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I’m seeing a number of cherished friends, respected acquaintances, and well-spoken internet strangers posting this week about why they’ll never go back to PAX. PAX is a big part of my year, my career, and my life, so this whole thing is kind of breaking my heart and I want to try to sort it out – for the sake of my own sanity, and to clear up any questions among my fans who might wonder why I – an arch leftist who believes strongly in social justice – continue to ally myself with an event and an organization that has veered, in the eyes of many progressives, to the wrong side of righteousness. 

Let’s start with Penny Arcade, even though the strip itself is not so much at issue as the creators (my friends Mike & Jerry), the org, and the culture surrounding it. The comic, originating seed and continuing bedrock of the whole endeavor, is a gag strip about gaming and the gaming industry. It often depicts extreme violence and employs shocking obscenity in service of its jokes. It is sometimes very dark, as is a lot of my favorite humor, and it is almost always about things that you couldn’t hope to care about if you’re not a gamer. By subject, by content, and by stylistic approach, the strip precludes the kind of general readership that a newspaper comic might reach. But to PA’s adherents, it is indispensable. You probably know all this already, but I feel like it bears laying out, just as a reminder that comedy is subjectively consumed and appreciated, and that certain common and valuable comedy tools (violence, obscenity, and gallows humor) will produce a strong negative reaction in a lot of perfectly reasonable folks. That’s fine. Being perfectly reasonable, those folks distinguish between material that they find extremely distasteful and material that is actually injuring innocents. They seek out comedy that they find funny and/or acceptable, and they leave Penny Arcade, usually, to the rest of us. I haven’t seen anyone suggest that Penny Arcade must be censored or denied to its readership. I HAVE seen full-throated critiques of certain PA strips. And I HAVE seen PA fans cry censorship over criticism of the strip’s content. Those particular fans do not understand what censorship is, and they should probably never use the word casually. Criticizing things that we find distasteful is part (a vital part!) of discourse in an open society. If someone sees a piece of art that I love and finds it to be in gross violation of decency, taste, caring, or human dignity, it is not merely that person’s right to yell about how shitty they think it is – it’s sort of their obligation. They want our shared culture to be better, and they’re complaining toward that end. I can answer back about how I find their position to be unsubstantiated, misguided, misinformed, unfair, or otherwise lacking. Or I can accept that their perspective is valid while I don’t share it. Or I can ignore their perspective. Or I can ignore their perspective, feel attacked, and insist that they go fuck themselves for daring to criticize whatever it is that I’ve wrapped my identity up in consuming – in this case, the comic strip Penny Arcade. That last option is the worst one, if you’re ranking them.

Let’s move on to dickwolves. This ( http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/8/11/ ) is a strip that some PA readers (and many more non-readers who discovered it through the ensuing shitstorm(s)) found upsetting because of its casual invocation of rape. From my perspective, the comedy of this strip is sophisticated and hilarious. It presents a critique of game designers, their hamfisted incorporation of heroism as a narrative excuse for stat grinding, and the amorality of the gamer who becomes complicit in this shoddy, effectively immoral narrative while pursuing feats of supposed justice. The rape victim in the strip is not the punching bag of the joke. The joke functions instead at the expense of the scenario designer, the hack game writer, and the player who has been perversely incentivized to not give a shit about the moral implications of the quest. It is, in so far as it addresses the issue, an anti-rape joke. From my perspective, it seems to pass the demanding tests suggested by Lindy West and Patton Oswalt in their fantastic posts about when rape can and cannot function effectively in humor ( http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke and point number three here: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/06/patton_oswalt_on_rape_jokes_joke_stealing_and_heckling.single.html ). I am defending my perspective on the original strip because I think the joke itself – how it was constructed and what it means – does matter. But let’s remember that my perspective on this joke is not a) that of a rape survivor nor b) that of someone who, because of gender, stands at least a 1 in 6 chance of getting raped before I die. It is my not-at-all-unique privilege to walk the dark alleys of the real world without that kind of fear. And it is my also-not-particularly-rarified privilege to enjoy this joke without it triggering a painful memory of violation and trauma. So many of us share this privilege, and the casual exercise of the privilege is so normalized, that it is a simple thing for us to forget that not everyone has this same access to the hilarity explored in the dickwolves strip. 

Ironically, it’s always in the front of our minds that not everyone can access the hilarity in a PA strip. That’s part of the strip’s appeal to us – that most people don’t know/care enough about gaming to parse a joke like this in the first place, that our understanding is specialized and our enjoyment is somewhat exclusive. Thus the PA readership’s vocal defense of the strip: you are offended because you Just Don’t Get It. And there’s something to that. You’d need a few dozen hours of NPC-provided bullshit-collection side quests under your belt to grasp how all the parts of this joke are fitting together, and so for the vast majority of folks in the world, it is pretty easy to misunderstand this particular strip’s focus, to mistake it for the sort of “haw haw, you got raped” comedy that the worst, hackiest, most bro-ish comedians continue to trot out in lieu of genuine edginess. Surely some of the initial criticism of the strip came from that place of misunderstanding. And surely some of Mike’s initial pushback stemmed from his own sense of personal affront at being grouped with that kind of bottom-quality comedy. But just as surely, there were readers who understood the joke thoroughly and still felt discomfort – or much worse. It is a complicated thing to grasp without direct experience, that for those rape survivors who still suffer PTSD, just reading the second panel might produce a genuine injury. Is it the strip’s responsibility to be safe art for everyone? Absolutely not. Is it irresponsible to reference sexual violence without a trigger warning? Not usually, outside of known safe spaces. And that warning would seem redundant on PA, with its well-established history of jokes about pedophilia, AIDS, robots who rape breakfast fruit, etc. So, is it our responsibility as fans of the strip (and as reasonable, thinking, feeling human beings) to recognize the potential for suffering in others, and to treat that potential with all appropriate respect? Of course it is, even when the exact amount of respect deemed appropriate is a continuing negotiation. And it is, definitely, our responsibility to recognize that some of those others are our fellow fans, that their voicing of concern or apprehension is not an attempt to squelch the boundary-free comic sensibilities of Jerry and Mike. It’s just people saying “Hey, not everyone can handle it when you drop the R word like that. The exculpatory context doesn’t really help. You don’t have to change the way you write jokes, but you should seek and attain full understanding of the comedic tools you use in your craft.” 

Or anyway, that’s how I like to think the critique of the strip began. It quickly escalated into a genuine internet garbage explosion. Some people from the Social Justice left decided that PA is penned by monsters. Some defenders of the comic told critics that they should be raped, murdered, and so on. The former is ungenerous and incorrect. The latter is appalling and indefensible.

I was embarrassed by both. I want all the kids who love the same strip I do – the strip that is so often brilliantly wrought by my buddies Mike & Jerry – to behave like decent folks instead of like reprehensible little shits. And I want every member of the far left – a membership in which I proudly include myself – to recognize that a straight dude who hasn’t learned that rape culture is a real thing is NOT in every instance an irredeemable trashbag who rejoices in oppression and the denial of victims’ suffering. Well, I don’t always get what I want. And while voices that I consider civil and sensible were present on both sides of the initial conflict, they were drowned out immediately – at least on social media – by the least constructive representatives of each viewpoint.  Annoying, embarrassing, disappointing. It’s internet, Marge. It’s gonna be that way.

But then it got worse. And I hate to say it, but a series of unforced errors on Mike & Jerry’s part were what turned it from a spitting contest between blindfolded third parties into a sort of a grudge match between the strip’s creators and feminism at large. First was the response strip ( http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/08/13 ) and attendant news posts ( http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/08/13 ) in which a hugely problematic viewpoint emerged: Mike & Jerry had decided that all (as opposed to a few) concerns about the Dickwolves strip were sourced from fucking idiots. When you have any non-zero number of fucking idiots yelling at you on internet, it is tempting (and sometimes important) to take a couple of intellectual shortcuts in defending your own emotional stability. In this case, Mike & Jerry had taken a discussion that I see as both valid and valuable (whether or not rape had been referenced in the Dickwolves strip in a way that perpetuates rape culture) and replaced it with their chosen discussion: whether or not the two of them literally, consciously believe that committing rape is okay. I see the answer in both cases as no, but the revised case is such a facile question that it warrants mockery and out-of-hand dismissal, while the first case is challenging, complex, and requires a large dollop of good faith from both sides in order to get anywhere. It didn’t help that no such good faith was afforded. Even the best-reasoned progressive essays about the strip seemed to start from the assumption that humorists cannot incorporate sexual assault into jokes while being conscious, caring human beings. And obviously Mike & Jerry had chosen to ignore the challenging aspects of the critique in order to kick down a straw man.

And then it got A LOT worse. A tiny (I hope) but very vocal part of the fanbase believed in that straw man wholeheartedly. Now it was open season for angry children to rail against the critics. They had the perfect alibi, too: they fucking hated you, but not because you’re women, not because you’re feminists or whatever, just because you’re IDIOTS like PA said, just because you’re so bad at Getting A Joke that you want to take away jokes from everyone. We hate you because you hate jokes and jokes are the only thing we love. (Well, apparently we also love telling women how much we hate them, also video games, DUH.) This foul and ugly subset of the PA fan population – the ones who gleefully wielded misogyny as a cudgel throughout the debate – was, I think, the segment that rushed to purchase the Team Dickwolves shirts in the several months that they were sold.

Those shirts. Oh, man. Those shirts were not a good affirmation of the righteousness of those who stood in defense of the original joke. They were more of a huge middle finger to the idea of sensitivity itself. The kids championing them seemed eager to offend any women – dubbed “whiners” – who might happen to see them in person. Some of them plotted to form “flashmobs” of shirt-wearers at PAX, and the idea that their ideological opponents would see the shirts as threatening made the whole endeavor all the more uproarious to them. In this context, it becomes one seriously fucking offensive shirt, offensive enough to make other PAX attendees feel unsafe. So of course it had to go. I wish my friends had figured that out before ever printing the god damn things. I wonder if they thought the shirts wouldn’t be so offensive because they were intended defensively instead.

I know about feeling defensive, and about prizing my hard-won insensitivities. I was not always the fabulous, universally adored paunchy 40-year-old nerd rapper you see before you. Flash back to maybe 1986, a middle school hallway. People tell me that I suck pretty often. Everyone who tells me that I suck, they’re real assholes about it. They want to make sure I know it, and internalize it, so that it defeats me. I have determined that everyone who tells me that I suck is the enemy. I am going to clench my fists and purse my lips and find a way to not let them win. I am going to never admit that I suck, even when my enemies hold me in a headlock and tell me which words I have to recite (little monologues about how shitty and powerless I am) in order to be freed. I don’t care how much it hurts for the rest of the day, for the rest of the week. I don’t care that they make me say it anyway – in my heart I don’t say it. In my heart I scheme, while the words come out, to grow up into someone who is immune from headlocks. To somehow never have to take this kind of shit again.

You know the really pathetic thing about being a nerd? Some shred of THAT EXACT defensiveness is your automatic response to any perceived attack, for years and years after school is over. It’s probably taken me most of my adult life to let go of those feelings. They still flare up when what I perceive as a personal attack seems entirely without justice. I wonder if, when the dickwolves shirts were conceived, those same feelings were flaring up in Mike (I see him a few times a year, at PAX, though I have never discussed dickwolves with him at all, so most of readings of his motivations are just empathy and guesswork). This weekend onstage, he said he regretted pulling those shirts from the store three years ago. I wonder if he’s still holding onto that regret for so simple a reason: because the original joke was fantastic and I know what’s in my heart as regards compassion + not assaulting people + HUMAN DECENCY, and fuck you for telling me how much I suck. And I’m going to keep saying fuck you no matter what, because nobody can put me in a headlock any more, and to back down – ever – might suggest to my enemies that I was wrong about the joke in the first place.

That’s why I think the original joke matters, even though most of the hundreds of people who’ve weighed in on dickwolves point not to the dickwolves strip but to Mike’s twitter snark, his comment thread arguments, the reaction strip, the news posts, and UGHHHH those fucking shirts. Mike, if you’re reading this, I’m begging you: turn your back on those shirts. Do it in public and do it because you mean it, not because you have a responsibility to the company. Take a long look at the haters who love the shirts, and see that they are pushing the hate outward, not shielding reflexively from an incoming barrage. Take a look at the fiercest, most bared-muzzle version of feminism you can dig up, and realize that even when it calls you an asshole, feminism is not the enemy, that it is not putting anyone in a headlock, that it in fact exists to RESCUE half the world’s population from a headlock suffered under lo these several millennia. Mike, you won the Good Art Debate before the strip even posted. The joke in the strip is not rape culture. The mob of guys who wear a Dickwolves shirt as an emblem of How Much They Think Sensitivity To Rape Jokes Is Unwarranted – that’s rape culture. And it’s gross. Realize why it’s gross, and help make it stop.

I’m not going to keep pleading with Mike. This isn’t a letter to him. It’s more of an essay about him and why I still love him and consider him a friend. And why I would not abandon PAX. But let’s move on to the transphobia!

When this popped up a couple months ago, it was seized upon by a swath of internet progressives for whom it is way too late to ever give Mike the benefit of the doubt. I get that urge, to deny the benefit of the doubt. Like I said, I’ve still got leftover sixth-grade reactionary leanings that make me want to identify and proclaim my enemies. And in the modern adult world, the genuine enemies of progress, compassion, and social justice are not fucking around with how much they want to destroy queer and trans identities – they are trying to do it out loud, in public, through discriminatory legislation and hateful social policy. It takes a lot of breath and some pretty big megaphones for us to shout them down. It is an ongoing battle with no end in sight. 

But Mike is, very clearly, no enemy of trans folks. He demonstrated that he – like most people – isn’t well versed in Trans Issues 101. Then he was a dick about it on Twitter. Then he figured out that he needed to learn a little more about some people who are different than he is, and then that’s exactly what he did. He apologized sincerely, and made amends as best he knew how. I think this is a good summary of how he came to the right place on this one, and why progressives should admit that he did, instead of chiseling transphobia onto the stone tablet of his sins: http://www.gamingexcellence.com/features/a-possibly-surprising-defense-of-mike-krahulik 

I want him to come to the right place on dickwolves shirts, too. I don’t know if he will. But I know it’s too late to keep not talking about it.

Anyway, let’s talk about PAX. I realized I needed to post something like this when I started seeing posts this week in which people were referring to the convention as a “toxic environment.” If I believed that too, I’d have to stop being a part of it. And watching that video of the Mike & Jerry interview panel, where Mike voices his regret in pulling the shirts, where part of the crowd cheers the regret of that decision – I had a horrifying feeling of “oh shit, that IS toxic.” I don’t know what percent of the crowd cheered it but it was totally audible. I don’t know what percent of that percent was the misogynist asshole contingent and what was simply rote supportive cheering from fans who haven’t actually examined the issue in question. But that statement from Mike, along with that cheering, was a toxic moment. Were I rape survivor in that crowd, I imagine that my skin would crawl at hearing the joined voices of those cheering men. I imagine I’d never come anywhere near a PAX again.

But PAX is a lot bigger than that moment, and I believe the overall toxicity assessment is wrong. I’ve performed at fifteen of these things now, over the course of ten years, and at every single one of them I’ve met kids, and men and women, who have That Look in their eyes. It’s that look of wonderment and gladness that they’ve finally found a community and an environment that feels accepting and secure. They tell me about feeling that way. Their identities are validated, finally and en masse. If I – or if progressive artists, devs, and gamers generally – cut and run from PAX over Mike’s stubborn resistance to the learning curve on the rape culture issue – that’s when the convention will become a safe place only for the shitty, spiteful children who understand that Team Dickwolves means FUCK YOU and want to wear it anyway. I can’t stand to see that happen. So I’ll stick around, if Mike & Jerry will keep having me. And I hope every one of the hundreds of thousands of other people who go to the three PAXes, who feel like they are a part of it, who feel like they share it with everyone else, who feel like it really is OURS, will not abandon it to the worst segment of our massive community. Let’s fix this thing. It is absolutely worth saving. 
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Well, of course as soon as I post this, I find out that Mike has today posted a full and honest admission that the shirts were a mistake. http://www.penny-arcade.com/2013/09/04/some-clarification

Which kind of makes me feel that I could have written "hey, everyone, dickwolves shirts are awful and now everyone who matters vocally agrees, including the folks who made them" instead of writing five zillion words. But I wrote them, and I posted them, so now y'all know where I stand and can call me a heartless apologist for monstrous anti-feminists (I disagree that I'm that!!) or alternately a fascistic stomper of free expression and hater of jokes (I also disagree that I'm that!) or anything in between, and I guess we'll talk it out.

Cheers
mcf
 
Great essay, and I hope they listen. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 
 
An incredibly eloquent post. I think the internet is a better place for having those thoughts expressed in such a clear fashion.

I will always support PAX and it was the highlight of 2013 to get to go to my first PAX (PAX Aus) and get a picture with you. I greatly hope to do it all again next year! :).
 
Just to be clear, Mike has said that being overly broad with their responses to the Dickwolves strip was the mistake. He still thinks that the detractors should have been targeted directly. Combined with his prior stance on trans issues and Tentacle Bento, I'm not really ready to give the guy the benefit of the doubt.

EDIT: Specifically regarding the trans issues, the fact that he started off from the position he did doesn't lend his apologies much weight. Sometimes his "apologies" read like carefully-constructed PR statements rather than actual statements of remorse or regret for prior acts, or the evolution of a mindset. I stopped reading Penny Arcade when they another artist's artwork for a bashing strip, without even mentioning the artist they were ridiculing. I gave them a second chance, then Mike started going on about trans people and defending rape jokes. I'm not really ready to give them a third.
 
Excellently said. I mean... I'd love to go into detail on how awesomely writ that was, but damn dude. Just excellently said.
 
Kids, this is what happens when you have lyrical prowess.  You too could be a Nerdcore Rapper and a thoughtful blog poster and not know it.  

Thanks for this, Front.  It was well said all throughout.
 
Very well written and thought out article MC Frontalot. I could never view PAX as a toxic environment myself, it goes against the very essence of what PAX is about. I hope for the sake of all involved that some middle ground can be reached.
 
This is one of the best essays about the fallout from PAX I've read. Thank you very much for posting it and making your position clear, Front.
 
I'm nerd in the bare minimum of the sense; I have no nerd friends and only one friend who plays video games so it's interesting to hear about all these issues as I'm not in the loop (I know the strip, but I don't follow it).
Thanks, MC Frontalot, for a (albeit long) interesting read in my lunchtime. It is unfortunate that we still have so much ignorance and misunderstandings, but that is to be human I guess.
 
Never regret well constructed, well communicated thoughts.  We need more people doing exactly this, on a variety of subjects.
 
Thank you for writing and posting this. I think it says a lot of really important things that need to be said and read, so it doesn't matter that it happened to come just after an apology. 
 
That was absolutely beautiful, and actually changed my mind about the Dickwolf shirts.
Internet confession: I was the one who yelled "bring them back". I didn't do it because I hate feminists. I didn't do it because I hate women. I did it because I felt like those shirts were a justified "fuck you" to a section of humans that were rallying, unnecessarily, against a good joke. I didn't know how wrong I was until right now.
Thanks for helping me straighten that out in my head.
 
I thank you for your eloquent and well thought out post front. I actually have a lot of respect for you not only for your art and your posts like this but the way you acted when I met you at a show.

