This article incorporates adult themes and language.
This is a flat-out attack on the hypocrisy and thin-skinned holiness of a major blog that purports to stand for freedom of expression and open ideas. The blog is BoingBoing.net. I’ve had my problems with the site before, having made comments that their moderators found to be excessive or too foul-mouthed for their rather puritanical tastes. I say puritanical and I mean exactly that.
Boing Boing has a problem with genitalia. You’ll see why in a few moments.
My first experience with Boing Boing was back in 2006 after I had in fact found several interesting posts there about science fiction, civil rights and the art of machinima filmmaking. I had just finished my own machinima film adaptation of Bram Stoker’s short story, ‘Dracula’s Guest,’ and submitted a link for the film to Boing Boing. Admittedly, I had also said to several of my friends that I would bet them that if I mentioned ‘Bram Stoker,’ ‘Dracula,’ and ‘Machinima’ in a submission to Boing Boing, I would be instantly posted on the blog. Sure enough, within several hours I heard back from someone named Cory Doctorow. But his reply email put me off immediately because of its rather righteous and bitchy tone. He wrote that he had enjoyed the film but that he refused to post anything involving a video encoded with Microsoft’s Windows Media format. He advised me to re-encode the video in a more open format like mpeg.
I thought about this for a few moments and then began to formulate a reply to Mr. Doctorow. It went something very close to this: ‘Hey, dipshit. I’m a filmmaker, not an anti-corporate activist. I make what I make the way I want to make it and if you can’t stand the kind of canvas I use, go put your head up your ass.’
I saved a draft of that message and came very close to sending it. But I figured a little publicity might actually be interesting. So I sat down and reformatted the film to suit the petulant Mr. Doctorow’s idea of a proper video format. Frankly, if he sent me such a response to a piece of work today, I’d tell him to fit one of his sleeping-pill novels up his ass. Ultimately, the film got posted on Boing Boing.
My next encounter with the blog was as a commenter. I composed a very rough and nasty poem in response to some article about police abuse of a child protester in England that appalled me. The poem was actually a very serious piece of work that took quite a lot of time to finish. The moderators used their favorite censorship technique on it which involves removing all the vowels from the text, leaving only the gibberish of consonants behind. That led to a running argument with them about how adults should be free to communicate with each other using language that suits them. I felt that they used foul language when it fit their own purposes but forbid its use when it didn’t. I also felt that the people behind Boing Boing were somewhat fusty and schoolmarmish underneath all their dress up as liberal freedom fighters. They didn’t like that one bit and continued to censor various remarks that I made criticizing them without any rough language at all. This was clear and simple censorship of criticism. It really angered me. I had called them hypocrites and they didn’t like that one little bit. But if you are against censorship and stand for freedom of expression and turn around and censor comments you don’t agree with, you are a complete and total hypocrite and you invalidate every single element of your false stand against censorship. There’s no wiggle room here. Boing Boing is a house full of shrill hypocrites. When you run a blog, what your moderators do and enforce is exactly what we can all logically assume you would do and enforce. If Cory Doctorow wants to come around my neighborhood and make a speech about freedom of expression and anti-censorship, I am the first guy that’s going to stand up and yell ‘Bullshit!’
So yesterday I found a short post about a cartoonist who got mad about all the threats against people for drawing Mohammed. She apparently tried or did in fact start a group she called ‘International Everbody Draw Mohammed Day.’ Now she is supposedly being threatened by some Muslim extremist somewhere. The FBI has asked her to go into hiding. So Xeni Jardin posts this and pretty soon all the comments start rolling in.
Early on I see a comment actually posted by Xeni Jardin and the first part of it goes like this:
You gotta put this in context. There’s also this little thing called a war going on. Iraq. Afghanistan. Koran burning or Mohammed-mocking are seen by some as a symbol for the occupation and military offense taking place within their countries’ boundaries, against their will. In context, while no one among us condones this sort of thing, or wishes to excuse it away — one can begin to understand why the fringe reactions are so extreme.
I’m of the opinion that pissing on a symbol for what someone else holds as sacred generally proves you to be a douche, or a provocateur who’s in it for attention.
Should it be legal, as free speech? Hell yes.
Does free speech mean you won’t encounter some potentially violent consequences, from some wacked-out fringe members of the community you mock?
Sorry. It doesn’t. Your relative privilege as a white American doesn’t make you immune to that.
