How I would, were I so inclined, destroy Gamergate

Originally posted via twitlong, 21 Sept. 2014

Gamergate is a decentralized, consumer revolt-cum-movement that is nominally in favor of reforming the gaming press and enforcing ethics and journalistic integrity upon it. The gaming press-crafted narrative thus far has been it is a hate movement and harassment campaign against women in the gaming press and gaming industry, fueled by misogyny. The gaming press has erected an informal blockade with a series of biased articles and generalized narrative control, through which it hopes to asphyxiate the movement by denying it the oxygen of publicity.

I believe that’s a fair enough definition for everyone to get onboard.

Early on, GG posters moved to undermine that narrative by painting itself as a pluralist, anti-harassment campaign focused on journalistic ethics and integrity, calling out and countering harassment while simultaneously distancing itself from harassers and other abusers. This directly countered the gaming press narrative, producing an accessible and exportable narrative that simultaneously highlighted and undermined press credibility on the matter. This allowed it to grow despite media manipulating via framing, especially combined with numerous journalist and industry gaffes that continued to energize and mobilize the movement further.

Of course, it’s not enough to say one is against harassment. One has to carry through with that claim by actually calling out and condemning harassment as it occurs. A person can claim anything they want, and if their actions are inconsistent with that claim (such as anti-GG’s nominal anti-harassment message, but implicitly condoning harassment by their own) they are merely hypocrites and untrustworthy. I can claim I’m Queen Elizabeth II, not as I’m not an 88-year-old woman who lives in Sandringham House, it’s a safe assumption I’m actually not Her Royal Majesty and my claim is quite hollow.

Of course, the downside to a movement thus organized is it must grow, and remain energized to facilitate mobility (i.e. consumer action, in this case seen as the letter-writing campaign against advertisers, sponsors, and corporate partners, and continued independent investigation of the gaming press). Preventing this was the ultimate goal of the gaming press’ media blockade — as I already mentioned, to deny #gamergate the oxygen of publicity.

We’ve already seen numerous, failed attempts to destroy the #gamergate narrative: continued blockading, intimidation and harassment, false flagging and shilling, and concern trolling. Of course, of all these the middle options were the most noteworthy, as they backfired due to #gamergate posters calling it out as they would any other abusive poster and distancing themselves from it. The latter is important as well, especially as there’s an atmosphere of healthy paranoia surrounding those engaging in the movement, but we’ll see why later.

So…what to do now, were I an anti-#gamergate agent provocateur? Well, first and foremost, the accessibility and exportability of the #gamergate narrative has to go, in order for the pregenerated press narrative to take root. I’d want people looking into the hashtag and those participating and not see individuals speaking out against harassment and abuse — I’d want people doing that silenced, to have a free hand painting GG as pro-harassment.

What better way to do that than attack people speaking out against harassment? Those are generally the moderates, who may (or may not) see the valid criticisms of both sides, who are sitting on the fence or desire an end to harassment as well as a transparent and accountable gaming press. So, as such it’s easy to manipulate the atmosphere of paranoia and attack them by calling them concern trolls, which has a chilling effect on calling out harassment further (as people don’t want to be ostracized on that basis).

In the meantime, I’m pushing GG’s “window” for acceptable rhetoric further to an extreme. Posters become emboldened to engage in more extreme, exclusive and even abusive speech, and emboldened to label anyone with criticism (no matter how valid) or moderate positions a concern troll. In short, an echo chamber gets built in short order, and the group of people who make up GG shrinks as individuals race to the extreme for acceptance.

So, when unaffiliated or curious people come looking to see what #gamergate is all about, instead of a inclusive group of people condemning harassment as it occurs and directly countering the gaming press’ narrative, they instead see a toxic and exclusive echo chamber full of people calling each other concern trolls for stepping away from the party line which ultimately validates the gaming press’ narrative.

You can figure out what happens next. Consider carefully who engages in what speech, and what consequences — intended or otherwise — condoning that speech can have.