Yesterday afternoon, Utah State University was sent anonymous threats of violence. “Feminists have ruined my life,” the man claimed. He would shoot up the university, targeting women, especially feminists, if Anita Sarkeesian was allowed to give a planned talk on sexism in video games. The talk was cancelled.
To be clear: I didn't cancel my USU talk because of terrorist threats, I canceled because I didn’t feel the security measures were adequate.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 15, 2014
Earlier this year an awards ceremony dealt with a bomb threat — if Anita Sarkeesian was given an award, he would kill everyone at the ceremony. The ceremony went on, but only after police investigated and security was increased.
Also yesterday afternoon, indie developer Zoe Quinn was sent photoshopped pictures of her genitals, made from previously stolen nudes. And plans were made, on anon board 8chan, to camp outside her apartment until she agreed to a debate. Quinn has faced constant harassment since the beginning of GamerGate.
Meanwhile developer Brianna Wu, who has spoken out against the terrorizing of women in games and tech on MSNBC and HuffPost Live, was dealing with an ever-escalating campaign of hate, harassment, and criminal threats. Wu was targeted by GamerGate after retweeting some jokes about the so-called movement.
All of these women have been forced to flee their homes, due to credible threats against their lives. Attempts have been made to access their financial accounts. Friends and family have been targeted for harassment, including doxxing friends of Quinn and supporters of Sarkeesian, and threatening phone calls to Quinn’s father. Posters on 8chan have made up code names for these “targets” and have speculated about what their deaths would do for “the movement.”
But it’s not just Sarkeesian, Quinn, and Wu. Dare to criticize GamerGate on Twitter and #NotAllGamers are sure to come, with violent misogynists and criminal harassers right after.
Depending on who you ask, GamerGate is either a hate group or a consumer rights based social movement. GamerGate partisans who believe the best of their compatriots argue that “they,” the stalkers, harassers, trolls, and misogynists, don’t represent the movement. They aren’t, in fact, even a part of it. Some GamerGaters go so far as to claim that Sarkeesian has made up all the threats against her person since the beginning — going back two years, remember — or that trolls on the GamerGate hashtag are “social justice warriors” organizing a false flag operation. They claim that anti-GamerGaters, a mythical group of organized feminists who seek to dismantle GamerGate, have marginalized and silenced them. For the paranoid, 8chan hardliners, anti-GamerGate is the other side in their imaginary war.
The trouble with this narrative is that there has never been an anti-GamerGate opposition group, just a patchwork of people standing against threats and harassment, and confused passersby who can’t imagine threatening death over video games. But that’s beginning to change. Now, opposition to GamerGate, to those who engage in criminal activities and those who provide cover for them, is growing. #StopGamerGate2014 is full of thousands of people all of whom want to see it stop. Threatening a school shooting will do that.
Not long before the Utah State news broke, Deadspin published an exhaustive look at GamerGate, by Kyle Wagner, as an example of the new culture wars that play out on social media and the wider internet. The article, published on a sports news site, has been liked over 220,000 times.
[A] woman using her sexuality—her difference from the presumed default state of humanity—to gain an advantage, well, shit, that’s violating rule No. 1. That people badly want this to have happened even though it didn’t is crucial to understanding why Gamergate resonates the way it does—it seems to offer evidence not only that the social-justice warriors are hypocrites and frauds, but that the true defenders of equality turn out to be, well, young, middle-class white guys, and their allies. This is how people can hold the remarkably naive idea that a movement that began with some of its members harassing women with threats of violence, rape, death, and torture can expect to be taken seriously in good-faith discussions about ethics in journalism, or anything else: They see themselves as the ones holding true to the ideals in which their opponents only profess to believe.
According to GamerGate true believers, the ones who don’t harass women and have a genuine interest in seeing games journalism become more ethical, the trolls and criminals aren’t their responsibility or their fault.
A woman tweets about having been harassed by GamerGate and includes a screenshot. Some dude appears out of the mist to cry, “he doesn’t represent the movement.” Another dude appears. “The majority of GamerGate opposes harassment. I’m sorry this is happening to you.” Five tweets later, someone else is calling the woman a cunt.
GamerGaters would have you believe that it’s not their responsibility to police their “fringe elements.” That they shouldn’t be held responsible for their co-travellers in an amorphous, leaderless movement that makes common cause with anti-feminists and right wing reactionaries. That’s not a privilege afforded to human rights based social movements like feminism, anti-racism, anti-poverty and LGBTQ activists. We are held accountable for every shitty thing ever said by someone claiming to be on our side. “Feminism hates men. I know because Andrea Dworkin made me uncomfortable that one time.” Every feminist in the world is responsible for a misunderstood, laboured critique of sex by Dworkin, but GamerGaters aren’t responsible for Sargon of Akkad’s anti-feminist web series, Adam Baldwin’s eternal hatred of all things “left wing,” or the men who have systematically driven women out of their homes and out of the industry. This extra special hall pass, for a bunch of people who thought they could turn a harassment campaign into something “constructive.”
A funny thing about social movements: you must acknowledge the problems within your movement, your practice, and yourselves, and then you must work through them. Sometimes this means abandoning tactics. Sometimes it means speaking out, loudly and proudly, against unsavoury characters who seek to ally with you for their own purposes. It always means, every day, questioning.
GamerGate has failed to do this. Instead, collectively and individually, it’s sidestepped responsibility. All those GamerGaters ardently proclaiming their opposition to these “fringe elements” are suspiciously absent when another woman has been targeting for abuse. Don’t kid yourself, GamerGate, you played your part.
You care about ethics in journalism? Games? Other human beings? #StopGamerGate2014
#StopGamerGate2014 Because I am scared to tweet this.
— Mara “Get Rid of the Nazis” Wilson (@MaraWilson) October 15, 2014