Monday, December 15, 2008

The Loudmouths Doth Protest Too Much

June 11, 2009 will be my third SL rezday. I don't really have a history of sticking with anything this long, so that's a miracle all by itself.

Sometime in the last year or so, a friend invited me to join her at a welcome area. I'm an SL mentor, though I'm usually silently so. If someone appears to need help, or asks outwardly, I'm happy to do what I can. If I'm in a mood (hard to fathom, I know), I might think twice before jumping in, but most of the time, I'm willing.

The welcome area, at the risk of sounding uncharitable, doesn't live up to its name. It's like the Wastelands, without the creativity or purpose, a sort of nihilistic jungle where survival of the loudest prevails. Don't put on your headphones unless you want to be assailed with the most testosterone-charged (yeah, even among the 'women') vitriol you would ever want to hear in a 'game.' If you're a Jew, gay, liberal or, perish the thought, all three, you are guaranteed an earful of some of the most vile crap this side of Hitler's bunker.

Now, before you scream Godwin's law, please hear me out.

On the night of December 14th and early morning December 15th, I was bored and tp'd to the WA. Sometimes I don't cam beyond the person with whom I'm speaking, so there could literally be a war going on in front of me and I wouldn't know it. I use a viewer that, in its current iteration, has no sound, but even when I use the standard SL viewer, I usually mute my computer because of shared living space and my penchant for doing ten things at once: SL, reading the web, watching TV, listening to my own music, (not to mention frequent trips to the kitchen to perform flipping and stirring duties).

When I went to the WA last night, I was using the Imprudence viewer. I could tell by the conversation in main chat that people were replying to voice. I cammed to the center of the quad to see a protest in progress. I couldn't read the signs due to rezzing problems, so I im'd one of the participants to ask what it was about. I was told it was a protest in solidarity with the workers and students in Greece who, for the past week, have been protesting the shooting death of 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos. You can Google his name to see the circumstances of his death. The murder occurred in the wake of a major youth resistance movement against privatization of education that has rattled the right-wing government of Greece's Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis.

Back at the WA, I quit out of Imprudence, signed back on with the standard SL viewer, grabbed my earbuds and enabled voice.

A young Romanian woman was effectively making her case in voice, being shouted down, cursed and insulted by the bullies of Ahern. None of them were able to dismantle any of her arguments. She was a calm, reasonable voice, coming from a place both physically and mentally that I suspect has given her a greater amount of at least experience, and possibly expertise, when it comes to fighting for civil rights.

Because, frankly, how many Americans in SL (and it was mostly Americans railing against this woman in particular, and the protesters in general) have ever had to leave the comfort of their couch or living room to march or fight for civil rights? The rights of most Americans were won by someone else. Someone else did the dirty work, took the risk, made a stand, so those after them could sit behind the safety and relative anonymity of their PC microphones and call a woman a 'cunt' simply because she defended people standing in solidarity with those fighting for liberties halfway around the world.

And for all this? She was banned. A quick check of the SL police blotter revealed numerous warnings and bans for harrassment, repetitious spamming, impedence of movement, none of which this woman did. I suppose it depends on who reported her, but I assure you, she did nothing that warranted a ban.

It's not clear how effective an online protest is. I can say with some certainty that protests have brought about change throughout history, despite the words of one resident who insisted that "protesting has never brought about any changes." (When I rebutted that, i was told by one of the Ahern regulars to shut my fucking mouth and get back in 'my' corner.)

To say that protest has never brought about change is so ignorant and absurd on its face that it hardly bears arguing. But I suppose there's a possibility that some of the Ahern loudmouths may have been absent or otherwise not engaged when the history of non-violent protest was covered in school.

How about Gandhi, whose nonviolent action led to the independence of India?

Or the marches against the Vietnam war that turned the tide of public opinion in the US and led to the end of that war, albeit years too late?

Tiananmen Square, though quashed, turned the eyes of the world on the human rights abuses in China (nearly forgotten during the recent Olympic lovefest).

