Monday, 6 September 2021

You Weren't There, Man - On Exclusion in the Early Days of the OSR and the 'Defensive Posture'

I hesitate to publish this post, given the high likelihood it will give rise to outrage, but it is my earnest belief that this current, overweening predilection for dividing ourselves into competing camps and seizing each other by the throat is only going to be overcome if sensible people continue to attempt to engage in rational, good faith discussion in the centre ground. I will provide the (sadly, necessary) caveat that nothing contained in this post is designed to excuse or justify - only to explain, in order to suggest ways forward. So, here goes: 

I was not there at the very beginning of OSR blogging, but almost: the first post I wrote was in May 2008, and I was involved on rpg.net and in commenting on OSR blogs for some months before that. So, while not perhaps there at the big bang, I was present to observe the sun and inner planets forming.

So it was with some interest that I read Zedeck Siew's reminiscences about the phenomenon:


That community was ugly. Many alt-right-leaning white dudes. It sheltered abusers, like Zak S – a person who, to my shame, I’d been a fan of. 

That community was good. Many key figures were queer / trans. More so (to my impression) than any other RPG community (even other indie groups). Non-white folks, like me. 

The popular TTRPG eye remembers the OSR for its ugliness, not its inclusivity. Probably because the assholes were loud. And because the non-white / cis / het-ness of folks was rarely advertised as a community selling-point: “Look at how diverse we are!”

First, I do have to get one thing out of the way. I understand the point Zedeck is trying to make here in good faith - inclusiveness is good, which I agree with, and which is what this post is all about.

And it is also probably unfair to single him out for criticism in respect of these comments, because there are worse offenders. But I do feel at the outset that it is necessary to say that implying that a person's moral worth is contingent on immutable characteristics is something we should all just agree is wrong. I get that part of the extreme woke shell game is the absurd notion that for white people to complain about bigotry against them is to display 'fragility'. But it would never be acceptable to say that a community was 'ugly' for its association with any particular group of people other than 'white dudes', and this means that it shouldn't be acceptable to say that with regard to them either. If you object to a surfeit of 'alt-right-leaning' people, that's fine, but let's just leave it at 'people' without attaching particular race and sex to it. That kind of thing is a pollutant of the American culture war that all the rest of us could do without.

For what it's worth, I agree entirely that there was an undesirable surplus of alt-right blowhards (an American phrase which I love) on G+, but there was, frankly, a surplus of blowhards of all political stripes there and their absence from my life after the demise of that network is a great blessing. 

Second, though, this thing about the OSR being exclusionary, especially in its early days, comes up a lot, and I think deserves more careful thought than it is usually given. Because I do agree that there were exclusionary currents within it, and also that those currents tended to have discriminatory effects that were, needless to say, bad. But I also think we need to properly explain where those exclusionary currents mostly came from, in order to move beyond them. Condemning people as racist/sexist/transphobic/whatever probably doesn't help matters unless it is truly warranted, because when people know they personally do not bear any animus to people of other races, sexes, etc., the accusation just serves to annoy them and entrench hostility. 

So, let's try to actually do that: what were the roots of exclusion in the early days of the OSR? 

Well, first, of course, it should be said that there is a much-too-large mass of people who make racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., comments on the internet. Some of them probably have personality disorders; almost all are probably deeply unhappy and isolated; a lot just think it's funny to offend others. Sadly, I don't think that there is a huge amount that the rest of us can personally do about that other than block their comments where we can, and call them out where we can't. I used to be bad at doing those things; I am trying to get better at it. (Regular readers will hopefully have noticed that there is now a more or less complete absence of the Candyman - you know who I mean - from my blog comments.) 

I do not deny that these people exist; I do not deny their presence is unhelpful; I do not excuse or justify anything they do except to make the Christian plea to remember that whenever you encounter an obnoxious adult it is almost always the case that they were once a very miserable child.

However, I don't think that they were or are the biggest exclusionary force out there, nor the biggest source of discriminatory effect (as distinct from the biggest source of discriminatory intent).

By far the biggest source of exclusion, and by far the most influential, was what I will call The Defensive Posture.

