Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Drivethru and Freedom of Speech

Trigger Warning:  All of them, the following piece contains frank opinions on a number of things, those who know me know that I have fought my whole life for those less able than me, I’ve always been there for those who needed me, and I fight for what I believe to be right.  I’ve got strong opinions that I keep to myself because I don’t feel the need to talk about them to others.

That changed just recently.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent times of what’s acceptable and what’s not in the world of RPGs, and a lot of it has centred around a particular product (That I shall not name to give it more publicity) that arrived on the store and set off an Inferno because it wasn’t immediately pulled down by the stores management.

I have to preface what I’m about to say because the potential for people to twist things for their own agenda is colossal, and we all have to be aware that there are always agendas when individual points of view are being considered..

The question posed was whether or not something can be considered inappropriate for general release due to the subject matter contained within, and to make a reasonable comment on that, you have to consider things in a broader perspective.

Is it appropriate to take it down because it offends certain people?

No... Never...


Because you’d never make anything, someone somewhere will always have a problem with something, no matter how much the rest of the world likes it (sometimes exactly because the rest of the world likes it.)

Is it appropriate to take it down because it contains certain subjects that are considered taboo?

No... Never...


Because the subject matter is not the problem, the way in which it’s presented is the problem.  It’s possible to talk about any subject from two different perspectives, one that uses the subject respectfully and carefully, neither sensationalising or condoning it, and one that uses the subject for shock and baiting tactics.

The First is acceptable, the Second is not.

To say that bad things don’t exist is naive at best, stupid at worst, and by not talking about them, the only thing you do is deny their existence to people who would otherwise not have known about them.

Would the world be better off thinking some things didn’t exist?

No... Never...


Because they do exist...

There are bastards in the world, All genders, all creeds, all religions, all orientations, bastardry is not limited to any part of humanity, and that’s where the subject matter becomes a problem, when it’s used for the wrong purpose.

When you write something, you have to consider what is it you’re writing.  If you write a scene where a bunch of fifty year olds are playing RPG’s around a table (bear with me here) you can present it in two ways, the first shows a bunch of childish losers who never grew up, the second shows two directors, one geneticist and a nuclear engineer all having fun with their friends.  If you write a rape scene, it can be presented as the horrific crime it is, it can show the devastation that it leaves behind, the wounds that often never close, and if they do, remain close to the surface.  Or you can use it as a tagline, something to draw people in to stare at.

Because most of humanity does stare when others are hurt or upset, they don’t step up and try to help, they don’t put themselves at risk.

They take out their phones and film it...

It was the second that the aforementioned product did, the title was deliberately provocative and those who wrote it knew that.  If they didn’t, they should seriously consider which world they live in, no one is that naive anymore...

And this brought up the question of free speech, with many heated opinions on all sides.

My take?

Are you free to speak of it?

Of course, those are the freedoms that the countries we live in granted you.

Are others free to speak of you in return?

Of course, those are the freedoms that the countries we live in granted them.

It is not right (note the use of the word right, not possible or reasonable) to restrict the opinions of any person just because you don’t agree with them.  If you cannot or will not make a reasonable argument to what they are saying, then you have the choice of ignoring them or walking away, because it’s very likely if they’ve been shouting about it, they’re going to keep on shouting about it.  Does this apply to everyone?

Yes... Absolutely...

Whether it’s over the Ether or in person, if you care about something, you’ll form a strong opinion to it, and you’ll be inclined to defend that position from anyone attacking it, which is only human nature.  What makes us most human is the ability to accept (Not agree) that someone else has a different perspective, and that as long as it’s not hurting anyone, we should let them have that.

Now here’s where the box of worms opens...

Most of the entrenched on both sides are now saying “But it is hurting me, I’m hurt because I want to say **** because it matters to me, and it hurts when I can’t say it because of those bastards.” Only for the other side to retort with “But it is hurting me, I’m hurt because I want to say **** because it matters to me, and it hurts when I can’t say it because of those bastards.”

And this goes on...

Every once in a while, someone has to step into the middle of these wars, and because these people identify with neither side, they end up getting shot at from both sides and whatever they do will not be enough.

This is where I found Matt Mcelroy this week after this went up.  Unlike a whole bunch of people who are talking about him at the moment, I know Matt. I’ve met him in person and while I haven’t spent as much time around him as I’d have liked, I know him enough to know he’s a good guy faced with the impossible task of putting in measures to satisfy both sides when both sides are only happy with their perspectives and recognise no middle ground.

