Here, folks, is the letter that was sent last week. It will arrive tomorrow, presumably before noon. After noon the flowers will begin arriving, I am not sure how quickly. There's the secrets.
The complete letter is here. Spread the word.
FLOWERS FOR JACK PROJECT
Alyson L. Burch
George T. Ettinger III
TO: John B Thompson
Hello, sir. This letter is, to some extent, a letter of apology on behalf of the 'gaming community' for the generally juvenile behavior exhibited to your home and your person as of late. Whether or not we, as a subculture, agree with your opinions, we came together to find that practically none of us condone the immature and unlawful actions taken by so many individuals.
Every foolish person who writes threats or makes idiotic calls is, obviously, only proving your point. The problem, as a few of us started to realize, was that idiot individuals were pulling these grossly offensive, spotlight-grabbing stunts and yet the bulk of the community was failing to do anything worthwhile. In essence, that is what has brought this unusual event together.
Our underlying issue with these people is that they have likely destroyed any chance we have of opening, much less maintaining, any respectful dialogue with you.
We knew we could write a letter, a letter not unlike this one, stating some of our better-worded thoughts without the insults, threats, and exaggerations that others have used. We wanted to find that respectful, civil line of conversation that no forum sorts ever allow. You are frequently a public speaker, we’ve seen the civil and even the lighthearted side of you, and now we appeal to that, in an admittedly unique way.
That definitely brings us to the flowers. Well… we needed this message to stand out, right? But we didn’t want it to be some juvenile prank like all the rest; we wanted something that would catch your eye but hopefully not offend it. Obviously, we chose this. We wanted something persistent, something obvious, but not something hateful. Needless to say, that means a lot of flowers.
Personally, I really hope you accepted them. The donation drive to purchase them afforded us far more than we had originally intended; we asked people to support a cause of civility and maturity, and support it they did. If you don’t want to keep them, we’d be flattered if you donated them elsewhere. A common suggestion was local hospitals, so I thought I should mention it.
Sir, we’re lighthearted people. From the eighteen-year-old high school student who’s picking out his college prospects to the 30-something father of two who plays Madden with his son, we’re all bound by a certain fun-loving nature. If we made this letter too stern, too serious, or too ‘mature’ we’d be facetious. We hope this will reflect some level of dignity, or, at the very least, good humor.
So… flowers. In a vase, so you don’t get stuck at the door holding them while somebody tries to find some water to put them in. We figured that would be a little more considerate. Honestly, we hope you see it for the absurdity that it is, and as a satire of the behavior we are apologizing for. They’re flowers, sir. Hundreds and hundreds of gamers, from around the world, no less, joined together to send you flowers and support a cause of civility. Ahem, civility and a sense of humor, of course. Like I said, we can’t be so civil that we forget our honest nature.
To begin, we are sorry, Mr. Thompson, for the unintelligent acts of the decidedly extremist persons of whom we speak. While as a group we can condemn it, our silence as individuals gave the false impression that we condoned it. We do not. Much of our ranks fall within the over-twenty crowd that has better sense than to make juvenile phone calls or psychotic threats.
Those people, hereafter referred to as ‘idiots,’ simply do not represent us as a whole. They are not our spokesmen. No, sir, they are idiots. We ask not that their idiocies be forgiven, but that they are not held over the rest of us just yet. We wish to make a statement for ourselves, the majority, without the idiots to get in our way.
To summarize this, the entire theme of this message, and what brought the hundreds and hundreds of people from all around the world together to write to you and send you a silly gift… is that even though we disagree with you, we do not approve of the juvenile antics, name-calling, insults, threats, and unfair treatment that is consistently directed at your person, your place of residence, and your lines of communication.
Honestly, and without surprise, we really don’t like you, Mr. Thompson. It’s easy to tell we don’t like your opinions. We don’t like your conduct in our forums. We don’t like the way you describe people that many of us respect. We really, really have a problem with what you keep saying about us.
Many of us honestly believe that some of your more infamous exclamations have been made out of frustration or in jest. Still, we also know plenty well that those outbursts usually do express your real opinion about us. Rather than quarrel with this, we’ve chosen to stick with what matters to the rest of the country;
What is your main agenda, stated clearly?
We’ve heard your public statements that “violent and sexually explicit games do not belong in the hands of minors.”
Well, they certainly don’t. That statement is true to everyone. Any excessively violent or sexually explicit material should be kept away from children. Even if we disagree on how to achieve this, the motive itself seems agreeable.
