The Cult Of Sarkeesian

Anita Sarkeesian and the importance of controlling the discussion

If you’re interested in video games or feminism and had an Internet connection during the last two years, you probably have an idea who Anita Sarkeesian is, but in case you don’t;

Anita is a self-identified media critic and feminist who in 2012 began a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a YouTube video series. It is called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games; a series based around identification of features of video games that reinforce negative perception of women. She sought $6000 for “production costs, equipment, games and downloadable content” Unfortunately as is common when dealing with the Internet, video games and anonymity (Especially when dealing with all three) the trolls emerged with a defensive cavalcade of vitriol aimed at Sarkeesian.

I do not agree with what was said to Sarkeesian. I love video games but I will be the first to admit that gamers and gaming culture can be vindictively defensive of what they perceive as an imposition on them by outsiders, which regrettably often includes women.

I would not wish threats of rape and death on anyone, for any reason. That being said, I would be willing to wager that Anita Sarkeesian would not change anything about how her Kickstarter campaign played out.

Due to the massive backlash, Anita gained infinitely more support (primarily from feminists) as a counterattack to the ongoing harassment. She was transformed from a minor YouTube personality to a martyr for females in video gaming to the tune of raising $158,000, more than 25 times what her initial goal was.

Many framed this story as the troll hordes shooting themselves in the foot with their own toxic messages and creating a victory for feminist video gamers. And it was, by trying to silence this woman they gave her a soapbox to speak profound change to a stalled industry. Or this would have been the case had the campaign been quarterbacked by anyone but Sarkeesian.

The Fallout

Supporters of Sarkeesian must have been overjoyed; with $158,000 dollars she could do so much more than she could have with $6,000. Anita was quick to tweet about all the research she was doing, posting pictures of all the games she was able to buy for the series thanks to her generous donors.

I am not here to critique her content, though I disagree with the majority of her arguments, hundreds of video responses have done that already.

I am here to call into question whether Anita Sarkeesian is the person to be leading this crusade for equality of the sexes in videogames; based on how she has behaved since she raised this money and who she is as a person.

Where is the money?

Before the Kickstarter Anita was releasing about a video a month of around 5-10 minutes in length. The videos consisted of Sarkeesian on screen with a monotone backdrop with superimposed images popping up to her side a la televised news broadcasts.

It took nine months for her to release the first video in this new series. It consisted of Sarkeesian on screen with a different coloured (!) monotone backdrop with superimposed images popping up to her side a la televised news broadcasts. You can see the difference below.

Before

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 6.53.37 PM

After

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 6.53.00 PM

Her hair appears to be more professionally done, her makeup also seems more professional, the picture appears a bit clearer and she now wears exclusively plaid shirts.

So where did all the money go? One of her stretch goals was based around improving the production quality, so the donors should not be satisfied with a quantum leap forward relative to the videos she was making before she was bestowed with tens of thousands of dollars.

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 6.58.24 PM

Some supporters claim that the money went towards buying all the games she would have to play to get all the information for her videos. From the picture she posted, it would seem she purchased a great deal of games from the previous console generation (PS3, X360, Wii & PC). My estimate based on counting the visible games and approximating the hidden pile is there are ~190 games pictured. If Sarkeesian paid full release retail for every one (which is highly unlikely as game prices drop over time) it would have cost approximately $13,110; [60 x 190] x 1.15 accounting for taxes.

sarkeesian-video-games

Sidebar: If Anita is a lifelong gamer as she claims to be, shouldn’t she have had some of these games already? It stands to reason that a serious fan of video games would have already played Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, Fallout, Borderlands, the Orange Box and Twilight Princess. Or at least one or two of them.

I’ll also assume she spent some money on older games which by then would have been much cheaper. Being generous we’ll say she spent $5,000 on older games.

We can also account for equipment purchased, but as we have seen no great jump in quality or production value I find it hard to believe a hundred thousand dollars was spent on equipment. The new videos appear higher definition and better lit, so we can assume she purchased a new camera and lighting setup. Let’s say for our argument Sarkeesian spent $10,000 dollars on new equipment.

So if $28,110 was the amount of money spent on equipment and content for the series, where is the other $130,812?

The logical conclusion from Sarkeesian’s supporters is that this massive sum of money allowed Anita to work full time on this project with her boyfriend/producer Jonathan Mcintosh. That’s fine, that’s a common result of successful Kickstarters and it would have been perfectly acceptable in this case.

So what she has done with this wealth of time and money?

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 7.31.10 PM

Five videos.

Five videos totaling just over 2 hours of content.

She only just began her second topic (of a planned 12) after almost a year and a half. At this rate it will take nine years for her to finish the video series.

Yes, obviously it took more than 2 hours to film and produce these videos; she wasn’t paid 1000 dollars per minute of work. But it’s still an amazingly small amount of content produced for an exorbitant amount of money. People who are paid next to nothing for producing YouTube videos do so at a much faster clip, and people who make their living this way typically release videos weekly, or at least, monthly.

So what was she doing with all that time instead?

Well it’s become increasingly clear; she was building her personal brand. Establishing Anita Sarkeesian as the preeminent Feminist gamer. She’s been invited to games conferences, TEDX talks and was interviewed dozens of times about the internet vitriol as well as her new role as the best judge of female portrayal in video games, her qualifications of which we will get into later.

That’s fine, I have no issue with Anita pursuing these opportunities. You have to be your own hype man but it seems increasingly clear that Sarkeesian pocketed tens of thousands of dollars and went on her pariah world tour instead of doing the only thing that money was supposed to be for.

I don’t care that she didn’t make more videos; I think they are a mess of confirmation bias fuelled self-indulgence. But her donors should care that she seems to have pocketed the money she was paid.

Obviously I don’t know the financial breakdown of this video series. The guesses I made above are likely flawed but since Anita has never once made public the expenses on the project, all we can do is make these sort of assumptions. If Anita publishes the invoices for the project and it is clear that all the money went to video production I will be the first to admit I was wrong, but it doesn’t look like that will be happening any time soon.

Anita the Thief

Sarkeesian of course has made 5 videos with her $158,000 dollars, and argumentative content aside there are significant problems with what she’s done.

