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Requires Only That You Think

acrackedmoon, blogger at Requires Only That You Hate, is becoming "Internet-famous," it seems, at least in the small world of online fandom.

(Please note that ACM had a LiveJournal presence at one time, and while it's not exactly a secret who her LJ name was, I will not use it simply because she hasn't given permission to do so. If anyone does mention it in comments, I'll have to screen it, sorry.)

For those who aren't familiar with her, ACM is a Thai woman who mostly reviews anime, manga, and SF&F books. She's also a gamer. She's notorious mostly for the extremely vitriolic rhetoric she uses. Her viewpoint is that of a (very angry) Asian woman in a country most often used by Westerners as the punchline of a joke about prostitutes. She is rarely gracious or kind.

ACM has a growing number of fans. She has also, with her reviews, provoked angry, pissed-off responses from authors ranging from N.K. Jemisin to Peter Watts to R. Scott Baker.

Most recently, Liz Williams, aka mevennen, author of the Inspector Chen mysteries, pretty much called anyone who defends her a coward afraid of being called a racist, after trying to call out Catherynne Valente for not, I'm not sure exactly, denouncing her? (Valente has posted a few times on ROTYH, amicably, and ACM has said generally positive things about Valente's work.)

catvalente talks about that here.

So here's my perspective on acrackedmoon:

I've been a fan of her blog posts for quite a while. We've exchanged the occasional email and sometimes I post on her blog, but I don't know her personally. We're not "friends" except inasmuch as any casual Internet acquaintance is a friend.

And before anyone points it out, yes, I've seen people claiming she's not who she claims to be, that she's not really Thai, that she's not really a woman, etc.

With the caveat that this is the Internet so of course anyone can be the proverbial talking dog, I've been following ACM's posts long enough (going back to her LJ days) that I don't think this is likely. She's been consistent enough that if it were all a fabrication like that middle-aged American guy who was pretending to be a teenage Muslim girl blogger, she probably would have slipped up by now. I mean, if I were a journalist who wanted to do an interview or if for some reason I were going to send her money, I'd want more rigorous proof of her identity, but for Internet purposes, I think the attempts to cast doubt on her are mostly just cheap attacks, with a strong tone of "How could a Thai person, like, read science fiction and speak such goooooood English?"

So. Anyway.

Tone argument.

Classically, it's invoked when someone refuses to listen to an angry jeremiad about how they are being an asshole because it wasn't phrased nicely.

And while I understand completely why the tone argument exists (that is, why people get angry when you use a tone argument), I also do think that somewhere, there is a hazy, not always easy to define, but nonetheless demarcating line between "using the tone argument" and just wanting to interact with someone in a reasonable fashion and maybe be given the benefit of the doubt when you are trying to be fair-minded.

Or to put it more plainly, someone may understandably be angry at me, for reasons that may or may not be my fault and/or intentional on my part, and therefore I should at least try to hear them out even if they are calling me names while telling me why they are angry. But on the other hand, it is only human to be less willing to patiently hear someone out who's saying "Fuck you die in a fire you worthless piece of shit!" Even if it's entirely possible that I did something to deserve that level of anger, it's just not reasonable to expect anyone to stand there and take that kind of abuse and smile and nod and say "Thank you for that excellent point! I will certainly go home and think about whether or not I am a worthless piece of shit who should die in a fire."

That said... on the occasions when ACM has engaged with an author or someone else directly (as opposed to writing a nasty blog post about them), she does not typically begin with DIAF rhetoric. While she has been known to be a little prickly and defensive, she does not viciously lash out at people just because they disagree with her. Those who try to engage her on reasonable terms might get some sharp comments in the course of the argument, but it's only the folks who immediately adopt a patronizing and/or insulting approach who get a similar attitude in return.

I found mevennen's post profoundly disingenuous. I find many of ACM's critics to be profoundly disingenuous.