I think the post today is a very good step in Mike correcting some of the dickish things he said. That said, I feel like the jury is still out on if he is going to be a dick again and then keep blowing up the way he has. I hope he honestly feels like his post.
 
Front this actually made me cry, in a good way.  Thank you for posting this and thank you for being you.
 
This is fantastic, but I do want to make a point that, as a survivor and as someone who is a peer counselor to victims of sexual violence, your comment that the dickwolves statement was toxic, but wasn't the overall environment is a little bit misleading. While I'm sure the whole of PAX has a very positive feel, to someone who is threatened by reminders of sexual assault, at that moment, when so many expressed that they wanted the dickwolves shirts back, that moment mattered far more than any other. I wrote an article a while back that addressed the issue in a very similar way that you just did, pointing out that the problem wasn't the initial comic, it was in their response after people complained about the comic. Experiences where victims have sexual aggression stuck right back into their face are frighting, and anyone who might have been triggered by that experience is not going to have an easy time seeing the good of the event before and after that. Basically, if you go someplace, and someone punches you in the face, the thing you're going to associate that place with is not what happened before or after getting punched. Getting punched is likely to be the dominant experience you associate with that place.

I know that he wrote a great response piece, but I also hope that, for the sake of everyone, he goes back and reinforces that. Because that one piece is unlikely to be enough. He's now got the unfortunate task of trying to wipe the faces of everyone who felt the mud hit them, as a result of this and that is going to be really hard.

Thank you for writing this and I really want to see this come together and resolve peacefully. Someday, I will have the time and means to make it to PAX, and I want this to be looked at as one of those painful mistakes that we have learned from.
 
The shirts were definitely a terrible idea and I don't blame the people who are boycotting PAX because of Mike's comments about the shirts. You don't defend merchandise that implies the wearer is on "Team Rapists". You burn it in a fire and apologize for thinking it was a good idea.

Here's a little bit of irony for you though - Courtney Stanton acknowledged that she knew the "Dickwolf Survivor" shirts she was selling were having the same triggering effect on rape survivors as the Dickwolf shirts but kept selling them anyway until she proved her point:

http://superopinionated.com/2011/02/02/update-taking-down-the-dsg-shirt/

She and Mike were two sides of the same coin - both willing to hurt Rape Survivors to win an argument on the internet. 
 
He has a long way to go before I'd ever willingly give him any financial support, such as by attending a PAX event.

A full, unqualified, non-passive aggressive apology for his various insensitive and transphobic screeds is all anyone really wants.

Of course, he has a right to not go that route, just as I do to avoid his business ventures in that case.

Time will tell.
 
Thank you for writing this. As a victim myself, I do not see the comic as a bad thing. I do not have painfull flashbacks when I read it. I don't know how this thing got as big as it did. I have loved PAX and MC Frontalot since I first met them in 2005. I don't think something as little as Dickwolves will make my love for PAX any less.
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I'm not sure how to explain this cleanly, but a lot of us are very good at just a relatively small number of things. Mike's a great artist, and appears to be a pretty stand-up guy, but he's not always amazing at the larger fine art of actually being a person.

This sounds stupid, and cruel, but what I mean is very simple. I'm autistic. For me, the things that you take as easy, the parts of being a person that come to you as easily as drinking water.... Are very hard. I have trouble with faces. I say the wrong thing because I have no memory for second-order vocal cues such as the absence of expression.

Mike's probably not like me, not in that way. But maybe for him, speaking publicly is hard. Some things never become easy. When something fundamental to the process of living in modern society and doing your job never becomes easy, you may practice it forever and make it look seamless and painless. But it's still hard in the black heart of the matter. We make mistakes when we do hard things. And what's hard for me, it's not hard for you.

I don't much like Mike, and my personal dealings with him have been painful on a number of levels. But that's not an excuse for me... ...for us to pick a side here. There's no right side in this debate. It's not the right approach to simply punish Mike, or to rail at him, or to abandon PAX. It's not the right approach to defend him, or to defend without qualification the current state of PAX either, and in this vein, the first reasonable comments I've seen on this entire ruinfest are the ones that I'm responding to in MC Frontalot's essay here.

If we hate this, we must make it right. We must do the hard things that never come easily to us, and we must build a more tolerant environment. Maybe that means Mike needs to apologize more directly. But maybe that's Hard for him, and always will be. We each need to make our own decisions about how to react calmly and without bias, and we each need to figure out how to make PAX what we need it to be.
 
When I read the comic initially I literally lol'd. I was deeply addicted to WoW at the time and immediately got the context of the joke. It was of course the PR crapstorm that followed which left a sour taste in my mouth. I really hope all parties affected by this can come to some sort of understanding and move on, hopefully learning something in the process.

One of my biggest problems with "nerd culture" is the deep divisiveness and belittlement of other parts of the culture that exist within it. The infamous "nerd hierarchy" org chart that is still floating around the internets disparaging the "weirder" parts of the culture. I just don't get it and it makes me sad and angry whenever I see it going on.

Why are we (nerds) so quick to attack each other?
 
And respect for the Front triples. Across all social media I partake in, best post ever. Thank you.
 
Well said. I'm surprised to find such a well reasoned discourse on the Internet. Not surprised to see it come from the Front.
 
Front, you said it well.  I wish to buy you a  beer/drink/soda next PAX Prime sir.
 
Considering who's getting all verclempt over Pax, if I ever got the funds and the transportation (I will not fly) I just might go.
 
+MC Frontalot Thanks for writing this. As a PAXer who felt very uneasy about the whole situation, and seeing posts of friends saying they weren't going to attend anymore kind of upset me. Not because I didn't respect or understand their decision, but because I wasn't sure why I still felt that PAX was "okay."

Thanks for putting into words exactly how I feel about the whole situation. I definitely agree with the sentiment that if we give up on PAX because of this, then the PAX we love will become exactly the toxic environment we fear it becoming. And I don't want to see that happen.
 
He said Khoo pulling the DW merch was a bad idea.

That was the only good idea that ever happened in the whole frigging debacle.

I agree, Mike's apologies are getting better. He's getting a lot of practice. It's still a non-apology apology. As many others have pointed out, it's getting to be like an abusive relationship. "I'm sorry, I won't hurt you again. You just make me so mad."

I have bought your album and your merch at PAX. I loved PAX. I got all my friends to go because it was so amazing. But that audience cheered "Team Rape." I will never go there again. Never.

Fuck that. Fuck Mike. Fuck Bullies.
 
As someone who's met you in person twice, who got his first start in games journo stuff by interviewing Mike, and been a enthusiastic fan of yours, I appreciate you finally speaking out on this because I'm also a survivor, and your silence for so long on this really hurt. It seemed like you were more conscious of the bottom line than the continued harm and hurt MIke (and Jerry by his silence, and now Khoo by saying pulling the shirts were a mistake too-- when creating the shirts were engaging things in the first place) had caused.

I've gotten rape threats and death threats after speaking out, but even what I got pales in comparison to what my colleagues who are women got-- in both volume and viciousness.

There’s no “reforming” the parts of PAX that are bad, because the parts of PAX that are bad are the owners of PAX.  PAX is not some public-works project that will always exist. It’s a money-making commercial conference. The main tracks and biggest parts of PAX are the parts the go on about how awesome/good/cool Penny Arcade is. When you go there, you give them legitimacy. 

There is more than just his attitudes and his hurtful comments again and again. There are the cover-ups of multiple incidences of sexual assault at PAX by enforcers. Him, other PA employees made fun of people with PTSD, of rape survivors, over and over, for months. There are survivors of rape, trans* folk subjected to his bigotry, your fellow fans and nerds telling him, telling you, over and over that these things hurt us, that by choosing to lend them legitmacy, you are making a choice, and it's not siding with us.

And honestly, his apologies, after he has repeatedly shown and acted harmfully or hurtfully... I'm several times bitten, several times shy. I can't be bitten anymore, I don't have it in me.

I’m pretty forgiving of mistakes, but the people who make the mistakes need to actually realize they ARE mistakes, and not only does Mike keep on making the same mistakes over and over, he makes it everyone else’s problem for not embracing his shitty attitudes. Everyone makes mistakes, but at this point it's a pattern of behavior with him, and apologies need to also have real, lasting, change. And in this case they-- Robert Khoo AGREED WITH HIM-- think that the mistake was “engaging” with the detractors, by pulling a shirt — which they’d made in order to engage with the detractors in the first place. They hypocrisy, revisionism, and lack of thoughtfulness is absolutely astounding.Their horrifying panel presence was the last straw that made me stop reading any of their ancillary properties; they don't draw or wrtite The Trenches, but I can’t support that comic anymore. They neither write nor edit Penny Arcade Report, but I can’t support that news source anymore (well, that and Ben K has done some stunning and hurtful things of his own). Child’s Play does a good thing but I can no longer support that charity either... and fans using that as a shield for his past behavior-- hospital also take money directly as donations.

His apology was awful. He basically refuses to own up to the scope of what he is or does... "I'm no role model." yeah, he's just your run-of-the-mill 30-something millionaire cartoonist with massive influence over an entire entertainment business. He has made gamer culture clearly worse by his actions, and reduced understanding by calling criticism censorship. Tycho and Gabe are more than just some web comic. They have raised nearly 9 million USD for children's hospitals over 8 years. They were listed as part of the 2010 Time Magazine 100 people that "most affect our world". They have been online as a web comic for about 13 years. The PAX convention grew so large, there are now PAX East and PAX west. PAX has a specific ant-harassment policy and no "booth babe" policy. They offer their own $10,000 scholoarhip. Yet they have offered the defense that the comic and the resultant merchandising is not supposed to be influential or taken seriously. Either they can influence their audience, or they can't.

These horrible reactions are coming from tone of the main people behind the PAX convention, torpedoing the claims of wanting it to be an inclusive space with their very actions. They have made me, a video game writer and person who tries to highlight the better parts of video game culture-- a hobby that has led to lots of personal, professional and familial connections and fulfilment-- feel uncomfortable. They have made friends I care about feel unsafe. They have made ME feel unwelcome and unsafe.

PAX makes money for the pa corp. It also gives them legitimacy. Fans, women, men, trans* folk, survivors.. we can't divine intent, we can't look into someoen's heart, which is why intent doesn't matter, but actions and consequences do. 

Front, you do what you gotta do, I guess. I can't say that I'm not a little heartbroken about choosing to give them legitimacy and perform there again. I'll still go to Pianos next time you play there. I'll still shake your hand (though I abandoned my nerdcore album years ago and thus won't need to update you on the skit status). But part of of me will probably tear up a bit after the show, knowing what you ended up choosing when the rubbr met the road.
 
+Chung Hsiao
Actually it's way worse that she was doing that, IMO. Mike's an idiot who needs a serious education and was a douchebag but Courtney Stanton should fucking know better.
 
Honest and thoughtful examination of the issue. Thanks for taking the time; I hope it does some good.
 
Thank you so much for a well thought out, contemplative statement instead of the usual screaming rants that everyone has been posting. 
 
+Shawn Struck In a case like this the most effective protest you can make is, "You hurt me." and walk away. Believe me, that hurts worse than anything else you could ever do.
 
"This weekend onstage, he said he regretted pulling those shirts from the store three years ago. I wonder if he’s still holding onto that regret for so simple a reason: because the original joke was fantastic and I know what’s in my heart as regards compassion + not assaulting people + HUMAN DECENCY, and fuck you for telling me how much I suck. And I’m going to keep saying fuck you no matter what, because nobody can put me in a headlock any more, and to back down – ever – might suggest to my enemies that I was wrong about the joke in the first place."

Very well put! I had a discussion with some friends recently and wondered this same thing. 

I just hope people who read your post do so carefully. I came here from a link that's calling you a bully for defending PAX. I really don't think it's going to sit well with the far reaches of the left, who might be reacting to this situation in a similar way to what you described in the part I quoted. 

Thanks for what you wrote here. It's an important viewpoint in this complex discussion.
 
You are the most eloquent of men. <3
 
I am a woman, a gamer, a college student and like most nerds, been bullied for a large chunk of my life. Being 20, the bullying is still more than half my life and will still be until I'm 36.

I found the joke funny and understood what it meant, playing rpgs, my favorite gaming genre. I felt like nothing was happening but a joke and I really think jokes should never be taken seriously. Yes, distasteful jokes exist, but I feel one should shrug it off. We all have had our own lives, and yes, voice your discomfort, but having a garbage fight and yelling f* you all around is not constructive and that is the problem.

I can see why rape can be uncomfortable to anyone who has been. I know 2 people, male and female, who were raped. They have to look twice at rape jokes, but once they have the context, they laugh. They love Louis CK and he has made some in the past and it didn't bother them. That being said again, jokes are jokes and aren't meant to be harmful, or so I would like to think. I can see someone saying, hey, be sorry you were offended, but it shouldn't be like that. I think the best way to acknowledge those discomforts is to actually acknowledge them instead of belittling them or denying their right to have those feelings.

I've only learned about PAX in the last year and Front in the past year. Recently watched Nerdcore Rising and I now have a nerdcore CD in my car featuring Front, MC Lars, Megaran, and more. This whole year I've been pump to go to next years PAX East to see Front, this isn't going to stop me. The joke was fine and the situation was out of hand, but that doesn't mean the conventions will be or are toxic. My bf came back and told me all about his experience there and how he got to see Front. I want to go and experience a part of my life that has been belittled and ridiculed and sometimes it was repressed. I want to feel acceptance for that part of my life. That's what PAX feels like on the outside and I want to be there and experience it.

I feel for those people and those shirts are flat out ridiculous but because the name Penny Arcade is on it, doesn't mean 100% of the people agree with Mike's views and dickwolf shirts.... :[
 
Man you work hard to create a false equivalence. "Rush Limbaugh gives millions to the children of fallen soldiers and cops. So the people who call him an asshole for advocating hatred against gays are also bullies." Mike had 3 YEARS to learn from his biggest public mistake, but no, he regrets not belittling rape survivors ENOUGH. And no, he NEVER apologized for his Trans comments. He gave the "sorry you feel that way" non-apology and used the old "but I have friends who are <blank>" dodge. It's just something fucked-up comes out of Mike's mouth, then all his friends and his MRA/teen boy fans bend backwards defending him, and then Robert and/or Jerry make him write a fake apology. Over and over. I'm done with PA. Easy.
 
A very well written essay and I agree 100%.  

I'd suggest to Mike & Jerry and the whole PA team that anytime in the future that Dickwolves is brought up at one of the PAX Q&A's or panels to basically not engage with the question, don't go there.  Just say "I'm not answering that question, next." would be the best thing they could possibly do.  Or better yet tell that person, "No! That's not cool, we're better than that." and move on. 
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Still no. Sorry, but still no.

Mike keeps doing these things, and just does not learn from his mistakes. The apology isn't an apology, it's a "clarification". And he still says they should have kept selling the t-shirts once they put them up. Because for some reason he thinks taking them down generated more debate, and that debating if Mike had done something wrong is always bad.

"The Strip is Dark and Edgy and Controversial" is not a shield from critics. Nor is "But I put up an apology about people being upset!" when nothing has been done to alter how you're acting.

And you know what, the timeline of this matters. August 10th, "The Sixth Slave" is published, August 11th the Shakesville Blogpost (Still up at http://www.shakesville.com/2010/08/rape-is-hilarious-part-53-in-ongoing.html ), August 12th "Breaking it Down" is published.

There wasn't a wave of criticism before "Breaking it Down". Jerry and Mike decided to pick a fight with Shakesville. Mike even going to comment on the blog!

It was hugely disingenuous of you to try and tar both sides here with the same brush, and to suggest that escalation came from the "feminist side". Mike and Jerry went on the offensive, to try and "take down" their critics. I simply can't imagine how you could place any amount of legitimate blame on the limited critique posted on August 11th for the way Jerry and Mike decided to respond to it. It is unfair to say that people were over-reacting to Jerry and Mike's original comic, when the ENTIRE ISSUE was Jerry and Mike's counter response to what was an even tempered criticism from Shakesville. The resulting garbage explosion was trash dredged from PA's forums, wrapped around bombs supplied by Jerry and Mike, after they had lit the fuses.
 
Sadly sadly, I've been explaining the first part of this (as a fan of PA from year one, as a woman, a feminist, and a gamer) to people since it first emerged as a problem (because I thought the original comic was disturbing, brilliant, and a staunch anti rape culture comic) . And so few people have listened to me (I stopped tweeting on it because of the organized volley of attacks on my by the 'vicious kids' you mention who were completely convinced that threatening rape, if you weren't going to do it, was ok, because I should totally know they're not going to do it. Bitch.). I am sad, and angry, that so many of the people who wouldn't listen to a woman saying, "This is a problem," will probably listen to a man saying the same. I'd like to think it's because you're a lot of why people go to the con (the concert is my whole reason for being there; I can get all the rest of it at smaller local cons), but I know in my heart that those kids will listen to you. Nonetheless, thank you for being an ally here.

You're speaking to the gamers and fans here, mind. You should contact something like XO Jane with this thoughtful piece, so you can speak to the feminists, too. Everyone needs to stop assuming 'evil', and start seeing the ways that the 'culture' part of the equation is manipulating us.
 
+Ariock TomB He said that everything after the initial comic was just a bad idea. 
The posts, the comment wars, the follow up comic, the merch and, pulling the merch.

The reason pulling the merch was a bad idea was because eventually it would of cycled out anyways (PA retires old designs often). By pulling it they just brought more attention to the whole issue and rekindled all the fires creating more negativity.

I've seen too much good from the guys at PA and also not enough of them to make any judgment calls on them but I do believe that Mike is nowhere near as bad as people make him out to be. Yes he's a dick but by no means is he evil.
 
A worthy read even if it wasn't poignant.
 
I haven't followed the shit storm all that closely, but I agree with and recognize a lot of what +MC Frontalot says.

That said, Mike really needs to rethink this entire mess more closely, and write a better apology than that "Some Clarification" piece. In it, he says he regrets pulling the merch because it was part of creating the merch in the first place. But that's not what he said in the interview, and it seems very insincere that he now attaches the opposite meaning to it than how it sounded.

I'm absolutely willing to believe that Mike didn't mean to support rape culture, but that's what he did, and he needs to deal with that. He also needs to talk to the people who cheered and supported his accidental support of rape culture.

I've never been to PAX (it's too far away), but if you're is right that it's worth saving, then Mike still has stuff he needs to deal with. Something better than that half-hearted word-twisting apology. He first needs to understand the entire issue, and I'm still not quite sure he does.

+Justin Winzey That's pure win. Thanks for posting it. I really hope more cheerers feel the same way, and share that. It's the accidental support of rape culture that's perhaps the biggest tragedy about this.
 
Whether a joke is funny has absolutely nothing to do with whether it's harmful. Being funny is not a defense against being damaging of others.
 
This is why logic, people. Excellent, well thought out, post, Front! I heartily agree. I'm not a fan of PA, have never been to PAX, but I think your assessment of the situation was spot on and I applaud your call to reason. These days, it's too easy to leap straight to derogatory name calling and hatred. You rose above. 
 
+Jay Blanc "There wasn't a wave of criticism before "Breaking it Down". Jerry and Mike decided to pick a fight with Shakesville. Mike even going to comment on the blog!

