After threats against her life, Anita Sarkeesian canceled an upcoming talk at Utah State University. Gamergate trolls are celebrating on Twitter while simultaneously dismissing the threats as nothing. Does this read like nothing to you?
“I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”
The email’s author threatened to murder feminist women indiscriminately in a mass shooting. And because carrying guns on campus outweigh the right of students and guests to be safe, Anita Sarkeesian canceled her talk.
BUT WE SHOULDN’T FEEL THREATENED, RIGHT?
BECAUSE IT’S JUST THE INTERNET, RIGHT?
The bullies won this time. And if you think this shit isn’t dangerous, I’m fresh out of fucks to give and I’m not restocking any time soon. It’s goddamn wrong to to dismiss this by claiming the author isn’t serious. Elliot Rodger’s rantings were dismissed until it was too late.
This. Is. Not. OK.
guns… literally more important than the lives of women in the state of loveable mormons
So long post, frank discussion of harassment and mention of suicidal ideation.
The argument from ‘gaters on the above story seems to be this: “You can’t attribute this to Gamergate. The anonymous student making the threats never mentions the movement and we don’t even know if he knows about it; even if he had, he’s just one troubled individual and it’s unfair to paint Gamergate with the same brush.”
That might be true from, like, a strictly legal perspective. I don’t think that everyone being a dick on twitter, or who’s ever thrown up the hashtag, should be arrested in connection with this incident, true. Point granted.
But I’ve been watching this mess since day 1. When I heard Zoe Quinn was the target of a big harassment campaign, I remembered Leigh Alexander’s great article about how to respond to sexism online and decided I wanted to take the opportunity to link Depression Quest, a game I’ve admired and advocated for since I first discovered it on tumblr almost two years ago. I remember discovering with dismay that DQ’s Steam reviews had been spammed with hundreds or thousands of one star reviews making jokes about “five guys”. I remember searching the Zoe Quinn tag on tumblr, looking for a post she had made, and seeing nothing but five guys memes and naked pics. Those weren’t the tactics of concerned citizens advocating for change, it was a mob having fun trying to ruin Zoe’s life.
I watched the incredible hateful vitriol on twitter when Anita Sarkeesian’s latest video came out a few days later. I listened as the video game creators I follow - all people I respect, whose work I enjoy - bemoaned the explosion of exhausting hatred and hostility they were all experiencing.
Something that will stay with me for a long time was seeing Jenn Frank have a breakdown on twitter as a few persistent trolls repeated the same harassing questions again and again under a veneer of civility. After she expressed that she was having suicidal thoughts and would leave the game industry, they expressed deliberately obtuse surprise that she was upset when they were “merely asking” a few polite questions.
A while later Zoe Quinn posted the screencaps she’d been grabbing of the 4chan forums where all of this was organized. Seeing that precise tactic described - “keep asking but be polite so that the SJWs look like the bad guys and don’t know how to address you” - chilled me. Mission fucking accomplished.
And when gamergate first emerged? It was the same tactics, the same voices, going after the same people. Gamergate is a rhetorical tactic of despicable trolls to deflect criticism while they target women they don’t like. That’s what it started as, and however it’s evolved it’s still serving that function. If you’re a ‘gater who honestly doesn’t harass, who honestly opposes harassment, you need to understand that that’s where your movement started, and every time I see one of you defending gamergate I hear you defending those nude pictures of Zoe Quinn, defending the harassers of Jenn Frank, and I hear you defaming Zoe and Anita and Brianna and all the people whose opinions of games I respect.
So when you say, “This USU threat has nothing to do with gamergate”, I highly doubt that the individual who sent the threat is completely ignorant of and uninvolved with the huge movement that started in opposition to Anita and her point of view. But whether that’s true or not, the reason everyone draws a line from this to gamergate is that this is an escalation of the tactics that members of gamergate have used SINCE BEFORE THERE WAS A GAMERGATE TAG. Escalation is part of the troll pattern (take it from Kathy Sierra). So maybe the USU terrorist is a new voice, and maybe he’s not; personally, I’d bet this is not the first time this guy has tried to terrorize Anita. Either way? It’s honestly the kind of crap that everyone who’s been watching this since the beginning believes gamergate would do, because it’s like other things that we saw with our own eyes, only worse.
I do not contend that there are no ethical lapses in the games industry or among games journalists. I think there are all sorts of problems (although I seem to completely disagree with the gamergate crowd about what they are). But right now the biggest problem we have is that gamers harass women in the industry, and gamergate is part of the problem and will continue to be part of the problem.
Get off the damn bandwagon.