Those who, like me, were around in those very early days will remember that there were an awful lot of grognards, ten a penny in 2008, who had profound objections to Johnny-come-latelys getting interested in 'their' OD&D. These grognards were a formidable group of gatekeepers in their own way, and many of them truly resented anybody playing 2nd edition AD&D or BECMI, let alone Labyrinth Lord or, heaven forfend, LotFP. For them, the one true way was to have been born in the late 50s or early 60s, to have been there in the mid-70s when D&D had first come out, and to have been playing it ever since. If you were not within that anointed clerisy, then you were at best to be pitied, but generally to be despised. It didn't matter what sex or race you were (in fact, tears of joy would have come to the eyes of many of these fatbeards at the prospect of actually being able to game with a woman). It was about whether you had been with Napoleon against the Austrians at Austerlitz, or rather with the true faithful against Zeb Cook, and that was that.

These grognards adopted the Defensive Posture because they felt, irrationally but perhaps understandably, a sense of possessiveness about 'their' game, deriving from the fact that they had lived through decades of shame while keeping alive the flame of the hobby. It is perhaps difficult for anyone born after, say, 1995 to understand quite how mainstream society behaved towards 'geeks' or 'nerds' in the 70s-90s. But it was a constant source of bullying and violence; there was no sense in which being interested in nerdish pursuits was in any way defensible to one's peers in those days. I knew a boy in school who was beaten up with bricks on school premises and had to be taught separately to the rest of the pupils for his entire school years for his own safety because he had committed the sin of being interested in chemistry; this didn't strike any of the rest of us as being at all unusual, if a trifle unfair. His mistake had been in failing to adequately 'pass' as a non-nerd. That's just how things were in those days, before Harry Potter, the LotR films, the Big Bang Theory, and so on had begun to make 'geek' a thing. (I don't mean to suggest, by the way, that being bullied for being a geek was in the same paradigm as the homophobic bullying which was sadly also rife in those days.) 

Wrongly, but I don't think motivated in any way by malice, the Defensive Posture therefore manifested itself in a certain hostility and resentment towards newcomers to the hobby who were perceived not to have been through the crucible of being into RPGs during that earlier, darker, time. The old schoolers simply felt that these newcomers necessarily lacked a certain gravitas, or commitment, by virtue of not having 'been there'. It is not a justification of that approach to say that it is to a certain extent understandable that human beings sometimes react in that kind of a way, and to say that we are all of us flawed and, at times, motivated by jealousy and childish impulses. 

The real problem with the Defensive Posture, of course, is that it did undoubtedly have a discriminatory effect towards women, trans people, people of colour, and so on, albeit one which was, to use modern parlance, indirect or 'structural'. Most of the grognards would have bristled at the suggestion that they would have had any problem playing D&D with somebody who wasn't a straight white male. And that wouldn't have been pretence: it was all true. But given that most people who were into D&D in the old days happened to be white men, and given that a lot of the newcomers were not, the result was discriminatory all the same. The grognards weren't for the large part excluding people out of discriminatory intention. But the exclusion had discriminatory effects. 

At the start of this post I said it was important to try to understand the reasons for social phenomena, because it is only then that we can get past them. And the good news is that we can, and to a certain extent have, get to a point where the Defensive Posture is no longer a potent force in the hobby. It probably does still exist on certain forums. But I see it less and less. For those of us who have been around now for a long time and have become long in the tooth, the lesson is to try consciously to avoid adopting the Posture in our own humble ways - to remember that just because somebody didn't happen to experience life as it was 25 years ago doesn't make their commitment to, or enjoyment of, the hobby any less valid. The lesson for everyone else is that old leopards can actually change their spots in the end. Which is not to excuse past indiscretions, but to end at least on an optimistic note.

59 comments:

  1. Good words!

    Zedeck's POV is from 2015, that OSR was a very different beast from the OSR of 2008-2010. So I think their conclusions are going to differ from yours or mine or the other bloggers, just as ours are likely to differ from the folks that were on Dragonsfoot and various C&C forums from 2003(?) to 2008.

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    1. Good point. 2008 is a long time ago and it's easy to forget that the current US culture war really didn't exist then, and certainly wasn't a big thing on the internet.

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    2. I started on the blogs and forums back in 2007 and I missed the the whole G+ era (which seems pretty meaningful to a lot of people) because I couldn't be bothered to log into another social media platform. From what I can tell Zak was a big influence on that even though from an earlier perspective he was just another blogger. There are definitely overlapping perspectives. Sadly US culture war has been endemic for a long time (back then too) - most long term good forums have ironclad rules against political discussion which seems pretty necessary.

