Fisking Vocativ’s Shoddy #Gamergate Piece

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The original can be found HERE.

Gamergate’s zombie horde of trolls have struck again. This time, the target was Canadian journalist, author and PhD candidate Natalie Zed, slammed for trying to discuss gamergate for an entire conference without publicly saying the word: gamergate.

Gamergate and trolls are two very different phenomena, though both Gamergate and anti-gamergate attract trolls in their wake because trolls like a) drama (which gamergate provides) and b) lolcows (which anti-gamergate provides).

Zed has become a target of ire for a number of reasons, but not least amongst them is that – if anything – she has been a troll. Calling people ‘Deatheaters’ as a means of talking behind their back is simultaneously trollish (designed to cause a reaction) and sneaky. That she has been a gigantic arsehole to anyone and everyone who challenged her hasn’t helped her.

She’s hardly a ‘very brave woman’, as this article would seem to be trying to say. Not a victim, an antagonist. Nor was she helped by the fact that she is, essentially, a walking stereotype. A blue-haired, gender-studies, militantly misandrist feminist who offers nothing but abuse to her critics and then plays the victim.

Last week, Zed attended the Canadian Game Studies Association’s 2015 conference as a panelist. In the opening comments, the organizers asked attendees to refrain from using the Gamergate hashtag, even though many of the panels were focused on the Gamergate phenomenon (depending on your perspective, either a debate about ethics in gaming, mostly focused on the sexism in games and gaming culture, or a vitriolic campaign of hatred directed at women who dare venture into the gaming industry).

So the question would be – why hide? Gamergate doesn’t troll, but it does take issue with bad ideas, poorly presented ideas, unevidenced ideas and attacks on or dishonesty about the gaming community. If these attendees were not engaged in any horrible behaviour they should have nothing to hide and IF they were genuine academics they should welcome challenge and engagement from the public they allege to speak to and for, as it should lead to better work.

Gamergate IS a campaign for ethical games journalism and against censorship. The ‘hate campaign’ thing is a false narrative thrown up to deflect and distract (or as a publicity exploit). Anyone who honestly researches it and talks to members of the movement will know this. It’s not obfuscated at all.

So the question then becomes ‘what were they hiding?’ and since this #deatheaters thing and Zed were exposed, that was brought to light.

The imposed twitter silence was an effort both to protect attendees from Gamergate troll hostility and to prevent Gamergaters from hijacking the online conversation about the conference, rendering Twitter useless for attendees.

Again. Gamergate are not trolls, trolls are not Gamergate. Dissent, examination, discussion, debate, these are not the actions of trolls. Participation is not hijacking. Gamergate is certainly capable of taking over and destroying bad-faith hashtags, as it has done repeatedly to unethical hashtags, but an honest discussion will always be welcomed. GG is keen on honest and open debate yet its opposition will not engage honestly.

Zed tweeted some thinly-veiled frustration. Then she compared the fear of Gamergate trolls to the fear of Lord Voldermort in the Harry Potter series.

Still not trolls and Gamergate is the very antithesis of authoritarian stormtroopers. From Gamergate’s point of view the people one finds in these conferences or trying to censor and control geek media are much more akin to such forces.

The evil wizard is known in the Harry Potter series as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and the conference organizers correctly warned that anyone mentioning #Gamergate risked attracting a deluge of attackers. It’s a completely rational fear, as women who have engaged with Gamergate in the past have been targeted. For instance, trolls shared game designer Zoe Quinn’s address and personal details, and threatened to murder and rape game-studio co-founder Brianna Wu.

Again. Dissent, discussion and participation are not ‘attacks’. This constant mischaracterisation is not productive and only widens the gap. This is not a rational fear at all. Women have not been targeted by Gamergate, unethical and dishonest people have been exposed but gender is irrelevant.

Zoe Quinn has little or nothing to do with Gamergate, Gamergate didn’t dox her, Gamergate never threatened to murder or rape anyone. No threats have been deemed credible by law enforcement (Wu’s weren’t even reported to the police it now seems) and her most notorious troll was a ‘performance artist’ with no links to Gamergate. Indeed the ONLY credible threat, according to the authorities, was the bomb threat against the GG in DC meeting.

Zed then referred to Gamergate trolls as Death Eaters, after the group of wizards who follow Voldemort. #Deatheaters took off among conference attendees, panelists and followers. “It was a really effective way to communicate for the duration of the conference,” Zed says. “People could talk about their work without bringing down a giant torch storm on everyone that was there.”

Still not trolls. It’s worth mentioning here that members of Gamergate have also been doxxed, threatened, had pictures of them masturbated over, have been sent needles, razorblades and other disgusting things, have had their jobs threatened (or lost), have been thrown out of conventions and much more. Genuine consequences much more often, I think, than AGGros.

The entire conference went smoothly, free from gamergate interference. But then, someone said the word that must not be said.

“Literally during the closing remarks on the very last day someone from the official Twitter account used the word ‘Gamergate’,” Zed says. “The tweet was up for about ten minutes before somebody else caught it and deleted it.”

But it was too late. The zombies had stirred. “Somebody said the word and that’s what it does—it brings the scary part of the Internet to you.”

As they saying goes, ‘talk shit, get hit’. It’s not that Gamergate just waits to be mentioned and descends. It looks for bad practice and promotion of the false narrative about itself – and then it objects – strongly. It also has an eye out for bullshit, such as seems to often be promulgated at these conferences. Again, this kind of vigorous dissent and ‘peer review’ should really be welcomed by these academics, if they were really academics rather than pseudo academics.

Gamergate is not, in any way, the ‘scary’ part of the internet, unless you’re the sort of person who jumps at their own shadow.

Ironically, or perhaps as one would expect, Zed, who tried to shield the conference from the Gamergate trolls, became their target. “I was in a car and drove from Ottawa to Montreal, and went to bed. And when I woke up in the morning I had 275 notifications in my Twitter and discovered that overnight Gamergate had figured out the hashtag and figured out who I was and what was going on.”

Provoking people is not shielding anyone, it draws ire, it doesn’t defuse it. If Zed – and indeed the whole conference – had engaged honestly and openly with Gamergate none of this would have happened. Zed’s trolling and a degree of ‘say it to my face’, coupled with her – and others – later aggression, lack of academic chops is what gave things a negative slant.

Gamergate has essentially been exonerated from the harassment narrative thanks to the WAM report and due to SPJ taking its concerns seriously enough to host AirPlay. Articles such as this and attitudes such as Zed’s, furthering the false narrative, serve no useful purpose towards bringing this chapter of gaming history to a close.

Over the next 24 hours, about 19,000 mocking and threatening tweets were tagged with #deatheaters.

I watched Zed closely and the threads closely. I’ve been involved in Gamergate since its precursors. I saw no threats. Mockery? Plenty. Criticism? Yep. Dissent? You bet. Discussion? Sure. Threats? No.

According the Zed, trolls have now rendered her Twitter unusable because she’s getting hundreds of notifications a day—mostly abusive tweets, Japanese anime porn pics and invitations for debate. They have taken to criticizing the validity of her work and her appearance, all of which ramped up once they discovered Zed is working on a PhD on Gamergate. Trolls sent out hundreds of negative tweets with the hashtag #gamergatephd. They’re currently bombarding her employers with requests to to disqualify Zed from her program on the (invalid) grounds that openly criticizing the phenomenon is a conflict of interest. Some have suggested showing up en masse at her upcoming speaking engagements or buying up all the domains associated with her name to influence search engine results for Zed, so that any potential employer searching for her would find something offensive rather than her actual professional profile.

Still not trolls, but it is extremely likely that – having established herself as someone who will react – she has now also drawn trolls. Given her abusiveness and dismissal towards people some may well have resorted to ‘shitposting’ through frustration, but saying that they’re victimising her because of it is akin to victim blaming. Why invitations to debate should be considered in the same field as trolling, I’m not sure.

