Jake Rush caught the attention of websites like Gawker when reports surfaced of the Alachua Republican lawyer’s involvement with live-action role-playing games. During his undergraduate years at UF, Rush was part of The Camarilla, the UF chapter of an international gaming society. Around 2009, under the name of his gaming alter ego Chazz Darling, Rush posted messages in a gaming forum with violent and sexual threats, according to Gawker.
While the story admittedly made for a great read-it-laugh-once-and-forget-it Gawker post, complete with excerpts of a 2010 Chazz Darling post in which he threatens rape on a presumably female character, it probably won’t have much effect on his campaign.
What the online stories and inevitable late-night talk show hosts won’t mention is that Gainesville residents aren’t up in arms over the news, even though Rush and Gainesville voters as a whole are pretty conservative.
The comments on online stories about Rush’s affinity for LARPing are overwhelmingly positive and forgiving.
Most of them voiced the same sentiment: Who cares what Rush does in his free time?
And, to his credit, Rush has been forthcoming about his LARPing.
According to the Miami Herald, he said, “As a practicing Christian, I am deeply offended that the opposing campaign and their supporters would take a gaming and theatre hobby and mischaracterize it. The very definition of acting is expressing ideas and thoughts that are not your own, just like I don’t believe I am MacBeth, which I have played, I am none of the characters.”
He has a point. And while the Yoho camp and a handful of online media outlets have gleefully used the news to try to humiliate the rookie politician, Rush has handled the scrutiny with poise.
We believe that Rush’s logic holds up. After all, constant readers of Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King and George R. R. Martin — masters of gore and terrifying sex scenes — don’t assume that the writers’ fiction reflects their morality. Quentin Tarantino directs some of the bloodiest, most graphic films American audiences have ever seen, but viewers don’t believe his art reflects a serious character flaw. What Rush chooses to do in his spare time, as long as he’s not harming himself or others, is irrelevant to his politics.
In the grand scheme of politicians’ bad behavior — like, say, banging your intern and then lying to a grand jury about it — playing a vampire role-playing game in which all parties involved are accepting of the adult content isn’t that bad.
The climate is right for Rush to swoop in and claim a victory over Yoho, who’s been the laughingstock of Congress since claiming Obamacare is racist and making light of starvation and poverty in America.
Will a little strange press get in Rush’s way?
[A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 4/2/2014 under the headline "Defense against the dark LARPs: a Jake Rush story"]