For Free Speech, Against Racist Publications.

The same could be applied to someone in the RPG industry who have hardcore racist opinions. Sounds crazy, but think about it. Create it, print it, and distribute it among the “we-hate-everybody club” meeting. That’s perfectly legal, Constitutional, and I’d even say reasonable. (Again, assuming it doesn’t espouse violence against anyone or any specific group.)


I would argue the two are not mutually exclusive.

In light of recent events in the Role Playing Game industry, I feel the need to clarify some things. I’ve recently spoken out against what appears to be an overtly racist publication. Whose job is it to police such publications? Where does “Cancel Culture” fit into all of this? What does it mean to be an “Old Grognard” in relation to all of this?

It so happens I have a print media journalism background. I absolutely, positively LOVE the Constitution of the United States, specifically The Bill of Rights. I’m a huge fan of that whole First Amendment.

Constitution of the United States. First Amendment.

We might not like “hate speech,” but…

It’s a slippery slope. If the Supreme Court were to rule something to be considered “Hate Speech,” and said speech warrants government interdiction, our country is going to get ugly in a hurry. Well, if “X” is considered hateful, then why not “Y and Z?” Historically, the Supreme Court has been very hesitant to go anywhere near this issue.

What it basically means to any publisher of any document or broadcast, is it might be legal to say it, but that doesn’t mean one should say it. There have been certain exceptions to the First Amendment over the years. The age old example of yelling “Fire” in a crowded movie theater comes to mind. Anything involving child porn would be another example.

A more awkward position than playing Twister with a giant octopus.

I might not like when people spew ageist, ableist, racist, transphobic, homophobic crap in their publication. But, as much as I might hate it, I’ll still defend their right to say it all day. However, I’ll also defend those who would shout it down just as vehemently, maybe more so.

You might not like what I have to say. I get it. But I’ll still respect your right to say it. We can’t have the government stepping in every time someone takes offense to another’s print statements. This country would have never made it this far if one ruling party could put the smackdown on something they find disagreeable.

But we live in the age of social media.

If you ever think no one cares about your social media posts? Try saying something half your friends are going to disagree with. It can be the smallest most innocuous thing.

“Chocolate is the bestest flavor evity-ever!”

Watch twenty people out of hundreds become very vocal about vanilla, strawberry or butterscotch.

“What about mint?” because there’s always some troll that doesn’t even follow you normally that has to chime in.

Where it gets sticky fast is when the people running the platform get involved. For example, my wife recently commented on a senator’s post on Facebook and then got hit with a 24 hour ban for allegedly violating the Terms of Service. They couldn’t tell us which rule, but she was banned anyway. She didn’t espouse anything violent or immoral. All she did was disagree with someone. (*Eighteen hours later, her comment was restored on review.)

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you did. If you get reported, the automatic ban for review can be bad enough. The point is, you have the right to free speech as long as you are using your own platform. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc are all platforms. When one signs up for a platform, they agree to the terms of service. Shockingly, the same thing technically applies to Internet Providers and Web Hosts. If they take offense to someone’s site and their TOS says they can ban it? The whole site can be taken down.

Self censorship is the best way to go.

TVs can be turned off. Phones can have apps uninstalled. If there’s something you don’t want to hear? You can ignore it. I’ve been ignoring the mainstream news for years. It’s easy. Living off-grid is not unreasonable sometimes.

For example, if I belonged to a club that exclusively talked about one specific type of flower and I knew all of my friends and family have heard absolutely enough about this orchid, I might create and print a specific newsletter and email/snail mail it out to the fan club. This is more discretion than censorship.

The same could be applied to someone in the RPG industry who have hardcore racist opinions. Sounds crazy, but think about it. Create it, print it, and distribute it among the “we-hate-everybody club” meeting. That’s perfectly legal, Constitutional, and I’d even say reasonable. (Again, assuming it doesn’t espouse violence against anyone or any specific group.)

