#GamerGate Has Finally Made My Head Explode

Actress and gamer Felicia Day was doxxed by people associating themselves with #GamerGate. That’s the ostensible, timely reason that I’m writing this article. The real reason is that I’ve talked with all stripes of Gaters in the last few days and I feel like banging my head on the floor over the whole thing.

Day wrote a post on her Tumblr about #GamerGate and the culture of fear it’s created for women with opinions on the issue — especially opinions that are critical of the hashtag and the people who use it. Within hours, people associating themselves with #GamerGate gave her a concrete reason to be fearful well above and beyond the multiple reasons to be scared in anticipation that she had in the first place — like the threats, doxxing, and harassment of Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn.

Yesterday morning, I talked to two Gaters about it. We had a long, productive conversation. What I got out of it is this: They feel hurt by the things that writers like Sam Biddle at Valleywag are saying about them — that they’re losers and neckbeards and no one cares about them. They’re hurt by the idea that “gamers are dead.” They feel betrayed by gaming press for giving a platform to people who are saying things about them that aren’t just critical, but outright cruel. They felt it was inappropriate for journalists who were living with developers and contributing to those developers’ Patreons (a site where people can financially contribute to the development of these developers’ and creators’ works) to be writing about those developers’ work without being transparent — although they got the details wrong on that. The issue was that Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez was living with developer Anna Anthropy, not that anyone was living with Zoe Quinn. But Polygon’s Ben Hernandez has been a contributor to Quinn’s Patreon since January of this year and gave her game, Depression Quest, a positive review without being transparent about being an patron. Kotaku and Polygon have both responded with clarifications about the ethics standards to which they hold their journalists.

What I also got out of it is that they do not understand how terrifying it is to be harassed and doxxed and threatened. They underestimate the emotional experience, and they say that these targets of harassment should just get thicker skin. They resent the fact that Quinn has been combative toward everyone in #GamerGate. I told them that it is, from my experience, really harrowing, and that after almost three straight months of it, I don’t blame her for continuing to be combative. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything she says, it just means that I have empathy for her and her horrific experience.

I told them that, no matter how much they want to say that the trolls are a minor subset of the group, they are not a minor subset to Quinn and Wu and Sarkeesian. Nor can I ignore their presence in #GamerGate. Nor can I ignore the fact that the entire movement, or consumer revolt, as one of them called it — I’m going to use “movement” because it’s a little easier to grasp the concept that way — was spawned from Quinn’s ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni airing the details of her personal life publicly in a concerted attempt to ruin her career, then going onto IRC channels and actually plotting with trolls and hackers to take her down. Based on the fact that she cheated on him. Which is her business and his, no one else’s.

The three of us came out of the conversation understanding each other better. It was a good experience. I was glad to talk to people who I disagreed with and come to some mutual understanding. Then I saw tweets from GamerGate-associated people who were going on crazy spins about “pro-anti-gamergate ISIS terrorists” and how Obama’s ethnic background means that he “brought” Ebola to the US on purpose. Then I got @ mentioned by other Gaters who said something to the effect of “I wish she’d just stop inserting herself into the issue,” because I’d said that if we want to talk ethics we should talk about Ferguson. Another Gate-associated person called the Ferguson protesters a “lynch mob,” and a few others said implicitly racist things to me, and I blocked them all and kind of threw my hands up in the air.

Then a guy named Mike Cernovich of Danger & Play (he’s also a lawyer and bodybuilder) got involved and started screencapping and tweeting out my tweets. He’s been all over GamerGate lately, defending Gamers against what he considers bullying by guys like Biddle.

Cernovich, mind you, has posted pro-rape views and instructions on how to get away with murder. He talks about “alpha males” like it’s a thing. He tried to bait writers into fisticuffs. I want nothing to do with this guy. I was ready to just back off of GamerGate entirely, because no matter what I say, no matter what evidence I provide, I’ll get Gaters telling me I have no evidence. It’s getting to the point that it’s a conversation that’s just not worth having. But Cernovich did two things: He asked me what I thought about Zoe Quinn doxxing him (she tweeted out a blog post that had his address and a picture of his home), and he accused me of “journalistic fraud” because I wrote a tweet that made it sound like he had said racist shit to me. Cernovich and I cleared up the misunderstanding — my bad, I phrased a tweet poorly — and I told him that I don’t think it’s right for anyone to be doxxed by anyone, and thanked him for editing his blog post.

