This is an editorial piece provided to Niche Gamer under guarantee of anonymity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of, and should not be attributed to, Niche Gamer as an organization.
I was there, viewing from the periphery as #GamerGate began to take on a life of its own. Regardless of how one feels about it, there was a certain populist and anarchic beauty to this growing phenomenon. But, as a social critic and skeptic on basically all things ideological, political, and religious, I was deeply distrusting of what was being said. I sought first to confirm my suspicions that #GamerGate was out of its goddamn mind; first world problems run rampant, something to that effect.
While doing my research, I also witnessed #NotYourShield come into its own. Initially I felt that was emotionally manipulative, invoking revolution type visions that seemed absurd given the fact that we were talking about video games. I read many of the “gamers are dead” articles. I watched Anita’s latest Tropes critique.
I agreed with some of it, but started noticing that all too familiar Salon/Jezebel tactic of grievance fishing. But, there were salient points regarding how women are portrayed in games and regarding harassment on the internet. It would seem more appropriate to address this as a larger societal issue, but I was willing to concede somewhat that these problems are amplified in our various artistic mediums. There is nothing inherently wrong with suggesting we could improve on that.
In many ways I consider myself a feminist and a progressive, and while my initial feel on #GamerGate was one of criticism, I began sensing a creeping dissonance. This uncertainty started to grow as the weeks passed. Briefly, I want to share my general mindset and approach to knowledge and criticism. Politically I’m an agnostic and more sympathetic to anarchism — a person that is deeply suspicious of the corporate state.
I am not a conspiracy theorist or a truther. I left my religion at a post adulthood age, I had to admit I was wrong about my addiction and go to rehab…2 times. I have essentially been on a fumbling, stumbling journey down a rabbit hole in search of truth and meaning. These suspicions I have of ideologies and systems come from the fact that I myself have been fucked by them, led astray, deceived and, as some might suggest, traumatized.
I’ve also in this process learned that there is a better word for trauma, less defined by my victimhood (which we are all victims to some degree) and more appropriately described as “LIFE”. We can be empowered by our stories, or we can use them as a means for division and disdain.
What I initially saw #GamerGate being was a hijacking of misunderstood peoples frustration to serve nefarious ends. I started to believe it was cooked up shadily in 4chan forums, driven by some woman hating reddit rage. I thought a lot of well meaning people were being completely fooled into doing the dirty work of MRAs and anti-feminists under a false flag of “journalistic ethics”.
Basically, I bought the mainstream narrative hook, line, and sinker. But STILL something didn’t feel right. I engaged the debate, I concern trolled #GamerGate. And to my relative surprise, most of these people were reasonable, they made good points. They were exposing some legitimately shifty stuff.
Over the last year, I’ve been reexamining the debate concerning human rights issues. The appalling and troubling real life oppression in the world, I started noticing, was being exploited as a means for drumming up clicks on sites like Salon, Jezebel, et al. Either my perception changed or the tactics became more commonly used for their effectiveness by the likes of Gawker, Vox, PolicyMic (now just Mic), and many others.
Even a concern troll of the concern trolls, The Daily Banter, started sounding like all the people they thought they were calling bullshit on. What the hell was going on? The internet seemed to be breaking. Then came the weird and fascinating, almost inexplicable “consumer movement” that is #GamerGate.
Before detailing further how I swallowed my pride on this and admitted that I was just being a coward about choosing a position, I will say that these are now my conclusions. #GamerGate is not a consumer driven hate mob that only capitalism could create…quite the contrary. While trolls exist on both sides, I fear the media narrative that has been built to fight #GamerGate is a carefully calculated message of supposed righteous intent that only the capitulating, self congratulatory, deferential, sensationalist corporate media could create.
They’ve cooked up a dragon to slay, and slowly it appears the facade of this convenient narrative is crumbling. Feminists and liberals, when it comes to #GamerGate and empty hashtag blogging activism, are in fact the ones who have had their good intentions hijacked. They’ve allowed the single minded and opportunistic narcissists within their movements to drive the conversation.