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    3. I feel like there's an erasure of how much more acceptable it was to be blatantly bigoted back then, though. You can argue about whether or not the culture war is worse now then it used to be, but back in 2008 there were some major battles I hope we can all agree were worth fighting. I can mainly speak for my own experiences, but blatant homophobia was much much more socially acceptable. Not subtle stuff either, slurs and jokes about AIDS and the like were really incredibly common both IRL and online. Hell, gay marriage wasn't even legal in the US or UK back then!

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    4. Anon - Yes, I agree. A huge amount of humour in those days revolved around gay slurs, and it's really quite right that has become unacceptable.

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  2. Very well said. Incidentally, also one of the clearest explanations of structural discrimination I've ever read.

    Sensible centrists, assemble!

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  3. Since Ziedek Siew is out there attacking white men on the internet, would you agree that he is also probably deeply unhappy, isolated, and has a personality disorder? He may not even be making a point in good faith! You are overly generous, this is a guy driven by tribal resentment, not a desire for inclusiveness. His ideology is the opposite of the Defensive Posture neckbeard: the vengeful nerd goes on the offensive as an unpaid petty political commissar.

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    1. Two wrongs don't make a right and the world would be a better place if we assumed people were acting in good faith.

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    2. Where in the original post did he attack white men in general?

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    3. Noisms: Siew and those like him clearly have a grudge against white people. I no longer believe assuming they have good intentions is an effective method of pushing back against this evil. I think you are making a genuine argument, but assuming the best in Siew while calling his rw/grog equivalents mentally disturbed and fatbeards is closer to appeasement than genuine civility.

      lige: To be fair, Siew is only against white people with the audacity to be right of center politically. I'm sure he has no problem with the "good ones."

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    4. He specifies the predominant race of the people in the hobby, and contrasts it later. The antipathy is obvious. I invite you to replace 'white' with 'Jewish' and see if the sentences pass your smell test.

      Assuming people were acting in good faith is how we got the hobby in this mess in the first place.

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    5. I'm keen this doesn't descend into a "let's piss on Zedeck Siew" fest, so I'll be deleting further comments along those lines. It isn't fair, as there are many worse offenders.

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    6. Then I will save you the trouble and leave Siew be. I will say that your post was 99% fair and well thought out - however most people (myself included) will naturally zero in on the most provocative sentence rather than the main argument. I think that's the nature of any discussion.

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    7. I know this discussion is over , but I just want it to be clarified that sentence ïn its full context is "That community was ugly. Many alt-right-leaning white dudes. It sheltered abusers, like Zak S – a person who, to my shame, I’d been a fan of. "
      Alt-Right doesn't mean right of centre, it refers to an extremist ideology, being basically the usual mix of racism and fascism.
      If you see "right-wing" and "alt-right" as interchangeable you might just be a reactionary "woke as heck" teenager on tumblr.
      He mentions that they are white dudes , because that gives an indication of who they are likely to be against , i.e non-whites.
      If these alt-right OSR members happened to be predominantly, say for example, black women, he also would of said it there. In either case , it wouldn't be being racist , as their demographics are relevant to the sentence and the statement.



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    8. I get what you're trying to say. The point is it's not about whether or not Zedeck Siew likes alt-right people or not.

      The point is that while it is fine to say, for example:

      "There are too many woke people on Twitter."

      It is NOT okay to say, for example:

      "There are too many work trans people on Twitter".

      There is an important distinction between those two phrases, which I am sure you can recognise, and I think rather than engage in sophistry to justify why it's okay to bring up the race, sexuality and sex of only straight white men and nobody else (which is its own kind of discrimination in itself) it is much more sensible to just reject absolutely that kind of essentialisation of what should be a political dispute only.

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  4. I wish it were more common to differentiate between legitimate bigotry and unfortunate demographic factors.
    Every group is subject to self-selection biases. But the default assumption is often that any deviation from a perfectly average cross-section of society must be nefarious. This makes it very hard to discuss the subject intelligently.

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  5. Mike's point emphasize why I really have grown to hate the term "OSR" as it means so many different things, and it has fluctuated over time, even.

