The Culture Wars Come To RavenCon

RavenCon attendees witnessed a flash of drama at Brianna Wu’s GamerGate panel on Friday evening, but it had nothing to do with the unnamed Hugo “hijackers” she publicly disinvited in a Tumblr post on Thursday. SP3/RP nominees in Richmond barely acknowledged Wu in social media during the first day of the convention.

Instead, the tweets exchanged by an attention-seeking GamerGate blogger and a RavenCon committee member throughout the afternoon promised a skirmish was brewing.

TheRalph, author of The Ralph Retort, announced on his website he was on his way to RavenCon looking for a confrontational interview with Brianna Wu. Once he arrived he continued to dispatch tweets about his plans.

The committee responded with its own ominous message:

The Ralph Retort countered —

Whoever was handling RavenCon’s social media replied with a mocking tweet that included a clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail about “the repression inherent in the system,” and it was game on.

A lot of vicarious Twitter activity followed. As more people piled on the committee explained the interview was denied because it had not been requested in advance.

The response snowballed. RavenCon sent out the text of its Con Rules, with its anti-harassment policy and other guidelines.

Come evening, TheRalph planted himself in the audience of Brianna Wu’s GamerGate 101 panel and got to work getting himself kicked out.

He wrote in the “Full Account of Big Baby Brianna Wu Having Me Tossed From Panel” —

I surreptitiously took few pictures, and decided to tweet one of them out. Now, I’m not a stupid man when not blind drunk, so I knew there was a chance someone would see this on Twitter. But, I did that shit anyway. Why? Well, I knew that they would look terrible for kicking me out over taking a picture of a panel speaker at a public convention. How big of a fucking baby do you have to be to kick out an adversary?

… Anyway, back to the story. Wu starts loudly bitching about them not having a DVI connection. Check your DVI privilege, bitch. But after that, she was looking hard at her phone. She then surveyed the room and locked eyes with me. She came up to my table and said “Are you the one who sent this?” I didn’t event try to deny it. I said yes, I was.

Wu had a member of the convention staff tell TheRalph to leave. He complied, while another person in the row behind him shot video of the episode.

TheRalph promptly retired to an Arby’s near the hotel to draft a story about this latest chapter in his epic journalistic career.

76 thoughts on “The Culture Wars Come To RavenCon

  1. No offense meant, but the accumulation of recent events suggests that US fandom should review whether it is in a terminally ill condition and whether it is possible for foreign SF fans to feel anything but contempt and shock when learning all these things.

    -Voting being variously described as ‘hijacking’, ‘ballot stuffing’, ‘boycotting’, ‘gaming’ and ‘not democratic’.

    -Alleged bloc voting to be opposed by campaigning for no-award bloc voting.

    -Diversity supporters outrage leading to a bi woman and an immigrant renouncing Hugo nominations.

    -Twitting a picture of a panelist gets you out of the room.

    -Commentary on these matters including recollection of ‘fascinating’ events like Wiscon GoH being de-GoHed for having an opinion on something; Hugo MC arrangement failing on the risk that a fat joke might be made, then next year a Hugo MC is chosen who had, of all things, used despising language against an overweight woman; rape allegation at Wiscon on the basis of a man’s nipples having been touched in public.

    Wow is the new normal.

    Again, no offense meant but meltdown can’t be far.

  2. Whilst accepting the right of everyone – not just guests – to exercise control over the use of their own image, it’s a great pity that matters have plummeted to this level.

    Note to TheRalph: there is no such animal as a “public” convention, just the same as there are no “public” hotels, restaurants or bars.

    However, I was a mite puzzled by the organisers stating “Photographs, audio recordings, and videos taken during RavenCon may be used by RavenCon for the purposes of event documentation, media coverage, and promotion of the convention.” Does that mean they deny me full copyright over any on-site interview I conducted? Can’t see that holding up in court.

  3. How dare they forbid me from forcing someone to respond to me? I’m being oppressed!!!111oneoneone
    In other words, the ongoing utter lack of self-awareness amongst GamerGaters is….ongoing.

  4. If what he was doing is acceptable, why did he do it “surreptitiously” (his own words)? It was a dumb stunt intended to provoke and he was rightfully asked to leave.

  5. Nice try, GK. He deliberately violated the stated rules in a deliberate attempt to get himself kicked out so he could make Wu look bad. He states that himself. Do you think for a minute he would have stopped with taking the picture and posting it?

    He would have escalated until he *was* kicked out.

  6. Speaking as someone who has been the Official Con Photographer for a number of cons including several World Science Fiction Conventions, as well as a member of the Working Press, if a panelist requests that no photos be taken, you have to honor that request or face the consequences. This included actor Patrick Stewart making presentations for “Star Trek: Nemesis” and “X-Men 2” at ConJose, the 2002 World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose, CA.

