It’s Straw Men All the Way Down

I’ve decided, whether this leads to unjustified promotion or not (they will get at LEAST 2 clicks from my blog if I link them!), I will include the reference at the top of each entry.

I will clarify that a Straw Man argument is the fallacy of misrepresenting the argument of the person with whom you disagree. Atheists throw this around when speaking about religious people, and religious people throw this around when speaking about atheists. In the linked video, though, I think they take the meta game up (down?) one more level; if you are going to dedicate an entire episode to straw man arguments, you should avoid making them. Or maybe I am the crazy one; maybe saying “Can you believe these jerks with their unfair straw man arguments? Well, here is us using straw man arguments against them!” is what normal people consider a prudent option.

I know I have made several straw man arguments; I do not do so intentionally. As I grow and mature, I realize that when approaching the same place from two totally differing directions, two people will not make the same assumptions. Don’t get hung up on assumptions; we minimize it, but as humans, we make them. As I continue to write, and to think, I make a strong personal effort towards seeing where the opposing party is coming from. This is not easy, and that is why so many people do not even try.

The episode itself like to take a popular artistic image with some added dialog. Jesus is knocking on the door of a (presumed) non-believer, with the following conversation superimposed:

Jesus knocks on the door.
Other: “What do you want?”
Jesus: “To save you!”
Other: “From what?”
Jesus: “From what I’ll do to you if you don’t let me save you.”

Obviously, this is making fun of the nearly universal doctrine that if you do not believe in our omnipresent, loving God, you will be sent to hell (by, one assumes, that same God). From the outside, it is easy for (almost) anyone to understand what the atheist/commoner sees here. You must believe in God, or you go to Hell. This is a core doctrine.

From a Christian standpoint, the issue is not nearly so simple. First, obviously, to them it is a sin (in fact breaching one of the cardinal Three Commandments) to deny God, or worship other gods. Many outside of the Christian faith are not aware of the first three commandments, mind, or don’t understand that these are held to a somewhat higher standard than the following seven. So by disrespecting God, you are deserving of judgment by God. It is a narrow cable you balance upon, though, for only God has the right to judge. As per Matthew 7:1-3, judge not lest ye be judged. You will be judged by the same criteria that you have judged others by.

Since we are judging by the first three commandments, I believe it is fair for me to hold you accountable, Eric Hovind, and you, Ken Ham, for your Ark Encounter, Genesis movie, and especially (I would like to emphasize this as much as I am able) the Creation Museum . The second commandment is as follows: You shall not create for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

This is a very interesting cross-religion study, by the by. In Islam, this is a core doctrine; if you go to an Islamic School or Academy in the west, you will see the art and architecture is very abstract. This is an illustration of the fact that those in Islam take the ten commandments very, very seriously, whereas even the most wary Christian makes (admittedly minor) breaches of the commandments nearly daily. The Creation Museum, Ark Encounter, and The Genesis Movie are all dangerously popular, and to some garner more respect even than God, Himself. Mr Ham, and those like you, I would recommend caution, for your God is a jealous God. You may revere him above all else, but for more casual Christians… Have you led them astray?

Ah, sorry, I found myself distracted. Where was I? Right, Matthew 7:1-3. I believe, if I believed that God Himself handed down these words, He intended them to be a blacksmith of sorts, tempering the argument of both sides. The Christian fundamentalists who often (and explicitly, in the linked video) say that judging those who have done wrong is not only just but justified is tempered, and the atheists who target them, tempered the same.

It may seem like I am judging, and am thus opening myself to my own argument. I am, certainly, to a degree, though I will admit that I often find myself in serious violation of the ten commandments, and am not worried about it overmuch. In this case, though, I will leave myself open to some level of backlash to prove a point. The argument is, too often, not about substance, it is about throwing decontextualized quotations at each other, and hoping that somehow they will make a difference. I know what I am saying here probably won’t make a difference, but I would like to at least try to elevate the discourse. In the linked video, a meme-style image was used to attack Christian belief, and they responded in kind. To the playground-politics-minded among you, I will say that this adds up to a slap fight, but one in which the potential collateral damage is large. To the more worldly among my users, permit me a quote from a personal hero: “An eye for an eye will only leave the world blind.”

For the religious among my readers, please think about your own words, and how they follow the precepts of your personal deity, be he God, Jesus, or the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses. I won’t even be upset if the Christians among you ignore the Old Testament rules, and stick more closely to following the Golden Rule. It’s cool.

To the non-theist readers, please respect the other side as much as you would respect someone else who is on your side. We are all humans, we all love and live and seek the approval of our peers. You will no more win the theistic to your side with derisive arguments than they will win you to their side with the same.

Video Games, the Media, and Perceived Sexism

The article I am referencing:

I’ve posted rants before about the way that chauvinism and outright misogyny are part and parcel of online games, and one would think that focusing on the community of players would give the popular media plenty enough to do without focusing on game design itself. No, I am not going to just brush it under the carpet, here; game design often focuses on making female characters fit a mold that could really, truly, only be defined as sexist.

