In my previous post, I discussed the first part of Noah Brand’s series on nerds. As I noted, Brand’s argument can be summed up as gamers are losers who were born losers, will die losers, and not even other losers will mourn them.
First, Brand graces us with an excellent Freudian slip:
In part one of this article, we talked about the cluster of people who are, or believe themselves to me, permanently awkward and socially nonfunctional, people who need simple and consistent rules for interactions.
I believe the proper English would be “or believe themselves to be,” however, the mistake is quite revealing. Geeks do not think themselves permanently awkward and socially dysfunctional. They usually think themselves misunderstood.
They’ve tried to make spaces for themselves within geek/nerd culture, where they don’t have to be acceptable to other people, and they respond with rage when they feel those spaces have been violated by “outsiders”.
Geeks did not create a space where they could be unacceptable; they created a space where they would be accepted. They usually have little problem with “outsiders” coming into that space, as long as the “outsiders” respect it. However, many of the “outsiders” do not respect the space. These people only want to control it. They often demonstrate this by harassing and mocking the community, which is ironically the reason the community exists.
Their experience of outsiders, and especially of women, is that they cause pain, therefore causing them pain is justifiable.
That is a very poor strawman. Most geeks do not attack “outsiders” or women, despite the pain they suffer. If they did, few people would target them for abuse. After all, it is unwise to abuse someone who will fight back. Better to abuse those one knows will do nothing, hence Brand’s two condescending articles.
It would be great if the above comments were as absurd as Brand got, but he seemed determined to ignore all logic:
“Well, that’s a nice theory,” you may be thinking, “but does it fit the facts? Does it have predictive value?” If you’re not thinking that, you should be. Always.
I do. I always question whether anything feminists write, particularly about men, fit the facts because in most cases it does not. Allow Brand to demonstrate:
Let’s look at some examples. First, we have this rueful essay by Devin Faraci, in which he recalls his own youthful nerd rage, and analyzes how current events look through that unhappy lens.
Is this the same David Faraci who thinks it is funny to harass 30-year-old male virgins? Is this the same David Faraci who compared gamers to the Klu Klux Klan and claimed that GameGate supporters were worse than ISIS? Is this the same David Faraci who called for the doxxing of those supporters?
That is the man Brand wants to use as an example? Very well:
I’ve done it! I’ve cried about how girls only go for assholes! I’ve whined about outsiders invading my geek spaces! I’ve felt bad for myself because I couldn’t understand why a very beautiful girl wouldn’t want to date a fat, greasy oddball who wore a severed finger earring. I was lonely.
Let us stop there. Most geeks are not fat, greasy oddballs who wear severed finger earrings. Most geeks would also understand that no one wants to date people with poor hygiene (although there are plenty of beautiful girls who would find the severed finger earring cool). Brand knows this. However, Faraci’s comment fits the geek stereotype feminists like Brand love to use.
Except most geeks are not like that. At worst, they tend to be like Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker.
Brand continues on his journey to absurdity:
Again we see the theme played out: the defining quality of these guys is not being white and male, it’s being socially nonfunctional. They don’t understand how to be around other people, and they feel instinctively that anyone who does understand how doesn’t belong in their club.
If geeks do not understand how to be around other people, how were they able to create and maintain functional subcultures? From film to novels to comics to games to tech, geeks manage to form subcultures full of people who not only interact with each other regularly, but to appear to want to do it as frequently as possible. They go so far as to create conventions in order to get together with people they do not know just to hang out.
Incidentally, all of that requires some social functionality. I will grant Brand that some geeks are socially awkward, although that awkwardness occurs for many different reasons. Yet the majority of geeks appear fully capable and willing to socially interact. The issue tends to be how people react to them. It is not that they are socially dysfunctional; it is that they are socially ostracized. When other people want to talk about sports, geeks would rather talk about comics. When other people want to talk about going a house party, geeks would rather talk about their LAN party. When other people talk about the cars they want to buy, geeks would rather talk about the computers they want to build.
Whatever awkwardness geeks exhibit is massively offset by one simple fact: most people find geek interests stupid. No one takes the time to listen to geeks to understand. They would rather make fun of geeks for liking Lord of the Rings rather than listen to what parts of the story, like the bond between Frodo and Sam, that worked for them. Geeks are telling others who they are as people, yet because they use fiction rather than a car or clothing to express it, people think them losers.
