Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Future of #GamerGate

From FlavorWire
Over lunch today The Omnivore was talking to a friend about the upcoming election and the friend said "I used to be a libertarian before ..." And The Omnivore was like, "Right ... the stigma." Indeed, The Omnivore shares many of the basic libertarian ideas--and suspects many more share at least some of them--so why are the Libertarians a fringe movement?

Well, the answer is ...

In case the above meme isn't clear (for Mom and Dad), the point is that the basically laudable top-level ideas about freedom and lack of coercion that Libertarianism has championed have been co-opted by both branding (the tin-foil hat and magic bus) and implementation (freedom of association is fine in theory: once you realize that it will, in fact, be used to kick black people off lunch counters, you have to come to terms with some pretty ugly compromises whichever way you decide).

By this point anyone who is a card-carrying out-and-proud libertarian either has adopted a fringe identity or has to put up with being considered at least a little bit crazy.

The Omnivore wonders: How damaged will #GamerGate have to get before people start opting out? Can that actually happen?

Maybe it has already started? On the GamerGate community message board, we have this post:

So Jason Screier came forward with a NEOgaf post about a Gamergater who got fed up with the movement. I'm posting it here. 

Quote:It actually took far, far longer than I'm comfortable with for this to sink into my thick skull. When you finally detach yourself from GG, and move away from the constant reinforcement the group provides that "no, we're doing the right thing! These are the bad guys, remember how bad they made you feel? We're doing the RIGHT THING!" you look and see holy shit.

This really IS a hate movement fueled by nutters. How did I get dragged into this?!

I'd implore GG supporters to distance themselves from the tag, and from the community, and take a very good look at everything that's going on, and all of the people who are being hurt. Are videogame websites, that we don't even visit, worth peoples LIVES being ruined? It's so easy to feel like it's all just a game, because we aren't the ones on the other end of the hatred. It's easy to point at someone and call "false flag!" because we aren't the ones who are sitting there, having people actually show up on our doorstep, saying "come out and plaaayy". The ends do NOT justify the means.

We don't NEED #GG to do good. There are a lot of people who want to achieve the same goals as us, but we are RADIOACTIVE until we move away from #GG because of what it represents. We can't start enacting change when the people who actually could start making these changes happen want nothing to do with us.

I doubt this guy even knows what Gamergate is, to be honest. Just typical NEOgaf bullshit. Also, is it just me, or are there is a big push from the opposition for us to move away from #Gamergate and try to rebrand? I swear, I've been hearing that a lot lately.

In this post, the OP (Original Poster) is a formerly pro-#GamerGate person (NOT Jason Screier) who finally looked hard at his movement and went "holy shit." He's disavowed it.

#GamerGate and Brand Damage
 The #GamerGate (link is to The Omnivore's article which includes some slightly dated explainers) brand is not entirely set-in-stone right now, The Omnivore thinks--but it's not headed in the right direction. Why? Well, because both major news outlets and less major--but well-read internet media outlets--have moved to a consensus: #GamerGate is a bunch of misogynist assholes. They have done this even within the "both sides" manner of reportage that these sites generally attempt to adopt. Examples:

Washington Post (2 Days Ago)
Their explainer article contains this:
And it goes on to focus on the abuse.

CNN (3 Hours Ago)
In their #GamerGate update, they talk about, well, the Anita Sarkeesian incident where she canceled a speech in Utah because of a specific threat to her life and Utah's legal prohibition against restricting firearms in a public place (so she had a mass-shooting threat and the police told her they could not stop people from bringing guns to her speech). The shooting threat is being investigated by the FBI.