There are certainly grounds to criticize ACM. I do think she has an unfortunate tendency to veer over the line between "righteous anger" and "unreasonable flaming bromide." (Hence my discussion of the "tone argument" above.) Yes, I think sometimes she is a little too quick to go for the jugular, especially with people who really are trying to be understanding. Yes, yes, I know — not her job to teach anyone, not her responsibility to be kind to well-intentioned racists, and so on — fair enough, but still, it seems at times she can't quite decide whether the purpose of her blog is to vent her frustration and engage in performance rage, or actually provide useful analysis. She does both, but there are times when the two things work against one another.

And I think her rhetoric does at times get really overheated. Yes, she makes lots of "kill whitey" jokes and talks about throwing acid and wishing she could punch Paolo Bacigalupi in the face, etc. I do not for a minute believe she is serious. I understand perfectly well that she's exaggerating for rhetorical effect, and I think anyone who interprets her statements as literal death threats is being stupid and disingenuous.

Still. It goes beyond "not nice." It is, as they say in certain communities, "problematic."

Also, she keeps bagging on J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. WHY YOU SO MEAN, ACM?!?!?!?

Crying Baby

So, if you find ACM intolerable, mean, or if her rhetoric really bothers you, I can understand that.

But, if you think she's nothing but a troll or all she's doing is spouting hate speech and LOL-abusing people, you're, at best, wrong, and at worst, disingenuous.

I don't follow her blog, and fail to "call her out," because I'm afraid of being called a racist. I follow her because I think she has genuinely interesting things to say.

And because I can grasp nuance and context!

Like, for example, all the people who go apeshit right off the bat about what a "hater" she is because of the title of her blog - it's a Warhammer 40K reference. Jeebus. She's not a hater, she's a nerd!


Here, have a poll! And since I hear tell that acrackedmoon is very, very scary (actually, I don't even know if she reads my blog :P) I made the voters anonymous for this one.

Are you familiar with Requires Only That You Hate?

Never heard of it.
Heard of it, never read it.
I've read a few of her posts
I read it regularly

What do you think of ACM's style of flame-bait rhetoric?

I think there's no justification for that kind of hateful speech. It's just trolling.
You may have good points, but that kind of rhetoric overshadows your message.
There is a place for that kind of rhetoric, but it does make me uncomfortable.
Unless it crosses the line to actual threats, people should quit whining.

What do you think of the "tone argument"?

It disarms people who don't like being called out and would rather complain about how you should criticize them more nicely.
It has its purpose, but one can be accused a little too hastily of making a "tone argument."
I see the point, but I still think we should strive for civility.
It's a bullshit justification for people who want to be free to fling epithets without responsibility.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 3rd, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
I follow her on Twitter. I don't agree with everything she says, but I do know how to avoid having her say terrible things to me: don't be a jerk. I watch all these meltdowns as people try to stop her nasty-worded ways and it backfires, and all the failures share one thing on common: they're knee-jerk reactionaries who didn't comprehend the point before spouting off on their defensive diatribes. Maybe she used to be more about the picking-on without justification, but, as long as I've followed her, she hasn't jumped in without justification.

Also, her comments on Save the Pearls are hilarious.
Aug. 3rd, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
I think that tone arguments can be abused, but you do also get treated the way you treat others. Making jokes about flinging acid doesn't make for a very mature environment.

ACM's work has a lot of merit for me to look at books through another eye, but reading her work is more like watching a train wreck, you aren't there to learn, you're kinda entertained by the nasty tone and the carnage. So it's when so much hyperbole is tossed around, it's hard to learn much or take her seriously, it more comes across as shock jock.

Do I think she is a troll? No, her jokes about punching people, and neckbeards are her right, they come across as nasty to me but they also come across as shtik. Her shtik is how nasty she can be, how prickly and people love a good flame war. I wonder if her work would be as popular with a 20% tone down of rhetoric. Do people come for the nastiness or the content?

