Saturday, October 18, 2014

#GamerGate is harassment. Its members just don't realize it.

I don't want to spend a lot of time recapping GamerGate. Wikipedia has a fairly good summary, with citations. Suffice it to say, supporters of GamerGate see the movement as a call for ethics in video game journalism. Detractors, which generally includes me, say it began as a misogynistic hate movement directed toward Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist game critic, and Zoe Quinn, a game developer, and has never really progressed past that.

One of the responses I see often to this claim is that calling GamerGate sexist is blaming the entire movement for the actions of a few trolls. After all, anyone can jump on Twitter, throw some horrific abuse at a female game developer and tack on the #GamerGate hashtag. There's no central leadership, no registration. And certainly, the vast majority of GamerGate supporters aren't sending death threats.

I won't dispute that. The issue is that harassment goes way beyond death threats. Condemning death threats is not condemning harassment; that's basic human decency. In fact, far from condemning harassment, many #GamerGaters -- based on Twitter/Reddit responses to me an others, I'd say at least a majority -- are participating in it.

Here's how: "I'm against harassment, but..."

It's a line I hear multiple times a day on the hashtag. Notice how similar it is to "I'm not a racist, but..."

What comes after this line? Here are some of the most common followups.

  • "...she deserves what she gets because [reasons]."
  • "...she's a professional victim. She likes the attention."
  • "...the threats aren't real."
  • "...not only are the threats not real, she herself faked them."
  • "...she just needs to grow a thicker skin. Death threats are a part of being on the Internet."
  • "...she is meaningless, stop talking about her, she has nothing to do with us and neither does her harassment." (Add to this, the popular dehumanizing GamerGater epithet 'Literally Who,' or LW, used to point out how worthless and meaningless these women are*)
And this is where I state unequivocally: Even if you aren't sending death threats, if you've voiced one of the above or similar, you are engaging in harassment.

This is why I, and many others, have called GamerGate a movement based around harassment. Not because the majority of GamerGaters have sent death threats, but because the majority of them have excused it. Excused it with their actions, even when prefacing it with "I don't condone harassment." Saying "I don't condone harassment" is exactly as meaningful as saying "I would never lie." Words are cheap.

How would GamerGate prove they're a movement that's about ethics, and not about misogyny and harassment? They would say "The attacks against Anita Sarkeesian are inexcusable and abhorrent. Full stop." Because what's the downside? What if the attacks are fake? If it's never revealed, you look like a tolerant, supportive, ethical movement. And if it is revealed, then so what, you were fooled by being too empathetic. That's going to engender a lot of sympathy for your group.

But nope. GamerGaters insist on continuing their victim-blaming, victim-doubting harassment. And until that stops, they're little more than a hate group.

Harassment From The Other Side

GamerGaters like to point out that there's harassment coming from the anti-GG side as well. They've collected it in a tumblr. Let me say without reservation: This is unacceptable. Completely. Anyone I see in my mentions who engages in threats, or in the minimization of threats on either side, will get a fucking table flip response and then a block/mute. 


* A slight aside: 'LW' is very similar to the term "Who™?" used to refer to Sarah Palin by the progressive blogosphere, a practice I vocally condemned when it was being used.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know about you, but the most common thing I see gamergaters say after "I'm against harassment, but..." is something more along the lines of "but nobody can stop an idiot from saying stupid things".

While there are those that say the other stuff you mentioned, and that's unfortunate, the vast majority I've seen condemn harassment without a shred of uncertainty. The only thing they can't do is stop it, because ultimately nobody can stop angry, dumb people from saying angry, dumb things, especially on an open platform like Twitter.