On #GamerGate — Final Thoughts Before I Find Something Else to Do

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If you have no idea what GamerGate is, the Wiki page gives a decent enough summary of the major events.  Additional details can be found at RationalWiki.

This is the only post I will write on this subject.  At this point, I’m basically “over it.”  The whole thing is a monumental mess.  There’s abuse on both sides, accusations flying everywhere, and, once more, a lot of hard divisions.  If GG had a purpose beyond its 4Chan origins, I think it’s now over with, either because the well-meaning people within it could not control the narrative or because GG was always a hijacked movement whose membership, in part, was about attacking women (I lean more towards the latter).  For example, here’s a rough statistical analysis of what GamerGaters have been talking about in the last month; hint:  ethics in journalism is pretty low on the list.

So this is all I’m saying on GamerGate.  I will not Tweet about it again.  I will not write more blog posts.  If someone decides to create an organized body of folks who are against corruption in games journalism, I’ll support it, but I cannot in good conscience support GG.

These are my final thoughts:

  • I’m sympathetic to the underlying message of good GamerGaters, despite knowing very little about the ethical issues in games journalism.  Given that I find a great deal of what passes for journalism these days to be wildly unethical (if not straight up dishonest and worthless), I recognize the seriousness which such a topic can have within the field of gaming.

    However, I’m not a GG supporter for one simple reason:  it has always been hijacked by scum.  Scum who will try to destroy you for speaking out, especially if you’re a woman.  We can sit around reporting accounts all we want, but the sad fact is that women who speak out against GG are being attacked, and since GG has no mechanism for purging this from its ranks — except to play a distracting game of self-defense, which doesn’t actually work — there’s no reason for me to associate myself with it.

  • As I’ve noted to some GamerGaters that I know, it’s difficult to argue that the “trolls” who have turned/kept the face of GG as that of a terrorist organization are not actually part of that group.  Others have called this a No True Scotsman fallacy, which I think is somewhat unfair.  GG is not an organized body.  It has no defined membership with which to properly identify itself.  What it has are factions of people saying “this is what GG is or is not” in defense of what are obviously objectionable behaviors by those who are associating themselves with the tag.  Eventually, one has to admit that the tag has been tainted, and that trying to save it from its non-organized nature is pointless.  How exactly can you claim that the people issuing rape and death threats are not part of GG when there’s no clear method for determining who is and isn’t part of GG, especially since some of the people who are issuing threats and abuse are also part of the original message of “ethics in journalism”?
  • The previous point becomes complicated by the fact that the public face of GG is hardly that of the less public face.  There are people within GG who do stand against harassment and want to combat unethical behavior in games journalism.  But these same people will often RT or support people like Adam Baldwin (an anti-LGBT loon), Christina Sommers (who stands against Title IX for women in science, and certainly stands against the same for women in gaming/tech, despite the fact that clearly those industries need changing), Breitbart (an ironically unethical “journalistic” space), and so on.  Top that off with the fact that there’s no clear way to remove or denounce people like Vox Day (an unabashed misogynist who now supports the movement and wants his followers to do the same) and you end up with a situation in which even the supposed “good face” looks like it’s covered in pie.  These are not the droids you’re looking for…

    It’s one thing to mistakenly tweet something from a controversial source.  Perhaps you didn’t know.  Perhaps you misunderstood.  It happens.  But at some point, you have to face reality.  These aren’t the faces you want in your movement, particularly if you actually care about the issues you espouse.  It’s for the same reason that I don’t think anyone should associate themselves with any anti-GGer who says we should stomp gamers back to irrelevancy (yes, this has been said).  If you RT these people, you damage yourself (this is actually the product of an association fallacy, but good luck trying to convince the world of that fact).