Yes her work and her attitudes are under intense scrutiny and criticism – and again a real academic should welcome this.

The part about her hostility is just bizarre. Would you trust a Neo-Nazi to produce a useful or accurate study on the Jewish community, or vice versa? Zed is extremely hostile to Gamergate and has shown through her ‘discussions’ that she knows fuck all about it and is wedded to promoting the false narrative, rather than learning what it really is. These are not – or at least should not – be the actions or attitudes of any would be academic.

The rest of this seems like legitimate protest towards a hateful person who is lying about them. Not harassment but consequences for an unethical and abusive person. Were the situation reversed, people would be praising such moves to protest. Consider things like the reaction to CH Sommers appearances at American universities. It seems when the same tactics are used in the other ‘direction’, people finally start to see why they might be problematic.

Zed seemed to handle the backlash well, batting away her harsher critics with sarcasm.

This is the very opposite of handling things well. For trolls it is giving them what they want, a ‘butthurt’ reaction. For Gamergaters is only cements her position as an ignorant and unethical pseudo-academic.

Offline, she shows even more resolve. “What I’ve learned is that when you actually get them isolated from the mob and treat them as human beings and have a conversation you see how much pain there is behind that hostility,” Zed says. “I’ve had conversations with people who genuinely feel that there’s not a place for them and they think that this thing that has always been a place for them is somehow being taken away. It’s really gutting to see how much pain there is behind that hostility.”

This is more hopeful sounding, but it’s also massively patronising and not genuinely reflective of the issues Gamergate has. This is simply a ‘softer’ way of trying to say that Gamergate is scared of change, women, diversity, minorities. That isn’t the case at all and if you don’t believe me, just ask #NotYourShield.

But she still doesn’t think that warrants the volume of abuse she, and others, have endured. “As heartbreaking as that is, I fully respect everyone who has been attacked by this monolithic hostile anger. It’s ruined lives and it’s put people in genuine danger. I don’t want to make light of the real damage. It’s sad to be so lonely, but you don’t get to take that out on anyone.”

Again. Dissent, disagreement, criticism and examination are not abuse. Nobody’s life has been ruined and the only people who have had real consequences have been unethical journalists who, frankly, SHOULD have consequences for their actions. Pseudo-academics probably should to. The standards of academic research and discourse around games and other nerd media are frankly appalling. We deserve better.

Let’s end on a positive note.

If you want to ‘get away’ with discussing Gamergate without drawing ire…

  1. Don’t hide.
  2. Treat Gamergate with respect and openness.
  3. Discuss, debate and engage – honestly.
  4. If you call yourself an academic, be one.
  5. Block the trolls without blaming Gamergate for them.
  6. Don’t go on hearsay, ask.

Treat Gamergate and their concerns with respect and you’ll be treated just fine, even celebrated, even if you still disagree.

Fisking #Gamergate and the Right

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This ground has been gone over a huge number of times, so I’ll try and keep it short and to the point – even though the article itself isn’t. The entire premise of it is overturned from the very start. Numerous surveys and political-compass aggregates have repeatedly demonstrated that the majority of Gamergate are left/libertarian (small ‘l’) with progressive values and that they stand in opposition to an authoritarian bent in the modern ‘left’, especially the successors to the 90s ‘PC police’, the ‘Social Justice Warriors’.

To recap, briefly, no matter what you’ve heard Gamergate is primarily concerned with:

  1. Ethics in games journalism (and increasingly mainstream journalism).
  2. Countering censorship (censorship here broadly defined, not limited to governmentally enforced censorship).
  3. Worries over the politicisation of games journalism and how that no longer serves the consumer.

For the last month and a half, most of what I have read, watched, or listened to on the Internet has been either directly or indirectly related to GamerGate.

This is obviously a lie since the entire article is riddled with misapprehensions, outright lies and propagandist spins. If they had, indeed, spent their time on things related to Gamergate they would know better. It’s either a lie or incompetence, and it seems to me that accusing someone of malfeasance is the least insulting option.

If you haven’t been following the chain of events, GamerGate started in late August when Eron Gjoni released a blog post alleging that his former girlfriend, game developer Zoe Quinn, had slept with a journalist in return for positive coverage of her free interactive fiction game, Depression Quest (this was later proven to be false).

  1. Gamergate started later.
  2. The claim was never a review, but ‘positive coverage’. This did, indeed, take place.
  3. Gamergate has little or nothing to do with Zoe Quinn other than this was the ‘Archduke Ferdinand assassination’ that was the initial spark. We’re now ten months on and the only times Quinn comes up are when she self inserts, when claims she has anything to do with GG need to be debunked or when parts of GG support Gjoni’s free speech rights and right to a fair trial.

This resulted in a sustained harassment campaign targeting Quinn, as well as her family, friends, and supporters, and inspired the creation of the GamerGate hashtag on Twitter.

Trolls exist. Trolls have been trolling Quinn since long before Gamergate and likely will long after. GG has also been targeted for harassment by trolls. Trolls are drawn to drama. This is a dishonest and inaccurate attempt to associate Gamergate with the actions of those who are not part of the consumer revolt. Ironically, this accusation could equally – perhaps more so given the likes of Randi Harper – be levelled at anti-Gamergate.

The stated purpose of the hashtag was to raise awareness about corruption and ethics in game journalism, but it also served as a marshaling ground for people who had a bone to pick with “feminist ideologues.” Other feminist critics and game developers were targeted, many of whom had already been subjected to both online and offline harassment, including Anita Sarkeesian, Mattie Brice, Jenn Frank, and Brianna Wu.

There’s actually no divide, difference or conflict here. Many of these people have used corruption to further their agenda. Many of them are – or more generously appear to be – con artists who have repeatedly lied to boost their own profile and to smear the games community to forward their own ideological agenda. Corruption wears many faces, not all of them financial.

Feminism has been at the forefront of a surge of authoritarian censorship across many forms of media, which makes resistance to it unsurprising. It’s also not that surprising that people spin rejection of an ideology (modern feminism) into rejection of women (people) even though this is wildly inaccurate.

Supporters of GamerGate have repeatedly tried to distance themselves from the harassment, doxxing, and threats, but thanks in part to the disorganized and decentralized nature of the “movement,” they have had little success thus far. As many critics of GamerGate have pointed out, GamerGaters have largely focused on the activities of small indie developers and critics, rather than large companies, which are far more likely to have access to the resources necessary to influence and manipulate the gaming press, though some supporters have succeeded in pressuring advertisers to pull their ads from websites that have published articles criticizing the movement.

The only reason this hasn’t been successful is the unwillingness of the opposition to accept it and to treat honestly with Gamergate.

  1. The focus on indies (really it’s been focussed on games media) has come about for a number of reasons which I’ll briefly cover here:
  2. Gamergate has focussed on ideological corruption and nepotism, which is primarily a sin of the indie scene.
  3. Corruption and problems in the larger publishers etc are old news and already well known.
  4. Indies and ideological campaigners have been on their high horse for a long time and have been shown to have feet of clay. To be as bad – or worse – than people they were attacking. There’s an emotional payoff for a lot of people going after them.

Just to reiterate, the real focus has been on games media. Insomuch as there HAS been any focus on indies, it’s for the above factors (and their nepotism with some of the games media).

Aside from a public discussion I hosted about a month ago, this is the first time I’ve sat down to write something that maybe will be seen by more than one or two people. I feel a bit badly for not speaking up earlier, not so much because I feel I have something especially important to say that hasn’t already been contributed by somebody else, but because I think that numbers matter. It’s part of how we measure “public opinion,” but it’s also a way of resisting the silencing tactics used by some of the more vocal (and violent) anti-feminist supporters of GamerGate. No one is obligated to read this, but the very fact that it exists is my way of saying “You may have succeeded in scaring the shit out of me, but I’m not going to back down.”

