Game of Thrones, CNN, and Speech
How CNN (and other media outlets) Troll, Use, and Discipline Fans
Earlier today, I wrote a piece which concluded by chiding the media for pushing for constraints on social media, mocking social media users, and insulting social media producers while at the same time frequently mining social media (often like parasites) to generate their own online traffic.
About two hours after I published my piece CNN posted this steaming pile of trolling garbage:
'Game of Thrones' faces attack from nitpickers
Science fiction and fantasy fans have a well-established history of grousing about properties that they love, from…
But, they have certainly used the enthusiasm from us “nitpicking” fans to generate traffic in the past (OMG Jon Snow is alive):
In 'Game of Thrones' twist, Jon Snow is...
Jon Snow is dead, fans have been repeatedly told. But following the apparent death of the character in last season's…
Three quick responses here:
- Yes Game of Thrones Fans Nitpick
Guess what, fans of GoT nitpick because the Game of Thrones Universe was created in books that were incredibly detailed and very carefully constructed. We fans know that universe VERY well, we care about how it is treated by the showrunners.
Also, and obviously the CNN writer doesn’t get this, Game of Thrones IS ABOUT DECADES OF MINUTAE! A Song Of Ice and Fire is all about little details paying off. Part of the pleasure of the series is re-reading the books and finding the little things George R. R. Martin planted (often thousands of pages in advance) that explain events later in the series.
One of the best moments ever in the entire history of the show, for goodness sakes, was exposing that a name represented an object which was, in a sense, a pun that George R. R. Martin had kept a secret for over 20 years (Hold The Door = HODOR).
The idiotic CNN article above makes it seem like the height of our problems with Season 5, 6, and 7 can be reduced to “Dragons don’t fly that fast” which is insulting, absurd, and displays a casual ignorance of what the actual objections have been (an ignorance that doesn’t make a NEWS network look like very careful researchers or make the NEWS editors look very professional).
I could easily generate a list of 50 things off of the top of my head that bother me about the choices Benioff and Weiss have made since they went off-book, many of which are call into question the entire carefully constructed internal logic of the original plot and of the carefully constructed character arcs.
Despite that, while I do respect what Benioff and Weiss do (and appreciate everything they have done) after well over a decade of investment in ASOIAF, I have earned the right to call BS when they make what appear to me to be shortsighted decisions. I also, as an American citizen, have the right to state my opinion on my social media accounts (or anywhere else).
Also, the main “nitpicking” about travel times in Season 7 was about Euron’s ships teleporting from one end of the continent to the other and Daenerys got to the exact right space ‘Beyond the Wall’ in a matter of hours (it wasn’t just dragon travel speed, it was combined foot speed <Gendry>, Raven speed, and Dragon Speed). I am not sure the Star Ship Enterprise with perfect coordinates would have been much faster than Daenerys was.
In other words, with respect, shame on you CNN. You should at least know what you are talking about before you publish articles.
But there are more important issues at play here too.
2. Playing Both Sides is Hypocrisy
As I mentioned earlier today, many of the same outlets that are constantly talking about neutering social media users (or even threatening them, right CNN?) or disciplining social media companies are the same companies that constantly use the theories of fans to generate traffic.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard snarky asides by CNN panel members talking down about social media but it happens on every outlet. It makes sense, social media is a real threat to journalism. But, at least pick a side. Just do a Google search for “Game Of Thrones” and “Theory” and you will see what I mean.
We nitpicking fans, no a TON more about shows like Game Of Thrones than most journalists do but since Game Of Thrones is popular they come running to us for story ideas (without paying us or often even asking our permission).
But, it isn’t just playing both sides, there is a real trend towards attacking public access to the public square (or at least using platforms where they can amplify their thoughts).
And it is certainly not limited to social media commentary about television, this was an editorial, for instance, in the LA Times just three days ago:
Speech in America is fast, cheap and out of control
The Internet and social media did not create white supremacist movements in the United States, such as the hate groups…
Do a Google search for “Free Speech” + “Social Media” and you will see an avalanche of articles like this. Frightening.
Yes, speech is fast and cheap, but you have no right to tell me what I get to talk about or how I talk about it (as long as what I am talking about is covered by the First Amendment).
3. Stop Pushing Censorship as the Answer
A lot of the undercurrent of the constant bashing of public access to effective means of communication (like social media) includes implicit calls to censorship (see above).
If someone suggests actual violence against someone on-line (especially against women) that is not protected speech (unless it is parody or presented fictionally). We are not allowed to yell fire in a crowded theater and we are not allowed to set interpersonal fires
However, we are facing some real threats to the protection of free speech from both sides of the political aisle right now:
The Most Shortsighted Attack on Free Speech in Modern U.S. History
A faction on the left wants to weaken the free-speech rights that protect marginalized people at the very moment when…
Donald Trump: Social-Justice Warrior
Voters on the political right finally believe they have found their weapon in beating back a scourge of social justice…
I find white supremacists abhorrent and I oppose people pushing for restrictions on the rights of everyone from LGBTQ folks to communities of color. I am VERY far left in political orientation.
But I also oppose fascism.
I am a civil libertarian who believes the cure for bad speech is better speech. While I do believe words can do violence and cause actual damage, I believe there is (or should be) a constitutional firewall between prosecuting physical violence as opposed to verbal violence:
It's a Really Bad Idea to Tell Students Words Are Violence
Of all the ideas percolating on college campuses these days, the most dangerous one might be that speech is sometimes…
I also believe censoring or restricting speech the majority disagree with pushes it underground and potentially causes it to metastasize (like cancer). Public speech is often a form of safety-valve and allows ideas to play out in the Marketplace of Ideas.
Ultimately, I agree with Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s classic saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to your death the right to say it.” I believe free speech is a critical bulwark against fascism.
This battle is happening NOW and we social media “nitpickers” need to fight back:
The Future of Free Speech on Social Media Looks Grim
Reddit has suffered a rocky year, having weathered months of censorship concerns and subreddit shutdowns. Recent…
Sorry for going off on a tangent, also did I mention, that CNN article was insulting and should have been beneath the journalistic standards of a major news outlet.
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