Recently, though, another person has stepped onto the internet and offended the wider group. People are up in arms about it, though even with a slightly level head, it is easy to see that there has been both some level of dishonesty and some level of disingenuousness. The catalyst, in this case, was a review of Dota 2 that for the most part was incredibly fair and informative. The issue taken by gamers was one line, almost offhanded, and not dwelled on by the writer himself; the line in question basically calls the game sexist. Further, for those who have played it, a screenshot of the Queen of Pain character was included as proof of this.

Now, the reviewer himself was being somewhat unfair; I would say that Luna and Legion Commander, at the least, are some of the most fair depictions of females in modern games. Add to that the fact that you are able to use custom costumes in the game and you have to understand that much of the sexism, as I mentioned in my first paragraph, is in the hands of the community more than in the hands of the game. In fact, going over most of the other characters, one finds that not only do females make up some of the most powerful and popular characters in all of Dota 2 (Anyone who tells me that a late game Drow Ranger is not in their top 5 most terrifying heroes list has not played against a late game Drow Ranger).

As I just mentioned, Drow Ranger is very formidable, and Mirana is an incredibly popular and versatile character. Legion Commander is fully armored, strength class, and is capable of going 1v1 against almost any hero in the game with only basic foresight. Luna is one of the highest damage characters in all of Dota, up there with Medusa, also a nonsexualized character, and Luna wears full armor. There isn’t even the slightest hint of cleavage.

The Templar Assassin, another formidable carry character (Carry being the term applied to a set of heroes that is expected to ‘carry’ you to victory) is nearly fully clothed, though there is some cleavage shown. She is no simpering girl, though, no character that the male characters are expected to roll over. She has powerful abilities that make her dangerous at every point in the game, from the first exchange of blows to the eventual destruction of the ancient.

Phantom Assassin, the highest single target damage carry in the entire game, is also fully clothed and armored, wearing a formidable breast plate, and carrying foreboding weaponry. She has the ability to completely change the tide of a losing game by destroying the opposing carries in 1 or 2 hits, no matter their HP. I can say with honesty, I have been in a winning position late game, feeling nigh indestructible, to be humbled by two swipes of the Phantom Assassin’s blade.

I could keep going, with heroes such as Spectre (Another carry whose ability to confuse the enemy is unmatched), Naga Siren (Her ability to control the flow of battle makes her valuable in any role), Windranger, Enchantress, Death Prophet, all powerful in their specific area. There are support females (characters whose primary purpose is not to carry you to victory, but to control the flow of the game, allowing their carries to do what they were designed to do), but they are not some passive girls, waiting for men to save them. Crystal Maiden (mentioned specifically in the offending article) has the highest damage ultimate ability in the game, and has nearly unmatched ability to control the movement of her opponents, stunning them and preventing them from fleeing. There is Lina, a character (descriptively) categorized as Nuker; everything about her is designed to do damage. Vengeful Spirit, whose primary abilities save her team from harm or initiate combat favorably for your team.

So what is the point of this rant on the females of Dota 2? Well, first, I wanted to point out that you can find flaw in anything. I can pick one character in a game (Queen of Pain, as per the article that set this off) and say that this represents everything. That is being unfair, and I think the article was being, at best, casually unfair to the developers of Dota.

The gamers, though, and their reaction, are being unfair to the reviewer. They are up in arms, some of them saying that the whole point of mentioning the sexist themes of some characters was the writer attempting “click-bait”, getting people to come read his review when they otherwise wouldn’t. That is unfair, and I think they could put down their pitchforks and torches, and say, with due respect “I think that sentence in your review was unfair. Why did you mention it?”

The thing is, for that sentence to be click-bait, it would need a bit more prominence than it has. I won’t lie, I heard about the article in question before I read it, and when I sat down to read it, I was prepared to read a diatribe about the evils of all men, the sexism of Dota 2 on full show, stripped naked for all to see. That is not what I got; what I read instead was almost a love letter to Dota, explaining patiently all that was good about it, but mentioning that it has its flaws. The line that has gamers up in arms is just that; a line. The inclusion of a picture of the Queen of Pain was likely editorial, and I would be comfortable giving the benefit of a doubt; the writer may not have intended its inclusion at all. In that way, it could be said to be click-bait.

The point is this; we all need to step back and avoid knee-jerk reactions. Many people in the comments thread of the article in question had not read it, and in protest would never read it (they won’t get my ad-revenue! All 1.5 cents of it! That’ll show ’em!!). I think if they read it and stepped back a hair, they could probably approach it with a more level head.

But like anything in the world, this issue is not purely black and white. The reviewer needn’t have included the line about sexism, but the gamers needn’t have raised their pitchforks and torches.

I think if you are looking for misogyny in game design, Dota 2 is about the last place to start looking; the female characters are for the most part fully and completely covered, and represent some of the most powerful mechanics in the game. But if you want to find a mob that will get up in arms about anything, the MOBA community is where you will look. In fact, the backlash from this article has acted like a magnifying chamber; I would never have heard of it, nor written about it, had I not come across a violent mob, and asked to what purpose were their pitchforks?

I am ok if you attack the community. I mean, it is a battle you can’t win, the community is far too large to paint with one brush. If you call them sexist, one thousand SJWs will come to the fore. If you look at them from outside, the noisy, virulent minority will be your experience.

But when a developer makes fully clothed women the most powerful characters in their game, maybe avoid calling the game sexist? There are better targets for that kind of thing. That’s all I’m really trying to say here.