    Apart from that, I applaud a very well written piece that thought was quite eye opening. I first thought you were wrong about that past community being that way, exclusionary and all. Then I realized that Defensive Posture was very much a thing. Huh, imagine that. I also think it's true it is not as common as it once was.

    Knowledge, self reflection and an insightful analysis of structural discrimination. You have to watch out. This is almost too sensible for the world of today.

    Cheers. You made my day. :)

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  6. If there is none or very little of them, bigotry and persecution have to be invented so we can rail against the bad old days and justify our righteous politics. Manufacturing truly heinous past crimes is a necessary precondition for radical movements, because otherwise, our calls for purges and denouncements would be a bit excessive, perhaps even a little evil.

    Not to mention how Zak Sexman's coattail riders - the people who discovered the wonderful world of the "OSR" due to that one specific weird-haired dude - must get rid of a few inconvenient historical details before the world is right again. So there is a motive here, to paint with the broadest of brushes and blackest of paints. There is a lot of wall that has to be painted over before the people involved look good.

    It is bollocks.

    It is hard to describe early old-school gaming in the modern political framework, because it was really not a political project. It was not a leftist project and it was not a right-wing project and it was not even a centrist project. It was a project about enjoying a particular style of games, and inclusion or exclusion was based on those criteria. All of the early published examples of that era, from Necromancer Games modules to OSRIC to Fight On! and Knockspell had united people of completely diametric persuasions. So it is exasparating to see ideological activists claim it as newly liberated territory. We were free before the gentrifiers arrived, and we do not need to be "liberated" from anyone or anything.

    A more general point, gaming has no mission to be inclusive. It is not a social programme and it is not a political project. It is form of entertainment, and - here comes the key part - it does not have to justify itself to anyone, for any reason. There is no imperative but fun, and that ("but what is fun?") is something that can be hard enough and complicated enough to last a lifetime's discussion and then some.

    Let us return to discussing fun.

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    1. 'There is no imperative but fun, and that ("but what is fun?") is something that can be hard enough and complicated enough to last a lifetime's discussion and then some.'

      To me this is the crux of the discussion. A key part of the question "what is fun?" is also "whose fun?" The idea of "fun" cannot be divorced from our subjectivity, and the least we can do as community members is acknowledge it. This is why I appreciate both Zedeck's and David's posts. Of course they are not the last words, but they move the discussion forward on that very question.

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  7. Why should we be surprised the OSR lean toward a certain 'conservatism'? Isn't the entire premise built on the idea that the older RPG were, in some aspect, better games and that the old way hold some wisdom? The very concept related to the OSR requires either being an old nostalgic grog or a (relative) newcomer who see wisdom and worth in the past.

    As for the demographics, lets not lie to ourselves on who most nerds and tabletop players are. It doesn't mean I ought to scream to get someone slightly less pasty than me from playing the game! But ultimately, don't we have freedom of association when it come to our groups and in turn should we not give it to others? Beside, its a bit of a lie that RPG is 'just white guys'. Its only a commonality in the western world. I'm sure a bunch of Japanese tabletop players or the rising interest in the south east asian countries would laugh at the idea. It just skew a certain way in the western world due to demographics.

    Live and let live, I say. If more people want to enjoy RPG, its not for me to judge them, at least when its not my table and my rules on what the game is like. I have no power over others (and they have no power over me!) and that's a net positive, not a negative.

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  8. alt-right-leaning white dudes

    Interesting. Has anyone noticed that 'white' as an ethnic identifier is used nowadays almost exclusively as a pejorative? I can't remember the last time it wasn't. That's an odd turn of events. After WWII, judging based on skin color became the unforgivable sin. And yet, almost overnight, it's back in ways not seen for decades, with the caveat that you can judge and condemn based on skin color, as long as it's the correct skin color and it's your own. I can't think of a time in history where such a development has occurred. It's making it difficult to read past such a statement just as it would be if it was any other skin color so targeted.

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    1. It's very depressing. I'm not optimistic about where it will end up.

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    2. What I find sad in this is its a very AMERICAN concept of race relationship. I'm of French descent in Canada and was raised speaking French. Generally speaking most 'racial' (wrong word here, but whatever, maybe 'cultural' is better?) hostility, shit flinging and slurs I've seen hurled at in my life were between two equally 'white' people of different language and descent.