I think we need to call out negative elements in fandom, we need to make fandom an inclusive, just place, but we also need to cherish what we have, a place to geek out.
Aug. 3rd, 2012 06:24 am (UTC)
agree with a lot of this.

i like snark as much as anyone, and i do feel she makes a lot of really good points, but she takes it to another level by far, and that level is one that it is my personal preference to avoid, thus me not reading her blog after checking it out once or twice.

for me personally...there is nothing in the world, no argument or calling out of BS, that can be accomplished through yelling, abuse, or threats, that cannot be accomplished just as well in a civil conversation between mature adults :/
Aug. 3rd, 2012 04:33 pm (UTC)
I'm of two minds. I know that micro-aggressions and bigotry can make you less likely to be nice, but I also have to believe that reasonable and civil conversation can be angry and hostile, and still remain civil and reasonable.

As a Jewish person, I understand that living in a Christian culture often means getting mico and macro aggressions. Micro-aggressions is one person having a long Christmas post, but saying my Purim post is shoving my religion in people's face. Macro-Aggressions is someone saying to my face that the Holocaust happened because the Jews killed Jesus and that Jews deserve persecution. Her words.

In both times, I was angry, but I was not screaming "YOU ARE A GIANT TURD AND A COCKSTAIN" which is a direct quote from ACM. Because what's the point of that? It just makes me look unhinged. It feels good, but addressing their actions or shutting down the train of abuse is more productive.

"How could you say something so bigoted?"

And the tone argument was used. "Stop being so defensive," said the macro-aggressor.

And I said "I am defensive because your words were cruel and you attacked me verbally. That is unacceptable and I am done with your rudeness and bigotry."

I'm not trying to be the Good Jew, but had I lost it, I'd have had everyone entertained by my rage. But who would take me seriously?

A huge problem I have is it because it's all SO HEATED, I have no idea where to take her concerns seriously and when she's just being snarky. It's all sounds the same to me. If she's just venting, great. But it's hard to take venting as anything profound.
Aug. 4th, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
A huge problem I have is it because it's all SO HEATED, I have no idea where to take her concerns seriously and when she's just being snarky. It's all sounds the same to me. If she's just venting, great. But it's hard to take venting as anything profound.

Hmmm. This'll sound stupid, but I do think the difference becomes clear after you get used to her writing style. In general, the content of her criticisms is supposed to be taken seriously while the rhetoric is supposed to be enjoyed for its own sake. I will admit the style is not for everyone, but hey, nobody said you had to like it. :p But some people (not you) seem to be saying more than "I personally do not enjoy ACM's writing style," but rather something more like "What ACM is doing is wrong and she should stop," which I honestly find kind of weird.
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
I'll be honest, if my novel got published, I'd donate to any religious organization to pray she doesn't read and review my work, because her style really bugs me, but freedom of speech, and marketplace of ideas.
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:05 am (UTC)
As I said, I can see why people subjectively don't like it. I personally quite like it, but then again I can be an asshole myself sometimes. :p At the least, I've always enjoyed conflict...er, verbal conflict I should say. Different strokes for different folks and all that.
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:07 am (UTC)
I'm Autistic, so I can't deal with conflict very easily. It makes me nervous because I have no idea if people are being a bit nasty or feelings are truly hurt.
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
That's fair enough. I have a feeling you have to like conflict, or at least be ok with it, to enjoy people like ACM. (She's not the only one who uses this style by any means. Hell, I've enjoyed people who were far worse than her in this regard.)

To be fair, I think she is sometimes nasty, and does sometimes hurt people's feelings. I just don't really have a problem with that. *shrug* Maybe that says something bad about me, I don't know.
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
I'd have no problem with her reviewing my work. Because, you know, I try not to be an asshole, in person or in my writing. And if she found something in my work that made her froth and rage, well, either I'd have to agree that I screwed up, or I'd have to disagree with her, but you know, it's her right to hate what I write. One thing I for damn sure would not do is either bleed butthurt all over her review about how mean and unfair she is and how she doesn't get me, or write a passive-aggressive blog post of my own about how an evil mean blogger is saying mean and unfair things about me and isn't the Internet a mean and awful place?

