Feb 062011
Ranty McRantington logo

I’ve talked like way more about this than anyone probably should. If you’re just joining in and wondering how I got here or looking for more detailed thoughts as this debacle unfolded, please see my previous posts:

The Boys Club, part 2 | On the turning away. | Life after Dickwolves?

All things remaining as they stand now, this is my final post on the matter of Dickwolves.

This has eaten up a large part of my life for the past week. Putting it simply, I’m wiped clean and I’m wiped out. I’ve had an amazing amount of conversation happen here, for which I’m very thankful. I began writing about this primarily as a means to sort out my feelings, and by hearing from people who mostly agreed with my view and others who largely didn’t, I’ve been able to crystallize how I see these events and just what it all means to me personally. I’ve come to the point where I believe there’s nothing much more that can be said by those-who-are-not-Gabe-and-Tycho to alter my opinions, and I don’t think I can clarify any further without just repeating myself again and again.

In other words, since I don’t think there’s much more to be gained on either side by hashing and rehashing the same points repeatedly, in the absence of any new developments I won’t be commenting further on the Dickwolves debacle.

Tired as I am, frankly I hope there is more. It would be a bitter disappointment and a tragic loss to the gaming community if things were to end here.

Whatever Gabe and Tycho choose to do or not do, it’s clear that as gamers we still have a hell of a lot of growing ahead of us. I’ve been so encouraged by the discourse I’ve gotten just in these few posts, and I believe that if we can keep talking and treating each other with respect, even when we disagree – especially when we disagree – then we can make our community the kind of place it should be for everyone. I’d like to see Gabe and Tycho be part of the solution and not evidence of the problem, but that’s their call to make.

The larger issue of the sickness infecting our gaming culture I plan to revisit as I think up more and more words to spew. But on the Dickwolves, unless and until Gabe and Tycho return to the conversation, this post is where I stand.

Gabe and Tycho have said their piece. Both essentially concluded by saying these were their final words on the matter. As such, we now have the totality of their involvement in the Dickwolves mess and a complete picture of the actions and reactions that brought us to this. We can outline the history, analyze the key events, and draw our conclusions accordingly.

These are mine.

Jet Wolf’s Interpretation of Events

I personally found “The Sixth Slave” strip funny, but even if I hadn’t I would defend Gabe and Tycho’s right to the comic. I do not believe that any topic should be off-limits for discussion and that no subject is too inappropriate for a joke. By the same token however I believe that no joke is above reproach or commentary. Just as Penny Arcade has the right to make a joke about whatever it wants, so too do its readers have the right to be offended by it and both privately and publicly speak their offense.

The “Breaking It Down” response strip I believe was an ill-conceived knee-jerk reaction to criticism, a reaction I admit to finding difficult to fully understand in light of the checkered and much-criticized past of Penny Arcade. Still, I believe their interpretation of the criticism was “you advocate rape and support rapists”. This being the message they heard, they were either unable or unwilling to see beyond this, which led to a sweeping dismissal of any potentially valid criticism or helpful conversation. This perspective coupled with their immediate defensiveness lead to an atmosphere of antagonism and hostility, initiated by this comic.

The Dickwolves shirt is a continuation of the above atmosphere. Rather than let the matter fade, Gabe and Tycho continued to dig, striking out at a what they felt was a grievous wound, again either unwilling or unable to consider the feelings of their initial critics, a group who have already been so hurt. Particularly in light of the length of time between the “Breaking It Down” strip and the shirt’s announcement (nearly two months), I think this was a ridiculously and needlessly aggressive move. Even if Gabe and Tycho had managed to uncouple the idea of their critics as rape survivors, why they felt the need to restart a conflict that had died down, all the while adding the insult of their ability to profit from it is beyond me.

Similarly, Gabe’s flippant, mocking use of trigger warnings is indefensible. Even if it could be considered a wholly self-contained action – something I don’t think is genuinely possible given that it happens at the same time the Dickwolves shirt is announced – using it in this way does absolutely nothing but reinforce the idea that you are, at best, completely insensitive to even the idea of rape as a very real, very marginalized, and very serious issue.

All of the above has at its heart the theory of rape culture. While there are several points I’ve seen in my admittedly limited reading that ring with some truth to me, there are also many that I don’t agree with. Additionally it seems to me that many of its staunchest proponents are themselves either unwilling or unable to engage in any conversation that does not itself inherently agree. Given their experiences I think I can understand that. However that stance also makes it impossible to have discourse. All these things considered, I’m remaining otherwise separate from this issue. Ultimately I believe it’s one requiring far more knowledge and nuance than I have; there are folks out there far better equipped to handle this portion of the discussion, and I am content to leave it to them.

At this point we come to the moment where in my view the issue splits, becoming less about rape culture and more about gaming culture.

The Dickwolves shirt disappears from the Penny Arcade store. The shirt’s removal was, I think, an excellent step – not surprising as I think it was a such a colossal misstep in the first place. It was initially done quietly and without comment, and had a simple cordial explanation been given, the Internet would be a very different place right now.