It was hugely disingenuous of you to try and tar both sides here with the same brush, and to suggest that escalation came from the "feminist side". Mike and Jerry went on the offensive, to try and "take down" their critics. I simply can't imagine how you could place any amount of legitimate blame on the limited critique posted on August 11th for the way Jerry and Mike decided to respond to it. It is unfair to say that people were over-reacting to Jerry and Mike's original comic, when the ENTIRE ISSUE was Jerry and Mike's counter response to what was an even tempered criticism from Shakesville. The resulting garbage explosion was trash dredged from PA's forums, wrapped around bombs supplied by Jerry and Mike, after they had lit the fuses."

Quoted for truth. Front, seriously, we can't see into Mike and Jerry and RObert Khoo's hearts. We can only judge actions taken-- over and over and over again. After legions of fans, survivors of rape, trans* folk, nerds, geek, people that have worked directly with PA themselves like Emma Story, web comic creators like R Steves and Jeff Jaques, indie companies that say they feel forced to prop up PAX for exposure, professionals, writers, industry professionals, enforcers, people that have shown continuing evidence that PAX is not the safe space it clams to be-- from Enforcers participating in sexual assualt and covers ups, to Mike taking the main stage and saying what he did and his business manager backing him up and cheering-- speaking out, telling you how their actions continue hurting and devaluing them and making people feel les safe, over and over. If all of that isn't enough to get you to stop, what will? Will they have to personally hurt someone you know and love on stage? Will they have to smash kittens with a mallet, Gallagher style? If everything they've done now, all the hurt and embarassment and everything they've done so far isn't enough to get you to stop giving PAX legitimacy, what WILL?
 
+MC Frontalot, This is a beautifully thought-out post, and I'm glad you wrote it, even though I worry that it's long enough to be ignored by some of the people who most need to see it.

As far as the "Dickwolves" issue, I wrote a long thing myself about that comic, but alas, I can't find it anymore. The upshot of it was this: In that comic, rape isn't glorified, or used as a punchline, but rather it's a comedic "prop," sort of. A piece of dialogue whose very purpose is to be emblematic of all that is evil in the world. To take it out of context, as a lot of the comic's most vocal critics did, is to assume that Tycho and Gabe (or Mike and Jerry) actually think that rape is, ipso facto, funny. And of course it isn't, and of course they didn't/don't.

However, it's very difficult to keep that context in mind (rape is bad, "dickwolves" is a comedic shortcut for "[insert the worst thing you can think of here]") when they actually sold a shirt that said "Team Dickwolves" on it! That shirt changes the context of the joke, and it's hard not to align the fans that wore it with the very evil that the word "Dickwolves" was invented to symbolize.

I can see both sides of these arguments. Honestly, I'd be lying if I said that Tycho and Gabe (especially Gabe) didn't come out looking a little like jerks to me in how all this played out. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't hold them in lower esteem than I did a few years ago. But I also understand your decision to stand by them, and I won't fault you for continuing to be a presence at PAX.

(Not to mention that Penny Arcade is what turned me onto MC Frontalot in the first place, which is how I found out about +Song Fight, which is how I got into home recording a long time ago, so the three of you are kind of responsible for my whole music career, too. And that's hard for me to ignore.)
 
+MC Frontalot
First: Great post.
Second: Three years later? Still?  Man people suck.
Third: What the fuck do you do for a living?  Get your ass back to PAX and do one more show, and I am going to tell you the title of your opening song.
"Team Dickwolves are dicks"
OK, that sucks, you are the artist, not me.  You figure it out.  The point is that you need to take all of the emotion and intellect of that thirty-five-hundred word screed, and distill it down to a handful of verses and a catchy hook. 
Then perform it at PAX
Then put it on an album
Then make it the title song
and generally make sure that anyone who is not emotionally tied up in that thing listens, and walks away thinking:
"Man, anyone in a 'Team dickwolves' shirt, well, fuck that asshole"
Seriously, if Mike & Jerry won't step up, you are probably one of the few guys with the ability to single-handedly make people ashamed to wear those damn things.
With great power. . . well, you know the rest.

(Edit) I just saw the apology, (Note to self: try to read ALL the comments before jumping in)  but you should still do the song.  Then invite anyone in a "Team Dickwolves" shirt up front right before you perform it.
 
This is a really good write-up (if you've got time to go over it all)

I still take exception to Krahulik's "apology" because it scans more of a "I wish we hadn't acted like asses" when what it should say is "I wish we had listened to our critics because here's what I now understand they were saying"
IOW Krahulik is still pissed about the criticism, he just wishes he hadn't started it all.

and I do come away with a feeling of "since PAX is so great and important to so many, we should forgive now!" when its supposed to be "since both guys in PA have LEARNED what they need to learn we can forgive and move on"

I'm not forgiving someone because they do great things when they aren't being an asshole, that's not really how it works. I forgive because I know they have changed and aren't going to do it again. Mikes changed a little but what about Jerry? I notice there's nothing said about him but he's half of PA.

I don't know, I'm still not satisfied and I don't think I'm obligated to be considering the (MCF admits) HUGE middle finger we were given so many times.
 
+MC Frontalot, I am glad Mike and Jerry have a friend like you, because angry people on the Internet are never going to change them—it will just make them double down on the defensiveness. Words that would be dismissed coming from an angry Internet stranger might actually have an impact coming from someone they like and respect.
 
+MC Frontalot, thank you for your insightfully written post.  I agree with everything you've written up to the (and this is roughly paraphrased and my perception of what you said) "But Mike's a nice guy who's made a great community that I feel a part of, so I'm going to continue participating in it."  I agree the original joke was very insightful.  I agree the reactions to it (second comic, putting up shirts and banners, taking shirts and banners down) all continued the controversy and could have been avoided with some thought and care.  But that didn't happen and Mike's stated regret when asked the question was "Taking the shirts off the store".  Not the controversy.  Not putting the shirts up to begin with.  Not the other stuff he brings up in his "clarification" (not apology).  And, tellingly, not telling the folks cheering him to sit down, shut up and let him finish explaining things because it's important and the mistakes weren't just Khoo's but his as well and devoting time to the subject then.  In my opinion, It was a missed opportunity to set the record straight and make right what has been wrong for a while.

Now, I don't know Mike personally (even though I am using his first name, but I'm doing that because you call him Mike in your post, so I'm following suit).  I know him by what he's produced and put out into the world.  Some of that, like Child's Play, is bloody awesome.  Some of that, like Penny Arcade and PATV, is very entertaining.  And some of that, like the reactions to criticism, gives the impression of an entitled, thin-skinned asshole (though, given the amount of vitriol spewed on the internet to those with great visibility, the fact Mike's ranted like this as few times as he has may be evidence of a thicker skin than the majority of people, myself definitely included).  This is the impression I get.  You know Mike.  You've interacted with him in person several times.  You have a far deeper and more complex context given your interactions with him for judging what he says.  Based on that, I don't think I'm in a position to castigate you for continuing to participate in PAX.  I will say, however, looking in from the outside, it's not the decision I would have made.
 
In said "full and honest admission", he also makes another non-apology apology and doubles down on saying that pulling the shirts was a mistake. Sure, he also says that the steps leading up to pulling them was a mistake, but Mike continues to believe and say publicly that pulling the shirts was a mistake.

That doesn't make me think he gets it.
 
No. Shit like this, Front:

"Some people from the Social Justice left decided that PA is penned by monsters. Some defenders of the comic told critics that they should be raped, murdered, and so on. The former is ungenerous and incorrect. The latter is appalling and indefensible.

I was embarrassed by both."

You can't pretend that feminists fighting the patriarchy too stridently and people making rape and death threats to people who are open with their history of abuse are in any way a comparable class of morons and assholes, just on different sides. There is no equivalence, one is squarely more terrible than the other, and Mike & Jerry had many years to make their position clear on who's the bigger asshole in their eyes, over and over again.

You also can't pretend that the distress suffered by privileged multimillionaires with an audience of millions getting criticized on the Internet is at all comparable to a group of triggered rape and sexual assault survivors and their allies. There's hardly a middle ground here for anyone who doesn't have their head up their ass (in the case of most MRAs), or (in your case, I suspect) really biased because you're friends with the guiltier parties (and their success + community building has been a huge part of yours).

The post goes on and on with shit like this trying to exonerate the responsibility of the creators with lots of bits like:

"And then it got A LOT worse. A tiny (I hope) but very vocal part of the fanbase believed in that straw man wholeheartedly."

Great, then you go on to attack a bunch of conveniently nameless and unaccountable fans who you're sure are in the minority, but never, in the ensuing paragraphs, mention that Jerry & Mike did shit little to rein them in. Where is that in your narrative? Where is so, so, so much more?

Like someone else mentioned, it should give you pause when you need 3000 words and elevated language to spin a story that makes Mike & Jerry not suck so hard. I don't get the feeling you're working so hard to persuade the general public as you are continuously trying to persuade yourself.

Big ups to +Shawn Struck and +Jay Blanc for their comments. See if you can answer their points directly, or you can continue to hem and haw internally about how obviously repeated assholish behavior by Mike & Jerry doesn't make them actually assholes.

Alternatively, face the music, do what you know is right, and accept that they're just fucking wrong here.
 
Speaking as a woman, a gamer and a con goer (although not to gaming cons), I have say your "overall toxicity" comment doesn't really address the issue of with PAX.  It doesn't matter if only 2 or 5 or 10 people in the room cheered.  What matters is that Mike didn't tell them to shut up, right then & there.  Like it or not, he's one of the faces of PA, one of its leaders.  Whatever he meant to say (and really, that apology reads more of a PR "fix this fuck up" then anything genuine), what he DID was a) choose to make money by mocking rape victims and their complaints about rape culture, b) publicly announce that his one regret was stopping that behavior and c) not shutting down the people cheering for it when he said it.

Those behaviors, combined with some unknown number of vocal supporters, has completely poisons PAX for a lot a people.  Other cons have problems but Jesus, PAX has enough men who feel that they have the support from their surrounding men to scream out "yeah" when Mike expresses regret for doing the only semi-correct action in that whole mess.  How messed up is that?!  Not one person, booed or yelled fuck that.  So even if other people didn't agree, they were too cowed to voice their opinion.  That is a thoroughly toxic environment.

Whatever PA meant for those shirts to be, they became an emblem for the nastiest, most vile PA fans who wanted to show off their asshatery.  Yay, there are sensitive people in the room, lets mock them.    Better yet, lets threaten them and laugh when they're afraid.  Those men are the toxic element in PAX.  They think they are surrounded by like minded people who agree with them.  By not setting them straight at the time, in fact, not for days, the leaders of PAX  were telling that they're right.  

PAX is a place where a non-zero number of men feel that Team Rape should be worn on their chests without anyone criticizing them.  And PAX's leadership was okay with that at the time.   They've come out with all sorts of explanations about what they meant now that there's another big hubbub about it but, frankly, what people mean doesn't matter.  Only their actions matter.  And you've written a very long explanation to justify why your actions will remain the same.
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This was a great read and it's nice to see people who know Mike and Jerry personally come out and talk about it.

However, as a person who doesn't know them personally and has been a fan for over 10 years, it's hard to reconcile Mike's behavior and his "apologies". 

The apology read as "I regret having done this thing...I regret that you people got mad" instead of "I realize now that, while the original strip wasn't intended to hurt people, that our reaction to it absolutely was a slap in the face to survivors and we should have never created the shirts". If you'll recall he had a similar "heartfelt" apology when this originally went down and yet he still went on to say pulling the shirts was a mistake. Until he can back up these apologies with ACTUAL change, I'm not comfortable giving him any money or going to PAX where there is a contingent of people who think it was a good idea to cheer for rape. (Not to mention how PA apparently covered up sexual harassment from an enforcer). 

Every time I've been to PAX it's been like coming home but if I go next year, I couldn't help but wonder if the dude in line next to me was one of the men who cheered for the Dickwolves shirt. I wouldn't ever feel like I belonged again.
 
I'm with +Paul Meier here. I don't give two flying pigfucks in a kosher deli what two guys I don't know are thinking and feeling, or what their intentions are. I care what they do.

And they're not doing so hot.
 
Patton Oswalt reconsidered his position and decided he was wrong.
 
Mallory: I understand your problem. But I believe that Mike, in using the word 'regret' is apologizing. I think that starting to play with the semantics ('regret' has a different tinge to it than 'apologize' for those of us who are extra attuned to language, but when, for the love of all, has Mike shown that he's good with language? Hell, that's why the comic has a writer, because he's has said he's terrible with words). The fact that it's written the way it is means to me that it's him; unpolished language and all. It's coming from him, and not edited, and I do find an apology of what you want in the Clarification in:

"With that said I absolutely regret everything we did after that comic. I regret the follow up strip, I regret making the merchandise, I regret pulling the merchandise and I regret being such an asshole on twitter to people who were upset."
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Stephanie: While I understand where you're coming from he also says "There are people who were offended by or hurt by the joke in the strip and rather than just let it go we decided to make a second strip. That was a mistake and I apologize to this day for that strip." This would have been great but he just has to continue with:  "It was a knee jerk reaction and rather than the precision strike back at our detractors that we intended"

Thus saying, well I don't ACTUALLY think we were wrong.

I just feel, as of right now, he has a pattern of saying stupid shit, believing his stupid shit, getting a ton of backlash, "apologizing", waiting for it to die down and then bringing it up again.

I was taught that if I keep doing the same thing over and over, then I'm not really sorry. And I don't think he's sorry. It's too early to see any real commitment to learning. He just apologizes, assumes all will be well and his company will continue to thrive. He's more worried about those who work for him than those he hurt. Until I see some sort of positive change, I'm not going back.

Until then? Apology not accepted.
 
Thank you MC Frontalot, and all you people commenting for the spirited and civil debate we should have had to begin with before Krahulik and Holkins picked a fight and all the ugliness of people on the internet was revealed. I confess that I am caught in a middle that I have no right to claim.

For people who are totally done with PA, Inc:
I get it. I understand why some people cannot keep giving PA, Inc. passes on this. When you claim enlightened tolerance and inclusiveness, people place a certain amount of trust in you. This trust, I think, is core to many things PA does, especially the PAX events.  For a significant minority, it seems like PA, Inc have repeatedly violated this trust. I feel this is especially true for oppressed/suffering people or those who have experiences with the same. Why should these people risk having that trust violated, again? K&H are not abusers, but people who have been abused are NECESSARILY slow to trust in the first place, and cannot feel safe about anything PA does at this point. Anything that looks even superficially similar to a cycle of trust, betrayal and abuse has gotta go. Sadly, this means the good is tossed out with the bad, and for them, forgiving and moving on will mean breaking ties. This isn't "hate" at all. This is real emotional self-defense.

I have been that colossally ignorant person who has broken the trust of a safe environment, and had to learn this the hard way. There are people who won't talk to me, to this day. I happen to know they don't hate me, and understand that the problem was as much with me as it is with American culture. All the same, I am forever unsafe, because I was a posturing young twit.

Of course, there are just haters and jerks out there, using this as an excuse to pile on K&H. Well, these people have always existed, and like all jerks are in the extremely loud extreme minority.

For the people who stand by PA, Inc..
I get it too. As a nerdy progressive, who is a genuine fan of PA and most of what they do, I want to believe that K&H really are learning from all this. I hope they aren't just retreating into their comfort-spaces to fight the hordes, like many people do when they get hurt and order SHIELDS AT MAXIMUM. Maybe K&H are discovering the power and influence they really have and will wield it more carefully. I am not advocating censorship, I'm advocating responsibility and understanding. Responsibility for what it takes to have an "inclusive" event, and the understanding of what being a cultural force and having a fandom, means. For me, I want to see it as growing pains as a two consistently unpopular people come to terms with being the consistently MOST POPULAR people. Really, I hope PA, Inc comes out better for this, understanding that some things can't be taken back and that they are capable of doing even more to make things better. For everyone. Period.

Of course, there are misogynist creepers, weird religious superfans (K&H are NEVER WRONG), insensitive twits, and others here too. They stand by PA just to be right or to troll or whatever. Extremely loud extreme minority.

So, I'm not going anywhere or boycotting anything per se, but my skepticism is a little higher and my implicit trust is much reduced.
 
I feel this is the first reasoned and non-hyperbolic thing I've read about all this on the net. I will be referring to it whenever this flares up again.
 
What if this was about Team Lynchwolf shirts? Or maybe Team (SomethingMoreDirectlyTargetingCisWhiteMen)wolf shirts? Am I being silly? Maybe. But I bet it would have been more difficult to dismiss the cheers as something that didn't represent PAX were they aimed at a minorities or, well, you.
 
I feel pretty done with Mike's apologies. I think he's going to keep being a dick from time to time. The latest apology even seems to push some of the blame over to Khoo for asking a bad question, as if that gave Mike no chance to not say something dickish.

But . . . when people talk about PAX culture being toxic, it always seems to me that this describes some monolithic creature. PAX is too large and diverse for a single culture. The PAX culture I experience is mostly the loosely-knit group of friends I see there every year, huddled around tables and cardboard bits. Or the strangers around me at the concerts (my friends still huddled over that cardboard), who all seem pretty cool and don't pay any mind to the middle aged lady in their midst who can't stop dancing.

Maybe people are less assholish when I'm in view, at least in small gatherings, because of that whole middle aged lady thing. And I have no doubt that there was some pretty fucking toxic culture going on when some of the crowd cheered for Dickwolves t-shirts. I believe my friends when they say they've seen horribly sexist behavior at PAX.

So I may skip the PA Q&A session next time, just because I'm so irritated with Mike that I might not enjoy it. And the whole thing makes me not want to wear my PAX scarf. But I can't resist huddling over cardboard with my friends, so I'll be pulling out the credit card for my next PAX badge as soon as they're available.
 
+Jennifer Teig von Hoffman Your money is still going to support Mike & Jerry. Why give $ to people who keep doing and saying harmful ande hurtful things, who refuse to learn a lesson? Why can’t you hang out in Seattle and go to the parties and not give PAX your money then, itf it's just a bubble for gamerfriends?
 
+Shawn Struck 
There has not, as far as I'm aware, been an incident of sexual assault in the Enforcer community. There was one individual who was involved in multiple instances of sexual harassment, and whose dismissal was mishandled by Penny Arcade.

There was an Enforcer, Tango, who used his position in the community to make sexual advances towards a number of individuals (both men and women), several of whom made it clear that his attention was unwanted. At the time there were rumors about his behavior, but nobody came forward to talk about it. The official story from Penny Arcade (which you can take with a grain if salt if you wish) is that they heard enough talk about his behavior that they asked him to leave, but none of his victims actually came forward to talk about it. Since all they had was hearsay, they didn't comment on his departure. This was definitely a mistake-- they let him play it off like he was leaving by choice, leaving free to continue hanging out with members of the community until someone made a public statement. With her show of courage, the dam broke and reports came flooding in from all corners of the community which is when you heard about it.

Penny Arcade definitely mishandled the situation. While their hands may have been tied in terms of specifics-- accusing someone based on hearsay opens you up to slander charges-- they should have been clear that he was dismissed. You were right in that they wanted it to go away quietly and it caused them to make the wrong decision as a result, but it is a far cry from hiding a crime as you accuse them of doing.
Danny N
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It's possible that rational people posting something on the internet regarding a rather heated subject might be verbose to pre-address concerns that respondents might come up with. And by "concerns" I mean attacks and by "respondents" I mean immature morons.

The Front taking so many words to explain his position might not necessarily be an attempt to assuage his own moral standpoint and it might just be a way to convey meaning.

