“I think it’s more just that he’s an ends-justify-the-means type- he's pretty much outright said that he views his cause as a war where you need to do whatever it takes to win. The impression I have is that he views just about any sort of viciousness as acceptable if it’s done in the name of a cause he agrees with [...] The fact that this makes an utter mockery out of everything he claims to believe and is despicable behavior in and of itself apparently doesn’t occur to him.”
— Nonnie discussing Arthur Chu
Arthur Chu is a former Jeopardy! contestant and a columnist who frequently writes about social justice issues. He has come to meme’s attention for a variety of reasons. While meme’s opinion of Chu was largely positive at first, on the basis of his opposition to right-wing troll movements such as Gamergate and the Sad/Rabid Puppies, many nonnies have harshly criticized his continued support of Winterfox, a notoriously abusive troll in the online speculative fiction community.
Chu’s first appearance on meme was shortly after he began his run of 11 consecutive Jeopardy! wins in February 2014. Rather than attempt to complete entire categories, as most Jeopardy! players do, Chu utilized an approach based on game theory in which he jumped around the board in order to seek out the Daily Doubles. He also cut off the host, Alex Trebek, in order to get more questions through in the allotted time. This offended some Jeopardy! fans who felt that Chu was acting in an unsportsmanlike way.
Meme briefly discussed whether Chu was doing something wrong by using game theory in order to do better at a game. The overwhelming consensus: not really.
After the Gamergate movement kicked off in fall 2014, Chu established himself as one of its better-known opponents. In May 2015, a Gamergate meetup was interrupted by a bomb threat. Chu had earlier called the venue to try to get them to cancel it, without success. Shortly before the meeting, he tweeted, “Whatever, it’s ending tonight with them meeting up there.” Some Gamergaters considered his tweet a confession to having called the threat in himself. The more plausible explanation, that he simply meant the meeting would happen that night and thereby end the issue, was not accepted by their community. (One nonnie hypothesized that Chu really had called in the bomb threat, but the rest of meme roundly dismissed this theory.) After a series of SXSW panels on online harassment were cancelled due to threats from Gamergate in October 2015, Chu wrote an article for The Daily Beast on his thoughts on the behind-the-scenes workings. Several nonnieswere not particularly interested in what he had to say, given his support of Winterfox.
In addition to his opposition to Gamergate, Chu also denounced the Sad and Rabid Puppies, two overlapping blocs of right-wing authors, editors, and genre fiction fans who used slate voting in a largely successful effort to fill up the 2015 Hugo Awards ballot.
The Puppies quickly got a collective reputation for being racist, based on blatantly racist comments from some of their most notorious members — Vox Day, Tom Kratman, and Michael Z Williamson. Brad Torgerson, the leader of the Sad Puppies contingent, insisted that he could not possibly be racist because he had married a black woman and fathered a child with her. Many people pointed out that this was a non sequitur. Chu took it one step further by referring to Torgerson’s wife and daughter as “shields” that he was using to deflect charges of racism. Several people on Twitter objected to this, stating that it dehumanized Torgerson’s family and dragged them further into Hugopocalypse, with which they had had nothing to do before Torgerson brought them up. However, he stood by his remarks.
Meme took little notice of this at the time, but did discuss it later. While virtually all memers agreed that Torgersen’s argument was illogical, stupid, and offensive, multiple nonnies also objected to Chu’s comments, pointing out that he could have made his point perfectly clearly without further dehumanizing Torgersen's family.
Chu has depicted himself as a passionate opponent of bigotry and online abuse, and has written at length about the horrible things that abusive Internet trolls have done and how they must be stopped. For example, when Reddit banned several racist subreddits, he argued that the posters in those subreddits should also be removed from the Reddit community overall so that they’d no longer be able to post offensive content to the site. Chu also supported the doxxing of Michael Brutsch, a Redditor responsible for several creepy and offensive boards such as r/jailbait and r/beatingwomen, and dismissed the idea that Brutsch should have been reported to Reddit leaders through Reddit's official channels rather than publicly exposed on Gawker.
However, despite his alleged opposition of abuse, he eventually revealed himself to be a friend of Benjanun Sriduangkaew, AKA Winterfox. Sriduangkaew was outed in 2014 as having been behind several online identities which she used to harass and bully various members of the online speculative fiction community. She frequently called for various people in science fiction and fantasy (pro and fan) to be raped, mutilated, or killed, and she drove one victim to attempt suicide. Although many of her victims were too scared of her to speak publicly, author Laura J. Mixon managed to collect evidence and posted proof of Sriduangkaew’s abuse in what became known as The Mixon Report. This report dispelled many of the myths Sriduangkaew/Winterfox had built up around herself, such as that she only targeted privileged authors and that she had acted badly in the distant past but subsequently reformed. Ultimately, this report garnered Mixon a 2015 Hugo award for Best Fan Writer.
Chu stated that he was unhappy about Mixon’s win, claiming it meant people somehow mistook “vengeance” for “justice.” Meme reacted scornfully to this, noting that giving Winterfox’s victims a voice was not actually unjust. In a later thread, nonnies also pointed out that if Chu really wanted to stop online bullying, he would not support a person who, to this day, has continued to bully and harass others on Twitter.
Despite all the times he has insisted that abusers be shunned and expelled from communities for the safety and comfort of the other members of those communities, Chu has doubled down on both his support of Winterfox and his minimization of the Mixon Report, and he remains good friends with Sriduangkaew on Twitter. In an October 2015 tweet, he even joked that you could now win a Hugo just for making Sriduangkaew cry.
Opposition to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is a U.S. piece of legislation preventing websites that host user-generated content, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, from being prosecuted for that content. If a user posts something defamatory or otherwise illegal, that user can be sued, but the website cannot. Chu has proposed repealing this law, opening the door for content providers to be sued if they host abusive or otherwise illegal content. His theory is that this would curtail abuse, since sites would be incentivized to ban such content.
Many commenters immediately pointed out major problems with his proposal. One of the most elaborate deconstructions was written by Ken White at Popehat. He noted that Chu's proposal would essentially kill social media, because Twitter, Facebook, etc. couldn’t possibly vet all incoming content to make sure none of it was actionable. He also noted how, even if such sites could catch and analyze all such content, they wouldn’t have sufficient information to determine, for example, whether statements were libelous or actually true.
Repealing Section 230 would also seriously inhibit, if not destroy, progressive organizing online. Any negative comment about a public figure could be removed if that figure had the means and inclination to sue, making it much more difficult to discuss harmful or abusive acts by powerful people. Corporations could threaten to sue if people discussed their immoral practices, governments could threaten to sue if people discussed or planned protests (on the basis that illegal activity might happen at the protest, and the platforms had aided this by enabling the protesters to organize), and rich abusers could threaten to sue if their victims discussed the abuse they had endured. That the plaintiffs of these lawsuits might not win is immaterial; it would still cost sites such as Twitter time and money to fight them, so they would be strongly incentivized to simply ban any kind of progressive activism from their platforms. Of course, poor people without the means to file lawsuits couldn't take advantage of Section 230’s repeal, and so wealthy individuals would be able to continuing harassing poorer ones with impunity.
It is surely a coincidence that Arthur Chu became friends with an incredibly wealthy abuser who is being criticized on social media shortly before proposing a plan to allow wealthy people to sue websites in order to prevent people from criticizing them.