Wednesday, August 19, 2009

That’s so gay…

Ok, so I just had to comment on the weirdly titled "ThinkB4youspeak" campaign.

The motivation behind the idea is good enough. It's an attempt to stop kids using homophobic slurs…the problem is that it will never, ever work.

The people behind this campaign completely misunderstand who they're actually dealing with and are trying to spread their message in the wrong way. For example, their print ads take the saying "That's so gay." and attempt to flip it around into things like "That's so 'Jock who can complete a pass but not a sentence'" or "That's so 'cheerleader who like can't like say smart stuff'" and my personal favorite "That's so 'Gamerguy who has more videogames than friends.'"

I guess the idea is that the Jocks, Cheerleaders and Gamers read these ads and think "Oh wow, that hurts! Oh my god! Is that what gay people feel like when I make fun of them? I'll never say 'faggot' again!"

What will really happen is those kids will see these ads and say, totally unironically: "That's so gay."

The thing that the creators of this campaign are missing can be summed up by the copy from one of their ads:

When you say things like 'homo', 'fag' and 'dyke' trying to be funny, remember, you may actually be hurting someone. So knock it off.

They're assuming that they're just dealing with a bunch of uninformed kids who are saying words they don't know the meaning of and don't realize how offensive they're being. In reality, they're dealing with kids who know exactly what they're saying and are saying these things because it's hurting someone.

They've also made two big mistakes. Firstly, the people they're targeting with this campaign do what they do to get a reaction. They call you a 'pile of gay nigger shit' over Xbox Live or go into a forum specifically to tell everyone that they all 'suck big fat homo dicks' precisely to start arguments and get reactions from people. Exactly how big of a reaction is a whole internet, print and TV campaign? Secondly, they're trying to out-asshole the assholes by being confrontational and using stereotypes of their own. Why is this a bad idea? Because all they're doing is starting a massive flame war, only they have to stay on a leash while the people they're targeting don't.

In other words, we are literally minutes away from 'ThinkB4youspeak' becoming the latest 4chan meme with the photoshopped versions of their posters, altered to say some ridiculously offensive shit, become about a million times more common than the originals.

Long story short, the people they're fighting against thrive on attention and reactions, and they're fighting them by giving them a ton of attention, a massive reaction and are fighting them by playing directly into their hands. They're not making them stop, they're making them retaliate.

In all honesty, you just can't control what people do and say, especially online. The only way kids are going to stop calling each other 'gay' or 'homo' is when another, more offensive term comes along.

However, if you wanted to start a campaign to stop people being so offensive, engaging them and trying to beat them at their own game will never work. You treat them in the same way you treat a kid throwing a tantrum. You ignore them and deny them a reaction. There's no fun in calling someone a 'gay homo' when they don't get angry.

For example, I was watching a live webcast a few months ago by the Penny Arcade guys and they had a chat window up for the audience to ask questions. Mike Krahulik asked for questions and some idiot asked "Why are you such a homofag?"

Now, had Mike gotten angry and argued with the guy, or kicked him out of the chat room, that kid would have gone away and told all his friends how he totally pissed off the Penny Arcade dude because he'd sparked a reaction, disrupted the webcast and started a massive flame war. The next webcast would have been filled with that guy and his friends typing 'fag' over and over again, doing everything they can to piss as many people off as possible.

Instead, in his normal, serious tone of voice, Mike said: "Why am I such a homofag? Well, my father was a homofag, as was his father so I guess it's just part of my heritage." Then, without missing a beat, he went onto the next question.

Basically, he denied the guy a reaction, didn't get angry and took the guys joke and turned it on him. He reacted the same way a good comedian reacts to a heckler. He made the guy feel like an idiot and made sure everyone else was laughing at the guy instead of with him. The guy logged out of the chatroom less than a minute later.

ThinkB4youspeak is a nice idea, but it's the equivalent of trying to use logic and reason to argue with someone calling you a 'gay nigger homo' over and over again onthe internet. They don't care if they're right or wrong, they just want a reaction and the more you argue with them, the more they like it.

1 comment:

Evan 08 said...

Shut up, fag... er, jock... er, geek... er... oh, just shut up.