As a game developer, as a gamer, as person who has empathy for my fellow humans, I certainly cannot condone such behavior, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with someone's actions. If someone is wrong, you can disagree with them civilly. If someone isn't living up to your moral standards, you can tut-tut them without threatening their person. And if someone is being a jack-ass, you can call them out on it.
Once you've resorted to insults, death threats, or anything of the like, you've signaled that you have nothing more to add to your argument. An old lawyer adage goes:
"If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table."What you're doing when you resort to insults is pounding the table. Making lots of noise in the hopes that the loudest argument wins. You're effectively conceding the argument.
Recently on my Facebook feed there was a discussion about people being jerks. My comment touched upon the idea that ideally someone would be socially castrated in the case where they were acting poorly, and I was called out for it: that we shouldn't be focused on the negative aspects. That social justice shouldn't be used as an attack.
And to an extent, I agree. I dislike the use of "privilege" as a way to shut down conversation, largely because it dilutes the actual meaning of the term and weakens the argument as a whole. The term has a very specific meaning, and is useful in conversation as a way to encapsulate a concept such that you don't need to spew a whole allegory about bicyclists in a car-based society every time you want to talk about it.
But that's not what I meant when I said "socially castrated". Society as an aggregate has a set of social mores (pronounced mawr-eyz) and norms. As something becomes more or less acceptable to society as a whole, members of that society enforce those mores and norms by punishing deviants within said society.
For example, currently, for better or ill, the idea of nudity in media is far worse to those in North American society than violence in media. When television shows breach that social contract, people decry the show and people involved, and in some cases they're even fined (based on the laws created by that society). Whether you agree with it or not personally is largely irrelevant, as it's about the populace in aggregate.
However, individuals in a populace can come together to create movements to change what the social contracts are. And that's where "social justice" comes into play. As more and more people speak up, the needle of culture shifts what is acceptable and what is taboo. Once that shift has gone far enough, society does the rest by tut-tutting those who break that social contract and laws are enacted (or repealed) to solidify said contract.
That's why it's important for as many people to speak up and speak against things like misogyny, bigotry, homophobia, and general jack-ass behavior. The more people speak up, the less acceptable it will become to espouse those ideals.
In before someone complains about censorship, you can still espouse those views, but it doesn't mean you're free from other people judging those views. No law is preventing grandpa today from saying something derogatory about black people, but you would still react and say, "Grandpa, you can't just say that!"
The Silent Majority
On the other hand, not all people will or can speak up. Many don't even know the conversation is occurring (like my Facebook feed), some don't have particularly strong opinions one way or the other, or someone can feel threatened, concerned that if they speak up they will be attacked in some manner: social castration in action.
Story time: when I first moved to the US from Canada, just over seven years ago, I was both really excited and very worried. I was going to the land of opportunity to make pretty much double to triple of what I could ever earn in Canada, but I was also going from a country that had anti-discrimination laws for sexuality and gay marriage to a country that was in the throes of banning gay marriage entirely and had anti-sodomy laws until 2003. Being a second-class citizen because of who I am was a pretty scary idea (as opposed to being a second-class citizen due to immigration laws, but that's something everyone moving to another country generally experiences due to protectionism).
The first few weeks of my job went by, and I started to get into the groove of being in a new country with new coworkers. Then, during an event I said something, probably with a lilt to it, and one of my coworkers responded with, "Could you be a little more straight?"
I was floored. A causally homophobic comment slung in my direction that made me feel unwanted, like complete, utter shit because the implication was that being gay was bad. I didn't have any clue what to do. I didn't understand at the time how the HR policies worked, or even if I did, I didn't know how strictly they'd be enforced. I had just pulled up everything that I owned and knew and wasn't sure if I reported this if I would get fired or embroiled in a conflict that would end with my dismissal, and my dismissal would end up with me being deported back to Canada.
So I stayed silent. I withdrew. I certainly stopped dealing with this person, and to this day anytime I see them it completely ruins my day. Note that I don't work for that employer anymore, but later during said employment I learned that HR totally would've backed me up on it. But I didn't know at the time.
The silent majority isn't tacit approval of one thing or another. The silent majority is just that: silent. Sitting on the wayside and not actively participating in the cultural war for what could be any number of good, bad, or neutral reasons.
On the other hand, the silent majority is perpetuating the status quo. Change doesn't occur in a vacuum. It requires an impetus; if you're not making waves, you're not causing change. So anytime you don't speak up against opinions that are damaging, you're allowing that, whether you like it or not. So by not speaking up against that coworker, either in person or via HR, I was allowing myself to be dehumanized, and other coworkers, too.
At the time, it felt like the right decision, the safe decision. If the same thing were to occur today, I'd denounce them in a heartbeat. It helps that I'm far more confident in who I am as a person, as well as my abilities. Being an awesome software developer with a lot of excellent experience under my belt has freed me to an extent to go against the grain of popular if insular opinion, because even if I were to get fired for it, finding another job in the industry wouldn't be terribly difficult for me. But not everyone has that luxury.
Make no mistake, culture is constantly changing, constantly in a war of differing opinions. From nudity, to violence, to television, to comic books, to video games, to women's suffrage, to African-American civil rights, to LGBT rights, to radio, to women showing some ankle, to eugenics, to language, to cars, to factories, to labour movements and unions, and so on. The list is endless.
And the list is different depending on geography. Australia has different notions of sensibility from the United States, Uganda has different ideals than Canada. Even within the European Union, many countries have extremely different notions. Rural cities versus urban population centers often show radical differences of opinion.
The Internet has had an interesting effect on culture; a globalization of opinion, a community or society separate from the real world that is often seen as a monolithic entity. While it reflects the real world to an extent, the melting pot of cultures that make up the online world means there's a lot of friction because geography has been removed. But at the same time, it's still our community, our world. And it's at the center of today's cultural revolution.
Waves are being made in all directions, and while I'm loathe to admit it, sometimes the loudest argument truly does win, at least for a little bit. Pounding the table does work on occasion. But the more people see that concepts of misogyny, homophobia, bigotry, and the like are unacceptable and dehumanizing, the more people will begin to denounce them publically.
There'll always be a contingent of sociopaths who, regardless of what side they sit on, you'll never convince one way or another, and they'll toss death threats and violence, verbal or physical, at people they disagree with. If possible, don't waste your energy on convincing them. Denounce them, show other people why what they're doing is damaging. But you'll never turn their opinion.
It's the silent majority that you need to get on your side. Convince them that being silent is the wrong thing to do. Appeal to their empathy to show them that we're all just people, and that everyone should be safe in their person. History shows, via Woman's Suffrage, the African-American Civil Rights movement, and LGBT rights in some countries (and ongoing today in the US), that this is how (relatively) peaceful cultural change occurs.
And if you're in the silent majority but don't condone this behavior? Please speak up, if you can! Every voice helps, no matter how small. As I mentioned above, not every can or is in a position to do so. But if you're able? Go for it! The more, the merrier.
It's an incredibly slow and frustrating process. I think we're going to see it get worse before it gets better. But history ultimately is on the side of empathy, not dehumanization, as long as people speak up and speak out.