But it wasn’t. Instead, Gabe’s explanation on the shirt’s removal becomes the launchpad for everything that happens next. The two moments of particular importance for me are: “We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen.” and “I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.” The former will be discussed at length shortly. As to the latter, it’s the first but far from the last demonstration to me that the apparent concessions being made with the shirt’s removal are token at best. The message here seems to be, “If you complained, you aren’t welcome at PAX.”

The shirt becomes a clarion call. Waves of attacks are launched against the perceived “enemies” who had the Dickwolves shirt pulled. A primary target is Kirby Bits, whose public statement about why she would not be attending PAX East directly preceded the shirt’s removal. The attacks against her are frequent, brutal, and utterly reprehensible. It’s theorized that the majority of the attackers are from 4chan, the implication being that they were trolling simply to troll. Whatever their source or motivation, they attack in the name of Penny Arcade and the Dickwolves.

Meanwhile on Twitter, Gabe has been goading any negative comments he receives. He insists on mocking any mention of rape and rape culture. When asked if Dickwolves shirts will be allowed at PAX, Gabe responds, “I’ll be wearing mine to PAX.” Of all the statements made as far as PAX is concerned, I find this to be the most shining example of the blatant hypocrisy that has yet to be addressed.

Gabe continues to mock and provoke on Twitter for nearly a week. The attacks on Penny Arcade’s critics similarly continue. In all this time, there is only one visible attempt to curb the blatant and open violence flooding Kirby Bits, when Gabe says directly to @dickwolvington “you need to stop man. Not fucking okay at all.” I’ve seen it argued that Gabe and Tycho had no idea what was going on, which I find incredibly unlikely. But even @dickwolvington was the only attacker to directly come to their attention, it’s absurd to think that two highly savvy Internet guys couldn’t come to the conclusion that maybe others were out there, and thus all the more inexcusable that they would not make any kind of public effort to deter others, just in case. Their silence is implicit approval.

They remain silent until Gabe received a threat against his family via Twitter. I said then and I repeat now that I very much don’t want to think that it took the threat of violence of those Gabe loves to convince he and Tycho to speak out. In the absence of any evidence I will choose to believe they were going to say something at that time anyway, and that this was an oddly-timed coincidence. But even given that, it took far, far too long to make the statement decrying those lashing out in their name. What’s more, I find the complete lack of empathic connection from Gabe (and his threatening tweet) to Kirby Bits (who has been experiencing an almost non-stop stream of the most horrific threats of rape and violence for nearly a week solid) to be both surprising and disappointing.

My distillation of Gabe’s response is “I’ve been snarky. Let’s not talk about it anymore.” My distillation of Tycho’s response is “I don’t know what to say so I’m not saying anything.” I find both to be wholly insufficient.

(Portions of the following were culled together from my responses found throughout this blog. My thanks to all people who’ve been talking with me throughout this and who helped me sort through my feelings.)

Why They Can’t Drop It

I believe that Gabe and Tycho have a responsibility to the gaming community to try and fix this. For better or worse, they are pillars of gamer culture. They are powerful individuals whose opinions have weight and whose actions set tone.

It’s been suggested that Gabe and Tycho are just two guys making a web comic, completely oblivious to the larger role they now play. I can’t claim to know what goes on inside Gabe and Tycho’s heads so I can’t say that’s wrong. If this is indeed the case however, I believe it’s incredibly naive, nearly to the point of self-delusion. They’ve watched PAX grow, they’ve watched Child’s Play grow – two things founded on precisely the idea of utilizing their very public and powerful position within the gaming community to sway internal attitudes and external opinions in a more positive way. They’re both avid followers of gaming news. Tycho especially has a gift for analyzing trends and getting to the heart of them. To say that up until now, up until this very controversy, they had no idea the kind of power they could wield is, I feel, disingenuous.

But let’s say that it’s true and only now have their eyes been opened to their influence on the gaming culture. So let’s fix it. You now know you have the power; use it to do what you always claimed you wanted. That cannot happen by withdrawing and pretending this never happened.

I’ve been pretty harsh in my criticism of Gabe throughout this – not surprising given his level of direct, targeted involvement. Still that criticism has sparked comments from many of Penny Arcade’s long-time community members coming to his defense. What I keep hearing is essentially “That’s just how Gabe is, you have to ignore him.”

That is insufficient justification for what’s happened here.

At least not – and I think this is a really important point – at least not once he involved the world that existed outside of his comic strip.

I am completely on-board with Gabe’s assertion that Penny Arcade: The Comic Strip is one thing, and that PAX and Child’s Play are another. I am with this 100%. However it’s Gabe that decided to drag all the nastiness of his comic strip personality, where several thousand fans were fairly well sequestered and unto themselves, into the larger world of several hundred-thousand gamers who are supposedly, according to his own statements, meant to be invited and welcomed.

If Gabe is that much of a loose cannon that a mere condition of being around him is to dismiss him, then he shouldn’t be speaking on behalf of the larger face of Penny Arcade: The Company.

Or if he does, then someone else with Penny Arcade: The Company should intervene quickly to mitigate his damage.

Or if they don’t, they should demonstrate that they’ve learned something from all this and will take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

But Gabe did speak. And it was six days before anyone even tried to call a halt. And nobody seems to have learned a damned thing.