Tropes Vs Women Logo

When Anita made her initial Kickstarter campaign video she made this flashy logo of the series title, surrounded female video game characters. Included is an image of Princess Daphne from the 1983 game Dragon’s Lair. This image however bore a suspicious similarity to a work created by an artist known as cowkitty. The below image created by @Sarochi1 proves the image was stolen from her. Sarkeesian seems to have gone hunting for images that fit her needs, once she found one that worked she took it with no regard for the artist who created it.

Comparison picture (tammy)

Similarly in the videos themselves, viewers began to notice that the game footage she uses were incredibly similar to Let’s Play videos that had been uploaded to YouTube. Now obviously there will be similarities, games are only so variable, but the images used were identical; with the same scores shown at the exact times, the exact same decisions made and actions taken in game. Smarter people than I compared the lets play videos to hers and they confirmed; Sarkeesian had lifted these videos directly too.

Sidebar: What was Anita doing with all those games then? She lifted her video content and draws her conclusions from the videos she stole. If she wasn’t capturing footage from the hundreds of games she bought and she wasn’t using them to formulate her arguments, then why did she even buy them? Maybe they were just a prop for that one picture.

Every time Anita or her producer Mcintosh are called out for lifting content for their own use they cite the fair use clause in copyright law as their justification. Never mind that fair use necessitates that the work is non-profit which Tropes vs. Women doesn’t seem to qualify for; Anita has never once credited the creators, a requirement of fair use. Even when called out for her theft Anita has never rectified the issue by providing due accreditation; she simply quotes the copyright law that she is bastardizing and moves on. This has become the norm for Anita Sarkeesian, state her side of the issue and carry on as if any opposition is not only wrong, but not worth addressing… but again, more on that later.

Anita the Fraud

In every piece of promotional material, every interview she’s ever done and in her Kickstarter materials Anita Sarkeesian is referred to as a gamer. She speaks about growing up a girl gamer, faced with people telling her that her game boy was for boys, that girls shouldn’t play video games. This is a situation that was regrettably common for young girl gamers until recently.

Anita %22Gamer%22

Fortunately Anita Sarkeesian never had to deal with any of that, because by her own admission she is not a fan of video games.

In September of 2012, a YouTube channel called Flying Turkeys posted a video of Anita Sarkeesian in 2010 giving a lecture to a classroom when she mentions a project she recently completed. It was a video criticizing the lack of women in video games and while introducing it she says, “I’m not a fan of video games, I actually had to learn a lot about video games in the process of making this”

When she saw the video, Sarkeesian took to twitter to defend herself claiming she was the victim of “angry gamer dudes bravely defending the status quo”. While it is true that far too often women are burdened with the responsibility of “proving” that they play video games to the male fans of the industry, in this case it seems justified.

Before her Kickstarter campaign, the only evidence that Anita was even aware of video games was a video (since deleted) criticizing Bayonetta. But as soon as she stood to profit from the industry, suddenly Anita was a gamer, she had been playing games since she was five.

The default response to a woman saying she plays video games should not be to shout, “prove it!” but we have a video of Anita Sarkeesian, the canonized saint of female gamers saying she doesn’t like video games. That does necessitate proof.

If someone who didn’t like movies told you how to fix your film, you wouldn’t take them seriously. If someone who hadn’t read a book since grade school told you how to write your protagonist you would ignore them. So why should we listen to anything Anita Sarkeesian says about video games?

She said herself she isn’t a fan of video games, she’s blatantly stolen content from several people and it seems like all the money she raised as a result of the harassment she experienced has gone to line her own pockets.

Why do people still care about what Anita has to say? Let’s find out…

Controlling the discussion

I wish to reiterate that I do not endorse anything that was said to Sarkeesian during her Kickstarter campaign, threats of rape and murder should not be employed simply because someone disagrees with you. That rude behaviour was despicable, but it is also the reason she is still at all relevant in the gaming world.

The insults and threats levied at Sarkeesian were what allowed her to raise 158,000 dollars, but they also gave her something even more valuable; total immunity from all criticism.

The harrassment gave her justification to disable comments, ratings and statistics on all her videos as a countermeasure to the avalanche of vitriol being thrown at her. While that was certainly for the best at the outset, it also gave Anita license to ignore any criticism. While YouTube comment sections are not historically known for rational debate, when no disagreement is visible it’s easy to pretend there’s no disagreement at all.

The harassment didn’t only create a rationale to silence low-level disagreement on her videos it provided an easy way to explain away any well thought out criticism. Sarkeesian and her legion of followers have made a habit of dismissing critique (indirectly of course, lest a dialogue be started) as the machinations of the trolls, the gamer dudes, the misogynist masses; faceless groups that can be summarily disposed of without ever truly being addressed.

It really was this perfect storm of conditions that made Sarkeesian the respected figure in video gaming that she has become. By suffering the worst Internet anonymity had to offer, Anita was justified in building a system of insulation from any dissent. Because criticism fell on deaf ears, it became increasingly popular to stand with Sarkeesian rather than opposite her. To reap positive PR companies like EA and events like GDC began making their support known and Anita became the media darling she wanted to be.

The Aftermath

If there was never any harassment against her, if Anita hadn’t been turned into a pariah by the lowest common denominator of the gaming community then we could have better called her on all these issues. But now if you say, “what did you do with all the money” you are bitter that a woman is successful. If you call her an unapologetic thief, you are just trying to derail an important conversation and if you question whether she even cares about video games at all you are trying to tell women they can’t be gamers.

By controlling the terms of any discussion of her work, Sarkeesian effectively manipulated an entire industry into believing she was a necessary part of it. She’s no longer daily headline news but she has created lasting effects for the industry; such as the drama over AC Unity and Anita’s role in the development of Mirror’s Edge 2.

It’s easy to complain about Sarkeesian, just look how many words I wrote up there. But we need to remember she is the monster gamers created; without the vitriol to rail against, Sarkeesian would have remained relatively unremarkable and very little would have changed in the gaming world.

Instead we built body armour for one of the biggest con artists in gaming history.

So What Just Happened?

The Subban negotiation and the state of sports reporting

PK Subban just signed a big fat, 8 year, 72 million dollar contract. It makes him the highest paid defenceman in the league. Well, by average value, Shea Weber’s circumvention deal pays him heavy up front.

So big sigh of relief for Habs fans right? We’ve got our superstars locked up long term and life is good in La Belle Provence.

