some similarities between #GamerGate and the “War on Christmas”

There’s probably a name for the thing where a bunch of members of a sociological majority group develops a weird persecution complex over attempts to:

  • recognize existing diversity and be more inclusive
  • be less socially harmful by promoting marginalizing narratives
  • make more money by expanding your demographic to include marginalized people who might want to see characters like themselves
  • recognize an existing demographic that already is consuming your product and try to make it more friendly to them
  • otherwise not be so much of a misogynist/racist/religiously bigoted/transphobic/ethnocentric/etc dickbag

but dang does this happen a lot.

I’ve been thinking about the thing that Fox News types do every year where they flip their shit over the “war on Christmas”, as if attempting to be religiously inclusive is an attack on them. It’s this weird thing majority groups do where they co-opt a bit of social justice stuff and act like not being the only group being catered to is an attempt to persecute that group. I’m pretty sure it’s disingenuous; the alternative is that it’s just plain ignorant.

Anyway, if you hadn’t figured it out, I’m talking about how #GamerGate and its ilk react to cultural criticism of video games and video game companies choosing to make more diverse games. They do it a bit differently than the War on Christmas types, who lose their shit in somewhat different ways, but it’s a very similar conservative backlash. The War on Christmas people claim that they’re being religiously oppressed because their faith isn’t catered directly to; the #GamerGaters claim that they’re being oppressed by female characters who don’t all have improbably large breasts without support. War on Christmas people pretend that calls for inclusive language are government censorship; #GamerGate does the same thing.

It’s possible that #GamerGate is better at harassing its ideological opponents (IE, people who are reasonable and think that their terrible opinions are awful) and threatening them into silence, but I’m not sure exactly what the backlash ends up being on people who get called out on Fox News by one of their popular pundits than what happens when TotalBiscuit or Adam Baldwin does the same thing on Twitter; the bigot backlash is clearer on Twitter since the hatemongers and their mobs are using the same medium as their targets, and they’re able to coordinate more effectively. But it’s still a pretty similar type of conservative backlash that happens when people have their privilege challenged, and it’s depressing that it manages to claim so many adherents who fuck up so many lives.

Chris Mancil compares using an anti-harassment blockbot to McCarthy-era blacklists, acts like a tool

Electronic Arts game dev Chris Mancil posted a disingenuous load of shit on his blog today, but it was sort of a platonic ideal of the kind of disengenuous shit written by boring cishet men who think their opinions matter, so I’m gonna take that shit apart, alright?

I’m just not a fan of collective punishment, or guilt by association.

It is not punishment for people to protect themselves from harassers. Collective blocking is an attempt to keep assholes out of our mentions, because no one is entitled to our time.

These two tactics in real life usually lead to terrible results by stripping individuals of their agency and humanity. In warfare, dehumanization and ‘othering’ allows more flexibility for the troops, and their administrators, to you know – temporarily abandon ethics and morality, for the greater good, and other such mindless rationalizations. A dangerous but all too familiar historical phenomena in war, but also with strong roots in our entertainment history – such as the Hollywood Blacklists for communist sympathizers.

This manages to combine the first geek social fallacy with a conflation of the actions of private individuals and government. It’s something you see a lot with people who think they are entitled to audience because they have freedom of speech or that they should be free of the consequences of speech, such as getting fired from your job for being racist on the internet, which isn’t how free speech works. This is the same kind of logic that leads people to those conclusions.

Milo Yiannopoulos is a misogynistic, transphobicopportunistic  douchebag with shady business dealings working for an extremely unethical “journalism” website. Deciding to follow this dude, retweet him, or take his work seriously is a pretty big sign that even if you aren’t an outright misogynist, you really don’t give a shit about women, because this guy is awful about us. But even if you don’t care about sexism for whatever reason, he’s an unethical, shitty dude with really bad opinions who hates gamers, and both his jokes and his rhetoric are pretty stale, so it’s kind of a sign that you have pretty bad taste and/or judgement, which is a good enough reason to unfollow/block you.

