Larping in reference to Right Wing folks August 3, 2021 7:18 PM   Subscribe

I'd respectfully ask that people consider refraining from referring to people who attacked the US Capital, and right-wing nationalists who engage in acts of insurrection generally, as LARPers, LARPing, or other insulting references to my hobbyist community.

Quick Examples: 1 2 3

I've been involved in live-action roleplaying for 20 years, there are way more of us LARPers than you might think, and it's really insulting to us to see people on MeFi do this, both in referring to right-wing nationalist criminal activities by referencing our hobbyist community, and in people apparently using my hobby as an insult against others, as if membership in our playful artistic community deserves to be denigrated and demeaned.

It also minimizes the crimes and terrorism they attempted and continue to attempt, calling it a game, and it's not. I wish it had been just a game. In a game, we know the difference between reality and fantasy.

My community, like many hobbyist communities, raises money for member's medical bills, does donation drives for charities and blood drives, and provides a haven for many systemically marginalized folks to enjoy themselves. I feel we deserve better.
posted by gryftir to Etiquette/Policy at 7:18 PM (121 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for bringing this up. It smacks of the olden days of the Internet where there was a "hierarchy of nerds". It wasn't good then, and it's no good now.

People's hobbies really do not deserve to be the butt of jokes in 2021.

The repeated joke doesn't really hurt the insurrectionists, it only hurts the innocent hobbyists.
posted by explosion at 8:40 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


I don't think any of those examples can be fairly read as denigrations of actual LARP hobbyists.

They're similes, and which use LARP exactly as an example of the clear difference, as you say, 'between reality and fantasy', rather than direct comparison between a hateful riot and a Society of Creative Anachronism festival. There was every difference in the world, and a difference between fantasy and reality, between the (admittedly, violent) costumed-soldiers who attacked the US Capitol in January, and the far more common kind of military coups, familiar to the 20thC, where a country's generals simply issue 3am communiqués, and there's an instant new provisional Government. It's precisely the disconnect between costume-based play, and political affect, that's being referred to in the simile. When Marx referred, somewhere,[*] to world-historic facts 'appearing the first time tragedy, and the second time, as farce', and to people draping themselves in guises, knowing nothing better than parody, it wasn't actual working playwrights or actors in tragedies or farces he had in mind—but tragedy/farce, and LARP, and cosplay, they are similes for real things.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:48 PM on August 3 [29 favorites]


Eh, just say "roleplaying", or "playacting", or something like that; I don't think there's any necessity to use "LARP" in particular. I mean, it's not like it's an enlightening comparison; they aren't actually doing anything similar to LARPing.
posted by sagc at 8:55 PM on August 3 [10 favorites]


This offended me, too.

The Jan. 6 rioters weren't playing. They came awfully damn close to turning the US into a fascist dictatorship, and they haven't exactly given up that ambition, have they?

Anything which tends to minimize or ameliorate what they did aids their cause and deserves censure in the strongest terms.
posted by jamjam at 11:26 PM on August 3 [15 favorites]


The Jan. 6 rioters weren't playing. They came awfully damn close to turning the US into a fascist dictatorship,

Yeah, real close.
posted by atrazine at 4:01 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


The Jan. 6 rioters weren't playing. They came awfully damn close to turning the US into a fascist dictatorship,

I thought the shock many of them expressed when one of their number was shot by police suggested they didn't really understand what it means to take part in an armed insurrection. If you're going to take up arms against the government, "you could get killed" seems pretty basic to me.

But it seems a totally reasonable request to avoid bringing in LARP when discussing them (I'm not optimistic that this thread will take care of it though). You could excuse lots of potentially offensive things by claiming they're just similes - that doesn't make it OK.
posted by FencingGal at 7:14 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


I felt uncomfortable about using LARPing to refer to 1/6 the first time I saw it, probably on the day itself or the day after. And pointed it out a few times (not here tho). Using this exact term doesn't really enlighten, just denigrates, and isn't a particularly accurate.
posted by skynxnex at 7:14 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Calling the 1/6 mob rioters or insurrectionists might offer a better focal point than the term LARP. Unfortunately, those terms don't actually carry the same flavor.

On a broader scale, it may be useful, if possible, to develop a shorthand term that drills down into these assholes' complex reality. They wear costumes and engage in meetups where they rehearse and then enact fantasies of violent confrontations, typically with real-life weapons. From an outsider's point of view, I certainly don't imagine that LARPers intend to do any harm, while the mob on 1/6 seemed eager to use violence. I imagine that most of those delusional clownies would rather watch somebody else perpetrate violent acts rather than actually put themselves in harm's way.

I don't use the term LARP anyhow, so it's easy for me to honor your request. I hope your unease can be directed more toward the clownies who dress up and then try to realize their violent fantasies than those of us who have been a bit careless in our characterizations.

By the way, I first became aware of the Society of Creative Anachronism in the early 1980s, when two of their members worked at forges near mine during my farrier training. One was making period-correct swords and daggers, and the other was making a chain-mail jumper. Both were students of anachronistic fighting techniques, and I would guess (from the demonstrations they gave us) pretty damned good at using the tools of war they made in our shop.
posted by mule98J at 8:23 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


I'm also a LARPer (and, in the Bay Area - gryftir, it wouldn't surprise me to hear we have a friend or two in common). The nationwide game I play has, sadly, made the news in recent years because one of the Charlottesville Nazis was (at the time) a member of our game (he was very quickly banned when the connection was brought to light).

Yeah, I'd really prefer that the more generic "playacting" or "role-playing" be used rather than the term "LARP".
posted by hanov3r at 8:27 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I HATE the term "insurrectionists." It sounds noble. A justified group fighting tyranny. They deserve no such respect. Rioters, violent mob, domestic terrorist attackers, attack on the Capitol, etc is far more accurate.
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:02 AM on August 4 [6 favorites]


I"m sorry, but I don't think "playacting" or "role-playing" quite captures the same thing as the use of LARPing in this context and I think that context is of some importance. The OP's third link provides some basis for this in connecting the event to QAnon, the fictive element, the desire for an acceptable narrative, no matter how far fetched it may be, is a major element for much of the right's base, in the face of the reality being described to them by those they don't want to hear.

They aren't play acting, they legitimately feel the emotions that drive their actions, and they aren't just roleplaying by taking their actions as far as they do, though some indeed may just be roleplaying their aggression online rather than joining with the group enacting those feelings in public. The essential element that differs from hobbyists is that the hobbyist's engagement is with a fictional world where they are characters within it, while these people are LARPing reality. They imagine themselves as "patriots" or "heroes" of a falsified set of actual events and people, the fiction becoming mixed with the real by the desire for an acceptable narrative to fit their beliefs.

That it requires a group of like minded fellows to play out this twisted version of reality and the way the narrative is constructed, online on social media sites, spun out like fanfic, is an important element to the whole of it all. It goes along with so many other elements of the current moment in the US, where the right's use of kayfabe has been well noted and so much confusion is being sowed by social media companies and the culture overstuffed with superficial narratives about everything. It's all of a piece and goes beyond just the rioters/insurrectionists/traitors/whatever to some rot in the culture as a whole, something which has been noted as a threatening element of post-modern culture for quite some time and is playing out in much the ways predicted. I think the need to connect how people are mixing reality and fiction is important to note and using terms like LARPing draws that connection out more effectively than the alternatives.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:11 AM on August 4 [12 favorites]


I don't think LARPers are mixing reality and fiction in the same way at all. At least, not anyone I know who engages in various LARPing activities.

My friends go off with their like-minded compatriots and have fun for a few hours (or for bigger events, days to weeks).

They don't play/pretend that X LARPing event will have any effect on the real world or try to get me to choose their side on whatever scenario is playing out. They don't feel like their weekly skirmish makes them battle hardened veterans.

I honestly don't see how the term LARP adds any clarity to the situation here.
posted by ghost phoneme at 10:06 AM on August 4 [24 favorites]


yeah, gusottertrout, I'm not sure that's an argument for using LARPer to describe them? Or if it is, it's an argument for redefining LARP in a way that pretty much eliminates anyone doing it for fun?

