Gamergate, Firings, Bullshit
Gamergate was six fucking years ago. Journalists can't stop talking about it.
There's a cottage industry, populated by terrible writers working for garbage outlets, whose sole focus seems to be tying Gamergate to modern politics. To them, Gamergate was an omen, a foreshadowing, a glimpse of terrifying rightwing violence and misogyny, the harbinger of our New Politics, of the bad kind of populism (when Hillary Clinton talks about having a lot of enemies on Wall Street, this is the good kind of populism).
Gamergate was the gift that kept on giving because it gave left-leaning journalists a pre-built, scary-looking foe at which to gesture, hysterically (I mean this in both senses of the word), that required very little explanation to boomers and suburban democrat moms. This is to say, two sentences of explanation on the Gamergate phenomenon was usually enough to get things rolling. Just sprinkle in "misogynist" and "hate-movement" and "video games" and you're in business. Now so established, these journalists could get right to the action, which was usually some form of terrified hyperventilating towards non-progressive actors who may or may not be alt-right, let alone plain old right wing.
This subset of writers belongs to the larger class of leftist activists masquerading as journalists, who themselves spent at least two years writing Very Serious Think Pieces about How Trump Won (the answer to this is white racists, of course). Rather than look at their own risible failures, their own culpability for being so in-the-tank for leftist progressive bullshit, they instead do what most petty authoritarians do when the plebes don't vote the way they're supposed to: blame it on propaganda. Hence 5+ years of fear-mongering and outright lies about Russian interference in US elections, and the very handy excuse of how Gamergate gave us Donald Trump.
These talentless clowns flogged the bejesus out of this topic during Trump's administration, but now he's gone and they've precious little to write about. They were due for a break, and providence has delivered. Because a game developer made some videos about Gamergate several years ago, he is now forbidden from working on the Harry Potter video game (despair the state of the world that you understood such a sentence).
When the media says that Gamergate led to Trump, they’re usually making the claim that it was a primer for right-wing extremism. They’re wrong, because they’re stupid and dishonest. All Gamergate really did was show a small group of young men who understood media manipulation (these are the kids who invented memes, after all) just how serious the problem was.
Because here’s the thing: I actually do believe that Gamergate gave us Trump. It has also given us QAnon, Pizzagate, and a number of other narratives -- what some might call "conspiracies" -- that have fueled the nightmarish imaginations of underemployed weebs and bros who hang out on internet forums and play video games. But not for the reasons that have been so unartfully suggested by hack writers who populate the modern internet news generating machine.
What Was It Really
Gamergate was proof that a motivated, internet-savvy group of young men were capable of emerging from the internet not as brainwashed leftist agitators but as boundary-pushing half-lunatics, decently read and unashamed of being being subversive, or even reactionary. The subversive part is important here, because it points to the serious issue overriding most of the commentary produced by mainstream, respectable outlets: namely, that this commentary is left-wing garbage. That's why the subversion works, or even exists in the first place.
If the political persuasions of your reactionary underclass of bored, uninspired young men are right-leaning -- or at least anti-establishment -- you should be getting the hint that the mainstream political theory which undergirds the monoculture is left-leaning. To put it another way: if the subversives are coming from the right side of the political spectrum, there's a good chance the orthodoxy they're seeking to upset finds its foundation in the other end of the spectrum.
We've seen this in comedy, as this panicky and (I don't throw this word around lightly) fascist-feeling screed from a "comedy critic" has so brazenly showcased. Comedy is at its best when it is subversive and subversion in America, for several decades at least, was left-leaning. But now that the jackboot is on the other foot, now that progressivist ideals have become enshrined in the institutions of our day (Hollywood, the academy, the news, take your pick) subversion leveled against them is wrong. It’s right wing, it’s fascist, it’s too transgressive, it’s racist, it’s sexist. It's dangerous. Ban it.
The same thing has happened in games, which is why Troy Leavitt is in trouble, and why no developer is willing to have an unpopular political opinion which deviates from extreme left-wing positioning unless he owns the company -- and even then he better be fucking careful. If a person looks around today and is shocked at the number of adults who seem unable to utter the eminently sensible phrase that women and men are biologically distinct, and that one cannot change their sex . . . well, to this person I'd say: go back and read some gamer-focused internet spaces circa 2012. Because this left-wing totalitarianism was around back then, existing as it did in a symbiotic relationship with humanities and "critical studies" departments of major universities. The woke, social-justice nonsense, the absolute fixation on gender politics, the neo-Marxist obsession with identity, the skeevy, slightly greasy way in which sexual identity was rammed into (yeesh) regular conversation . . . this was all happening. It was just happening on Tumblr.
And it was happening in an environment where journalists claimed it wasn’t happening . . . in much the same way that a modern-day journalist would say there’s no such thing as cancel culture. Game communities are regularly “called out” for being “transphobic” but a quick look around will tell you this is simply not true, and in fact this is the opposite of what’s true (false). For example: have you ever noticed how many trans-identified people work in games? I mean seriously, think about it. If you follow the video game industry at all, you could probably name five or six trans video game journalists or vloggers off the top of your head. Can you think of any other industry for whose trade press you could develop a similar list, and with such speed?
Twitter is littered with game industry professionals — developers, writers, critics — with blue checkmarks, rainbow flags, and pronouns in the bio. Why is that? How could there be so many trans people in an industry so rife with transphobia? Why does it seem that no games journalist will write about how many LBGTQIAA++ individuals work in this business? Is it because they wouldn’t then be able to cash their checks telling us all how horrible it really is? In point of fact, you cannot name a more inclusive industry or fandom in the entirety of human history.