So What Do You Want?

Whatever their intent, at all steps in this debacle Gabe and Tycho’s actions have been at best dismissive and antagonistic. This debacle didn’t cause misogyny and marginalization to suddenly appear in the gaming community, but it absolutely enhanced it. It’s unacceptable that they’ve caused so much damage but seem unwilling to try and help make it right.

But what specifically do I want to see?

I believe that for me (and I can’t claim to speak for anybody but myself) what I would like to see to start being okay with all this is some measure of a lesson learned. I would like to see Gabe be able to display a spark of empathy for his not insignificant role in bringing us to this point. Saying “I was an ass, let’s drop it” is not that.

If he for whatever reason simply can’t, then I would like to see some movement made on his behalf to help heal the damage he’s caused. Have Tycho or Khoo speak for him, maybe his wife could issue a statement, hire the dude a PR rep … Something. But letting his actions and words stand alone without comment or attempted amends by anyone else with Penny Arcade: The Company pretty much says all I need to know about Penny Arcade: The Company.

Tycho I’m a lot fuzzier on, I admit. I still have a lot of respect (however fragile) for Tycho, and I believe he is capable of greater thought, introspection and reflection than his partner, as well as the ability to connect what’s occurred here to the deeper and far more troubling undercurrents in our gaming culture. I would like to see him address this, and utilize his position in our community to help turn this mess around so that at least something positive can come out of it.

The only other alternative is to drop the farce that PAX is inclusive to everyone and welcome to all, at which point I’ll stop expecting better of anyone involved. But so long as they continue to try and present the idea that they are better and what they do is better then I will insist that they prove it.

What Happens Next?

The ball is squarely in Gabe and Tycho’s court. None of us can make them do anything at all. They can take this as an opportunity to improve the gamer culture or they can pretend they haven’t seen just how bad it is.

But make no mistake, if they choose to do nothing, if they choose to continue to consider themselves utterly blameless and above reproach, if they choose to be hypocritical and wear the Dickwolves shirt to PAX, then they can no longer claim that PAX is a place for all gamers.

PAX will no longer be home.

After I post this, I will drop my subscription to Penny Arcade. I will cancel my plans to attend PAX Prime.

I don’t say that lightly. What may have gotten lost along the way is just how much I love PAX. I really, really want this to be okay. I want to keep going to PAX. But as things stand right now, I simply can’t.

Gabe and Tycho don’t know me. They have absolutely no idea who I am. They certainly won’t miss me if I stop reading their comic and going to their convention. I’m under no illusions that they won’t feel any impact from my absence.

Sometimes actions aren’t so much taken against someone else as they are for yourself.

I can’t reconcile their words and actions over the past week with what they have said and I believe to be at the heart of PAX. As the founders and hosts of PAX – created and fostered as much as an idea as an event – they set the tone for what PAX is. To butcher a colloquialism, if they won’t walk the walk, then I won’t believe the talk.

That will only “hurt” me, I know that. At the end of the day though, all we have are our beliefs and our actions, and all I can do is stay as true to them as I can.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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  • Rabbit

    Irrelevant, perhaps, but if you still think Gabe is jerk, try reading his post here. He’s actually a pretty nice guy. I’ve met him and Tycho in person, albeit briefly, at ComicCon and they were nothing but cordial. Not rapists at all, although maybe I caught them in a lull.

    • Jet Wolf

      I’m pretty sure I’m not calling them rapists. If that’s an impression I’ve given please site me what led you to that conclusion because I need to reword the hell out of it.

      Thank you for the link. Unfortunately Gabe demonstrating he’s a nice guy three and a half years ago does not, for me, excuse Gabe being insensitive and downright cruel this past week.

      Perhaps he’s the nicest guy in the entire universe. I don’t know him. But I do know that he’s done absolutely nothing throughout any of this that’s spoken well to his character, at least not in my view. I’m totally open to him doing or saying something about this to give me glimpse of the better person that we see in your link. I sincerely hope he does.

      • Rabbit

        I don’t think you were calling him a rapist. Forgive me for being glib in a serious moment.

        The subtext that I think you’re missing is that while Gabe is generally a nice guy, he’s *really* good at getting under someone’s skin. This is a talent he’s displayed on more than one occasion. I don’t think anything he said was terribly offensive, but I’m not the target. If I was, maybe I would be frothing with rage and demanding apologies too. As it is, the whole thing looks pretty silly and overly dramatic to me.

        Sorry if I sound mean here. I’m currently nursing an incredibly stupidly self-inflicted eye wound and I’m a bit grumpy. No disrespect meant.

        • Jet Wolf

          Not a problem. No harm, no foul, as my beloved X-Men say on way too many occasions.

          I also get that it may look silly and overly-dramatic. Internets, right? srs bzns. I know I sure as hell didn’t think this would be like my entire week. But I think it kinda is serious business, and I only think that because I care so damn much. I absolutely get that your reactions and interpretations don’t match mine, may even be dramatically opposed to mine. I gotta tell you, my own husband didn’t quite get exactly why all of this upset me so bad at first, and even now I don’t think he’s entirely with me on everything I think and feel. But it’s okay that he doesn’t and it’s okay if you don’t either. We’re still able to talk about it and listen to each other and give consideration to another perspective and as far as I’m concerned that’s a huge step in the right direction.