Accusing Gamergate of silencing tactics is… a bit rich.

Discussion of the scandals was censored from just about everywhere – even 4chan. Gamergate has been accused of all sorts of nonsense since the start in an attempt to silence it. Misogyny, racism, harassment, child porn, white supremacy… nothing has worked. Gamergate’s efforts – yes, even the shitposting and taking over of hashtags – has all been engaged in to overcome that.

You have no reason to be scared of Gamergate, if only you would engage honestly and openly with it without smearing it. If you are dishonest, corrupt, don’t want your pseudo-academic nonsense debunked etc then, perhaps, you have something to be afraid of.

Still, it’s hard to know where to start. The impact on the gaming community I’m a part of has been tangible, but I also think it has, and will have, impacts far outside of that. This is because GamerGate is part of several broader trends, the most obvious of which is the polarization that follows in the wake of (or occurs as part of) economic, political, and cultural crises. By crisis I mean a sudden shift in the status quo, which occurs in any unsustainable system, and leads to a struggle over a limited supply of material and symbolic resources. Think of a house of cards, or a Jenga game, and the inevitable collapse. It’s the dramatic release of tensions that have been built up over a period of time, as a result of contradictions or oppositions that can’t be reconciled: the very act of playing the game and expanding the system, of adding cards or pulling out and restacking blocks, increases the instability of the system as a whole, until eventually it can no longer expand, and something has to give. In Jenga, this marks the end of the game, but in reality, life goes on, and people are forced to deal with the (often unpleasant) consequences of the collapse.

I can’t disagree with much of this. I do believe that GG has had a big – and mostly positive – impact. As a creator myself I now feel more emboldened and less likely to self-censor. I no longer feel as isolated or alone and I feel part of a community which, while very disparate and fractured on a great many points shares my values of free expression, truth and reason. Values that have long felt under siege.

I also see Gamergate as one battle in a much larger culture war and as part, finally, FINALLY, of a reassertion of enlightenment values against what has been a very dangerous, authoritarian imposition of fact-free censorship and ideological imposition (interestingly, imposed by both left and right).

If I had to compare it to anything, it would be The Restoration, not in terms of monarchy, but in terms of the (potential) explosion of intellectual and artistic progress we got during that period after a long period of po-faced, censorious absolutism.

Capitalism, particularly in its current form, is a highly unstable, and ultimately unsustainable system based on private property and the endless pursuit of profit. Overall profit goes in one direction, from those who have less wealth (the employees) to those who have more (the investors), and this produces ever-greater inequalities. However the rich can only get so rich before people, infrastructure, economies, and other things that depend on the continuous circulation and redistribution of wealth, start to give way. The 2008 financial crisis is the product of the instability created by the push for endless growth (of markets and fortunes) in a finite world. The effects of this crisis are still being felt today, and it is partly because of this that we’ve seen waves of large-scale protests and conflicts emerging in countries around the world: Tunisia, Greece, China, Turkey, Venezuela, Brazil, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Egypt, the United States, Syria, Canada, Spain, Libya, Portugal, and the list goes on.

I would mostly agree here too and that’s a point upon which, as a staunch leftist, I depart from the more free-market Gaters. However I see these problems and the austerity resulting from them as a factor which has empowered the authoritarian social conservatism enacted by both left and right.

A prime example of this is the UK’s pornography censorship, enacted by a right wing government but enabled by ostensibly left-wing activists (like Gail Dines). The sides both share an authoritarian streak and a rhetorical flourish and fondness for moral panic reminiscent of the Satanic Panic or the PMRC.

(At this point you’re probably wondering what all this has to do with GamerGate, but bear with me, I’m getting there).

Nothing really so far…

In a crisis it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a “middle ground,” as people are pressured to identify with one side of the conflict or another. As time goes on and the conflicts continue, both of these sides will tend to diverge, separating themselves from both the representatives of the old status quo (the liberals, centrists, and moderates, who present themselves as the “natural,” “normal,” and “neutral” middle ground), and the other side. This is what I mean by polarization. Historically, these two “sides” are what we call the Left and the Right. The Left is egalitarian and progressive, while the Right is hierarchical and reactionary.

By this metric Gamergate is on the left while AGGro, DiGRA etc are the right. As noted earlier, this isn’t really left/right, it is libertarian/authoritarian.

Some call this ‘horseshoe theory’. In practice there was little to divide Stalinism or National Socialism, just as there’s little today to divide ‘moral majority’ Conservatism from ‘far left’ social justice warriors.

By comparison, Gamergate is positively moderate.

Often the Right adopts surface-level terminology and symbolism from the Left, as was the case with the “National Socialists” or Nazi party, which can fool people into supporting them, something that would be difficult if fascists were honest and open about their real motives. While the Left is pushing for greater inclusivity and equality, the Right is focused on protecting their turf from “outsiders.” This turf can be a nation, or it can be a medium like videogames. The outsiders can be Muslims, or Jews, or they can be feminists and “cultural Marxists” (a recycling of the term cultural Bolshevism, which was widely used by the Nazis during the Third Reich). Often this is wrapped up in language that emphasizes purity versus corruption, tradition versus change, strength versus weakness, order versus chaos. Class is almost never mentioned. Instead, the focus is on race, ethnicity, ability, gender, “merit,” sexuality, and ideology. In right-wing ideology, employees and bosses, rich and poor, are united against a common enemy.

What is sought to be preserved in this case is the freedom and liberty. Games media are more like Poland being invaded by the Nazis than the Nazis being paranoid about Jews. Social Justice Warriors ARE the outsiders, most seemingly knowing little or nothing about the medium they seek to criticise, and seeking to force change on a medium that is already diverse and welcoming and – ironically – putting that at risk. The propaganda is representing gamers as sexist, racist monsters and dehumanising them. The comparison may have some validity – but in reverse. Which is sort of amusing.

By way of example of the ignorance of these outsiders, one can point to something like #GamesSoWhite which was complaining about a lack of PoC in games, only to be met by pages and pages and pages and pages and pages of examples and statistical analyses which showed this to be nonsense.

Briefly, ‘cultural Marxism’ has become a bogey-word, used by both left and right but it DOES refer to a real concept. That cultural surroundings, as much as economic surroundings, work to oppress people. You can draw a line between that idea and the idea of ‘false consciousness’, the idea that people don’t know their own mind (which is one of those areas where I also depart from standard left ideology).

That it gets abused by all sides, either as a conspiracy theory or to dismiss things AS a conspiracy theory, doesn’t make it an inapplicable term.

Class has been mentioned a great deal in terms of Gamergate, since its opposition seems – largely – to be made up of wealthy, upper-middle class trust fund kids who can afford to get useless degrees, while GG – while diverse – seems to skew more blue collar.

The goal of the Right is to eliminate “difference” in order to return to an imaginary, and heavily idealized past, a past where the power and privilege of the dominant race was unthreatened and unquestioned, a past where men were “real men” and women knew their place, a past that was morally, racially, and culturally “pure.” Everything and anything that is wrong with the current state of society can then be blamed on the outsiders, the invaders who have infiltrated your turf and who are responsible for its decline. All of your problems, all of your insecurities, all of your fears, can be channeled into hatred of the Other. This is called scapegoating, and it provides a simple solution to the difficulties that you’ve encountered throughout your life but have never been able to name. It provides comfort, a certain degree of safety (as a privileged insider), and a sense of community. You may not have much power, but at least you’re better than “they” are, at least you’re not one of “them.”

