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Author Topic: The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies  (Read 7634 times)

JimLotFP

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The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies
« Reply #30 on: May 19, 2008, 10:05:54 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
I think that's a legitimate point, and part of the reason why I found the articles on psychopaths was trying to understand how and why a person can be casually evil so I could better emulate it in my games.  But I think the level of identification is often different.  I don't build villains in my game hoping that they'll win or to share their joy if they succeed the way I might for a PC or a good guy NPC.  And when I've created characters with moral flaws (e.g., bigotry), it's generally to have the character grow beyond it during play or to let it play out as a tragedy, not to cheer it on.


Fair enough. What do you think of the television show Dexter? And what do you think of its fans?

John Morrow

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« Reply #31 on: May 19, 2008, 10:15:18 am »
Quote from: JimLotFP
Fair enough. What do you think of the television show Dexter? And what do you think of its fans?


I don't know enough about it to comment in any detail but the summary I found suggest that it's about a psychopath who kills bad guys and seems to have at least some attachment to his family to humanize him.  It basically sounds like they humanized him and made him just enough of a good guy to turn it into, as I describe, a fantasy "about killing the bad guys to stop them from doing horrible things to good people" rather than being a bad guy doing horrible things to good people.  So let me toss this back at you.  How do you think the show would fare if Dexter were a serial killer preying on innocent people and getting away with it, leaving a trail if corpses as he travels the country?  What would you think of fans of such a hypothetical series?
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The Social Acceptability of Shocking Fantasies
« Reply #32 on: May 19, 2008, 10:41:18 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
There are numerous articles out there on psychopaths and law enforcement.  If you are still involved in law enforcement, you should probably take a look at them.


I think I'm pretty well versed on the subject-I'm not claiming to be the Stephen Hawkings of Psychology here, but I read professional literature at a reasonable rate, receive regular updates in training, etc...and pretty much everyone I've dealt with, who trains, agrees. There is no one magic formula for pyschopath. Sure you can identify common elements of criminals-lack of education, families that were broken or dysfunctional, etc...but not all of those indicators always means a person will end up in jail or prison.

For instance in Michigan most prisoners have an education level of eight grade or less, but not everyone with an eight grade education or less is a prisoner.

 
Quote
I think many people would like to draw the line at when something causes actual harm to another person, and that makes a certain amount of sense.


While I agree that is where most people would draw the line, just so we know that is not where I draw the line. I do not assume all violence is bad-but I get what you're saying here, so I'll move on.


Quote
The reason why I brought up drunk driving is that it illustrates why society might want to do something before someone actually gets hurt.  I think there is a valid interest in preventing people from hurting other people rather than punishing them after the fact.  But of course that has to be balanced against other interests, with anarchy at one end of the spectrum and Big Brother at the other.  Somewhere between those extremes, we need to sort out a reasonable balance.


I agree, I just think we'd draw the lines in different places.

Serious Paul

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« Reply #33 on: May 19, 2008, 10:46:14 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
So let me toss this back at you.  How do you think the show would fare if Dexter were a serial killer preying on innocent people and getting away with it, leaving a trail if corpses as he travels the country?  What would you think of fans of such a hypothetical series?


I'd potentially enjoy watching it. The subject matter doesn't make me shy away. However until I saw this I couldn't say for sure whether I'd enjoy it, or not. But for me I am less worried about the violence displayed on Dexter-which is actually not too bad compared to some of the stuff you can get in a rap video, let alone a movie-and more concerned about a tale of a socially disconnected individual.

TonyLB

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« Reply #34 on: May 19, 2008, 10:56:43 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
Do you think a boss can react by firing an employee for fantasizing about killing them or having sex with them and then sharing it with co-workers?  If so, isn't that fairly punitive?  Would it be OK for them to get a restraining order?  How about filing harassment charges in court?
There's a whole field of law about this, which mostly boils down to "Can these words do real harm to someone's ability to work there."  Words, themselves, can definitely do harm and when that's the case then that's pretty well where freedom of speech is curtailed.  But, of course, you can't just pick a topic and say "Discussing this, no matter the context, will always cause harm."  If I were to discuss (oh, heck, to pick an example) violent fantasies that I've had, in a fairly anonymous setting like this, without mentioning any information that could cause anyone to be afraid in the real world, there's zero chance of my words doing harm to anyone.  Yes?