While I’m psyched Subban is signed and glad we didn’t have to pay the ~12 million he definitely would have gotten as a UFA, I’m more interested in what the Subban negotiations say about the state of sports reporting in Canada.

That said, I am not a sports reporter. I am a dude who likes hockey and follows a bunch of sports reporters on twitter.

Canadians love hockey. We like hockey the way Americans like football. By that I mean we will tune in for news about it 12 months out of the year. So obviously the Subban arbitration was big news, especially when of the other 25 RFAs this summer, 23 were settled before arbitration. This is where first issue appears; nobody seems to have any idea how arbitration works.

In simplest terms, the player and his representation make an argument for why they are worth X dollar value; “when I skate, the ice turns to gold beneath my feet”, “I urinate blue Gatorade, saving us thousands in refreshment costs, “I am the demigod son of Zeus himself, blessed with a holy slapshot” yknow, that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, management makes an argument for why said player is worth Y dollar value (usually much less); “Your ligaments are made primarily of string cheese at this point”, “You didn’t chip in for pizza that one time and then you totally ate like 4 slices”, “your wrist shot and slap have the accuracy and power of the stream of a 95 year old man with prostate issues”

The arbitration ruling is typically a number between X and Y, decided by an impartial arbitrator, let me know if I’m moving too fast for anyone.

So when hundreds of journalists state that Subban’s representation and Canadiens Management are 2.75 million dollars apart (8 – 5.25, MATH) and speculate on what that means for the potential deal…

They are talking out their asses.

 Those numbers are initial bargaining positions, Bergevin did not believe Subban was only worth 5.25, that is where he chose to set his bargaining position for a potential arbitrated RFA contract.

All those journalists predicting doom because of the “almost 3 million dollar difference” were either A) woefully misinformed about how any part of this process works or B) bad journalists using clickbait tactics and I’m not really sure which one is worse.

While sports journalists not knowing how arbitration works is mildly distressing, what followed the Subban hearing was even more so.

After both parties left the hearing, the reports from everyone were that Subban felt personally offended by the proceedings and the relationship between the player and the team was potentially permanently damaged.

These were not wannabe hockey bloggers ranting from their parent’s basement (I’m in my Mom’s living room, its completely different) this was major media outlets; TSN, the Score, CBC and respected hockey “insiders” like Elliote Friedman and Bob Mackenzie.

They all, ALL stated how damaged the relationship was, that we should be prepared for Subban to play another 2 years and then go UFA. That was how bad it was, the sky was falling and Bergevin had continued the recent history of horrible GM moves in Montreal (McDonagh for Gomez still stings).

24 hours later and the insiders did a 180 and were reporting the terms of the deal half an hour or so before the team announced it as they’ve always done.

Okay so they got this one wrong (“super wrong!”) super wrong, yes, which is concerning.

Canadian sports journalism, especially with regards to hockey, is predicated on the Insider. These journalists that have knowledge we can only dream of, their unlimited access allows them to break these stories for our consumption.

Obviously we want these journalists to break these stories for us, but its not ALL we want; ideally we the stories broken to be true, and for the people reporting on these stories to know what they are talking about. Elliote Friedman wrote a 700 word blog post about the damage done to this relationship and 16 hours later is reporting the terms like he didn’t just predict doom for the Canadiens.

You’ll always gain more respect for being right than being first, here’s hoping at the next negotiation a few reporters remember that.

But again, I’m no sports reporter.

When is an opinion not an opinion? Tony Dungy and Homosexuality

“That’s my opinion” is the golden gun of arguments.

Nearly impossible to counter, it is the last resort of someone who does not have the tools to win an argument, but will not concede defeat either.

If someone tells you “that’s just my opinion” and you continue arguing, they can accuse you of trying to impose your beliefs on them. Suddenly you are the didactic one, suddenly the argument is not about the issue any longer but their right to their own beliefs and that is when you know that the discussion is well and truly over.

Why do I bring this up? Because the sports world was taken over by a story concerning the first gay player drafted into the NFL; Michael Sam.

During an interview, former coach and current NBC football analyst Tony Dungy said he would not have drafted Michael Sam; stating, “I wouldn’t have taken him. Not because I don’t believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn’t want to deal with all of it. It’s not going to be totally smooth… things will happen”

Okay fine. Dungy believes that as the first openly gay player in the league, there will be a media circus surrounding the player and he would not want to deal with associated distraction. I don’t agree with this as a position, but it is hardly a public denouncement of Michael Sam as a person and homosexuality as a concept.

So what’s the big deal? Well it has to do with Tony Dungy as a person.

Tony Dungy is a Christian. A Christian who has stated he “doesn’t agree with Michael Sam’s lifestyle” and that he has “traditional views on marriage.” (read: he doesn’t believe in gay marriage as an institution.)

So when this story broke, people on both sides of the issue came out of the woodwork.

Some people who have no issue with homosexuality, that support marriage equality contended that Dungy not wanting Sam on his hypothetical football team is because he is anti-gay who finds issue with homosexuality

Some people in support of Dungy claim he was looking at this purely from a football perspective and his views on homosexuality did not factor in. Furthermore, we should not judge him for his Christian beliefs or criticize his opinions on marriage equality.

Now I’m not here just to throw another shovelful of dirt on Tony Dungy, smarter people than me have already done that, I want to talk about how dangerous the nature of opinion is when it comes to these types of arguments.

 

What is an opinion?

To bastardize a common metaphor, imagine I hate mushrooms (and I do, they are a vegetable wrought in the fires of the underworld). I have decided to never eat mushrooms, and when someone tells me how great they are, that I should try them again, I am allowed to say “I do not like mushrooms” because that is simply my opinion.

That all sounds reasonable doesn’t it? I’m sure some people agree with me that mushrooms are a disgusting affront to mankind and other people believe I am wrong and mushrooms are crafted of rainbows and starbeams, but as long as we’re only talking about my preference, nobody cares that much.

But imagine I hated mushrooms so much I didn’t want anyone else to eat mushrooms, ever. I try to convince everyone else how gross they are, I push legislation limiting mushroom rights and stop mushrooms from marrying other mushrooms and you can see how this metaphor is falling apart on me.

The bottom line is that an opinion is only valid as long as it is limited to YOU. When people begin to impose their personal preferences on others at the cost of rights, freedoms and equality we are no longer talking about opinions or personal beliefs.

 

What the hell does this have to do with sports!?