It's pretty obvious that any interjection into this debate warrants far more than "I agree with this side" no matter what your feelings are.

As far as supporting or not supporting the empire of Penny-Arcade:

PAX is more than just a money train for PA. It was borne of a need in the community for a more community friendly games trade show. This isn't to say a morally safer show or a physically safer show as if E3 and CES were run by Larry Flynt or in a bad part of town. It was and is an attempt to deliver a games trade show that's run more or less by the game consumers as opposed to the game publishers.

There is still a need for a show like PAX. Someone make a large scale alternative.

Child's Play is also more than just people giving to hospitals. A large majority of the money raised isn't raised by the PA arm, it's raised by other people's efforts like RPS' Desert Bus or the many other small game marathons.

A charity's existence is about getting the word out moreso than the actual money donated.

Guess what: celebrities are sometimes idiots, assholes and whatnot. PA has become an empire and it's creators have become celebrities as a result.
Also: Fans of celebrities are also sometimes idiots, assholes and whatnot.

I wish someone could wave a magic wand and divorce PAX and Child's Play from the celebrities but they exist because of that notoriety. Child's Play might survive but it's a far stretch to believe PAX would survive as just X.
 
+Shawn Struck If I'm going to boycott every business that supports people who do assholish things (even if only the ones doing assholish things publicly), I'm going to have a pretty constrained existence. And this bunch of friends really only comes together for a few events per year; they're like a little Brigadoon.

Plus I do enjoy the concerts, and some of the panels. There is programming available at PAX not available anywhere else.
 
I'm honestly not interested in having a row. If you think 'social justice' types are boisterous and mobby; well, I can assure you that the same goes for the mainstream 'keep it as it is' types. Reddit abounds with all kinds of people being doxxed and threatened.

I appreciate the apologetics of the majority, and that this entertainment dynamic--and the community space attached to it--are important to you. I'll even give you big frosted kudo cookies for acknowledging that trans people have a legitimate right to exist, and that rape survivors might not have enjoyed the unchallenged cheering.

Perhaps it means very little to you that the demographic of your preferred space tends towards a certain character type. Perhaps deep down you believe the majority should vote on the rights of the minority. Perhaps even further in the terrain of your thinking you expect that RPGs and comics and 'geek culture', corporate slogan that has become, should be in the hands who know it best: people just like you.

Maybe you feel bad when you watch 'Big Bang Theory' and D&D players get made fun of with pithy quips and annoying cliches. Perhaps it reminds you of way way way back when you were bullied.

Well, take those feelings, multiply them, and experience them every single day. And you'll get a rhetorical semblance of what being trans is like in our culture.

I'm not here to address your overall points about the 'toxicity' of PAX: reading the tweets livetime from female attendees was enough to chill the blood. If the merry melody of the mainstream keeps intoning "Yeah, but it doesn't affect me", then nothing will change. And again deep down maybe that's how many people want it. That's what we call privilege.

I'm just going to pick up on that link you have that documents Gabe's twitter tirade on what biologically constitutes male or female. MANY of us who are active in transgender rights tried to calmly, politely, and contributively have a chat with him about his comments. He ignored us, egged on the anger, and sat back with his fiddle and played while the 140 characters burned. Meanwhile, myself and the other women who tried to speak politely with him had our mentions flooded with a fan militia screaming abuse at us with every nasty epithet for transsexuality there is to be found -- and believe you me I thought I had heard them all. I don't blame Gabe for what the horde does -- but I do think he spurred them on.  And -- please -- I would really like to point out, as your linked author does not, that this happened on two consecutive occasions. We could call the first poor judgement and ignorant phrasing -- the second go he had was just a pure act of emotional arson against an incredibly vulnerable community.

However, if later he reflected on what he said -- then I think that is commendable. People can adjust their perceptions and recast their judgements. As someone who works as a university educator, I constantly see students reevaluate their opinions of trans people over the course of a term with me.  I'm with the other commentators that there was something nondescript about it all, but as far as Trans 101 goes I'm actually quite patient in hoping for slow, small changes. I'm glad some kind of positive discussion came out of it for him. I'm glad that the once bullied, oh so many years ago, might have realised that they had become the bullies.

As for the link, it's a snotty, antagonistic summary which is incredibly choosey in its presentation of what actually happened. That the author speaks of 'trans folk' and Batman fantasies in the same paragraph does a great deal to expose the undercurrent of assumptions here. The bit about 'white dudes think about suicide as well' is certainly true, but she doesn't mention the %40 of trans people who actually try it, myself being amongst that number. The link is a very backhanded sneer that, if I could put into a bottle and shake it up, would be a fizzy burst of the low calorie jibes that trans women (trans guys never seem to come up) get all the time. You might have posted some of the excellent essays written from the other side of the events -- you know, just for the sake of conversation.

I never expect the majority to care. I don't. But I hoped PAX, with its pretenses to representing those who feel on the margins of so much of what society calls 'normal', might have had a longer pause about the hurt caused with these misogynystic and trans-misogynistic tirades that keep coming back and back and back. Again and again. This is what I wish people would understand -- there is a climatology of condescension and derision that those in the cosy indoors as the majority aren't being exposed. And the thing about being trans -- we are always on the outside, in one form or another, through one quick insult or contrived tweet.

That's what disappoints me, because D&D (as one example) had always been something . . . fun . . . for me. I worked out some early gender nightmares through roleplay. And, as I grew up and my struggles severely intensified, I always turned to 'Geek Culture' for spaces of alternativve vision and possibility for me, the authentic and desperate to be revealed me. This is what really saddens me. That maybe 'geek culture' eventually just reinvents its format to that of the Boy's Club, except with more dice, and a penchant for costumes with boob windows installed, and perhaps the odd tr&nny to kick around for giggles. I know and believe that you want better. I want better. We deserve better.

You're obviously a very sensitive and sensible writer, and I salute that. I appreciate your stand on Gabe's very public transphobic trumpet blast. I really do thank you for saying, "Hey. Not Cool. Let's be real here." At the time, If more people had said, "Right, deep breath -- let's not get all angry here, but look very carefully at this" -- we might have avoided some ugliness. And there was a lot of ugliness that day. It included much more than Gabe's biology lesson on how vagina=woman, as charming as I'm sure ladies find it to be defined by genitalia. It was a full on, gleeful morning of intended-to-annoy transphobia. He got a laugh out of it, at trans women's expense, and not for the first time. Not for the first time at all. There were incidents, and now there are definite patterns. But I'm glad Gabe had second thoughts. And I want to try and see your status quo point of view. Thus, I'm asking you -- do your bit not to turn PAX into a reinvented version of the bullying that so clearly you still sting from. For me, it's not a distant memory, but a daily apprehension.

I appreciate your self-reflection. Perhaps if you think less of why PAX is important to you, and I know that it is, and why so many of the people you respect say "no thanks" . . . we might have some real dialogue here.

Remember, as I write this -- the writers of Batwoman, one of my fav New 52 titles, just quit because they were not permitted to show a lesbian wedding; and DC just launched a contest inviting readers to come up with drawings of Harley Quinn committing suicide, naked. I won't even start on the awfulness with how trans women have been portrayed as of late in comics, with Gail Simone's Alysia being the one brave exception.

I'm asking that  you see what we have to deal with. All the time? All the time. Every day. But I think we can change that. I do. And that's the broader effort I ask, sincerely, that readers here keep in mind.

Thanks if you read this. I do appreciate you allowing me to add my voice to this forum.
 
+Charlie Miller I actually called her out on it on Twitter and she acknowledged the behavior and said she apologized. I mean, people can be dickwads on the internet and I forgive what she did, just like I'm forgiving what Mike did. I think we all know he's not pro-rape or pro-rapist. Yes, he took freedom of speech way too far but I am not without sin and I won't cast any stones at people who are flawed but are trying to do good in their own way.
 
+Todd Simmons
You can feel free to hate Mike Krahulik (he can be a real asshole), but please don't lie and spread misinformation.

You said, "And no, he NEVER apologized for his Trans comments. He gave the "sorry you feel that way" non-apology and used the old "but I have friends who are <blank>" dodge."

Sorry, but that is incorrect.  This comment
http://www.penny-arcade.com/2013/06/22/going-one-step-further, and the corresponding donation to the Trevor Project, cannot rationally be described as a "sorry you feel that way" non-apology.
 
I know I am probably the least eloquent in terms of expressing my opinions, so I am glad that someone like you is around to help me see things in a different light (that is, a light different than most of the articles out there that are just full of anger). It ends up helping me think more critically about what is going on. Now to just figure out how to not put my foot in my mouth.

Thank you for sharing this with us. :]
 
The Trevor Project is a magnificent front line organization that helps desperate, afraid trans people who are certain death is preferable than trying to live as our honest selves. I know. I know those who have called them. Supporting these angels is a good thing. 
 
Very well said, thank you for this.  I've shared it as well.

I do hope Mike will read this and hopefully take it to heart.  This was written from a position of love and not hate, and should be taken as the best kind of constructive criticism.
 
That was pretty amazing, Frontalot. You articulated very well a lot of the thoughts that have been foaming around in my head for a few days. 

I still believe that PAX is a "safe" space. I've never been treated with anything but respect there.

In any segment of the population (say, PAX's 100k or so...) there are going to be some jerks. But the good and true people still vastly outnumber the asshats, such that asshats are largely ignored and unwelcome. 

Everyone who is upset (as well as everyone who isn't) should take the time to examine the fact that their experience may not be typical. A person who feels or is harassed at PAX has a valid reason to be upset, but that doesn't make the whole show toxic. 
 
+Jennifer Teig von Hoffman Rather than skip the Q&A, why not actually go up and ask a question? If you're angry with Mike (and I'm not saying you shouldn't be), then tell him so. Seldom do they get challenging questions during a Q&A, and they might welcome the opportunity to talk to you about it.
 
I respect the hell out of you, Front. And I think you've got the dillema pretty well nailed. DO you ditch PAX and let it stew, or do you support what is largely a decent thing? 

I read his appology. And...it isn't really one. He appologises for continuing to engage in the drama, appologises for pulling the shirts and creating more drama that way, admits he should have just stfu...

But he doesn't appologise for the shirts. He doesn't come out and say that making a shirt that basically says "Yay Rapists!" on it, and then marketing that Yay Rapists! shirt was a really freaking bad idea.  

And that those shirts made it from concept to design to sales isn't just Mike's fault. He didn't make those shirts in a vaccuum. Multiple people had to think that Team Rapist shirts were a Good Idea. 

That just kinda creeps me out, more than one guy just being a clueless git. 

My going to/supporting PAX is largely a moot point, since I've missed the ticket window repeatedly. And I think PAX in general has got their shit together as far as a positive environment. Any actual behaviors are rapidly and decicively responded to by the Enforcers. 

But just because he founded PAX, doesn't mean Mike should get a free pass to be a shmuck. He's one of the public faces of PAX...and he keeps making it look really bad.  I have no idea who actually runs PAX, how it is managed, who's In Charge- but they have got to reign the guy in soon, or more and more good people are going to stop attending. 
 
+Shawn Struck *reads someone describe a clam-like nerd defensiveness* proceeds to participate in clam-like nerd defensiveness that disallows for nuanced opinions
 
Thanks, +C.F. Parrinello, now I'm going to have to go 'shop nerd glasses on clams, or I won't be able to get the image out of my head. 
 
A ton of good points in these replies. I would like to respond to a bunch of them today, when i get time. 
 
"I used to think that the men attending PAX who didn’t respect, or even like, women were the exceptions instead of the rule. But now I know better. Because Gabe told me so.... the community has progressed to a place where it is UNSAFE for me to even say that I’m offended. Let me say that again: standing up for myself within the Penny Arcade community has become a threat to my physical well being."

http://littlelull.tumblr.com/post/60240420647/i-cant-go-back-or-why-im-so-bent-out-of-shape-about

I can post more, Front. So many more about how pAX has become an unwelcome space, how the behavior of those at PA Megacorp have made PAX unwelcome, have hurt and continue to hurt. Twitter, emails, blogs, comments. But I don't know that if everything survivors and women and minorities have been saying haven't been enough to dissaude you from lending support and legitimacy to PAX, what will? Where's the line, Front? Where's the line?

Also, if you could nicely ask the people contacting me via google that are angry fans of yours (like I'm not a fan, like that isn't your certificate of awesomeness given to me as my avatar) to stop telling me I should die, that's be awesome.
 
Yes, I will address as much of the response in this thread as I can, later today, particularly what shawn has written. In the mean time... It should go without saying that telling people to die is a horrible way to communicate, and telling people to die because of a post they made about how much they are hurting is a particularly loathsome mode of engagement, and I am ashamed of you and for you if you sent that to shawn (or to anyone else). But I guess that doesn't go without saying, so now it's said.

I thank everyone who has actually posted to the thread for refraining from rudeness and attack while engaging difficult feelings and thoughts on a fraught topic. That's how we ought to behave and I think we're doing a solid job so far.
 
I really thought Mike had learned his lesson after the trans comments.  Specifically, what I thought he learned was that it was best to keep his mouth shut about these issues, because he was oblivious to his own ignorance.  Anybody can be ignorant... Anybody can say something boneheaded and thoughtless... the real test is what you do once you find out that you've overstepped.

And Mike continues... despite example upon example... to continue to peddle what he things is "right" to those who disagree.  Were he to shut his mouth, his self-confessed verbal spew could just be an impotent eccentricity... but by continuing to speak on these issues that he KNOWS are hurting the credibility of his organization, he slathers this nonsense onto his "children" like a wretched pheromone.  Instead of letting it go, he cares more about continuing to lay his opinion onto the reprehensible behavior he's already exhibited than to allow the good he's created evolve without his backwards ideology.

I do not think he's a bad person.  I do not think my racist grandmother was a terrible woman.  But they both said things that were based on an ideology that does not stand up to any significant scrutiny.  As such, they have two choices... listen and learn... or stfu and let the world move past them.  Mike refuses both.

I do not blame anyone for their devotion to PAX as an organization.  I do not think everyone has to agree with Mike's beliefs to appreciate what he creates.   But if you care about PAX, you need to tell Mike to quit poisoning it with his ignorance... and you need to tell those who have continued to support him in these manchild flailings that they let both Mike and the organization down by not speaking up to him.
 
That joke wasn't MEANT to be harmful. And as a Nerd, taking defense like they did is natural and something that is HARD TO GROW OUT OF. That is why this whole situation comes to appear immature, because IT IS. The fact anyone chooses to apologize when they easily can say fuck you is something. Better than nothing. Mike could continue to say "I regret taking those shirts off the website." He could say nothing and continue with his life, but no, Mike apologized, whether it was sincere or not, he did it. That means more so than anything. AND No one walks out of their house and just says to themselves, "Wow, you know what, I think it's a good day to piss some people off." No one does that and if they do--

The joke is well explained by Frontalot. The joke was not aimed to say "rape is funny." The joke in the comic isn't the rape, it's the last panel. When the guy says to make it awkward. It's about the morality of the quests in the games and aimed at the developers making these weird quests. It isn't harmful. It can be interpreted as such if you have never played an MMO or an RPG in general. I hate to reiterate on the beauty that was this piece Frontalot wrote, but that's how it is.

Making those shirts was a horrible and immature way to go, but ya know, welcome to the internet.

One of the things I think PA doesn't realize is the fact they have a lot of power. They have their own conventions, yet it feels like they don't realize that these nerds will sheep follow and buy these shirts, without thinking twice. They could say something or start any campaign and it'll go viral. One thing that bothers me about certain famous people is the fact that they take their fame lightly. Even if they aren't the perfect role model, they are one no matter if they want to be or not. People are always going to look up to them. This is where PA can improve. This power can be used for something so much more than those stupid bloody dumb shirts.

People can change. I know they can because I have myself and you know it all to be true. No one can be inside Mike's head. No one but Mike knows if his apology was real, but from here on, what we can assume is that he will educate himself on the issues. He trips time to time, but he has in the past recognized his ignorance, specifically with the transgener issue. That within itself is a huge step for anyone.

I see this as a huge misunderstanding. Being someone who yells fuck you as a defense doesn't make someone a horrible person, it isn't the best choice, a Frontalot has stated, but there are worse things to do... especially if you think about it :|
 
+Otto Arendt
"The reason pulling the merch was a bad idea was because eventually it would of cycled out anyways (PA retires old designs often)."
"I do believe that Mike is nowhere near as bad as people make him out to be. Yes he's a dick but by no means is he evil."

I'll explain this again. Removing the Team Rapist t-shirt was the ONLY good thing PA did in the whole debacle. THE. ONLY. THING.
Thinking of the shirt was evil.
Designing it was evil.
Offering it for sale was evil.
Selling it to actual people was evil.
Buying it was evil.
Removing it? not actually GOOD, but partially ending a fuck-load of evil.
NOT stomping the man-babies who complained about it being removed was evil.
Saying in front of a crowd that the one NOT EVIL thing in that list was a bad idea was also evil.

Mike is clearly a dick. We can all agree on that. How he chooses to express that dickishness is via evil.
 
Evil is honestly a horrible word. I personally associate evil with someone who has zero moralities or someone who would kill someone for the thrill. I'd even say Hitler, Stalin, even maybe Mao Zedong were the FEW evil people in the world.

Were all the things you mentioned offensive and bad ideas. Holy mother of god, we can all agree how bad that is, evil? No. I can think of a million things more evil than what they did. Evil.......

Evil is like Stalin who killed people who he felt were smarter than him, or whom he didn't trust. Stalin killed more people than Hitler.
Hitler committed genocide. Any genocide is evil.
Zedong killed people and took away any decent education in China for years and if he didn't kill the scholars, he sent them away where they worked until they died.

Yeah... so, evil.
 
I just want to jump in and mention, because nobody else has that I've seen, that the argument that "supporting Child's Play is unnecessary because hospitals accept donations directly" is an incredibly poor argument.

Yes, hospitals do accept donations directly. Which is why millions of dollars worth of game stuff was being donated to make sick kids happier in hospitals before Child's Play, right?

Wait, no. It wasn't. Because the benefit of Child's Play is raising the money. It's raising awareness and getting people to contribute. Which is incredibly hard work. Work that they have done very successfully every year since the charity's inception, and that work matters.

So yes, by all means, donate directly to a hospital if that makes you feel better than doing it through Child's Play. But don't for a second think that the good Child's Play has accomplished would have magically just happened without them. They work tirelessly for a noble goal. It matters. I will support them regardless of what Mike and Jerry ever do (and, in fact, Mike and Jerry have both said in the past that they want Child's Play to be as separate from P-A as possible for the very reason that they don't want their fuck-ups to hurt that cause).
 
One last thing, Mr. Front, and at risk of derailing from the other important responses.
"PAX has a specific anti-harassment policy and no "booth babe" policy."

PAX doesn't have a "no booth babe" policy. It has policies for how much clothing the "booth babes" have to wear. The last PAX I attended (2011) the booth for the soft drink NOS got in trouble for having employees in too-skimpy outfits. Was that company ejected? No. Just told to have their "babes" put on more clothes. Who were given platters with drinks and told to wander the expo hall like it's effing Vegas.

Don't tell me they don't allow "booth babes" cuz it's a lie.
 
+Jay Blanc Yeah I feel like leaving out Mike's bull-in-a-china-shop rampage around in Shakesville's forum is a pretty big omission. Oh hey, he got pushed and pushed back reflexively... I'm not sure you get to be forgiven such reaction when you're goliath. But even aside from that this wasn't one little thing, this was an ongoing effort to go kick over other people's sandcastles and launch a printing operation.

