A lesson in the widespread negative consequences you might trigger when you don’t work from the most honorable of intentions.
Recently right wing trolls have begun using the term NPC to refer to their liberal political targets. The phenomena was reported in mainstream media articles after Twitter began banning satirical accounts that embraced the NPC trope. In the meantime I have been getting messages from friends and long time readers telling me that it’s probably all my fault.
Back in 2015 I was a lead contributor and editor at CopBlock.org. That fall I wrote an article titled ‘Game Metaphor: Predeterminism, Free Will and Non-Player Characters’ for my personal blog AdvancedApe.com — which is now defunct. It was shared across the 2 million+ CopBlock social media platform, as well as with my own far more modest audience. I began to use the term regularly at both sites, as well as linking to the original article, to the point that colleagues, friends and readers sometimes began using it, too.
Unfortunately it was about this time where my colleagues, friends and readers began to splinter, with far too many going off into what soon became known as the ‘alt-right’. Some of the most vocal of them had been hugely influenced by that article and its concepts and terminology. And while I am sure I am not the first person to use NPC as a suggestive insult, it seems highly likely that I contributed to the current phenomena to some degree, if not almost entirely.
I apologize. In fact, even over a year before the current fiasco began, I called myself out for my narcissistic name calling in another article I wrotecriticizing a psychological theory of Timothy Leary that contained a similar suggestion of superiority.
I still hold that people experience a range of free will, with self-determination at one end of the spectrum and social conditioning at the other. Without self-knowledge and actualization people tend to default to socially constructed roles. But there are ways to explore that without being a condescending jerk, and in my original article on the subject of NPCs I had failed to express the idea uncontaminated from self-satisfied snark of my own.
The most ironic thing about it is that, according to my original theory, a group of people all conforming to a social script within a game they do not control would be NPCs, and the copycat name-callers using the term would qualify just as readily as any other group of people working from mainstream narratives of politics. A rabid Trump supporter or alt-right contrarian trollbro are just as conformist, ignorant and non-actualized as any bobblehead the left can offer up; in fact probably more so.
The mainstream left and right are categorical myths. They do not actually exist. The groups labeled as such are comprised of a variety of individuals with different desires, ideas and beliefs. ‘Liberal’ and ‘conservative’ have become little more than an intellectual shortcut for dividing people over a wide spectrum; people who generally do not always fit neatly on either side.
Whereas the alt-right and other newfangled brands of bad faith conservatives work almost entirely as one from a very narrow script of ideas, beliefs and buzzwords. The fact that they have appropriated the term NPC as one of their own and then conformed to spreading it with such fanatical zeal is probably a smoking gun for having earned the derogatory acronym for themselves.
Ironically for me, this may be the most popular idea I have ever yet propagated, meaning that if it becomes my legacy I will go down in history as the yipwad who started the NPCs calling everyone else NPCs. The lesson here is to be careful what you start, one which I find myself relearning over and over again as a writer and human being.
Did I say I was sorry?