And, for that matter, what is lost, exactly, when you say "roleplaying" instead of LARPing? I mean, we recognize that this is occurring in live action already, right?

The more I think about it, it's honestly using the standard nerd denigration of LARPing as a way to insult the people who invaded the Capitol. That's really not the direction we should be going in, I think.

Like, list the things that insurrectionists have in common with LARPing as people on Metafilter practice it, I'll wait.
posted by sagc at 10:33 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


LARPers don't believe that they're wizards or rogues, generally. The insurrectionists certainly believed they were defenders of truth, justice, and the American way, in a way that goes well, well beyond an interest in getting together on the weekend to act out scenes.

If the point of using "LARP" is to indicate that they're starting to mix reality and fantasy, it's honestly failing to do that. The more they mix reality and fantasy, the further they're getting away from LARPing - and the closer to what I suspect we can just call "beliefs" or "opinions" or something more anodyne.
posted by sagc at 10:36 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


And, for that matter, what is lost, exactly, when you say "roleplaying" instead of LARPing?

That was my thought reading this thread, but in reverse actually. Like "well I don't take it as an insult if someone says they were roleplaying and I've been a roleplayer, so how is using LARPing which to my understanding is Live Action Roleplaying insulting to LARPers?"

I'm happy not to use LARP because I don't want people to feel bad, but I have to admit I don't quite get it because for me it's describing an action (roleplaying using a real world setting and costumes and props.) For me it's like we say someone's a good actor when we mean liar without insulting actors etc.

I'm not prepared to die on this hill, I think I'm more just trying to suss out the issue with LARP so I don't step on toes in some other context.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:47 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


Eh, look at is as a defined community, like D&D or tennis or something. LARP is different than just "acting like someone you really aren't"; generally, there are various systems for combat, stats, etc.

LARP is much closer to a brand name/proper noun than something like just "acting".
posted by sagc at 10:53 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


If one group of people is playing a pretending game for fun and the other group is trying to murder Congress on live tv I don't think it's a huge ask to not conflate two groups that have nothing to do with each other.
posted by bleep at 11:14 AM on August 4 [16 favorites]


I have no dog in this fight except to say that I use larp as a regular old word, separate and distinct from LARP, the activity/hobby community. Even in my profile here in fact. I'm not out here being The Descriptivist God of All Written Language or anything, I'm just a person who reads things sometimes, and LARP/larp has been part of the lexicon longer than I've been alive. And for me at least there is an obvious and explicit difference between something like "MAGA proud boys decked in tactical gear larping as soldiers" and the idea that these dangerous and delusional idiots have anything in common with the amiable folks who wear costumes and run around the park with friends on Saturday afternoons. It doesn't even cross my mind to conflate the two. That's all.
posted by phunniemee at 11:37 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


The intersecting psychologies of the whole ugly and ongoing thing is probably something that'll have its own more specific term of art eventually.

"Maliciously maladaptive engagement with a hateful ARG" doesn't quite roll of the tongue as well, but probably gets closer, especially to the Qish facets of the mess.
posted by Drastic at 12:02 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


If refering to them as LARPers is demeaning to the hobby (and it is), then also referring to them as "roleplaying" is also demeaning to people who do that as a hobby as well.

To describe them any of the following apply; agitator, insurgent, malcontent, anarchist

They hurt people. They brought weapons - they brought military/police-style zip-ties to capture people. They challenged a legimate election and transition of power. They were not playing. They were not acting.

The may be fools/foolish in thinking there were no consequences, but in no way were they playing a game.
posted by rozcakj at 12:08 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


yeah, gusottertrout, I'm not sure that's an argument for using LARPer to describe them?
...
And, for that matter, what is lost, exactly, when you say "roleplaying" instead of LARPing? I mean, we recognize that this is occurring in live action already, right?


As to the latter, the distinction is useful because there is also "role playing" going on that isn't enacted in public, which is also of importance but different. As to the former, it is something different than just a belief, though of course informed by values, it is the group aspect and the way the narrative and roles are taken up in peer constructed story form that carries it beyond the the usual individual action, to something more like fiction, even though it plays out in the real world against real people.

The importance placed on the constructed version and the differentiation between the actions within/around the collaborative group and their imagined foes compared doesn't fit with a lived reality, it is something other, that shares a strong resemblance to a game for the way its all talked about and "played" as something with a community and rules of its own, separate from the day to day life people live. The reason people reference it as larping is because they treat it as such and from the outside we can see the fiction involved.

It's performance separated from consideration of real personal, much less societal, consequence, as that is how it is treated by the media and many politicians, even after the fact of 1/6. It is play to them, where what is said need not have anything to do with reality, just needs to fit their role and attributes in gaining the wanted result. The US is a culture of disconnection though, a place of demand for service and denial of consequence, so the desire for fiction is understandable, especially given our ever increasing desire for virtual distance as a way to retreat from our neighbors and the reality at hand. But that's a whole 'nother argument I guess, which I won't pursue save as a suggestion.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:13 PM on August 4


I have been surprised by the general reluctance to call the January 6 attackers by the label that seems to me to fit the best: this was a lynch mob. Perhaps people avoid the term because the mob was not successful in actually murdering anyone directly during the attack? Perhaps because lynching is also strongly associated in people's minds as a tactic of racial terrorism and most of the individuals directly targeted in this case were not Black? Perhaps because of concerns that the word has been so overused by people describing mere vocal disagreement? But the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6 has all the hallmarks of a lynch mob, which include those things that make some people compare it to LARPing. Many or most of the members of the mob may not have had any intention of directly participating in the violence themselves, but were excited to be there to watch approvingly: this is also how lynch mobs behave. Many people came with their families, and took photos of themselves to share: this is also how lynch mobs behave. Participants relied on the perceived approval of their social peers to provide cover for the acceptability of their presence and participation in the violence: this is also how lynch mobs behave. To the extent that the participants were delusional or unclear on the difference between fantasy and reality, they were so in the same way that has motivated extrajudicial mob violence in the U.S. throughout history. This was not new.

The people that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 weren't insurrectionists, or rioters, and they certainly weren't playing a game. They were a lynch mob, there to violently impose their will on others out of a belief that the refusal of the government to bend to their whims made it illegitimate, and violent mob "justice" is more "democratic" than our country's system of laws. I'd like to see more people call them for what they were instead of using euphemisms.
posted by biogeo at 12:51 PM on August 4 [36 favorites]


biogeo has it right... They erected gallows...
posted by rozcakj at 1:04 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


They’re not being conflated. To call them LARPers is cutting because they are doing all the dress ups and behaving playfully with self-ridicule; the reason it cuts is precisely because they don’t know it. I would have thought the distinction between literal meaning and simile would be where role-playing nerds got semiotically interested but there you go.

If I go on a football field and call the referee a clown, I’ll get sent off, but no actual comparison or offence to clowns is meant, or understood. I don’t hold physical comedy in contempt.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 2:43 PM on August 4 [9 favorites]


Right, but you're saying they're goofy like a clown. How are the insurrectionists in the capitol actually like LARPers? Like, what commonalities do they share, other than they seem silly to you, with their dressing up?

If LARPers where out there randomly dragging passerby into their games and then shooting them with real magic, maybe we'd have a basic for comparison.

Like, how can you both "behave playfully with self-ridicule" and "not know it"?

I guess I'm just not feeling that this is something that we should be defending, and the attempted defenses of it just aren't making sense to me.
posted by sagc at 2:50 PM on August 4 [6 favorites]


Metafilter, I love you. You're my chosen family on the Internet. But I am incredibly frustrated that, once again, the response to "hey, these words that you chose are hurtful to people who are not your target" is "let me tell you why you shouldn't be hurt" rather than "oh, I hear you, let me find another descriptor".
posted by hanov3r at 3:01 PM on August 4 [36 favorites]


The better question is that common things did the rioters share with actual soldiers, carrying out a coup de main, who they were imitating. We know they were violent, we know they were murderous, we also know that if they’d been faced with even a small force of actual infantry, commanded firmly and prepared to protect their State, they would have run. The only reason the riot was so dangerous was because the US Government held its monopoly of force back.