Quote from: John Morrow
I'm looking for some detail on what you consider a legitimate response vs. an illegitimate response.
John, I think you're using the term "legitimate" here in a way that tends to conflate two concepts:
  • Legitimate response:  I do X, you respond in way Y ... Y is a legitimate response if it's not, like, crazy or unethical.  I can say "Let's go for ice cream" and you can respond "Oh, so you think I'm fat, is that it?" and that's a legitimate response (though barely).  Responding by punching me in the face is not.
  • Legitimate opinion:  I do X, you form opinion Y about me ... Y is a legitimate opinion if it is a reasonable thing to think.  Note that whether something is a legitimate opinion is, of course, subjective.  You may think your opinion is legitimate, while I think it's hogwash.
So:  Examples (since you've asked for details)

  • #1:  Employee discusses violent fantasies, even when people say "Gross, stop it!"  Boss decides he's a bad egg, and starts giving him crap assignments.  Clearly a legitimate response (assignments being within his purview), also clearly a legitimate opinion (at the least, the employee is disrupting the workplace).
  • #2:  Employee discusses violent fantasies while drunk at the office christmas party ("Break his head open like a ... hic! ... cantaloupe!  That's what I oughta do!  Heh ... I gotta go pee").  Boss decides that she's a psychopath, installs an elaborate security system at his house and buys several guns for home defense.  Clearly a legitimate response (he can protect himself however he wants) almost certainly not a legitimate opinion (she was plastered, in the best tradition of the season ... doesn't mean she's gonna puree his pet bunny).
  • #3:  Employee discusses his political convictions.  Boss decides that the guy's not in the same political party as him, and fires him.  Clearly not a legitimate response.  Clearly a legitimate opinion.
  • #4:  Employee, when asked, reluctantly discloses violent incidents from his past as a veteran.  Boss decides that the guy's going to go postal and fires him.  Neither a legitimate response nor a legitimate opinion.
You get how the word "legitimate" can be confusing here?  I don't think anyone has proposed that saying "Wow, that's morally reprehensible!" is not a legitimate response.  You can say and think what you want, so long as saying it doesn't harm anyone.  It's just that many people are going to take issue with whether you have a legitimate opinion.  Make sense?

Quote from: John Morrow
Well, that's the edge I want to explore -- why people react to certain ideas as moral wrongs and whether that's legitimate or not.
Well, you need some better words then.  Your arguments about "Reacting negatively to these things is a survival mechanism" are good for showing how it's a legitimate response, but very poor for showing that it's a legitimate opinion.  Reacting negatively to people of different skin colors is an evolutionarily reinforced survival mechanism, but that doesn't mean that racists have a legitimate opinion, right?

Quote from: John Morrow
I think there are legitimate reasons why large numbers of people react to certain ideas and fantasies as moral wrongs and I think there are legitimate reasons for that reaction.
The ideas themselves, absent any particular context of them being harmfully disclosed?  Legitimate response, not a legitimate opinion.

Quote from: John Morrow
And the question of what happens when a human being lacks that visceral moral response is not merely academic.
"If you don't find this disgusting then you might well be dangerous, and something should be done about you."

I find that line of reasoning disgusting.  The fact that you don't worries me.  There is a pretty big part of me that, based on your inability to see how appalling what you're saying is, wants to write you off as a bad person.

But I recognize that as a legitimate response which is not a legitimate opinion.  I don't feel ashamed of thinking it, but I also know that it's not reality, it's just my visceral reaction.  I balance it with my deep commitment to letting people speak their minds especially when I disagree with them.  I rationally analyze:  Is John actually going to cause harm to anyone by discussing this on a forum?  Clearly not.  And, despite my visceral reaction, I whole-heartedly support you in expressing your opinions, while simultaneously explaining how I disagree.

You see how that works?

Quote from: John Morrow
And once we get past simplistic statements of principle to the more pragmatic issue of how we separate the dead baby jokes from sexual harassment, then I think we can have a discussion about what the real principles at work are.
"Is harm done?"  For my money, that's the principle.  Sexual harassment is controlled when it provably harms someone's ability to do their work and earn a living.  That's real harm, done by words.

It is virtually impossible for one person to harm another by posting something on an RPG forum on the internet.  I mean ... really.  It's been tried, in just about every conceivable variation.

Given that, I don't think there's much that should be controlled here.  You?

Quote from: John Morrow
And for all the talk about free speech absolutism on the Internet, there are plenty of limits on it in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere that few people seem very interested in.
I suspect that people are more absolutist about free speech on the Internet because there is so much smaller risk of words on the internet doing harm than words face-to-face.  Context is king.
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JimLotFP

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« Reply #35 on: May 19, 2008, 11:22:16 am »
Quote from: John Morrow
And for all the talk about free speech absolutism on the Internet, there are plenty of limits on it in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere that few people seem very interested in.  Look at the case of Oriana Fallaci in Italy, France, and Switzerland or Mark Steyn in Canada, for example.  Or if you want someone less defensible, how about British historian David Irving being arrested in Austria, where it's illegal to deny the Holocaust or glorify and identify with the German Nazi Party?  Why do the Austrians (among others) feel it's necessary to make Holocaust denial a crime?  How exactly did the Nazis win elections and take control of Germany?  Godwin aside, I think that's a legitimate issue when discussing free speech.