This is, again, completely backwards. While GG is a reaction, it is a reaction to RETAIN the gains of past revolutions. To retain and maintain the free expression and open creativity of games (and increasingly other media) against reactionary and socially conservative forces – albeit dressed up in the regalia of the left.

SJWs need to understand that, to gamers, they’re just another Frederic Wertham, Pat Pulling, Jack Thompson or PMRC. Just another threat to what is – otherwise – a democratised and open medium. Perhaps if they could understand, grasp and absorb this fact we might make some progress.

Again, the irony here is that this article, like so much else, is engaged in smearing and scapegoating gamers. It’s Sargon’s Law all over again.

The Left, unfortunately, represents a threat to all of that. The Left wants us to change our whole society around, the Left wants to upset hierarchies and disturb the “natural order of things,” the Left paints you as a bully even though you’re certain that you are the underdog. The Left represents everything that is wrong with the world, and it needs to be fought, tooth and nail. The Left is weak, corrupt, cowardly, and illogical (i.e. feminine), but we are strong, brave, rational, and valiant (i.e. masculine), and we are going to prove this by crushing the Left, and anyone else that dares to oppose us, because that’s how masculinity works. We’re the winners, not the losers, and we’ll do whatever it takes to win.

To repeat. This is not a left/right conflict and to poke at some more of this…

Gamergate is non-hierarchical, anarchistic, emergent movement. The idea that it would be upset by overturning hierarchies is… laughable. Meanwhile the opposition often tries to use authority (academic, media and others) to impose their point of view.

Again, also, Gamergate is primarily left/lib, so presenting it as opposition to the left is disingenuous in the extreme.

All of this is seemingly projection again. Masculine/feminine is also nonsense, though the opposition does appear to be irrational – that much is true.

And Gamergate IS winning in terms of meeting its goals.

In order to achieve this, we may claim to represent certain underprivileged groups, but deep down we can never accept them as equals, because as much as they try, they will never be real, white, heterosexual men. Never mind that they provide the basis of support that allows us to carry out some of our more extreme activities, never mind that they, like us, are simply looking for answers, and a sense of security, and belonging. This is, after all, the appeal of hashtags like #NotYourShield, which invites women and minorities to support and identify with GamerGate. It’s the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself, of feeling included, and welcomed, of having a clear purpose. It’s the same feeling that has united so-called “social justice warriors” on the Left, and activists of various stripes.

#NotYourShield is a genuine movement started by minorities from amongst Gamergate and they’re treated as true equals. Again this article just demonstrates its authors prejudices and lack of knowledge far more than showing anything about Gamergate.

The thing that is rarely understood about the Right, and its more extreme variant, fascism, is the extent to which it thrives on crisis. Crisis is what produces the anxiety, the uncertainty, and the desperation that pushes people to look for answers, to look for security, in whatever form. Crisis, which also brings with it the potential for change, the potential for a dramatic redefinition of the status quo, threatens those who currently occupy a position of power or privilege, particularly when they are faced with a strong and organized Left. In order to prevent the Left from gaining ground during the crisis, the old guard will start to support (or at least fail to prevent) the activities of the extreme Right, of the fascists, who at this point may be the only ones who seem capable of putting down the Left. The fascists are not afraid to use violence, whether that means beating up and killing Leftist activists or harassing feminist critics and game developers online. The elites, meanwhile, are perfectly happy to let somebody else do their dirty work, even if publicly they will denounce the violence, or pretend to take a neutral stance. Up until now they have had to put up with constant criticism from the Left, but no more. From their point of view, fascists are actually preferable (an enemy of my enemy is my friend).

This is just more reiteration of the same mistakes (repetition seems to be a major flaw in this presentation).

Again, GG is primarily left/lib. It’s not a phenomenon of the right. Nor, in my opinion, can GG’s opposition properly be called left according to normal left-wing political thought. It’s desire to set up a cultural elite with social control smacks of fascism, to be honest.

The point I’m trying to make is that you do not have to be a fascist to act as a basis of support for fascism. You do not have to be actively harassing women and minorities to provide a cover for those who are. Not everyone in Germany was a Nazi, and not every Nazi was necessarily a xenophobic sociopath, but that didn’t stop them from committing genocide. The Nazi party emerged in a moment of crisis, initially supported by members of the Western ruling class who feared the spread of communism and its promise of a global revolution more than anything else, just as the fascist parties of today are slowly but surely gaining ground, alongside the rise of movements like Occupy and Idle No More.

Again, repetition, trying to link GG with the actions of third party trolls and bad actors. Unfortunately these people also attack GG, undermining the ghost of a point that might exist here.

GG has been actively condemning such behaviour and rooting it out (Celebriando), not providing cover for it, which is another place this all falls down.

Such an argument might be valid when prosecuting, say, moderate Islam, but has no place here.

This is why I find anti-feminist sentiments and references to “cultural Marxists” in GamerGate videos and texts so absolutely terrifying, because I know where those things come from, and I know what they can produce. Anders Breivik repeatedly decries the corrupting influence of “cultural Marxist” in his manifesto, which he published not long before massacring 77 people in Norway. Elliot Rodger blamed women for his suffering, and for his inability to live up to the impossible standards of patriarchy, before killing 6 people and himself. Marc Lépine claimed he was “fighting feminism” when he murdered 14 people and committed suicide at École Polytechnique.

Lone nuts have no comparison to a popular and broad movement which shares no values with these people at all. It is scaremongering and smearing – yet again – to try and claim otherwise. This is propaganda, again, which brings us back to the role reversal from earlier. It’s Gamergate that is the target of dehumanising propaganda.

If you think GG and – others – anti-feminism is anti-woman, then you don’t understand. If you think people who object to modern feminism are objecting to, rather than DEFENDING equality and fairness, you simply haven’t been paying attention. If you want to understand why people oppose modern 3.5 wave, Tumblrist pseudo-feminism you need only look at its actions.

These might seem like isolated cases, but they all fall back on the same old myths about women and minoritized groups that are perpetuated by the mainstream media and supported by structural oppression. Every time we use a sexist slur, or dismiss the experiences of women and minorities, or make a crack about “feminazis,” or dehumanize someone who is struggling with poverty, or blame unemployment on immigrants, we contribute to a toxic culture that serves as a breeding ground for hate groups and right-wing extremism. People on both sides are suffering, but it is ultimately the people who are already disempowered, who are already vulnerable, that will bear the brunt of it, regardless of which side they identify with.

These aren’t the old myths, the old context or the old media. Another point of misunderstanding is that people like the writer of this article, and the media, don’t understand anon or chan culture. You would not suggest, I hope, that the slur ‘nigger’ has the same meaning within the black community as it does coming from without. Slurs like this, similarly, have a different context and meaning within anon culture and reacting as you would if someone dropped a term like this at the dinner table is ludicrous and only betrays your own ignorance.

This entire article is rooted in ignorance of politics, history and – most importantly – Gamergate itself. What it believes, what it does, what it has done.

It’s just more propaganda and if we demand better of our media and our academics than half-baked hatchet jobs, surely that’s a good thing?

#Atheism Chomsky Vs Harris. FIGHT!

tumblr_mimvxk36GF1rf67slo1_1280Forget boxing, this was a far more interesting conflict but it’s one that has left me rather confused. As a ‘fan’ of both Harris and Chomsky I found the exchange – linked HERE – to be one that utterly humiliated Chomsky in that he failed to deal with Harris’ arguments (primarily) and in that he was a rude prick through the whole thing (irrelevant really, but perhaps that arrogance was reflected in the paucity of his arguments. Yet, a lot of people, not least of all the Salon/Alternet people seem to think this was bad for Harris.