  7. Was it against the rules to take pictures at this con? I’ve taken pictures of panelists and audience at conventions many times and observed others doing so, so I’m a bit confused by what this guy thought he was accomplishing.

  8. Every con I’ve been to the stated policy is always ask permission to take photographs first.

    Given the dire level of threats issued to Ms. Wu, I can understand her not being thrilled at having her likeness spread around.

  9. Stalkers and harassers shouldn’t be welcome and gamergate has some very organized stalkers. That one of them was thrown out is very positive.

  10. TheRalph-a legend in his own mind. He posted an image which he did not have permission to take or post to a public forum, Twitter.

  11. Where is the rule that he couldn’t take a picture of the panelist? From the video footage Wu asks _after_ not _before_. His not liking Raven has nothing to do with it.

  12. RavenCon has a statement on its front page, clarifying among other things that the TheRalph was only removed from the one program item, not the convention.

  13. This panelist who jumped at shadows of puppies who don’t even know who she is is way, way, way too touchy about photographs. For goodness sakes, she’s the cover model for fantasy magazines. You really think she was upset by an attendee tweeting her panel?

    I’ve been to panels where recordings were banned (for various rebroadcast reasons), but none where photos are banned (except flash photos occasionally). You go do a panel for the publicity. Wu got exactly what she wanted by making a scene about a twitter photo. The reason the twitter photo was banned was because it wouldn’t be prominent enough.

    This is all PR 101. The histrionics got media coverage, after all. It wouldn’t have if some guy named Ralph that no one in science fiction knows about posted a picture on his twitter feed.

    Brianna got the press she’d been drumming up, even if her original target didn’t take the bait. Mission accomplished.

  14. ‘Mission accomplished.’

    This hostile, stalkerish, drama-hungry arsehole played right into her hands.

  15. Well, if was against the published rules for this con or the panel, then fair enough, the guy’s just being an arsehole by taking a picture. If it wasn’t against the rules, then he was being a stupid arsehole, manufacturing an incident out of nothing, just for sake of pissing people off. And he did: mission accomplished![/sarcasm]

  16. Cite where we have any evidence that it was against the rules. You keep saying this without proof.

  17. GK, if you went to the link that leads to RavenCon’s website it explains in full.

    But demanding answers when you can’t even follow a provided link is a way better solution. Let’s see how that works out…

  18. RavenCon’s rules are posted online.

    The first rule is “Harassment of any type is unacceptable. Any incidents should be reported directly to the RavenCon staff. We will fairly and impartially review the situation and take any actions that we feel are necessary—up to, and includ- ing, revocation of badges and notifying the authorities.”

    The second is “Please exhibit polite behavior in public areas at all times. Excessive disturbance or abuse of other guests is grounds for immediate expulsion from the convention without refund.”

    People may wish to split hairs about precise definitions of the photography policy.

    The ground standard of politeness at conventions is, I believe, always ask first.

  19. Good on RavenCon for acting quickly to remove someone whose only intent as he described was to try and deflect attention from the panelist and onto himself.

  20. Taking a photo at a panel is not harassment. Therefore it doesn’t qualify. Also, he did not, as the film shows, disturb the panel. At all. So that too does not qualify. Please feel free to actually find a rule that applies.

  21. GK, Ravencon has a firm policy on this issue, and it’s clear TheRalph was well aware of it. Unfortunately, his childish desire to provoke an incident led to him setting aside basic good manners and to harass someone who has already been hounded out of her home amid the vilest bullying tactics.

    xdpaul, are you delusional? Do you really believe the primary motive of a woman who’s received rape and death threats is self-publicity? Grow up or get out.

  22. “firm policy” on what? Photos? I reviewed the rules. They allow it implicitly via rule 6.

    “setting aside basic good manners and to harass someone who has already been hounded out of her home amid the vilest bullying tactics”

    Um no. There was no hounding, no bullying. There was a photo. If that is hounding then Mike’s reposting of the same is bullying. He may not like Ralph but Ralph was in no way rude at all and broke no rules.

  23. GK, TheRalph’s “shit” (his phrase) disturbed a guest whose wish not to be photographed was known to him (as shown by his comments at The Ralph Retort). If his intention was “really just there to see and record the crazy shit Wu says” (again, his phrase), why deliberately provoke her before the item had even begun? By his actions, we can infer his true intentions.

  24. The photo got POSTED on Twitter. Whether or not there is a “firm policy” that you ask before you take photos, posting a photo to Twitter without permission is how he got nailed and is definitely wrong. Depending on circumstances and relevant statutes, he may well have broken the law by posting her photo without permission-and he openly says he knew someone would see the photo. He had NO RIGHT to post her photo to Twitter and doing so can be seen as harassment.