This is the issue with the Tony Dungy story. Tony and all his supporters have used sentences like this;

“I’m a man of faith”

“I have Christian beliefs”

“You can’t persecute a man for his faith”

“Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion”

Supporters of these controversial positions have cunningly held onto the word “opinion”. It is much easier to defend their morally reprehensible views when they are referred to as “opinions”.

As I mentioned above, Dungy is against same-sex marriage. No matter how he says it (“I have traditional views on marriage”, “I have Christian beliefs”, “I don’t agree with his lifestyle”) he is in favor of restricting people from marriage due to their sexuality. This is not a personal opinion. This is a political position taken with the intention of limiting the rights of millions of human beings because something makes him uncomfortable.

On the Dan Patrick Show on July 23rd 2014, Dungy stated that it hurt when people said “being a Christian that I’m somehow hateful of gay people or that I am anti-gay” And yes Tony, it is unfortunate that your feelings are hurt, but can you not see where we were coming from in this situation? You say you “do not agree with their lifestyle and you have traditional views on marriage” but you are surprised people believe you are anti-gay?

Tony, you are anti-gay. You cannot claim to love Michael Sam and oppose his possession of the basic rights you enjoy. You cannot claim to disagree with a “lifestyle” that homosexuals cannot control any more than you can control being black and maintain a moral highground. You cannot impose your opinion on others and still call it an opinion.

 

What now?

When faced with this issue, supporters of said controversial opinion will fall back to the favorite political right of the bigoted; the first amendment. The issue with this right however, is that the people who consistently invoke their right to free speech have no idea what it means.

The right to free speech means that you cannot be prosecuted for your speech.

What the right to free speech does not mean is that we have to listen to you.

And it certainly doesn’t mean we have to agree with you or treat your views with respect.

Nobody will throw you in jail for saying homosexuals are an affront to god and they will all burn in hell; the Westboro Baptist Church has made that very clear

But if you believe that we have to listen to your bigoted views, that we are not allowed to disagree with the views of the man that will restrict rights to those he deems acceptable, that we cannot find fault in Tony Dungy when he tries to straddle the line of morality by claiming he is a traditionalist Christian who does not “agree” with homosexuality but is not anti-gay then you are 100% wrong.

But hey, that’s just my opinion

-WH

The Faculty Fairy Tale

We all came to McGill with a dream. That dream could have been getting a diploma from one of Canada’s best schools, or it could be finding out how many shots of Jaeger we could do before we passed out. Usually though, your university fantasy has something to do with the faculty you chose. And while I wind down my university career and prepare to be a broke wannabe writer living at my mom’s house, I’d like to go back and examine the dreams of our first year selves by faculty. So without further adieu…

Once upon a time…

In Arts  

There was a reasonably smart person. This person had subjects on which they were the authority. Renaissance politics? Check. Philosophy in the early Holocene era? You got it. This young go-getter could not be stopped when it came to debates on Russian peasant culture in the 1800s. They dominated discussions on the origins of the accordion.

When this fresh-faced first year walked through the Roddick gates (and then walked out again because the Roddick gates are not the fastest way to anything) it was with confidence that their chosen subject was the way to go.

Throughout that first year of raised hands in 400 person lectures and buying more scarves than any one person could theoretically wear, our hero grew. They got good marks, not A’s though, lets not get crazy. They impressed TAs with their fervent dedication to the 6 weekly readings; I swear one time the professor nearly remembered their name.

Someday they thought, someday I will get my degree and I will be the smartest philosopher/historian/political scientist/English-er around. And they would be, they would be able to reference authors like no other, argue ecumenical policy in 1900s like a champ.It’s just a shame that unless they decide to extend their school days, their story ends with disappointment.

They never did find their chosen career; they got a decent job in another field, at a regular company. They made okay money and lived in a decent apartment. But they never stopped hoping that someone in the 21st century would need a Philosopher, and on that day their ship would finally come in.

In Management  

There was a person who liked money. Like, really liked money. I mean we all like money but our hero in this story had a fascination bordering on fetishistic. They heard the stories, they read the books and decided that unless they were one of the chosen ones like Zuckerberg or Gates then the way to get that money was to journey through the lands of Bronfman.

Our protagonist felt important there. They wore suits when everyone else was wearing jeans. They were giving presentations while others slogged through conferences. They were cracking cases while everyone else was cracking coursepacks. They learned about money, business, how to make more money, how to be the best at handshakes, to win meetings and various other business things.

It was tough of course. But our hero had a goal. They knew that by going to three mandatory classes a day they were forging their better future. They knew that if they could survive the test of will that is Business Stats they could do anything. The riches of the world would be theirs!

Our hero got a job! It was boring and tedious and forced them to do even more school, take even more tests. But it was worth it, there were promotions to achieve, more money to acquire. Love can come later, travel is secondary, the money, that’s what’s important. This is why they worked four years in university; this is the job that leads to the job that leads to the job that leads to the job that will make them happy!

But when our hero’s story ends, it ends not with true love or a dream achieved, but with introspection and doubt. A black card in the wallet, 4 sports cars in the garage; this is happiness right? They did it! But when they look at their phone, the only numbers they see on speed dial are the upscale sushi restaurant down the block, Enzo; their personal tailor and Intimate Encounters, a *ahem* business specializing in discretion. Its not all sadness, our hero goes to sleep every night knowing they will have plenty of white collared blue shirts and double-breasted suits to keep them warm at night.

In Science

There was a person with dreams. This hero didn’t dream of money, jobs or success. That was all secondary. This time our protagonist wanted to change the world. Their heroes weren’t Gretzky or Jordan, but Salk, Tesla and Banting. To reach this dream, they ventured to the nations of Wong and Rutherford, to the newest, shiniest lands in this world of McGill University. They sought Science.

It was hard, as they knew it would be. Nobody who ever changed the world did so by slacking, but this seemed oppressively difficult. There was so much work, so much time to be spent on minutia. Our hero was not dissuaded however, they knew that success is forged in adversity; this work was necessary. They had to learn, they had to gather the knowledge necessary for their breakthroughs, but they still glanced at the calendar and wondered when their Eureka moment would come.

It got disheartening though, going into the lab at 3am to check data, sacrificing their weekends for analysis. They had been told they would see amazing things, awe inspiring experiments but all their work ever resulted in was disappointed sounding lab reports lamenting that their results didn’t match their hypothesis. Maybe it will be better when McGill springs for new equipment, I hear it’s finally going to happen next semester.

