Monday, April 9, 2018

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Crash Override

"Sometimes you need to burn a bridge while you are still standing on so they know you mean business. ... All us witches, past present and future, need to do better...Suffer us witches to live." 
 - Zoë Quinn

This might seem like a stretch here but stay with me on this.  I finished reading Zoë Quinn's Crash Override: How Gamergate (Nearly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate, and I am going to make the case this is a book about a modern witch and the witchhunt that came from it.

I want to get into the meat of the book, but let me address the parallels first.

Zoë Quinn began, like many historical witches, as a woman a bit marginalized from the world but found solace, comfort and even expertise in a traditionally "man's space".  For the witches of old this was often medical knowledge in a world of male doctors or religious knowledge in a world of male clergy.  In any case, she was a  woman (or a girl really, she was not much older than my son when this all went down) against a patriarchy.  Does that sound like a feminist theory to you?  It is ONLY if never actually studied feminist theory or have ever used the word "feminazi" in anything other than a derisive tone.  She was attacked and all but pilloried and burned at the stake.  Though virtually speaking she was. She even describes the mob after her as a group of "inquisitors".  The appropriate name really.

Actions speak louder than words and while I had heard and read the words of these internet inquisitors and gatekeepers of their "culture" I don't for a second believe them.  Their claims can be easily dismissed and discarded.  There were no witches on Pendle Hill in 1612. No devil in Loudun, France (1634). There was no devil in Salem (1692), no Satanic ritual abuse in the 1980s and no conspiracy in August 2014 to censor video games*.  (yes there is more than this, but the trouble is sorting through a metric ton of shit to get to it. This is not the place to detail my last couple of years of "ritual filth" reading about this and going to where they "live".)

But like those times, facts do not matter once the mob smells blood in the water, or online.  Quinn is a bit more understanding of her inquisitors, the ones that would see her dead for the audacity of being a woman.  I do not extend to them the same benefit of the doubt; I have seen this play out too many times in the exact same way with nearly textbook results.

Zoë Quinn is a witch, an unburnt witch in fact (her nom de' net in fact), and like the best witches of old, her name and exploits will outlive her inquisitors and tormentors.

She spends the first half of her book recounting her love of video games, finding solace online with like-minded people and discovering that she too could build something or make something.  There were many times I smiled or laughed out loud because I could relate to exactly to what she was doing and feeling.  Then we get to that day in August of 2014 where the mob, spurred on by an abusive ex-boyfriend and some easily dismissed internet rumors decides to act.
I have seen online abuse first hand, I have also stood on the sidelines and watched it unfold like a spectator sport.  So it was not without some personal horror that I listened to what she went through.
Honestly, you have to have zero empathy not be moved here.  Even IF (in all caps) she did the things she was accused of, it doesn't justify the violent outburst here.  (seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you people?)

There is some repetition, but this is a memoir, not a research paper. It is told like a memoir, with the unedited bits of a person's messy life left in. And the author is quite upfront about that.  In fact listening to it you get the feeling it could have been a "LiveJournal" post AND that is perfectly fine because that is the vibe the author wants.  Listen to her words and what she wants, the book is the ultimate expression of that. It is also almost, but not quite, a requiem for a life lost.  I can tell you, as a former QMHP, she sounds EXACTLY like people I used to counsel after they had dealt with something traumatic or after a significant period of depression.  I do not doubt that these are the words from someone who has in my professional opinion "seen some shit".

The first half had me depressed and sad for this girl. But the second half made happy for the woman she has become and what she has been able to do.  Sure, she can never get back that old life.  In many ways, her tale is the same of that as someone that has suffered a traumatic disease or accident.  In others, it is worse, because she knows if it were not for the actions of others she could go back to that old life and do the things she loved.

The last half of the book's title is "How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate" and she talks about what she has done and what she has been doing and freely admits that she is neither equipped or qualified to do the job that needs to be done.  I hope she will excuse the Batman allusion here (she has a section "You are not Batman"), but she is the hero we need.

She is open about needing more non-CIS, non-white, non-male voices in this fight. Not that we don't need CIS hetro white males, it's just that people like that, like me, are a dime a dozen.  We are.  She is open and even empathizes with the mobs of inquisitors that were after her; not wanting them to be subject to same actions she faced.  She is very cognizant (maybe painfully so) of the limitations of the tech companies and law enforcement.

To top it all off she built the Crash Override Network to help other victims of online abuse.
This alone is worthy of praise.

In the end, her advice is simple, be better to each other online and try to empathize with the human on the other side of the screen.   She knows there is a lot of work to do and this only the start.

Final note. I listened to the audiobook version of this with Zoë Quinn reading it herself.  I think that was a great choice for me, to hear her own words in her own voice, but also to get her to do it.  She knew when to be funny and when to be sad more than some other narrator.

You can find Zoë Quinn on the web here: http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com

2018 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

Books Read so far: 2
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: 1. Keep in mind that "Witch" has never, EVER been an insult in my mind.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Good, but in her own words, flawed.
Best RPG to Emulate it: NA. But the snarky part of me does want to build a ShadowRun game around this with real trolls and real witches.
Use in WotWQMaybe not appropriate, but this was one of many real-life events that got me to write the Aiséiligh Tradition Witch.

1 comment:

grodog said...

Interesting stuff, thanks Tim!

Allan.

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