Tag Archives: tribes

Twitter Accused of Harassment

Can a social media company survive this kind of mistrust on the part of its user base? I thought complaining about being harassed by @Twitter would be a delicious but forgettable bit of satire but I seem to have struck a nerve:

Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 6.49.43 PM

Twitter is facing a problem of low level tribal warfare in their kingdom and seems to be choosing the regrettably common response of genociding the unpopular tribe.

Where are our UN blue helmets? Can a brother get a humanitarian airstrike up in here?

I decided that @Twitter‘s ongoing harassment might make me some easy victim dollars, but my Patreon doesn’t seem to be collecting any sympathy bucks. I have my suspicions why.

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Three Modern Grassroots Rebellions

In my last post, I proposed that the Grey Tribe is an American culture distinct from the Red and Blue tribes most commonly discussed.

Greys are a libertarian-minded tribe of live-and-let-livers. They tend to dwell online, often adopting shifting pseudonyms and communicating with each other on forums and anonymous imageboards. Amongst the Grey Tribe one would expect to see higher levels of internet savvy, fondness for tech gadgetry, and disillusionment with traditional politics. They support privacy and anonymity, and oppose the NSA surveillance regime. Edward Snowden is a Grey Tribe hero. They revere open source, strongly support an open internet, and it is by no means exaggeration to describe them as free speech fundamentalists.

Greys tend to have nomadic tech industry jobs. Many are freelancers or entrepreneurs. They engage online and don’t congregate geographically as thickly as the other tribes do, except for their noticeable clusters in San Francisco and other technology hubs. They speak in nerd/geek/gamer lingo and signal membership to each other with Internet cultural tropes and catchphrases. All three of the tribes have found a home on the internet but the Grey Tribe is born of the net and has never existed outside of it.

The Grey Tribe is beginning to find its voice and assert its identity as something separate from the Blue Tribe most of its members still probably consider themselves part of. We’re witnessing its birth pangs in the recent Internet cultural strife, and I expect this is only the beginning.

The Internet Mobilizes Tribal Voices

Angry Mob

The Internet has made possible a kind of activism that doesn’t rely on community organizers or shady bankrolling billionaires. It’s a truly grassroots form of activism where leaders are emergent and wield authority only so long as the participants agree to obey. Technology both enables and molds these movements. These organizations are completely uncoordinated and genuinely independent of top level guidance. They begin as expressions of anger but once formed can turn in unpredictable directions due to their disorganized emergent nature.

Nothing like these movements could ever develop before the age of social media, which enables the way they develop virally and function without infrastructure or direction. Social media and it’s peer-to-peer nature break the traditional monopolies and enable connections between those with strong shared interests. Diffuse minorities can congregate online and magnify their voice in ways that weren’t even dreamed of prior to the birth of the net. These kinds of movements are a brand new social technology and they are rapidly evolving.

The Red, Blue, and Grey tribes have now each launched a grassroots Internet-enabled rebellion in the direction of a Schelling point that drew their rage, but their targets varied greatly as did the outcomes. The three movements were similar bottom-up expressions of inchoate rage, but they targeted different parts of  the establishment and used very different tactics.

Three Internet Insurgencies

The Red Tribe revolt took place first. In 2009 the Tea Party movement emerged onto the national scene as a grassroots expression of dissatisfaction with high taxes and big government. It acted via politics, supporting and running anti-establishment candidates for office in mostly Republican primaries. While it has made not inconsequential gains and has successfully pulled the Republican party in a more libertarian direction, its focus has mostly petered out and been co-opted by Republican establishment figures. As a movement the Tea Party is a shell of itself. It used the Internet to mobilize but fought its foe on the hostile ground of politics, which is sort of like launching a land war in Asia.

In 2011 a Blue Tribe revolt took place. Occupy Wall Street was a left-driven movement against social and economic inequality. It focused its rage mostly against the Wall Street banks that had benefited from the 2008 financial crash. It lasted only a few months and its hazily communicated goals were unrealized. The physical occupations were disbanded by police and the movement mostly dissipated. Today it exists mostly overseas, notably represented by the current Hong Kong protests that have been dubbed ‘Occupy Admiralty’ by some. Occupy failed because it could not coalesce behind goals that were accomplishable via means that it possessed. The voices were too diffuse, and its focus on physical gatherings was outlast-able.