It’s not a defence or a literal comparison. That’s the joke! It’s not to say they’re contemptible as LARPers, because they aren’t, it’s to say they and actual infantry have the same relationship as a c.2020 LARP weekend group of mates, and the two forces of English and French at the battle of Crécy, that is, none. Actual LARPers know it, and enjoy to the full the joke that they’re all in on.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:03 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I mean, other than the one who created this thread?

Also, I think you might be confusing LARPers with the subset of historical reenactment?
posted by sagc at 3:04 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


And hanover, I agree! The fact that people are saying "playacting" isn't good enough for them, they need to compare the alt-right to people who LARP, for... reasons? is frustrating.

It's such an anodyne request, people, for something that isn't, like, a habitual part of speech for most people. Just say "I think they're playing at being something they don't understand!"
posted by sagc at 3:06 PM on August 4

how can you both "behave playfully with self-ridicule" and "not know it"
At the risk of explaining the comedy out of the joke and using simile—when a person from the US South says ‘oh, bless your heart’, they’re not actually blessing your heart, they don’t have your heart in mind, and they don’t approve of what you’re doing in any way that calls for blessing. They’re telling you, archly, that you think you’re clever, but people are laughing at you, you’re not in on the joke, and really you should probably be ashamed.

It’s why ‘play acting’ is not an acceptable substitute for meaning. If it were, and we were still equating the simile with a direct comparison, we’d be insulting actors.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:12 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I mean, do you deny that you're intentionally insulting LARPers, who, again, are the people asking you to stop?

And you're not insulting actors, I'd say that you're... describing what they're doing? They are acting out a certain fantasy.
posted by sagc at 3:14 PM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I'm curious what people in this thread think LARPers do, exactly? Do you think that they all believe that they're knights, actually living in Arthurian times? Far-future tech-wizards?
posted by sagc at 3:14 PM on August 4 [4 favorites]


Yes, none of the examples in the thread can possibly be understood as a direct comparisons. It’s a simile.

It’s asking the exact same question you’re describing. ‘You guys know you aren’t actually soldiers, right? That you’re role playing? You know that you’re in costume, you do know that?’
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:20 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Right, but it's been explained above that people have a problem with this very, very specific simile. There are many other ways to get the point across.

Again, though, they are not LARPing. They are doing the things that they do in sincere belief, not just because it's a fun way to get together with the gang on a weekend.

Unless your thesis is that they are in fact totally making up their beliefs, and just doing this so that they can wear the clothes, etc? In which case, maybe explicate that.
posted by sagc at 3:24 PM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Look we are talking across each other. If they knew they were LARPing—being in on the joke—then the simile would have no power. It’s their self-ignorance that’s the butt of the joke, not their costumes.

It is no comparison and can’t be understood as one except in the most over-literal sense. Does Shakespeare say his love is like a red-red rose, meaning, that it grows in a bush with small spiny stalks and an annual flower?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:30 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


(Except that it was Burns who made the red rose simile and Shakespeare who made a simile with a summer’s day—and on that note, etc. etc.)
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:32 PM on August 4


How can someone being playing at something while also erecting gallows? Where's the joke with insurrectionists?
posted by sagc at 3:33 PM on August 4 [6 favorites]


Like, they're not reading your cutting insults, you know? Pretty sure metafilter has more LARP participants than insurrectionists, so you're mostly just saying - as it reads generally - that LARPers are just as confused about what they're doing as the insurrectionists.

But I do strongly, strongly disagree that the people who invaded the Capitol are somehow just confused about why they're doing what they're doing. Of course they're not aware of how other people see them, but also, not everyone thinks of them as just "self-ignorant", and thus not a threat, like a LARPer.

Again, the fundamental difference here is what you seem to find funny - LARPers are just people doing some fun stuff, and insurrectionists are trying to overthrow the government.
posted by sagc at 3:36 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


At the risk of explaining the comedy out of the joke

The thing about jokes is, they're generally funny. What's funny about this joke you're trying to tell? As an actual LARPer, explain to me the joke you're telling, because it's not at all evident in the rather voluminous defense you've put up here.

Using a word for one subculture to make fun of something else, ESPECIALLY something as egregious as the attack on the Capitol, is generally considered bad. Why is it OK in this instance?
posted by hanov3r at 3:41 PM on August 4 [6 favorites]


This same thing comes up over and over. You can politely make a simile to anything except for real extant people, because people tend to not like that.
posted by bleep at 3:41 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


That this is a debate at all is completely absurd. These people could decide to do it again, learning the lessons of last time, and maybe they'll succeed. They won't be LARPing then in any sense.
posted by bleep at 3:48 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


I mean, I can't say what every single person in their heart of hearts is thinking, but I've been reading internet people taking dunks long enough to be confident that reason most people call the 1/6 shitheads LARPers because it's an easy dunk on the shitheads to compare them to, not bold dedicated true insurrectionists, but shitty nerds playing dress-up.

Like that is absolutely the valence. That's the whole joke. That's why it caught on, that's why it was effective snark in the first place. It's: you think you're big badasses but you're actually a bunch of fucking twerps wearing cardboard costumes, lol. That's it. It does suck. I'm on team "stop doing it", personally. Even if it's possible to bend over backward to find a non-hurtful valence that COULD be the reading, that's...really not the reading that's out there. LARPing is an easy potshot to take at RPG nerds, most people aren't thinking about it one step beyond that.

I remember a moment, yeaaaaars ago, out at a meetup that mathowie was at, and I don't even remember the context but he ended up making some lazy, very of-the-time crack about furries, and...one of the MeFites there was a furry, and was genuinely hurt by that, but sucked it up and got quiet and just mentioned it to me later. And I mentioned it to Matt, and Matt was like, shit, yeah. That was just a shitty joke I made because it's what people on the internet say. And then he got a little familiar with furry culture and stopped making that shitty joke and it was a good outcome.

I guarantee that if you're using LARP as a punchline and you're not doing so among your mutual LARPing friends, you're gonna end up having someone feel hurt and get quiet and, best case scenario, eventually you'll find out that you fucked up and hurt someone. Threads like this are a pretty good opportunity to get out in front of that and just stop before, instead of after, you do some shit that's already on your radar.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:52 PM on August 4 [42 favorites]


People are asking why anyone even thought to use LARPing instead of other words. For me: it’s because I have these internal definitions for the various words: Role playing is sitting around a table saying “I am a soldier, I stamp my foot”. Play acting is standing up on a stage maybe dressed as a soldier and stamping your foot while everyone pretends you’re in Congress. Live action role playing is going to Congress to stamp your foot while trying to look and act as much like a soldier as you can. The “live action” emphasizes that they went out into the world to do this. So sure, I could stop using it, but I don’t know what I’d replace it with.
posted by bashing rocks together at 5:55 PM on August 4


Call it playing a role or acting out a fantasy, then?
posted by sagc at 5:58 PM on August 4


Or just "they imagine they are something they are not", which seems to be the underlying idea that people struggle to express?
posted by sagc at 5:59 PM on August 4


I guess, bashing rocks together, what do you call a bunch of people in the woods throwing beanbags at each other on the weekend, while they enact an actual fantasy world?

Like, there already was a definition of LARPing before the sixth, and it wasn't just "pretending to be something you aren't, very strenuously".
posted by sagc at 6:12 PM on August 4


once again, the response to "hey, these words that you chose are hurtful to people who are not your target" is "let me tell you why you shouldn't be hurt"

Unsurprisingly, it's a consistent group of users saying that it's just a joke, that people are taking words too seriously, whinging about cancel culture/wokeness/political correctness/you can't say anything anymore/etc. It is downright exhausting. My kingdom for a block list on this website so that I wouldn't have to see the same bad actors making these same tired arguments about how they should be allowed to say hurtful, damaging things just because they want to.