      Unfortunately the pollution of the American culture has resulted in my generation and the one after associating to themselves traits and sins which are flat out ridiculous, such as in relation to slavery. While it did exist to some extent in Canada, your average Gérard Patate, chain smoking hard drinking 'white trash' in the greater Montréal area is most definitely not the grandchild or great grandchild of slavers. His father and grandfather and great grandfather were poor catholic laborer or factory workers under the English speaking protestant business owners.

      The idea of 'white' as a monolith of evil, sinful culture is just as ludicrous as the worst excess of pan-European white supremacism. I a not interchangeable with an Anglo-Saxon protestant. Or a German. Or an Italian. Or a Welsh. Neither are they with me, any more than a Nigerian is interchangeable with an Afro-American! Honestly I blame homogenization of cultures.

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    3. Americans have always had difficulties understanding that there is a world outside of the USA, but worse is the tendency for people elsewhere to adopt American cultural references and framings that make no sense.

      Transpose 'white privilege' to Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Ukraine, Wales, Macedonia, and it ceases to have any coherent, let alone useful, meaning whatsoever.

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    4. 'Interesting. Has anyone noticed that 'white' as an ethnic identifier is used nowadays almost exclusively as a pejorative?'

      Sometimes. But in this context it serves to signal that the offenders were part of an ethnic majority punching downward at historically underprivileged minorities with their nonsense. It's only pejorative in this context if you assume that pointing this out is automatically discriminatory. That's what DiAngelo means by 'white fragility'.

      And yes, this all assumes an America-centric context. And full disclosure, yes, that is where I'm writing from as well. But having traveled to Eastern Europe, Japan, and Thailand with my black daughter, I can speak from firsthand experience that the privelege I inherit based on the color of my skin, while certainly more acute here in the US, is not unique to the Americas. On a Japanese train, I can expect to collect a few curious looks and perhaps a request to practice English. A black English teacher, on the other hand, is subject to much, much worse. The problem is amplified in less polite cultures.

      Pointing this out is not absurd as either of you are asserting. In fact, it is the first step to curing the problem of identity politics with which you seem so concerned. In order to see each other as humans first and ethnic groups a distant second, which absolutely should be the endgame here, we must first acknowledge that yes, there is a difference in how these groups have been treated and perceived, and that that difference still often exists on the aggregate, if not on a personal level.

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    5. Historically speaking, encouraging struggle along ethnic divides has only had a handful of outcomes, which involve either separation into separate nation states, expulsion or genocide (ref. South Africa, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Zimbabwe, Nazi Germany and so on and so forth). Note that in all cases the enemy is demonized and the prejudice is rationalized, based on previous grievances. It is, however, a useful tool to manage an ethnically and culturally diverse empire, particularly one that might otherwise start wondering why its middle class is shrinking and where its seemingly boundless wealth has dissapeared off too.

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    6. But 'notintheface11', can't you see how bizarre, abhorrent, and frankly fucked up that kind of moral framework is?

      It is tantamount to saying: if you happen to have a particular skin colour (not ethnicity, as if that would be any better - a skin colour) then you are guilty by association for all of the sins (or 'punching down') that people who happen to also have that skin colour committed, mostly decades if not centuries before you are born, in a part of the world you have never even set foot in, against people you have never met, and no matter that you personally have never done anything wrong?

      To call that morally bankrupt is to put it mildly. It is the morality of North Korea, where the crimes of the grandfather are visited on the children. Except worse, because it's not even the sins of the grandfather - it's being punished for the sins of some relatively small subset of people who just looked a bit like you.

      It will most certainly not cure any problems whatsoever. It will cause a great deal of them. I have nothing against white people trying harder to avoid accidentally behaving in a discriminatory way - of course not. But that's a world away from the position that the hardcore woke are adopting.

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    7. So unfortunately, most of your response is a strawman.

      'It is tantamount to saying: if you happen to have a particular skin colour (not ethnicity, as if that would be any better - a skin colour) then you are guilty by association for all of the sins (or 'punching down') that people who happen to also have that skin colour committed, mostly decades if not centuries before you are born'

      I never said that. Neither did Zedeck. The OP of this thread takes issue with Zedeck merely pointing out that, to his eye, many of the adopters of your Defensive Posture were of a certain ethnicity. I'm trying to elucidate why that's a valid, useful thing to notice, not confer blame to all white guys. You're right, that would be ridiculous, which is why neither me nor Zedeck said any such thing.