I daresay if she read my fan fiction (which I doubt she ever will because she's not a Harry Potter fan), she'd find some problematic elements in it. I can even predict some of the things she'd likely point out. And I'd be okay with that. That doesn't mean I'd necessarily agree that I was wrong and full of fail for writing the things she took issue with.
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:28 am (UTC)
I've gotten death threats online, so I am a bit sensitive to vitriol, besides the Autism which makes me a bit more sensitive than the average person. I accept other people feel differently, but I find her style to be shock jock style triggering and horrible. I support her right, I just prefer not to engage with her.

Aug. 4th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
for me personally...there is nothing in the world, no argument or calling out of BS, that can be accomplished through yelling, abuse, or threats, that cannot be accomplished just as well in a civil conversation between mature adults :/

I wish I could believe this. Maybe I'm just really cynical, but even mature adults oftentimes have prejudices and biases that make a civil conversation unproductive. And of course there are plenty of adults who are not very mature. I think yelling, abuse, and threats have their place, if used in the correct manner. I.e., they're tools, able to be used for both good and evil. (Civil conversation, too, can be used for evil.)
Aug. 3rd, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
On Thais and other things
Well, this is my first post, and on such an interesting topic too.

As a Thai myself, I am surprised to see someone from my country rises to popularity on a medium often dominated by Westerners. On the other hand, the argument that Thai people could not use English well at all is utterly and completely ridiculous.

If there's anything a Thai learns in his/her English classes, it's grammar, and writing. Thais are obsessed about getting grammars and spelling right, since it's drilled into their heads years after years whenever they sit in English classes. So if you take any Thai with enough English-class experience and put him/her against an English-speaking native in a writing contest, you might see an upset. The problem? Thai teachers teach too much grammar, and forget to actually teach speaking. So unless they have studied in international schools (where English is the first language, at least officially) or are honor students, conversations between Thais and foreigners could be hilarious (if the Thais haven't run away first :D)

/End rant

As for her content, she seems to be quite reasonable in her comments, but I can certainly understand how excessive snarks could piss people off. At least on her blog (maybe I should try to read her reviews), she seems to be doing a lot of defending rather than flaming. But her defending style rather stokes up the fires, not quelling them, and she seems to enjoy doing that a lot.

There, my first ever LiveJournal post, that was not as difficult as I thought. :D

P.S. Oh, and Inverarity, Alexandra Quick is by far my favorite fanfiction, thanks and good luck writing!

Edited at 2012-08-03 01:52 pm (UTC)
Aug. 4th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
Re: On Thais and other things
Thanks for posting, and welcome. I am always thrilled when someone from another country tells me they like my stories about an American wizarding school. :)

And indeed, it's been my experience that people who learned English as a second language usually do know more about grammar than native speakers.
Aug. 4th, 2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
Re: On Thais and other things
I only started learning about English grammar when I took Latin in middle school. I am given to understand this is not rare.
Aug. 5th, 2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
Re: On Thais and other things
Completely agree. I once studied in a U.S middle school (the reason I know English), and found it quite ironic that my friends were getting lost with some of the simpler grammar like tenses, and asked me for help. Sometimes native speakers are too used to their language, and do not study it in enough details, which as a result lead to funny (but quite appalling) situations described above.
Aug. 4th, 2012 01:33 am (UTC)
OK, I'll state my conclusion first: I have precisely zero issue with ACM's tone. I do occasionally disagree with her on content, but that's obviously not what this post is about (which is unfortunate, since content is far more important than tone, which is a point I will make later in this absurdly long post--you've been warned).

1. I think a lot of people misunderstand the target audience of ACM's posts. Dungeonwriter above, as well as others, often seem to treat her posts as if they're arguments made at the authors of the books she shreds, but they're really not. Her argumentative opponents are not authors but other readers who might disagree with her (the "neckbeards," if you will). So comparisons to what's appropriate in a civil debate and etc. to me are inappropriate.

2. In particular, the point people often seem to make--and I think this includes Inverarity in this blog post--is that her rhetoric is not likely to convince the authors of the books she critiques. Well, yeah, duh. But that's not the point. ACM is not trying to make Bacigalupi learn more about Thailand before writing a book set there; rather, she's trying to show other readers that Bacigalupi didn't bother learning enough about Thailand before writing a book set there.