I just can’t see it and it has been frustrating attempting to understand how anyone could think Chomsky won because they seem to simply make the same failing arguments as Chomsky in an attempt to do so. This is suggestive that there’s some deep philosophical difference between the two camps rendering each unable to see why the other side thinks theirs won. Rather than keep trying to work out why they thought Chomsky came out on top (a seemingly fruitless endeavour) I though I’d try a different tack and explain how and why I thought Harris came out on top. Strictly speaking though, I don’t think Harris had that much to do with it. Chomsky spent the exchanges smacking himself around more than anything.

Again, I had respect for both parties going into this (this will be the sixth time reading this article trying to understand the Chomsky camp). As a left-lib Chomsky is required reading and as a ‘new’ atheist Harris is required reading. I’ll go through this by paraphrasing the published emails in a more simple, colloquial manner to illustrate how I was interpreting what I read.

1. Harris to Chomsky

Hi Mr Chomsky. I’m curious why you don’t want to have a debate with me. Even though we probably disagree on a lot that would be interesting. I’m also curious why you’ve said these things about me which I don’t think are true. People have said I’m wrong about you on some things as well. So it might be good to clear those up.

Conciliatory tone, open to discussion despite differences. This suggests a sincere and honest desire to debate things that interest both men’s ‘camps’ and to clear up any mutual misconceptions. He’s polite, open, deferential even.

2. Chomsky to Harris

You said some things about me which are wrong, but I don’t think it’s useful to discuss these in public. If we do this let’s do it formally.

The full-on grump that comes later isn’t in this yet, but he’s clearly hostile right from the get go. Especially bullish about what may well just be misunderstandings.

3. Harris to Chomsky

Thanks for the reply. OK, but let’s also do this as if we’re going to publish it. I still think it would be useful to discuss misconceptions publicly as a service to readers to show that discussing opposing views is productive. Show me where I misunderstood you so that if I change my view I can show people how. I’d also like to talk about all these other difficult topics (all tricky ethics issues). Here’s what I wrote about you. Can you show me what I got wrong? *Insert length book quote*.

Still conciliatory, negotiating terms, makes his case for why open discussion is useful – and the man has a point, too much discussion is shut down without consideration whether in public or in academia. Provides the necessary material to the other party without complaint – or prompting, and even talks it down as old work and a piece of its time. He downplays its significance and admits its limitations. Humble. The thrust of the argument in the piece is that intentions are a component of moral and ethical decision making and secondarily that Chomsky (amongst others) only seems to compare raw body count when comparing atrocities and not the intentions or, so much, the broader context. The specifics really aren’t that important though it relates to a broader culture clash between PoMo moral relativism and pragmatic rationalism. Oddly, Chomsky is often considered a critic of postmodernism, yet seems to align with some of its conclusions (confusion, dubious equivalence, no right answers etc).

4. Chomsky to Harris

I’m going to have to shift to a more descriptive tone here to convey the issues.

Chomsky replies with specific reference to a particular segment of the quoted text, missing the broader philosophical and ethical question altogether. He specifically talks about the comparison of the Al-Sifi chemical plant bombing to 9/11 but dismisses the pondering of the ethical role of intent as unknowable – but with specific reference to this incident. Even within the quoted material he fails to explain why he considers these specific incidents equivalent, despite suggesting that Al-Sifi might actually be worse. Despite protesting otherwise he goes on to quote himself dismissing the intent (and status!) of the chemical plant to only consider ‘deaths’. Thereby contradicting his assertion a mere two paragraphs beforehand. He also strongly suggests – without any supporting reasoning – that the explanation is that Africans are regarded as ‘things’.

In short. Chomsky doesn’t recognise the underlying argument and derails by getting into specifics on the quoted instances. Even then he contradicts himself, two or three times, and exposes bald assertions about the intentions of others considering them a worsening factor, while simultaneously dismissing intent. It’s a muddled, assumptive, paradoxical mess that doesn’t remotely address what Harris is asking for clarity and correction on. It’s also quite rude. At least he asks what Harris thinks he has wrong about him, though he asks in an aggressive tone.

5. Harris to Chomsky

Harris notes that Chomsky is no longer addressing the point he’s trying to raise (“running into the weeds”) and tries to drag him back to the topic. He notes that he hasn’t read some of Chomsky’s work that relates, but notes – as I have above – that Chomsky isn’t addressing the point about intent – a more generous and conciliatory read than I put onto it. He further reinforces that this is the question being asked by creating a thought experiment about a well-intentioned version of Al-Qaeda. The question is then reasserted. Plainly and clearly. Intentions matter in regard to questions of morality and ethics, do you agree or not?

It’s worth noting here that much of Harris’ current work is bent towards the question of whether we can apply reason to moral questions. His TED talk on the moral landscape is relatively short, but explains this better than I can in this blog. He believes that it can, I agree, perhaps this fundamental view is the problem between the two camps.

Perhaps I can craft a better analogy than Harris to make the point here.

Suppose a group, in ignorance of modern science, sincerely and fervently believes that docking the little toe from a baby protects them from demons. Are they acting ethically? In their context and beliefs and not knowing any better, probably yes, and it might be somewhat unfair to judge them.

Suppose that same community, a century later, is still doing this despite demons being proven not to exist and the harm or risk of cutting off baby toes has been well proven. Now they know the facts but persist, because of tradition? Are they acting ethically? Probably not.

Also can we not say that one ethical structure can be better than another? Is it more moral and ethical to accept LGBT people as normal and part of society, or to throw them from buildings to their death because a magic book tells us to? This is a stark example, but a real one. Can we reasonably say one is better than the other? I believe so, so does Harris.

6. Chomsky to Harris

Chomsky ignores the restatement and simplification of the point being argued, despite the relative clarity Harris gave it. He says that he has examined intentions, but it appears that he did so in order to dismiss them, since that is – again – how he uses it here. He further grows more accusatory and further tries to derail by getting Harris to address questions that aren’t really part of the discussion and, again, being distracted by specifics and attempting to derail into specifics. All without addressing the re-clarified first question. It’s not great form to introduce new arenas of argument before the first ones are dealt with. Frankly, it’s a ‘Gish Gallop’ of sorts. Again, paradoxically, while dismissing intent he makes bald, unsupported assertions about the motivations and viewpoints of those involved in his chosen negative examples. Indeed, he goes further in starting to make accusations about Harris’ morality when it hasn’t been raised and the topic is being discussed at a remove from the personal. He also confuses understanding for apologia, an elementary mistake and one a thinker of his calibre should not be making.

Short version, he again ignores the question and heads off to argue with/against things that haven’t been said and to get lost in specifics. Petulance and anger may explain the lack of rationality here. Even the best people can lose their temper but there’s no explicable reason here to get angry.

7. Harris to Chomsky

Harris is starting to get testy now, but remains remarkably calm considering. He identifies that Chomsky is not addressing the point and may be actively trying to shut down or avoid the point. Harris also – correctly – identifies that those on Chomsky’s ‘side’ would probably like to see this exchange as they – like him – would think he was winning and/or wiping the floor with Harris. Again Harris tries to drag Chomsky back to the topic and restates the question a third time, even more clearly. He also, more gently than I would, draws out some of the paradoxes, confusions and biases in Chomsky’s sidelines, a remarkably generous thing to do given they don’t really relate. Most of this is irrelevant.

I share Harris’ exasperation at this point.

8. Chomsky to Harris

Chomsky heads off into the weeds again, still failing to address the actual point. Again makes ‘telepathic’ assertions about motivations and feelings and again tries to deflect and derail and go off into specifics. Tellingly he finally does explain why he’s not answering the question: “There’s no answer” – in his opinion. Something he could have done many stages ago, but refused to. Not that this really constitutes an answer at all. More like an admission. However he does, again, contradict himself by simultaneously asserting that they don’t matter. Impressive to contradict yourself when one half of the paradox is you refusing to make an assertion at all.