I think all of these examples are disgusting. As in, these people should be free to say and publish what they'd like, as racist or revisionist as they'd like, with no civil or criminal penalties whatsoever.

gleichman

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« Reply #36 on: May 19, 2008, 11:51:03 am »
Just read the first page before posting this, so it may be outdated. I'll side with John Morrow on this subject.

I've watched debates like this evolve. Back a mere decade ago on rpg.net, it would be between one or two lone trolls saying rape is cool in rpgs against the entire board telling them they were asshats.

Today, we're seeing at best a near even numeric match. Often, even reversed. That same decade saw torture porn go from a cult following on video shelves to significant main-stream earnings at the local theater.

When the acceptable fantasies of culture changes to such an extent, one can only wonder what impact it will have on the culture as a whole.

It may not be the obvious one. Rather than growing a generation prone to mindless violence and other evils, it may instead grow a generation unable to defend themselves- as they view anything as acceptable.




Quote from: Elliot Wilen
So far I see three possibilities.

1) It's entirely an issue of what I like, and I don't really care about the offensiveness issue at all.

2) It's a question of good art justifying the offensiveness in some way. As if Very Bad Things would annoy me less if it was just a bad movie instead of a bad movie that revels in grossness.

3) It's a question of honesty vs. self-indulgent hypocrisy. Then again the honesty I'd expect to find in RaHoWa isn't something I'd enjoy. Truth be told I can't help but read the grosser underground comics, or Troma films, as basically self-parodying. So maybe it's "good" irony vs. "bad" earnestness that turns me off.


All those are rather negative self-judgements...


There's a fourth possibility, somewhat related to the second.

You live in a culture where there is growing acceptance of amoral activities, you post on boards with the same growing acceptance. You're left with either joining or becoming an ever more excluded outsider.

You still object at your core, but can give in with the flow and join your peers when it's presented with enough of an 'art' covering that you feel you can justify your approval.
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Serious Paul

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« Reply #37 on: May 19, 2008, 12:41:31 pm »
I don't think-and maybe I'm wrong-anyone here is advocating torture porn, or rape as fun activities, that are wholesome and enjoyable.

I do think some of us are saying that discussing rape (Or other adult topics of a serious nature.), whether it be a serious discussion (Like formal debates, and in many books.) or perhaps less serious mediums like South Park or the Boondocks (Which tackle issues like racism, sexuality, and more with a lighter tone.) should be allowed. Stifling free discussion doesn't necessarily equate to a better society. (I've never seen a law that stifles free speech that's made things better. Held the status quo?...Maybe. And even that's arguable.)

I'm not saying that John Morrow's, or even gleichman's morality is wrong-that's not my place. I am saying that there is no reason why we can't exist side by side, with out having to force our own morality on each other. Yes, that means occasionally we'll have to compromise.

But as I understand, society is built on compromise right? But numbers don't equate to righteousness to me, so I don't care if everyone else is a christian, or muslim, or whatever-that doesn't mean I have to follow suit. It does mean when dealing with them I have to understand where they are coming form (Or at least if I want to have a relationship with them that doesn't always end up in bottle throwing, and moltov cocktails anyways.)

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« Reply #38 on: May 19, 2008, 01:33:27 pm »
People have an inalienable right to express their views, that's liberty.

People have a right to their own life.

People also have the right to do what they want with the private media they own, that's property (a.k.a. "the pursuit of happiness").

Thus, your right to say whatever the fuck you like extends as far as where you don't directly create physical harm, and up to the limit of what the owner of the media property wishes to allow you to say.

In a public venue, aside from the whole issue of "immediate harm", you can say whatever you want.  In, say, a website that is owned by someone (like this website, owned by me) the property owner has a right to limit speech as much or as little as he wants.

Are some views morally repugnant? Yes
Aside from the right of a property owner to limit speech within his property as much or as little as he likes, should people have a right to voice morally repugnant views? Yes.

The appropriate response here is to ostracize these people, to use property rights to trump their free speech so they don't, for example, ruin a perfectly good hobby.

Its not, however, to lock up these people for what they say; as some on this thread appear to be suggesting.

I'd suggest that not being able to understand why people would hold such a strong view of freedom of speech, or why people wouldn't care for the idea of having to somehow "get rid of" people on the basis of what they say alone, might itself be a sign of psychopathy.

Also, the argument that you are somehow justified in favoring the denial of free speech because you are trying to save western civilization from decadence is absurd. You cannot save western civilization by turning against one of its most fundamental values.
If the inculcation of moral values and civic virtues, and education, are not enough to keep western civilization from collapsing, then its doomed anyways. Whether it ends up being doomed by falling into hedonistic decadence and burying itself in its own filth, or doomed because people claiming to be its defenders end up stripping it of all the freedoms that make western civilization worth defending, turning it into despotism, is pretty fucking irrelevant.