Also, the insurrectionists weren't live action role playing. It was a failed coup. It was not a game. Joking about it or acting as if it was just a lark, a bit of play acting, is really dangerous.
posted by twelve cent archie at 6:33 PM on August 4 [15 favorites]


Hey, gryftir, it was my comment that you linked third, & I wanted to tell you I am sorry for using your hobby as a metaphor for what my dad has become/is going through. You're totally right that it draws a negative conflation between two different wildly different things, & that's hurtful & unacceptable. I feel similarly to even less specifically referential words (as has been discussed here ohhh not all that long ago) & of course you're well within your right to bring this up, so thank you for that.

It is hard to find a word that adequately fits the context, or valence, as was said above-- because the rioters on Jan 6 were, in many cases, people who are basically divorced from reason, who do have some kind of fantasy they're enacting, something they're playing out, & yeah they don't realize they're doing it, it's all taken SO SERIOUSLY, which is in part why I think the LARP-analogy *seemed* to work-- because I've known LARPing type folks who do seem to take LARPing VERY SERIOUSLY almost to the point where it could be ... unsettling? Plus the costumery, the jargon, the general insularity of that community-- like I do think that the Q-Anon people & maybe some of (old-school) nerd culture have that in common, that there's this sense of being downtrodden, oppressed, disenfranchised that seems to be more of a self-limiting set of beliefs rather than something that is actually happening TO that group of people (I don't think "nerd culture" is like this anymore-- I think it used to be; I DO think that extreme Right Wing types feel this way at present). I think that because I don't think of LARPers as being oppressed (I wrongly conflate this hobby with white men, although I understand that it's a much more diverse culture than that!) that I did not think of the comparison as being harmful, but I see it now.

Anyway we do need a better word for people who are disconnected from the reality of A + B=C, because somehow they'll always find that in their minds A +B=Q; who do romanticize violence or violent behavior or tools or tactics without having a real concept of what that violence actually entails, the damage it would do to their own minds/souls to inflict such violence much less the damage it would do to others to participate in such violence, who co-opt military garb, weaponry, Bob Marly (??), the voices of oppressed groups for their own twisted rationale, who take themselves too seriously but don't take anything else (the human rights of all people, actual facts) nearly seriously enough, who grift or are seriously grifted by their grifter peers... Yeah, we need a better word for this group, & let it not be LARP.
I think it would be OK to continue to use the RP (role-playing) acronym bit, but maybe coin some new words that would make a better shorthand for violent political extremists who are divorced from rationale and who rely on white-supremacist narratives to fuel their ethnostate fantasies? Because part of them IS role-playing, part of them IS disingenuous, part of them likely really doesn't want to commit interpersonal violence; they want to be FEARED for their posturing, they want to be worshipped for their ideology & gender & race when really most of them don't actually have serious ideological commitments or deep thoughts about how their fantasy worlds would actually exist (that's kind of the point of fantasy, hey, that it IS impossible). There is a lot of desperate & simplistic thinking coming out of that community (specifically all in reference to the post I made about my dad) & part of the issue that we've all been reckoning with in recent years is that these people who we find ridiculous ARE NOT in fact LARPing, they are real people with real weapons and real energy and real motive and real organizing (*ish) skills & real lives & most of us all feel a real pity / disgust/contempt for them / really DON'T take them Seriously.

In conclusion, LARPing is a fun fantasy-based hobby for a community of serious like-minded people who understand the distinction btwn fantasy & reality which is precisely why they are able to enjoy the hobby &
storming the US capitol, posting racist memes, shooting cashiers for requesting you wear a mask in store, generating poorly formatted yet convincing racist/sexist/ableist/homophobic/transphobic/xenophobic propaganda is NOT a fun hobby that a community of serious like-minded people who can distinguish btwn fantasy & reality participate in bc they are actually a community of seriously troubled people who CAN'T distinguish btwn fantasy & reality & THEREIN LIES THE PROBLEM & THE CRUX of this issue

This is long, I am very tired, I hope I was able to make my point but I am sorry if not. Also, I am sorry for hurting anyone's feelings with the shitty LARP comments & I'm here to listen.
posted by erattacorrige at 8:02 PM on August 4 [15 favorites]


I'm falling asleep but : White Alt-Right Terrorists, or, WARTs?
posted by erattacorrige at 9:05 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


Or Fringe Alt Right Terrorists, FARTs?
posted by erattacorrige at 9:21 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


If I’d paid more attention I would have seen that it was one user repeatedly expressing the same dismissal of any distinction between role playing and LARPing, and not attempted a good faith explanation. It feels like even saying “oh I didn’t realize it’s hurtful: I’ll see if there’s another way to express the same idea” isn’t a good enough response - what’s being pushed for is agreement that the word never conveyed anything except an insult to LARPers in the first place, and roleplaying or playing a role must be equivalent replacements.
posted by bashing rocks together at 9:23 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I mean, cortex is the one who made the latter connection most strongly, and I don't love that I'm apparently arguing in bad faith when I just try to suggest alternatives.
posted by sagc at 9:45 PM on August 4


I think “wannabe” is a more accurate term for them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:59 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


I'm not gonna make another tedious argument for the use, I just want to make clear when I've used the term it wasn't a "dunk" or "joke", other than in the most rueful of ways perhaps, it was intended as something more serious, a purposeful analogy over the way fiction has bled over into reality and role playing becomes something more serious due to that. For me, this is a huge cultural problem in the US and the simile was intended to draw that out in much the same way I've used "fanfic" to describe how some now write about people and events in ways that have more to do with wishcasting than reality. People who adhere to strong lines between reality and fiction, whether LARPing or writing fan fiction are not a problem nor joke to me, it's only when the lines blur that the activities become a problem and calling it out as such matters to me.

If the site preference is for those terms not to be used, that's fine, I'll go with that, but the alternative description will cover much the same ground in more words, which probably isn't anybody's hope from my already lengthy replies.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:35 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


I should add though that the notion of "dunking", a simile borrowed from basketball used to describe "scoring points in the face of another person" carries much the same problem of borrowing and treating exchanges with others as a "game", both of which I'm opposed to.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:06 AM on August 5


Thanks cortex - this whole thread, I was thinking - "What if it was furries?"... I have relatives and friends who are furries - and they had to deal with being the butt of internet jokes and memes for a decade. Equating the terrorists to LARPers - or role-players - or actors, is just a different insult term that is used because it is demeaning and that is why the comparison is being made.

Being called a terrorist, agitator, insurgent, malcontent, anarchist is plenty insulting - I don't know why one would still be fighting to pick a different group for denigration and comparison.
posted by rozcakj at 7:27 AM on August 5


Thanks for the post. I totally get why that term has been used but yes, it is past time to step away from it and stop using it as an insult since it is hurtful.

We can call that violent, traitorous, anti-democratic mob something else. Like violent white supremacists. Or any number of other things. There are a lot of ways to describe the January 6th criminals that don't hurt other people.

They might not get a bunch of retweets on Twitter but this place isn't Twitter (thank goodness) so backhanded snark isn't required.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:56 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


terrorist, agitator, insurgent, malcontent, anarchist

One of these things is not like the other…
posted by zamboni at 8:57 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Out of curiosity zamboni - which one (or more) does not accurately describe the participants of January 6th?

Terrorist - a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
Agitator - a person who urges others to protest or rebel.
Insurgent - a rebel or revolutionary.
Malcontent - a person who is dissatisfied and rebellious.
Anarchist - a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power.
posted by rozcakj at 9:03 AM on August 5


> Out of curiosity zamboni - which one (or more) does not accurately describe the participants of January 6th?

They're not anarchists. They don't want to get rid of government altogether -- they want their guy back in charge.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:12 AM on August 5 [27 favorites]


I think there is a substantive difference (setting aside worthiness of aim) between someone like, e.g., Alexander Berkman, and the people who attacked the Capitol on January 6. There is a willfully ludic element to many people's participation in that event, an intentional use of reality to act out certain fantasies about themselves and their society, that makes me understand why LARPing gets invoked. (The other common comparator is kayfabe.) To many now, LARPing is essentially a generic term for dressing up and enacting your fantasies in a real-world setting; harmless fun when it's D&D-style, a nightmare when it's white supremacist "heroism."