SJW’s are often portrayed as the public enemy #1 of GG. While I don’t necessarily think they are the BIG BOSS problem, they are #GamerGates most vociferous opponent, and they’ve been wildly effective at pulling the wool over the eyes of many well meaning liberal folk. I really dislike this name “SJW” because there is very little justice done and very little in the way of journalistic integrity within their insular blogosphere.
The liberal elite have somehow construed it in their minds that these quasi-activists are worth supporting, despite their tactics becoming more and more extreme, divisive, and dishonest. I will only call them SJW’s because people know who I’m talking about when I say it. Let it be known, however, that I do not see SJWism as synonymous with feminism and my open criticism of their movement has nothing to do with gender or race. I support gender equality, I denounce harassment.
SJW’s, and the media that supports them, have become the speculators and bankers of moralistic capital on the internet…and their bubble is starting to burst. They received back pats, congratulations and clicks (profit) when nothing of value was actually offered. They peddled in assets of self righteous indignation that when more closely analyzed for intellectual and ethical merit are noticeably lacking.
Where bankers railed against regulation and limits to their power, this guilt cult fished for grievances and lobbied the liberal academic elite so that they could lie and cook up moral outrage while remaining beyond reproach. #GamerGate is now where this can be seen for the naked harsh truth that it is.
It’s not a chosen movement, it’s essentially random that it happened this way. But the toothpaste is out of the tube and I think it is worthwhile to swallow one’s pride and ride the wave. #GamerGate may not seem like the cause that your casual internet goer wants to take up, but its got the traction, and even more important, has important and inconvenient truths on its side.
For some time, SJW’s invented a caricature of who their enemy was and divided society by vague lines that defined people by how traumatized they were or how guilty they should feel for their “privilege”. This is not much different from the religious concept of original sin and the war of good vs evil.
One’s trauma, in their religious like congregations, is like having access to the holy rites of priesthood. Many of us who were taken up in the ‘righteous cause’ signed on the metaphorical dotted line with our clicks and comments of support. We wanted to see progress, they required that we lend our hearts and good intentions to them.
And just as bankers were not completely aware of the nefarious and destructive nature of their practices, so too are these pseudo-academic quasi-activist do gooders unaware that they themselves have been duped. It was the result of a misplaced commitment to ideology. There was a time that capitalism was synonymous with being patriotic and democratic.
So to SJWism was thought to be synonymous with subverting the patriarchy and power structures. But the truth about those who unquestionably believe: ideologues always trumpet a contrived righteous cause and are blind to their insular nature and disingenuous relationship with facts and objective reasoning.
SJW’s might not take well to this sort of harsh language. I could easily get nastier and say that SJWism is misguided, bored, white girl rage and the white knights who want to get in their pants, projecting their feelings of guilt onto everyone else. But my name isn’t Leigh Alexander and painting a caricature of a movement is convenient but dishonest.
Harassment on the web is a real thing, gender equality is a noble cause, minorities need advocates and social justice should be fought for in the sense that we should all be speaking up loudly about how important it is that everyone is respected for their basic humanity. Having equal opportunities to live stable and fulfilling lives is something that I want people to have access to.
But somewhere in this process, the cultural sentiment has gone from passion to disdain, the dialogue is growing more and more toxic. And admitting that, calling it out, almost immediately gets you labeled an enemy to progress. In my case, if ever I disagree with some feminist rhetoric, I almost always get told to check my privilege.
For me, there are feminists and then there are feminists and their friends who mistakenly believe that #GamerGate is a hate campaign driven by misogyny. #GamerGate often gets ad hom’ed as Neo-Nazis, terrorists, crying white manbaby virigins — the hyperbole knows no bounds. This narrative is patently absurd.