When graduation rolled around our protagonist was elated. No more restrictions from the classes! No more assignments to be marked on! It was time to truly achieve something! But the more time our hero spent in the real world the less hope they had. In the 21st century there was bureaucracy, there was corporate investment and agendas had found their way even into the scientific field. The reclusive labs of the scientific greats; home to the greatest discoveries were increasingly uncommon. And Newton had already developed Calculus.

Our hero got a good job and they made good money. While they had hoped to be the next famous scientist that children would read about and get inspired; the next Newton, Einstein or Degrasse Tyson, there’s nothing wrong with being a Lab Tech.  But every time our hero ran a sample they pined for that one in a billion chance that they would discover something incredible.

In Engineering

There was a person who wanted a job. Like really wanted a job. This hero had already heard the Arts fairy tale and wanted to dodge that like the goddamned plague- (sorry, Fairy Tale! Fairy Tale!) This hero had heard tales of those stuck in the purgatory of poor employment opportunities and they wished to avoid a similar fate.

They had examined the world they lived in and decided to embark to the lands of McConnell and Macdonald (yeah McGill really didn’t think that through) to become one of the builders of the future.

They of course had their dreams too; once our hero had dreamed of being a famous artist, then they thought they could end up on the silver screen. but they figured it was better to have a guarantee for their future.

It was hard, amongst the hardest things one can do in the world we call McGill. It took nearly all their free time, a large portion of which was dedicated to perfecting their handwriting for crib sheets.

It tested our hero’s dedication. When their friends were done their training and off having fun and pursuing their dreams our protagonist had another year of work to do. They knew however that it would be worth it in the end; they would get their job, they would make their money. The world of the future would need them.

And they were right! Their years of work paid off! They got a high paying job and never worried about their future even once. It didn’t get easier though, there’s a reason they got paid so well; the work was tough, they worked long hours and it required constant study and research to stay at the top of their field.

While our Artistic protagonist might envy the Engineer’s security and paycheck, our heroic engineer occasionally glances out the window and wonders what would have happened had they not traded their dream for security.

In Computer Science

There was a hero who learned how to code and make apps.

Everything was fine and his life was great.

Fuck that guy.

A New Modern Dictionary

(The more I read this the sillier it is, oh well – WH)

Language is evolving and we’re all getting old and out of touch. I remember my freshman years when YOLO was just a twinkle in Drake’s eye and nobody would ever describe partying as getting “turnt”. Just a few years later I am an ancient 22 and have long since given up understanding anything. However modern language has continued to evolve to the point that it resembles Aramaic to people like me and someone needs to wade through the detritus to bring understanding to those like me. Maybe we’ll foster a greater understanding across generations; maybe we will further reinforce our disdain for anyone more than 3 years younger than ourselves. I don’t know about you but I’m excited to find out which!

 

The Phrase: YOLO

Definition: You Only Live Once

How it is used: “I’m young and YOLO so yes I will – drink heavily the night before my applied corporate finance final / take drugs from that sketchy man / go home with that stranger / insult that Hells Angel I think was looking at me funny.”

What it really means: “Youth is a great excuse for acting like a stupid asshole”

 

The Phrase: #thatawkwardmoment

Definition: Hashtag used to preface a story about a socially uncomfortable situation

How it is used: “#thatawkwardmoment when you have more money than all your friends” or “#thatawkwardmoment when you have nothing to wear on a yacht in Lake Como”

What it really means: “Look at the cool thing I did. I am very cool and interesting. I have phrased this as though it happens to everyone so it doesn’t seem like I am bragging. I am bragging. I am very cool”

 

The Phrase: “Faith in Humanity Lost/Restored”

Definition: Comment (usually in meme form) on how X news story has affected user’s personal beliefs on the inherent good or evil of society.

How it is used: “This guy cut in front of me in line / was rude to someone. Faith in Humanity lost” “Wait this other guy bought presents for people at Christmas / donated money to charity. Faith in Humanity restored!”

What it really means: “My world view is very much influenced over what is on the front page of Reddit”

 

The Phrase: “Birthday Week”

Definition: A week of celebrations for the anniversary of one’s birth in place of the typical one day. Typically employed by young, upper class white girls.

How it is used: “DAY 2 OF KIMBERLEY’S BIRTHDAY WEEK BENDER. EVERYONE MEET AT THE MANSION (LOL) FOR CHAMPAGNE AND LATER WE’RE HITTIN THE CLUUUUUBS”

What it really means: “One 365th of the year is not enough attention, I require 7/365ths (1/52nd if you prefer)

 

The Phrase: Literally (as used by people 10-20 years old/idiots)

How it is used: “OMG it was literally amazing” “I literally laughed my ass off”

What it really means: “I don’t know any other adjectives”

 

The Phrase: Turnt

Definition: Drunk/high/excited/ horny/etc.

How it is used: “We’re gonna sooooooo go hard tonight, gonna get turnt up!”

What it really means: “This specific night/party/event/trip is going to be so much better than every other night/party/event/trip, so much better in fact that it requires a new adjective to describe the unbridled awesomeness”

 

The Phrase: hashtag

Definition: A tool used on twitter to organize tweets on similar subjects. Appropriated today as a method of ending a status or post with disjointed half-jokes.

How it is used: “Baking cookies today! Who likes Chocolate Chip? #domesticgoddess #cookiemonster #delicious #chocolateaddiction #dietstartstomorrow #YEAHRIGHT”

What it really means: “I believe this symbol can make otherwise inane/boring/unfunny words and interesting and hilarious. Is it working? …Like my status… please.

 

The Phrase: Twerk

Definition: Dancing primarily with one’s ass… I think?

How it is used: General-purpose description of dancing that in some way involves butts

What it really means: Dancing is hard okay guys?

 

The Phrase: Ratchet

Definition: Bad? Maybe?

How it is used: “That chick is ratchet” (Is that it? Is that what they say?)

What it really means: I have no clue

 

I have decided understanding things is overrated. But hopefully I have done something of value here. Perhaps pushed back the clock for us ancient 21 year olds time has already passed by. But for those of us who have already resigned ourselves to obsolescence we can get a good chuckle at the youth of today.