To go further, do you know of any other trade press besides video games in which the writers in said press seem to hate their own subject matter so severely, and are also really bad at it? Do you think the writers of American Hunter magazine are bad hunters, or hate hunting? Does it even make sense to ask?
Savor this cynicism. Hold on to it for a second. Because it is highly contagious.
GamerGate was psychic breakdown in public. It was the realization by tens of thousands of "very online" young men (and some women, to be sure) that there really is such a thing as a media complex, what Eric Weinstein would call the Gated Institutional Narrative. It was the sudden realization that they had all been had, that the media really does tell fantastic fucking lies in the service of progressive causes. It was the realization that they really couldn't trust what they read. It was realizing they all had Gell-Mann amnesia.
Gell-Mann Amnesia is a phenomenon coined by Murry Gell-Mann, but summarized by Michael Crichton (yeah, the Jurassic Park guy) at some point a few years ago. He says:
Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.
Gamers were used to the mainstream press getting their hobby wrong. And by 2014, they were also used to the growing injection of left-wing politics into their scene. What before had been a playground/funhouse for living out power-fantasies became the battleground for culture wars as young people raised on the Old Internet were slowly indoctrinated into academic politics as they went off to college. Kids who set out to be journalists ran straight into modern journalism school, which makes no bones about being the vanguard for leftist ideals. Media criticism is some of the easiest criticism to produce, and so the critical eye of the burgeoning journalist naturally found its target in the overwrought, pulpy, sometimes silly domain of triple A video games.
And it's not like in 2014 the mainstream media was good at covering video games. They weren't, they were fucking terrible at it. They still are. But everyone kinda knew this, and in fact a great deal of humor was to be gleaned from a newscaster circa mid-2000 throwing up some screens shots of Doom from 1994 and telling parents their kids were in trouble. Like, these motherfuckers hadn't even heard of Half-Life. Bring on the exploding vans, ya fucking doofuses.
But what GamerGate really did -- why it created such a ruckus, and why we're still talking about it years later -- is that it forced an error in the program, an error that couldn't be patched or painted over. Gamers watched, getting angrier by the minute, as the mainstream press completely botched the story about what was going on in their sleepy little hobby.
Left to stew on these knotty problems, these new media cynics took to the underbelly of the internet to sort themselves out. They shook off the amnesia. If the New York Times and CNN and MSNBC could be so easily suckered into bringing Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian onto TV, so eager to paint the whole thing as a misogynist hate movement even though they had to bring people into the newsroom to explain it to them . . . well, what else were they getting spectacularly wrong? Who else would they lie about, or for? What, exactly, were they willing to do?
We've since learned the answer to that. We get examples every day. When Donald Trump is faced with unaccompanied minors and migrant caravans at the southern border, it's "Kids in Cages" and the unbelievable cruelty of racist American immigration policy. When Joe Biden expels the newly arrived -- because every poor bastard south of the Rio Grande knows that Democrats are liberal pussies on immigration, and will begin the long march north expecting to eventually be given succor -- he's just poor old Sleepy Joe, dealing with the inevitable migration brought on by climate change, which is our fault after all.
But in 2016, the lessons of Gamergate were still ringing in everyone's ears: Don't trust the media. They have no problem being hypocrites, no problem lying or manipulating, especially in the service of their left-wing agenda. This isn’t an exaggeration. The New York Times hires racists, but because they’re the right kind of racists, they go to the wall defending them. Google will intentionally manipulate search results in the name of social justice, and proudly tell you they are doing it. The media will collude (does this sound familiar?) to bury a story about Joe Biden’s fuck-up son in an effort to ensure favorable election results. It is a remarkably easy jump for a Steve Bannon or a Donald Trump to call it all fake news, to call the mainstream media and big tech enemies of the people. CNN et. al. practically fucking dared them to do it, and if Google is manipulating search results to implement their leftist bullshit in the Land of Free, they are the enemy of the people. It’s not an exaggeration.
So here we are, five years later. Trust in media is at an all time low, not aided by the fact that news stations and news rooms seem to be nothing more than revolving doors for progressive politicians as they make their way(s) in/out/back in to government, consultancy, "journalism." There is a significant group of young men now wise to this, who will never be welcomed back into the fold. They’re forever outside that warm communal glow — you know, the glow of sitting around the idiot box and pretending to agree with Anderson Cooper on drag queen story hour.
And the useless, gutless media machine will churn on, through incompetence or malice, burping and shitting out gormless commentary, extruding the new religion of social justice through the crooked die of journalism. I think they’re in for a hard landing come 2022 and beyond. As we learned in this last election, this subversive, transgressive, perhaps reactionary group of people is not getting smaller. The media was able to knit together a desperate, threadbare harness with which to drag Joe across the finish line, but I don’t think they can do it again. You can already smell their panic, as going into month two of Biden’s administration we’re being admonished to give the guy a break and they can’t seem to go one day without writing a story about Trump.
Because it’s all a joke, and these guys know it. They’re getting lectured by Disney on inclusion while they film movies next to concentration camps. They’re looking at BLM squares on Nike’s Instagram while the company make their shoes with slave labor. Apple donates money to civil rights museums while the people who make their phones hurl themselves from the factory roof in despair.
It’s all too much. It’s all lies. All of it. Only a matter of time, now.