Brand, however, is caught in a “misogyny” loop, so logic does not reach the rational part of his brain. How else can one explain this:
We see the same problem in all the nonsense about “fake geek girls”, who are always conventionally attractive. You will never, ever see a fake-geek-girl joke with a photo of an overweight, frizzy-haired woman in an ill-fitting T-shirt. The cries of “fake!” come when a woman looks like someone who’s been socially accepted, and therefore by definition can’t be in the geek club, which is only for the unattractive and ostracized. Yes, this is a toxic, self-loathing worldview, but it’s the one too many guys are stuck with.
Except a) that is not their worldview, and b) geeks generally do not have a concise, cohesive worldview. Feminists appear to think everyone thinks as they do. When they see someone who feels ostracized, feminists look for the conspiracy theory explaining their isolation because that is how feminism works.
There is no conspiracy theory or worldview here. There is only the argument that as geekdom hit pop culture, more people who otherwise wanted no part of it claimed the community as their own. The actual members of the community considered that unfair given that these people do not appear genuinely interested in the community. They appear interested only because it is cool for the next 15 minutes. Some of these people are attractive girls and women who ironically adopt the label to milk the attention of men and boys they never look at, let alone talk to.
Are all attractive people who claim the label “geek” or “nerd” fakes? No. I know plenty of good-looking people who can out-geek the best. Indeed, this is one of the ways my godson gets girls to leave him alone. He is very attractive and a super geek, and when he gets tired of girls pawing at him, he talks about the Hobbit or Bleach or Star Wars. It is like spraying cats with water.
Yet Brand still had room for more stupidity:
Next, let’s look at a series of actual comments from a Gamergate supporter who shall remain nameless, but whose guileless, barefaced anger and pain show the nature of the problem in sharp relief. The following screencaps were taken from comments on a Gamergate article on a very popular website.
Yes, of course. Let us look at a series of comments from an unnamed GamerGate supporter from an unnamed but “very popular website” that we shall treat as indicative of the attitude of all nerds, geeks, gamers, and GamerGate supporters. Let us also look at the series of comments without any context. Let us only read a handful of selected comments used by Brand to shape narrative of “nerd rage” against women.
I will not entertain that kind of intellectual dishonesty. If Brand wants to attack an entire community based on the comments of one unnamed person who may not even be a gamer, he may do so. However, doing so fully demonstrates his lack integrity and sincerity. The reader has no way of knowing what comments preceded and proceeded this alleged gamer’s remarks. Feminists are quite adept at pushing people to anger and then pointing at their manufactured outburst as “proof” of the person’s instability.
So no, I will not think this one example is proof of anything other than Brand’s pathetic attempt to smear an entire community.
Brand plods on:
So once the problem is diagnosed, what do we do about it? How can we keep the pain and alienation these guys feel from turning into the ugly, inhuman hostility that’s too often displayed? I don’t pretend to have definitive answers […]”
Of course you do not. That is why you are about to present a list of “four definite actions that can offer, if not a cure, at least a vaccine.”
Maybe we can’t easily fix the guys who are already so hurt and scared that they’re lashing out in all directions, but we can, in the words of Batman, stop the world from making more people like us. Here’s some things we can do.
No, Brand, you do not get to quote Batman. You are not “people like us.” You are not the wounded. You are the one who makes fun of the wounded. You are the one who looks at the son of murdered wealthy parents and says, “What’s he crying about? He’s got it made.” You are the one who looks at bullied men and boys and says, “The key defining element of all the wild-eyed Gamergate lunatics and all their unhappy ilk is not that they’re white and male. It’s that they’re socially nonfunctional.”
Sorry, Brand, but you do not get to side with us.
Now to the “not definitive answers but four definite actions” list:
1. Anti-bullying campaigns and programs
This one is off to a good start, but needs to be continued until it’s an accepted social norm. The hurt that gives rise to nerd rage comes when socially awkward kids are victimized growing up. End that and you end the hurt, you cut the rage off before it can even take root.
Gamergate supporters have funded a charity against bullying to the sum of $16, 732, 669% higher than the charity’s initial goal.
It is also interesting that Brand’s desire for preventing bullying has nothing to do with stopping violence against geeks. It is only to prevent future “rage” at women.
2. Validate male pain.
Pain turns easily into anger in men because we’re told over and over that we’re allowed to experience anger, but “pain don’t hurt.” Worse, we mostly have the experience that our pain is too easily laughed at. That makes us just retreat from everything that hurts, and let the pain turn into rage all on its own. We, both men and women, need to break that cycle, to be able to speak and to listen about pain and loneliness and frustration, without falling back on “Man up, dude” or “LOL, male tears” jokes.
