If you haven’t heard the news, a group called the Honey Badger Brigade was kicked out of the Calgary Expo. Depending on who you ask, the reason for this is either because they were disrupting panels, or because they were promoting an agenda that certain idealogues at the event did not agree with. Here’s why it’s all bullshit.
When the GamerGate thing was first getting started, I was initially on board... Gaming journalism was (and still is) sorely lacking in safeguards that ensure the end reader is getting a fair story without bias nor ulterior motives. However, as most of us have since discovered, GamerGate was never about that. It was a group of libertarians and hard-right conservatives trying to use a very real issue in the gaming community to attack radfem and equity social justice groups which had, themselves, co-opted other issues in gaming.
Both of these groups are composed of extremist morons that don’t give a shit about you, nor gaming. I want to make that very clear. They are fighting a war that has nothing to do with the vast majority of gamers, be they male, female, black, white, native, gay, trans, straight, whatever.
I have hesitated on making commentary on the Calgary Expo for one simple reason: I did not want to make the mistake of making the same knee-jerk reaction I did during the Zoe Quinn bullshit.
Now, there’s one more thing I want to make really clear: 100%, I think everyone deserves a voice, and a chance to speak their mind. Perhaps more importantly, I feel that all public fora should be conducive to intellectual debate and discussion involving people from all walks of life and points of view. I definitely feel that arbitrarily shutting people out of the conversation just because they look or feel a certain way is counterproductive, and I’m extremely disgusted at the ways groups calling themselves “progressive” or “open-minded” are over-aggressive with bans and other silencing tactics in order to skew the conversation one way or the other. These people are scum, and they are actively harming our ability to resolve very real social issues in the process.
But one thing has become very obvious with the whole Honey Badger Brigade thing: They went to Calgary Expo specifically to be kicked out of it. The following video is by tremendously under-appreciated YouTuber The Wooly Bumblebee, who I feel has always done a great job of tearing down extremist arguments, no matter what side of the debate they fall on. The video features clips from two or more interviews featuring Karen Straughan, an A Voice For Men and Honey Badger Brigade supporter who proudly describes herself as an “anti-feminist”. Wooly does a much better job of pointing out the bullshit that I could ever hope to, so feel free to have a watch.
I think what disgusts me most about this whole thing is just how fucking manipulative it is. There are people, like myself, that are very passionate about all peoples having a voice without fear of persecution. I get very, VERY angry when I see people acting aggressively authoritarian in their efforts to shut down an idea they don’t agree with. And to see a group of people get up on stage and pretend to be persecuted - and no doubt, that’s what they’ve done here - when there are people actually fucking fighting for the mere right to speak their minds, it just fucking disgusts me.
The people behind this stunt should be ashamed of themselves. But in saying that, the Calgary Expo is not beyond reproach here. I think they were a bit too heavy-handed in kicking this group out, and I’d be absolutely shocked if they didn’t think this could backfire in some way. They could have let them stay, say their bit, and let them be ignored. Instead, they asked them to leave, and played right into this group’s agenda. The official explanation is that the group was disrupting panels, but people in support of HBB have found dozens of audio clips of people disrupting panels in similar ways. Yes, HBB did go out of its way to attract attention to itself, and that was probably why they got kicked out where others did not... But the way Calgary Expo handled this has caused the Streisand Effect to go into full gear, and a group that probably would have otherwise gotten ignored completely is now blowing up into a major media story.
At the end of the day, I think we, as gamers, need to do a better job of recognizing when there is an ulterior agenda behind certain social discussions in the gaming community. I also think that our “mute button” culture needs to fucking die, at least on online spaces. Muting a player in an online game is a necessity to keeping the game focused, but as the gaming community continues to mature and evolve, we can’t simply take the ball and go home - we need to listen to people from all walks of life, and have a free, open discussion about potential issues without acting like children or dictators whenever someone says something we don’t like. I think most moderated fora related to gaming are doing a piss-poor job of this, and I think the media is still struggling to find a neutral voice with which to discuss bigger issues.
With that said, I think we’re getting better. I think we continue to make strides in the right direction, even if we stumble along the way. I think as time goes by, as long as people continue to raise their voices the way they have, gaming has the potential to be a safe haven for reasonable discussion related to the media. But if we’re going to get there, we can’t keep shutting out voices... And the Honey Badger thing demonstrates only one example of how that can blow up in everyone’s face.
Alison Tieman, one of the primary artists involved in the Honey Badger Brigade, replied to this article. You can read her response in the comments below, but I would like to add... While writing this, I had wanted to make a small section where I talked about Alison who, as an artist, has been banned from all this promoter’s events, and how both she and several other donors and supporters have lost a great deal of money on this venture. I neglected to do so. While it’s easy to write people off, we can’t forget that this whole state of events has caused real damage to the livelihood of at least one person. However, I would also like to note... This certainly wouldn’t be the first time Karen Straughan and her Voice For Men cronies have thrown real activists under the bus to promote their personal politics. Alison Tieman, I feel, is not the reason HBB got kicked out of Calgary Expo, and her ban should definitely be reversed. But that’s pure opinion on my part.
PyramidHeadcrab is a guy with a keyboard. I like to write about bigger issues because I can, even if my articles lack the precision of an academic and the verbal finesse of someone too high on themselves. If this article makes you angry, tell me why. If you don’t take the time to discuss your views, you’ll never have a chance to see the potential flaws in your own logic.