  25. GK, Rule 1 trumps any leeway “implicit” in Rule 6: “Harassment of any type is unacceptable. Any incidents should be reported directly to the RavenCon staff. We will fairly and impartially review the situation and take any actions that we feel are necessary—up to, and including, revocation of badges and notifying the authorities.”

    TheRalph’s motivation? “I did that shit [because] I knew that they would look terrible for kicking me out.” Well, someone looks ridiculous, but I don’t think it’s either Brianna Wu or RavenCon.

  26. I like how GK didn’t read the RavenCon front page where it explains very clearly why Ralph was removed from the event, even though it’s been mentioned at least twice. Willfull ignorance in an attempt to do some rules lawyering.

  27. Alex,

    From the Ravencon front page,
    “Mr. Ralph was not ejected from our event, but asked by a member of the RavenCon staff to leave the panel on the request of the guest hosting. ”

    He was _NOT_ removed from the event. He was removed from the _panel_. You will also not Raven is keen on pointing out that it was done on Wu’s request. Not for violation of any rules. While they claim there was a request before hand there is no evidence that such a request was made and the staff even requests why Raven should be removed.

    Puppies do read.

  28. GK, a convention has an obligation to its guests of honor to actually make it an honor to be there.

    By his own words, Ralph set out to make Brianna uncomfortable, knowing that folks who share his affiliation with Gamergate have been trying to make her feel unsafe for months. He willfully placed himself within that pattern of behavior directed at her. That’s textbook harassment. If the convention allows that, they have failed to enforce their rules, and they have failed to honor her.

    Ravencon has some history with organized yahoos harassing its guests (see John Ringo’s report on his experience there in 2006), and have learned to handle these shenanigans. I’m glad that they, and fandom in general, have gotten better at this in the past decade.

  29. When exactly was the picture posted, and when exactly did she become aware of it? and by what means? Was someone trawling on her behalf for offenses by people previously flagged as offensive? Because it looks to me like she discovered it within minutes after it was posted. (Can’t have been long if the pic was taken as they waited for the panel to start.) And that doesn’t seem likely if there’s not someone keeping watch, so to speak.

  30. That’s the neat thing about being a drama queen, Nigel. You can always find someone happy to push you into the news cycle.

    But please, spare us all the misguided pity for a cover girl who got exactly what she hoped and planned to generate.

    You would think science fiction fans would generally be smart enough to see the ruse a mile away. Then again, this is a win-win-win. Brianna got her manufactured drama, Ralph got his story, and the news addicts got to feel something bordering on authentic again.

  31. xdpaul, are you delusional? Do you really believe the primary motive of a woman who’s received rape and death threats is self-publicity? Grow up or get out.

    Yes, Steve. She is a businesswoman with a very public track record of using publicity to promote Revolution 60. There’s no harm in that.

    But let’s not insult the victims of rape by confusing it with publicity stunts, especially by someone who has been caught faking both anonymous threats and self-spoofing positive reviews for the sake of publicity. Come now.

  32. Look at that. All you have to do to get GK to read something is call a panel an event.

    Now you know why he was asked to leave. I’m glad that we proved your ability to learn things.

  33. Curious to see how the panel would play out, I tried to follow this in real time last night. Because I’m a glutton for intellectual and emotional punishment, it seems.

    An individual (one who struck me as boorish and antagonistic with his boasts of how he intended to ask the panelist what he considered uncomfortable, and discrediting, “Gotcha!” questions during the presentation) takes a photo of the panelist and posts it on Twitter, prior to the start of the panel.

    The panelist (who has had to deal with death threats and other assorted bad behavior for having an opinion others disagree with) discovers this has been done and requests that the individual be removed from the room.

    As far as I am can see, the panelist was completely within her rights, using the “Spirit of the Law” (if not the written the ridiculously argued “Rule of Law”) to do so.

    If a host (or Guest of Honor) believes someone has behaved impolitely, or in a manner he or she finds uncomfortable, that individual can be asked (or told) to leave. A convention is a private function, not a public one. Attendees are paying guests and should deport themselves in as polite and courteous manner as possible.

  34. ‘You can always find someone happy to push you into the news cycle.’

    Maybe you have to. It’s pretty clear one found her. These are the arseholes you and TB hope with casual malice to draw into this? Perhaps they’re having too much fun harassing women who dare to be women on the internet.

    ‘But please, spare us all the misguided pity for a cover girl who got exactly what she hoped and planned to generate.’

    The sheer malignant creepiness of this.

    ‘But let’s not insult the victims of rape’

    That’s Gamergate’s job.

  35. Okay, hint number one, kids: if you mean to play journalist, get press credentials rom the Con. Hint number two: If you mean to get up in a speaker’s face in any way, don’t announce it ahead of time. Hint number 3: if you ignore hints 1 and 2, and they throw you out of a panel, expect the grownups’ sympathy to be limited.