A Four Year Affair

How I fell in and out of love with Canada’s Harvard

(arguably the silliest thing I’ve written in a while, around the time that there was a protest every other week in Montreal, fun though -WH)

Note: for the purposes of this article, McGill university is personified as a woman, please feel free to substitute different pronouns as they apply to your personal preferences.

I had heard about this “McGill” character a lot throughout my senior year of high school. I had been flirting around a bit in London and Kingston but I just kept coming back to the Montreal girl. She was different, lived far away, and wore a lot of red when my high school sweetheart seemed to don nothing but various shades of blue. Everyone said she played super hard to get, you had to be the smartest, most successful to even get a shot, but I was ready for the challenge. I asked her out, she said yes and I was so happy, even though I knew I was one of about 25,000 people she was seeing on a casual basis.

Our first year together was everything I thought it would be. It was new, exciting; McGill had a wild side and we spent weeks partying. Sure I had to do a little work, but that never got in the way of the fun times. McGill was understanding; even though she lived in Montreal she never demanded I learn French, despite others’ opinions on the matter. Everything was perfect, she didn’t even judge when I indulged too heavily in the RVC cafeteria. I thought this was the beginning of a wonderful four-year relationship.

That summer I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was away from her. She had shown me the greatest times in my life, introduced me to so many wonderful people. She had expanded my knowledge, made me feel like part of something bigger than myself. I could not wait to return and continue our four-year honeymoon.

When I returned things had changed, I wasn’t angry though; I knew nothing stayed the same forever. I couldn’t live with McGill anymore; I had to get an apartment. It was just a few blocks away however so of course I could see her whenever I liked. The fun and excitement of our first days together wasn’t there anymore; she was still doing those things: scavenger hunts and writing on t-shirts, but with other people. I understood though, I needed to grow on my own as well. I still saw her every day and we still had fun times like Carnival even if we didn’t go out every night like we used to.

It was around this time I began to worry about the relationship; I was moving forward with my life but I started noticing McGill was not doing the same. She was making little effort to improve herself and even when she did it took years for anything significant to happen. I spoke to the other people who knew and loved her and they said “oh that’s just McGill, she doesn’t move at the same speed as the rest of the world”. I noticed that while McGill’s friends like McCall and Brawley were still animated and interesting, a great many of her compatriots seemed increasingly apathetic. I wish I could still tell her she’s perfect, but I don’t want to validate these bizarre choices. Though I was increasingly concerned, I stayed out of loyalty and desire to have a better future.

Now I had known from the start McGill lived in an unusual neighbourhood, while a great example of diversity there was a palpable undercurrent of tension as though a conflict remained unresolved. Maybe that was why nobody of note had moved to town in years.

Then I met the neighbours.

It seemed like every week they had some new issue, and nobody seemed to want to talk it out. No these arguments took the form of big public clashes, the kind where the parties scream through the bathroom door while everyone else slips out the door and hopes it won’t come to violence this time. Even arguments about why they argue so often end in tears.

I was apprehensive about our future; could I live in this neighbourhood where I might have to walk through anarchy to see my significant other? Was it worthwhile to be so dedicated to what seemed an increasingly one-sided relationship?

At the beginning of our fourth year together these doubts were swirling in my head with increased frequency. I never considered leaving, I knew if I could make it four years it would mean something, it would validate the time I had spent, the behaviour I rationalized. But then the neighbourhood got even worse.

People began ignoring me when I didn’t speak properly enough for them; they got increasingly touchy when something was labeled in english. I didn’t like this behaviour but I was still seeing McGill so I grinned and bore it.

But now there are new things happening in the neighbourhood, promises made are going unfulfilled, there is increasing oppression of certain people and posters are going up saying you can’t wear this here, or that there. What gives these people the right to decide these things for everyone? I put up with a lot from this relationship but I can’t keep coming back if these are the rules my 24,999 friends and I will have to deal with.

“What happened?” she calls, “Didn’t we have a good thing together?”

“I can’t keep doing it” I reply, “Not if you’re okay with all of this, not if this is how I have to live”

“I didn’t change” She whispers, “I’m the same one you fell in love with”

“That’s the problem” I respond “Don’t call me”

“Not even for Alumni Donations”

The Lowest Common Denominator

The effect of easy publication on contemporary writing

I am a writer, and like all writers, I want people to read what I write. Twenty or thirty years ago this was a truly difficult task; one had to practice for years, doggedly self publish one’s work and interview for one of only a few major print publications. It was a painstaking process that virtually guaranteed that the author was not a complete idiot, and at the very least, was committed to his or her craft.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the game has changed completely; Easy-to-create, free blog platforms have allowed anyone who so desires to have his or her own little place to publish. With the advent of the Internet, print publication saw barriers fall as well – they began to carry larger staffs while using the Internet to publish more content. The upshot of all of this is that it has become far easier than ever to get your work read.

The issue that has come as a result of this is that for every smart, insightful article today, there are one hundred manic blog posts threatening Kate Upton for dating their favorite member of One Direction. It has become desperately hard to be recognized for one’s work, and I feel therein lies the rub with contemporary writing, especially when it comes to amateur or student publication.The best way for someone to glean readership is controversy. Readers will always be drawn to a story of conflict or controversy over something comparatively boring.This is simply human nature.But though the world is fraught with issues, there will not always be a truly controversial topic on which to write.

This is where the great McGill University comes in, for McGill publications and writers are amongst the greatest in the world at overreaction – employing hypersensitivity as a tool to get more press. Everyone knows there are topics that will generate more hype than others. I am as guilty as any in this regard. I wrote my first article for this magazine criticizing the Avengers because I knew people would react strongly. When it comes to the home of the Redmen, the most ready sources of readership arise when someone accuses a McGill institution of being racist, sexist, intolerant, encouraging of debauchery, supportive of rape culture, celebrating of alcoholism or being vaguely insensitive in any number of ways.

The best example of this hysterical sensationalism is the recent send-up of engineering frosh; “Ro-dee-no”. The article criticizes the theme choices on the basis that cowboys were generally not good people, the frosh materials fail to account for transgender peoples, and accuses everyone who has ever chanted at frosh of sexual assault.Political correctness is one thing, butthis smacks of finding the 3 bullet points for an article rather than legitimate concerns over Frosh’s institutions and I find it distressing that the former takes precedence over the latter.