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JimLotFP

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« Reply #39 on: May 19, 2008, 01:39:06 pm »
Quote from: RPGPundit
The appropriate response here is to ostracize these people, to use property rights to trump their free speech so they don't, for example, ruin a perfectly good hobby.


This, and your entire post, sounds great to me.

gleichman

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« Reply #40 on: May 19, 2008, 03:13:53 pm »
Quote from: Serious Paul
Stifling free discussion doesn't necessarily equate to a better society.


In that statement is found huge confusion, as is often the case in these threads.

Free discussion wasn't part of this thread to my knowledge. I know of no one asking for the repeal of the first amendment. Indeed, if anyone has asked for such a thing- it is those who wish the end of public criticisms of amoral games and entertainment.

What I'm speaking of here isn't a legal standard that would toss you into jail. It is rather the cultural refusal to reject and stigmatize those who partake and project such muck. These are two very different things.

It healthy for a culture to in general reject legal constrains upon free expression.

It is also healthy for a culture to reject socially certain types of free expression. And to see that some free expressions are by nature restrainable in specific even when one values the general.
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« Reply #41 on: May 19, 2008, 03:29:20 pm »
Quote from: gleichman
In that statement is found huge confusion, as is often the case in these threads.


I apologize for the confusion, or at least my part in it. I saw your posts, and John Morrows as implying that one of the things to get to this society that rejects "muck" was limits on free speech. I saw these limits as being more constraining than the ones I'd find acceptable. (Notice that I am fine with some limits-reality is that we'll never live in a society responsible enough to have no limits.)

Quote
Free discussion wasn't part of this thread to my knowledge.


I think it is and has to be. It is essential to the core issues being discussed here.

Quote
I know of no one asking for the repeal of the first amendment.


Agreed, in that in this thread no has called for something like that.

Quote
Indeed, if anyone has asked for such a thing- it is those who wish the end of public criticisms of amoral games and entertainment.


I find this hard to believe, but maybe you see news I don't-and even if some knuckle head is doing this, neither of us are taking them seriously.

Quote
What I'm speaking of here isn't a legal standard that would toss you into jail. It is rather the cultural refusal to reject and stigmatize those who partake and project such muck. These are two very different things.

It healthy for a culture to in general reject legal constrains upon free expression.

It is also healthy for a culture to reject socially certain types of free expression. And to see that some free expressions are by nature restrainable in specific even when one values the general.



I agree with you here. As someone who works in law enforcement I see a lot of this sort of thing. people who are afraid to stand up for what they believe in, and the results end up being tragic, and comic. (In the blackest sense of humor.)

I don't expect everyone to tolerate what I do. Or how I do it. That's a reality of living in the civilized world. I do think sometimes we inflate things that just aren't as dangerous as we think them to be, and we often end up glorifying something that should be marginalized, at best.

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« Reply #42 on: May 19, 2008, 04:57:04 pm »
I just want to say that if gleichman ostracises me I will accept my punishment with grace.
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« Reply #43 on: May 19, 2008, 05:10:04 pm »
The title of this thread is misleading. What Morrow is most fixated on, if I read him correctly, is not the acceptability of transgressive fantasy, but the defense of it over valid criticism of it's transgressive nature.

I don't mind, for one, if its socially acceptable to fantasize about neckraping cabin boys or not.  I DO mind when its not acceptable for me to point to said fantasizer and call them a sick fuck, and use said fantasies as a reason not to leave my cabin boys under the supervision of said fantasizer.

Transgressive fantasy does not deserve a free pass on critizism, perhaps even less so than conventional fantasizing.  I mean, its perfectly acceptable to dismiss or deride the Narnia books as blatent parable moralizing and somewhat boring. Its perfectly persmisable to dismiss The Golden Compass as blatant atheistic propaganda and bitterly cynical and unappatizing.

Why the fuck does neck raping cabin boys get a free pass as 'Art' or what have you?



Now that I've said that, however: While I'd appreciate you keeping your neck raping cabin boy fantasies to yourselves, I don't think I have any right to suggest you not have them, or even share them for whatever reason.  That appears to be my point of departure from John's general theme.
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« Reply #44 on: May 19, 2008, 05:27:26 pm »
Quote from: gleichman
What I'm speaking of here isn't a legal standard that would toss you into jail. It is rather the cultural refusal to reject and stigmatize those who partake and project such muck.

I cannot speak to the rights of cultures, but all individuals within a culture, I believe, have the right to reject any value whatsoever. We buy that right with tolerance: you tolerate my muck, I tolerate yours. Whether or not you and I have the right to "stigmatize" each other depends on your definition, of course, of stigmatize, and the rights we've agreed on as a society.
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