I mean, aside from anything else I'm already aware that Digi2000 has been a bit light on actual games content recently.... albeit with good reason; there's bugger all going on this month, games-wise, apart from the release of Resident Evil VII. I'll get to that in due course.
Nonetheless, I've not hidden away from sharing things on this site which matter to me, and I don't want to feel too scared to speak up - for fear of being damned by those whose aims and beliefs I support - when I feel strongly about an issue. If you're a regular reader you'll know I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and... last week something happened which is going to affect us all one way or another. You don't need me to state what it was.
I managed to catch the swearing in of President Trump on Friday evening, just before I headed into London to see Stewart Lee do a stand-up show - a more liberal bubble you couldn't hope for.
I left the house with a knot in my stomach, like something really, really bad had happened. You know that scene in Star Wars, where Ben Kenobi has to have a bit of a sit-down after Alderaan gets blown-up? Yeah, well... that was me on Friday evening. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it felt like a dark shadow had crossed the sun. If I'd been writing that moment in a screenplay I'd have added thunder in the stage directions.
I woke on Saturday feeling bleak, and swiftly my Twitter feed just made me feel worse. It was pretty much given over to one thing and one thing only: the American neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched in the face live on the news.
Almost without exception, everyone on there was celebrating. That knot in my gut tightened.
The world had gone mental.
I get the catharsis of seeing someone you hate getting punched.
If someone cut me up in the car, and then crashed immediately into a lamppost, my immediate reaction would probably be to whoop with glee.
I mean, I get that, after the swearing in of Trump, a lot of us needed some sort of release, a feeling that all wasn't lost. That we're not helpless. The punch heard around the world represented something more - a literal and metaphorical bloody nose... but still I couldn't enjoy it. Seeing those tweets was like watching a crowd baying for blood, and - neo-Nazi or not - it was ugly.
More than that; it was surreal. I had the nagging sense that some people were enjoying the primal violence of it, while justifying it to themselves as a political necessity.
I know that, for the most part, the people I follow on Twitter are more on the liberal side. There are some, I know, who lean the other way - and I respect their opinions. None of them are out-and-out white supremacists, as far as I know, and I'm big enough to accept that we're not always going to agree.
Generally speaking, on Saturday morning my Twitter feed was given over to memes and cheers dedicated to the brave, anonymous, balaclava-wearing anti-Trump demonstrator who ran up to Richard Spencer and lamped him in the face.
I felt sick upon seeing the clip shared again and again on Twitter. And I mean... genuinely nauseous. As it wore on and I saw increasing numbers of people I respect joining in the chorus, and I actually felt tearful. I spent the entire day fighting the urge to cry.
It just felt insane to me, like the entire world had lost its mind. Here we are with Trump and his alt-right cronies in the White House, an actual neo-Nazi being given time on American news, and everyone on Twitter - or so it felt to me - baying for blood.
I couldn't not say anything. I needed a release of my own... And because I'm an idiot I tweeted that I didn't think violence was the solution. Which, ironically, led to Twitter punching me in the face. Metaphorically speaking. Well, sort of. Some people were pleasant and respectful in agreeing to disagree with me. Some less so.
Regardless, it became pretty apparent that - as far as my Twitter goes - I was in a minority of one. Well, for the most part. I, like the few other people in the social mediasphere who dared to share this opinion publicly, was damned for colluding with the alt-right through what became labelled as lily-livered inaction, like we were part of the British establishment in the 1930s.
It was frustrating. My words got twisted, and I felt things were being read into my statement that I hadn't intended or meant.
That I wanted to "talk" with the Nazis, rather than condemn them.
That I wanted to listen and hear their point of view.
That this was akin to collaborating with them, and that somehow it was dangerously weak to damn the bravely anonymous punching of that white supremacist with the terrible pre-war German haircut.
Nazis must be punched! It's the only way to stop them! And if you don't want to stop them, then... well... MAYBE YOU'RE THE REAL NAZI, HERR BIFFO! More blood! More punching! S'exciting... sexciting. SEXXXXX!
When I mentioned Martin Luther King or Gandhi it was countered by reminding me that they were assassinated.
Which was true, I said, but also their deaths at the hands of, y'know, extremists who opposed them probably galvanised their supporters (you know: like how, say, neo-Nazis might rally behind their punched leader...). Either way, assassination or not, their non-violent campaigns still led to enormous social change.
Yeah... but the situation we're facing now is way worse than what MLK had to deal with, I was told!
Well... er... not sure it is... whatever you may think of Trump's views on race. Segregation was a pretty big deal, and saying that things are worse now feels like an overstatement - and like peering at the world through a pinhole. Or from the vantage point of - yes - an echo chamber where all we hear are the same arguments and fears echoing back at us, over and over and over.
What about Britain's own Battle of Cable Street in the 1930s I was asked? If all those people hadn't stood up to the British Union of Fascists, and had running street fights with them, then the Nazis would probably be in power now!
Admittedly, history records that Cable Street drew a line in the sand... but there's an academic school of reasoning which suggests that - while the actions of many were brave and principled - it actually gathered new members to the otherwise previously irrelevant BUF, gave them an unwarranted notoriety, and lead to an increase in anti-semiticism in the East End of London.