          As to Gabe, I can’t say much that I didn’t say above. I personally don’t think “well that’s just Gabe” is sufficient enough to justify what he says and what he does when he drags it into the larger world outside of Penny Arcade: The Comic. Not if he and Tycho and Penny Arcade: The Company want to continue to try and claim PAX as an ideal. If they’re going to claim that then they have to prove it.

          • Rabbit

            I appreciate your civility in the matter. That’s really the best anybody can hope for when people are coming from such different viewpoints.

        • http://judithbutlertron.tumblr.com/ Socratic Method Man

          “Generally a nice guy” doesn’t mean anything if the only time you’re nice is when everything is going your way and nobody is disagreeing with you. The fact that he’s just hunky-dory as long as a situation doesn’t ask more of him than the miniscule increment upon which he’s willing to compromise says nothing about whether or not those boundaries are reasonable, and whether or not he possesses any grace under pressure. That’s the whole problem with the “nice guy” claim, and it’s one that Jet actually addressed above.

          If Gabe is that much of a loose cannon that a mere condition of being around him is to dismiss him, then he shouldn’t be speaking on behalf of the larger face of Penny Arcade: The Company.

          The inability to accept criticism without trying to score points against or punish your critics by “getting under their skin” is infantile, and it is exactly the problem that has been exposed in gamer culture this past week. Whether they believe in rape culture or not, and whether they have knowingly injured people or not, this mess of meanness, hostility, and entitlement in Mike Krahulik and a huge section of gamer culture needs to be addressed BY THEM, and it’s a testament to the patience, forbearance, and generousness of the people they have injured – not just the survivors, but the fans and fellow-fans who have seen the objects of their admiration act like a couple of complete douchebags – that we’re still explaining what we’d like to see and not just dismissing them like a bunch of manbabies insisting that everyone who disagrees with them can just fuck right off into the sky.

          It’s not a question of “demanding” apologies as advising them of the scope of their wrongdoing, suggesting a course of action, and waiting to see if they’re going to grow the fuck up and do it.

          Upon re-reading this post, I see that I have compared MK and his #teamrape and pro-dickwolf fans to juveniles, infants, children, and people who have not yet fully developed multiple times, but I’m willing to stand by that. After this past week or so, Kate Beaton’s recent life-drawing sketch looks really, really familiar.

          • Rabbit

            Wait…are you saying there’s a sexist streak in gamer culture that’s been largely unaddressed? Gasp! I am so shocked, let me just faint on this couch here.

            Yeah, Penny Arcade is childish. I keep wondering if other people have been reading some other Penny Arcade, the one where two mature and reasonable gamer guys make eloquent observations on gamer culture, and not the one that I read, where they primarily make penis jokes.

            I’m not opposed to argument, even if I think it’s reading a little too much into things. I’m opposed to the hysteria. I work in a psychiatrist’s office and I deal with hysterical people everyday. After awhile all I hear is “blah blah blah MY FEELINGS blah blah blah.” Hysterical people have a way of getting everyone else hysterical and then all you’ve got is drama and no actual facts or resolution. Then everyone forgets and moves on. Such is life.

          • Rabbit

            …that came out a little harsher than I intended. I’m going to blame it on the aforementioned injury and my perpetual grumpiness. My apologies.

            • http://judithbutlertron.tumblr.com/ Socratic Method Man

              Jet Wolf sez: Potential TRIGGER WARNING for the following comment.

              It would probably help if you didn’t keep casting your argument in terms of “demanding”, “dramatic”, “hysterical”, and “MY FEELINGS”, as well.

              As someone who has been literally held down by the back of my head, sobbing into a carpet while some asshole fucked me until I bled and then shot their load into me (which I subsequently had to figure out how to get out of me so that I didn’t smell like them anymore) I have a pretty solid and unenviable handle on exactly what “drama” is, and the difference between talking and hysterical screaming, and it’s kind of amazingly terrible that you keep casting the arguments of people who don’t share your privilege of being able to not give a shit as an inability to keep their uterus from doing their typing for them.

              I’m sorry your eye hurts, but I sincerely doubt it has somehow opened a magical gateway into a bunch of terrible opinions you actually don’t possess when you feel better.

  • Phil

    Hi Jet Wolf,

    Thanks again for your answers in your previous thread and thanks for this whole roman you took the time to write. I think you offer some good insights on this whole situation. I am really sorry for you that you choose not to attend PAX. I always enjoyed it very much and I am sure I will enjoy it again this year even though some people will be sorely missed.

    I know I always come back to the Shirt, please excuse me for doing so, but it is central to my personal view of this debate and thus I must always refer to it. Fair warning this post will follow the timeline of the debate and try to address most of the issues previously discussed.