It's important to understand differences in political culture because they are an important conditioner of political behavior. I don't feel very strongly about the word, but I must also say that I don't think of LARPers generally as a marginalized class that historical injustice mandates one avoid referring to in any way that might carry a negative or stereotypical connotation. A LARPer joke generally might be dumb and lazy, but when people approach insurrection in the same spirit, it's worth thinking about and naming in some way that actually captures what's going on.
posted by praemunire at 9:13 AM on August 5 [12 favorites]


I’d like to find a way to say “really want to be military, and want to have the trappings of the military (radios, MOLLE vests, fast helmets, etc) but are just pretending and lack training and organization.” I wonder if on some level they want to get the respect they feel real military people deserve? Dunno. (And they sure have a funny way of showing it, what with the insurrections and attempted lynchings and all that). I guess that sentence actually does it, but it’s unwieldy. Agree that comparing to LARP is not helpful, though.
posted by Alterscape at 9:19 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I must also say that I don't think of LARPers generally as a marginalized class that historical injustice mandates one avoid referring to in any way that might carry a negative or stereotypical connotation.

Of course, but I don't think anyone is suggesting that. I don't think anyone needs to feel shamed or like they're being accused of contributing to some great social injustice here. This is just one member of our community, who may be representative of a number of members of our community, saying they feel this reference to their hobby is kind of insulting and they'd prefer if people not do that. People don't need to be part of a marginalized class to merit some consideration when they say they feel insulted, and people who have unintentionally caused offense don't need to be made to feel that they are being lumped in with a class of oppressors.

If I were to make reference to, say, dumb jocks, and someone were to say "Hey, I play a lot of sports, I consider myself a jock, and I resent the dumb jock stereotype, I'd appreciate it if you didn't use it," I think it would be silly and pretty rude of me to double down on why it's okay to refer to dumb jocks. And if I persist in this, it doesn't mean that people who are really into sports are somehow an oppressed class that I'm guilty of marginalizing. It just means I'm being kind of a jerk for no good reason.
posted by biogeo at 12:05 PM on August 5 [20 favorites]


I’d like to find a way to say “really want to be military, and want to have the trappings of the military (radios, MOLLE vests, fast helmets, etc) but are just pretending and lack training and organization.”

"Mall Ninja" ticks off some of those boxes (especially in regards to the context in which the term was originally coined) but also sometimes brings to mind someone who is focused on impractical fantasy swords and fetishization of East Asian pop culture, so it's probably not a good fit either.

I'm tempted to coin the term "Misregulated Wannabe-Militia Poseurs", but it's kind of wordy.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:07 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


People don't need to be part of a marginalized class to merit some consideration when they say they feel insulted

Yes, but I think one needs to use a lot more care in employing genericized/dehistoricized language relating to marginalized classes because of the greater repercussions. I don't want to give an example because why subject people's eyes unnecessarily, but I bet you can think of at least one term you used as a kid entirely oblivious that it was a slur and only found out was one as an adult, simply because the term had become so genericized. Yet you avoid them anyway now.

If "LARPing"/"larping" has come to be understood by many in a more generic sense to refer to a particular form of roleplaying (in a real-world setting, usually with costumes), I don't think that's anywhere near as problematic. Reading those comments, I never thought anyone was referring specifically to D&D groups fighting it out with foam swords in a convenient parking lot, but rather to people engaged in a particular, distinctive kind of play-acting, of which the foam-sword crowd is merely a subset.
posted by praemunire at 12:21 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]


but when people approach insurrection in the same spirit

This is where it falls apart for me. The people who I know who role play in various contexts are specifically stepping outside of the real-world. Not bringing their fantasies to the real world.

I started reading this thread with more of a shrug: I didn't think there was offense necessarily intended, but if it bothers people then I can avoid it.

But the more people argue for using LARP, the more (to me) it doesn't quite line up with what they're trying to say, which then defeats the purpose of using it. On top of that, some people find it hurtful, and it also downplays the seriousness of Jan. 6th.

I'm tempted to coin the term "Misregulated Wannabe-Militia Poseurs", but it's kind of wordy.

You have to get a vowel in there so you can get an acronym.

Deluded Incompetent Poseur Patriots: DIPP.
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:24 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]


Definitely don't want to derail this but could we please also not use "anarchist" as an insult? I identify as an anarchist (anarchocommunist) and my politics are...very very different than these, let's go with "bootlickers". Thank you!
posted by an octopus IRL at 1:33 PM on August 5 [14 favorites]


I appreciate that this is a space where we can talk about the way certain hobbies get scorn heaped on them. In my improv comedy years, I heard endless digs about what an uncool pastime it was. As a casual runner, I'm still annoyed when non-runners dust off some worn chestnut about "I'd only do that if a bear was chasing me!" I admit, I have no interest in rock climbing, RPGs, or scrapbooking, but I have even less interest in spending my time finding ways to insult the taste of people who enjoy those things.

All that said, I'm now trying to imagine if someone compared these homegrown terrorists to an improv troupe (making up elaborate fantasies based on a single word, chewing the scenery) or a Ragnar team (clogging up the works and stinking up the place). I like to think I'd be less personally-offended, and more disturbed by the rhetoric. This particular kind of ridicule masks the threat of the movement by making it sound fanciful, recreational, quirky. Done glibly enough, it verges on affectionate mocking.

The beliefs that drove the rioters were indeed ridiculous and absurd, but that kind of thinking is no longer quaint when its adherents take it deadly seriously. It's not a hobby, it's not adorably (or annoyingly) geeky. It's a violent accelerationist cult. Let's drag it accordingly.
posted by armeowda at 1:36 PM on August 5 [5 favorites]


Yeah, these people are definitely not anarchists.

Haven’t described these people as LARPers and don’t plan to start, but the aspect that LARPing and these guys seem to have in common is the assumption of personal safety.

So people doing historical re-enactments don’t expect to actually get hit by an arrow, or die of typhoid. And these insurrectionists thought they could stage an armed storming of Congress, and were then outraged when one of them got shot, and others got arrested. They weren’t expecting any kind of consequences. It’s that sense that you are dabbling, but in “safe mode”.

Obviously with LARPing the safety is intentional and there are risk assessments etc. The assumption that you can stage an actual armed coup with no risk to your own personal safety is really bizarre, and I think a lot of people have been casting around to find words to explain it.
posted by tinkletown at 2:39 PM on August 5 [5 favorites]


I've thought that they are more cosplayers than larpers.
posted by Marticus at 3:22 PM on August 5


Yeah, these people are definitely not anarchists.

Yep, I never see them at the meetings. But as a mouthy anarchist I am sometimes someone who writes letters to the editor, or did, about the media's lazy use of the term anarchist which was kind of along a similar line to this thread. I fall, as always, on team "It's easy enough to not use that word, let's not use it then" and I hope more people will reach that conclusion.

And I mentioned it to Matt, and Matt was like, shit, yeah. That was just a shitty joke I made because it's what people on the internet say.

Yeah, I had to unfollow him on Twitter because I got tired of backchannel cluing him in to why some of those jokes weren't funny.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:34 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


I think we can at least agree that they are all doo-doo heads.
posted by Marticus at 6:15 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


My all time favorite: Meal Team Six.

Which, yeah, I also realize is also problematic. But on the other hand they can barely fit into their plate carriers.

And I definitely wouldn't want to square off with them and throw forks at a buffet even though I can totally demolish a buffet.