Which, you know, I'd forgive eventually. But. It. Keeps. Happening.

So people who want to keep supporting them and believe the not-quite-an-apology apology means something, knock yourself out. I'll look forward to seeing signs of growth rather than just more stumbles. This is something it's fun to be proven wrong about. I'm just not going to be involved in funding the effort.
 
"Ironically, it’s always in the front of our minds that not everyone can access the hilarity in a PA strip. That’s part of the strip’s appeal to us – that most people don’t know/care enough about gaming to parse a joke like this in the first place, that our understanding is specialized and our enjoyment is somewhat exclusive."

Female gamer. Since Zork. I get it. I also get why it's shitty, lazy and ignores a large percentage of gamers who are female and/or survivors. The joke isn't as much of a problem as the horde reaction to criticism of the content...
 
+Kenny Robinson
Simple. Kick out NOS. They're the ones who broke the "rules." Give the employees badges to access the Con if they want them.

This isn't that complicated.
 
Great piece - Thank you!

The really frustrating thing for me is this same discussion, switch the players and the medium through which things are expressed is of course happening in: tech, atheo/skeptic circles, politics, comedy, gaming, comics, cons in general. Yet, in every one of these arenas a certain subset of guys focus on the tiniest most irrelevant details instead of taking the 50,000 view and seeing the battle across the wider map.

We are dealing with real people, real acts and real problems with how people interact with each other online and off.

Anywho..thanks for a great read!
 
I have to say that while I think this is a brilliant post, I do resent the implication that I Just Don't Get It. That suggests that the women (and men) who took umbrage aren't the savvy, accomplished gamers that (most of) PA's supporters are, and that's a pretty crappy suggestion.
Further, I believe that it doesn't matter that the rape victim in the "Dickwolves" strip was not the punching bag of the joke. There are at least a dozen ways they could have chosen to underscore the rediculousness of those quests and the hack (if oddly in line with psychological reward-response research) game design. They didn't have to use rape. They chose to, and I believe that such a choice is cheap, crass, and just plain not funny. I do believe that it actually manages to supports rape-culture, which is EVERYWHERE and an actual epidemic, by dismissing the seriousness of rape. BUT - even with all that, I wasn't going to throw the baby out with the bath water. I wasn't going to stop going to PAX, stop reading PA, and write the creators of both off entirely. I've seen plenty of strips come out of PA that are brilliant, before and since. 

Unfortunately, the issue here for many of us is not simply "the strip wasn't a rape joke and was funny" versus "the strip was totally a rape joke and not at all funny." The issue here is the entire saga, which you have quite reasonably laid out. (Granted, I disagree with some of your points and the blame placed on people who "didn't get it", but your post is still quite well thought out and I want to emphasize that I appreciate you giving us this perspetive.) Those of us who are now tossing the baby out with the bathwater are tired, and frustrated. Underneath it all, for many of us, is the fact that /we are still having this conversation./ Mike has "apologised" before, and then backtracked and gone full-asshole on exactly the same issue. Meanwhile, despite the fact that the origninal strip didn't result in my foaming at the mouth and brandishing my flaming torch though I kinda hated it, I've had friends on Facebook say that "I just can't take a joke" and I need to "lighten up" about the entire thing. That's what many of us are being told -- and it sounds an awful lot like, "Oh, I didn't mean anything by it, it was just a little harmless fun. Can't you take a joke?" That's what the boys in Stubenville, Ohio said. That's what countless college football players have said - right before they blamed the girl, because she was drunk or wearing something "revealing."  (Lemme stop on this, because my bitter is totally showing. Apologies, even if I'm not going to edit it out.)

Ultimately, PAX and PA are a force in the industry. The people wearing the dickwolves shirts and chanting "Team Rape" are an absolute confirmation of the power that PAX and the guys of PA have. And there we have the biggest word of all: Power. Rape itself is about power. The fact that Mike has been in some of our estimations using his /power/ to show that he doesn't give a shit what "those" fans think or feel, and PAX having the power to sink an indy game before it's even off the press if it's not shown at at least one PAX - well. It is reasonable to respond to bullies by being a bully yourself? Because that's what it feels like. And I don't think it's unreasonable to say that I very, very strongly object to how the guys at PA are using their power - assuming they're ever or even willing to acknowledge that they have it. And I'm going to demonstrate my objections by no longer supporting the creators, and no longer giving them my money.

That said - do keep going to PAX. What you want to see is what I want to see. I am simply incapable of affecting these men that you call your friends in the way that you can - not only because they are not people I know personally, but because I am really /just too tired/ to be constructive in a conversation about this with someone who responds with the defensiveness that Mike at least has shown. That defensiveness is, in fact, part of the toxicity to me. And so, the only way that I can affect anything is to do what I'm going to do. I hope you, on the other hand, are able to help them see and realize the effects of their words and actions.

Again, thank you.
 
My problem by being offend by any one single word is a ridiculous notion. Words are only offensive if presented that way, which the comic wasn't.

If I just said shit in the middle of the room, if there is a child around, I see why they'd tell me to keep it down, but otherwise shrug it's a word I just said, it isn't meant to hurt anyone.

Then there's: you're work is a piece of shit.

That is probably meant to be there to make you feel awful.

Context of words is important and one single word being offensive is, in my opinion, ridiculous.

Maybe it's because I'm dyslexic, maybe it's because I'm stupid, but why would and why should a word have that much power over your thoughts? Shouldn't it be a group of words that communicates thoughts, feelings and maybe even actions as well.
 
MC Frontalot, I really admire you and I thank you for what you said and for having the courage to say it, thanks.

I am a survivor of bullying and abuse, just like a lot of us. I'm also intersexed, transgendered, queer, non-white, feminist and a lot of the other marginalized populations that PA's community, PAX, Child's Play, and all those fine works try to be inclusive of, and I totally appreciate it. When it works.

I'm also a deep but clean-cut dwarfish geek type. I'm small time. I don't do performances, I don't involve myself in social media for a living, but I still do sometimes hammer out beautiful golden magical rings of geeky essays or information I give to friends or analyses I do of where we're at with a particular technology, or code or automation or incredibly complex interminglings of technology, deep in my dwarven mines and forges.

And I recognize and revel in the sheer joy of totally geeking out and creating something systematic and mechanical and totally beautiful and awesome that catches and throws exceptions properly, whether it's reasoning or building or coding or configuring or documenting or whatever we need to do to keep the geek flowing.

And finally with respect to my identity I'm extremely leftist, extremely a social-justice kind of dude. Partly because of my own experiences and studies and partly because I have a stake in it through my friends, family, loved ones.

I also appreciate Mike's clarification post. I think it came from a good place and I deeply hope that he'll be able stick to it.

I also am glad to hear that more talking about it (here and elsewhere) is helping to frame the situation in ways that some folks are really learning and growing from.

I want to just briefly speak to your sentence here:
But just as surely, there were readers who understood the joke thoroughly and still felt discomfort – or much worse. It is a complicated thing to grasp without direct experience, that for those rape survivors who still suffer PTSD, just reading the second panel might produce a genuine injury.

This, exactly, but in addition, when I understood the joke's mechanics, it wasn't enough, because even though I am a gamer geek of a good pedigree, I also have direct experience of bullying and abuse that correlates strongly with vicarious (and strongly negative) experience of rape through my friends and loved ones. It was clever, yes, hilarious in some points of view, but so entirely tactless and gratuitous that it didn't, in my mind, make the humor "worth" the payoff, especially given who it sacrifices.

And then the backlash got me for expressing my opinion and suddenly I not only lost cred I might have with the PA fans but I also lost any hope I might have to participate in the PA fan and gaming community, for having the temerity to speak up about it. For fear that the folks who find my opinions so reprehensible might make good on their threats.

I think it's too bad. I think we'd have a lot to talk about, but that's why PAX doesn't seem like a place I should go for a while, if ever, because I don't feel safe there and I don't feel welcomed there, not until this whole thing is demonstrably over and done with and never brought up again.
 
But no one can account for all words that trigger. The English language is huge. Its public domain and you literally can't say, hey, this comic contains x because this is a bad word.

That is counterproductive...
 
So, general rule time. 

When it comes to "rape jokes," (which I put in quotation marks on account of it being something that should not exist in a civilized society) do you know who gets to determine if the joke is offensive or not? 

Rape survivors. 

Do you know who does not get to say "you shouldn't be offended by this, cuz..."? 

Everyone else. 

And since most generous (AKA, not taking into account the lack of reporting) statistics tell us that 1 in 6 women have been or will be raped in their lifetime, that's a big chunk of the world. It's not one or two people screaming "Don't offend me!" It's 1/6th of more than half of the country. Millions of women--and that statistic doesn't even touch the number of men who have been raped (and who are treated like they don't even exist).  

The truth is that THE ORIGINAL COMIC WAS NOT OKAY. Stop saying that it was, because it WAS NOT.

I've spent most of my teen and adult life surrounded by gamers. You don't have to run hundreds of quests yourself to get the joke of the original comic. I get the joke. But there were 3948593845 different things they could have said that would have been JUST AS FUNNY without using the word RAPE.

But the word RAPE is tossed around so much in RPG/MMO gamer culture that it has lost all meaning...which is highly, HIGHLY problematic. Because rape is already not taken at all seriously in our society. You and I know that victims are blamed, questioned in a way no other victim would be questioned, accused, ignored, told to get over it, and then labeled as "whiners" or  angry feminists when they try to stand up for themselves in any way. The word RAPE is already so culturally battered and gutted that 13 to 30-year-olds running around MMO landscapes and saying, "That dragon totally raped us back there," before giggling in delight really just throws another log on the "burn the witch" fires that have been crackling and smoking for millennia. 

But it is another log. And that's the point. 

Because he could have said "Flogged to sleep by Shitwolves," or any number of other things, and the comic STILL would have been funny. 

But rape... right? It already means nothing to the 13-year-old boyz with their headsets, playing deep into the night. It will probably still mean nothing when they're 16 or 18 or 20 and some passed-out-drunk girl is getting carried naked from room-to-room by two football players at a party. Maybe they'll laugh then too. Or maybe not think anything of it. But we know for certain they won't DO anything to help, because rape is just a word we throw around to shock people. And the next day, when the girl realizes what happened to her and cries, "RAPE!" We can tell her that she shouldn't have been drunk. 

Because rape is just a shock-value joke. 

I appreciate the sensitive way you went about presenting what happened and why people are upset. I believe you when you say you understand why people would decide not to go back to PAX. But the truth is (using your own words to help me explain) that a straight dude who hasn't (at age 30?) learned that rape culture is a real thing, even after THREE YEARS of dealing with friends and fans and bloggers explaining it to him? He's definitely unwilling to learn. 

Do I think he's sincerely sorry for doing all that he did with the Dickwolves? Yes. Because it's a mess, and it's uncomfortable to be in a mess like that. 

Do I think he understands WHY people are so upset? No. Because he doesn't want to hear or understand. He's made that abundantly clear. 
 
Damnit all MCF, I'm about to leave for work and here I am all teared up. Whether it was because it was blocked out, or my savage defensiveness I'd forgot the root of my rebelliousness and my stubbornness. It was being in those headlocks and forced to recite those words. It was the constant picking and torture both physical and mental. I hate them all. I hate them. But maybe that is part of the problem. Years later they are still running a part of my life. Maybe I should finally deny them that final control as well.
 
You know, complaining that ten thousand words could be triggers is really just a cop out.  We're not talking about the abstract here.  We're talking about a company selling shirts that parsed as "Team Rape" for PA fans.  There is a world of difference between "well maybe 'grabbed' will set someone off" and walking around in a Team Rape shirt.  We're talking about the fact that a decent number of men cheered for the idea of bringing them back.    

That is PAX's problem to deal with now, a very real & concrete "WTF were those guys thinking" situation.  As a corporation AND as a community, they're going to have to address it or risk losing more good will & attendees.
 
The thing about being an asshole who makes mistakes is that we're all that asshole at one time or another in our lives. I've made some terrible jokes in the past that I'm sure hurt people I cared deeply about. Many of them were silent. But a few spoke up and told me, and I was presented with the decision to either become defensive or take it as an opportunity to learn and grow as a person.

I have to admit that I've done both. And, frankly, the defensive decision was a terrible one. But it was easy. And it protected my ego.

I'd like to think that now I'm more open to learning from my mistakes and make genuine efforts to change my behavior for the betterment of my community. 

We have monthly game nights at our house where we host a large-ish group of people who come from a wide range of backgrounds and who hold varying beliefs. It's my job as the host to create a safe environment for everyone, which quite often involves me having to gently nudge people away from offensive or hurtful behavior/words/etc. We make it clear from the outset that the only rule we observe at our house is Wheaton's Law (Don't be a dick.).

This has been a very good experience for me in regards to my own personal growth in tolerance and understanding. Instead of having a zero-tolerance policy, I now practice a one-shot policy, and let that one offence be a teaching/learning moment for the whole group. The behavior in question is not labeled as being a dick. Instead, it is their reaction to the polite reminder that we are creating and enforcing a safe environment for all that is in question. Rarely have we had anyone defend their original action when faced with that realization.

That said, based on their public responses to similar gentle reminders, Mike and Jerry would not be invited back to our game nights. And that, most of all, makes me sad. 
 
"I see him a few times a year, at PAX, though I have never discussed dickwolves with him at all, so most of readings of his motivations are just empathy and guesswork"

Why the h*** not?  You have a huge microphone to use and you should e using it.  I'm still surprised by the number of people near to them who apologize for them but have not (and will not?) privately and openly tell them to stop.
 
What a load of apologist crap.  Seriously stop and consider why you wrote that huge essay that basically boils down to your "empathy and guesswork" means you really, really, REALLY want you to view this situation a certain way.

Mike didn't "want to learn more about people different than him", he had someone he already knew took up the burden of trying to explain things to him so he could act with a little human decency.  The only "hero" in that scenario is the person who set aside their feelings and talk to him, which Mike apparently feels victims of his assholery should feel obligated to do:
http://www.penny-arcade.com/2013/06/19/twiiter-sucks-sometimes

The big apology/clarification post doesn't help anything, because he doesn't even want to take responsibility for it: "In hindsight all this did was open the wound back up and bring on a whole new wave of debate. Any action we took at the time just dug us deeper regardless of what it was. What we needed to do was stop. just stop. I apologized for it at the time and I will still apologize for it. Everything we did after that initial comic strip was a mistake and I regret all of it"

Not "in hindsight did we compound the hurt and encourage our fanbase to ridicule people who are already suffering and marginalised" not "there were things we could have done but we didn't"  not even "the initial comic strip a huge mistake"

If he invested just a fraction of the effort he spends defending and promoting his brand in instead listening and respond appropriately when they fuck up - they wouldn't be in this shit.

So please stop with your hero worshipping "I know him and he's not a bad guy" nonsense.  What you know or think about him is of no consequences to the masses that are effected by his public statements, nor should it be.  Yes he's done really nice things for lots of people, no that doesn't give him a free pass to be a dick to others and not be accountable for it.  

That's not how basic social justice or accountability is supposed to work.
 
+Kim Wincen "Apologist"? Mike isn't a war criminal, he made a handful of sarcastic remarks on twitter. If you wished to talk about this, it would probably helpful to turn the outrage down to "sane" or "adult."
 
+C.F. Parrinello: Tone policing isn't OK. Dismissing someone else's outrage and suggesting they return to "sane" is insulting, and is often referred to as "gas lighting." 

And Mike did much more than make a few "sarcastic comments" on twitter.
 
+C.F. Parrinello Mike has build a very, very successful business related to a very problematic industry and a large part of his "brand" is bluntly proposing opinions.  He has been doing this for over a decade and has an audience of millions and has been expanding his influence from a snide comic to charities and conventions.

People can cry all they wants about Mike "didn't want to be a role model" or that they're "just remarks on Twitter" but the fact is when Mike talks - millions of people listen reverently.  That's why there were anti-feminist groups freaking out when he made his "sorry" donation after the Twitter incident - because it matters to them and many they know what Penny Arcade says is right and wrong.

He and Jerry have built themselves a very successful business, very large audience and a lot of influence in the gaming community - what they say and do affects others.  Just because it doesn't affect you in particular doesn't mean it's not harmful to many others.
 
+Karen Price It would only be "gaslighting" if I was actually trying to convince the person that they were literally insane. If it needed saying: I don't think Kim is actually suffering from hallucinations or hearing voices. I think the reaction lacked all sense of reciprocity to the degree that having a respectful discussion becomes impossible. If you're saying that my tone is disrespectful in response: yeah, it is. But I don't think it really matters, because I refuse to participate in a shouting match if that's the only kind of conversation I get to have without being dismissive. 

And if you're going to get moralistic about tone policing, then how in the world do you justify your own speech? Do you not realize the impossibility of the kind of discourse you seem to want to have? Or do you realize that you love policing, and merely wish to turn hypocrite the moment that someone disagrees with you? If we're going to talk tactics, yours seem infinitely more damaging, insidious, and disingenuous. 

It's perfectly fine to call me on my bullshit, but it would be vastly preferable if you did not introduce a far greater amount of it in the process of addressing me.
 
+Kim Wincen You're absolutely right, Mike mishandled this repeatedly. The difference is that I don't think it's alright to pigeonhole people based on stringing together a handful of gaffes. Especially when there's also a series of actions taken on his part to make it clear that he is merely ignorant, and not malicious. If someone were to microphone you and defame your character based of every flippant remark, you'd want the benefit of the doubt on occasion, yeah? 

There's a sense of responsibility that comes with being a minor celebrity, that's true. I think it's easy to forget the kind of influence they wield. I would be totally cool with saying that Mike flubbed that part of his responsibility and will probably need to be reminded of it on occasion. I don't think it's okay to categorically put him into some kind of awful shithead category, though. That serves no purpose, it doesn't help him and it doesn't help us (on top of being inaccurate, IMO). 
 
+C.F. Parrinello "ignorant not malicious" doesn't factor in here.  This isn't a case of someone who became a celebrity overnight due to one thing that caught on, or who was talking to a friend in what they thought was a private setting that didn't need context explained.

The initial Dickwolves comic and the mocking follow up was posted as part of his company's product.  The transphobic tantrum was on his Twitter that he links to on his product and uses to promote his product.  The statement where he said he regretted pulling the Dickwolves merchandise was at a panel at his own convention (a Q&A managed by his own head of business for that matter).  In all cases his blogged about them on his product.  His product is a web site that is viewed, discussed and influences the opinions of millions of people.  This is not a "accidental flippant remark" this is responses to what he deliberately put out there with his branding all over it.

Furthermore he is only "ignorant" on these issues because he has chosen to remain ignorant of them (and has the option to due to his circumstances). This is not innocent "I had now way to know" ignorance, this is self centred "I don't care about your problems" ignorance. The Dickwolves comic was three years ago, the "cis" comment was a brazen statement of wilful ignorance followed by demands that anyone who wants him to be less ignorant needs to approach him how he likes and he'll consider changing at his leisure (or as branding/business requires).