"I think self-regulation is the first step. Parents ought to take control over their children's lives... If it requires regulation after that, fine, but I don't think government should replace that... And sometimes we rush in to fill the void when it's more appropriate for moms and dads to be, ultimately, the best regulators." – Jeb Bush
Regardless of party affiliation, I think that states our viewpoint pretty well. While your stance is consistently reliant on legislation, individual responsibility has always been central to us; adults responsible for themselves, parents responsible for children. Many of us grew up with parents that took an active role in what we were playing and seeing. We are undoubtedly better for it.
Now, we are altogether unclear on your position. You have made claims to seek the safety of children, but at the same time have gone to lengths to demand censorship, to insist items be taken from stores and destroyed, never be released, and have gone so far as to make the statement “kiss the video game industry goodbye.” This is contrary to your other statements. This behavior implies a call for censorship, bans, and a general hatred of the very medium of interactive digital entertainment. Obviously these can be exaggerations, as almost none were ever made directly to the press. Most, however, were made to us, so we must ask, where is your final position on the nature of this industry and its future?
It’s no surprise to anyone at this point that we have embraced ‘pixelante’ as a particularly humorous and delightful title. We are well aware this is not what you intended, but it’s worth taking a closer look at.
According to most sources, you coined this term in October 2005. A hybrid of “pixel” and “vigilante,” you have given a number of definitions for it since;
-“sociopaths with mouses”
-“pimple-faced geeks who use death threats to drive people of faith and with values from the public square.”
-“…a pejorative term that puts anyone in that category in a category with the KKK and skinheads.”
Now, your admitted decision that the word was on par with “cracker,” “skinhead,” and “child molester” is mystifying. Coining what, in that context, is meant to be an ethnic slur and then demanding it be recognized as such is… awkward. By linguistic interpretation, you are the single person in the nation who uses that word as a cultural/ageist slur and its meaning as such is debatable. To understand why we find the word fascinating, we need to take a slightly closer look.
The word is a hybrid of an already funny notion, ‘pixel vigilante.’ To our culture, reference to ‘pixels,’ though a literal term in digital displays, immediately conjures to mind memories of Atari-style consoles from the 1980s. Each of these games was full of blocky 4-bit avatars attempting abstract actions towards similarly blocky goals. The instant mental image of a character like Pitfall Harry, a caricature consisting of what must be a dozen colored squares, being a menacing figure to the political arena is… well, it’s really funny.
Eliminating the ‘vigil’ aspect of ‘vigilante’ has left it with the ‘ante’ suffix that begs for an accented e. Having removed the most notably Americanized use the that suffix, you have turned it back to its basic roots of Spanish phraseology. ‘Vigilante’ is certainly your intent, but the average mind will turn to ‘picante’ or ‘caliente’ first. That’s pretty funny.
The classic rule of ‘comedy K’s’ also seems to apply here. The syllable ‘pix’ alone is a funny sound, but the full-fledged “pixelante” is an inherently funny word. The excess of syllables, unevenly distributed consonants, and the time it takes to speak and read it all keep it from being brief and inflammatory as you intended. Instead, it just sounds funny.
These are all subjective aspects of linguistics, however, and the simplest point is overlooked.
“Pixelante on, oh confused ones. Your tragic dithering because you have nothing else today helps condemn your entire generation.” – Jack Thompson, November 2005
You defined “pixelantes” as the representatives of this generation. You personally declared us to be a gestalt entity, a complete community under the moniker of Pixelante. You stretched it even further beyond ‘pimple-faced geeks,’ and so much past ‘sociopaths with mouses(sic).’ You declared us to be an entire condemned generation of hopeless Pixelantes. You just gave us a word. “Gamers” is too exclusive towards those who don’t do much gaming, so you personally gave us Pixelante to serve as title to all children of the digital age.
You said that Pixelantes are monsters and child molesters and whitebread crackers and deviants and homicidal maniacs and atheists and failures and so forth. You also said that every single one of us is a Pixelante. So, I guess we’re all going to be Pixelantes to you no matter what. May as well enjoy it.
THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR MEDIA AND THE FAMILY
This issue is a less popularized one, but still a matter we are unclear on. It is widely known that the NIMF distanced themselves from you last year, and that you went on to argue they were a corrupt organization in the pockets of retailers. It’s not necessary to take sides on what happened there, and we’ll leave it alone. However, we would like to know your current opinion and/or relationship with this organization.
Even after those incidents, the NIMF upheld its same judgmental standards towards the ESRB. Its ratings and comments were incredibly harsh and met with great criticism, obviously, but the more rational among us begged to question; isn’t their stance towards the ESRB (and the industry in general) along most of the same lines as yours?
