those of us who are white/cis/straight/[men], we have almost certainly in the past seriously injured someone who was not. Probably not at the level of rape/death threats (hopefully), but inflicted significant pain through careless bigotry. And, if those examples were brought to our attention, we would believe we would not do or say those things today. The people we injured did not owe us forgiveness, but some of them did forgive us. I can think of some disconcerting enough examples for myself and I'm sure I was oblivious to some other pain I caused someone in a marginalized group. I think this calls for some humility in our determinations of who can and cannot be forgiven.
posted by praemunire at 9:53 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


there have been several comments in this thread...arguing that lack of forgiveness alone would be "causing a situation" that blocks the growth and change of former abusers.

No. There haven't. Please don't misrepresent things that I've said. It's neither polite nor persuasive.
posted by howfar at 10:32 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


Mod note: Note on belated delete of a comment early in the thread: there's a lot of difficult intersecting feelings about stuff in this discussion, which is fine and expected, but we need people not to boil that down to literally "fuck [people with the other opinion]". There is a basic level of trying that need to happen here, that wasn't it. Please read and digest the Guidelines.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:15 AM on August 7 [5 favorites]


If we want people to be on our side, our side has to be worth being on.
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:17 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


As I said before, my forgiveness is not yours to deny any more than yours is mine to give. I have never claimed otherwise. Do not put the words of abusers and malicious actors in my mouth. Do not put them in Brianna Wu's.

This is an interesting way to end a comment that spends several paragraphs on the assumption that I was addressing you or Wu. For the record, I sincerely wasn’t.

The comment that sparked my “sneering contempt,” as you call it, was the one boasting about young male relatives outgrowing GG and saying “f*** the unforgivers”, which has evidently since been deleted.

My contempt for that attitude stands.
posted by armeowda at 11:50 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


howfar, your comment wasn’t the only one that to me sounded like implying a shift of the onus on the forgiver/unforgiver, and there was no intention to misrepresent there, I just conflated from memory some of the arguments that were being made in the thread, but honestly, what did that phrase at the end of your comment mean then? "Creating a situation which makes ethical development costly and dangerous, and ethical stagnation cheap and safe, will discourage people from learning and changing." Can you clarify what you mean by that, in the specific context of this post about someone who was a target of awful harassment? Who is creating that situation, in your view?

Perhaps I should clarify my own comment you were replying to - I was trying to say that I do not believe someone who is genuinely repentant would be deterred (from apologizing and changing and making amends etc.) by the prospect of their apology not being accepted, or the prospect of their victim not forgiving them. I will add: I imagine the people who reached out to Brianna Wu were hoping for their apologies to be accepted and for her to forgive them, but they did reach out regardless, they took the first step of apologizing, and if their apology is sincere they must have considered that Wu could have ignored them or even be irritated by their contacting her at all (which would have been her perfect prerogative, as former victim of harassment).

I think "ethical stagnation" is always the easy and safe option, and it takes some work to change – so "ethical development" is always per se "costly and dangerous". I might use a different word than "dangerous", but ok let’s call that prospect of a lack of forgiveness a "danger" or risk – anyone reaching out with apologies does reach out despite that risk, if the apology is sincere. So...

What have I missed or misunderstood there?
posted by bitteschoen at 12:08 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


If we want people to be on our side, our side has to be worth being on.

And that applies from the viewpoint of victims as well. Again, what message are we sending them when we spend so much effort on those who harmed them, and little on those who were harmed?
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:32 PM on August 7 [10 favorites]


I've been reflecting on the bad taste that this thread has left in my mouth.

I think that this context, specifically—discussing, post-hoc, someone else who has chosen to forgive, but who (presumably) is not participating in that discussion—is the right one in which to have specifically this discussion, i.e., the question of the desirability of forgiveness, because we're not telling a specific victim "you should forgive."

I agree with NoxAeternum and others who are wary of any rhetoric that centers the needs of the wrongdoer over those of the wronged party. Reversing the victim and the offender is such a classic tool in the abuser's playbook that it has its own acronym, and an easy way to accomplish that reversal is to hold up forgiveness as the ultimate virtue and condemn the victim for refusing to offer it.

This is why it's almost never appropriate to encourage forgiveness when talking to a victim. It may not have been clear from my previous comments, so I'll say it explicitly: I hope I would never do this, and if I did, I would be wrong to.

I have been wronged in life, and I would be upset and insulted if someone close to me who knew the details of my abuse pressured me to forgive the party who harmed me, or implied I was morally obligated to. (Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, though: If I ever received an apology, I hope I would be able to forgive.)

But when we see examples of the good outcomes that healthy forgiveness can lead to, I think it's possible to hold up those moments as laudable and desirable (and to articulate why they're desirable) without implying that every victim must always work toward forgiving every offender.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:36 PM on August 7 [11 favorites]


I think "ethical stagnation" is always the easy and safe option, and it takes some work to change – so "ethical development" is always per se "costly and dangerous". I might use a different word than "dangerous", but ok let’s call that prospect of a lack of forgiveness a "danger" or risk – anyone reaching out with apologies does reach out despite that risk, if the apology is sincere. So...

What have I missed or misunderstood there?


I think what you have missed is that I was not talking about lack of forgiveness.

My comment is a response to your statement:
I highly doubt that someone who is genuinely repentant about participating in collective harassment and wants to make amends would be deterred by anyone else’s views on what they did. If anything, having strict standards about harassment should be more of a deterrent and an incentive to make amends.
I did not take this as a statement about whether or not the victim chooses to forgive. This was because it appears to be a response to a comment by star gentle uterus, which is the only comment before yours to refer to the pragmatic point you seem to be addressing. This comment, and the previous comment by Lord Chancellor to which you responded, are in reply to a comment by JohnFromGR calling for either people in general or Wu in particular to "Let the entire world know who these GamerGaters are, so that they may suffer the full consequences of their actions" and, in the case of star gentle uterus's comment, to a comment from GoblinHoney which states that past involvement in Gamergate is a reliable indication that a person is an "irredeemable piece of shit" who would, in a just world, be catapulted into the sun.