3. So in that regard, does her rhetoric help or hurt her cause? Well, here are some salient points to consider:

(a) She almost certainly only has the readership and attention she does because of her vitriol. The people who would ordinarily read her but are turned off by her rhetoric, like Shinygobonkers, appear to be outnumbered by the people who wouldn't have heard of her if not for her rhetoric.

(b) Her rhetoric serves to emphasize the point that the stuff she calls people out for doing really is not ok. Things that seriously bother those who are oppressed are oftentimes seen as not a big deal to those who are not. If you're not Thai, it may not ordinarily seem a big deal to you that Bacigalupi screwed up the language (on the first page). Had it not been for ACM's fake death threats, I might've just gotten the impression she was mildly irritated as opposed to majorly pissed off. That makes a difference.

(c) As Inverarity says, a lot of the people who criticize her (not Dungeonwriter or Shinygobonkers above, but others) are doing it disingenuously. I highly doubt they would be more amenable to ACM's criticisms even if she phrased them in the queen's own English. If you make a concerted effort, it's always possible to find a phrase in someone's rhetoric that might be considered problematic under certain lights, and use it to dismiss the entire thing.

(d) Hey, it's far more entertaining than laying out critiques in boring prose. This I imagine is what leads to (a). Also it causes a lot of authorial meltdowns (R Scott Bakker obsessed over her for months without her doing much of anything after her critique), and what would we do without those?

4. Seriously, it's the internet for crying out loud. Flame wars have a long and venerable tradition dating back to its founding. More to the point, reviewers who make a habit of criticism are known for being vitriolic. Simon Cowell, anyone? How about the Nostalgia Critic or Zero Punctuation? Honestly, I don't think her rhetoric is all that extreme, considering this context.

5. As I said at the beginning of this (absurdly long) post, content is far more important than tone. And everyone knows this. The reason the "tone argument" gets used is that, if someone completely ignores the content of a critique and only complains about its tone, then they very likely cannot actually respond to that content and are desperately looking for a distraction. If Liz Williams and everyone else could respond to ACM substantively, they would. That doesn't necessarily mean that ACM is right--maybe it just means they're bad debaters--but it does tell you something.

6. ...OK, I will admit that I have been known to stoke the rhetorical fires myself from time to time, so my defense of ACM has a certain self-interest to it (you could call it "solidarity" if you're feeling kind).

*phew* I apologize for the insanely long post. If you read the entire thing, thanks; I hope it was worth your while. :)
Aug. 4th, 2012 01:40 am (UTC)
(The post above was apparently just inside Livejournal's character limit, so instead of an edit this is a separate post.)

I should mention that who she targets is also important. I have no problem as long as she "punches up," as it were. I was uncomfortable with her recent bashing of the self-published book, though part of that was also because I knew it was at least partly motivated by her personal dislike of the author.

EDIT: Something I meant to mention but forgot: it can be very cathartic to watch someone tear apart something you don't like. I know I've felt much satisfaction from vitriol against stuff I hate for petty reasons, and I'm not talking about ACM. I can only think that many who suffer from racism or sexism must feel even better when they see others go after racists and sexists, even unintentional racists and sexists.

Edited at 2012-08-04 02:01 am (UTC)
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:07 am (UTC)
To be sure, it is her vitriol that has made her a name, and it is the reason I enjoy her snarky reviews so much.

I don't have a problem with "Paolo Bacigalupi, you worthless cockstain!"

I do have, just a tiny bit, a problem with "If I ever meet Paolo Bacigalupi, I will punch him in the face." (And I'd have a larger problem with it if I thought she really meant it.)

There are various reasons for that, but one is that, contrary to what you said, I know ACM isn't speaking to the authors and doesn't expect Bacigalupi to read her words, let alone think them over and try to become a better person/author for them. But the people she is addressing - readers, fans - can be just as turned off, and indeed, even intimidated by that level of violent rhetoric. Particularly people who have actually been exposed to that kind of violent rhetoric uttered by people who really did mean it.

