Urizenus Sklar in Second Life
Peter Ludlow (known in Second Life as Urizenus Sklar) has gotten himself into a terrible sex offense mess -- it's in real-life media.
It's not only in the campus news but online news and it has all the predictable cast of characters -- extremist feminists, outraged student's groups, hipsters screaming, etc. -- and even a Second Life angle. It's not only a campus case -- it is now in the court system in Illinois. Here's the court documents.
Ludlow is barred from teaching this quarter and seems to have quit (or been essentially fired) and while he was apparently in the process of obtaining a new position at Rutgers, students at Rutgers are up at arms. Although Ludlow has not been found guilty yet of any crime (from what I can tell), the mere existence of such a case is enough to get hysterical students rioting over his placement in their school.
These are people who -- like Ludlow themselves in their anti-Western contrarian politics -- who don't care about, oh, the massive abduction and rape of young girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria and aren't demonstrating against it like they would anything about Palestine, and who of course -- like Ludlow -- have nothing but contempt for law and order when it comes to Snowden stealing files and running to Russia -- or whether Weev or Browning or other creeps are let go and not prosecuted for their crimes.
But when it comes to a perceived sexual offense that does not even seem to be very serious on the face of it -- the plaintiff is not charging him with rape and indeed mass media with such headlines does appear to be defamatory -- they become absolutely hysterical. I try to understand what this is really about. No doubt Uri himself will have a paper on it someday... Surely it has something to do with the perversion of meaning or language...
Here's the thing: does Ludlow deserve his fate or is the manner of his prosecution not something any of us would want in a liberal society under the rule of law with basic due process rights?
I've been a big critic of Uri, as we called him, since The Sims Online beta -- that's 15 years -- as you can see from some of my blog posts on this blog, and of course many more on Second Thoughts, my SL blog.
Where does one start with Ludlow's loathsomeness? I was originally friendly with him and even shared an TSO lot with him for a time but then some friends and I pulled a prank on him to prove the outrageous fallibility of his "journalism" about online life. (We made a composite fake character called Selena, a teen-age witch, and had her tell Uri a tale of horror of online abuse by adult male warlocks -- and he bought the line and published it -- and then we revealed that she was faked and he was furious and banned me from his site for a time.)
Then there was his strange press campaign years ago to complain about his banning from TSO over his criticism of what he saw as underage prostitution -- but which was a story that he could never prove journalistically. And it was a contrived issue by contrast with another very real issue he would never criticize, which was the presence of hard-core BDSM communities and sites within TSO -- an online game which had kids as young as nine in it.
When I gave interviews to the New York Times and the Boston Globe with my criticism -- I opposed his banning on speech grounds but disagreed on the issues with EA.com, the game company, which were getting into the news -- Ludlow relentlessly searched for links between my real-life identity and my avatar's nickname until he could "out" me. He's very much of a "privacy for me and not for thee" sort of guy. He was my original experience with that sort of horrid doxing.
Then there was his delight in the dark Sim mafia -- the Shadow Sim Government -- that took over all the venues and bribed and extorted and terrorized -- in a simulated fashion of course, although you could really buy and sell the simoleons on ebay for real dollars. (The man who ran that had the last name Chase; I see his attorney has the same last name.)
Then there was his running of the tabloid Alphaville Herald, "a virtual paper for a virtual world" that was "always fairly unbalanced" which I worked at for a time despite our differences because I thought free press in oppressive online virtual environments controlled by companies was vital. We agreed on that, but of course, but only to a point. The minute I began criticizing the big corporate backers of the Alphaville's owners, who I said colluded in the copybot disaster undermining copyright in the virtual marketplace, I was reprimanded and then hounded -- so I quit. Uri presided over the most horrible harassment (known as griefing) of me inworld and out.
For years, he and the editrix in chief, Pixeleen Minstrel (who in real life was an Internet-famous guy named Mark McCahill who invented the Gopher program) vilified and harassed and ridiculed me to death in their paper because I criticized the same thing I criticize today: a) criminalized hackers b) arrogant ethics-free coders c) the open-source cult d) various online cults from BDSM to transhumanism e) the whole Chomsky/Derrida reductionist "there is no meaning" fractured fairy-tale which is philosophy today in universities -- which of course, is Uri's realm.
Precisely because of the Chomsky angle -- and his contrarian (actually -- establishment!) love of all things WikiLeaks, anarchism, Snowden, Manning, Barrett Browning, etc. -- Ludlow is very popular and seems to get tenure at every university he goes to -- and he has been to 10 or something in his career, he keeps changing them. He has published multiple books, including one on the Sims and Second Life that has a chapter on my character, Prokofy Neva, and has penned numerous op-ed pieces and articles favouring anarchist open-source cultism and copyleftism.