DeadSpin (2 Days Ago)
A less massive but still well known Internet news site (which is under the same ownership as Kotaku, a major gaming site) gives a no-holds-barred opinion.
Anita Sarkeesian releases a video about the sexualization and use of women as props in games;she becomes involved as a matter of course; Sarkeesian is harassed and threatened to the point of filing a police report with the San Francisco Police Department and leaving her home due to the severity of the threats; Quinn produces logs of chatrooms and posts from Reddit and 4chanthat show gamers planning to carry out hacks on her personal accounts and create fake accounts to "speak out" against harassment; the gaming industry circulates a petition speaking out against the harassment of Quinn and Sarkeesian that's eventually signed by thousands of industry members; The Fine Young Capitalists, a fifth-column feminist group dedicated to "promoting women in gaming" with whom Quinn had previously feuded, re-engage her; groups from around the internet raise more than $70,000 for TFYC in a crowdfunding project; Adam Baldwin (yes, that Adam Baldwin) coins the term #Gamergate on Twitter; an ancillary hashtag,#notyourshield, is hatched by minorities, women, and LGBTQ gamers who agree with Gamergate and disagree with writers who they feel are misrepresenting them; Gamergate tweaks its outward image, deciding that it is now on a mission to expose broader corruption in video game journalism; and writers who have openly supported Quinn and Sarkeesian are harassed online, via email, and through repeated hack attempts, with Vox Media singled out in particular.
Basically, at this point, the #GamerGate story is about the harassment. This take on things in't likely to go away and isn't likely to soften: as time marches forwards, the public face of #GamerGate is going to be that of vicious misogynistic trolls. The "smoking guns" are going to be various actual verifiable threats, chat-logs, and police reports.

In other words: it's going to be credible.

Kotaku's Scrier tracks the #StopGamerGate hastag of voices who (mostly) disapprove of the movement.

That's JUST What They Want, Isn't It?
To a Gamer-Gater, though, this all looks like proof of a coordinated media-driven conspiracy ... and isn't that just what they were concerned about in the first place?

Maybe. But probably not. Firstly while maybe Deadspin might be easily co-opted, CNN and the Washington Post are not so amenable to game-industry pressure. The idea that these threats are 'false flags' created by anti-#GamerGate people who want to make the movement look bad--or by random trolls who have just "signed on" for "the lulz" (just to spread chaos and hate) is also the type of thing The Omnivore has heard before.

Occam's Razor suggests it was terrorists who flew jets into the World Trade Towers and not the CIA or Mossad. There's at least some tangible proof that legitimate pro-#GamerGate voices have also been involved in actual harassment.

When The Escapist, an online mag that seems at least neutral to the #GamerGate cause, decided to interview male game designers about their take on #GamerGate they got a variety of responses. They had to remove two of them because they got what they felt was credible proof these guys were harassers themsleves.

Here's one of the pulled interviews (Slade Villena Pg 1, Pg 2). If you click the links, there's nothing in there to suggest that he's a plant or dishonest. His interview tracks what many earnest #GamerGaters are saying. Some of the reasoning for his removal seems to be here (the developer is trying to get some hacking going, maybe). It's not clear what all the evidence was--but whatever it was, it convinced The Escapist.

In any event--the point is that (a) A moderately objective source seems to confirm that (b) reasonably meaningful names are (c) at least somewhat involved in the objectionable behavior.

Trolls might be amplifying the signal--but there's zero reason to think they're dominating it. In fact, the likelihood is that it's going the other way: Trolls are more likley attracted to #GamerGate because of the cover and accolades they get there.

There is no need for a large murky conspiracy of false-flag attackers and no reason to think there is one.

The Omnivore thinks that #GamerGate is becoming tightly associated with harassment through what would be best described as natural causes. Every #GamerGate supporter who says / posts that's not fair and says so is, in fact, probably doing additional damage their cause: Brand Damage isn't fixed by indignant rebuttals and the adage about "a few bad apples" doesn't  point to the conclusion that just-because-it's-a-few, the bunch will be okay.

If the #GamerGate forces want to change the narrative they need to actually change the narrative. Right now, the meaningful news about #GamerGate isn't about the (small-ball) horror of bad game-review-ethics ... it's about actual online threats and cyber-bullying.

Eventually that's going to do enough damage to distance well-meaning and rational supporters from the movement and it's a vicious cycle that will, likely, lead to a self-implosion.

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