POLITICS OF FEAR
And this is precisely my fear over that punch. Or, rather, it's my fear that it would only strengthen their numbers should there be even more violence against white supremacists. Who are - it can't be stated enough - a minority in the USA. Advocating more violence as the only solution now, as some were?
That's just beyond the pale. Also: a real bad idea.
At the Stewart Lee gig, he cracked a joke about Brexit - later repeated with Brexit switched out for Trump - saying "Not everyone who voted for Brexit was a racist... no, some of them were c@nts too". It was funny... and I think Lee is smart enough to have been overstating it for comic effect.
Nevertheless, plenty genuinely believe that. It's getting boring hearing it over and over, but labelling everyone who voted for Trump as a white supremacist, or a racist, is simply not true. More dangerously, it's failing to learn from why he got voted into power.
The vlogger Casey Neistat shot a brief video at the inauguration, where he spoke with Trump supporters and protestors alike. None of them seemed particularly mad, or unpleasant. Heck, he even spoke with a black guy who voted for Trump. It's still a microcosm, but worth a watch I think, as it's very balanced.
Michael Moore does tend to grate on me a bit, but his Trumpland stand-up show - if you can find it - is also very balanced and respectful.
I think the one thing that saves me from being deafened by the echo chamber is my family. Almost all of them voted for Brexit, and - amazingly - they're not all racists.
Judging from their Facebook accounts at the weekend, most of them either didn't understand the Women's March, or weren't even aware of it. Few of them even commented on Trump's election.
They're not concerned with the stuff you and I get on our high horse about. They want to pay the bills, cook dinner for the kids, have enough money for a holiday once a year - and if somebody charismatic comes along and says "I am going to make your life better!" their ears prick up. Everything else is just static.
If we don't pay attention to the real reasons Trump got in, and why the majority in this country voted for Brexit - the everyday concerns of the majority, the average small-town American or British citizen - people who don't deserve to be there are going to cling to power forever.
If we're simply going to fight with our guts, rather than our minds... if all we're going to do it shout people down who are trying to say "Hey, people of the same political leaning as me! I don't think this is how we're really going to win!" and label them as Nazis (the comedienne Sarah Silverman and Nick Spencer, who writes the Captain America comic for Marvel, got it far worse than I did)... then we're screwed.
Every last one of us.
So, back to that punch.
My point - which I accept might be wrong, and perhaps didn't have the space on Twitter to adequately convey - is as follows:
- I just felt ill that there was even a neo-Nazi being interviewed in the first place.
- The guy who punched him didn't seem to me to be a hero; he was wearing a balaclava, like many of the "demonstrators" (actually, let's call them what they were - opportunist rioters) on the news who were shown chucking stuff through shop windows. He came across to me like a thug - and if I'm thinking that he looked like the thug in that situation, rather than - y'know - the white supremacist who got punched, imagine what white supremacists must think.
- Punching him in the face, on the news, and then running away doesn't weaken Richard Spencer - it makes him appear a martyr. It gives people something to rally around, and lets him play the victim.
- It makes those of us who oppose fascism and nationalism look irrational. It sinks us to their level. Weren't we all appalled when people got attacked at Trump rallies? Didn't we think that was indicative of the sort of animalistic thug who voted Trump? Why is it better when we do it? Oh. Yeah. Because they're NAZIS, and we have the moral high ground, duh.
- History has proven that non-violent protest works.
- Non-violent protest is not the same thing as doing nothing. It's not the same as trying to have empathy with those you oppose. It's not about listening. It's not about colluding. In fact, it's about being as effectively disruptive, and as big a pain in the arse as possible, to those you oppose, without - y'know - actually having to take up arms - or fists - in a way that makes them stronger.
- I'm not saying we should never fight! Do I think it would've been better if Winston Churchill invited Mr Hitler over for a cup of tea to ask what was making him so angry? Don't be stupid.
In fact, the last point was proved with the Women's March later that same day; a gathering of millions of women (and plenty of men), globally, in an entirely peaceful protest. That - for me - is exactly what I was talking about, and far more effective than the punch that everyone seemed to be celebrating. The momentum of that movement needs to be maintained. Sooner or later, those in power will not be able to ignore it. The political pressure exerted by a movement of that size cannot be understated. We shouldn't be fighting over whether we should have a right to punch Nazis. We should be fighting to have those with such extremist views be locked up for good.
I try to read what I can, but I accept that I'm not an expert in history or politics. That said, I do think I'm a pretty good judge of what makes people tick, and most of what I think, what I feel, comes from the gut.
So I get why it might feel good at first, but I guarantee that punching Nazis and nationalists in the face is not going to prove a long-term solution. By the same token, labelling those who are on the same side as you as "Nazi sympathisers" is hardly going to rally more moderate people to your cause either. More likely, all you're going to do is shut them up and reinforce that echo chamber so the only views you ever listen to are your own.
Those of us who questioned the punch weren't being weak, or cowardly, or overly empathic, or playing into the Nazis' hands. It's not naive. It's trying to say what we think is the right course of action - what will be most effective - in countering this terrifying wave of nationalism which is spreading throughout the world.
It's saying that sometimes we have to ignore what feels good, and do what's actually right; We stand up to it. We deny it. We unite against it, and we show that we're stronger than it is.