  36. “But please, spare us all the misguided pity for a cover girl who got exactly what she hoped and planned to generate.”

    One thing I never understood about the professional victim narrative is that either Ralph is an idiot for playing right into her nefarious plan or he’s just adding to the abuse piled onto the person. Either way he looks bad.

    If you think someone is conning you into victimizing them, here’s a novel idea, don’t? That seems like the most intelligent course of action.

  37. Neither of them looks good in this, but Wu looks far worse. If one wants to be a public figure, one must deal with things like people wanting to take your picture and (if you are trying to change a culture) people not agreeing with what you have to say. There was no physical danger here, so there was no reason to remove the attendee.

  38. Wait, you mean the only possible reasons ever for removing an attendee involve actual physical danger?

  39. @GKChesterton

    “Puppies do read.”

    Apparently, they read only the white bits of any given text.

  40. Charlie, hint #4…if you don’t care about getting thrown out or looking like a petty tyrant and have articles you want people to read or software you want people to buy, follow hints 1 thru 3 to the logical conclusion.

  41. @AV-So someone who has already taken a confrontational and adversarial attitude towards a panelist online comes to a panel with the expressed intent of doing their best to disrupt that panel, takes and posts a picture of the panelist online at Twitter without their knowledge or consent, the panelist has them removed at their request from the room-that, in your mind means the panelist was worse than the disruptive person who was removed from the room because the panelist must “deal with things”? There’s more going on here than the simple taking of a picture without someone’s consent.

  42. I think it is funny when emotion driven reactionaries describe themselves as grownups. I wonder if when they play house, they also draft a mortgage in crayon.

    The con got some press, the wus got some press, Ralph got some press. Now it all came because wu acted the helpless child rather than the competent professional, and the con was volunteers and volunteers never really know what to do, but the lesson that sasquan should take from this is don’t micromanage and don’t let divas dictate the execution of false policies. if you have a diva with special rules, hold her back in a separate area until the special rules can be announced.

  43. @ Pedro Terán

    How do foreign SF fans feel? This Australian feels annoyed-at you and the rest of your controversy chasing, neoconservative hijackers. You look like a bunch of attention seeking kids blowing spitballs and shouting swearwords because you aren’t the centre of attention.

    Seriously, Gamergate, Honey Badgers and this are all the same bloody story. Bunch of blowhard galahs get uncomfortable with diversity existing so howl that they are the real victim while attacking those who dare to be, or are born different. All of the above also deliberately bait a punitive response by entering conversations with a view to derailing them, and then you whine when you’re called on it.

    It’s really just the same old crap that’s got reactionaries worked up since time immemorial, people are doing things differently and this is somehow victimising them hence they throw a tantrum. In the 50s it was rock and roll, in the 70s it was hippies and now it’s whatever “SJWs” are supposed to be.

    You know what it has nothing to do with? An appreciation for Science Fiction, or comics-or video games for that matter!

    Get a hobby, a real one. Being outraged at stuff being different than it was isn’t a hobby, or if it is it’s a bloody sad one!

  44. Geez. Give people who’ve obviously never managed a conference the chance to voice what the RavenCon management should’ve done, and they’ll jump right in and do it.

    Xdpaul–Guests of Honor are more often what you call “drama queens” than not, and there’s a good reason for it. They’ve had a certain measure of success, and a bit of fame as a result, and quite often that comes with its share of creeps and stalkers. Thus, their requests for heightened awareness, and security, and in Wu’s case, with the death threats she’s already received, can you REALLY not see why she’d be concerned about one of her chief nay-sayers right there in the room with her posting provocative stuff?

    Also, if you knew anything about RavenCon and watched this child’s video that he posted, you’d recognize actual staff there, not just volunteers. They knew what they were doing. They were enforcing their own policy, one that this guy had publicly flaunted.

  45. while another person in the row behind him shot video of the episode

    I hate to be a wet blanket here, but… did the “person in the row behind him” get permission from those visible in the video?

    If not, was this person thrown out of the panel session? Did Brianna Wu request that the videographer be removed? If so, what was the response from Ravencon? Because for the life of me I can’t see the difference between taking a picture of a panelist and posting it to Twitter, and taking a video of the selfsame panelist and posting it to YouTube. (And if making the announcement at the end explains why the videographer stopped recording but was not kicked out for recordings done before that announcement, consistency would require the same extenuation also apply to TheRalph taking a photograph before the announcement.)

  46. jaed: The videographer was probably doing it with a phone and not obvious as such — convention audiences are full of people holding phones. (And often recording the panelists, that’s true!) I don’t know when the video was posted to the internet. Perhaps not while the panel was in progress, unlike TheRalph’s tweeted picture.

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