If Brand would like to validate male pain, perhaps he should stop making comments like, “It’s like a Scooby-Doo episode. The mask comes off the cartoon monster and we see that inside is just an embittered, angry human being. In this case, a guy whose experience of interaction with socially functional people has caused him nothing but hurt. He hates those ‘outside’ people with their nuance and empathy and rules he can’t understand; he hates them for causing him pain.”
That invalidates the man’s pain by implying that he is so dysfunctional that his perception of mistreatment is all in his head. It is not that people treated him so badly that he became hyper-sensitive and overprotective. To the contrary, it is that he is such a bad person with terrible social skills that he despises anyone who fits in. Who does Brand think will find that argument empathetic?
3. More women in games, movies, TV, etc.
As discussed in part one of this piece, the misogyny prevalent in nerd rage arises in part because of a culture that’s taught these awkward boys to see women as a unified Other. 51% of the humans on earth aren’t quite real people in their eyes, and it shows. The great Captain Awkward, in her perpetual “dating guide for geeks” advocates that guys who want women to like them should start by reading a bunch of books by women. It’s the first step in unlearning that societal message that women aren’t exactly real people.
As opposed to the societal message that geeks are not exactly real people that Brand peddled for two articles. This is a perfect example of projection. There is no societal message stating that women are not exactly real people. There is a message saying women are different than men, and depending on where the message originates it can be positive or negative. Yet no one states that women are not real people.
Feminists, on the other hand, do not think of men as real people. The oppressor cannot be a person because then the oppressor would deserve empathy. The oppressor must be “them” or “they” or “the outsider.” The oppressor must become a monster to be vanquished. Of course, saying that makes a person sound crazy, so it is better to project that feeling onto others. It is not you who think others are the monsters; it is others who think you are the monster. That makes it much easier to viciously attack them. After all, you are only meeting might with might.
That pesky “misogyny” strawman keeps coming up, and it is because feminists like Brand realize they have no other argument. The issue is not that boys and men have male spaces or that females are not allowed in them. The issue is that feminism is not wanted. That is the core to this non-issue. Feminists want control over male spaces, and this particular group of men and boys will not let them have it, hence the claims of “misogyny.”
4. Geeks can and must self-police.
One of the problems in geek culture, as noted in the classic Geek Social Fallacies, is that we’re reluctant to impose social sanctions on our own. That’s understandable: we learned young that the worst thing people could do to us was make us feel excluded, so we don’t ever want to do that to someone like us. We’ll just do it to the entire rest of the world instead.
Again, Brand, you do not get to claim “we.” There is no “we.” You are not one of us.
Secondly, geeks do self-police. Indeed, that is that the core of the feminist complaint. It is not that geeks do not self-police; it is how they police their community.
Feminists want geeks to police the community on feminist terms. As Brand explains:
Fortunately, it’s actually fairly easy to nip these behaviors in the bud, at least in their public manifestations. It doesn’t require hazing or mockery or yelling “Get thee hence from this comics shop and never return!” Just a little bit of social reinforcement goes a long way. Don’t laugh at the rape joke. Get comfortable saying “C’mon, that’s in bad taste” and “Enough already about her boobs, man.” It might not cure the deep-rooted confusion and anger in the recipient, but it’ll help him learn to at least not inflict it on other people, and that’s progress.
That has nothing to do with stopping all bad behavior, all insults, or all in-fighting. That is solely about protecting women. Geeks are not going to play white knight, and that angers feminists.
There is also the element of projection. Feminists are terrible at policing their own community. They attack each other and other people, particularly men, with a vitriol unmatched by any other social movement. This is less a case of geeks behaving badly than it is a case of feminists not wanting to receive the same anger they use on others.
Ultimately, there are no easy answers to the problem of nerd rage.
I think four short answers qualify as easy. It certainly does not appear that Brand put much thought into them.
If there were, this article wouldn’t be in two rather wordy parts.
Apparently, Brand has never heard of the concept of editing.
But we can’t even begin to engage with the problem if we only view it through a simple privilege/oppression bad-guy/good-guy lens, or if we think it’s only about white guys with certain interests.
Yes, it is much better to view it through the simple “they’re so socially dysfunctional that they’re delusional” lens presented in the two articles..
What it’s actually about are people with certain handicaps, and how failing to acknowledge and understand the world they live in is what feeds their pain and anger in the first place.
That makes it sadder and deeply ironic that Brand failed to acknowledge and understand that the world geeks live in — not the subculture, but the broader society — is what feeds their pain and anger in the first place. Then again, Brand would not be a good feminist if he did not blame men for their own problems.