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About SXSW, Gaming, and Free Speech March 14, 2016

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture.
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So you may have heard about the gaming harassment summit that is a part of the highly attended South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, TX this week. And that it was poorly attended.

Well, at least a part of the reason it was poorly attended is that it was geographically remote from the main conference. And the SXSW organizers had already cancelled several sessions on similar topics, ostensibly because of the threat of violence.

I’m reading comments on LinkedIn on a couple of articles that talk about this summit. Professional people are actually attaching their names to screeds that advocate that threats of violence against participants is free speech, or that female gamers are getting what they deserve.  To be fair, it seems like LinkedIn quickly took down these posts, but that doesn’t change the thoughts and beliefs of the majority of commenters.

I am disgusted. Free speech in no conceivable world includes the right to make threats of violence or death against others.  I repeat: that is not free speech.

And what does this say about the environment that the SXSW conference is promoting and supporting? I know people who think this event is the best thing since hot buttered rum.  The President of the United States was at this conference, speaking on the government’s right to hack our phones.

That is wrong in so many ways, by the President (that’s you, Mr. Obama), and by people who believe that this event is in any way benign and supportive, and most especially those that make threats.

Free speech is letting those who disagree with us have a platform for doing so. Without fear of violence or retaliation.  It is not threatening them, and those who cannot discern that difference are wrong.  I wonder how this can possibly happen in the USA, in this day and age.

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