Fisking #Gamergate and the Right


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?