I promise I’m getting to the end of my story here. Two things happened next: First, I tweeted out a screencap of his blog post and said it was a win for self-awareness (on my part) and civility (on his), and a Gater responded, telling me not to insert my conflict with him into their movement. Second, Roosh from the MRA site Return of Kings, kind of mocked me for thanking Cernovich, calling it “weak” for me to extend an olive branch and own up to a syntactical mistake that made it look like I was saying something hurtful that I didn’t intend to say.

OK, that’s where my GamerGate experience ends. Do you see what it’s like to try to deal with this creature? No matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish, someone from GamerGate will contradict you. It feels like the individual pieces of this movement are invested in keeping conflict with the people who are opposed to it alive just for the sake of their entertainment (and, to be fair, vice versa as well, but I’ll get to that in a minute). I came to good terms with two ground-level, well-meaning Gaters. I came to good terms with one of the most egregiously offensive people involved with the hashtag. And I still couldn’t catch a fucking break. I’m opposed to #GamerGate because of where it started, and I’m opposed to it because of the fact — and it’s a fact — that there is at least a vocal minority who are violent to women, and racist. That doesn’t mean I want a fight. But the get-go assumption that’s made about me, or anyone who opposes #GamerGate, is that we do.

Not that it’s that much better on the other side. I actually am sorry that someone published photos of Cernovich’s house. It’s not hard to find his address — it showed up in a Google search — but that doesn’t mean it should be publicized, especially by the self-styled “Khaleesi of SJWs” (SJW = Social Justice Warrior) who has 36,000 followers on Twitter, many of whom are fiercely and sometimes blindly loyal to her. I don’t think that someone who has been verbally abused and threatened for three months should be held to a perfect standard of behavior or rhetoric, but tweeting out that information didn’t exactly constitute taking the high road or acting on moral principle. If you oppose doxxing, you should oppose doxxing for everyone, even if the person is a flagrantly misogynist asshole who dug up and distributed your public records. Doing something unjust to someone who did something unjust to you is not justice.

Nor do I think that Chris Kluwe is helping by calling Gaters “angry neckbeards,” “slopebrowed weaseldicks,” “basement-dwelling, cheetos-huffing, poopsock-sniffing douchepistols,” lazy, ignorant, stupid, and wishing that they all — every single one — get a “debilitating case of genital warts.” I don’t think that the rhetoric that Gaters use makes any goddamn sense. I think they make their argument poorly. I think they’re incendiary, I think they engage with a lot of logical fallacies, I think they make poor analogies, and I think they can be basically uncompassionate and lacking in empathy. But making sweeping generalizations, completely dismissing an entire group of people, and shit-talking doesn’t make for a good argument, either. Salon called Kluwe’s rant “the takedown [#GamerGate] deserves.

That “takedown” is beyond rude, it’s cruel. It’s denigrating. It’s dehumanizing. No one deserves to be spoken to that way. And if you’re going to believe that for the women that Gaters have attacked, you have to believe it for Gaters too. If you’re not going to do that, don’t pretend like you’re writing from a moral high ground or a place of principle.

So I give up, all of you! I just want to play Zelda in peace. I want Gaters to actually acknowledge the misogyny that is rampant in their movement, to think critically about what it’s like to be trolled instead of just saying “buck up, pussies,” and to give people who disagree with them the open hearts and open minds they’re asking for for themselves. I want anti-Gaters to stop glorifying abusive language as if it’s productive or a coup or by some leap of logic not hypocritical, and to try to conceptualize Gaters as a diverse group of real human beings.

But it’s been three months and we’ve gotten nowhere. I’m not holding my breath.

[ThinkProgress]
[Felicia Day Tumblr]
[Forbes]
[Polygon (1)]
[Kotaku]
[Polygon (2)]
[Storify]
[Crime and Federalism]
[Twitter]
[Medium]
[Salon]

Give me a holler on Twitter.