Preserving the sanctity of the big tent

Chris Kluwe gives SZSW hell.

This week, you announced a decision so mind-numbingly shameful, it’s a wonder that the collective spleens of everyone involved didn’t spontaneously combust from the overload of self-loathing. I speak, of course, of your Neville Chamberlain-esque choice to cancel a panel on harassment in online spaces, featuring Katherine Cross, Caroline Sinders, and Randi Harper, due to (and I can’t believe I have to type this) overwhelming harassment from those opposed to said panel — i.e., Gamergate (a group you conveniently allowed to have their own panel without following any of the listed application rules, in a fascinating display of fear-profiteering that would make Dick Cheney blush).

Then, you inexplicably tried to justify the unjustifiable, with one of the most mealy-mouthed, corporate nothing speak emails I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading; all in the hopes that this would somehow explain your craven actions.

Behold that email:

On the one hand, we are an event that prides itself on being a big tent and a marketplace of diverse people and diverse ideas. On the other hand, preserving the sanctity of that big tent at SXSW Interactive necessitates that we keep the dialogue civil and respectful — so that people can agree, disagree and embrace new ways of thinking in a safe and secure place. We have already received numerous threats of violence regarding this panel, so a civil and respectful environment seems unlikely in March in Austin. For this reason, we have also canceled other sessions at the 2016 event that focused on the GamerGate controversy. We are strong believers in community at SXSW — and a healthy community sometimes requires strong management. Preserving the sanctity of the big tent is more important than preserving any particular session.

That’s quite something, isn’t it. “Preserving the sanctity of the big tent” is so important it’s worth letting harassers harass them out of holding a panel. What about the women the harassers have been harassing for more than a year? Oh who cares about them – they don’t belong in the big tent.

First off, the panel was not on Gamergate, did not mention Gamergate, and the only tangential relation it had with Gamergate was that the odorous denizens of that particular hashtag have made it their mission to try and ruin the lives of the women involved in the panel (among others). The fact you felt the need to connect it to Gamergate shows quite clearly where the pressure to silence these voices came from.

Second, and perhaps more pertinently, you run a festival that features A-list celebrities and tech magnates worth collective billions, superstar athletes, and some of the biggest music acts in the world, and you’re telling me you can’t provide security for a panel of three women? That it’s beyond your resources to hire any sort of police presence when you shut down entire sections of Austin at a time? That the unceasing vitriol these brave individuals face on a daily basis is just too much for your tender feelings to deal with, when you’ve experienced the merest fraction of that torrent of filth they’re forced to endure?

And then he gets really angry.

It’s great stuff.

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