This narrative will only serve to result in GamerGaters digging in, and why wouldn’t they when being so shamelessly misrepresnted. Also, if there is one group who will disown you and deride you for not buying into their party platform, it’s internet SJW’s. #GamerGate, on the other hand, has shown an impressive capacity for understanding and inclusivity.
They engaged me reasonably even at my most critical moments. @codeGrit (a friend I’ve gained in this process) and I have butted heads as well as come to an understanding about how complicated these issues truly are. He’s bright, fiery, and knows that people will say and do dumb things, himself included. Which speaks to one of the most telling characteristics that separates anti-GG from pro-GG; one group has a capacity for self reflection and self awareness of its flaws, the other has its dogma and is strikingly incapable of conceding any point.
While engaging this debate for the past 2 months, a handful of things have become clear:
- The Us vs. Them element to it is a massive disservice to some of the real and important questions that have been raised and the obvious hypocrisies that have been exposed. I don’t need to take up a side to know that there is some shit that stinks.
- #GamerGate is diverse, they are not children, and they do not need to be spoken down to. Honestly, it doesn’t take long to see who behaves more childishly in these exchanges. I’ve been insulted a number of times, and I’ve only been blocked by one party for basically doing nothing but having a conversation. In fact, the nicer you are, often the more angry they become…it’s bizarre.
- The anti-GG contingent of the internet tech media is going to RUE the day that they decided to just continually make shit up and openly display their disdain for a good portion of the demographic who would potentially read their content.
- Feminists can support or at least sympathize w/ #GamerGate without feeling like they’ve betrayed their cause. Again, I am a supporter of gender equality. I think the patriarchy is a real thing, (better described as a classist hierarchy) I just don’t see the world through a lens that contorts everything into being how people are a victim of it. The world is a complicated place, should I check my privilege? First and foremost, let’s check our bias.
- #GamerGate is a microcosm of a larger tension that is brewing on the internet between the diverse consumer base online and the internet media that has basically taken up the mantle of assuming they think for and are the acting conscience of all these people. They are shameless sycophants, unrepentant click-baity sensationalists, they fixate on micro and pseudo events which become a form of distraction from the REAL social problems in the world. These people are sowing discord and discontent and people have taken to it. We hate read these sites, we loathe and are fascinated by how wrong and self impressed they are, but we keep on READING! This media muckraking and outrage pornography can no longer be accepted, if it takes #GamerGate for people to really see how distracted we’ve been by their facile self righteousness…so be it. Most of the real cultural and societal revolutions are messy and on accident anyway. It’s never clean, and it’s certainly not cooked up in a Tumblr echo chamber.
Some things about myself:
- I’m a white man, but that shouldn’t fucking matter.
- I’m an atheist
- I’m an addict
- I’m wrong, frequently
- I’m a critic
- I’m in a happy and egalitarian relationship
In essence, I’m a real and complicated person and everyone else on the other side of these conversations are real people; not children, not idiots. And we are all subject to post hoc reasoning and a wicked proclivity for confirmation bias. The more I engaged this debate, the more I was falling victim to these fallacies so that I could maintain my criticisms of #GamerGate
But I don’t know that I matter all that much. I just wanted to express my thoughts about how wrong I was, how motivated my reasoning could be. How I met some pretty swell people that supported #GamerGate. And how bothered I was that the tech media continued spewing half truths and blatant lies about what GG’s concerns and motives are.
I can’t even properly define #GamerGate anymore, but chances are it’s not what anyone thought it was. Chances are, it might never receive any thanks for starting an important discussion. Chances are, someone during this discussion is going to do something stupid, as someone in every group from any corner of the internet is bound to do.
Follow the facts, and don’t continue to allow the guilt cult of political correctness to poison this conversation, or any conversation, going forward. And, always remember, you will be proven wrong about something in the future, that’s guaranteed, and it’s not weak to admit it or to simply say “I don’t know”. Respect, not hatred, when sharing ideas and coming to an understanding.
“Do not raise your arm against them. They are innumerable and it is not your fate to be a fly swatter.”