      'To call that morally bankrupt is to put it mildly. It is the morality of North Korea, where the crimes of the grandfather are visited on the children. Except worse, because it's not even the sins of the grandfather - it's being punished for the sins of some relatively small subset of people who just looked a bit like you.'

      For someone who wants to have a good faith conversation about this, you sure are invoking a lot of slippery slopes. What on earth is this paragraph even?

      'It will most certainly not cure any problems whatsoever. It will cause a great deal of them. I have nothing against white people trying harder to avoid accidentally behaving in a discriminatory way - of course not. But that's a world away from the position that the hardcore woke are adopting.'

      And what position is that? I'm sincerely asking, not trying to pull a gotcha. to be more exact, what do you see as the most extreme example of this radioactive woke-ism in our global culture(s)? As a corollary, who do you see as the person who 1. holds this position or something close to it and 2. is in a position if any consequence (e.g. not a Twitter commentator)?

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    8. Listen, I can smell a pointless internet debate coming a mile off by now, and this has all the hallmarks, including the chopping up of my reply into chunks to deal with piecemeal - a sure sign we are heading into something resembling a class from the Zak S School of Internet Debates.

      The essence of my point is this: if you racialise a criticism of somebody you are both implicitly tarring everybody within whatever group you have identified, and seeking to make their behaviour worse through guilt by association. That isn't how a sensible and fair system of morality works. That's all it's necessary to say. It should be enough to say "I don't like people who spit chewing gum on the floor." It is wrong to say "I don't like [members of a particular racial group] who spit chewing gum on the floor." If you don't understand the distinction between those two positions, well.... God help you.

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    9. Ah but noisms cannot possibly understand the suffering of notintheface because he has not had to dealt with the institutional prejudice leveled against his black daughter by the japanese railway system and therefore he is arguing from a position of privelege and centuries of colonialism and must recontextualize his views until etc. etc. etc.

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  9. Good post.

    One minor observation about a certain subculture, with which Zedeck would surely never associate, but which nonetheless exists and makes a habit of flinging around the sorts of insults Zedeck tends to use that target people on the basis of immutable characteristics:

    “Wrongly, but I don't think motivated in any way by malice, the Defensive Posture therefore manifested itself in a certain hostility and resentment towards newcomers to the hobby who were perceived not to have been through the crucible of being into RPGs during that earlier, darker, time.”

    In the terminology of the subculture of which I speak, this sounds an awful lot like people from a socially marginalized group whose lived experience includes a shared group history of persecution and who therefore are entitled to create safe spaces for their own community in which those from other groups, who do not share that specific lived experience of persecution, can legitimately be excluded.

    Of course you and I and no doubt Zedeck recognize this sort of rhetoric for the indefensible bigotry it is. But it’s worth noting the similarity between the alleged xenophobia of grognards and the justifications given for xenophobia by certain other groups in the present day. Of which Zedeck would no doubt disapprove in the strongest possible terms. No doubt at all.

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  10. A great post. If only because it's full of empathy, something we clearly need a lot of these times.

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    1. I strongly disagree. Our entire culture is chock-full of empathy. Everything is about feeling and compassion! Empathy, in and of itself, is not bad - far from it. But when empathy is artificially squeezed into everything, logic and reason go by the wayside.

      Politics, for instance, should be about making good policy decisions, not which politician can show the most empathy. I hope we've all learned a valuable lesson recently in that regard.

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    2. I think it's more about faking empathy, to be honest.

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    3. No, Venger. The post is showing empathy for (among others) the holders of The Defensive Posture. And I think that is where true empathy lies; in trying to understand why the people that do things different than us act that way, not in "feeling bad" for a very specific oppressed group. It's very easy to experience the latter, but very difficult to do the former. Every time I see some opinion that I consider "stupid", I remind myself that a potentially normal and sane person has reached it due to their circumstances, upbringing, environment, life experiences or peers, and try to understand how that could have happened. To summarize: assume that even those people whose opinions or ideas you abhor are neither crazy nor stupid. And this kind of empathy is exceedingly rare nowadays.

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    4. You misunderstood me. I think seeing the other side clearly and with a modicum of empathy is fine and dandy. I'm against unbridled empathy for everyone and everything.