Lastly, PAX, one of his products - has been promoting itself as a "convention for everyone" and making big shows of not allowing booth babes, etc.  But despite wanting this branding, it's quite happy to make it a place not for certain types of people if it amuses them.  Which means they're effectively making one of two statements to their millions of fans:
1. These groups (trans people, rape victims, etc) are not part of "everyone" and so don't deserve the same consideration as a regular person
2. Claiming to be inclusive for everyone is just a catchy marketing ploy, it's okay to say you're doing it and then ignore it when it's inconvenient.

Mike has been actively and deliberately trading on good will and is now repeatedly and with little remorse (except over his product and his legacy) burning it away.  It is not appropriate to claim "it's just ignorance, not malice" when he's known for at least three years that it's his job NOT to be ignorant. Or failing that, if he can't avoid being ignorant for the foreseeable future to shut his mouth on the topic and avoid setting more bad examples.

He's deliberately chosen not to do that, so it's not a matter of innocent mistakes - the "ignorance vs malice" argument only basically boils down to whether he actually enjoys the suffering of others or is indifferent.  The only person who knows that for sure is Mike, hence it is ridiculous for people to be writing essays of "it's not that bad!" - especially when they're getting the facts wrong and are admitting it's based entirely off their own personal feelings towards Mike.
 
+C.F. Parrinello
"it would probably helpful to turn the outrage down to "sane" or "adult.""
"It would only be "gaslighting" if I was actually trying to convince the person that they were literally insane. If it needed saying: I don't think Kim is actually suffering from hallucinations or hearing voices."

So you're saying you didn't say the words you actually said. Words have meanings. Learn them.

"Mike isn't a war criminal, he made a handful of sarcastic remarks on twitter."

He made a Team Rapist t-shirt. You must be new here. Read up.

"If we're going to talk tactics, yours seem infinitely more damaging, insidious, and disingenuous."
"It's perfectly fine to call me on my bullshit,"

You are clearly full of bullshit. You're welcome.
 
+Kim Wincen I sincerely hope you don't get famous one day and have to deal with the same level of doubt and scrutiny that you feel 100% comfortable visiting on a complete stranger. You'd deal with shit attitudes like your own very poorly, I bet.
 
At the risk of sounding belittling. I had 5 years of loneliness, frustration, fear and very real pain while I was at school. Now PA are supposed to pull comics and make public (but not Pr driven) apologys because they indirectly offended someone who had, I don't know....half an hour of horrendous treatment + physical recovery time. Look at the math. 5 years vs, 2 weeks? I understand mental scars. I have them to. That is why I know how ridiculous it is to lay the blame at PAs feet instead of just learning to cope. This week I was in the shower and thought to myself, 'you know what, I'm glad my school tie snapped when I skipped geography to try and hang myself in the toilets, life is good now'. I put a lot of effort into making it from day to day. The experienced hardened me, as is probably obvious. Just try and understand what put me in that toilet cubicle.... what could I demand if PA offended me?

I left school. Got away from that environment. I understand that rape victims can't do that and I can understand how the dickwolves fallout has made PAX feel like my school, where even the administration seems like it is out to get you.

I don't know what you would call it but it seems like some sort of Streisand effect. This would have been a non-issue if it was never raised by the over sensitive minority and if mike and jerry had not over defended.

Mike has no obligation to change his politics. He never brings it up either. Is always a niche group projecting their fear onto PA. Stop it!

In conclusion, phrases like 'trigger effect' are doing your a disservice. Stopped hiding behind them.
 
+Angus McIntyre So you "understand" how rape victims can never get away from men and the associated memories of the brutal violation that has one of the deepest psychological impacts possible, but you were bullied at school for five years so you can tell them their concerns don't matter?

With no due respect at all, fuck off.
 
+Jay Blanc well, that's not what I said. Ironic given that this whole discussion erupted from 'missing the context'. 
 
Okay! Again, thanks to everyone who is continuing to engage this issue, and doing it with civility and care. Some of that seems to be breaking down in the later parts of the page, so please, please – tell me how PA offended you or how I’ve offended you or whatever else you think of my post, but if you need to say how offended you are by each other, discuss that with each other off-thread. And I urge you to do it civilly there TOO.

I’m going to look at some of the points raised in this thread.

First, let me point out (this is not so much an admission as a reminder of what ought to be obvious) that as a non-survivor CIS-male-presenting middle-class honkey, I stand at the very apex of privilege and safety in the western world, and consequently I am not the very best person to explain to anyone what’s up in the realms of feminism, queer and trans issues, equality, or justice. I like to imagine that I have thought seriously about these things and that I have some liberal cred, but like all cred, that has to be evaluated by outside observers while they’re deciding how to value my positions, opinions, and feelings. And if you wish I’d shut up based on my locus in these intersecting identity spectrums, then I can understand why you might wish that. I mean, I will often exercise my boundless privilege to NOT shut up, but if you think I’m doing that at the expense of hearing you or letting you be heard, please call me out on it. I grew up in Berkeley, CA, and I try to take Being Called Out as a baseline for political discussions instead of a personal slight.

Second, let me assert that in the original post on this thread, I’m not trying to tell anyone how they have to feel about dickwolves or about any of the mistakes, apologies, or non-apologies that Mike has made. I wrote it to try to suss out my own feelings on the matter, and to present my own perspective which I hope my fans will consider when they are forming their judgments about my continuing association with PA and PAX. It remains, of course, up to each of you: whether to give Mike some forgiveness (however grudging or wholehearted), to deem him beyond forgiveness, to wait with great trepidation to see how his awareness and contrition continue to evolve, or to vow never to waste another moment thinking about him. Also entirely your own: any predictions about how included (or safe!) you would feel at the next PAX, and how well you are going to sleep at night if you support anything like PAX or Child’s Play that has Mike’s face on it. I’m sad to hear your decisions in some cases, but glad at having learned how you feel. Naturally, I’d love to have you all alongside me to try to serve as a collectively pro-sensitivity, anti-ignorance influence on PAX as an environment. But if you can’t, or won’t, or just don’t want to, I’ll think no less of you. We’re all trying to follow our hearts here.

Anyway, some of what you people have said upthread:

+Case Hawkes  
“Just to be clear, Mike has said that being overly broad with their responses to the Dickwolves strip was the mistake. He still thinks that the detractors should have been targeted directly.”

I wrote and posted this long-ass thing thinking that PA was dead-set on their “non-engagement” policy on controversies, which seems to me like a bad idea generally and an untenable one in this case, but it appeared to be their stance. Anyway, I didn’t expect anything coming so soon from Mike and a lot of what I wrote was just wishing that he’d start making motions in the right direction. I posted it and then immediately saw (from Joel Johnson’s twitter) that Mike had addressed the panel incident, and I was very glad (see first post under original, above). I re-read that PA news post just now, and while it falls heavily on “I regret” instead of the more direct “I was wrong to do this” or the ideal “here’s how wrong I was to do this, and here’s exactly why it was wrong, and here’s a believable pledge to never let it happen again,” I do read it as an apology and I take it at face value.

Mike wrote: “There are people who were offended by or hurt by the joke in the strip and rather than just let it go we decided to make a second strip. That was a mistake and I apologize to this day for that strip. It was a knee jerk reaction and rather than the precision strike back at our detractors that we intended, it was a massive AOE that hurt a lot of innocent people.”

I took this to mean that he thought a valid defense of the original joke was possible, at least at the time (he also says it hurt too many people and he wouldn’t draw it again, knowing that now). Regarding the second strip, he brings up their intent (“precision strike” vs “AOE”) in a way that suggests a) the 2nd strip WOULD have been a good idea if it were built differently and b) that the strip’s critics deserved targeting. Yeah, not what we wanted to hear. But maybe he doesn’t believe either of those things, based on the preceding paragraph, where he writes, “I absolutely regret everything we did after that comic. I regret the follow up strip, I regret making the merchandise, I regret pulling the merchandise and I regret being such an asshole on twitter to people who were upset.” Maybe I’m being too generous, but it seems to me like he understands that none of his reactionary behavior was any damn good, and maybe he’s lumping the (NOT regrettable, rather vital) merch discontinuation into the list of regrets as a sort of a verbal tic. I hope he can be more explicit in saying that the shirt was the biggest mistake and that pulling the shirt was the only decent thing to do. Whether that cuts muster will keep being up to each person who got hurt to decide.

+Justin Winzey 
“Internet confession: I was the one who yelled "bring them back". I didn't do it because I hate feminists. I didn't do it because I hate women. I did it because I felt like those shirts were a justified "fuck you" to a section of humans that were rallying, unnecessarily, against a good joke. I didn't know how wrong I was until right now.
Thanks for helping me straighten that out in my head.”

Wow, well, that’s something I didn’t expect, and I’m glad to hear it. I hope that everyone who I classed as spiteful, shitty children realizes that they can escape that designation by changing what they think and how they act. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me hopeful about PAX’s future, and if everyone who cheered in that crowd could engage in this kind of self-examination, we’d be well on our way.

+Sophie Hirschfeld 
“As a survivor and as someone who is a peer counselor to victims of sexual violence, your comment that the dickwolves statement was toxic, but wasn't the overall environment is a little bit misleading. While I'm sure the whole of PAX has a very positive feel, to someone who is threatened by reminders of sexual assault, at that moment, when so many expressed that they wanted the dickwolves shirts back, that moment mattered far more than any other.”

I know. Some poisons are so potent that the whole body cannot recover, no matter the size of the dose. We’ll see if the right medicine is getting administered, and whether full health can ever return. I’m hoping.

+Shawn Struck 
(I want to quote all of it, but it is too long. Please scroll up and read Shawn’s several posts. Bits quoted below.)

Shawn, you’re presenting a very heartfelt and cogent illustration of how and why so many survivors and people who care deeply about survivors have written PA off. I can’t fault you for any of it, but I’m going to try to answer some of the things you ask and say. 

“…your silence for so long on this really hurt.”
I am sorry for that. We all draw lines between Problems and Problems We’re Willing To Get Involved With. I don’t want my drawing of that line to injure anyone, but if problems are serious then it always might. I wish I could say that I didn’t realize there was a real issue until this Tuesday morning, but that’s not really true. I knew there was trouble when news appeared three years ago that Mike was getting into fights on feminist message boards. Like I said, I was embarrassed – that my friend didn’t have good political awareness, that any of my friend’s fans were behaving like rotten little monsters on social media, and that any feminists, with whom I want always to see eye to eye, had placed these two people who I think of as caring, anti-bullying, anti-victimization dudes into the True Enemies Of Justice category. And when I caught wind of the shirts, somewhat after the fact, I thought they were an unbelievably crass and destructive stunt, but they were rightly pulled and I took Mike’s explanation (here: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2011/1/28/dickwolves/ ) that he’d listened to people who wanted PAX to feel safe, and Jerry’s explanation (here: http://penny-arcade.com/2011/02/02/on-the-matter-of-dickwolves ) that he’d learned something about rape culture, as a positive if not ideal resolution to the issue. PAX wasn’t going to become terrible and I didn’t feel implicated. Does that make me cowardly? Maybe. I really didn’t think that inserting myself would do any good. I still don’t know that my weighing in will/has helped anything, but the realization, after seeing the panel footage, that the awfulness of those shirts was somehow still up for debate, and worse, that men in a crowd would cheer for the wrong side of that debate, seemed way too much to leave unremarked. Plus, the issue is credibly threatening to take the tone and tenor of PAX down with it, and I don’t want that to happen. PAX means something to me.

“There’s no “reforming” the parts of PAX that are bad, because the parts of PAX that are bad are the owners of PAX.” 
Again, I want to affirm your right to deem them irredeemable, but I am not on the same page with you there. I think of Jerry as eager to widen his understanding of the world, of diversity, and of other humans’ feelings. I think of Mike as stubbornly resistant to that but not at all immune. You feel they’ve proven themselves incapable. I want them to keep trying.

“There are the cover-ups of multiple incidences of sexual assault at PAX by enforcers.”
This is the very first I’ve heard of this. I am friends with tons of enforcers, and I adore them all, so I desperately hope this is not accurate. Please point me toward exactly what you’re talking about.

“These horrible reactions are coming from tone of the main people behind the PAX convention, torpedoing the claims of wanting it to be an inclusive space with their very actions.”
They do want it to be inclusive. I know they do. And I know how proud they are to have built an environment that enforces a much lower tolerance for sexism and harassment than all the other big conventions. I hear from the kids who attend that it Just Feels Better there than at Comic-Con, BlizCon, DragonCon, etc. And you’re right, all the mistakes stemming from the dickwolves comic serve to degrade that feeling, compromise the safety of the environment, and potentially lower the sensitivity of the attendees. It was the exact wrong direction to go. I hope we’re pushing back onto course now.

“Front, you do what you gotta do, I guess. I can't say that I'm not a little heartbroken about choosing to give them legitimacy and perform there again.”
Technically, I don’t GOTTA do NOTHIN’. But I’m part of a community, and I value it, and I’m going to keep being there for as long as I feel I’m helping to make it a better place for my compatriots.

+Todd Simmons 
“Mike had 3 YEARS to learn from his biggest public mistake, but no, he regrets not belittling rape survivors ENOUGH. And no, he NEVER apologized for his Trans comments. He gave the "sorry you feel that way" non-apology and used the old "but I have friends who are <blank>" dodge.”

RE: the transphobic twitter spew, it took him three tries, but this by my reckoning is an actual apology: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2013/06/21/going-one-step-further . I’m not the biggest fan of the I’ll Put My Money Where My Mouth Is maneuver, but until we get it together to dismantle capitalism, this is how well-to-do people show they mean it.

+Amy Burek 
“Perhaps it should give you pause that it took you 3000 words to justify why you will continue to support PAX. It would be one thing to simply say "I think the controversy is overblown" or "I've decided to keep going to support my career" but all of the hand wringing above suggests that you are either making a decision you are uncomfortable with or you want to somehow keep your relationship with PAX without seeming like a "bad guy." It is okay if you think the environment is not toxic "enough" to warrant any sort of change (some will disagree), but I wonder where you think that threshold is?”

Perhaps it SHOULD give me pause! But I do not think the controversy is overblown, which is why I’m trying to address it so thoroughly. And I have decided to keep attending/performing for a few reasons, the least of which – believe it or not – is my career. I would have made ten times as much money and played for twenty times as many kids if I had opted to do the direct support slot on the mc chris tour instead of doing PAX prime this year. But PAX is a part of me and I’m a part of it, and the notion that it has become a toxic environment makes me feel terrible. I don’t want that written in stone. If you think I’m wrestling too hard with myself to believe that it isn’t true, or doesn’t have to be, well, maybe I am. I don’t have the distance or perspective to tell you that you’re wrong about my process. But I’m doing my best to lay it out honestly.

And a change is vital: PAX needs to be a place where people don’t fucking cheer for dickwolves shirts. Mike can help make it like that, if he pushes hard enough. I think I can help make it like that if I talk to the gamers who have never considered it, and present the issue in a way that they are able to hear and absorb. I’m doing my best on that one, too.

+Jay Blanc 
“It was hugely disingenuous of you to try and tar both sides here with the same brush, and to suggest that escalation came from the "feminist side".”

In my characterization, the initial progressive stance (as relating to the strip, not to Mike’s subsequent behavior) was ‘ungenerous and incorrect,’ while the PA fan response was ‘appalling and indefensible.’ I don’t see that as tarring with the same brush, though I guess your mileage may vary. And I think I am taking some care in my opening paragraphs (way up at the top of this page) to point out that the critiques of the strip were not censorious and should never have been dismissed outright. I still disagree with what I understand to have been the premise of the first Shakesville post, that “I don’t find rape funny” is a fitting damnation of the strip in question, since by my (perspective-limited! privileged!) analysis, that strip does not contribute to the perpetuation of rape culture, and in essence is not a joke about rape. Again, your mileage may vary, and not giving a fuck about MY idea of what is and isn’t contributive to rape culture is also a valid option for everyone.  

I do remember there being outlandishly nasty social media coming Mike’s way on that first day, but you’re right that the timeline matters and maybe I am clouding my mind with the much more heavily publicized Krahulik family death threat tweet that came later. Maybe Mike and Jerry were reacting, in that second strip, entirely to their own straw man and not to some handful of twitter users who called them rapists. In either case, their responses were big mistakes, particularly Mike’s in picking a fight on the Shakesville comment thread. I don’t think he was made in any way righteous by his (probably very pressing) feeling that it was THEY who picked the fight with HIM. I tried to unpack the feelings and leftover hurt that might lead him into those mistakes in my original post, not to suggest that his hurting excuses his mistakes, but because I need to understand why people fucked up when I want to forgive them.

I want to figure out how to forgive Mike. I don’t want to suggest that you have to too.

+Stephanie M. Clarkson 
“I am sad, and angry, that so many of the people who wouldn't listen to a woman saying, "This is a problem," will probably listen to a man saying the same. […] Nonetheless, thank you for being an ally here.”

I hope that I can be an effective ally on this topic. I fear that most of the respondents are finding me too much friend-to-PA and too little ally-to-the-injured. I wish I could stand as both in fewer than 3500 words. And it is not at all lost on me, the sad reality that my male voice gets better traction than a woman’s does on this, an issue that is commonly about justice for women. QUAKE BEFORE THE POWER OF THE MANSPLANATION. Eughfpth.

+Thomas Bushnell
“Whether a joke is funny has absolutely nothing to do with whether it's harmful. Being funny is not a defense against being damaging of others.”

This is absolutely true. But whether a joke damages others is not always an important consideration for those who make jokes. A lot of jokes aren’t safe, and I don’t want them to be, because they can affect me more powerfully by being dangerous. That’s the secret to “dark humor.” At the same time, I don’t want unsafe jokes to harm innocents – I’d never show Penny Arcade or Citizen Ruth or World’s Greatest Dad to a little kid, for instance. PS I am not comparing women or rape survivors to little kids, I’m just saying that sanitization of culture is never the answer, while taking care of ourselves and each other in practical ways probably is.

+Paul Meier 
 “You can't pretend that feminists fighting the patriarchy too stridently and people making rape and death threats to people who are open with their history of abuse are in any way a comparable class of morons and assholes, just on different sides.”

I don’t pretend that. I don’t even believe that there is such a thing as “too stridently” in the battle to unseat the patriarchy. I DO believe that my comrades in progressive thought can be ungenerous (pretty often, and sometimes through conditioning – it is, after all, a difficult and endless battle) and that like all armies, this one contains humans, and humans make mistakes. It embarrasses me when justice-seekers make the mistake of jumping down a throat that didn’t entirely deserve it. But more embarrassing is the however-few supposed progressives not critiquing but screaming ‘monster’ or ‘you are why rape’ on the immediate heels of the initial strip. I don’t have the screen shots to back up their existence, and (see above) I am no longer sure I have them placed on the timeline correctly. But those are the fucking idiots I refer to who I see as coming from the left.

The rape-and-death-threat morons from the Team Dickwolves side are comparable ONLY in that both kind of moron succeeds in precluding extramural discussion of: the strip, rape culture, privilege, humor, and regrettable behavior by artists. Obviously, being a violent psycho shit is orders of magnitude worse than merely being a shit.

“You also can't pretend that the distress suffered by privileged multimillionaires with an audience of millions getting criticized on the Internet is at all comparable to a group of triggered rape and sexual assault survivors and their allies. There's hardly a middle ground here for anyone who doesn't have their head up their ass.”

I can’t pretend that, and again, I don’t. There’s one party to this conflict who I see as injured, and it’s rape survivors. There’s a lot of fallout from that injury which ends up also affecting PAX-goers who care about rape survivors, who care about safe spaces for women, and who care about social justice and whether or not the artists they support behave decently.