  • It occurs to me that very little discussion has been had about those within GG who have been abused or threatened as a result of being part of that movement.  Some of the claims are specious (Mike Cernovich claims to have been doxxed, but that’s patently false, as his business address was publicly available on a legal website (link does not contain the address; just a detractor’s take on Cernovich)), but others are far more serious.  The problem, as I see it, is that it’s difficult to determine whether the people attacking on behalf of the anti-GG side are actually “real” in the sense of believing themselves to be part of that movement or just trolling everyone.  There is a high likelihood that the same people who have hijacked/created GG are also dispensing attacks in the opposite direction, which seems possible based on the number of fake Twitter accounts, etc. that have been used to discredit GG detractors.

    Regardless, some of these attacks must be real, if by “attacks” we mean actual threats, not people calling GGers stupid (which is weak tea as far as I’m concerned). The Internet contains a climate of abuse.  Raging, childish abuse.  The adult world doesn’t make much room for straight up abuse because we’re expected to behave like adults in public, etc.  But the Internet has no such restrictions.  And you see it everywhere.  Few have actually tried to address this problem.  I often wonder why.  Hell, you’d think GGers would have made this part of the agenda, if it had a defined agenda…

    The only problem with these claims of abuse is that while I believe they are happening (given the Internet), I cannot find a credible source to confirm it.  If anyone has one, drop it in the comments.  Most of the major news sites aren’t discussing the issue, which means the only ones reporting the information are blogs and folks with Twitter accounts.  This is hardly a method for legitimating the attacks.

  • I tend to agree with Brianna Wu’s assertion that the result of all of the data suggests that GamerGate (or, at least, it’s face) is that of misogny and hate.  It’s nice to argue the opposite if you are, indeed, not a misogynist, but I think it’s naive at best for any GGer to keep the tag for the sake of preserving a movement.  At this point, that battle is over.  Unless something insane happens to put GGers in a positive light, it will be forever tainted by those within the movement who coordinate threats against women.  If GGers want their original idea to be taken seriously within the wider culture, it would do well to move beyond the nebulous GG tag and create a clear, defined “body” with specific goals and specific membership requirements (something even Anonymous has).  Otherwise, GGers will constantly have to defend themselves against completely valid charges (not personal charges, but group charges).

    Indeed, right now, GG is perceived by many major media sources as mostly negative (there’s some good or neutral coverage, too, but it’s fairly limited).  They can cry foul about that all they want, but that’s what reporters and commentators see.  I’ve even heard some GGers make the amusing claim that this is a conspiracy to kill the movement, which would make sense only if one could prove that the media is deeply entrenched with feminist values or something.  It’s not.

    GG is losing the PR battle.  Women who talk about GG in anything but a positive light are threatened attacked.  It happened to Felicia Day.  It’s happened to many others.  You can recover from one instance; when there are many, it’s infinitely harder.

  • Every time I see someone trot out the Social Justice Warrior phrase as an insult, I assume they are confused.  Because to take them seriously at this activity would require me to assume that a lot of people really don’t stand for equality for women, LGBT folks, and so on.

    “Social Justice Warrior” is a badge of honor.  I wear it proudly.

Look.  GamerGate is complicated.  Deep down, it has good motives (well, not originally, but certainly that good element exists today).  On the outside, it seems completely infested by trolls, bigots, misogynists, and total assholes, not least of all because that’s where it started.  The response to GamerGate has been equally as complicated.  There are very public, very big names criticizing the violence within GG, and then there are a bunch of assholes who have taken that as an excuse to be, well, assholes (some of them may also be popular).  As I suggested in a recent post, this is a problem with the way our rhetoric has developed:  there’s a quality to entrenchment of ideologies that leads us to live in a black and white world, and the complete lack of real world repercussions for those who dox, harass, and threaten has made these activities a part of Internet culture.  The good people behind GamerGate are a victim of that just as much as the anti-GamerGate goodies are a victim.  And the less time we spend actually talking to the good people, the more time we give to the trolls and scum infesting the Internet.
But there is a solution.  It’s simple.  Discard the nebulous title, create an organized body around a specific set of self-imposed rules, and focus on the real issue:  ethics in games journalism.  This is doable.  Why anyone has stuck with the GG moniker is beyond me, especially when the fix could take place overnight.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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