In 2014 it became the Grey Tribe’s turn to launch a rebellion. GamerGate is an expression of rage by Grey Tribe libertarians, nerds, misfits, and techies against Blue Tribe encroachment onto their gaming hobby and against their expression. This is no overnight phenomenon, gamer rage against so-called “social justice warriors” has been simmering for years.

Anti-Sarkeesian gamer produced video from 2013

Ten years ago the gaming community faced Red Tribe censorship threats from Jack Thompson‘s group aimed at violence in games, and faced them down. Now the threats of censorship are similar but come from the Blue Tribe concerns about sexism rather than Red Tribe pleading against violence. What complicates matters is that this time the gaming journalists are on the side of the forces of censorship rather than on the side of gamers.

The dispute might have just continued simmering, but the gaming media outlets absolutely refused to discuss legitimate questions of their ethics, engaged in an active effort to quash the issue by naked force, then colluded en masse to declare gamers “dead”. Even 4chan itself banned discussion of the issue in an unprecedented turn of events. It’s a misconception that GamerGate is about the Zoe Quinn story, while it certainly began with that story is was not until the enforced censorship, mass declaration that “Gamers Are Dead” and the exposure of the GameJournoPros mailing list that GamerGate truly launched its rebellion in earnest and it became a full fledged tribal rebellion.

The Grey Rebellion

The Grey Tribe rebellion continues apace. History seems to be against them, given the outcome of the Blue and Red rebellions, but I believe there are significant differences in the Grey rebellion that may yet see it achieve some of the change it seeks.

Right now the GamerGate rebellion has brought its focus onto one of the companies it sees attacking it, and is using the weapon of consumer boycott to deal significant damage. Max Read of Gawker whined that GamerGate has cost Gawker thousands in revenue already and could potentially cost millions.

The Red rebellion focused its ire on government, and the Blue rebellion went after the banking establishment. Those foes were more than capable to withstand, absorb, and eventually co-opt the movements against them. The Grey rebellion however, is aimed at Blue Tribe journalism enterprises that support themselves via advertisers who seek Grey dollars. These enterprises are absolutely vulnerable to a Grey attack on their sources of funding, as the wounded yelps from Gawker’s direction may indicate.

I expect the Blue journalists to fight back via Blue media opprobrium, they have been fighting that way and it’s not working but I would expect them to double down on that tactic because they misjudge their opponents.

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Their projection convinces them that their opponents fear social ostracization, as any Blue Tribe member would. They fail to understand that most members of the Grey Tribe have long become used to social ostracization, they seek approval only from their friends in the Grey Tribe and the wider society’s opinion is immaterial to them. Gamers specifically have long been targets for mainstream bullies and are pre-inoculated against this tactic.

Will the Grey Tribe succeed at doing significant damage to their Blue journalistic enemies? It certainly seems possible. I expect an outpouring of vitriol from the mainstream media will only embolden them. Gamer are used to facing greater challenges as they progress in a game, so to expect them to discourage easily is a significant underestimation. The GamerGate tactic of applying economic pressure to its targets via advertisers can succeed if it continues, and it will as long as the media keeps foolishly adding fuel to the GamerGate fire with threats of censorship.

UPDATE: Now go read this related and highly relevant post “Moving Beyond Hit-And-Run Warfare: How #GamerGate Can Actually Win”

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The Rise Of The Grey Tribe

Everyone knows America has two cultures. Ever since the bitterly contested 2000 Bush v. Gore election we’ve referred to “Red States” and “Blue States”. The states in question of course aren’t monolithically “Red” or “Blue” but the color describes the dominant culture of the population of those states. Red and Blue are more clearly thought of as tribes. Scott Alexander describes the American Red & Blue tribes in one tiny bit of his terrific #longread about outgroups:

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

The Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe existed long before the 2000 election, of course. In fact these two American tribes pre-date their own nation. They have both existed and been at each other’s throats for a thousand years. Their bitter fight has erupted into open mass warfare three (count em, 1 2 3) times, and their cultural struggle has never ended.

