The Pertinent Topic Of Censorship, Or Why Kotaku Wants Me To Shut My Mouth

1 Oct

Ironic that the last article I had featured on Kotaku was about censorship in games – and now I’ve been censored by Kotaku.

The internet is an interesting thing, forums especially.  The word always brings to mind some Roman forum, a mass of men dressed in robes gathered to speak and yell about politics or some such issue.  The internet equivalent isn’t far off, with just about every interest out there having its own boards where they can start discussions and respond to others.  Sites with comments enabled, like this one and Kotaku, turn the forum format into that of one speaker with an active audience.  And if we’re drawing real life parallels, the speaker has a knife in his hand and has the right to cut out your tongue.

In a comment posted about a FIFA 09 ad I strayed from the congratulatory tone and asked whether this game was even worth congratulating.  I put my loudest hat on and wrote something that would invite an answer to my question.

“Let’s get some facts straight:

A lot of people smoke cigarettes.

A lot of people commit murder.

A lot of people stub their toe on table legs.

A lot of people like FIFA.

Big deal; boring game.”

Anyone who likes FIFA and reads my post is now going to do one of two things, exhibited in quite a conveniently binary fashion by the two commenters who did respond.

And unfortunately there are only a few people who are pessimists. Come on, I have no interest in sports whatsoever, be it football or or rugby, and this was impressive. :0

If this commenter had said that in a real life situation I would nod and press him to tell me why the game was impressive.  I haven’t played the latest FIFA and he also doesn’t like soccer enough to play it, so he very well might be able to convince me of something.  The beginning of the post is clearly an error in semantics, but I agree with what it says.  The second comment is the more common response.

A lot of people like to talk bollocks on the Internet, too.

Edgy and pointed, with the intent to puncture my blasphemous foul-mouthery.  I’m a party pooper and a blowhard to these people, and they’ll have me kicked out of the discussion. 

While traditional forums might delete your comment and erase your voice – the equivalent of having your tongue removed – Kotaku is a more civilized environment.  In the same sense we say that execution by lethal injection is civilized.  Kotaku used to erase comments and ban users with ‘the banhammer’, but nowadays they ‘devowel’ the distasteful comment by removing all of the vowels, making it hard to read and showing the rest of the audience that you’re a bad guy.  Think of it like being put in the stocks – you’ve still got your tongue, but you’ve been left out in the cold and been made a fool.  This is what my comment looks like disemvoweled.

“Lt’s gt sm fcts strght:

lt f ppl lk t smk cgrtts.

lt f ppl cmmt mrdr.

lt f ppl stb thr ts n tbl lgs.

lt f ppl lk FF.

Bg dl; brng gm.”

While I’m fine with having to sit in the corner and wear the dunce hat, Kotaku has done the equivalent of shoving an apple into my mouth while I’m stuck in the stockades, and is now waving the knife around, threatening to cut out my tongue should I speak out of line again, as I’m not allowed to comment further on the site.

Lifehacker, another Gawker blog, has put together a guide for commenters to follow if they don’t want to be banned.

Leaving a comment on someone’s weblog is like walking into their living room and joining in on a conversation. As in real life, online there are some people who are a pleasure to converse with, and some who are not. Good blog commenters add to the discussion and are known as knowledgeable, informative, friendly and engaged. Build your own online social capital and become a great blog commenter by keeping these simple guidelines in mind before you post.”


I don’t know about you, but if I was at a party and, during a discussion in the living room, disagreed with someone, I would be quite surprised if I was picked up and thrown out of the party.

And a blog like Kotaku, a huge gaming news website, isn’t so much a person’s living room as it is a news desk.  Americans like to make fun of how dismissive Whitehouse spokesperson Tony Snow was, ignoring volatile questions and answering others with canned responses, but these liberal web blogs are doing the same thing.  And they’re allowed to, because unlike the United States government they have a dictatorship.  If you come into their blog as a dissident, as a ‘troll’, they reserve the right to deport you.