Both Lord Chancellor and star gentle uterus state that they do not believe there is a requirement on anyone to forgive. I don't think these comments are directed at the question of forgiveness at all (and star gentle uterus says this at the start of their comment). The passage in your comment to which I responded appears to be a direct repudiation of star gentle uterus's argument that there is a pragmatic reason for avoiding the sort of responses suggested by JohnFromGR and GoblinHoney, on the basis that a genuine penitent would not be deterred by the cost of penitence. My response argues that people can be deterred from ever reaching genuine repentance by pragmatic considerations, because we develop our ethical positions in response to our social context. When asked, I confirmed that it my comment was made with reference to the discussion of public shaming and arguments that people are irredeemable.

I do not believe that anyone has any responsibility to forgive anybody. Being honest with you, I'm not even sure that "forgiveness" is a meaningful idea in the post-Christian context of most commenters on Metafilter. I do, however, believe that it would be counterproductive to the cause of deradicalisation for us to accept arguments in favour of a context in which all former Gamergaters are seem as irredeemable, and where those who reveal their identity in order to make an apology do so in the expectation that it will be shared in order for them to "suffer the full consequences of their actions". As with any other large sociopolitical process, the impact of most individual arguments and actions is marginal, but I still don't think that we should accept them as correct.
posted by howfar at 3:34 PM on August 7 [5 favorites]


my comment was made with reference to the discussion of public shaming and arguments that people are irredeemable

Ahh, thanks for explaining further, howfar. I’d gotten confused by the chain of comments and replies there. I think we’re in agreement about this: "I do not believe that anyone has any responsibility to forgive anybody." As for the rest, I also don’t think we can easily say what kind of people or acts are irredeemable, I hope there would always be a possibility for redemption for everyone, but see, once again I feel we’re kind of getting lost in abstract generalizations here at the risk of losing sight of the actual context we’re talking about -- and in that context, I didn’t read GoblinHoney’s comment as an "argument" that people are irredeemable, I read it an expression of anger and frustration that to me is very understandable because of the awfulness that GamerGate was (and because of the fact that there were practically zero consequences for the harassers). Same with JohnFromGR’s comment – no I don’t quite agree that those apologies should be made public, but I totally understand the sentiment that the private apologies can be seen as cowardly and an easy option - I don’t 100% agree with it but I can understand it, because the harassment was very much public, and even the death and rape threats sent privately had very public impact for the victims, even forcing them out of their homes, and yet, indeed, the harassers suffered no consequences. That’s not really fair, is it? So I personally completely understand the sentiments behind those comments. They are two comments in a whole thread. There isn’t some general wider sociopolitical movement to out all former GamerGaters who apologized privately or literally launch them into the sun. There is however, unfortunately, a lack of wider accountability for what happened. That’s the real-life, pragmatic, non-abstract, specific context we have.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:57 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
i feel like this parable would have a lot more impact if the "lost sheep" wasn't, during the time it was "lost", reveling in it and directing wolves into the flock for the lulz?
posted by i used to be someone else at 8:29 PM on August 8 [3 favorites]


i feel like this parable would have a lot more impact if the "lost sheep" wasn't, during the time it was "lost", reveling in it and directing wolves into the flock for the lulz?

See Saul of Tarsus and the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58-60; 22:20).
posted by No Robots at 8:55 PM on August 8


Yeah, there is no mob of people descending on these possibly misunderstood apologizers so 🤷
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:02 AM on August 9


In the case of Saul/Paul, a former persecutor (to the point of abetting an extra-judicial stoning) became the movement's leader.
posted by No Robots at 10:08 AM on August 9


I have no idea what you're on about.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:20 AM on August 9


There may be some leadership material for the social justice movement among the repentant. That's the message of the parable of the prodigal son.
posted by No Robots at 10:27 AM on August 9


I would be far too worried about insidious Q Type infiltration these days to ever consider a "leader" out of a person who formally harassed women. Your mileage may vary. I'm a mean, mean unforgiving woman, however.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:41 AM on August 9 [6 favorites]


That tends to be my issue with restorative justice; it's great when it's what the victim chooses as best for them, but when it becomes the basic framework expected, then the victim who says "yeah, no, I'd rather my rapist go to jail, a staged apology ain't doing it for me" becomes the problem and the bad guy in the scenario. Even the framing of the title here -- terrible things people do become mere "errors", and only the person who forgives them becomes a holy one, casting those who do not as fundamentally infernal.
posted by tavella at 10:57 AM on August 9 [7 favorites]


I would be far too worried about insidious Q Type infiltration these days to ever consider a "leader" out of a person who formally harassed women. Your mileage may vary. I'm a mean, mean unforgiving woman, however.

That is fine, of course. No one should be required to forgive anyone. Nor should anyone feel bad about not forgiving. There is no evidence that the Jersualem leadership ever really trusted Paul. For Paul, that meant he had to go the uncircumcised to preach. It would probably be a good idea for the those who repent of their gamergate involvement to cease asking forgiveness from their victims, and instead go back amongst their former associates and help them toward their own metanoia.
posted by No Robots at 11:25 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah probably
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:27 AM on August 9


If they are leadership material and are involved, people will find them. Movements produce their leaders, not the other way around.
posted by rhizome at 7:08 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]


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