Matt holds a tremendous amount of power as the person in charge of Drivethru, and with great power...Well...

Comes Great Headaches I have no doubt...

They’re never going to make things right for everyone, and whether they took a side or not, there’d be people upset and there’s still no win to be had...

There’s no win in this for anyone, only those who profit from the war...

For myself, I think the product that was put up was deliberate clickbait, I haven’t bought it so I can’t comment on it, and I also believe that absolute censorship is not the way forwards. It ends up like the BBFC before they were accountable, and we all saw how that ended up, the only films that got through in those days without a red triangle on them involved paint and the art of drying...

And in times like these, I’ll stand with the people trying rather than the people yelling...

And I’m with Matt on this, I’m not on anyones side, I’m here to help where I can...

Those who say I can’t help without choosing a side, this isn’t a war, you might think it is, but it’s not, not yet...

This is how wars start, lets try to stop it from getting to that stage...


  1. I have been a champion of free speech wherever I have been, I believe that the product could and probably should have been better presented.

    I'm of the opinion that Drivethru absolutely should not censor products, I think they are opening themselves up for litigation further down the line and that they should not be anything other than a library/vendor.

    The best idea I could come up with is an area dedicated to products like these with dire warnings about content and an age verification system.

    The producers who spit their dummy about this product should probably think about what could happen if they released a product that offended a group who then kick up an outrage storm.

    The subject was emotive, but it is not up to either Drivethru or the public to censor it, if it offends you, don't buy it.

    PS: I didn't and wouldn't buy what looks to be a bit of trash writing, but then I'm an adult in control of his faculties.

    PPS: Apparently one of the admins in the FB group this was posted isn't as big a fan of free speech as I am and despite it not breaking the code of conduct closed the discussion thread.

  2. From a 1st Amendment perspective, I stand fully with Thomas Jefferson in the idea that everything belongs in the marketplace of ideas, even that which we find detestable.

    However, DriveThruRPG is a business and that is a completely different issue. Until the internet, every retailer exercised discretion over what they carried, if no other reason than because of limited shelf space. If DriveThruRPG were a brick-and-mortar store, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Yet, there is nothing that says an internet business has less discretionary rights than a brick-and-mortar business.

    A couple years ago, I owned a business that published ebooks. As an editorial policy, I decided we wouldn't publish erotica or vampire novels. This wasn't to avoid offending anyone, it was because I felt the market for those specific genres was glutted. This didn't mean I was censoring those novels, it meant that as a business owner I was exercising my right to decide what products I would produce or carry and which ones I wouldn't.

    DriveThruRPG has exactly the same right. I don't know that I would have made the same decision if I were in their position (probably not), but I'm not in their position. They have every right to decide if carrying a certain product is in their interest as a business, or in keeping with their company's ethics. They have exactly the same right to do this as if they were selling printed copies from a brick-and-mortar establishment.

  3. It depresses me that we live in a society where this product is made.

    It depresses me further that anyone defends it because being able to say what you like in public is somehow more important than hurting people.

    Pushing the boundaries is fine. This isn't that. It's mocking rape survivors. It directly mocks real world pain and uses it for a punchline. That is in no way acceptable.

  4. Two things. One, taking down or refusing to carry a product isn't censorship except in the strict definition. There is nothing that says a store has to carry everything that comes along to be sold, or that people have to buy it, or that people who don't like it can't voice their opinion and take their business elsewhere. That's just the consumers deciding what they want to see.

    Two. Yes, you were told to take your posts to this blog instead of the RPG group. That isn't a matter of your right to free speech being impinged on. It's a private group, and it's not the government running it. They've set policy to try and keep things civil in direct response to the opposite happening.

  5. I don't know what product your on about, but this whole "what's right and what's not acceptable" argument, the people spouting their opinions loudly on each side, the general way the rpg scene was going, with every new kickstarter being 'the killer rpg that will be so much more role-playing than D&D, and the sheer number of people who needed to have their moment in the spotlight and needing praise for that moment is what drove me to basically quit gaming.
    You lot can keep all that, i'll just be rolling dice and telling stories with my family and friends in private, the way I want to play the games.

  6. Seems a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, as they say.

    Dude published something folks didn't like.
    People disliked it so much a vendor chose not to stock it.
    Dude has access to the Internet. The thing he published will never, ever die.

    The Internet makes most censorship irrelevant.