The idea that a piece of technology that allows individuals to not have to block every gamergate sea lion and his 100+ sockpuppet accounts is comparable to McCarthy-era blacklists is ridiculous.

In any event, good-bye 2,355 gaming twitter followers whom I shall miss.  I will happily be buddies with all of you again, but I won’t unfriend anyone, to be a friend of yours. And I would never ask you to do the same.

It is a perfectly reasonable request to ask that people stop being friends with your abuser and to choose not to keep people in your life if they will not do that. GamerGate is an abusive movement and Yiannopoulos is one of its ringleaders; he has helped create and foster that culture of abuse.

I skimmed a bit more of Mancil’s blog and Twitter: unsurprisingly, he identifies as a libertarian, loved American Sniper, and I think it’s possible that The Scarlet Letter is the only book he’s ever read. His ex-followers aren’t gonna be missing much.

the Owen/Aurini split and the inability of the manosphere to deal with criticism

I want to make sure that we aren’t so busy laughing at the Jordan Owen/Davis Aurini split that we miss a particularly interesting bit of that narrative.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, let me give you a quick overview: Davis Aurini is a misogynist, racist jackass and Jordan Owen is a misogynist who really loves porn; both have YouTube channels where they talk about their obsessions. They decided to make a “documentary” about how terrible feminist games critic Anita Sarkeesian is and a bunch of virulently misogynistic nerds lined up to throw money at them. Last week, Owen fired Aurini, who came out, guns blazing, to yell about how terrible Owen is, and managed to be such a creepy dick about the whole thing that he actually made Owen look halfway decent, which is saying a lot, because Owen’s a weirdo turd.

Anyway, this team breakup was over Roosh V, a star of the extremely creepy pick up artist community and admitted rapist; Owen criticized him in a way Aurini didn’t like and refused to delete the videos and apologize.

There’s a narrative I’ve seen a lot from people who are mad about Anita Sarkeesian, whether those people are GamerGaters, Men’s Rights Activists or members of some other hate group, and that is that they fundamentally don’t understand criticism. I’ve talked about a bit this before, and I noticed that some of the comments that post got on Tumblr was from GamerGaters who were convinced that Sarkeesian was a hypocrite because she criticized games created by women; she even criticized works by people she talks to and works with.

It’s this fundamental thing that says that any criticism of anything means, basically, “THIS IS TRASH, THROW IT OUT”, no matter what it’s accompanied by. Sarkeesian explains this in her very first video, but I’m guessing actually listening to her is out of the question for these people. This has been happening since long before gaming; when Carolyn Petit gave Grand Theft Auto V a 9/10 but commented on the sexism in it, she was inundated with abuse and calls for her to be fired.

It’s interesting to see that this inability for this group of people to actually disagree with each other sans pitchforks and torches ends up applying in group as well as outside of it, and that they are just as unable to be politic about their fellows happening to be less OK with rapists than they expected as they are about people saying that maybe there are some problems with video games.

It gives me a bit of hope to think that maybe this will lead to all of these hate groups turn on each other and self-destruct, but after sort of vaguely following the manosphere for a few years, it seems like these splits just make them create their own spinoff websites and declare themselves Different From Those Other Misogynists. Still, maybe the time it’ll take for each little faction to set up their own website will take away a bit of their attention from woman-hating, and if they keep splitting up regularly maybe they’ll all hate each other too much to be able to organize any harassment campaigns. I won’t hold my breath, but surely it’s worth crossing my fingers. After all, with how few GamerGaters there actually are, it only has to happen a few hundred more times for none of them to be able to stomach talking to each other!

GamerGate doesn’t want games to be art

So I realized something today that probably should’ve been obvious before, but here it is anyway: GamerGate doesn’t want games to be art. (For those of you new to this, here’s a primer on GamerGate.)