We know you are not on good terms with Dr. Walsh, but what we are interested to know is your opinion of the actions they have taken since. The NIMF’s position remains rooted in about the same spot, demanding massive industry and ratings reform and possible legislation.
Are you not in favor of this? Do you support the actions of the organization despite your opinion of Dr. Walsh, or do you feel he has turned the entire group astray?
There are many of us out there who disagree with the NIMF as much as we do with you. We’re simply less vocal about it. To us that puts you on the same side, but time has proved that’s usually not the case. How do you feel about their current state?
There are obscure rumors circulating that you seek to be a Presidential candidate in 2008 or later. Most of us find these unfounded (and more than a little bizarre,) but we felt it best to ask you. Do you have any immediate or near-future plans for entering into the political arena, state or federal? Again, the subject has passed by a few of us but no concrete evidence has been found.
Why did you not debate Attorney Tom Buscaglia? It is believed that you offered to at least once. Is it possible you will in the future?
What can we, as a community, do to maintain some kind of non-threatening open forum with you? Are there any people, mediums, or sources we may go through that will receive your earnest attention? If there is, I can assure you it will receive ours.
In all honesty, sir, what began as a small project to accomplish this escalated into much, much more. It would almost be safe to say we accomplished our goals before even having sent this to you.
We are the ‘condemned generation’ of ‘pixelantes’ of whom you have spoken. We communicate and entertain through digital means. We are not just children, we are the entire bracket of men and women that live in and understand the digital age. We all play video games. We also do much more.
You insult us, berate us, call us names, cover us with blanket statements, and I don’t know why we put up with it.
It’s people like us that manage the servers your website operates from. People like us that keep email functioning, that keep nasty viruses out of computers like yours. People like us are doing things as miniscule as serving you food, and people like us are at every go-between step of getting your correspondence from one place to another.
Pixelantes are all around you, sir. We range from fourteen to forty, and then some. We can be full-time students. We can have full-time jobs. We can raise families or we can raise buildings. We manage food, money, entertainment, communication, and nothing short of knowledge for everyone around us, including you.
We are everywhere, all the time, and you refuse to acknowledge it.
This little project was originally intended to band together a few dozen people, hopefully across the country, to buy one nice vase of flowers to send to you alongside this nice letter. We hoped it could come together in a week or so.
We have had at least two hundred unique donors and another two hundred signatures of support from around the world, from almost every state, from Canada, all across the United Kingdom, from Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia, China, and Japan.
We have received names and letters and support from network administrators, store owners, financial consultants, journalists, college students, school teachers, law students, mothers, fathers, athletes, software engineers, architects, nurses, pastors, men and women from each branch of the armed forces, and all sorts of deliverymen. A pixelante may very well have handed you this letter.
These are people integral to every function of society. These are people that make it even possible for you to spread your messages of hatred. These men and women, the obvious underpinnings of society all around the world, have heard you constantly comparing them to klan members, child molesters, and murderers. They’ve all heard it. Quite frankly, they don’t appreciate it.
It should be easy to relish in this attention. You, sir, have worldwide acclaim. Your name has reached other countries, other continents, and (off the record) seems downright hated in Australia.
You’re famous, around the world.
Now look at the truth that has assembled behind that.
Two nineteen-year-old college students in Flint, Michigan, who have never been on television, have never written a book, and don’t have much in the way of leadership training took a moment to say, “pixelantes, unite.”
In two and a half days, the world had rushed in. We hoped for dozens in a week. We had hundreds in days. We hoped for a pretty bouquet, and now you’ve got this.
We are all people who can’t stand you, who may not even respect you, but banded together because we wanted to approach you with civility. In calling us monsters, hating us, belittling us to the rest of your generation, you’ve worked towards uniting our own. We are the pixelantes, we are the geek activists, we are the mass that can spawn in a matter of days simply for a cause of decency.
We, the two fools who began this, started an accidental movement in two days. We found support in letters, on servers, in people everywhere. Those pixels, the digital lifestyle, our gaming nature… the very internet itself was our means.
We, however, are good enough people to use it as a tool for a message, and not as a weapon. We used it as a means to send you a long letter and a lot of pretty flowers, because we’re nice, silly people like that.
Imagine what will happen if real leaders take charge among us.
George T. Ettinger, III and Alyson L. Burch, Founders Flowers For Jack
PS: Because we accidentally overshot our maximum donation goal by over fifty percent, we decided to donate the excess to charity in your name. Thanks for making this possible, Mr. Thompson! Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play Charity appreciates it.
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