Now let me stop for a second and explain. My issue with these matters is not the content or topic of each, it’s the way these situations are conducted. I find it hard to believe that someone looked pictures of the General Lee and the fact that Frosh features drinking and was moved enough to write a 1000 word article. The issues raised are not important or divisive enough to be featured such, however, I do believe they are incendiary enough to provide a greater number of hits to one’s websitethan something requiring a good deal more thought.

This hypersensitivity does not truly benefit anyone besides the people whose respective egos swell as a result, but nonetheless I do understand the inclination to write on controversial matters. Every writer these days is awash in a sea of other authors, so if you point a spotlight at an easy target you’re much more likely to get noticed.

My aim here is not to start a passive-aggressive fight amongst the McGill publications, but instead to inspire a divergence from the sensationalist, hypersensitive writing tactics we see so often these days. We’re all better than that, guys.

And yes, I am very much aware of the hypocrisy.

(an old article about sensationalism at McGill, still quite apt even if the Kate Upton/One Direction thing blew over pretty quickly -WH)

Who to Remember, and Who to Forget

(An article that never got published because it wasn’t timely enough, I still think its one of the most important things I’ve ever written -WH)

Remembrance Day is the most recent target of a group of people that believe the best way to champion their views is to attack someone else’s. A recent McGill Daily article tied Remembrance Day to inherently evil weapons research, white supremacy, CIA spying, colonial exploitation, sexism and resolves that Remembrance celebrates the actions of modern war. Elsewhere, a campaign has begun to replace the traditional red poppies that honor sacrifice with white ones hoping for peace. Ignoring for a moment the horrendous gaps in logic… Actually let me digress for a second.

I hate that I am writing this article.

I have better ideas for articles. Articles I have been working on for months; articles with quotes and research and frankly much better writing. However, this November I felt compelled to pen a response to the unsolicited attacks on Remembrance Day that have become commonplace today. I would love it if we as a society universally decided that these movements were not worth the breath to talk about, the energy to write about or the ink to print about. However, this is not the case. This sort of alarmist, unsolicited attack is what draws eyes to the page and hits to the website, so ignoring it will simply not work. I look forward to the days when this sort of response article is no longer necessary, but for the time being…

What every criticism of Remembrance Day is missing is the word honor. It is simple to say that a day that’s purpose is the acknowledgement of those who have lost their lives in war is a celebration of battle or a glorification of combat. The recent Demilitarize McGill piece stated Remembrance Day goes far beyond the mourning of individuals killed in wars: it celebrates the actions of soldiers, and warfare more generally, as necessary for the defense of our ‘freedom’ against an indefinite network of enemies”This is rhetoric repurposed for a partisan view. Remembrance Day is not an endorsement of war or a praising of violence; it is to honor those who paid the ultimate price for the people who now live in a time of peace. It is to honor sacrifice and loss, dedication and bravery and to dismiss it as a self-aggrandizing celebration of jingoism demonstrates how small minded one truly is.

If you attend a Remembrance Day service you can see this. It is not a party, it is not meant to be fun and it certainly does not endorse death. It is a solemn event and that is how it should be. Men gave their lives not because it was fun or because warfare is something to be desired, but because they believed that the sacrifice of thousands was necessary for the benefit of millions. I find it horribly offensive to dismiss the loss of these lives as a footnote beneath political history.

Yes, war is terrible. Yes, every effort should be made to preserve peace. But the dismissal of this sacrifice does nothing to guarantee this. It is a tool used by people who have controversial viewpoints as a way of reaching as may people as possible and it is truly disgusting to use the deaths of these men as a podium from which to spew this venom.

The “white poppy” movement employs the same logic. If the participants of this movement simply chose to wear “peace” pins instead of poppies this November, they would make very few waves and we would be hard pressed to find someone who disagreed with their message. But by distorting the message of Remembrance Day to their own agenda they gain media coverage, reaction and feel a sense of accomplishment. Crusading for peace is a noble pursuit and while it can be discouraging to see the prevalence of violence in the world today, perverting the history of a nation is not the way to spread a message.

I do not have a problem with the views of these groups, far from it. But to build your own position by tearing down the views of others is despicable. To claim Remembrance Day represents a sexist patriarchal system, white supremacy and supports the acts of CIA spying is not defensible in the least. It is this tying of buzzwords and headline topics to a truly important occasion that makes these articles truly abhorrent. The author knows accusing an institution like Remembrance Day supporting sexism or racism will garner attention regardless of logic or truth.

My only comfort from this cavalcade of ignorant stupidity is that those who senselessly attack the memories of those who fought and died for their livelihood is that they are in the minority. A small fraction of the greater population attack McGill for its support of Remembrance Day and the armed forces where the grand majority is silent in its opposition. But while those who quietly remember are far more numerous than those who loudly contest, the presence of the latter group represents the voice more likely to be heard. I truly hope those who use the sacrifice of our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers as a grandstand truly realize the folly of their position. Until then I say we continue to spend November 11th remembering our fallen, and forget these sad excuses for people.

The New Face of Facebook

Self-admiration as the primary practice in 2013

I am 21 years old, I am a university student; after captaining a few Carnival teams I have several hundred pictures I wish to share and people I wish to talk to. So essentially I am the quintessential Facebook user that some combination of Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss twins were targeting at Harvard in 2003. However, I no longer reflect that ideal.

Facebook has changed, and I am not referring to the user interface changes that cause half of your friends to threaten to delete their account twice a year. No, the change is subtler than that; it is a gradual but decisive shift from socialization to a platform designed around self-congratulation. This is not a revolutionary idea, the internet has always created egos far in excess of what certain people deserve. LinkedIn is a platform based around making oneself seem like the perfect employee, endorsing others and yourself for skills you aren’t even sure they possess. Instagram makes its users feel like bohemian master photographers and Twitter instills in everyone that the minutiae of their day is worthy of interest with a few followers. However every one of these services share the same problem; if you are not exceptional, not interesting, not worth listening to, the size of your audience will reflect that.

imagesFacebook however has circumvented this issue quite elegantly. This is because people like me spent the majority of their high school years accumulating Facebook friends. Because it was the way to share photos, it was how you heard about the parties happening that weekend, and eventually Facebook replaced MSN as a means of quick contact. Facebook was not a means of accomplishing a goal, but a method for socialization. Then, the advent of the smartphone began to redefine socialization; texting and BBM are faster and more direct than Facebook messaging and wall posts. These conversations no longer had to go through Facebook – creating a crisis for Zuckerberg’s baby. What was the role of Facebook in this new decade besides a framing device for various games and a way to disseminate baby pictures without carrying around a photo album?

