Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 6: The SPJ Airplay Bomb Threat

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
Part 6: The SPJ Airplay Bomb Threat
Part 7: I Do Actually Stand With Mustafa

In Which I Follow Up

Today is the 27th of August, 2015. A year ago today, actor Adam Baldwin coined the term that would become the hashtag Gamergate. Over the next few days, a concerted effort by games media to shame gamers and shut down any questioning viewpoints failed to stop it, and it's grown, peaked, and leveled off since then. I've watched this story for the last year, continuing to lurk and research in both the pro- and anti-GG camps. I've seen beautiful moments of clarity as people learn to question narratives that have been fed to them by their own 'sides' (much as I had do to myself) in the pro- camp. I've seen people come so close to self-awareness in the anti- camp, only to pull back in fear. I've seen the phenomenon of “Game-dropping” occur, where major media outlets will reference the dreaded boogeyman Gamergate everywhere from marginally-related topics like Science Fiction awards to completely unrelated topics like planned off-world colonies on Mars to reprehensibly placed references to shootings nearly a year later.

Two Saturdays ago, on a day in Miami that was so hot and muggy that you couldn't pay me to be out in it, The Society of Professional Journalism hosted a talk on the subject of Gamergate. They'd had an “Ethics Week,” an event where they “recognize journalists who seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and are accountable and transparent.” To those opposed to Gamergate, “actually, its about ethics in games journalism” has become a joke, a meme, something to (somehow) discredit their boogeyman-like adversary, but to the pro- side, it's still very much an important idea. And so they flooded SPJ's Ethics Week hashtag. Regional SPJ director Michael Koretzky took notice and started talking to people -- people on both sides. What he found out can be summed up in a quote taken from an interview (linked below) with David Pakman: “I'm a journalist for 30 years, so I have the sympathy of a slot machine. Sympathy is not an issue. When someone tells me, as a journalist, all of those people over there are evil assholes, I get my antenna up and I don't believe it, because I don't believe the word “all” ever.”

“It's hard enough getting journalists to care about ethics, and here were civilians caring about ethics.” -- Michael Koretzky

So Koretzky got to work. He put together SPJ Airplay. His original intent was a debate, getting both pro- and anti-factions to the table. He reached out to prominent names on the anti-side, names that I previously wrote that I was warned against mentioning. Every one of them (as I'll speculate here), when faced with the prospect of being exposed to a rebuttal argument that can't be silenced with a twitter blocklist, declined to appear. The pro-side very eagerly found representatives, including three women and three men -- four journalists, a professor, and a youtube streamer. SPJ recruited a journalist ethics expert, journalism trainer, and an indie games developer. Anti-GG? Still no one.

The first panel went off without a hitch, with a lot of good discussion on the topic, and one of the highlights being the SPJ representatives roundly denouncing Gawker after an audience member presented a statement for their consideration that Gawker 'destroys lives.' The afternoon panel was argumentative and meandering, as you'd expect it to be with both Christina Hoff-Summers and Milo Yannapoulis present, at least until around the 1:15 mark, where the auditorium was swiftly evacuated. Despite the precautions taken by Koretzky which included notifying the police beforehand and searching and locking down the building overnight with a private security firm, a bomb threat was emailed to both the police and the Miami Herald with a specific time.

Which can't be looked at as anything but suspicious as this isn't even the first time it's happened. The #GGinDC meetup at a local bar had the same result. If you use your imagination and look at it with a very open mind these instances, coupled with an entirely one-sided narrative from the mainstream media (spurred on by the original targets of ire such as Kotaku and Polygon) it's almost as if dissent of the narrative must be silenced, no matter the cost.

“My opinion is that, after looking into this, is that most of the harassing done on both sides is being done by people on neither side.” -- Michael Koretzky

After the event, Koretzky and the SPJ reps co-opted an abandoned house and continued speaking with the panelists and members of the audience for some time after. You would think that after such a momentous event, gaming and other cultural sites would be chomping at the bit to report it, but beyond a few smaller sites and a surprisingly out of character and even-handed piece from Polygon, there was nary a peep. David Pakman, who had previously covered the story by interviewing both sides, spoke with Koretzky on the matter and, based on their discussion, they make a pretty poor misogynistic hate group. 

The cracks are showing in the narrative, mainly because the people who want better media refuse to roll over and die. They seem to have brought their tanks and medics and are fully prepared to fight this raid boss for as long as it takes, win or lose.

Trending on Twitter during the event.

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