Your comment about "punching up" is very apt, and the main reason I don't take serious issue with her tone. But I'm not sure she should get a free pass to issue threats of violence, however non-serious and hyperbolic they may be.
Aug. 4th, 2012 02:50 am (UTC)
I will admit that the fake threats (and I have very little doubt that they are fake) do make me slightly uncomfortable, in a way the more generic insults don't. Then again, I'm often a target of them, being a white male American who lived in Japan for a year, so I suppose they're supposed to intimidate and bother me.

I honestly doubt there are very many people who are turned off by the fake threats, who wouldn't already be turned off by the (often rather savage) insults. Maybe there are a few, like the people who were exposed to serious threats before, but I doubt it. I suspect that to ACM, intimidating people like us--which I do actually think is part of the reason she uses the fake threats--makes up for the small number of people they might lose.

Should she get a "fake pass" for them? I'm not sure what that means. As I said, I have nothing against people who just subjectively don't like part or all of her rhetoric. And it's reasonable to argue that they damage her overall project. But I think condemning her for it or something is going too far (I'm not saying this is what you mean; I'm just laying out my position). Again, she's an internet reviewer who tends to criticize things; invective, even nasty invective, is par for the course.
Aug. 4th, 2012 03:06 am (UTC)
free pass.

I'm not intimidated by her. I don't take the things she says personally, even when she is saying things that happen to apply to me. I just think as her soapbox becomes bigger, she's going to have to start thinking more seriously about the words she uses, whether she likes tone arguments or not.
Aug. 4th, 2012 03:15 am (UTC)
Oops. Typo. Sorry.

I disagree. I think, as her soapbox becomes bigger, she'll have to start thinking more seriously about who she targets. At this point, if she goes after no-names with her usual style she's "punching down" (this and "punching up" I got from Markos of DailyKos fame, by the way), and even I get put off by that.

To be honest, I'm not sure I understand your reasoning behind saying she'll have to think more seriously about her words. I don't mean this as a defense or a rebuttal; I'm honestly curious. Why do you think that?
Aug. 4th, 2012 03:37 am (UTC)
If a really famous blogger says something like "I wish so-and-so would die in a fire - in fact, I wish I could pour gasoline over him and light a match myself" - it will cause a major shitstorm and there will be people who take it seriously even when it obviously is not.

Now, to the degree that ACM doesn't care what other people say about her, maybe she can get away with continuing to be that vitriolic even as her fame increases. But at a certain point, she's likely to become famous as the person who threatens to throw acid in people's faces rather than the person who is famous for writing eviscerating book reviews.

Also, I just plain don't think it's okay to threaten violence unless you really mean it, and would actually back it up.
Aug. 4th, 2012 12:56 pm (UTC)
OK, I see what you're saying now. You may be right about that. I doubt ACM is going to tone down her rhetoric anytime soon, so I suppose we'll see if any such incident occurs.

I don't think I agree with you about the morality of fake threats. It's probably not okay to make them to someone, but when you're not specifically speaking to the person you're threatening it seems extreme but not really morally blameworthy. At least to me. *shrug*
Mar. 14th, 2017 04:21 pm (UTC)
She's not a hater she's a nerd
Hindisght is always 20/20

"Turns out Benjanun Sriduangkaew and CrackedMoon/RequiresHate are the same person. So are Winterfox, pyrofennec, and Christ knows how many other online personae.

Benjanun-This-Week has been very busy over a number of years, wearing a number of guises. She has stalked, harassed, and threatened. Some of her actions have proven actionable, to the point that authorities are now apparently involved. She drove at least one person to attempt suicide, has induced PTSD symptoms in a number of others. She has told people who disagree with her that they should be raped by dogs, dismembered, and/or have acid thrown in their faces. She habitually deleted these comments shortly after making them, then gaslighted her targets (fortunately there are archives, and screenshots).

Edited at 2017-03-14 04:24 pm (UTC)
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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