In a sense you’re right that there is no middle ground, in that there is never any middle ground on the question of justice. You support it or you defy it. Thus, having decided that PA defies justice, you might not be able to tolerate even my basic curiosity about their feelings or motivations, much less my saga of attempted Empathy For The Monster Man. And that’s why I’m trying to move the issue away, in my own mind at least, from staking any ground at all, and move it into the realm of: who got hurt, how and why did it happen, how can healing occur, and is forgiveness possible?

“Great, then you go on to attack a bunch of conveniently nameless and unaccountable fans who you're sure are in the minority, but never, in the ensuing paragraphs, mention that Jerry & Mike did shit little to rein them in. Where is that in your narrative?”

You’re right, except I never said I was sure they were in the minority. I think I said I hoped they were, and I do keep hoping that. From my unscientific anecdotal evaluation of the thousands and thousands of PA fans who I’ve met at my booth in the last 10 years, I think I might be right that the vast majority of them are wonderful, open-hearted kids who couldn’t make the world worse if their lives depended on it. But I can’t be SURE that they aren’t all waving dickwolves pennants behind my back when I turn to dig out a XXXL shirt. Now I’m gonna get nightmares.

And you’re right about the reining. I believe you can’t MAKE anonymous internet children behave like acceptable members of society, but you can post regularly about how you WISH THEY WOULD, and that’s what Mike & Jerry should have done. They should NOT have given them fuel, and then uniforms. I think we all agree there.

“I don't get the feeling you're working so hard to persuade the general public as you are continuously trying to persuade yourself.”

Hey, that’s what I meant by “trying to sort this out for the sake of my own sanity” way up at the top.

+Joleen Flasher 
“Your "overall toxicity" comment doesn't really address the issue of with PAX.  It doesn't matter if only 2 or 5 or 10 people in the room cheered.  What matters is that Mike didn't tell them to shut up, right then & there.”

I agree that that matters, and watching the video of that whole moment is what pushed me from hoping this issue would/had resolve(d) itself into trying publicly to help it find a resolution that I can feel okay about (which is important to me) and that everyone who cares about PAX can feel okay about (which is gigantically more important than how I feel, but also a lot farther outside of my influence). As you point out, it “completely poisons PAX for a lot of people.” I still think it’s worth trying to develop a cure.

+Mallory D 
“The apology read as "I regret having done this thing...I regret that you people got mad" instead of "I realize now that, while the original strip wasn't intended to hurt people, that our reaction to it absolutely was a slap in the face to survivors and we should have never created the shirts".”

I think you’re right on the money about what an effective version of his apology would have sounded like, and it should be clearer and clearer that there’s more for PA to do and say on the road to making this right. I hope Mike reads this whole thread, takes this in particular to heart, and then speaks what he feels in a way that lets those who’ve been injured hear.

+Paul Butler 
“Patton Oswalt reconsidered his position and decided he was wrong.”

You’ll see that the Oswalt essay I linked WAS the reconsideration, in which he realizes that his earlier blanket defense of the use of rape in comedy was wrong. And still he writes, “[…]attempting to find humor in the subject of rape—again, a horrifying reality that, like other horrifying realities, can sometimes be attacked with humor? I defend that. Still defend. Will always defend.” He goes on to explain about kicking upward instead of down, which is what I think the original dickwolf strip manages to do. You don’t have to agree with Oswalt or Lindy West that rape does work within certain jokes, or agree with me that the PA strip passes muster. See +Heather Petty ’s comment for someone who absolutely doesn’t agree.

+Yook Pereyra 
What if this was about Team Lynchwolf shirts? Or maybe Team (SomethingMoreDirectlyTargetingCisWhiteMen)wolf shirts? Am I being silly? Maybe. But I bet it would have been more difficult to dismiss the cheers as something that didn't represent PAX were they aimed at a minorities or, well, you.”

Well, the rape victim in the original strip presents as a white CIS male (I hope I’m using CIS correctly – the term was not around I was doing gender studies in college), which might have seemed like a mitigating factor to the authors at some point, though it clearly doesn’t ease anything having to do with PA’s reactions, shirts, etc, and rape is rape regardless.

Our culture has come so much farther on racism than it has on rape, that I think a team Lynchwolf shirt would be a lot more shocking than the Dickwolves shirt is, just on the face of it. I find it nearly plausible that some set of PA readers could labor under the delusion that “Dickwolves” just means a wolf made out of dicks (a funny image) and that it doesn’t have anything to do with sexual assault at all. Just another random obscenity for a distant gang of moral crusaders to be up in arms about. In my most generous possible hypothesis, that’s what I want all those voices in the toxic panel moment to have intended to support. Even if that were magically true (and we know can’t be true of all of them, having seen the Team Rape kids spew bile online, or even many of them since the Dickwolves issue has gotten a lot of air), the crowd’s ignorance would stand in desperate need of repair. Anyway, it would be harder for me to find plausible that a wolf made out of nooses where black people hang had escaped a whole crowd’s comprehension. And to hear cheers for THAT merch, outside of maybe a Tea Party rally, is beyond my imagining. Furthermore, it would have taken THE most sophisticated anti-lynching joke on earth to invent a Lynchwolf monster and still not be a racist joke… more sophisticated than the PA strip which I see as accomplishing its equivalent feat, even though clearly it is a problematic accomplishment. I don’t know that I got anywhere with that, but thank you for the thought exercise.

….okay. I have an airplane in the morning, and there’s plenty more in this thread that I find challenging and totally worthy of both consideration and reply, but I have to call it for time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to spend another whole day on it soon, but I’ll try to get to some more eventually. I think everyone should take a close look at  +Aoife Harte ’s post for a beautifully written trans perspective, and at +Heather Petty for the no-rape-in-jokes-ever perspective (with which I can't agree) along with her many excellent reminders about how deeply rape culture thrives among the young gaming audience, all of which is important to keep in mind.

Thanks for participating, folks.
 
Just want to say that I don't think anyone here is really annoyed at your position, and are glad that you are engaging.

Also a shout out to +Justin Winzey for being pretty brave, and learning from their mistakes.
 
I get it. I really do (as a sensitive butterfly myself). However, I do always find it slightly strange how gamers can be so sensitive on some issues (and rightfully so) while the games they play are based around murdering people... Like actual pretend murder with guns, knives, fire, fists, wrenches and every other nightmare violence stick in the book. I'd start to take that community's grievances a little more seriously once they start getting equally upset with the core ideology of their medium. Because really, its just absurd to see people freak out over this joke then 10 minutes later are laughing as they beat a digital character's brains in. 
 
I'm just going to point out this one statement of yours near the very end:

"And watching that video of the Mike & Jerry interview panel, where Mike voices his regret in pulling the shirts, where part of the crowd cheers the regret of that decision – I had a horrifying feeling of “oh shit, that IS toxic.” I don’t know what percent of the crowd cheered it but it was totally audible. I don’t know what percent of that percent was the misogynist asshole contingent and what was simply rote supportive cheering from fans who haven’t actually examined the issue in question. But that statement from Mike, along with that cheering, was a toxic moment. Were I rape survivor in that crowd, I imagine that my skin would crawl at hearing the joined voices of those cheering men. I imagine I’d never come anywhere near a PAX again."

See, here's the problem, PAX is toxic now, and there is your objective proof.

It works like this: the culture of any organization--a corporation, a school body, a social club, etc.--comes from its leadership. If the CEO and his upper executives espouse certain viewpoints, attitudes, and faults, and they don't actively decry problem issues they see developing in the orgnaization, then pretty soon that becomes the norm for the organization as a whole. Same for school administration and perceived leaders among the student body. Same for leaders and prominent members of a social club.

The converse of this issue is that there are always people in the membership of an organization who push against the culture and try to steer it in their own favored direction, and to bring in more people like themselves. If the leadership does not actively frown upon and work to counter such normal "drift", then the leadership has effectively allowed the drift to happen.

This is where we're at today in PAX and to a large extent, the gaming industry and gaming culture and geek culture as a whole. The perceived thought leaders and actual leaders are simply not doing ENOUGH to push back actively against all the bigotry that is spreading. And unfortunately, through personal weakness, personal ignorance, or active rabble-rousing and personal hateful agendas, in some cases the leadership are still part of the problem. 

I mean, look at Orson Scott Card, who was at one time a legend in the geek community (to anyone over 30, anyway). Look at what he's turned into and how he still  won't shut the fuck up.

So regardless of the causes, the simple fact is that PAX is toxic. It's going to take a lot of work to clean out the sewage and repair it's reputation.
 
+Kat Schonheyder Thanks for writing that. I've been trying to articulate a response to this essay, and you've expressed what I've been feeling better than I've been able to. The only thing I will add is that I hope people who are choosing to walk away from PAX will take a moment to politely let the organizers know their reasons. Maybe if enough people say, "you've hurt me," it will make a difference.

EDIT: I should have also added my sincere thanks to MC Frontalot for helping me think things through and for being a voice of reason in general.
 
+Paul Shillinger The last time people did anything close that, Mike had this to say: "“I’ve gotten a couple messages from people saying they are 'conflicted' about coming to PAX. My response to them is: don’t come. Just don’t do it. In fact give me your name and I’ll refund your money if you already bought a ticket. 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.”

Honestly, as much as we talk about PAX being a community, it is first and foremost a money making enterprise for Mike, Jerry and Robert. Most of the main track panels, and many of the heavily attened main panels, are about Penny Arcade itself, in one for or another. Attending gives them legitimacy and money.
 
I feel... strange about this, partly because this seems to me to  be symptomatic of several concurrent movements in geek/nerd culture over the last two decades. It goes hand in hand with the insult to humanity that is the Booth Babe (PAX is two of three 'cons that I am aware of that refuse to allow them, so poor handling of this situation aside they get points from me for that), and the absolutely idiotic pseudomeme that is the "Fake Geek," as if somebody who is female must somehow meet some arbitrary standard to be accepted as a geek or else they're just some poser.

I guess that's the weirdest part. We're geeks. We ARE the outcasts because we found something that we love so much, something outside the norm, that it should bring us together, and yet people perpetuating the life of the "Dickwolf" movement seem to have forgotten that, and seem to have turned what once was a reason for people of all walks with common interests to come together into something soured. They've become the Frat Boys in Nerds. They've become Biff Tannen. The worst of it is that they are VERY far from being some unique subgroup. They are representative of a major shift in the Geek community has stopped being a haven for those of us just an edge on the weird side and started to de-evolve into basically its cromagnon form, when tentacle rape was something to laugh at, girls were frowned upon for cosplaying in pants, heavier girls were frowned upon for cosplaying at all, and you were shunned for not supporting those rules. If you didn't, you were outcast.

Do I blame the Penny Arcade crew for this shift? No, but the actions of the resulting fecal hurricane that followed in various comment threads are absolutely symptomatic of it, and they should, I think, perhaps give some sort of real mea culpa for being the ones who lit the match, for as much as I respect most of what they do, they could have prevented a lot of this. They need to realize that with great influence comes great responsibility. They are role models whether they want to be or not.
 
+MC Frontalot -- Although I'm sure it was time consuming for you, I sincerely thank you for the effort invested in assessing these issues and perspectives -- in the plural, even! :) -- that you synthesized with real care and awareness. I am pleased that this discussion didn't degenerate into privilege bashing or minority slagging.

This was a worthwhile conversation that I really think needs to be had; and I really do thank you for not only starting it, but mindfully interacting in its development with caution and open mindedness.
 
+Shawn Struck If you're not going to give money to people who refuse to learn a lesson, there are bigger issues. Every bank, every oil company, most power companies and certainly tax beneficiaries will continue to do far more harm, and people give them billions a year. It's pure hyperbole to pretend otherwise.

I've been a PA fan for many, many years. I've enjoyed their output a lot over the years, despite many things I deemed too near to the knuckle. Do I, a leftie Brit, like how they behave on Twitter? No. But do I like how many of my entertainment heroes act outside their medium? No, not really.

The Dickwolves debate has raged now for 4 years. That it has is truly a result of the constant lack of letting it go by all sides. It's time people made their decision: does the actions of the people who make the media you enjoy matter to you enough for you to walk away? Or are you going to take what enjoyment you can from it, in this case for free?
 
+Angus McIntyre "At the risk of belittling" is right. A very very high risk, which you achieved quite handily in the first paragraph and then backed up significantly in the subsequent paragraphs. 
 
At the risk of sounding belittling. I had 5 years of loneliness, frustration, fear and very real pain while I was at school. Now PA are supposed to pull comics and make public (but not Pr driven) apologys because they indirectly offended someone who had, I don't know....half an hour of horrendous treatment + physical recovery time.

Are you fucking serious dude? Is this the math you use to determine who has a legitimate (in your eyes) claim to ask for respect?

Look at the math. 5 years vs, 2 weeks? I understand mental scars. I have them to.

Seriously, it's not a contest for who has the worst history and the most trauma. You don't win anything with this line of reasoning. 

That is why I know how ridiculous it is to lay the blame at PAs feet instead of just learning to cope. 

Really? You're suggesting that someone else just needs to learn how to cope? You honestly believe that rape survivors and anyone else who doesn't agree with you regarding how to handle their trauma just needs to suck it up and get over it? Seriously, with all due respect, fuck you. 

This week I was in the shower and thought to myself, 'you know what, I'm glad my school tie snapped when I skipped geography to try and hang myself in the toilets, life is good now'. I put a lot of effort into making it from day to day. The experienced hardened me, as is probably obvious. Just try and understand what put me in that toilet cubicle.... what could I demand if PA offended me?

I'm glad the tie snapped too. I'm terribly saddened to know that your experiences in school were so horrible that you felt that was your only option. School bullying is a horrendous problem and one that we need to deal with. 

But you don't get it, still. Now you're on the side of the bullies. If, like you say, your experience has hardened you, I would suggest that perhaps it did so to the opposite extreme. Perhaps some understanding and compassion would be a good thing.

I left school. Got away from that environment. I understand that rape victims can't do that and I can understand how the dickwolves fallout has made PAX feel like my school, where even the administration seems like it is out to get you.

Do you really? Because I don't sense that from anything you've written so far. 

I don't know what you would call it but it seems like some sort of Streisand effect. This would have been a non-issue if it was never raised by the over sensitive minority and if mike and jerry had not over defended.

See, right there. You are telling someone else that they're being overly sensitive. That makes it clear that you actually don't understand.

Mike has no obligation to change his politics. 

You're absolutely right! He doesn't have to do anything. But freedom of speech (and action) doesn't mean freedom FROM response. He's free to continue saying or doing anything he wants. And everyone else has the freedom to react and respond.

He never brings it up either.

I wish that were true. It would save him a lot of trouble if he would stop sticking his foot in his mouth and then getting angry and lashing out when people point out that he has his foot in his mouth.

Is always a niche group projecting their fear onto PA. Stop it!

Nope. 

In conclusion, phrases like 'trigger effect' are doing your a disservice. Stopped hiding behind them.

Again, nope. 
 
+Karen Price I'm not trying to win and I'm happy to be educated.

I resent being told I'm on the side of bullies. I just disagree with you and think that the initial war of words was irrational. Your lack of empathy to my story was frightening, given your stance here and the stance you would have like mike to take.

Telling me to fuck off degrades the integrity of your message. It becomes hard to not be mad at you when you do that - another of the issues at hand here.
 
Something that bothers me from both the extreme leftist/gender-studies bunch and the kneejerk MRA-type bunch is the complete insistence on the objectivity of someone else's awfulness. I think a statement like "the PAX environment feels a little unsafe for me" is fine, because we all have different thresholds for what's going to upset us and that's fine. If people aren't going to have a good time, they absolutely shouldn't go.

It's entirely another to act like going to PAX is now a kind of political statement. That seems absurd. People are going to go to PAX to have a good time and make connections to people. Buying a ticket is not supporting rape culture, it's the desire to see their favorite people and meet them and humanize them. And the "us or them" attitude is still the exact same defensiveness that we just got done excoriating. 
 
You just can't win. "You took the time to write a comprehensive response to an extremely complex social issue? That is only proof that they are indefensible!" As if there weren't equally long and considerably more vitriolic arguments on the other side of  the spectrum.

Like so many things, the invention has become greater than it's creator. PAX is bigger than Penny Arcade. It fills a much needed niche in gaming culture which had not previously been provided.

Mike is an asshole. Ok. Does America suck because it was founded by tax evading slave owners? Does Image comics suck because it was founded by Liefield?
 
I think one thing that is gettinglost in the confusion is that the problem isn't PAX

PAX is facing the same dillema that DragonCon did- Positive Convention is shackled to Negative Founder, and that Negative Founder reflects badly on the Con, even as the Con works to negate the negative culture(s) that can be found at Cons. 

PAX actually has it worse, because said Founder is still an active and noticeable Face of the Convention, not some shadowy figure in the background that most congoers don't know exists. 

The more Founder acts like a clueless git in public, the more it gives PAX a bad name, deserved or not. 

Although, I still maintain that anyone in the chain of command that approved and marketed those shirts needs their mouths washed out with soap.  WTF were they smoking?!?
 
+MC Frontalot 

I didn't interpret the initial Shakesville post to be "rape jokes aren't funny so this is bad". It was more like "even if this doesn't support rape culture (which it does in our opinion), it was still bad because it could trigger someone and make a survivor have a PTSD episode and marginalize an already marginalized group -- because now they can't read the strip for fear of being triggered."

You've touched on why you don't feel everywhere needs to be "safe", but I'm struggling with it on a compassion level, and I was wondering if you could expand more on it. On one hand, I do feel like having non-safe spaces can be desirable, because non-safe commentary can do just as much good as safe commentary. On the other hand, my "don't be a dick" impulse won't let me get over the desire to prevent people from getting PTSD triggered.

I've been triggered before (not PTSD, but similar in concept), and it's not fun... but at the same time I accept that even when I go insane from something and start harming myself or go anorexic it's not really anybody's fault -- I don't feel responsible for having a mental illness, and I don't feel the person who triggered me is responsible for stepping on my buttons.

I'm young (early 20s) so I don't think I've had enough time to solidify my opinions on things, it seems like every day I flip flop on whether I feel like "they shouldn't post it because it could trigger someone, and callousing triggering rape survivors is dickish" is a good or bad argument, and I was wondering if you had a more detailed or nuanced opinion you could offer on that part of the debate.
 
Mike needs to let it go. He keeps putting his foot in his mouth. You are right - you posted a zillion words - and in the end what might have been better is ONE sentence to Mike to just fracking let it go already. So now he said the shirts were a mistake, good for him - but that doesn't change the fact that in the future, no matter how near or far, he might dig this topic up again. 

This whole topic should become his own personal Goodwin's law. Call it Krahulik's law or whaterver.

Because every time he mentions dickwolves, he loses automatically. And he just doesn't get it.

Because what it reminds ME of is his shitty behavior towards people who were idiotic to think they could transfer their "trigger words" ruleset from their websetes to PA. Yes that was ridiculous but making fun of those silly people was like kicking someone when they were down no matter how idiotic their demands were. And the QA answer on monday was literally piling on.

So MC, if you can - just write ONE sentence to Mike or say it to him. Mike - let it go. Shut the fuck up, Mike. Please.

And trust me, I know how hard it is to let things go - I've been part of more fights on the internet that I can count. But I don't have a following. Someone should really hammer this into his head. By standing there and bringing up that topic again, he's the bully.
 