Frankly, he’s just being a dick and repeating the same mistakes at this point.

9. Harris to Chomsky

Harris again attempts to be polite and to de-escalate by offering Chomsky the out that some of the miscommunication is down to the limitations of email. He apparently gives up on getting a straight – or any – answer and in essence throws up his hands and tries to address one of Chomsky’s specifics, the Al-Shifa bombing. Apparently hoping that he can sneak the actual point back in by talking about Clinton’s intentions and information in that incident. After all, why would you bomb a simple chemical plant in retaliation for an embassy bombing?

10. Chomsky to Harris

Ironically. Chomsky refuses to deal with his own misconceptions of Harris, despite beating Harris over the head about the same thing the other way around, even though Harris has been trying to get an answer so he can be sure for the whole set of exchanges. He seems to think the specific case of Al-Shifa is important, when it is not. It should be lost into the general point but again, Chomsky seems determined to hide amongst specifics. Again he seems to claim to read minds and intentions and again contradicts himself by considering these simultaneously important and unknowable at the same time.

11. Harris to Chomsky

Harris rightly notes that despite his every effort to be accommodating it’s not being reciprocated. He suggests getting some other eyes on the discussion as neutral moderators who might help to make it more productive. He gives Chomsky direct video reference to Chomsky’s commentary on him (and apparently Hitchens) so that it might possibly be replied to. He again appeals for calm and again tries to draw Chomsky back to the original point so that if he’s wrong he can correct himself (or if he’s right, not). In another line of attack and attempt to get a proper answer he valiantly deals with Chomsky’s deflection again, trying to turn it into an example of what he’s trying to determine.

12. Chomsky to Harris

Appears to largely ignore the previous message, preferring to use the time to attack Harris again. He reiterates the same mistakes and problems he’s made before and continues to refuse to provide an answer or reasoning that can deal with Harris supposed misconception of his standing on the issue. Chomsky has come into this wanting Harris to admit that his views on Chomsky’s positions are false, but has failed to give Harris any reason to think they are false (quite the opposite!). It’s just a parade of everything he got wrong before, and his petulance.

At this point it just degenerates into ‘this isn’t worth having’.

Conclusion

Harris comes across as, mostly, being rational, objective, distanced, honest and sincere in genuinely trying to have a fruitful discussion. HE repeatedly tries to get Chomsky to provide the information and answers he needs to know whether his interpretation in his (10 year old book) was wrong or not. Eventually, with more patience than most people can muster, he gives up.

Chomsky comes across as a petulant, crotchety old man whose anger has gotten the better of him, yet it’s anger with no reason to exist. He remains angry and dismissive, never really addresses the points Harris is trying to raise, constantly tries to deflect, contradicts himself frequently and is left looking like an irrational arsehole.

Honestly, I went in expecting to see Harris ‘pwned’, after all he didn’t do that well against Batfleck (given the format). Here though he acquits himself admirably over Chomsky, the elder statesman, and makes him look like a lunatic. How anyone can interpret this as Chomsky winning or showing Harris up is beyond my ability to fathom.

#Gamergate – Buying a Kluwe on Pakman

I may re-do this as a video Monday, so if there’s anything you want me to expand on or clarifywhen I do that, feel free to ask in the comments or on Twitter. I’ll cover Sargon’s interview later.

Kluwe was a hell of a lot more reasonable with the ability to talk than he is on Twitter. Perhaps the written word isn’t his forte. It’s hard to square the Kluwe in this interview with the unrepentant arsehole and cybersquatter on Twitter. Still, it gives me hope that a debate with Mercedes might actually be a productive exchange, rather than merely him being rhetorically kicked around like the ball he used to play with.

However, this doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerously naive, ignorant of a great number of things, hasn’t mischaracterised his opposition or isn’t riddled with hypocrisy and a desperate lack of self-awareness.

These things are curable.

That both Kluwe and Sargon have raised issues with interviews and titling is important – I think – and raises concerns about the way Pakman titles and presents his interviews, though not necessarily the conduct in them.

I do think Pakman’s first round of interviews were fairly neutral and both Wu and Chu did go off the rails in their reactions to his questioning. I mean that’s not a slant, that is what – unquestionably – happened. Given the enormous slant against Gamergate in most coverage in the past, and going into the future, it’s not surprising that a more neutral approach would read as somehow being pro Gamergate.

It seems somewhat disingenuous to blame Hotwheels for things on his site, not to mention foolish given some of the things hanging over Kluwe as well. It’s also irrelevant to the Gamergate matter and betrays a lack of understanding of how imageboards work. The same is true of the accusations regarding raid boards etc. It is an accurate point that he personally condemned, rather than officially condemned, but that’s perfectly in line with the philosophy behind 8chan and imageboard culture as a whole. Something that an expert on internet culture should know.

The complaint about the Chu interview title has a bit more substance, but like Wu he did, unquestionably, go off the rails under even the slightest resistance or probing. Rather than back things up, offer evidence or talk the reaction is an emotional outburst.

Obviously I am biased against the people in these interviews and also for the people interviewed in the more recent round of interviews (well, the subject, if not necessarily the people). However, that both pro and anti have issues with how things have been presented does suggest this is a broader problem that Pakman needs to be more aware of. I’ll go into this more in examining the Sargon interview, but as a quick point of comparison the Vox Day interview was titled as being about Gamergate, but dwelt on and mentioned his bizarre and extremist viewpoints (not especially accurately either, it must be said however much I disagree with him) and gave the impression that these were also the views of Gamergate itself.

They’re not. To present them in such a way is profoundly dishonest. It would be like presenting the ‘kill off 90% of men’ idea as being part of AGGro.

Regarding ‘sides’. How can there be two sides on the topic of corruption? Censorship perhaps, people have different places that they draw the line and so there’s room for sides, debate and discussion, but when it comes to corruption how is it even that there are two sides? There aren’t. There are substantial and supported accusations, and there’s denial and excuses.

The people who oppose Gamergate are definitely a side and they are a hell of a lot more politically and philosophically homogeneous than Gamergate – despite recent splits and infighting. It is, perhaps paradoxically, much easier to speak of anti-Gamergate collectively than it is pro-gamergate, at least in my experience.

One thing Kluwe said that I take massive exception to is the idea that he – and his side – are ‘intimately familiar with online culture’.

Someone intimately familiar with online culture would understand Brennan’s stance regarding 8chan, would know not to take trolling seriously and have some idea how to separate it from serious and sincere action and would know that internet tough-guys should not be taken seriously. If AGGro are ‘experts in this field’ they should not be making these kinds of rookie mistakes in dealing with internet culture. This means, I’m sorry to say, that they’re either lying about this expert status or wilfully being dishonest in their dealings. Indeed I had pegged this difference and problem in communication to Gamergate being genuine experts on online culture and AGGro being naive and inexperienced with it, prior to this interview.

So far as I am aware, and remain aware, no doxxing or SWATting has actually been linked to GG – though definitions of what these are differ. There’s no question however that doxxing and SWATting has been aimed at Gamergate and some of that has come directly from AGGro. Much of what has been aimed at both sides certainly comes from opportunistic third-party trolls but really, none of this is part of the Gamergate conversation. It’s a separate but important conversation, but nothing to do with Gamergate.

Kluwe complains about the government getting involved, but then you have to ask why is the government getting involved? Who is involving them? The answer there is that it is down to people like Quinn and Wu and the AGGro side, not Gamergate. Indeed Gamergate is remarkably unworried by the potential involvement of law enforcement and government in the short term, because – frankly – we know we’ve done nothing wrong and that we’ll (continue to) be exonerated, as happened with the threats against Sarkeesian. We also don’t think AGGro will come out so well. Personally I suspect – for example – that the threat called in against the DC Gamergate meet did originate from a sincere AGGro, probably in some way related to Chu’s histrionic attempts to get the event cancelled, if not Chu himself.

