Friday, December 12, 2014

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 4: Factions Form

Part 1: An Introduction
Part 2: A History Lesson 
Part 3: Born in Fire
Part 4: Factions Form
Part 5: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

In Which I Take a Look at All Sides

When I mentioned in  Part 1 that there were more than two sides to GamerGate, I was simplifying the issue. Even now, I'll be forced to simplify the issue yet again, as there are degrees, sliding scales, and sub-factions that complicate the mere effort of even trying to tell who is on what side. To the uninformed on the outside that are getting their news from Huffington Post or The Verge, it's pretty cut and dry:

There is an army of cis-hetero white dudes living in their mothers' basement that are harassing and sending threats to poor, defenseless female developers and critics, trying to drive them out of the industry. Standing up to this wave of immoral darkness are brave souls, trying to drag the industry kicking and screaming into a loving and inclusive future.

But is it that simple? Of course not. It's never that simple. And I'm not going to parrot the same things you've read elsewhere. I'm peeling back the bandage to look at the sides that don't get shown.

I. GamerGate
It's important to remember that there are no leaders when looking at this side of the debate. There are voices that are louder than others, but they come and go; someone you might see as a spokesperson one week is gone the next. But some of the more prevalent myths need debunking:
  • GamerGate is a bunch of white dudes: This was one of the first myths to emerge, even before the hashtag was created. The gaming press itself has debunked this one, with its celebrated articles claiming that over 40% of gamers are women, and shortly after the initial firestorm of August 28th, #NotYourShield was created by a black games developer as a rebuttal to this. The response was... unpleasant. Female and minority gamers were called sockpuppets at first, then once they were compelled to prove their female/minority status, were called “Uncle Toms” and “house n******” by people claiming to fight racism and bullying. Willful misinterpretation that these were no different from claims of “But I have a black friend...” was thrown in as well. Eventually, the hashtag's creator was fired when pressure was put on his employer by the opposing side.

  • GamerGate only uses the excuse of journalistic ethics to harass women and minorities: I'm willing to concede that, early on, some harassment may have come from the Pro-GG side, especially prior to the hashtag's creation. But those people moved on. They're long gone, if they were ever there. It's been over three months now, on an internet whose attention span can be measured in seconds. I've watched the hashtag on twitter. I've lurked on the chans and irc channels, and a few of the sub-reddits, and I've never seen any concerted attempts at harassment.

    But, more telling, I've seen things like the GamerGate Harassment Patrol: a group dedicated to reporting twitter accounts that are actually harassing; and its complementary party, the GamerGate Hug Patrol, which has provided kind words to both pro- and anti-GGers who've expressed exhaustion and emotional distress. I've seen too many posts chiding people for getting off-track when discussing people instead of digging for ethical issues. (I'm beginning to suspect that people are defining “harassment” as “disagreeing with me” and don't understand that Twitter conversations are public.)

    Most importantly, this is a group with no membership requirements. Even the threats that have had their screenshots on national television haven't been using the #GamerGate or #GG hashtag. 
  • GamerGate is an MRA/Right-wing conspiracy: I think it's telling that this one is frequently used to slur a consumer revolt. In all honesty, I've seen people all over the political spectrum on both sides of GamerGate. Yes, I've seen conservatives and Republicans, but I've also seen liberal progressives; I've seen MRAs, but I've also seen feminists. Religious, non-religious, races, genders, etc, this is one of the more diverse groups that I've observed (see #NotYourShield). Also, if you're one of those people that uses a politico-ideological stance to slur somebody, consider not doing so... you won't win anyone over to your side that way.
  • GamerGate has clearly and obviously targeted non-journalist women: Look, Zoe Quinn got a shit-ton of attention, but objectively speaking, it was her relationships that were the proverbial straw on a camel's back. I feel bad for her. But then there's this to consider:

    From my observations, the usual suspects that get trotted out as the major targets simply aren't. In fact, I have a hard time not considering them 3rd party trolls, as they involve themselves every chance they get. The best explanation for this misconception is that most of the male journalists targeted for scrutiny tend to keep their heads down and not engage, while a few people actively engage, and then loudly complain about all the messages they get afterwards.

II. Anti-GamerGate
I've written three separate drafts of this section that named names before deleting them all. This is mainly because there are people on this side of the debate (that are already public figures with trust funds and far less to lose) that have released names, addresses, and personal information, siccing thousands of followers on people for the horrendous crime of disagreeing with them publicly.

Yes, there is a rather vocal contingent of people who are vehemently against GamerGate. From what I've observed, they think they're the good guys. They think they're fighting some great evil. I have a hard time believing this when I see Twitter blocklists that are in the tens of thousands of users, and include such known harassers as KFC restaurants and actor Taye Diggs, not to mention syringes and knives mailed to neutral reporters as well as GamerGate supporters.

For my own safety I'm not going to mention the names of any of the Anti-GamerGate side, as some of them have a documented history of considering merely mentioning their names as harassment, and that's a headache I don't need. Besides, you've probably already heard their names and voices on television and in internet stories, not to mention in previously documented articles. From some of the things I've seen, I'm rolling the dice here with the risk that I'd get doxxed for even trying to remain impartial.

I mean that. I'm genuinely concerned, and picking my words very carefully here, as even with my piddling view count, I've gotten messages 'politely' suggesting that I should let this topic drop.

I simply cannot muster the cognitive dissonance required to believe that the people who are vocally against GamerGate are people who, like they claim to be, are against bullying, against harassment, against doxxing people and exposing them to actual, literal, physical harm, and against racism and sexism, especially with the way people using #NotYourShield have been treated. I will say that by focusing on identity politics and leveraging a small amount of fame (with press connections, no one should be surprised), the Anti-GamerGate side has a louder voice. The BBC, MSNBC, and others have regularly engaged with them, giving them a much more powerful weapon: Control of the Narrative. 

I also don't have the cognitive dissonance to believe that these people want GamerGate to just stop and go away when I look at their twitter feeds, because they talk about it more than the people who are Pro-GamerGate.

So I'll leave this section with a quote and a link. “There are no bad tactics, only bad targets”- Bob Chipman, aka MovieBob

III. Third Party Trolls
But I know that neither side, despite my trepidation in even speaking about one of them, is responsible for the worst of this. As Alfred said to Bruce in The Dark Knight, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

There are several groups at play in the battlefield that are on neither side. The GNAA allegedly admit involvement. SomethingAwful's GoonSquad has also claimed involvement, if not outright starting it. Pro-GamerGate even tracked down the man behind some rather particularly nasty harassment of critic Anita Sarkeesian, as even Kotaku admitted. Beyond that, it's hard to tell, due to the nature of third-party trolls, but even the more reasonable Anti-GamerGate voices recognize the presence of a third party at work.

IV. Misinformed Celebrities
So Joss Whedon, Adam Savage, or Seth Rogen came out against GamerGate. Honestly, I can't blame them. Just reading the mainstream media and not looking too closely at it, it seems to be a good argument. Besides, celebrities are busy people, they can't dedicate the time to look past the headlines most of the time, and feminism is trendy these days. Especially for famous white dudes. Especially for famous white dudes that live in California. Especially for famous white dudes that live in California who want to look like good people. They're still just people, and they're still capable of having an uninformed opinion, and I'm not saying that people in Hollywood tend to be self-serving... but people in Hollywood tend to be self-serving.

There's more to it than this, but there are certain things that I'm not willing to, at this time, go into. Partly because I don't want my own life invaded, and partly because it's just too exhaustive and would take a month's worth of daily articles twice the length I usually write to cover it all.

Next week: The Curious Tale of David Pakman

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