Holy shit, seriously? What the fuck.
posted by an octopus IRL at 6:19 PM on August 5 [7 favorites]


Wait, so I can say anything I want about people I don't like, regardless of who it impacts when they read it on this site? Awesome!
posted by sagc at 6:48 PM on August 5


god metafilter is just thee most precious fucking space ever
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:51 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


Well, this thread started out low and is going downhill fast.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 6:51 PM on August 5


lol at somehow thinking this thread is about the "feelings of fascists", though.
posted by sagc at 6:53 PM on August 5


Mod note: A couple deleted -- we can talk about the term "LARPers" as applied to domestic terrorists without fat-shaming, mocking other people's food, etc.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:01 PM on August 5 [5 favorites]


is it so hard to not use the term

are you so lacking in vocabulary, so bereft of words that it is literally the only way you can describe those people

your inability to use thesauruses and dictionaries does not give you free reign to insult others
posted by schroedinger at 7:38 PM on August 5


I'm sorry. I've been struggling with strong feelings about this issue and I've been dealing with a loss in the family and not in the best place.

I will own my statements and reflect and try learn from this. I have a lot of frustrated feelings about how to deflate fascists and abusers without resorting to epithets and anger.

I said the things I said are because of very real political issue of hyperconsumption as a political identity that's tied to fascism. My comments weren't actually about food choices or body type or fat shaming. I'm talking about intentionally buying gas guzzling vehicles and attitudes like rolling coal to troll people and own the environmentalists and so many aspects of not practicing any sort of mindfulness at all.

I will take a self imposed break. I'm sorry.
posted by loquacious at 8:19 PM on August 5


So a few things after reading all of this.

1. I want to be clear that the issues of people from marginalized groups that they have no choice about being in are very different from people who choose a particular hobby where they find joy and community. I'm asking the community to make a choice about what's appropriate, not asking for people to be punished if they choose differently.

2. I'm not offended being called a larper, I am however insulted by people thinking that calling someone a larper is a better insult than calling them a terrorist or traitor.

3. I'm worried that it masks the danger, just like our perception of Trump's cartoonish buffoonery masked his danger, as well as minimizing the harm caused and potential for worse violence in the future.

4. If you want to use a similie or metaphor or even an insult, may I suggest cultists? Nobody outside the intended group would be insulted since no group willingly describes itself as a cult, and it's much closer to being accurate.
posted by gryftir at 11:10 PM on August 5 [15 favorites]


Hey, I'm a QTPOC who also LARPs and designs LARPs. We have an incredible amount of scholarship and safety tools to combat any issue of reality=fantasy that is literally decades and decades of research. This willful ignorance and slandering is a horrible look.

Seriously Metafilter, mods and members included, please get your shit together and stay informed because this is another rise of conflating communities to hide the insidiousness of the Jan 6 right wing crowd -- you've all already been on thin ice with me for years because of how QTPOC and POC have been treated already on here. The LARP community (at least the groups I've been involved with) have been some of the most anti-racist spaces I have ever been in, and so deeply welcoming of POC and extremely against everything what the Jan 6 lynch mob is for, knock it off!
posted by yueliang at 11:38 PM on August 5 [17 favorites]


If I go on a football field and call the referee a clown, I’ll get sent off, but no actual comparison or offence to clowns is meant, or understood. I don’t hold physical comedy in contempt.

Yeah, but if someone who actually was a clown with Ringling Bros. or whatever came up to you after and said "Hey, you know, we really don't like it when people use 'clown' as a generic insult like that", what would you say? "But I said I don't hold physical comedy in contempt" or "Ah, gotcha, sorry about that"?

Because that is what is happening right here in this thread - the people who actually ARE the thing being used as a descriptor are saying "hey, we don't like that".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on August 6 [7 favorites]


The origin of this thread was a polite request to "Please stop using group X as a label to denigrate group Y."

This request set me up to think about the mob on 1/6 a bit more analytically. My visceral reaction to them has evolved. I thought them to be fools, roleplaying for the attention they got from non-peers, the fraternity they got from their peers. This is reductive, dismissive, and maybe dangerous thinking. I realize that comparing them (by analogy) to LARPers has similar drawbacks, with the bonus feature of insulting LARPers. I don't use the term LARP in my daily doings, but I have been guilty of using reductive thinking with respect to that mob.

The mob on 1/6 was a conglomerate of fools and bad actors. They deserve to be taken more seriously than an unkind label would offer. The wannabees among them are one thing; the truly dedicated are another. So, it's useful to realize that the mob that day represented several other subsets of mentality. Some of them were insurrectionists, others believed themselves to be revolutionaries (however flawed their notion of the new order may have been conceived). Others just wanted to break shit and hurt someone. I imagine most just wanted a MAGA party that day, and it's they who were the fools.

The danger in using flip definitions exceeds the insult to LARPers. It lets the more dangerous elements in that mob off the hook by trivializing them, by comparing them to clowns. To be sure, some of their antics were funny in a macabre way, but among them were several groups whose aim can properly be defined as an insurrection. At a higher level, the "Stop The Steal" theme that day was a complex attempt at a coup. It doesn't matter that their rank and file were used pretty much as drones who weren't in on the "big picture." As we've seen in other developments, the big picture was conceived and set in motion by a crew that wasn't in the streets that day.

We ought not to be so arrogant that we dismiss their visions as a fantasy, and compare it to our version of reality, which we deem to have been guaranteed by some tangible moral authority. In a social context, reality is an agreement, not a fact. Our subjectivity is so sacred to us that our beliefs can exist side by side with science without having to deal with the discrepancies. If we on this side of the mirror live according to the tenets of a complex fantasy, then "they" on the other side of the mirror live in another. Their reality is as tangible to them as ours is to us. Nothing is as ridiculous and honorable, as sweet and horrifying as being willing to die for one's cause, and nothing is as dangerous as those who are willing to kill for it.

As I said upthread, gryftir's polite request is reasonable, but I believe its significance exceeds the insult to his LARP friends. Thank you, gryftir, for kicking off this stimulating conversation.
posted by mule98J at 8:23 AM on August 6 [11 favorites]


White
Angry
Nazi
Kooks
Endangering
Reasonable
Society
posted by banshee at 8:48 AM on August 6 [7 favorites]


Yeah, but if someone who actually was a clown with Ringling Bros. or whatever came up to you after and said "Hey, you know, we really don't like it when people use 'clown' as a generic insult like that", what would you say?

This is a slight derail...

But there's no need for hypotheticals, as there's a real-life "prize-winning international clown" who goes around making exactly this request! Here he is in the Guardian, asking us to stop using clown and circus to refer to "chaotic behaviour" as this "deeply offends" him.

To be honest, having read that letter, I'm now determined to keep using clown as a generic insult, and if there was ever some opportunity to laugh in his face more personally and specifically, I'd go for that too. That someone so pompous and humourless and lacking in self-awareness chose literal clownery — of all the possible careers! — is hilarious. Maybe others are more sympathetic to the concerns of the tiny-car-based community?
posted by Klipspringer at 11:36 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]


To be honest, having read that letter, I'm now determined to keep using clown as a generic insult, and if there was ever some opportunity to laugh in his face more personally and specifically, I'd go for that too. That someone so pompous and humourless and lacking in self-awareness chose literal clownery — of all the possible careers! — is hilarious.

Well, you certainly seem to be making a clown of yourself at the moment...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:54 AM on August 6 [6 favorites]


Zing!
posted by Klipspringer at 11:55 AM on August 6


Hey gryftir - you linked to my comment first. I just saw this yesterday and took some time to put thoughts together.

First, I didn’t intend that as an attack on LARP-ing broadly. I’m sorry you felt a hobby of yours was being targeted. I don’t scorn LARP-ing, when done in good fun. I don’t do it, but the elements that seem fun to me appear to be like a real world board game. And I love board games that I’ve heard described as “nerdy” or bad generally by people who don’t enjoy them. It’s probably true that I would love the kind of LARP you do, if anyone in my area asked me to join. And I’d probably say yes if someone I knew asked me.

It’s also not true that the actions that day were LARP-ing. Their actions were deadly real with real consequences. It wasn’t LARP-ing. It was insurrection and terrorism.

Respectfully, I have to wonder if you aren’t missing that there is an element of LARP-ing that includes military re-enactments. I don’t think that can be ignored. Tactical especially, and associated with the far right. And many of those individuals that day have been reported to have been involved in militaristic LARP activities prior to January 6th. There’s consistent reporting since Obama was elected in ‘08 that militia groups were participating in activity described as LARP-ing with that militaristic angle. It’s a thing.