It sounds funny, but it’s almost as if the internet is in need of a constitution.  There’s a big difference between an internet troll who enters forums in order to stir up trouble and someone who disagrees with the original poster.  Lifehacker has this to say about trolls.

Do not feed or tease the trolls.

No matter how many articles like this get written, there will always be people who surf around the Internet and inject pointless vindictiveness into any available textarea. Don’t let the terrorists win. Do NOT acknowledge these people with refutations, disagreements or even a mention of their screen name.”

Unfortunately “pointless” is subjective.  Often you will see trolls posting drivel, like filling their post full of ‘LOL’s, or trying to spark some long dead argument that everyone knows will never come to an end.  But more often than not the comment police take on a sort of Judge Dredd demeanor and decide on their own what has a point and what doesn’t.  This kind of subjective and all-powerful monitoring and judgment seems to fly in the face of another rule.

Contribute new information to the discussion.

Twelve people saying the same exact thing in one comment thread is useless and irritating. Before you comment, read the entire thread and make sure your comment offers something new to the conversation. If you don’t have the time or patience to read an entire thread, then don’t comment at all. The longer a comment thread the more likely someone has already said what you’re thinking, and the less likely it is to be read by future visitors anyway.”

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say ‘Twelve people saying the exact same thing in one comment thread is what we want, but try to say it differently’.  My comment was inflammatory, sure, but even British gentlemen discussing something are going to charge their comments with fire.

But maybe that points out the bigger issue here: right now comments are not the place for debates, they are the place for discussion.  A discussion would suggest a common ground – two friends discussing the latest videogame, ‘I loved that part, how far did you get?’  But discussions can quickly evolve into debates, ‘I hated that game, how could you play through it?’

This is really what is happening in comment sections – it’s nice to believe that there are evil people out there who love nothing more than to ruin your day with drivel, but the reality is that some people have different opinions, and they aren’t going to be nice about it.  It’s easy then to push the evil people away, rather than consider their argument and defend yourself or worse yet, consider that you are the one who is wrong.  That is a much harder thing to do, so it’s no wonder that its faster and cleaner to just shove the dissenters under the carpet.  But for such liberal-sounding people, the internet illuminati sure seem to have no qualms taking notes from Stalin’s handbook.


12 Responses to “The Pertinent Topic Of Censorship, Or Why Kotaku Wants Me To Shut My Mouth”

  1. McElroy Flavelle October 1, 2008 at 8:26 pm #

    This is interesting because last week I was on Kotaku and in a fowl-stink-of-hell kind of mood.

    I proceeded to leave an irrelevant, ridiculous, useless comment. In that comment thread many got devowelled… I didn’t.

    No idea why.

    Here is the stupidity I felt the need to share and the link to the article.


    He stole.

    He got caught.

    There’s probably other issues here (punishment fitting the crime) but personally I don’t care.

    I hope the motherfucker gets sued for every thing he owns just cause he’s such a bitch for whining.


    His mother is ashamed.

  2. John"wardrox" October 2, 2008 at 8:12 pm #

    And this is why I don’t comment on Kotaku. I knew they were often quick with the banhammer, but didn’t know they devowelled people, seems a bit harsh. Activly changing what somebody said to make them look like a fool?

    I prefer to voice myself in places like Destructoid, where more often that not if you’re being an idiot, it’s the community itself which will shout at you, mods won’t delete your comment.

  3. Gd08carlos October 3, 2008 at 1:42 am #

    I read and comment a lot on Kotaku, and I saw that Fifa 09 ad you talk about, I loved it. Love Fifa too so ha! :p

    I don’t get why you got disemboweled though =/.