I don't know if scandals attend every change in his colleges, but there it is. It is common knowledge that he has had girlfriends much younger than he is (he is just my age, 57) -- I've met some of them even in real-life and in SL -- and he hasn't hidden that he makes hook-ups through Second Life of young women, but he hasn't ever been known to commit any "crime." This is legal, adult behaviour, you know -- the sort that feminists demand for themselves.
While he has an annoying online persona and belief system -- in real life, like a lot of such nerds, he's quiet, even shy, although he can be aggressive in smaller circles. Uri has a certain cult following, i.e. among the Woodbury University 4chan set.
The scandal he's currently involved in has a sordid Second Life angle -- wouldn't you know?! He was teaching a course on ethics in Second Life, and instead of discussing things like the way he and his friends would try to disrupt free association and free speech on servers in Second Life (mine) with speech they didn't like and felt shouldn't succeed, by dog-whistling and golf-clapping those who crashed servers and endlessly enabling their heckling and harassing of people, he tried to turn IBM's rather short-lived and not-too-deep involvement in Second Life as some sort of corporate evil. That's Uri - the Man, Capitalism, the One Percent -- you know, Occupy, hack, crash, whatever.
So somehow a woman in his class -- she appears to be under 21 -- gets together with him to go to an art show or something, and they wind up going from bar to bar and she claims Ludlow got her drunk, then groped her, then took her to his house and didn't drive her home.
He disputes a lot of it, but the facts of their time together, drinking, and ending up in bed (but not doing anything) don't seem disputed. Although his deputations, Uri seems to use that method so common to Second Life griefers -- pretend you are the victim and act outraged, when you are being called the perpetrator.
But...Here's the thing. If you are accused on a campus by a student, you have little recourse or rights. The hysteria, the feminists, the political correctness -- it's awful. They constitute a terrible witch hunt.
Not only is there any sense of proportion -- this is not a rape accusation with penetration we're talking about, or even groping of sexual organs against a woman's will, as in Steubenville -- this is a charge of attempted kissing, maybe a grope of a breast -- and not driving home. It's astounding that we never learn why this woman doesn't call a cab or friend and go home at any point in the evening if she had the discomfort level.
Naturally, if any of us had been on this particular scene in Second Life, we would have taken this woman aside and said, "Oh Gawd, don't hook up with Uri, he's awful, a lech, stay away." But she seemed to be pursuing -- to him tell it - and of course he could be lying -- the same way that he lies that crashing sims isn't a crime, or lies that Barrett Brown is being prosecuted for journalism, or any number of altered word-salad virtualities he passes off as reality in his Philosopher's Stone column at The New York Times (!) and elsewhere.
But...he gets to mount a defense against such accusations and he didn't get a fair trial. No one ever seems to in these campus cases. He quite rightfully pointed out that if he could bring records from the video camera in his elevator at home, receipts from restaurants and bars, and other kinds of adversarial evidence, i.e. eye-witness testimony, he might refute this girl's charges!
Yet he wasn't allowed to -- campus proceedings aren't real courts of law with laws for evidence and due process and discovery. The university simply rejects the attempts to bring other evidence.
Now that his case is in the Illinois justice system, maybe his lawyer will then get to bring forward such evidence as he can muster, and the case might eventually determine whether someone whose charges doesn't seem to amount to more than making some awkward sexual advances and not driving a woman home after a date might warrant the harsh punishment of expulsion or worse.
But meanwhile, he's already reportedly leaving Northeastern and heading to Rutgers, where he has been offered a position. And there, the Rutgers politically-correct students have their knives out and are phone-jamming and boycotting and saying that they can't have sex abusers on their campus.
Yet -- unless I missed something -- he hasn't been found guilty in a fair trial although the university seemed to automatically take the student's side and hasn't been able to mount a defense as a defendant should be able to do in a court of law.
Somehow, I think Uri and his lawyers will word-salad his way through yet another jam and pervert meaning along the way. But if you care about justice and civil rights, you have to hope that he is not punished for such mild infractions in a setting where he can't even mount a proper defense. This is a lose/lose case. If he wins, his reputation will be as low as it always was in some quarters; he will get high-fives from horrific misogynists nerdy creeps that make up his fan base; if he loses, no women's rights will actually have been served. In fact, even if he were prosecuted or fined or even jailed for cause, they would not be served. Because these cases are so often not about real rights, but about the political war-faring of enraged feminists undermining justice as a whole for all of us.
It is getting so that when you go out on a date, you have to get your date to sign a disclaimer. You have to get them to accept that you don't have a "duty of care" over them if you take them to a bar or drive them in your car. You have to get them to warrant that if they become intoxicated, it will be due to their own poor choices and not your fault. And so on. I can see contracts having to be signed even simply to have a cup of coffee. There's an insanity to all this that I just don't know where it will end.