I think you’re right that there are a lot of people who LARP. It’s definitely true the vast majority does it with a sense of creativity and kindness and fun. But there is a subset that consider themselves LARP-ers who fit within ugly ideologies or beliefs. Anyone can LARP out any scenario they want with a group of like-minded people, and my point broadly was that there is a toxic, far right element of our society that went from toxic white masculinity with video games to joining militias and re-enacting military scenarios on the weekend to some of those ending up in DC on January 6th. I think it’s worth acknowledging some of those people practiced a second civil war fantasy in their communities before taking real, consequential steps in January.

This isn’t meant to be difficult. But it seems more complicated than saying “you can’t call militaristic role playing LARP,” (not that you said that exactly, but I think the point was missed that these people had indeed LARP-ed in an uncool way beforehand).

But that day? Deadly real, terroristic activity, and we shouldn’t refer to it as anything else. And for that day I won’t from now on - thank you for bringing it up.
posted by glaucon at 12:37 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]


With respect, Klipspringer, I think you may be taking the clown too seriously.

But once again, this is just a question of being respectful within our community. If the Very Serious Clown was in the room with me and asked me not to refer to his profession as a metaphor for foolishness and chaos, I might think to myself "yeesh, what a clown," but I would try to comply with his request. Because I don't know his lived experience or what has led him to wanting respect shown in that kind of way, and it's not really my business. I can do him a kindness by very simply honoring that request, so why wouldn't I?

When I was in high school, a Jewish friend of mine somehow came to the conclusion that the term "Jew" is derogatory, and she wanted to be called only a "Jewish person". Now, never before or since have I met a Jewish person who expressed a similar sentiment, and I'm pretty confident this was an entirely idiosyncratic belief of hers. (Maybe not, and I'm certainly open to being corrected.) But if I had said, "No, you're wrong, and I'm going to keep calling you a Jew," I would have been an asshole.

You don't have to agree with our LARPing friends on Metafilter about their interpretation of of what it means when people refer to the January 6 mob as LARPers. Just, you know, don't be a jerk.
posted by biogeo at 12:59 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


When I was in high school, a Jewish friend of mine somehow came to the conclusion that the term "Jew" is derogatory, and she wanted to be called only a "Jewish person". Now, never before or since have I met a Jewish person who expressed a similar sentiment, and I'm pretty confident this was an entirely idiosyncratic belief of hers.

FYI, it's not, not entirely. I come from a world of competitive Scrabble where the only way you can play the word JEW is as a verb and that verb is derogatory and it's derogatory specifically because it's associating negative traits ascribed to Jewish people into that verb/slur.

And in common use, many of the people (in the US which is where I am) who call someone a Jew on social media--as opposed to Jewish person or just say "Hey she's Jewish"--are often doing it in a pointed antisemitic way.

It's one of those tricky words because obviously it's literally true for how the word is used, yeah I'm a Jew, but realistically because of how usage has been messed up by other people using it negatively, when I talk I usually won't say "He's a Jew" but would say "He's a Jewish person."

That said, I wouldn't tell people not to use it since I feel it's more borderline and I am aware I am touchy about these things given the current political climate, but I am just chiming in to say it's definitely not an entirely idiosyncratic belief. Only mentioning it to clarify, not to start some derail discussion about Jewish identity.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:11 PM on August 6 [18 favorites]

When I was in high school, a Jewish friend of mine somehow came to the conclusion that the term "Jew" is derogatory, and she wanted to be called only a "Jewish person". Now, never before or since have I met a Jewish person who expressed a similar sentiment, and I'm pretty confident this was an entirely idiosyncratic belief of hers. (Maybe not, and I'm certainly open to being corrected.)
This is not at all an idiosyncratic belief of hers. It's complicated, and I don't want to start a big derail, but indeed you are safer saying "Jewish person" unless you are absolutely sure how the people around you perceive it.
posted by dfan at 2:40 PM on August 6 [9 favorites]


Here he is in the Guardian, asking us to stop using clown and circus to refer to "chaotic behaviour" as this "deeply offends" him.

Not to derail too much, but his request seemed a bit odd in that the clown tradition is well-steeped in political tradition, at least as far back as court jesters and fools or fou du roi who have served at the behest of various kings and queens over the centuries. Even popes, up until the mid-1500s. Obviously the context is slightly different today, what with some clowns now relegated to hiding in sewers to eat children in small-town Maine, but some historical precedent is there, surely.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:24 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


I mean, everyone relates to words in different ways, and everyone has different levels of sensibility to what words get used in non-flattering contexts. Some people may not have a problem being called "Jew" and some may greatly prefer "Jewish". Some professional clowns may not have a problem with "clown" being used as a perjorative and some may be bothered by it.

But at the end of the day, when someone does alert you to the fact that that they are bothered by it, and your response is to instead double down on your right to defy their wishes, then it kinda makes you look like...

...you know what, pick whichever word bothers you personally most - that's what it makes you look like.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:40 PM on August 6 [6 favorites]


I (as the child of a theatre director) would love to have a conversation with David Konyot about the meanings and implications of the term "clown". He sounds like an interesting and thoughtful person. And my understanding is that the earliest clowns and fools played an important role in court society.

At the same time, as a language enthusiast, I think it's unreasonable to expect people to stop using phrases like "what a clown" to mean "buffoonish".
posted by Lexica at 4:03 PM on August 6


pick whichever word bothers you personally most

And if you're thinking to yourself, "No words could possibly bother me!" You live a very privileged life, and you've never been insulted for something that you have no control over, particularly if it contributes to your oppression. I say this as a disabled person who's been mocked and told my desire for basic respect in conversations doesn't matter throughout my life, because by gently pushing back I am "policing people's words" and "being a snowflake."
posted by twelve cent archie at 4:03 PM on August 6 [12 favorites]


It doesn’t seem like the term itself is offensive to gryftir - from their follow-up above:

2. I'm not offended being called a larper, I am however insulted by people thinking that calling someone a larper is a better insult than calling them a terrorist or traitor.

It’s not an offensive term. But referring to sedition and a deadly coup as “LARP-ing” is inaccurate and bothersome, completely. That’s the crux of the issue expressed originally. The actions on January 6th were not LARP-ing.

3. I'm worried that it masks the danger, just like our perception of Trump's cartoonish buffoonery masked his danger, as well as minimizing the harm caused and potential for worse violence in the future.

Right again. That day was real. It had real world consequences. It also followed years of grooming the participants in a variety of ways, some of those ways were local military LARP activities. The militaristic aspects of LARP-ing have been there for a long while, too. And the far right connections have been reported on most recently from This American Life and On the Media, with reporting about how they referred to their activities as LARP-ing as a kind of prep prior to an insurrection (not directly naming Jan 6, but they reference the Boogaloo - same-same).

4. If you want to use a similie or metaphor or even an insult, may I suggest cultists? Nobody outside the intended group would be insulted since no group willingly describes itself as a cult, and it's much closer to being accurate.

Definitely a cult. Or something much larger than that given that at least 30% of the country was completely on board with what happened. It’s approaching religion at this point.
posted by glaucon at 4:38 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


The weird derail about Jewish people and how we like to be called is exactly why reading the OP made me clench my jaw a bit even though I wasn't unreceptive to the request. Taking part in a hobby community that's being besmirched is not of a kind with ethnic oppression...
posted by dusty potato at 8:24 PM on August 6 [6 favorites]


good thing that the OP never got close to claiming that, then.
posted by sagc at 9:00 PM on August 6 [8 favorites]


The distinction between clown and fool, historically, are two different roles.
The clown in 16th. England is not the same as Semar in Wayang.
Clowns have unions, clowns have special insurance rates. Mike Cockrill’s work is the kyptonite for clowns.
They drive small cars for charity, they can take the political association if not magnify it.
posted by clavdivs at 11:18 PM on August 6


And if you're thinking to yourself, "No words could possibly bother me!" You live a very privileged life, and you've never been insulted for something that you have no control over, particularly if it contributes to your oppression.