    At Pax Prime 2010, during a public drawing panel Mike drew a Dickwolf on screen following a request from some fans in the assembly. Hilarity ensued and the Wolfman theater that hosted some panels was unofficially renamed the Dickwolfman Theater for the rest of the event, once again to the hilarity of many fans. At this point, the Dickwolf as a creature had become a fan favorite. Certainly not an example of the maturity of the gaming community but not a monument to rape either.

    A month later, PA announce they are selling a Dickwolf T-Shirt. A month is actually a reasonable time to make a design and produce a T-shirt based on something that a lot of fans loved at PAX. At this point the last blog posts objecting to the Sixth Panel and Breaking it Down are almost two months old and outside the Shakesville Blog we have no evidence that either Mike or Jerry read any of those Blogs opposing their view on the situation. Let’s also remember that Mike and Jerry refused to acknowledge the critics of the Sixth Slave because those critics came with the nuke bomb of rape culture and rape apologia. So the only objections they might have known against the Dickwolves are from a few fans who objected to the fact they made a rape joke and from a group of self-declared radical feminists whose arguments against the comic had the value of fantasy to the eyes of Mike and Jerry because they were colored with a radical agenda. Yet a lot (lot) of people had fun with the concept of Dickwolves. Under those circumstances, the idea to make a Dickwolves shirt probably seemed to be a pretty good one.

    Mike mocking of trigger warnings on the same day is however something I absolutely cannot defend except by using what you have already heard : It’s Gabe. Being a good follower of everything encompassing PA over the last ten years I can say one thing about Mike, he can hold a grudge and he can be very spiteful in his way of doing it. Is it bad for the company? Probably. Would they change it? Surely not, PA is what it is mainly due to the personality of those two guys and they stated on many occasions that they want to keep it that way. Now, Gabe has been accused by the Shakesville community of being a rape apologist and contributing to rape culture. When he tried to have a discussion on their own forums about the comic he was ridiculed and chased away. From what I have seen of the guy over ten years that’s enough to send him into grudge mode big time.

    Enter Courtney Stanton in the debate. First of all, I want to express how shamed I am over the treatment this woman had to endure over her position in this. I wholeheartedly disagree with her but I still think she didn’t deserved the shitstorm that stroke her mail box. Courtney was the first to publicly (that is on the Net) oppose the shirt and coined the term Go Team Rapist in reference to it. Once again accusations of promoting rape culture were made.

    3 months go on without much happening on the surface then Courtney Stanton says she will be a no-show to PAX due to the Shirt. 2 days later, the shirt is removed from the store. A lot of fans, including the supposed (I have no mean to prove it so I say supposed) crowd of 4Chan perceive the removal of the shirt as a form of Censorship. Courtney Stanton is perceived has the leader of the anti-shirt movement and persecuted for her stance.

    Gabe answer to the removal of the shirt is very revealing of the fact that he is angry with all of this. He admits it’s the path of least resistance and he wants everyone to feel welcome at PAX. He also include one of the line that give you (Jet Wolf) and many other fans some problems : I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to buy a ticket we can cancel the order. Now, if you go back a few lines in his speach you will find this : They don’t want to come to PAX or support PA because of the strip or because they think Tycho and I are perpetuating some kind of rape culture and that’s a different matter. Those are the persons he is addressing in his line about putting a black list for PAX. From that text you can clearly see that he doesn’t take those accusations well and that he is royally pissed about them.

    At this point it becomes a matter of beliefs about wheter or not Mike and Jerry are perpetuating rape culture with their comics/blog/shirt. Courtney Stanton made the Shirt a Team Rape shirt, before that it was a Penis Joke Shirt. I obviously don’t believe that Mike and Jerry are perpetuating rape culture but if you (Royal YOU not targeting anyone in specific) do that’s where the discourse between PA and you becomes impossible.

    The same day Mike commented about the removal of the shirt is the day the rabid Fans unleashed themselves on their opponents.

    Cigarette break, to be continued in 15 mins…

    • Phil

      Ok, here is the rest of my piece (which ended up being way longer than I originally intended)

      The most vocal opponents of Courtney Stanton and Shakesville : Hooded Miracle, Teamrape and Dick Wolvington really started their harassment campaign on the 29th of January, the day Mike commented on the withdrawal of the Shirt. I am sure that the previous objections from the feminists/survivors groups were met with hate mails but evidence show us that it was nothing in comparison to what was unleashed on the 29th. After losing about an hour of my life (that’s unfortunately how dedicated I am to this debate) of reading hate tweet I can say one thing : those guys are fighting not for PA itself, they are fighting what they believe to be censorship. They are doing it in the most heinous and stupid way possible but they seem to really believe that this is a Censorship issue.

      The 29th is also the day that Mike tells everyone that he will be wearing his Dickwolf shirt at PAX. This is where I can only agree with the general opinion that he is behaving like a dick, especially after agreeing to stop the shirt. His answer should really have been : I won’t be wearing mine but you are certainly welcome to wear yours if you want . The fact is however that Mike is Mike and like I said previously he can hold a grudge. He made this statement about wearing his shirt the same day he commented on stopping selling it and adding : Now for some people removing the shirt isn’t enough. These people have pissed him off and he is looking for vengeance. Is it petty? Yes. Is it in accordance with the man’s character? Also yes.

