I wasn’t going to write about this story because I don’t care about Fortnite, the popular videogame, Ninja, the most popular Fortnite streamer, and I don’t think the “controversy” is actually that controversial.

I broached the topic with a couple of people, and like myself, they were shocked that people were upset with Ninja, and they basically occurred with my stance. There didn’t seem to be much that I could realistically add to the conversation.

But, then Business Insider ran an article on the controversy. And Business Insider is so square that when it runs an article on something nerdy or related to videogames, you know that somehow the story got so big that it leaked into the mainstream.

In short, here’s what’s going on:

Ninja, Fortnite streamer extraordinaire, said “I don’t play with female gamers . . . If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever.”

He’s not wrong. Streamers play videogames for a living and broadcast everything they do to a live audience with no editing in a medium that is easy to record and share. A single mistake can live on forever on the Internet.

Likewise, there are too many people out there willing to take quotes and actions out of context. Even something innocent could be portrayed as something not so great.

Ninja, Fortnite streamer, is married, something that many articles take far too long to acknowledge.

He said the following on Twitter:

He just wants to protect his family, and given the medium he works in, he’s taking reasonable steps, even if they are a bit odd by modern standards.

But, people won’t be stopped from saying stuff like this:

According to that same Business Insider article, someone else said, “I do that think Ninja and other Twitch partners should want to improve the platform by promoting and supporting women gamers . . . It’s just the right thing to do. I don’t know how to make the argument that compassion for people who are different from you is important — you should just want to extend your compassion towards those people.”

I don’t think I need to point out that Ninja, Fortnite streamer, owns his labor and his platform. He’s under no obligation to do a job he doesn’t want to do. If he’s willing to sacrifice the financial rewards of working with women and take the heat for openly saying he won’t, more power to him. Why should any of us care?

But, Ninja, Fortnite streamer, is in some deep trouble.

Maybe not right this second, but I have a suspicion that this is only the opening salvo of the war.

You see, a case along similar lines made it to the Supreme Court, and was narrowly ruled in favor of the defendant. No precedent was set, which means the legality of both sides’ cases is still an open question. But I think it suggests that our society is struggling to come up with answers to what are often seen as hard questions.

Jack Phillips, baker, was found to have violated Colorado law by the Colorado Civil Rights Division when he refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a gay couple.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that Jack Phillips, baker, could not cite his religious beliefs to explain his refusal. He was ordered to change his policies. He appealed.

The Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear his case.

The Alliance Defending Freedom petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case.

In June 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission violated Jack Phillips’, baker, right to free practice of religion. They didn’t resolve the question of whether his actions were protected by the Constitution.

So, here we are again.

Ninja, Fortnite streamer, is clearly being discriminatory towards a group of people based on their gender.

It’s the same question that was asked in the wedding cake case but wearing different clothes.

There’s a discriminatory element. There’s a refusal to do business. There’s a refusal to do what might be commonly viewed as right based on deeply-held convictions about the nature of right and wrong.

This question is like the emperor from the old story, except instead of wearing no clothes at all, he buys as many outfits as he can. He’s going to show up every day in a new getup until we give him a reason not to do so.

And, when he shows up, he tends to ruin lives.

Jack Phillips, baker, has been ordered to “compulsory mediation” with a transgender lawyer who tried to order a cake celebrating their gender transition . . . after the Supreme Court case had been ruled. Jack Phillips, baker, has a target painted on his back.

Let me be clear: this is the Supreme Court’s fault. They needed to rule on the case they were presented in broad terms, instead of the ultimately narrow terms on which they settled. They emboldened the emperor.

Is it likely that Ninja, Fortnite streamer, gets sued about his refusal to work with women? Probably not. It would be hard to prove that he had done anything that caused harm or damage.

But the precedent is there.

What happens when Cody, blogger, gets asked to do something he’s not comfortable with, on whatever grounds. Will he feel safe to say “no?” Or will the law obligate him to violate his own morality?

What happens when You, blog reader, get asked to do something that you think is wrong? What if you win the ensuing court case, but it gets ruled on narrow grounds and you have to fight the battle over and over and over? What then?

Because the emperor is over in the corner, laughing. He’s got a new set of clothes for every day of the week, and until we take them away, there’s no end to this madness.1

  1. Editor Cody here. I realized something this morning while looking for a picture for this piece. I had run across another article on this topic and I realized that basically none of these articles are about Ninja, Fortnite Streamer. Sure, they mention what he said, and give his explanation for why he believes what he does . . . but the article is only 10% over. The rest of the article is about how this is not really a private decision by Ninja. This is something that affects all women streamers, even if they don’t play Fortnite, and it contains quotes from people who play different games and have much smaller viewerships. It’s not that their opinions don’t matter, but how relevant are they, anyway?

    I remember similar things about Jack Phillips’ story. He wasn’t spurning two gay men, he was attacking gay men everywhere. This was a national crisis. And, I don’t want to feed into that. I hope I’ve framed my article in a constructive way.

    However, I’m now wondering about why situation “x” gets portrayed in the media as really being about “y,” and not just “y,” but “y everywhere.” It’s alright to suggest that this might be indicative of a larger trend, but if you cherrypick your data like that, you can argue that just about anything is widespread. I don’t think that’s right.