Youtuber TotalBiscuit doesn’t know what criticism means. He doesn’t know what it is for, and he doesn’t know what it does. Months ago, he took to video to claim that DMCA notices were preventing him from doing his job “informing consumers”, explicitly saying that the job of critics is to advise people on what they should and should not buy. More recently, he’s been issuing veiled threats to the indie developers who are criticising his misogynistic comments about a female developer, saying that he’s “spent 4+ years helping indies” and that by calling him out, “many have turned on [him]”.
I’m not going to name the developer in question here, because it’s already unfair how far this discussion of misogyny and ethics has been going on in her front yard. I don’t want to continue associating this person’s name with the awful things that have been said. Her abusers want to see her smeared, they want to see her work undermined in favour of a discussion about her moral character. I refuse to play into that, and this article isn’t about her. It’s about TotalBiscuit.
So, TotalBiscuit is both a consumer advocate and a helping hand to developers at the same time? What a saint he is! Juggling all those conflicting responsibilities. No wonder the world owes him so much loyalty. So sad for him that the double standards he feels he is owed are not being applied by this cold and unforgiving universe. People who criticise his work are “turning on” him, betraying him after all his years of loyal service. But when he criticises other people’s work, it’s important journalism and nobody should try to stand in his way. TotalBiscuit is a critic, you see, a consumer advocate and a voluntary PR mouthpiece for indies, and that affords him special treatment.
TotalBiscuit claims that he tries to stay away from “SJW topics”. “Honestly that whole debate is something I try and stay the hell away from because the people involved in it are fucking terrifying.” Evidently, he thinks that accusing a woman of “exploiting” people by sleeping with them isn’t wading into “SJW” territory. Perhaps he thinks it’s a totally “reasonable stance” to say that women use sex to bargain favours out of people.
TotalBiscuit doesn’t know that “fucking terrifying” means. What’s “fucking terrifying” is that in the hypothetical situation of a journalist exchanging sexual favours for game reviews, people like TotalBiscuit argue that it would be the journalist who is being exploited. What’s “fucking terrifying” is that women who are sexually harassed need a vast support network and a wellspring of inner resolve to even dare try and talk about what has happened to them, while hate-filled ex-boyfriends like Eron Gjoni can write ill-conceived screeds and have their word taken as gospel. What’s “fucking terrifying” is that women in games are subjected to abuse and harassment constantly, while TotalBiscuit’s biggest professional worry is DMCA notices.
TotalBiscuit takes at face value the idea that a woman’s sexuality is a threat to journalistic ethics (note: in an earlier version of this post I said he “suggests” this. It has been pointed out that he doesn’t do this directly. However, he does repeat the idea without challenging it). Nobody who says this should have any authority in this industry. It’s absolutely revolting. Sex is not a thing that women give men in exchange for something else. You don’t put kindness coins into women to get sex in return, no matter what video games might have told you. Sex is a thing that two (edit: or more) adults do together without coercion. Anything else is assault. I don’t know what TotalBiscuit has been through that makes him see sex as a barter economy, but he needs to unlearn that mess.
TotalBiscuit thinks that he has nothing to learn about his own misogyny. “Any right-thinking individual knows that hating women is bad, we don’t need libraries worth of articles to tell us that.” This week’s events seem to demonstrate that there is a huge subculture within games composed of men who desperately need to seek help, and instead just reinforce each other’s disordered views on women and relationships. The sick ideas that proliferate in this culture need to be called out: be it TotalBiscuit’s rapey interpretation of journalistic ethics, or Eron Gjoni’s destructive quest for revenge against his ex-girlfriend, or JonTron’s publicising pornographic cartoons that humiliate her. These men need to learn to do some goddamn self-care and stop spreading this toxic shit at women’s expense.
TotalBiscuit doesn’t know what criticism is. He can’t receive criticism on his own work. His criticism of other people’s work is primarily concerned with “value for money”, like a Which? guide but for art. His critical lens — if it can even be called that — is so dehumanising, it turns even relationships between people into a cold economic transaction. No wonder he and the people around him approach their relationships with women with such a sense of entitlement.