Where it gets really ugly is when someone tries to sell something that includes hate speech. First, who’s going to want to buy that? Second, how many people are going to call someone out on social media for doing that? No major publisher online or elsewhere in their right minds is going to take a chance on that because they’re afraid of losing other paid clients and customers.

Cancel Culture is kind of a misnomer.

It’s actually a subculture last I checked. I would argue anthropologically that it’s a subculture containing members of the Internet, political, media, and business communities. I would argue the majority of people at a local or even national level might not entirely agree on what to cancel or why.

This again seems to be a phenomenon that centers widely on social media. One person decides someone is a bigot so now all of their “true” friends must ostracize, block, and ignore this person. Sometimes it’s well meant and legitimate. Other times, maybe it’s personal or political. Personally, I check people over if someone says, “Hey. Unfollow this person.”

Admittedly, my friend is usually right. If I dig into a person that has been accused of being a bigot, I find the evidence that makes me wonder why the heck I ever followed that person to begin with. I recently went through and cleaned out my Twitter list when I found a lot of people I followed when I was new on the platform and looking for friends. Oops.

Not everyone looks into the accusation as well as I do. Sometimes someone gets shunned by an entire community for making one or two offhanded, untoward comments. Sometimes people end up backing a loser and become guilty by association. I’ve seen it happen on Twitter. Not everyone exercises discernment the same way.

On the other hand, if someone does prove they are a card-carrying Nazi? Well, they’ll retain their like-minded friends. That’s on them. I’m a fan of unfollow, block and in many cases reporting racist statements. Most social media platforms don’t tolerate that sort of thing.

Another example is if someone is outed as being physically or sexually abusive toward women in the RPG community. Word gets around freakin fast. I can’t get into specifics (sorry,) but I have seen it happen on Twitter. The “alleged” abuser was pretty much gone from the platform within 24 hours of his misconduct being reported by multiple former female players in his group. The moral of the story is: be nice or be gone.

The “Old Grognards” are beginning to police themselves.

This is a sticky subject for me as I kinda fall into this particular subculture of the RPG community. A lot of us OGs have a bad reputation for being old fashioned, bitter, gatekeeper types and very unaccepting of anything new. It’s make life hard on people who don’t generally deal well with changes in their society and its overall culture.

I’ve heard well-known, long time gaming celebrities basically admit to being racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, and sexist. For crying out loud, the 1980’s are gone! Let them be gone. We don’t have to think like that any more. OR, if that’s too much to handle- stay in your basement with your same, likeminded, narrow minded little group that probably hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

If we’re talking about people who don’t accept change well, or at all for that matter, why would they want to run games in public? Again, I say you can tell your views on the real world all day. Just remember, the venue you’re in may have rules against racist, anti-LGBTQIA++, and other such speech. They can ask you to kindly pack up, leave, and never return.

Personally, I welcome the opportunity to engage in conversations about RPGs with just about anyone genuinely concerned with the topic. We can talk new editions, older editions, indie games, mainstream games, or even house rules. I love roleplaying. As long as I’ve got time to spare, we’re good. What I won’t put up with is people who hate.

This all comes back around to the notion that if one wants to hate, that’s on them. Keep it in their own little groups with their like minded friends. Great. Just keep it away from the rest of us who don’t appreciate that crap.

People can change.

I used to say some things that I regret now. My opinions have even changed a lot over the last six months or so when it comes to gaming. My opinions of people have changed a lot over the last six or seven years for the better. I’ve even become more accepting of opinions differing from my own.

I’m more than happy to give people second chances most of the time. I still have my limits. But if they can demonstrate and continue to demonstrate new behavior, then welcome back. Carry on.

I still steadfastly denounce those wishing to harm others, especially children. The same can be said about people who are intolerant based on race, sex, gender identity, age, ability, and so on. I firmly believe we weren’t put on this planet to hate and hurt one another. We’re here to learn and maybe find joy before we move on.

Everyone in the US is free to speak their opinion out loud. But, any given platform can drop the ban hammer. The lesson here is: be careful what you say because your audience is listening!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you! More tomorrow.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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