  4. Brian October 3, 2008 at 5:34 pm #

    You got owned by Kotaku because your comment didn’t contribute to the conversation and was unnecessarily negative with no evidence backing up the statement. On top of that, you went in prodding for responses. The comparisons you stated were out in left field and also unnecessary. If you wanted discussion without being labeled as a troll, something around the line of,

    “I find the FIFA (and most sports titles) to be boring. This one, to me, looks no different than the rest. The hype around it just decreases my interest in it further.”

    would have been infinitely more acceptable. No disemvowelment, no imminent Banhammer. Responses would have been much more positive in that they would try and defend their beloved FIFA and explain why it is a good game. You walked in to the thread with a ‘fuck you’ attitude and that is precisely what Kotaku gave you back.

  5. nickhalme October 3, 2008 at 9:53 pm #

    Yeah, but that’s not how people talk. That’s not how anyone talks. And putting a hand over the mouth of someone who disagrees fervently does nothing but make you look like an ass.

    This is the adult world — do you think Darwin’s critics were polite, or that Descartes was an agreeable person? You’re saying anything beyond congratulatory spam or faint hearted disagreement is not allowed? Who the hell says what’s allowed?

    They have a response function for the sole purpose of responding to comments; people do it all the time, and people did respond to me. Nobody seemed to have a problem that couldn’t be settled in discussion besides the moderator.

    I think, especially after seeing their panel, I’ll take the advice of one of the commenters and take myself on over to Destructoid, where the comments aren’t moderated. In fact that was part of their talk — that moderating user comments paints a false picture for the topic and for the site, and I think I agree with that more.

  6. McElroy Flavelle October 4, 2008 at 4:46 am #

    You’re point is interesting Brian.

    My question for you though, is why did my comment (see above) not get devowelled.

    In my opinion that was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen on Kotaku, (too bad I wrote it) and definitely has a Fuck You attitude.

    Why the hell didn’t I get in trouble?!?!

  7. MUDKIPS October 4, 2008 at 7:12 am #

    I think it was the subtle sinister quality to your comment that ticked Kotaku off, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

    News stories about murders aren’t boring; they’re horrifying, and they’re sad. A story about FIFA is taken however you want– it’s just a game. You slapped an ill-placed sense of reality into a topic that wasn’t meant to be so harsh.

    So, please bare this in mind:

    A) It was just a FIFA advertisement;
    B) Your one comment out of possibly THOUSANDS has been moderated; and
    C) It’s just Kotaku.

    Don’t sweat it.

  8. nickhalme October 4, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    They deserved the wake up call, and I deserved the banning. I’m fine with that.

    The idea is that just because lots of people do something, it doesn’t justify its worth. I have no problem with people who like the game, but it’s funny that few people can explain why I should like the game. Rather, I should just shut up.

    Advertisements influence millions of people, so I’m curious when everyone is excited for an ad about a game of a game that people like. So by proxy, do all soccer players fit into their demographic? They aren’t advertising the game — the game matters even less to them than to me — what matters is the mindset, and that’s what they’re marketing to.

    And Kotaku isn’t a thing. It’s a collection of people. So Kotaku is people, and I sweat people 🙂

  9. McElroy Flavelle October 4, 2008 at 8:25 pm #

    I sweat liquid silver and shit gold.

  10. A. Justice October 6, 2008 at 12:27 am #

    fuck someon ban mac already!

  11. Haundaamusy December 3, 2008 at 4:42 am #

    I am here at a forum newcomer. Until I read and deal with the forum.
    Let’s learn!

  12. Crash36 January 30, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    I also got disemwhatevered/banned from Kotaku.

    I commented on a “story” about a picture of a girl who had put wiimote jackets on her feet.

    My comment was: “and this is gaming news how?”

    wow, I sure am a jerk, huh?

    ps – I bet that “Brian” above is Brian Crecente. So, Brian, since no one on your site is replying to my email… care to tell me why my comment was so bad that it got me banned?

    nah, wait, I got it: “you got banned because you accurately pointed out our shotty attempt at journalism and we thought the best way to wipe the egg off our face was to wipe you off our site. please come back when you can blindly agree and praise whatever we post that day. thank you.”

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