Kluwe’s worries about government involvement and ignorance are ones I share, so this is one point at least we can agree on. If AGGro didn’t keep trying to involve government however and actually dealt with Gamergate’s real issues rather than trying to make it about gender and harassment, this wouldn’t be an issue. It’s not Gamergate – or even trolls – threatening the free internet, it’s the opposition.

I’m afraid at this point, after 8 months, I find the claim that there is no objection to dealing with corruption in games journalism to be hollow. The steadfast refusal to debate and discuss these issues or to even admit they exist makes a lie of that claim. Off this point, Kluwe hitches standard talking points and attempts to push Gamergate to either disband or to become a less effective group.

To very briefly address these points:
‘Go after the devs’
If journalists stop succumbing to corruption, publishers and distrubutors (who are responsible more than devs) will stop trying to threaten or bribe them.

‘Don’t harass people’
Semantics are involved here, but Gamergate does not harass people. Dishonestly conflating Gamergate with trolls etc is a dishonest tactic by AGGro to try and derail the conversation about problems with ethics and censorship. The refusal to deal honestly with the issues Gamergate raises only contribute to a more and more fervid atmosphere. Frustration will mean people seek alternative lines of recourse for their grievances.

‘Change the hashtag’
No. There is nothing wrong with the hashtag and despite it being smeared so much it has had considerable success. Persistence and defiance in the face of those accusations has contributed to that success. Other hashtags have sprung up and the accusations have followed them. There’s simply no point doing so and it would be a form of admission of guilt. It’s not going to happen. Instead AGGro should just start to deal honestly with Gamergate as it really is, rather than the strawman they’ve created. GG is now having physical meet ups – that people keep trying to disrupt or force to cancel, or even phone in threats to.

Complaining about allowing Gamergate a platform would be part of the kind of problem that would be worth raising. Denial of any platform to present Gamergate’s authentic complaints has been part of the problem so it’s responsible to provide a means by which our side can be presented and, thereby, dealt with honestly. That Kluwe appears to want to make it impossible for that to happen – and thus for discussion and resolution to happen – is also telling.

Any honest and open examination of the facts of the matter utterly debunks the idea that Gamergate is a hate movement. Who does it hate? Can a hatred of corruption and censorship really be considered a hate group in the same manner that a racial hate group can? No, that’s absurd. It’s like calling the justice system as a whole a hate group. Ludicrous.

Kluwe has been dealing with Gamergate long enough that he should know that no, it was not founded on anything to do with Zoe Quinn, past the fact that the Zoe Post revealed undeclared conflicts of interest and wider journalistic and indie corruption when those specific revelations were a) not dealt with and b) obfuscated under the excuse that it was harassment. I refuse to believe Kluwe is genuinely that ignorant, which only leaves malice or wilful dishonesty as possibilities here. Corruption and censorship is a problem no matter who is responsible, expecting women to be treated differently when they engage in such behaviour would be genuinely sexist. For a ‘misogynistic’ group, Gamergate contains a much more female members, and diverse members, than it is given credit for.

Kluwe was wrong. The movement has broadly succeeded in its original goals. However, those goals have expanded as more problems and issues have been uncovered. So there are new goals and a bigger, broader community with a wider remit.

There’s this weird obsession that AGGro has with forcing Gamergate to organise along conventional lines. This would be a mistake. It would render the movement fragile and maladaptive to its purpose. It would make it easier for AGGro to pin bad actions on and even though they would be no more true than they are now, they would find it easier to stick. This strikes me as the real reason they want GG to organise on conventional lines, it would be easier to disarm, dismiss and smear. As to ‘noone to blame but yourselves’, untrue, the people to blame are those wilfully taking trolls seriously and constantly smearing Gamergate. Nobody else is responsible but them.

Kluwe talks about how ‘Gamergate attracts people like Vox Day’ but really you have to consider what it is that is the common thread. Whatever Day’s other, bizarre beliefs about things the common thread he shares with Gamergate is his concern over censorship and the monopolar politicisation of what might broadly be called ‘nerd media’. For him it is the Hugo Awards and Science Fiction, for Gamergate it’s video games. We also share a common enemy in the form of authoritarian social justice warriors. However obnoxious any of us find Vox Day’s beliefs, he has a right to them, to express them and for his work to be considered as work, rather than as him.

Stormfront has nothing to do with Gamergate. Kluwe is being dishonest about this as well. As I recall Stormfront’s involvement with Gamergate constitutes precisely one thread on one of their message boards that was largely met with indifference and derision.

With Breitbart and the rest, again, the common thread is the concern over censorship, monopole politics and the common enemy of the authoritarian social justice warrior extremism.

Now, the involvement of the right does also concern me, but in a slightly different way. I am a left anarchist but I see the abject and total failure of the left media to honestly report on Gamergate pushing what is mostly a left/liberal movement to the right. The depths of the problems with media have become apparent and many people feel betrayed and that is what could push them to the right which has been the only place they’ve really had a fair shake. If the left is genuinely worried about this, they need to give Gamergate a fair shake and stop abusing and lying about it or they’ll continue to drive people to the right. Once again, the only viable solution to Gamergate is to discuss and address its issues honestly.

Of course people and groups see opportunities here as people get disenfranchised. That’s nobody’s fault but AGGro and trying to link things like Vox Day’s non-gamergate related views to Gamergate is part of that issue.

The course of events leading to Gamergate that Kluwe lays out is, of course, factually inaccurate but that has been gone over more than enough so I won’t bother retreading it here. I’ll put it simply though. If I considered GG to be a hate group, I wouldn’t throw myself behind it. I find the accusation absurd.

Describing people like Wu or Chu as experts in this field is… silly, given the way in which they have acted. If that were true it would also be true of the Gamergate people, thereby putting you back to square one. What Kluwe appears to mean is a variation on ‘listen and believe’ which should not be part of any reporter, scientist or legal professional’s vocabularly, or indeed any rational person’s vocabulary. We see what goes wrong with that attitude when we look at the Rolling Stone issue – for example.

Kluwe seems, paradoxically, to be demanding people ignore their own experience and to automatically believe the experiences of others – that simply doesn’t work.

On a side note, I think 90% of solution to these internet social issues is educating people, rather than bringing in laws or forces. Expecting ‘the internet’ to be a safe space as a whole is ridiculous. The idea of self-policing might have been one I would have gone along with in the past, but AGGro has shown this can’t work. Block Bots create more problems than they solve. Monstering groups, unfairly, stifles necessary discussion and creates more issues – again – than it solves. There’s no sufficient due-process, no respect for facts, smearing and emotion-lead nonsense and lies rule the day. As things stand, online vigilantism can’t be trusted to resolve these situations.

Kluwe says Gamergate etc doesn’t understand the consequences of what they’re doing, yet Gamergate is part of the broader cultural counter-movement that is striving to guarantee online free expression while AGGro are the ones threatening it via their false narratives.

I’m frankly not interested at all in E-Sports, so I’ll leave it there.

Kluwe is wrong, misguided, misinformed or wilfully dishonest on a lot of issues but in ‘person’ he sounds like someone who – when confronted – might actually be able to be reasonable. Again, I hope the debate with Mercedes does happen as it may be a step towards some sort of resolution or progress by forcing people like Kluwe to acknowledge Gamergate’s points and sincerity.

Gamergate has nothing to fear from investigation by law enforcement and nothing to fear from an honest examination of the facts that relate to the scandal as a whole. Facts have a Gamergate bias.

Pax.

Beyond Gamergate – Boycotts & Harm: Fiscal & Creative

Again, not an academic, see previous posts.