However Facebook still maintained one advantage over the myriad of other networking sites – the friends list. Hundreds of people who chose to associate with you once upon a time have become de facto followers, and unless you’re particularly exceptional; there are probably more of them than your Twitter followers. It clicked for some that instead of writing statuses about “gearing up for the weekend” this could become an outlet, your method for gleaning the attention that the 21st century has convinced us that we deserve.

tbs_movies_meangirls_645x360_081920110109Now your status on the merits of Calvin Harris vs. Avicii reaches hundreds instead of your meagre amount of Twitter followers, and the sound of your internet voice can be heard loud and clear. It becomes easy to see the benefit of Facebook as your primary network when seeking social validation. Will these self-concerned entities cause people to realize they are abusing the system and move on? Not so fast as Zuckerberg’s monster has addressed this as well. By the same token that allowed this hypothetical person to access a massive potential audience, this person will likely maintain this contingent purely via nomenclature. These are not your followers, your subscribers, your connections, these are your friends. On Twitter, unfollowing an uninteresting, unfunny person carries no emotion and no social ramifications. Deleting a friend though still carries enough weight implying that you must be truly heartless to cut your friend out of your life. Even the truly idiotic and detestable are kept for the value of schadenfreude and self-congratulation by comparison.

It is admirable the way Facebook has transitioned its function from socialization to self-admiration to keep itself relevant. The intriguing question going forward is how lasting this new Facebook is in the face of increasing innovation. Whatever happens, we know that the big blue behemoth is nothing if not adaptable.

What to Expect on the Yeezus Tour

(once upon a time I tried culture reporting, I think I did alright)

Kanye West (especially if you ask Kanye West) has transcended the bounds of a typical recording artist. On any given day he may be wearing/ranting about leather sweatpants, comparing himself to Vanellope from Wreck-It Ralph or making nice post-Twitter feud with Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, all these antics are as hilarious as they are insane, but there’s a big difference between watching TMZ and dropping hundreds of dollars on concert tickets. With that in mind, as a public service, I’ve collected a handy list of what to expect if you attend the self-aggrandizing narcissism-fest that the Yeezus tour will inevitably be.

- While your original intention might’ve been to buy upper-bowl tickets at a reasonable price, you’ll splurge on floor seats because you might see Beyonce or Jay-Z or god willing, catch a branded tee. You will not do either.

- You will walk through a sea of people wearing Kanye tees and garments that have no business being made of leather.

- You will briefly feel out of place for not having any of these clothes—this shame will quickly turn to smug superiority.

- You will walk by the merch stand selling concert tees. They will be aburdly designed and priced. (last I went, it was Kanye’s face merged with a cougar).

- You will consider buying one of those shirts for $45. If you do, you’ll probably regret it. If you don’t, you’ll probably regret it. I did not. Do I regret it? Yeah, a bit.

- You will want beer. Your only option will be lukewarm Molson Export at $9/plastic. You’ll buy it anyways and pretend to enjoy it. You will not enjoy it.

- Kanye will not go on at the time it says on the ticket. This is not unique to Kanye; this is how every concert is. It’s a fact of life and you just gotta accept it, OK?

- This is okay however, as Mr. West’s ego has swelled to the point that he will not tolerate an opening act that might draw attention away from his brilliance,  so feel free to show up a bit late. I would love to tell you who the opening acts were when I went but for the life of me I cannot remember, surely they were great though.

- There will be some large unnecessary prop as part of the performance. When I went there were 30-foot high platforms in the centre of the floor that eliminated about half of the floor seats. They were used for approximately 4 songs. At your concert they will be just as random, just as token and just as forgettable.

tumblr_mod2eeqmxy1rbzk4mo1_r1_500

- If you’ve never been to a rap concert, be prepared: the ratio of marijuana smoke to breathable air in the Bell Centre will be approximately 1:1.

- Addendum: many of the people smoking weed will be caught and thrown out by police. This is a great opportunity to eavesdrop on the hysterical pleas of the soon to be removed, which will be both absurd and hilarious. My personal favorites; “Plants can’t be illegal! Facists!” “But I have glaucoma,” and the classic, “Please, put me down—I burned off my eyebrows!”

- Beer will be spilled on you. In my odyssey to the Bell Centre, I had three separate beers spilled on me, not counting the ones spilled by my friends.

- If your fellow concertgoers are kind souls, they will buy you a beer to make up for this affront. Do not count on this or you will just end up like me; covered in warm Export and sad.

- There’s an even better chance that Kanye will abruptly stop the concert at some nonsensical point because he is a delicate genius and that is his prerogative. If you (and the rest of the crowd) simply shout that he’s a revolutionary, that his music moves not only bodies but souls, and that he is the second coming of Christ. This will sufficiently motivate him to continue the show.

- You’ll complain about this, claiming that for the price you paid for your ticket this type of disturbance is unacceptable. This will be a lie, because you just bore witness to the struggle of the artist, and no financial expense of yours could ever outweigh Mr. West’s spiritual expense in performing for us, the under-appreciating masses… Also it will be cool to have been in attendance for something that will be in the news the next day.

kanye-west-black-skinhead-video-2- You’ll be judged by the people next to you for not knowing the words to every song. Again, you’ll briefly feel inadequate to your neighbours, followed by a smug sense of superiority for having more going on in your life than the lyrics to Black Skinhead. 

- Many unpredictable things will predictably happen. Kanye’s clientele is diverse enough that trying to predict their shenanigans is difficult bordering on impossible. My personal favourites from the Watch The Throne Tour were the half-dressed/fully-grown man passed out in the bathroom, a man wearing an exact replica of Kanye’s stage outfit down to the leather skirt and a man urinating against a wall in the upper bowl so he wouldn’t miss the “Stronger” set.

Maybe this has deterred you from attending a Kanye concert in the future. Maybe this has just made you amped as fuck for the concert on November 14. But still the question remains, why would we spend hundreds of dollars to spend a few hours in this insanity?

Because regardless of how much of a douchebag he is, dude still makes good goddamn music