I guess I feel that this sort of situation should be solved by real ethics -- the sort of ethics Uri and his awful hacker friends simply don't have. That would start with the basics -- that you don't socialize alone with students, taking them to bars, taking them to your home alone. These are all terrible practices. They should be unethical practices, for which teachers or professors should be censured and disciplined, but I don't think from one incident like this that doesn't have an actual rape or serious sexual abuse of any kind involved should a person be fired.
Students also should have ethics. Why do they go out with professors twice their age alone and drink with them? Are they trying to get good marks or do they have a daddy complex? No one in these situations ever wants to blame alcohol or drugs themselves, although clearly, no one has benefited from either parental or educational restrictions on over-indulgence in alcohol and usage of illegal drugs. If more people like Uri weren't blurring the lines on ethics in their teaching -- teaching that is entirely about subversion and perversion of customary meaning and morals -- we would all be better off.
I will never forget how Uri told Selena, when she texted him that she had to go and set the table, that she should deliberately put the fork and spoon out of their usual order to flummox her parents. So very Uri...
Human beings have a need for these laws -- and so what ethics can't fix because it's missing, and what morals can't fix because it is uncool to have them, the justice system has to fix -- badly! This is like trying to fix the problem of homelessness through emergency rooms in hospitals instead of through housing -- costly, stop-gap, ineffective.
For all the lawsuits and kangaroo courts and dismissals and ruinations of careers we've had in schools and universities in the last 40 years since the 1960s sexual revolution, has anything really gotten better? Doesn't it seem as if there are MORE rapes on campuses than less as a result? And it would be one thing if these were actual rapes prosecuted -- rape is a crime and has to be punished by state law, not merely campus regulations.
But how many of these cases involve just an awkard pass on a date gone wrong or somebody changing their mind? Too many...
The politically correct -- and their victims! -- would rather wield the power of troikas and draconian justice systems instead of simply conceding that the kind of morals you get from religion and civic and parental training in schools and home are necessary and should be valued. So reluctant are people like Uri to do anything but ridicule decency as some kind of cramp on their freedom that nothing but career ruination works. And now he is living that horror.
This is a situation like Weev's for some people (not me). They feel like he was so awful to Kathy Sierra (stalking her and threatening her and doxing her) and so awful to so many other people, and such an asshole in general (just review his Twitter timeline) with the most awful hate speech, antisemitism, and crazy violent shtick (the other night he sent me a link to a horror movie with a creature with a drill for a penis because...I had the temerity to say that I didn't think any force but governments should operate hacking tools) -- that he should get punished in a hacking case. But that's wrong, if you can't mount a successful harassment or stalking case (and maybe it hasn't been tried), to except a hacking case will do that job for you.
Those who want to exonerate hacking as a crime want him let off even though he's an asshole. I hope he will be prosecuted in a new venue for the crime of obtaining unauthorized access to AT&T's customer data through hacking -- yes hacking, because that's what hacking is, unintended use and stealing of customer data not intended for hackers to take and cause havoc with. His fans think it's a free speech issue.
In Uri's case, I couldn't ask for an unfair trial on hysterical feminist witch-hunting to be the way in which he meets his justice. Because then any one of us could be subject to such a politicized system.
As I said in Steubenville, when Uri was happy to sanction Anonymous wild and unethical behaviour, I'm on the side of the rape victim and don't try to diminish her suffering or plight. I'm a big believer in Andrea Dworkin's saying that the punishment for getting drunk on a date with a frat boy in your dorm should be a hangover, not rape. Certainly if these student's charges stick, some kind of discipline might be warranted short of dismissal simply because there are simply too many elements of this story that require that the student herself, even if she were under 21, should have exercised basic good judgement and remedy her own situation.
Remember, in this case, rape isn't even part of the charges, and even sexual groping or "getting a minor drunk" or whatever other offenses might pertain are not established by courts of law -- and it sounds like they won't be.
Like that dying Islamist who flew to America for medical treatment before going to Paradise about whom V.S. Naipaul wrote, Uri is now looking to law and meaning and courts and righteousness and justice to save him -- all the things he thinks are shit and the Man and should be destroyed by Anonymous and Occupy. All the things he ridiculed and undermined his whole life. I hope the irony is not lost on him and he experiences some kind of remorse -- although it sounds like there is none available in his particularly invincible virtuality.
There's an odd feature of this story -- the Rutgers Department that Uri may be hired into is the one where my cousin used to teach -- but he died recently. He fell ill some years ago and there was a vacancy -- maybe the very one that Uri is now filling.