May 1968 saw a series of student protests and a general strike that caused the eventual collapse of the De Gaulle government in France.

Strikes led by Lech Walesa and the Solidarity movement, led directly to the overthrow of communism in Poland.

In 1981, Bobby Sands and nine others starved to death to gain Irish prisoners political status in British prisons.

The Civil Rights movement in the US is too vast and too storied to fit in a sentence or paragraph or even an entire blog.

And if you would repeat after me two simple words: FRENCH REVOLUTION.

Admittedly, these examples mean little to small minded people shouting 'cunt' and 'faggot' into a microphone. They're not likely to even read this.

The Second Life welcome area has become a cesspool, filled with people who claim it as their turf and their private space. It is not. No one is paying tier on Ahern, Bonifacio, Dore or Morris. This is public land, owned by Governor Linden, and open to all. I don't care how long you've staked out your place on the stoop, how many hours you hang there, how many followers you have or how loud you can shout into your microphone. As a dear, dear friend of mine on SL often says to me, in his THIRD language, "they need to STFU."

Linden Lab has turned a blind eye for too long, allowing a small group of bigoted, bullying bigmouths to run roughshod over a PG area with their vulgar, racist, homophobic nonsense. It's time to reclaim this public space as a safe haven for residents, new and old alike.


Ben Vanguard said...

I do love your post Perry! Really interesting and thoughtful.
It's a shame that the Lindens don't do anything for the residents' wellness, like enforcing basic rules against content theft, working at a half decent viewer, you name it. They just hired an executive in charge of the "first hour experience improvement" Maybe they should simply insure the safety and welcoming of new residents in Welcome Areas. Too simple maybe? or not generating profit enough?
All LL do is working on their profits.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

On behalf of the protestors who were their (including myself) I say thank you.

Abel Koskinen

Perry Proudhon said...

Thanks, Ben. It really is amazing how little LL does to keep SL safe and enjoyable.

To the protesters, including Abel, you are welcome.

I will accept Anonymous comments, but if they're mindless claptrap like the one I deleted, I'm sorry, but I won't leave them here. I don't intend the comments section of my blog to become exactly the same as the area I'm writing about.

I understand a notecard with my post is making the rounds. That's great. I welcome all readers and intelligent input in the followup discussion.

mksalmson said...

Freedom of speech...democracy is never simple and is always messy. Read Democracy In America (Alix de Tocville)...No simple solution. Beware LL or anyone for that matter who would be a censor.

Mondy said...

I too sometimes go to the WA (ahern) as a convenient place to just sit and wait for freinds to logon.
Or at least I was.
My SL identity is as a Shemale Dancer at a club.
your comments about racist and homophobic abuse are sadly true.
Some may say I bring it on myself. After all I chose my identity and SL lifestyle.
Does that give others the right to call me names in open chat,IM or verbally when all I do is sit in a corner to wait.
Time and time again the same people are there,pushing newbies off walls or hassling them with their "thats so funny" "LOL" chat.
also there are those who are using the scripts or alternate viewrs that are a favorite with bullies that enable them to eject or TP people away. It a weird experience to find yorself suddenly flying away thru the air with someone sniggering with their freinds.

This is never going to end. My solution so far has been to remove my group tag before entering the welcome area. Which works until one of the "bullies" checks my profile.

You write some interesting thought provoking matrial and it is sad that your blog hasn't been updated in a while.

Perry Proudhon said...

Mondy, it's wrong that you have to go through that kind of abuse. SL should be a place where people can feel safe exploring parts of their lives that they cannot safely or comfortably explore in their first lives.

I've noticed a lot of the bullies haven't been around lately. Not sure if they've been banned, changed their personas, or relocated.

Thanks for your kind words about my blog. I will try to write more sometime soon, but to be honest, I haven't been on SL much lately for a lot of reasons, this being one of them. Thank you for reading.