      The day after, the 30th, Mike tells Dick Wolvington to stop his attacks. That is not 6 months after the attacks, that’s one day. Dick Wolvington didn’t really acted before the removal of the shirt. On the 31th, the feminist side counterattack with http://fucknopennyarcade.tumblr.com/ a tumblr dedicated to insulting basically all male nerds who happen to like PA. In the meantime Mike receive a few tweets about propagating rape culture, he makes a general apology on tweeter about being snarky, the feminists are harassed and our corner of the Internet explode.

      On February the 2d (timeline debacle is wrong the date, source PA) both Mike and Jerry address the matter. That’s 4 days since all Hell broke loose. I know in Internet time 4 days is awfully long. Yet in those 4 days Mike and Jerry took care of their small children, played Dead Space 2, worked on PAX East and Child Play, managed to produce their regular work. Is it possible that in those 4 days they lost control of a fan base that in fact they don’t really control considering the most vocal opponents of Courtney Stanton raised the Flag of Freedom of Speech and not the Flag of Penny Arcade? Is it possible that both Mike and Jerry didn’t follow the tweets of those nefarious individuals and while aware of the ongoing fight didn’t exactly suspect the extent of the craziness that stroke the Internet?

      I’m willing to give them the benefit of doubt.

      Now about the apologies. Obviously the feminist/survivor side doesn’t consider them enough as do a lot of people of more moderate opinion. I am totally satisfied by them.

      Mike says that he doesn’t approve of any of the attacks from both directions. He admits having been rude, snarky and sarcastic in this debate. He admits he might have accidentally encouraged the morons from his side and he apologize for it. He even admits that personally fueling the debate was a bad idea. That’s all I needed from him, that’s actually a lot coming from him. He publicly admitted to behaving like a dick and encouraging the hateful bunch and he apologize for it. Reading between the lines you will see that this covers the statement about wearing the shirt. In my book that’s a formal apology about his behavior. Why didn’t he specifically speak about the Shirt statement? He probably doesn’t want to empower this controversy anymore on either side of the debate.

      Jerry apology is very different but more powerful. Jerry apologize for not having talked about the problem earlier. That in my opinion is a powerful admission of his failure to take responsibility for this problem. It also implies that he realized that failing to restrain Mike has caused more problem. He also admit that from the start he was unable to participate in this debate because the point of views were too different. Jerry and Mike will never back down from the idea that in humor everything is permitted while the feminist/survivor side will never agree to the fact that the Dickwolved do not perpetrate rape culture. He equally says that he understand why the controversy happened and that he is not interested in a repeat, implying that next time he offends someone he will engage a more meaningful discourse.

      That is also why the kind of apology many people are expecting from PA is impossible. They have already told their fan to stop their assault and apologize if they give the impression that they wanted their fans to behave that way, and that’s after 4 days of visible outrage not 4 months.

      They didn’t apologize for the Shirts and I believe they never will. Why? Because to them, like for most PA fans or any unwitting bystander, the DIckwolf is a penis joke not a rape joke.

      On a final note, once again thank you Jet Wolf for letting me hijack your blog to say my piece. I am happy to actually have found it amongst this controversy and I will be following your next articles non-Dickwolves related. I don’t expect to change your mind about this story but I really hope you will reconsider your presence/absence to PAX in the light of what I have written.

      • Andy

        Thanks so much for putting that timeline together. It’s very hard to discuss something productively when there’s so much misunderstanding about what that something is.

    • Jet Wolf

      Hey Phil,

      Sorry this took so long for a reply. I really wiped myself out on all this and had to step back for a while. My husband was off this past week and it seemed the perfect opportunity to think about something not-this. Totally understanding if you’ve also excused yourself from the conversation at this point, but I did want to let you know that all your words were read. And, now commented upon!

      I am really sorry for you that you choose not to attend PAX. I always enjoyed it very much and I am sure I will enjoy it again this year even though some people will be sorely missed.

      I am too. Like I’ve said, I really wanted this to turn out okay so I could still go. I enjoy my time there tremendously and was so looking forward. On the one hand I’m kinda glad this all came up as it’s ripped the band-aid off and shown us that the wound isn’t healing like we – or I, anyway – thought. So we can get some Neosporin on that shit. On the other hand … PAX, you know? I mean hell, that one trip gives me my whole new wardrobe for the year! I don’t want to say goodbye, I simply feel I have no choice.

      Fair warning this post will follow the timeline of the debate and try to address most of the issues previously discussed.
      <snip rundown>
      I’m willing to give them the benefit of doubt.

      I think this is what it perhaps all boils down to. Those who are in Gabe and Tycho’s corner are giving them the benefit of the doubt in each and every way. The thing is, the more I see this the less it seems like critical thinking to me and more like hero apologia.

      And damn I hate to use that word because of how charged all of this has made it, but it’s really the best I can think of in this instance.

      Whatever decision they’ve made, there’s a reason for it that leaves them blameless. Whatever offense they’ve given, there’s an explanation that excuses them. Even when you feel they’ve done wrong (Gabe’s mocking trigger warnings), you follow up with “but that’s just Gabe!”