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  11. Yeah, I don't think so. I didn't discover the OSR as early as you. I think 2012 is when I first became aware of it, but I discovered D&D back in 1983 and played more or less from then on.

    I suppose you could find a few individuals who actively resented, let alone "despised" people discovering 2e or BECMI, but you're taking 1% and blowing it way out of proportion.

    The RPG hobby has always been inclusive... right up until things started getting political around 2014 or so. Just like with comics and videogames, new waves of young fans with ideological agendas swept through and eventually started making demands. The woke/SJW gamers were the gatekeepers, not the grognards.

    "Blowhard"? Sure, nothing wrong with that. "Fatbeards"? Wow, hoss. Take a step back and reexamine your life choices.

    Identity politics never belonged at the forefront of the hobby. The vast majority doesn't care who you are, what you look like, or any part of your identity. If you've come to game, and aren't constantly disruptive to play, you're welcome. That's it.

    Those "normies" like myself who just want to get back to gaming are sick and tired of being gaslit, of being called nazi, alt-right, biggot, whatever-ist and phobe. Over on FB, there are people telling me, a conservative, to leave the hobby, to kill myself, that I'm evil. It's sickening.

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    1. I agree with you on what the vast majority think.

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  12. Zedeck has no idea what the OSR was, is about and is clearly in no position to make any character judgements whatsoever r.e. its merits or demerits. If we are charitable we can call him and his ilk 'deluded' but it is much less benign then that.

    The fact is that 99% of the bigotry he describes is imaginary and if you ask any of him or his loathsome ilk to point out specific examples they will deflect and run away or they will point something out that 99% of the worlds population would find completely innocuous. But he has been turned into a programmable tool for his country's elite and with it he will dismantle the only society that will tolerate his existence.

    As for genuine abuse or creepy stuff, we need only look at the political orientation of the perpetrators of abuse cases in the rpg hobby and their enablers and reach inescapable conclusions r.e. their most common political orientation. Example Zak, Paimon Prowler, the other OSR discord guy, Kobol, Green Ronin, and so on and so forth.

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    1. Let's not use the comments here to fight the culture war - the whole purpose of the post was to argue that it isn't productive.

      With that said, I think Zedeck is from Malaysia, so I wouldn't presume to pretend I have a clue what "his country's elite" thinks.

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  13. Thank you for this post. More empathy all around, and less rush to judgment would be very welcome. This is not a trend I expect, however.

    I was born in the late '60s and discovered D&D early in 1981. In the most lonely parts of my early teens I occupied myself with reading and rereading the likes of the D&D 1st edition Basic Set, the original AD&D hardcovers, and so many RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu supplements.

    RPGs were very clearly the province of my fellow nerds and outcasts in that time and place. I might've thought some of those guys were cool but, in my high school, at my college, this was not a hobby you advertised. By the time I was out of high school I felt pretty done with it.

    Years and years later, 2006, I was in a position to go to Gen Con and decided to see if I could find copies of my long-gone Chaosium and etc. books. Pickings were slim, but that experience led to finding things like LotFP, Labyrinth Lord, and Swords and Wizardry a couple years later. If not for the killer Pete Mullen art on a few of those I'm not sure I would've taken the bait but, I loved that look and wanted to check this material out for myself.

    Since then I've bought far more books than I've ever played in games (or likely ever will play). I like a lot of the art, I admire the secondary worlds. I hung out on Google Plus some but not enough to form opinions on fellow participants. (I've no clue who the Candyman is, for example, though subsequently became aware of 'Zak Sexman'.)

    Now here in 2021, I still am a sucker for hype and like to check out select new RPG stuff that seems interesting to me, that has art I really like (most recently Black Pudding scratched that itch), and sometimes that I just see people praising.

    This leads to my lurking around RPG Twitter, which invariably features spectacles such as some 20 year old thumping his chest and braying about how he and his friends are the true and real OSR and fuck those other guys - the ones who, as you say, kept the flame of the hobby alive for so long. People who allegedly prize inclusion as their chief value go out of their way to dump on the same crowd I saw dumped on back in the 1980s: socially awkward guys who show insufficient enthusiasm for conformity of behavior and opinion. I don't think Nazis enters into it; who likes Nazis?