The next question in the series that I was asked was:

Demonstrate that you were boycotted. Demonstrate that you suffered economic harm from a boycott against yourself. Demonstrate that said boycott changed your creative behaviour, and how.

This will necessarily get personal and some of you may find some of this article difficult since it will relate to mental health issues and further knock-on issues surrounding those. Furthermore this is a personal question, dressed up as an academic question and since it directly affects me I cannot really be considered a reliable source. To establish this completely firmly I would have to disclose a great deal of personal, financial information and records which I’m not disposed to do and in some cases am contractually withheld from doing.

I shall do my best though.

Establishing direct financial impact of boycotts and disinfo campaigns is, frankly, beyond my mathematical skill. The business I am in (primarily self publishing) does not have a steady stream of sales in which one can establish upward or downward ticks. Rather sales follow the Long-Tail Model. For those who are too lazy to click, this means you get an initial spike in sales and then these rapidly drop off, but go on for a long time.

So an income chart for my personal imprint, Postmortem Studios, would more closely resemble a heartbeat than a normal sales chart. This is even further complicated by the fact that with each new release you draw attention to your back catalogue and so end up with extra sales of old products. You also have to consider that some products do better than others.

Also controversy, in my personal experience, tends to spike short term sales, but may be to a longterm detriment in overall sales down the line.

TL;DR – The maths is too complicated for me.

Income does relate to productivity, the more you produce the more you sell. Perhaps I could look at output in terms of pages or something similar, but then you have books of different sizes and how do you compare card games to books? Plus there’s the complication of freelancing.

Controversy and boycott attempts are documented, though finding archives of the petitions is proving a little tricky you can find corroborating evidence here (citations 8 & 9). More recently companies and individuals went so far as to threaten to boycott sales points, most specifically RPGNOW. More information and a collection of references can be found HERE.

Lowered productivity definitely does have financial impact though and the personal toll of all this has been pretty huge. I am now only able to work four half-days a week with any real reliability. Keeping in mind that this is a crude measure and limiting to OBS personal releases I can show that prior to In Defence of Rape in June 2012 (issues had arisen before, but this was when it got intense and boycotting etc began) I was maintaining an output of approximately…

21.76 pages of saleable material per month in the 35 months after

And after an output of approximately…

87.3 pages of saleable material per month in the 35 months before

This is an incredibly unreliable measure. It excludes art books but includes books where I sell material by others, with my role being editing/layout/production. It includes some of the work for Chronicle City but not all as some hasn’t made sale and I currently have a LOT of written material in limbo. If those were included I think we’d see a relationship of work values closer to half than 1/4.

So it’s really impossible, to reiterate, to assess the impact of boycotts and reputational damage economically without some assistance to wrangle the mathematics. On a personal basis the impact has been considerable. It has required me to adopt pen-names, it has led to the loss (or lack of consideration) of freelance work, which isn’t reflected in these figures. It has also cost me two suicide attempts and something in the region of £5,000 and rising in medical bills for ongoing therapy and drug treatment. In a country with a national health service, this is a lot.

I think the surveys and the attempts to strongarm Onebookshelf show that the boycotts and reputational damage are serious, even without the the hard economic data. The harm to my health also has a financial cost attached in terms of treatment costs and capacity for useful work.

The second part of the question is how has this affected my work?

There is no way to demonstrate this that isn’t anecdotal, so all I can offer is a statement.

I write about the things that interest and concern me. In my corpus of work, if you’re familiar with it, you will find a common thread of interest in sexuality in games, low fantasy, magical realism in the form of plausible societal structures, dystopian fiction, the interplay/blur between the real and imaginary and – less pretentiously – games as fun, separate from such analysis. Because I am largely free to follow my enthusiasms I tend to work according to where my inspiration and waning energy is. This is why you have The Little Grey Book, this is why you have Privilege Check and this is why you have Gamergate: The Card Game – because these things are interesting and because I like to challenge censorship.

So in some part I am ‘running on spite’, defiant in the face of attempts to censor and control and even more fascinated the more I encounter resistance, trying to understand offence culture, provoke it, understand and expose it through satire. In other ways I do find myself self-censoring because I have to weigh-up whether I have the mental energy and resilience to wade through another fight and another round of character assassination and misrepresentation.

I would have liked to have given Kagai! a more explicitly sexual and ero-guro element but a combination of budgetary and depression based factors got in the way of doing so. For a long time I wanted to produce more specialist versions of Hentacle/Cthentacle to expand the joke but while both were originally well received in the mode intended they have since been used as a stick to beat me with, so the yaoi and furry versions will never see the light of day because at this point the smaller niche markets for such material can no longer secure sufficient sales and the threat of being censored from the main sales outlets would leave me out of pocket. Not to mention the tragic and untimely death of the original artist. I have also long wanted to do a better, more serious version of the adult material supplements I once wrote for Mongoose, but again given the effort people put into misinterpreting and accusing it simply doesn’t feel worth the hassle even though I consider it a worthwhile project.

Letting myself self-censor in such a way, simply to avoid the threats and misrepresentations of fuckwits also feels like a personal failing and contributes to the aforementioned depression. I feel like I should be able to plough on regardless.

If anyone can suggest how I can extract useful information from my sales data to determine the effect of boycotting and extortion I might be able to turn up more useful, harder data but as things stand this is all I can offer at present. The problem with many boycotts – such as the ones against me – is that they derive from wilful misrepresentation and libel that bears little or no relation to the facts of the matter, but which – nonetheless – fire up people’s emotions.

Pax

#Gamergate – Does Crowdsourcing Enable Fraud?

Again, not an academic, just a skeptic and rationalist. The next question I was asked was:

Show that Kickstarter enables and encourages fraud by game developers/abuse of the gaming press by game developers and/or those sympathetic to them in said press.

This is really a matter for the legal system, not an academic or scientific discussion per se. All I can really offer here is my opinion on the matter, but that’s a good opportunity to educate people a little on the issues surrounding crowdfunding and why they should – perhaps – be a little more wary. Consider this item usable as a future citation when building a case for or against crowdfunding.

I have run several successful crowdfunding campaigns. Including:

Crowdfunding is NOT PREORDERING. You have absolutely no guarantee that you will get anything at all when you back a project. You are making a MICROINVESTMENT not dissimilar to something like Kiva. You may get nothing at all, you may get the product or material being developed, you may get your investment back, you may not, you may get a bonanza of stretch-goal content.

DO NOT INVEST UNLESS YOU’RE PREPARED TO GET NOTHING AT ALL!

Now, obviously, no evidence required, it would be very possible to defraud people via these services and with varying degrees of evidence and court/investigative involvement this appears to have happened.

Buyer beware.

Keep in mind also that with the best will in the world, things can go wrong. Shipping costs can go up (often with fuel prices) partner businesses can go under (printers, component makers and so on), people can fall ill (happened to me), artists can get injured, divorces, house fires and so on. Many crowdfunders are very inexperienced in business and get carried away – especially with stretch goals (this happened to me and I’ve been making games for 15+ years). Costs can be underestimated. There’s a lot that can go wrong and if that scuppers the project you might lose out – but it’s not fraud.

Of course, what this question is really about is whether Anita Sarkeesian is a fraud.

In my opinion, yes.

Why?

She raised many times the amount required to meet her goal, yet has not delivered on even the basic promise yet, years later.

She lied about who and what she was.

She has stolen art

and video.

Lied about the veracity of threats.

And has a history of connections to dodgy businesses one step shy of pyramid schemes.

And there’s more.

This is sufficient for me – hell the ‘I’m not a gamer’ is enough for me, to consider her a fraud. Even without the rest.

She presents ideas that would be worthy of discussion (keyword: discussion), but she is the wrong person to do it and has probably tainted the conversation for at least a decade.