+Angus McIntyre See, the thing is, when someone gets upset for you being dismissive, and the belittling, and insulting things you said (even while they're explaining why what you said was belittling and insulting), it's pretty crap to get mad at them for their language. It sidesteps what you did as hurtful and shifts the talk to the tone of how they said something.

Honestly, the idea thrown at survivors and the marginalized, this constant idea that if only the marginalized kept their tone nicer, or more polite, only then will someone be listened to... it's friggin' exhausting. Having to be the calm, rational explainer of just why something is problematic, traumatic, hurtful or oppressive alll the time is emotionally and sometimes physically exhausting.  And even when we are the nicest, most calm and rational and dispassionate, often our efforts result in nothing. We're the first to be held up as the reason for ending a conversation if our tones get to be too strident, if we stand up for ourselves, or being "emotional
 or not clinically detached enough in relating our real, everyday lived experience to those it's just a thought experiment to. "Oh, if only you were nicer, then maybe I sould have listened to you," they say.

When the responsibility of being the nicest and quiestest in a discussion that is choc-a-bloc with dismissiveness and on the subject of our real ongoing is placed on the marginalized end of the fulcrum, it's tiring.
 
+Shawn Struck The fatigue you describe is not unique to discourse regarding victims (though it might be even moreso). That fatigue exists at every level of discourse, because it's always going to suck when you do your absolute best to stay composed and reasonable and someone still completely fails to reciprocate the level of respect you tried to visit on them. But that doesn't put the entirety of the responsibility on any one party, still. Rationality, respect, and empathy still need to come from both sides of any conversation. If you stick that onus entirely on the side of the privileged, then you're still dehumanizing them and not speaking in good faith. 

You feel that the good faith is one-sided. I disagree. But even were that true, that doesn't mean that the good faith is unnecessary, it just means there isn't enough of it. Spread that, and you've created the potential (even if not the reality) of the conversation you'd like to see. 
Di F
 
+Justin Winzey Thanks for the confession. It's hard to understand the other side sometimes and being honest and up front and human with people is the only way we ever learn to understand each other.
 
+Jeff Juozapaitis "I'm young (early 20s) so I don't think I've had enough time to solidify my opinions on things, it seems like every day I flip flop on whether I feel like "they shouldn't post it because it could trigger someone, and callousing triggering rape survivors is dickish" is a good or bad argument"

I just wanted to call this out as way more self-aware than most people your age. Bravo. Noticing that type of thing about yourself and checking your own assumptions is something a lot of people never figure out how to do. Keep it up.
 
+Angus McIntyre I sincerely hope that you never understand how wrong your statements are. I hope you never are violated and traumatized and never, ever have first-hand personal experiences that would shame all of those words from your mouth. I hope you are never raped, but I do hope you find a way to empathize with the actualities of what that means. And I hope it's soon--before you one again open your mouth and spew gross ignorance like you did on this thread. 
 
Mike HAS learned from his mistakes, as he said... his mistake was in taking the rape-hysteria critics seriously and responding to them in any way. Deliberately provoking and tweaking them, as was done in the comic and with the T-shirts, was gleeful and fully justified sarcasm, but it was guaranteed to fan the flames--as it did. The better move would have been to simply ignore the fools.

So yes, making the T-shirts was a mistake both for being inflammatory and giving more ammunition to the haters--AND because it introduced a possibility for further misinterpretation. But again, pulling the merchandise in response to complaints was another mistake, because it once again gave the critics a legitimacy they never deserved.

You can't reason with hysteria, and you can't negotiate with terrorists. The best thing to do is ignore the fools and keep making hilarious comics.
 
Making fun of CRPG design: good (and needed) joke premise.
Throwing rape victims under the bus to make the point: bad joke tactic. 

The comic works fine if the middle panel were rewritten to be "Every night, our skin is licked off by the dickwolves." 

Heck, it's even funnier if you picture the dickwolves as moon-eyed anime characters.

It is sad PA didn't consider the effect that this throw-away line might have on some of their readers.  It is worse that they became annoyed and defensive when informed of the insult they made. 
 
I'm confused about the assertion that Mike apologized for the trans stuff. Flippantly claiming to be Bat Man doesn't really seem like a sincere apology or evidence of having been enlightened.
 
Masterful commentary with a well balanced and rational thought process.  I only wish that this temperance was more prevalent on the internet.
 
This entire piece was fantastically insightful and absolutely spot-on in the most brutally honest and objective way possible, but this bit:

"The joke in the strip is not rape culture. The mob of guys who wear a Dickwolves shirt as an emblem of How Much They Think Sensitivity To Rape Jokes Is Unwarranted – that’s rape culture. And it’s gross. Realize why it’s gross, and help make it stop."

...was one of the most well-thought out and eloquent statements on this entire debacle.

Thank you for writing this. You are a gentleman and scholar.
 
Emma Story, a longtime fan of PA, and the person responsible for maintaining the PA website for 4 years. Even when she was no longer an employee, she maintained friendly ties with them, until the latest PAX, after his statement and the raccous cheers from the crowd. In a statement given to wired magazine, Emma had this to say: "the fact that a straight white male, a celebrity with countless followers who will agree with anything he says, doesn’t see that he is in a position of power over other significantly marginalized groups is almost beyond believing. What he is doing is bullying, no question, and it’s not excused by the fact that kids were mean to him when he was in school."
 
I will try to be succinct, this is a very hot-button issue, as it should be post-S**tstorm. I just wanted to wind the clocks back a little bit to the days of the making of the comic and its initial release to the masses. There has been so much negativity, and I feel a lot of people have missed how the creators of the initial content may have truly been blindsided and totally unprepared for this backlash.

1. It should be noted that the joke of the strip is not a rape joke, the joke is what occurs in the last panel.

BUT, Rape IS referenced, cheaply I might add, I assume to make the sympathy and, hopefully, empathy you have towards the rescue-able objectives of the RPG quest more powerful and make the actual joke all the more obvious and galling. The joke is and was about the disconnect of quests being about saving the helpless or oppressed... but ONLY THIS MANY! No more. That was the joke. I am a hero but my heroism is only for the first 5 oppressed souls I find, now I turn my heroism off. The use of rape in that second panel was not a great idea, and not necessary to make the strip funny.

2. The second panel could have read "every night we are lulled to sleep by the HORRIBLE HOWLING OF THE DICKWOLVES" and it would have still been funny.

DICKWOLVES would have still been funny, for most everybody just from the sheer randomness and absurdity, the glaring outlandish idea and collision of two random and unrelated words. And if not for the drama after the fact, most of the people who read the strip and follow the PA empire would have seen the strip for that, not a promotion of rape culture but a joke at the expense of poor writing and design in the games industry, and dickwolves would have been funny not because of the actions they committed but because of the many varied and hilarious mental images we come up with when we hear that. Same of the T-Shirts, without that fallout and hopefully with some other second panel in the comic that T-Shirt would have sold like hotcakes, would not have been associated with rape, and people would have seen it as a hilarious absurdity. I mean COME ON PEOPLE this is a website that puts up pictures of people's DICKERDOODLE COOKIES!

3. As an enterprise PA is geared towards nerds, we happily gobble up their media because we get it, we find the humor, and we enjoy our fellow Nerds' company and ease of socializing. Now that being said a LOT of what any insular or specialized group does or references within their own group can be misconstrued or very easily interpreted a different way by people not as comfortable with the nuances of that group simply because of language, and subtext, and double entendres, etc. And as such we always have to be careful when we interact in the public domain. But I have to say I feel the original concept was a gaffe of unintended consequences rather than a lack of sensitivity or respect. The later drama and issues with the world at large and the creators interacting can be very easily attributed to the lack of comfort many of us have with defensiveness, or having to wrestle with a complex internal idea or struggle on the spot, or even just not having the right words to correctly express what we truly feel and choosing the wrong words when we try. "Never attribute to malice what can just as easily be ascribed to incompetence."

4. Whatever may come of this drama, I hope people will look at the original source of all this drama and see what was intended, see where the humor was supposed to be derived, and see that the later products and such could just as easily have been seen as tongue in cheek nonsense rather than hate-mongering or the denigration of a group of people or poking fun at people who have had a true tragedy occur in their lives. As a goodly proportion of the Nerd sub-culture is not very socially adept, Sexually awkward or inexperienced, and not often as quick to realize something they have said could easily be taken in a way different from how it was intended, things can and will get lost in translation I hope  we can all move on realizing that people may make a comment that CAN be taken in a negative way which may not have been intended and that we can keep our ires in check until the truth of the matter is sussed out.  Sexual jokes and innuendos will always comprise some percentage of human humor. And as with almost all humor there will always be jokes that come to close to a subject or take something in an impolite direction or use context that makes something unacceptable and that we can work in a positive manner to make any issues we have in the future known and public, and for the love of God not have the internet cliches of death threats and other unholy nastiness thrown around when people of differing opinions come together to try to figure out a bad situation.

I find it horrific and sad that a group of people could take the, what I feel is a, benign attempt at humor and turn it into a rallying cry for oppression and the predation of innocents. Such people are not a part of the positive Nerd culture I feel I am a part of. I think ignoring for a moment everything that has happened since the initial release, and just looking at the, ill-conceived, content and the group that created it there was no intention of such vile subtext. And what has happened since then was  a head on train-wreck of the worst kind when the ignorance and naivete of the Nerd culture making something for comedy or entertainment comes face to face with the unfiltered humanity of the internet and everything quickly spirals out of control into a space which no one wanted to arrive in.

I am very much ANTI-rape and ANTI rape-culture. And I am also  pro absurdity. Dickwolves is funny.
 
Due to my blog going down in flames, I can't actually show my own post on the whole "dickwolves" thing, but I actually said that the strip itself was not so bad and the problem was the reaction to the criticism (you said that all responses focused on the strip, or at least that seems to be what you said). The surreal part of that was how many PA fans who came to my post to attack a position I never held, rather than responding to my actual position. Very strange.

But that's not my main point. I would disagree with you that Mike Krahulik ended up in the right place about trans people. He still responded to the trans woman who opened up to him by telling her that her identity is not valid. That's... not there by a long shot. He did come along from where he was when he doubled down and entrenched in his initial views about trans people, but he only met his friend (I forget her name) part way, and not really even half way. 

To come all the way, I think he'd have to accept that it's not up to him to lecture trans people about their bodies, lives, and identities. That he doesn't have to say "But I think that is very different from the physical reality of your human body."

Now, him thinking that doesn't bother me as long as he's not running around and bothering real live trans people with his bizarre notions about their bodies. But... in his letter to Sophie Prell, he did not relinquish the basic assumption that led to the altercation in the first place. 

I do appreciate his apology, just not the need to assert his non-existent authority to define trans people's bodies in the process of that apology.

I am not going to check back because I suspect the responses from some of your readers will not be constructive or helpful to me. However, I hope my point is clear to you, MCFrontalot. When I saw you spoke out on this, I made a point to read this because of your position relative to PA. 
 
+Lisa Harney
 I see where you are coming from on this but I think you're arguing yourself into a circle here. I don't think he said it was invalid, he didn't  say a person cannot identify how they wish, and he didn't say they were lesser. what he said was that to his understanding and in his opinion a person's gender is defined by the body they were born with. An opinion, a dated one, but not one with which to automatically start a witch hunt.

Everybody has opinions, and somewhere in the recesses everyone has opinions that other people would take umbrage over. Now if a person is asked their opinion on something you can disagree with it, and say that you disagree, but an attack on that person is not warranted until that opinion has been used to attack or deny someone something they have a right to because of it. Same is true if this opinion is evidenced in any art or creative endeavor.

Either people bring the subject up to him because they value his opinion and want that information or they do not and just do so to fan flames. In this situation where all of this is coming in an already heated argument type of interchange I do not take anything said as holy writ until after heads have cooled and the truth is seen and heard.

Unless his opinion is driving him to attack or treat trans peoples unfairly I don't think it matters how un-enlightened his opinion is. If he asks what your favorite color is and you say triangle and he says "wait a second I don't think that's a color" that in and of itself is not something to attack someone over until he goes and says people who are triangle are lesser, or uses that opinion of triangles to act in a malicious manner.

 Whether you believe in  climate change or not pretty much everyone realizes burning mounds of tires is a bad idea. And if a person is asked his opinion, and he gives it, its up to the asker to respect it and to either accept it or disregard it. It's not the place to make an attack unless that opinion is being used to negatively impact another.

The thing is even having the opinion he does, if he were to walk into a situation where a person was belittling another person because they were trans, would he go to the aid of the bigot and join in or would he side with oppressed and say thats not cool? I think no matter the situation his unenlightened opinion does not preclude him from seeing the human worth in that individual even if he cannot fully empathize with the reality of that person's trans identity.
 
Front, the more I read this over, the more stuff doesn't sit well with me. You say Jerry and Mike are friends, and they did stuff you thought was messed up... but you've never talked with them about it, so you're just giving empathy and best guesses. It's sort of weird considering "your friend wil" has a verse or two about that one friend who will give it to you plain with no bullshit when you're being a dick.

Mike has a continous pattern of behavior that has been going on for 3 years. Stuff cited as apologies are actually clarifications. He says he regrets pulling shirts as engaging, ignoring that he engaged with fans and critics when he made the shirts (and the strawman strips, and the jokes about trigger warnings, and waded directly into rolling Shakesville's comment section), and wore a dickwolves tee to pax the year of the scandal and on and on. Considering his apologia ever the fucked up and hurtful things he said regarding trans* folx, and still denying thier identiy. And saying that supporting a kickstarter (and then an indiegogo) for a card ggame that was about tentacle aliens raping schoolgirls was supporting free speech.  An Enforcer was accused of sexually assaulting a woman using the Penny Arcade Enforcer network as a way to exert more influence and control and monitor her, and it was not ppublicly dicussed, and in fact was covered up. When it finally came to light and Mike was asked about it, he said he would not have done anything differently, and that not releasing the name of the assaulter or the fact that the assault took place was the right call to make.

This is all shit he's done within the last 2 to 3 years. 

You ta;k about how you can't leave  PAX because it's ceding it to horrible people and atmosphere-- well, dude, while Mike may not be a horrible person, he's done some shitty, hurtful horrible things. Over and over, and from the cheers in the audience to the teamrape twitter account (which tweeted in support of you, fucking UGH) show they feel he's validating it. Front, PAX is Penny Arcade. PENNY ARCADE EXPO.  It is not some free not for profit thing, it directly enriches the Penny Arcade people by giving them both lots of money and lots of legitmacy.

That's what you are doing when you perform there, too.

You also say that by disengaging from Penny Arcade you're making it a haven for harmful attitudes and people.. but those attitudes and people are already there, already on display, already making scores f people feel unsafe and companies deciding to pull out. You say you'll stick around because leaving would be easy?

No.

You know what you could do, with your fanbase and legitimacy and power? You could perform at other cons, even large cons in the area like Geek Girl Con and Gaymer X. That would be taking your time and money and contributing to a con that is new and trying to be BETTER than PAX. Instead of trying to save something that's been run by someone doing harm over and over, you can help build places that are doing good and being an alternative! You can BE that change and help others be that change you say you so desperately want to see, because there are other alternatives to PAX, and there can be more if you truly want to help/

You say it's not about the money, then, well, prove it. Take a stand, Front. Look at the alternatives out there.

To quote ELizabeth Sampat:
"People are allowed to make their own choices, but part of making your own choices is that you’ve got to live with the choices you make and their consequences. And sometimes, the consequence of a choice you make is that people won’t want to give you time, money, or energy. (Looking at you, Penny Arcade.) But sometimes the consequence is that people will think less of you. People who would otherwise care about you and think that you’re an okay person will look at you in a different way because of the choices that you make in your life, and that’s okay. And if you choose to continue to go to PAX, that will happen."

I was neutral on you for the past 2 years or so because of the aforementioned silence, Front. You are on the cusp of being able to join the scores of others taking a principled stand, drawing the line, and giving support elsewhere.
 
Kenny, you're "devil's advocated" for the status quo in this discussion a bunch. The thing is, change needs advocates. Passionate advocates, even. The reason why the idea of change has to be advocated for is because change won't happen without it. The status quo doesn't need to be given any kind of pro- arguement or a sales pitch. By its nature of being the status quo, it's already there.
 
+Shawn Struck
While you are right that the side for change needs advocates, you are wrong to assume that by extension the ideas you oppose must go unchampioned.

If opinions on all sides of a debate are not to be heard and respected it is no longer a debate for change but an attempt to pass down judgement or quell opposition through fiat. Change happens by changing the opinions of those you disagree with not cowing them into silence.
 
Finally got a chance to read this -- thanks for your thoughtful analysis and reaction to this debacle. 
I thought of you when it started rocketing around Teh Intertubes, and wondered what your take on the situation was. 
 
+MC Frontalot I love that you wrote out such a well thought out statement on this. Today for the first time I didn't watch an Episode of +Geek & Sundry Tabletop. 

I didn't watch it because I don't believe in Bullying. I was all but tortured in high school, as in held down and having feminine hygiene products stuffed in my mouth tortured. I was totally isolated, and treated with threats, bother physical and emotional. If I fought for my self people would lie about what I said or the conditions it was said in and would deny as a group anything statement of the truth that would get them in trouble worse it would result in me being told that if I fight back I would get expelled. 

I say this because today I have to deal with Social Anxiety and Panic attacks. Though almost 2 decades later I've started to learn to control and cope, I still find bullies when given a chance will behave in an ever escalating manner if not dealt with. 

Many PA fans are Bully's plan and simple their actions and behaviour to the whole situation has been disgusting. Enabling Bully's is the same thing as being a bully and his repeated response and defence of his action knowing full well what will happen because of it, (and if he doesn't then someone really needs to give him a giant wake up call). 

Using an extreme example (and I fully acknowledge just how extreme it is) Hitler is responsible for everything the Nazi Party did. He didn't himself plan the final solution, he didn't him self beat, murder, rape or directly steal from Jews, Homosexuals, Disabled peoples, or Romany, but his actions enabled others to behave in this way. 

Right now in Quebec the Premier of the Province (a separatist)  wants to pass into the Charter of Freedoms for that Province a law that forces Muslims, Jews and Sikhs to remove religious head dress if they want to work in the public sector. MLA's, Teachers, Government workers. 

This as resulted in Muslim women being spat on, attacked, verbally and physically assaulted, because this bill which hasn't even been put into law or even voted on, has incited the same types of people as those that behaved so disgustingly due to the PA's reaction to the Dickwolves.  The Premier is under so much fire for her refusal to back away from it, that a former Premier that actual held a Referendum to have Quebec separate from Canada, has spoken out against the changes to the Charter in hopes to minimize harm to the Separatist movement. A Man that when the referendum failed blamed Ethnic citizens. 

PA aren't just individuals they are public figures with a following, many of whom are the type of people that are willing the threaten people with Rape for disagreeing with their "idol". 

PA and PAX have started a movement, and they have followers, they are responsible not only for their own actions but like Hitler, the Golden Dawn, or Premier of Quebec they are responsible when their followers step over the line defending them or acting in their name. (like with the damn shirts that the fool keeps bringing up) 

If he had just let it go, never brought it up again, and let it stay in the past I would have watched one of my favourite Youtube shows this week. Instead not only will I likely never see the episode, I will never attend PAX and stay away from anything these guys do together. Simply because I don't support bullies. 
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