      I get that. You say here how long you’ve been following what these guys do, and your admiration of them as creators and gamers is clear. It’s incredibly difficult to see people you admire fall below your expectations, or to see others perceive them as less than you believe them to be. I’ve totally been there, I understand completely.

      Unfortunately it makes things incredibly frustrating on this end, because I can’t help but feel there’s nothing I can say, no argument I can make, that will not be countered with some kind of justification and a to-the-core refusal to genuinely concede any wrong-doing at any step of the way on behalf of Penny Arcade.

      I feel that Gabe and Tycho hold the exact same viewpoint really, a steel rod of righteousness within them so strong that they refuse to even consider the idea that hey, maybe this whole mess is kinda their fault too.

      For the sake of this moment, I’ll break it down to the barest of concessions I would hope to see from the PA guys: To either admit that Gabe and/or Tycho wearing a Dickwolves shirt to PAX is a deliberate act of hypocritical divisiveness that directly contradicts their own message about why they removed the shirt in the first place, or to acknowledge that they aren’t actually interested in PAX being a space that is open to everyone and anyone who loves gaming.

      Because they can’t have it both ways. These two things, the statement and the action, are diametrically opposed. It’s matter and anti-matter. It’s Past Bad Guy From Time Cop meeting Future Bad Guy From Time Cop. They cannot occupy the same space.

      It says everything that neither Gabe nor Tycho see a problem with their hypocrisy, and their actions (or lack thereof) show that they themselves don’t believe their own PAX mission statement. For the sake of their own flagship convention that welcomes hundreds of thousands of gamers, they can’t find the depth of character to admit even the possibility of rash, careless speech.

      I can’t find any benefit of the doubt left in me. They’ve used it all up.

      On a final note, once again thank you Jet Wolf for letting me hijack your blog to say my piece. I am happy to actually have found it amongst this controversy and I will be following your next articles non-Dickwolves related. I don’t expect to change your mind about this story but I really hope you will reconsider your presence/absence to PAX in the light of what I have written.

      You’re most welcome, and thank you for taking the time to write all this up. I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to come to any kind of agreement ultimately, but I appreciate that you care enough to speak your mind so thoughtfully.

      • Phil

        Hi Jet Wolf,

        Thanks for replying to my posts. I have a few things I would like to comment upon.

        You say here how long you’ve been following what these guys do, and your admiration of them as creators and gamers is clear. It’s incredibly difficult to see people you admire fall below your expectations, or to see others perceive them as less than you believe them to be. I’ve totally been there, I understand completely.

        I have a great deal of respect for Mike and Jerry and what they have accomplished. I am from the exact same generation as them and at a similar stage in my life were my own professional career is starting to pay off. I connect deeply with a lot of the things Jerry write on the blogs, most of the time more so than the comics. I am definitely biased in their favor still I was disappointed with the way they handled specific issues in this matter.

        I’ll break it down to the barest of concessions I would hope to see from the PA guys: To either admit that Gabe and/or Tycho wearing a Dickwolves shirt to PAX is a deliberate act of hypocritical divisiveness that directly contradicts their own message about why they removed the shirt in the first place, or to acknowledge that they aren’t actually interested in PAX being a space that is open to everyone and anyone who loves gaming.

        This is where we see common ground. The message about PAX inclusiveness is directly contradicted by Mike asshat answer that he would wear his own shirt at PAX. He was asked on Twitter if it was ok to wear the shirt at PAX and he did answer like a dick. This is what disappointed me the most about this situation.

        I am actually more angry about this single tweet from Mike than anything else in this whole controversy because at this point it cease to be penis joke vs rape apologia to become about PAX.

        Mike is certainly guilty of making this comment about wearing his shirt and Jerry is certainly guilty of removing himself from the debate. Jerry’s apologies about this are quite clear and are enough for me. Mike’s apologies : I am certainly guilty of being snarky, sarcastic and rude. I apologize if that gave anyone the impression that I would ever condone this sort of behavior. I never should have engaged them at all much less the way I did. The last sentence here is the most important to me because it is an admission from Mike that the way he handled the tweets was wrong. Is it enough after saying that he would wear the shirt? Probably not. Again, I admit that this single tweet was more incredibly damaging than anything else that happened in this crisis.

        I would actually be surprised to see Mike wear a Dickwolf Shirt at PAX after this apology. Surprised and seriously disappointed.

        We ask a lot of Mike and Jerry because we expect a lot from them as Icons of the gaming community. By doing so we are asking them to endure as they are called rape apologists on a dozen of blogs for making a joke and then a shirt that had way more to do about phallusform animals than rape. I am myself guilty of laughing to the occasional rape or dead baby joke, one of my friend is very fond of making those. If I was to be called a rape apologist by a single person for laughing at those jokes it would probably send my blood boiling.

        I know the PA guys dropped the ball on this one when Mike answered that he would be wearing his shirt and then failed to properly address this situation. I also feel they were put in a bad spot by Courtney Stanton who decided to call a Penis joke a Rape joke. There was an easy way out of this one : Retire the shirt from the shop because of the strong feelings of some fans about it, say the PA team are not going to wear theirs at PAX but politely ask the fans offended by the shirt to give the benefit of doubt to other fans who might be wearing the shirt at PAX unaware of this whole debacle and for whom Team Dickwolves is a team of wolves with rather weird paws.