Scott goes on from describing the Red and Blue tribes to briefly and parenthetically mention a third tribe, the Grey Tribe:

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

Partly formed? Someone should do something about that.

The Grey Tribe Is Born

via flickr user LaCrossian

RonPaulf the Grey (via flickr user LaCrossian)

Greys are a libertarian-minded tribe of live-and-let-livers. They tend to dwell online, often adopting shifting pseudonyms and communicating with each other on forums and anonymous imageboards. Amongst the Grey Tribe one would expect to see higher levels of internet savvy, fondness for tech gadgetry, and disillusionment with traditional politics. They support privacy and anonymity, and oppose the NSA surveillance regime. Edward Snowden is a Grey Tribe hero. They revere open source, strongly support an open internet, and it is by no means exaggeration to describe them as free speech fundamentalists.

Greys tend to have nomadic tech industry jobs. Many are freelancers or entrepreneurs. They engage online and don’t congregate geographically as thickly as the other tribes do, except for their noticeable clusters in San Francisco and other technology hubs. They speak in nerd/geek/gamer lingo and signal membership to each other with Internet cultural tropes and catchphrases. All three of the tribes have found a home on the internet but the Grey Tribe is born of the net and has never existed outside of it.

Many of the Grey Tribe self-identify as Blue, agreeing with Blues on many social issues while feeling disagreement with the Blues in areas economic and opposing Blue efforts to enforce political correctness. A few self-identify as Red, strongly agreeing with small government and 2nd amendment rights, but usually feeling strong antipathy or at best ambivalence toward Red social issues like opposition to gay marriage and abortion. Other Greys adopt the libertarian mantle, and many Greys disavow politics entirely. Despite their own failure so far to self label as such, the Grey Tribe does exists as its own independent culture, overlapping in areas but remaining distinct from the Red and Blue cultures.

The Grey Tribe has existed as long as the Internet but in the last few decades a generation has grown up on the internet and on its Grey Tribe culture. The numbers of the Grey Tribe have swelled while the cultural and economic power of the Grey Tribe has also risen along with the power and prestige of the tech industry. Grey industries and cultural products have now entered the mainstream and with entry to the mainstream comes conflict with existing power centers.

The Grey/Blue Conflict

The emerging Grey Tribe is the result of a schism within the Blue Tribe, who have all but won their long war against the tired & woeful Red Tribe. Greys in many ways are moderate Blues, in that they agree with the general Blue cultural positions on gay marriage and abortion but reject Blue economic and cultural extremism. Many of the technology stories of the recent past are best interpreted as part of a Blue/Grey conflict between Grey freedom of expression and moral values.

Classical Grey libertarianism is assailed as “brutalist” by Blue left-libertarianism. The Grey technology industry is mostly fallen to a Blue insurgency war under the cry of “More women in the industry!”. Grey science fiction fandom has been wracked by Blue-instigated civil war. Grey organized Internet atheism has witnessed a breakaway of schismatics in deep Blue Atheism+. And even the apolitical Grey gamers are now under Blue assault.

These varied fights are not separate, they’re the multiple fronts of a single large scale tribal culture war that the Blues are currently waging against the Greys for not being Blue enough. Each of these fronts has simmered independently but of late, especially with regard to GamerGate, the conflict has become so hot that the fronts are bleeding into each other. This war shouldn’t be confused with the mainstream Blue vs. Red culture war, which is all but over, this is a brand new culture war by the Blues against a different opponent and it takes place almost entirely on the Internet.

As they become more aware of the larger picture and notice the other fronts, the Greys will begin to see that each of their fights has deeper stakes and is part of the larger important struggle to maintain their Grey culture. The Blues may have overstepped and awakened a sleeping giant. This war may be what results in the Greys flexing their might and explicitly asserting their independence from the Blues.

Could the rise of the Greys be the rise of a new participant in the thousand year war? Will the Reds survive as more than a southern regional culture if that happens? Will the Blues instead succeed at snuffing the Greys out in their crib?

Stay tuned. It’s an interesting time to be a witness to history.

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