    Selective empathy isn't really empathy at all. Being aware of one's own Defensive Posture and costs associated with it - and not solely the costs to one's self - is admirable and I thank you for raising and expressing that concern so well. It would be nice to see some enhanced awareness on the part of the new occupants of the OSR clubhouse, such as it is, many of whom clearly can't see the former occupants exiled and unpersoned quickly enough.

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  14. Nice post, Appreciate your thoughts as always. Thanks

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  15. Honestly at first I thought I'd think less of you, noism, when going into this post a few days ago but seeing the replies here I see you are quite honest about trying to be the better man taking a middle road. Maybe if more people had the courage, decency and honesty to do that instead of falling for the mob a decade or two ago I wouldn't have ended the way I am today.

    Instead every attack, every insult, every time I was shut down just kept pushing me further down some rabbit holes I'm not proud of having dug into. People don't seem to realize 'radicalization' is a two way street. The more they push one direction, the more people end up falling the other way.

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  16. Oh ffs. Why did everybody latch on to your (very uncharitable) interpretation of Siews talk of "alt-right-leaning white dudes", when the rest of the blog post was perfectly reasonable.

    None of Siews detractors in the comments section seem to have clicked through to read his blogpost either.

    I think you do him a disservice by ending your quote where you did and not including the very next paragraph:

    "The latter aspect made me feel welcomed. My work – entirely informed by my SEA context, as it’s always been – got attention based on its merit, not its topicality."

    I regularly read your blog, but the free for all character assassination of another of my favourite OSR creators going on in your comments section might actually put me off it. It's just depressing.

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    1. Fair enough. I hope you also saw my comment specifically saying that this was not about assassinating the character of Zedeck Siew and I'd be deleting further comments about him?

      I know very well what it is like to have one's blog posts uncharitably misinterpreted. I'm not sure what's uncharitable about saying it isn't acceptable to racialise a criticism of somebody. That's the only point I wanted to make.

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    2. Ironically, in a post about people getting trigger happily defensive, it was Siew's observation that many of the grouchy old racists and homophobes were white that seems to have triggered everyone here. It's an exemplary case of how fragile these dudes are when you bring up race, and how little they have to think about it on a daily basis. Very depressing, and very sad.

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    3. You couldn't have made the point more perfectly, really. No matter how unfair and unjust the accusation, you have to accept it, because the moment you object (or even try to suggest there is an iota of nuance or complexity to human affairs) you are displaying 'fragility'. It amazes me that people fall for that logic, but they obviously do, and in that respect there is a kind of genius to it. It is impregnable to reason.

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  17. Fantastic post! If you accept that nerds saw themselves as an oppressed minority, you can see this (and similar examples in popular culture, be it comics, Star Trek or whatever) as a case of cultural appropriation and a reaction against it. Note that you don't have to agree with this vision, just contemplate it.

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  18. Re Defensive Posture: I was there when the Online OSR formed, as a roadie, a bystander, and very minor contributor. But I have NOT seen what you describe. The old-school folks were VERY welcoming to latecomers and friendliness and a lad-back attitude was the rule of the day. 4e brought venom into online discussions, as did reactions to Zak (YDIS etc.) But that is all form the younger and later arrivals. At the time the tru battleLines were Forgers vs the Rest and WoD-people invading and posturing as D&D people. I cannot corroborate anyhting re DEfPosture you are describing. And the Gene Weigel sideswipe...well, the "human torch" was doing his thing right when the first Cook-Basic set came out. And never was he a gatekeeper, quite literally had an open house and table for everyone, as long as it was 1e. I was not on Google+, but that started only in 2011.

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  19. Being bullied for your nerdish pursuits and still pursuing them is a shockingly little-known phenomenon called "buy-in." Some people have it, and others don't. Those things we get too cheaply, we esteem too lightly, or however that old quote goes.

    The upside of the Defensive Posture is that it adds friction. Friction is absolutely necessary in any scene. Unless of course you want it invaded by masses of clueless rubes and the fevered egos who will manipulate & profit from them, and then move on leaving only the shrivelled husk of what you once loved, now drained of all vital fluids.

    Sound at all familiar?

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  20. The temerity of a hobby having a culture and standard arising naturally from interactions between its members not being acclimated too the late-to-the-party illiterate hipsters that flock to it once they can wrest a mileage of social credit and capitol from it.

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