[This post and the next begins a bit of thoughts/exploration of an issue specific to the gaming world--the harassment of feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, who recently had to cancel a speaking event because of a mass murder threat. But I like to think it could be applied to most passionate controversial debates that bring out harassment.]
To a certain extent, I sort of understand how people who get upset over something turn to harassment. When I see the horrible things people have done to harass others online, threatening sexual violence against women, there is a small part of me that wants to turn around and do the same to them. How would they feel if we published their address online with vicious threats? But I would never do that, because it’s wrong and it’s sinking to their level and it’s only perpetuating violence as an answer to disagreements. I say all this only to indicate that when you feel angry about something, at someone, I can acknowledge that part of your brain wants to hurt that person.
But a decent human being doesn’t actually do it, doesn’t even send a threat. They realize that people have different opinions, that people do different things, and as long as they aren’t hurting anyone, they should be allowed to continue having these opinions and doing these things.
Where it gets complicated is when we reach the point of “hurting anyone.” For example, I view trolling as hurting people; I’m sure trolls would not. So I might be the type who would advocate taking action to stop trolling by an authoritative third party, such as the website or the law—and now the act of stopping the trolls from saying what they want is seen by them as “hurting someone.” So who is right?