I mean, there’s a lot of other stuff going on with GamerGate: gaming is full of misogynistic pissbabies who are angry that women are interested in video games and are attempting to make their shitty clubhouse as awful as possible so we do not want to go into it, and also they hate transgender people a lot. Those are the bigger things going on.

But when you look at the stuff they’ve actually said about games journalism, they really, really don’t want any kind of subjective critique to exist, and when you look at the game developers they’ve targeted, they really, really don’t want challenging or interesting games to exist.

There are a lot of really interesting games that’ve come out, particularly in the last decade, that challenge ideas about what gaming is about, what gaming is for, and what qualifies as a game. Sometimes there are interesting little parts in big game titles that do this, where you get the moral questions in Dragon Age and other games like that, but usually it’s indies that are managing to do this, developers with a handful of supporters, companies with only a small number of employees, doing things that can afford to be experimental in ways that other games just can’t.

It’s not just that they’re failing to go after the big developers and their swag gifts to journalism and those shady areas where journalistic integrity and whether or not critique and reviews can be trusted, it’s that instead of going after journalists at all they’re mostly going after targets making interesting, challenging games that might actually have a chance at changing how people think of video games. They’re not getting the support and protection they should be getting from the big names in gaming, either– in fact, I keep seeing prominent GamerGaters recommended for me on the front page of Steam, which is a major (if not *the* major) game distribution hub.

It’s not just the “art” label that they’re rejecting– if you’ve ever seen the scorn a lot of gamers treat “casuals” with, you’re familiar with the attempts at gatekeeping that try to keep any gaming that’s actually accessible to people who don’t identify with “gamer culture”. I just think it’s interesting that the “big controversy” in gaming in 2015 is, in its attempt to throw women (especially trans women) out of the clubhouse with as violent means as they can get away with, has made its attempts to prove games are art a decade ago look a bit ridiculous– how could a community so dedicated to stifling creativity and critique be seen as a legitimate art form?

Tumblr is great

Every few days, I see something on Tumblr that fills my heart with joy.

People get really caught up in making fun of Tumblr culture, as if a bunch of harmless 13 year olds figuring out their gender identity in ways that wouldn’t even be possible a generation ago is some kind of terrible thing. And don’t get me wrong, there are some problematic things about Tumblr as a system– it’s bad at dealing with abuse in the same way Twitter is and it allows a lot of really hateful blogs (stuff by neo-nazis, etc) to stick around– and the community has many of the flaws that social justice focused communities with an overwhelming amount of young white people have, especially with race.

But it seems like there are constantly great things coming up there, both in social justice contexts and other ones. People racebending and creating diverse fancasts (fan-made ideas of which actors would do well playing fictional characters onscreen, such as Gina Torres as Wonder Woman), high school kids talking about sexism, rape culture and dress codes, a 90,000 word Steve/Bucky alternate universe story taking place in a suburban high school and based loosely on George Eliot’s Middlemarch, warnings about the safety hazards of official 50 Shades of Grey merchandise, etc.

There are entire communities, which I won’t link to here, dedicated to, at best, making fun of “Tumblr culture” and, at worst, organizing harassment and doxxing of its users; it’s not at GamerGate levels right now but it can still be pretty bad. Additionally, there’s an attitude I’ve seen on many websites full of people who should know actually unironically use terms like “Social Justice Warrior”, a derogatory term made up by anti-Social Justice people that we managed to co-opt pretty quickly with “Social Justice Rogue”, “Social Justice Paladin” and other RPG class based jokes (there’s even a Greenlit game on Steam).

I think it’s important to recognize problematic aspects of your favorite things (doing what Tumblr would call “your fave is problematic”), but I think that the garbage people are eager to heap on Tumblr is rarely because of its problematic aspects, and tends to be one of the many ways that people are eager to shit on the hobbies of women and girls. It’s the same narrative that devalues work that’s seen as “feminine”, but applied to the hobby sphere.