As many of you are aware, this week Nintendo fired Alison Rapp this week, after ongoing weeks of harassment from various groups and individuals online. However, as it has become clear with time, not many are aware of the full situation. There are two sides to every story, and what many people are focused on is the harassment of Alison Rapp, with very little thought on how it all built up to her being fired.
The point of this blog is to help you understand the full scope of this situation and to inform you. Misinformation is the worst thing that can happen, and I see it happening for many individuals. I'm also not here to slander or harass, but the items I have to bring up may not put some parties in a great light, but are needed to help give context. So we're going to go from the start and work our way through. There will be no tl;dr or summary. Every component is critical to this.
Our story begins with Nintendo. As many of you know, many games from them such as Xenoblade and Fire Emblem have gone through censorship, with some more minor features and details either being removed or changed, such as Lin's costumes or the facerubbing. This has lead to a vocal minority, that doesn't belong to any single group, going on a rampage of harassment, locating any vocal and visible Nintendo employees they could find.
The next part is important. There is no single motivation for this. Some thought she was helping cause the censorship and removing her would fix that. Some just wanted to vent. Some wanted to get her fired. Some were just along for the ride because people can be complete scumbags. Alison had nothing to do with the censorship of any of these titles, she was merely a PR person and as a result was the biggest and easiest target to go after. It sucks, but that's the risk of having a PR position in this day and age.
This is where things get muddy and are not going to look pretty. If you're going to fly to the comments section, think it over before you continue. From what I'm made aware, there may have been arguments over censorship between some of these people and Alison. I can't look into it, but Alison may have taken some forms of bait, which only spurred them on or 'justified' it in their minds. This lead to the digging to occur.
The harassers went through her old tweets and Linkedin, and found an old essay from about 5 years ago. Before I go into this essay, I'd like to bring up the status of the essay and her stance on it from tweets I was linked. The essay, first and foremost, is on her Linkedin page. It's not buried, it's not on some obscure site, it's right there, clear as day. It's in regards to the sexualization of children, how Japan handles it, and how it is in regards to Western culture to roughly sum it up. The essay also makes an important point of distinguishing between exploiting real children and creating fictional material. It does not advocate for the abuse of children, and also actively encourages harder laws on child exploitation. Second, the tweets I was linked to by fellow dtoiders heavily imply her stance remains as such, possibly even worse depending on your viewpoint or if you don't have the proper context of her previous writing. This went all the way to December 2015. A link to those tweets can be found here.
This is where alot of people miss an important event and jump straight to the firing. Many assume at this point the harassment continues on for a month or stops, then Nintendo speaks out and fires her. Especially since the press had pretty much dropped it within a week. However, one very major event occured, one that sealed the deal the moment they went after her publicly. One that alot of sites and people are overlooking
The Wayne Foundation is an organization that is, to quote from their site, 'committed to spreading awareness of CSEC (Commercial Sex Exploitation of Children) DMST (Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking) occurring within the United States.' They are named after the character Bruce Wayne and you can learn more about them here. At this time, their president, publicly called out Nintendo of America to fire Alison by Monday, on twitter, or there would be a reckoning. You can find an image of the subsequent tweet below.
This is a major problem, one that I cannot emphasis enough. This was the moment that most likely sealed her fate. When an organization dedicated to preventing the sexual exploitation of children is calling out your family friendly company and your employee, who isn't looking as a very good light to casual observers, harassers, and the media, you have a situation. How do you say no to that? How do you even protect your employee without shattering that image and trust that families have with you? Remember, while free speech is great, you can still get called out and suffer the consequences of what you said.
There was no winning here. Not for Alison, and not for Nintendo. I'm surprised she managed to stay a month longer, although I'll go over that momentarily. The only way I see out in my honest opinion, is that she'd have to rip out the essay from linkedin and anywhere else she's hosting it. She'd then have to back down on her position and apologize for the remarks and her previous stance. Would that take major courage? Yes. Would that mean keeping her mouth shut on the matter? Yes. But once the Wayne Foundation got involved, who could potentially cause major damage if they wanted to, the hill she was on no longer became worthwhile. You've gotta pick your battles wisely.
