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Game of Thrones author talks freedom of speech and gaming related harassment

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George R.R. Martin is one of today's most respected and popular authors, so much so that TIME declared him "An American Tolkien."  HBO turned his Game of Thrones book series into a smash hit for television, and Telltale Games did the same with their Game of Thrones video game adaptation. What you might not know about him is that he's also very outspoken about the rights of artists to have absolute freedom of creation and the right of freedom of speech. When someone of Martin's stature and liberal outlook starts to question freedom of speech then you know things have long gone too far.

"... it has begun to shake even my long-held fervent belief in the sanctity of free speech... and the basic decency of human beings." George R.R. Martin

Are there any limits to free speech?

That's the question Martin asks in his blog post, titled "Hatespeech." The point of his post is simple; disagreeing doesn't justify vulgar, abusive and disrespectful speech. Have we fallen so far that we need to be reminded to talk to other people with at least some degree of decorum?

The demons come out when we disagree with each other, and the Internet with its anonymity is the perfect playground to let our worst selves roam free and unchecked. It has to stop. It is not okay.

One of the things I love most about the Internet and video games is the platform both create for debate. Unfortunately, as Martin so eloquently puts it, "On the internet, it seems, abuse trumps debate every time."

We've published a few articles about GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian, online abuse and politics in gaming culture and I've seen first hand how out of control the "discussion" can get. I've seen worse in articles about other local gaming issues. It's like people sometimes adopt a virtual handicap when they take part in an online discussion about something they feel passionate about. As if swear words, unfounded accusations and humiliating those who oppose their view will somehow make their arguments more valid.

It's not about disagreeing; it's about how you articulate that disagreement. When it involves any form of maliciousness, then you've turned the debate into hate speech or harassment.

"I am not a gamer, and I have not closely followed GamerGate. Nor do I care to get embroiled in it now. I don't care who slept with whom, or whether some reviews were biased... but I do care that some of the participants, especially women, received death threats and rape threats from anonymous toads on the internet. I have never met Zoe Quinn or Anita Sarkeesian or Brianna Wu, and I don't know that I would agree with them on the issues at the heart of GamerGate, but it does not matter. Threats have no place in civilized discourse, and neither do slurs like "cunt" and "slut" and "whore." Oh, yes, I am aware that some say these women fabricated the threats against them. Bullshit. I believe they did indeed receive such threats... for the simple reason that friends of mine, women I DO know, and love, and respect, have received similar threatening and demeaning emails whenever they have dared to express an opinion online." George R.R. Martin

To answer Martin's initial question, yes, there should be limits to freedom of speech. We should all have the freedom to say what we want. To question things we feel uncomfortable with and to openly call authority to accountability, If however, we choose to do so in manner that is in any way abusive or violent then there should be consequences.

At MWEB GameZone, we believe in and promote healthy debate, but we also value common human decency and respect. If you cannot converse without the use of vulgar language, then your comment will automatically go into moderation. Exercise patience like a mature person and wait for the comment to be approved or not. Try not to let your mind wander to silly conspiracy theories or that we're trying to protect some secret agenda. Your bad language got you there, that's all there is to it. Our house, our rules. As Martin points out, I don't think free speech requires me to let you into my living room to give your speech, or into my virtual living room here on the internet)).

May there never come a time where someone's right to say something in any way he or she want to weigh more than common human decency.

"..if you want to exercise your freedom by denouncing black people as savages, suggesting that gays should be raped straight, or calling down rape and acid attacks on writers whose books displeased you, you should not be surprised when you are shunned, abandoned, and denounced by all decent human beings.I want to be a part of a culture that has NO tolerance for death threats, rape threats, or hatespeech.

We are better than that.

Aren't we?" 

Han: Twitter / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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