Ravelry, a website that allows small businesses to sell crafting patterns, and allows crafters to track their projects, get help, and discuss them, has banned all pro-Trump activity. You can’t sell your MAGA hat pattern there, and you can’t show it off if you made one.
Sadly, initial reaction in the conservative commenter arena was either derisive laughter or the dismissive “meh.” Many of these conservatives don’t know the site, don’t know any heavy users, and can’t grasp any larger implications. That dismissiveness is the kind of shallow, short term, disconnected thinking that has allowed the left to make such inroads in our daily lives.
By the end of the day Monday, the major conservative blogs had picked up the story, Tucker Carlson had a segment about it, so you’re likely already aware of the specifics and have grasped the larger problem. If not, Michelle Blood and Ben Domenech explain the basic facts and some of the larger issues.
There are still a few very important aspects of this story that I haven’t seen explained in much detail yet.
1. Essentially an In-Kind Corporate Political Donation
The U.S. presidential election is coming up. On Ravelry, it will be forbidden to discuss any positive aspect of the GOP’s nominee, his policies, and his administration. There is no such restriction on discussions of the Democrat candidates.
Is this not a donation to the Democratic Party? Will the Federal Elections Commission investigate the value of this donation to the Democratic Party? It’s not likely that anyone on the right will pursue this line of inquiry. Yet the left would have filed suit already had the parties been reversed.
2. Users Will Have a Distorted View of Reality
For hundreds of thousands of crafters, this is the site they use to find new ideas, new patterns, new projects, new yarns. If I feel like starting a new crochet project, Ravelry is the place I go. If it’s not on Ravelry, I won’t discover it.
Those hundreds of thousands of crafters will now live in a world where pro-Democrat words, images, projects, patterns, and discussion are welcome and rampant. There is no support allowed for the president and his administration.
They will continue to see comments, posts, patterns, and projects that are negative about the Trump administration. They will only see negative views about it, no positive views.
Ravelry has always been a very lefty place, where all the cool kids posted their p-ssy hat patterns. But at least Grandma could post her Trump2020 dishcloth. At least the existence of alternate opinions was possible to acknowledge. No longer.
Many users will not know why. Not every Ravelry member will see this policy. I only knew about it from Twitter. I don’t look at the Ravelry homepage, nor do I look at the discussion forums. Particularly for non-political users, all they will be aware of is that “no one supports Trump.” It may not even be a conscious awareness.
3. Forcing Self-Censorship Gives the Bullies a Win
Some people will leave Ravelry over this, but most won’t. They’ll stay, and just modify their behavior. They want to sell their products and services, they want help on their projects, they want to see what this or that pattern looks like in real life.
It’s an exceedingly helpful site. I am leaving, but it is difficult, and I’m not happy about it. I’m not in danger of being exiled, I’ve never posted anything pro-Trump. I will accept serious pain for the principle. Most users won’t.
Most of the users on Ravelry will just accept the new rules and move on. Blood quotes Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican National Committee member, saying “I don’t go [to Ravelry’s site] for politics, so I’m not going to stop going there because of politics.” It is her job to promote the GOP, and she is willing to self-censor rather than fight.
Ravelry will likely not experience a dramatic loss in users or revenue as a result of this decision. They will have a bit of chaos for a week or so, and then things will continue much as before.
The lefty tech bully doesn’t want your lunch money, he just wants you to shut up about certain things. When you accept these terms, you are telling him that he’s right to make those demands.
4. Expanding the Censorship Continuum
Note the specific items included as part of this policy rollout:
- All support for Trump and his administration is banned
- All other political activity is permitted
- Effective immediately
- Most disallowed content isn’t deleted, it’s merely rendered private, allowing the user time to copy the information out
- “Support of the Trump Administration is undeniably support for white supremacy”
This same policy was implemented eight months ago on RPG.net, a role-playing game site. So it’s the same policy on a larger site, with a different demographic, and posits a much stronger link between supporting the administration and white supremacy. Plus, there is a slight increase in the purge action.
RPG didn’t purge anything, but merely suggested a change of avatar; Ravelry immediately unpublished offending material. If Ravelry doesn’t suffer much impact, and doesn’t get sued into oblivion, the next niche site will be a bit larger, and will skip one of those steps and see how it goes. They’re testing how far they can push.
What’s the next niche site going to be? How expansive will their ban be? Will it affect you or someone you care about? And where will this all end?
5. Leaving Isn’t Really a Solution to a Bullying Problem
We are repeatedly told that these websites and communities are free, so we can’t complain or shouldn’t expect much. While it’s true that there is no cash outlay for membership, these sites are not free.
The cost of being a Ravelry customer for the last nine years has been reasonable. I pay them my attention, my data, and a portion of the cost of patterns. I skip past the “adult” content and the hateful lefty content. In return, I get access to the pattern and yarn databases, a helpful community, and a useful crafting notebook.
As of Sunday, Ravelry has changed that equation. They have added significant costs to me. If I am to continue to be their customer, I have to accept their claims of white supremacy. I must accept their bigotry, and allow myself to be silenced.
That’s too high of a cost for me. So I will leave.
I’m under no illusions—leaving Ravelry is not even a tiny step towards a solution. This is not how one stops a bully. All I’m doing is “taking a different route to school.” I’m saving myself from the bully’s attacks, but I’m not stopping the bully.
By speaking out, I’m hoping to divert a few others from the bully’s path, but still, that does nothing to stop the bully. Still, I suppose there has to be a start—identify the bully as such, save yourself, try to save others.
It does seem that conservatives are learning, slowly, to identify these bullies a bit more quickly. That’s something.