Flash forward about a month later, and we find out she's fired. Nintendo issues the following statement.
“Though Ms. Rapp’s termination follows her being the subject of criticism from certain groups via social media several weeks ago, the two are absolutely not related. Nintendo is a company committed to fostering inclusion and diversity in both our company and the broader video game industry and we firmly reject the harassment of individuals based on gender, race or personal beliefs. We wish Ms. Rapp well in her future endeavors.”
In my honest opinion, I think Nintendo tried to find something else to use as the public excuse to fire her, rather than the pressure from the Wayne Foundation, to try to save face for both of them. Which would you rather be fired for and have a public statement about? Your currently blurred stance on fictional materials regarding children and sex thanks to the media, or a second job almost no one knew about?
Almost every single one of you would've gone with the latter. Nintendo did her a major favor by leaving that stance out of it. I don't even care what the second job is, I would've preferred to have been fired for that than the former.
According to Kotaku, who have been covering this fairly well as you can find here and here, twitter may have had a factor. To quote them "In the midst of the harassment, Rapp said Nintendo “stripped” her of spokesperson status in the company and moved her away from product management on games. In her words, the company “looked at her tweets” and “decided [she] wasn’t a good representative of the company.” Rapp said Nintendo took issue with several tweets, including ones about her controversial college essay from 2011 and a public Amazon wish list that fans could buy products from, including clothing."
This brings us back to my previous point. The twitter should've been nuked of all stances regarding the essay, the essay itself, and anything else that looked iffy. As a PR person, how you present yourself on any media has a potential effect on the company, and failing to back down on the easy target the harassers wanted, and continuing to take their bait, only made it easier for them to get the tweets that got her fired out.
Yes, it's easy to get mad at Nintendo for seemingly caving to an angry internet mob, but they also had a very harrowing situation with Wayne Foundations involved. Yes, Jamie Walton may not seem that bad, with a medium sized follower pool on twitter, but the other co-founder of the foundation is Kevin Smith. Who could easily bring the attention of 2.9 million people who would then start a chain reaction. This is also ignoring the fact they'd have no trouble getting the press' attention for this matter either. The headlines would've written themselves. 'Family Friendly Company Defends Pedophile'. I'm not saying she is, but you can't guarantee the media wouldn't say it for the clicks now can you? It already got pretty close with this article.
At the end of the day, it comes down to some very sad facts. The mob got their way by bringing in a heavy hitter that had no real choice but to act based on what they saw, bringing heavy pressure on Nintendo. On the other hand however, while she was the victim, Alison didn't buckle down her public opinions despite being PR which is where that has a bad effect. Like I said earlier, the moment the digging started, and they focused in on that essay, the essay should've been taken down, and she should've backed down her stance on that matter at least publicly. I know some of you are horrified to read that, but when you have to act as the face of a family friendly company, that's not a hill you want to be defending. You are on your own/
And that's the situation. The mob find an easy to exploit personal opinion and make it worse by baiting her on. While smelling blood, they managed to get the attention of a prominent organization, who then proceeded to put pressure on Nintendo for the matter. Nintendo proceeded to remove her from the public eye to try and ease the pressure and let things blow over. However, her twitter and linkedin still had many tweets and items, including the essay, which made it damningly hard to help her, especially when she never backed down from it. Using the month from the call out, Nintendo most likely did as much digging as they could to find something they could use publicly without referring to this mess. Finding the second job, they used that as the public excuse to fire her, however internally her behaviour on twitter, which included some rather risque and nsfw photos, along with the essay and amazon wishlist, were the real reasons for firing her, potentially alongside the second job. If the second job was the excuse, it could be something that lines up with those photos, as I am seeing some very non-Nintendo jobs pop up in regards to that.
So there you have it. That's the situations and a general full scope of what was in it and who was involved. It's a bloody mess.