This is a great point, but completely irrelevant to clowning, LARPing and furries, all of which are things people have total freedom to get into or not get into. And we all seem to have agreed upthread that LARPers are not an oppressed class suffering historical injustice.
posted by Klipspringer at 1:51 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


This is a great point, but completely irrelevant to clowning, LARPing and furries, all of which are things people have total freedom to get into or not get into. And we all seem to have agreed upthread that LARPers are not an oppressed class suffering historical injustice.

But people who participate in clowning, LARPing and the furry lifestyle are nevertheless still people who deserve respect and common courtesy. Is there a reason you still seem particularly hell-bent on not extending that to them?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:34 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


It's a response to this statement: I'm now determined to keep using clown as a generic insult, and if there was ever some opportunity to laugh in his face more personally and specifically, I'd go for that too.

I'm happy to drop this derail (I agree that the problem with comparing the insurgents to LARPers is that it downplays the fact that they staged a failed coup), but it could be worth asking yourself why you are determined to go out of your way to insult and laugh in someone's face because they had the temerity to ask for your courtesy. Further, "I'm not going to stop using words that insult people because I don't think they're insulting and how dare you ask" is an ongoing problem on Metafilter, which is probably why this discussion has derailed in that direction.
posted by twelve cent archie at 5:11 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


I think the idea that "if somebody is hurt by a word, then the correct thing to do is to apologize and do better" is the right idea in hyper-local semi-intimate settings where people have more or less identical cultural affinities, but becomes a meddly drama magnet outside of those kinds of settings. If I'm drinking coffee with a friend, talking about stupid rich people, and someone comes over to our table to say they're hurt by my sweeping generalization that all rich people are stupid, I'd think they were taking the piss.
posted by dmh at 5:16 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


When one essayist used the word 'larp' as a simile it seems a non controversial observation, when it becomes a term spread via the meme train across the internet it's use is problematic.
posted by sammyo at 5:26 AM on August 7


We don’t need to get into hypothetical situations where rich people get their feelings hurt overhearing you in a coffee shop. Someone right here has asked us not to use this specific term in this specific situation because it is about them, personally.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:55 AM on August 7 [11 favorites]


good thing that the OP never got close to claiming that, then.

Sorry, didn't mean to bring my concerns, as an ethnic minority bring gratuitously discussed in this thread, to this space for LARPers!
posted by dusty potato at 8:34 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


Blame the person who made the comparison, not the OP, who I think made it clear that they weren't saying that?
posted by sagc at 10:00 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I'm a lawyer. Lawyers are not a particularly socially oppressed group in the U.S. Mefi uses "lawyering" with some frequency to refer to activities which are not the practice of law and in a way which frankly has a deliberate negative connotation (that is, the use is meant to disparage lawyers in themselves, not simply to describe a type of activity that lawyers engage in). I understand that this use is not meant to refer literally to what I do in my day-to-day job (I probably use it myself occasionally in this broader sense) and I don't even get particularly upset about the shade. I don't know if every lawyer who reads Mefi feels the same way. Just saying.
posted by praemunire at 10:12 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone made that comparison, though?
posted by biogeo at 10:25 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Generally, I would like it if conflating people being insulting about your hobby (if they even were doing so, instead of just using an apt metaphor) with people being racist (or whatever other serious -ist you're meaning to use to cloak this fairly petty concern in the mantle of Justice-with-a-capital-J.

It's not actually the same people doing both or defending both. Nor are the "cancel culture" concerns the same, nor is privilege really a relevant issue here.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:36 AM on August 7


If anyone wants to start calling these people web developers, I don’t mind.
posted by michaelh at 11:06 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


As a member of one, I do appreciate that the OP is trying very hard not to conflate their response with what is and has been done to marginalized groups. Because that does need to be made absolutely clear.

Nonetheless, while arguing over terminology and feelings, perhaps it bears mentioning that the seditionists, whose coup attempt failed, are not being put into prison. Instead, they are emboldened by walking away on dishonest plea deals and social media engineering, working quietly to overthrow the government at the next opportunity that you present them. And because they know there have so far been no significant consequences to their violent behavior, they don't particularly care what language you do or do not use, as much as they appreciate that you are distracted with something that, in the larger picture, probably does not matter as much, if you value a stable society that does not value right-wing violence against genuinely marginalized groups.

Because the next Trumpist government may give you permission to have accepted hobbies that don't threaten its ideological goals, including LARPing, but it probably won't be so kind to non-hobby communities like LGBT and PoC and Jews and Muslims, on the next time around that it is given a spin at running things.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:20 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


First one got 8 months. RICO like trials take a long time.
posted by sammyo at 5:17 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Sedition carries 20 years, Campos' got Ten in 37'. Sedition is harder to prove while other charges can bring equal time per say. Also, charging a thug with sedition runs the chance of some sort of martyr.

but it probably won't be so kind to non-hobby communities like LGBT and PoC and Jews and Muslims, on the next time around that it is given a spin at running things.

On the whole, not much to argue against but what if LGBT, PoC, and folks from non-christian faith participate in say, A Renaissance Festival and those folks tend to be serious about their "hobby". It generates revenue, gives entrepreneurs a place that others visit to have fun though Renaissance festival is inherently Western and was a war driven society, a contradictory element but today's festival has jousting, jugglars, etc. In a totalitarian goverment, performers deemed threatening can be subjected to unspeakable things but Trump is the clown controlling clowns which are indeed dangerous. So I would not dismiss performers from the "bad list", as proven in this country historically.
But privledge plays a role also. Junius Brutus Booth, threatened to kill President Jackson and he received no reprimand. Irony.
posted by clavdivs at 9:10 PM on August 7


Hey, I'm a QTPOC who also LARPs and designs LARPs. We have an incredible amount of scholarship and safety tools to combat any issue of reality=fantasy that is literally decades and decades of research. This willful ignorance and slandering is a horrible look.

I would love to know more about this and it would be great if we could have a formal post about this. I had no idea that this existed.

I think I can speak for other people when I say that LARPing is as relatable to me as if an alien came down and saw people playing on a chessboard and assumed it was some sort of military simulation. The more education there is around the LARPing community to those of us who have no idea about it, the less we are likely to throw around the term callously.
posted by geoff. at 12:27 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


Calling them CHUDs is still okay though, right?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:27 PM on August 10


@geoff. : To be fair, you really shouldn't be using terms that relate to communities you have no participation in to refer to something, when there are often better words that doesn't refer to any communities at all. This goes for any group or community. I'm quite puzzled by your request, and not sure why it is my job to educate as to make sure you don't use the word callously.

Sharing information and education is one thing -- doing it to anticipate anti-bigotry is a whole other ask and demand, especially from marginalized people who already deal with multiple oppressions. It kind of undercuts the entire point of this original post.
posted by yueliang at 12:08 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


anticipate bigotry* sorry, not anti-bigotry
posted by yueliang at 12:14 PM on August 12


If you've had your interest piqued by this new-to-you concept of LARPing, there's a whole wide internet to satisfy your research impulse. Asking for someone to do work to educate you *explicitly so you won't be callous towards them* is not a fee you get to impose.
posted by tigrrrlily at 9:53 AM on August 14 [4 favorites]


Asking for someone to do work to educate you *explicitly so you won't be callous towards them* is not a fee you get to impose.

Are you speaking as a LARPer? Just asking because I don't believe OP said anything that indicated they weren't agreeable to talk about their hobby, and geoff indicated that another thread might be an interesting read ( I inferred geoff meant over on the blue).

I mean no disrespect to you or your hobbies, whatever they may be. If you are a LARPer, I promise not to ask you any questions about it. However, if you care to ask me about any of my interests, just let me know. I won't send you to google until I find out what level of inquiries you pose. By that, I mean I'll answer your questions if I can. Please take care not to use phrases like "stubborn as a mule" because, as you can see, I don't capitalize my screen name, and anyway, mules are not stubborn.
posted by mule98J at 12:51 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


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