I pretty much almost spit my coffee across my desk. What? Is she kidding? So she’s basically calling this cartoonist woman a douche and a provocateur and she’s also linking opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with a death threat for drawing pictures. And then she’s bringing up ‘white American’ privilege. This is pretty stupid writing from where I’m sitting. So she supports the freedom to piss on a symbol that someone holds sacred but considers you a douche if you do? It would also seem to me that Xeni herself is something of a provocateur who is seeking attention. I am in fact one myself. Anyone who writes a blog has probably tried to provoke someone in order to get a little attention. So calling a woman who’s life has been threatened a ‘douche’ and a ‘provocateur’ who should have known she was bringing violence upon herself is, quite honestly, totally asinine, unintelligent and hypocritical. Maybe Xeni can’t draw and she dislikes people who can. Who knows?
If artists didn’t piss on sacred symbols there would be no art. It would all be pretty pictures of flowers that you could hang over your mother’s kitchen table. Xeni’s world of art would not include any offense, would it? It would be a neutered and sterile art like most of what’s posted on Boing Boing. Art is dirty and sloppy and nasty and it offends and it provokes.
So, after a series of comments and arguments with commenters who seemed to somehow equate drawing a prophet with Islamophobia or bigotry against Islam, I wrote this:
What I see in the western world and its anxiety about artists and what they might or might not draw is creeping fear that begins to operate as censorship. Major press institutions are getting nervous about being shut down or having people killed if some individual or small group of extremists is offended.
This kind of thinking begins to have a dangerous effect on journalism, art, literature, music, film, drama, poetry, science and the act of thinking itself.
I’m seeing some of this waffling behavior right here on Boing Boing with the effort to report the threat to a cartoonist accompanied by the rather bullshitty and carefully worded jabs at the cartoonist for being a ‘douche’ or somehow wrongheaded in her assumption that she would not encounter difficulties.
This is rubbish thinking and it weakens everything the writers at Boing Boing pretend to stand for.
I’m frankly rather pissed off about the week-kneed approach to a gang of jackasses in some country thumping on a religious text and demanding that heads be cut off.
Up their asses. The cartoonists are right. They should carry guns to back up their drawings. And Boing Boing’s Xeni should grow some damn balls.
The next time some nitwit threatens a cartoonist, Obama should Predator drone his ass right off the planet.
It’s as good a use for a missile as I could possibly imagine. That is apparently what we do to terrorists, isn’t it? So go for it for bloody damn real.
You can draw whatever you damn well like any way that you like with any expectation or lack thereof that you like.
To threaten people for their drawings is actually to threaten them for even imagining the image in the first place. It appalls me to see a stance against these violent pricks softened with schoolmarmish scolding of a cartoonist who is simply trying to say to her peers: Don’t operate out of fear!
The Boing Boing moderator wrote me a response that said I should ‘grow some manners.’ The moderator apparently didn’t like me telling Xeni Jardin to ‘grow some balls.’ Boing Boing doesn’t like genitalia. Perhaps theirs are hard to find. I don’t know. But I like genitalia and I like referring to them in conversation. When I tell someone to grow some balls it means I think they are a little pussy without any firepower behind their remarks. The Boing Boing writers apparently feel free to call people douches but they don’t want to talk about those metaphorical private parts that they may or may not possess.
Boing Boing then turned the above quoted comment into this:
Wht s n th wstrn wrld nd ts nxty bt rtsts nd wht thy mght r mght nt drw s crpng fr tht bgns t prt s cnsrshp. Mjr prss nstttns r gttng nrvs bt bng sht dwn r hvng ppl klld f sm ndvdl r smll grp f xtrmsts s ffndd.
Ths knd f thnkng bgns t hv dngrs ffct n jrnlsm, rt, ltrtr, msc, flm, drm, ptry, scnc nd th ct f thnkng tslf.
‘m sng sm f ths wfflng bhvr rght hr n BngBng wth th ffrt t rprt th thrt t crtnst ccmpnd by th rthr bllshtty nd crflly wrdd jbs t th crtnst fr bng ‘dch’ r smhw wrnghdd n hr ssmptn tht sh wld nt ncntr dffclts.
Ths s rbbsh thnkng nd t wkns vrythng th wrtrs t BngBng prtnd t stnd fr.