        This would most certainly have been decried as insufficient by the feminist/survivors bloggers but would have shown maturity from Mike and Jerry. It did not happen, quite the contrary actually.

        Super long post again :(. I can’t seem to be able to talk about this without writing like crazy. I see eye to eye with you about Mike statement and PAX but I find myself able to forgive him in the light of his apology.

        Thanks again Jet Wolf for hosting your own corner of this debate. It is a peaceful place kinda like my favorite pub at dinner time. Not too much people but interesting ones with a mind toward conversation and sharing good tale.


  • http://blog.sinthetik.com SushiSpook

    Thanks for the blog posts. I’d seen a few other people try and break it down in an incredibly dispassionate, analytical, and above all, minimalistic bullet-point way, and it failed to convey the feelings on both sides. Until I read these today, I hadn’t understood the chain of events correctly, nor the level of backlash to multiple statements/actions.

    I really enjoyed the discussions and comments here. For the most part, it was really a joy to read people who felt very strongly, but were able to respectfully discuss it. I’m glad I got directed here by a friend’s tweet, and I’m planning on sticking around and keeping up.

    • Jet Wolf

      Thanks so much. I’ve been so thrilled with everyone here. We’ve really shown what I would hope for gaming culture – disagreement though discussion and respect. Just fantastic, and has kept me optimistic about where we, as a community, go next.

      I appreciate your kind words. This whole exercise has really been for me (and several thousand of my friends, apparently!) to sort out how I felt about it all. It seems I’ve been able to help crystallize thoughts and feelings for several people while doing it for me too, and that’s like getting a bonus cake dessert on Cake Day.

      Next time I get all serious and stuff (whenever the hell that is), I look forward to more discussions.

  • fffff

    This probably would of went down better if that timeline everyone’s using left some room for context, or cleared up some things everyone seems to get wrong.

    Though what really got me was this.

    “Mike draws a comic on UStream. His music selection during broadcast includes Tori Amos (a rape survivor) and “Tiny Little Mustache” by Stephen Lynch, about a woman who is a Nazi.”

    Now I don’t know if it was the timeline guy or who doing all the analyzing here but that’s a tinfoil-hat breaking Illuminati codes in the newspaper level of paranoia.

    • Jet Wolf

      I completely agree that there wasn’t a single relevant thing in Gabe’s music in that stream. However I don’t think it’s fair to use that as a reason for dismissing the whole conversation.

      Of all the points I’ve seen brought up about this debacle, from all perspectives, the music is so not a blip on the radar. Why would it need to be? There’s so much other legitimately tangible stuff to talk about here.

      I think it maybe could have some metatextual relevance in demonstrating just how upset some people have become over this, but eh, I’m stretching. Truth is that we need only look at the facts to see how Gabe and Tycho have no problem being pretty blunt with their dismissal and mockery. Why on earth would they start being subtle now?

      I think most anyone with something substantive to say about this, regardless of their stance, is happy to ignore the music thing. Similarly, I think most people are using timeline as a collation, not a bible. Anybody who would use it as their sole point of reference and delve no further probably wouldn’t be long for a discussion anyway, so I don’t think I can agree that either the timeline as a whole or the music as a specific has significantly dictated the discourse.

  • Mabus

    Hey, coming to the party late — I’ve been reading up on this mess in chunks over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been withholding my comments as a) I have basically no real voice in any community at the moment and b) most of my sentiments have already been captured by others.

    I wanted to comment here though because one thing in your post stood out to me — the suggestion to hire a PR guy. That’s when I threw my hands up-high and went “BEST SUGGESTION I’VE READ YET”. The PA guys have admitted that they knew nothing about the business end of things, and that’s how Khoo got hired. Well, it’s obvious that they know nothing about the PR side of running a business/cultural hub/gamer embassy to the mainstream.

    While I concur with some previous posters that their personalities have made the business, and their frankness is part of the package deal, I also hold that those very personalities are characters (beyond even how they are presented as characters directly in the strip). I hold no illusions that the presentations of Tycho and Gabe online in their twitters or newsposts are reflections in any meaningful way of the human beings that play them. They have the opportunity to very tightly control how they appear online — we all do — and I feel it’s ridiculous to pretend they’re not making use of the opportunity to present themselves in a very specific way. The problem in this case is that Gabe is utterly failing at presenting himself in a way that does not alienate a sizable percentage of gaming culture, and Tycho is struggling with it to the point where he feels he cannot comment directly on the issue.

    When you have two people, in a company, in that situation — where one can only come up with bad words and the other can come up with no words — then it’s time to hire someone who can come up with good words. They could even do it without damaging their integrity; pick up a ‘columnist’ who simply writes for the front page, plays the good cop to their bad ones in a silly way 99% of the time, and have them be the one who takes the reigns with shit hits the fan. They don’t need to censor themselves, but, if they’re going to be an embassy for gaming culture, then they sure as hell need an ambassador.