When the Dickwolves controversy first "broke" (by which I mean occurred), Paul told me that his first honest reaction to the phrase "rape culture" was today's strip. Having never heard it before (neither had I), it's kind of what he thought it was. It was one of those ideas that was too good to do right away, and we wanted to get it right.

If you don't know the story, don't bother reading into it. Consider yourself lucky and just whistle past this particular graveyard. It got really nasty, culminating with actual death threats toward Gabe's family.

I say this not as a person who makes jokes in poor taste on a regular basis, but as a human being whose right to free expression is something I take seriously; there is no joke deserving of that kind of response. And if you're surprised by the idea that I would side with the people who created thing perceived as offensive, um, well. I don't really have anything for you.

If you have a cause, and you know that cause to be righteous, you have an obligation to yourself to make your voice heard. If you are lobbing threats and snide remarks from behind the blank wall of anonymity, wrapped in a brick and crashing through someone's front window (or whatever the Internet-ical equivalent of that is), you are a coward. You help no one, and you serve no purpose. Say what you will about the stuff we make here; we put our goddamned names on it.

If instilling fear, or terror, is the only tool you use to influence an opinion or change behavior, guess what that makes you.

In the interest of my fruitless endeavors to not be misinterpreted, let me be clear; I do not consider someone who has been the victim of sexual assault and who chooses to speak about it to be a coward. I'm talking about the people who, on either side of an issue, take it upon themselves to be Internet Vigilantes and sling threats and poorly thought out missives toward their perceived enemies.

Scott Adams had a similar situation transpire about a month ago. It wasn't about rape or rape culture, but the bootstrapping of the thing he made to a cause borders on the satirical. The cause in question was first Men's Rights, and then Women's Rights, and I think at some point people were convinced he insulted the Raeliens.

My thing is this; the piece was really funny. And that's what matters. That's what's important, at least to me.

That's not to say that anyone campaigning for Men/Women's Rights is an idiot who takes themselves too seriously and has no perspective of life and needs to just get over themselves. There are serious problems that need to be fixed and will only be fixed when people who care about it enough come together as a group and try to affect change, either through political or social pressure.

But no change has ever been brought about by taking a prominent (or even not-so-prominent) comicker or blogger to task for something you found offensive, especially if it's by you commenting on some blog that took the original piece completely out of context.

Then it's just another form of entertainment, of self-gratification, of feeling like you've done something without ever having to do anything.

I don't know what the right way to do it is. I just know what's pointless, and telling an artist to not do something because someone might find it offensive is the very definition of the word.