‘m frnkly rthr pssd ff bt th wk-knd pprch t gng f jcksss n sm cntry thmpng n rlgs txt nd dmndng tht hds b ct ff.
p thr sss. Th crtnsts r rght. Thy shld crry gns t bck p thr drwngs. nd BngBng’s Xn shld grw sm dmn blls.
Th nxt tm sm ntwt thrtns crtns, bm shld Prdtr drn hs ss rght ff th plnt.
t’s s gd s fr mssl s cld pssbly mgn. Tht s pprntly wht w d t trrrsts, sn’t t? S g fr t fr bldy dmn rl.
Y cn drw whtvr y dmn wll lk ny wy tht y lk wth ny xpcttn r lck thrf tht y lk.
T thrtn ppl fr thr drwngs s ctlly t thrtn thm fr vn mgnng th mg n th frst plc. t pplls m t s stnc gnst ths vlnt prcks sftnd wth schlmrmsh scldng f crtnst wh s smply tryng t sy t hr prs: D nt prt t f fr!
Yup. That is my own little example of censorship, courtesy of Boing Boing. When I wrote a final comment pointing out their thin-skinned hypocrisy, they simply deleted it entirely.
Boing Boing is something of a cultural icon in the blogosphere today – for better or worse. They attract a lot of eyeballs and appeal to a wide range of people, including some famous and very accomplished ones. They are a sort of grab bag of stuff and opinions. They are openly political and rail against DRM, state surveillance, militarism, and, strangely… censorship.
Time Magazine has been a cultural icon for a long time. Back in the 1960s Bob Dylan had a famous encounter with a Time reporter who was filmed asking the musician some questions. Mr. Dylan suddenly turned on the reporter and began to systematically tear him down and berate him for the uselessness of his entire existence and everything the poor reporter stood for. It’s uncomfortable to watch. It kind of makes you hate Dylan for a while. But you know what’s most interesting about the entire episode? It’s not what Bob Dylan says to the guy. It’s the fact that the reporter kept his tape recorder running.
He kept recording what Dylan said to him. He listened. He did his job as a reporter and was actually superior to Dylan in that moment.
Boing Boing could learn a great deal from that footage of Dylan and the reporter.
But they won’t. They are too righteous. They speak in short bursts of watered-down text that seems on its surface to be angry but is really only irritable and constantly gauging whether search results will find it or not. It’s modern geek-speak that likes to dress up in rebellion but doesn’t like real tough language. It likes a measure of cleverness. Short and pithy insults that are only there really to convince you that the speaker knows a lot of things. Semi-technical talk about open source and iPads, even though these people have never been able to write a program that opens a text file in Notepad.
You want to know how to get yourself on Boing Boing? Follow these instructions: Build a coffee table made entirely out of old clothespins. Or, if you live in Great Britain, print one hundred images of a naked rear end and clip them in front of closed circuit surveillance cameras all around an urban area.
Clever bullshitty ideas that are right up the alley of Boing Boing because they represent a foolish, poorly conceived environmentalism and an ineffective though eye-catching form of social rebellion.
But if you really rebel against Boing Boing itself, you will get immediately censored for your trouble. If you are an artist you should not want to please Boing Boing. You should want to kick the snot back up their noses. If you are a living artist who has been posted about several times on Boing Boing, change your identity and learn how to do something else.
I miss the days when we had writers like Norman Mailer who would have actually scheduled an appointment to kick the snot back up the Boing Boing noses. I’m quite certain that the Boing Boing writers would admire William S. Burroughs. But I am also sure that the old man would have pulled a gun on them. Why are people such pussies today? Why is everyone out there trying to please some silly bunch of trendy, geek hipsters who are just as super-white as anything I’ve ever seen and talk like they haven’t had a date in ten years. The reason we have neutered idiots like Lady Gaga running around mocking sex and turning it into an absolute joke is people like Boing Boing. Lady Gaga was invented to get on Boing Boing. Sex in the hip geek Boing Boing world becomes a brightly colored toy maneuvered close to a camera lens in a plastic swimming pool with no water. A TV show about dildos hosted by obese people wearing Speedos.
I put my foot through the Boing Boing aesthetic. It’s brittle and goes to bits easily. If Boing Boing walks into my art show, I’ll send them out via the back door.
I want a tougher Web. I don’t want pussies blogging about art and politics anymore. I want real, hard-talking sons and daughters of bitches who can take an insult and send it back at me with some extra horseradish on it.
Boing Boing ain’t it. Boing Boing is a douche.