Meet The Fine Young Capitalists, a feminist group with an IndieGoGo campaign hoping to bring women into the gaming industry. In late August, they were ‘doxxed’ (personal or sensitive information about the organization and/or its members was spread online) and their campaign was hacked, causing its current run of donations to be lost. According to a recent interview, TFYC strongly believes that Zoe Quinn’s follower, possibly her friend Maya Kramer, was the one who performed one or both of these attacks. They also believe that Zoe Quinn was aware of, part of, or approved of, this behavior.
TFYC further states that 4chan, one of the core areas for GamerGate discussion, has donated over $22,000 to the since-reformed campaign, and has been their primary source of traffic. The idea that GamerGate, much less 4chan, would donate to a feminist charity flies in the face of the arguments and articles that suggest it is purely hateful and misogynistic in nature. The only vague responses have been that they are paying ‘blood money,’ trying to fool people into thinking their intentions are good. This begs the question; if GamerGate is out to destroy women in the industry, and they apparently have the power to hack, ‘dox,’ and destroy, why wouldn’t they simply continually shut down charities like TFYC, rather than donate tens of thousands of dollars?
More recently, an e-mail from Scottrade suggests that they have removed their advertisements from Polygon. More importantly, the Escapist has diverged from the rest of the gaming mainstream in actually apologizing and taking action.
The question arises, "but are these sources reliable? Do they have merit, enough to report?" The answer becomes muddled. Were I running a media outlet, I'd be hesitant. I'd ask, "do the Fine Young Capitalists have an axe to grind? Does this GamerGate supporter, posting this email?"
But the media can't ask those questions in good faith anymore. They lowered the bar the moment they reported on the 'leaked' IRC chatlogs. If you source Zoe Quinn, a directly invested party who you know has an axe to grind, or a level of reputation to gain or lose, you then lose the ability the decide not to release the previous developments and sources without completely sacrificing your integrity. If you, like the article linked, do so without first doing your own research about the validity of those claims, you’re displaying a lack of journalistic integrity and concern with fact-checking. You are, at that point, a glorified Tumblr reblogging service.
These aren't evil 4chan boogeymen spreading nasty rumors. It's a bunch of feminists and a marketing guy from Scottrade. It’s the Escapist, finally speaking out and apologizing for the mistakes they’ve made in reporting issues.
So if you're demanding to know where the corruption is, look no further than the double standard of coverage regarding GamerGate. Look no further than the utter, almost universal refusal to report developments that even suggest anything but the following:
- That Zoe Quinn is solely a victim who has never supported or participated in any form of wrongdoing;
- That GamerGate is anything other than a tiny, hateful group focused on the teardown of feminism in general and women in the industry specifically;
- That this tiny group is meaningless and has effected no changes in any site or journalist, has no support among such, and has otherwise made no impact.
The hubris and lack of integrity it requires to create that narrative, and to sustain it against any and all developments, questions, or scrutiny, is staggering.
The general media surrounding this case have placed GamerGate between a rock and a hard place: spread more concrete sources of Zoe Quinn's unprofessional behavior and 'confirm' their misogynist bias by 'blaming the victim' or 'continuing their hate campaign,' or do nothing, and be labeled as misogynist and hateful anyway, as newcomers base their assumptions and reports upon the existing foundation of one-sided articles. By refusing to update on the situation and leaving their current statement on articles to be left as-is, two things occur:
- Civilian newcomers to the issue search for articles on ‘GamerGate’ and are presented overwhelmingly with the negative, one-sided discussion of the movement as inherently and wholly misogynistic.
- Bloggers, amateur journalists, and even professional news sites rely on previous articles for context. Any newcomers in this regard have almost no pro-GamerGate articles to research, reference, or link to in any capacity.
What’s the best way to maintain control of the press being released about something? Do nothing. Let the same articles circulate and go viral, until outraged bloggers and journalists unwilling to delve into the raw research on their own are required to cite you.
Let’s make no mistake, however. For all my support of GamerGate’s current goals, my frustration with the uninformed attitudes of many opponents, and my anger at the lack of media update overall, the initial reaction of what would become GamerGate is to blame for this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. The visceral, hateful reactions to the initial controversies surrounding Zoe Quinn and the roots of GamerGate were the exact ammunition needed by those who want the whole thing to go away by dismissing it as a hate-campaign and leaving it there.
If GamerGate is to gain legitimacy, it needs to break its silence regarding Zoe Quinn’s harassment and establish its goals, its disapproval of continued harassment, and the nebulous/anonymous nature of the movement that prevents it from guaranteeing that none of its supporters will continue with the latter. The subconscious anti-GamerGate assumption that there’s some kind of bizarre central command post controlling all aspects of the movement need to be calmly and rationally debunked. While many will argue against any acknowledgement of Zoe Quinn in any capacity, an ability to recognize and apologize for the mistakes made by your side is exactly the mentality GamerGate purportedly supports, and offering a hand of apology is an example of practicing what you preach, in this case.
If some hateful GamerGate supporters on Twitter cast a poor light on the movement, tweets and messages from journalists like the one above only cast some of the movement’s concerns into sharper relief. When one of the key purposes of GamerGate is to voice concerns over the perceived arrogance of writers, examples like this and many others should make you wonder why those accusations are then dismissed offhandedly.
One of the most popular replies I’ve witnessed is that these aren’t ‘traditional journalists.’ They’re ‘bloggers,’ ‘opinion writers,’ or just ‘writing for a website, not a paper.’ There could be a great debate about whether many of these gaming news sites employ ‘freelance writers’ or ‘bloggers’ or ‘journalists,’ especially considering this year’s court decision regarding the issue. The problem with debating whether these writers are ‘journalists’ or not is that it’s irrelevant.
It’s not a question of ‘journalistic integrity’ specifically. It’s a question of integrity, period.
What many of these writers don’t seem to understand is that their position is one of responsibility, not raw power. Booming statements about how “i AM game journalism” or the previously quoted are childish and denote an attitude of privilege and power over others. These kinds of statements imply an attitude of a parent-child relationship, or more aptly, a superior-subordinate one. It is a marked difference from what GamerGate hopes to see; an approach of mutual passion for gaming. Journalists, bloggers, or whatever you would call yourselves; you are (or were) looked up to because we believed you cared about the games more than your title. Your position is one of considerable responsibility and should be approached with humility, not arrogance and pride. The implication that GamerGate is having no effect is untrue, and it’s possible their own site traffic is suffering for their continued attitude and silence.
Conclusions and Wrap-Up
So what messages do I want to end with, here?
To those that support GamerGate currently, keep going. If you truly believe that you’re fighting the good fight for a just cause, keep going. Keep your head above the hatred and harassment from both sides. Do your best to control your own frustrations, and encourage reasonable discourse. You’ve had an effect and made some headway.
To journalists, writers, bloggers. Come back. Please, come back. Break ranks, break silence. I know there are more than a few of you who share some concerns or who have something to say about this whole thing. Some of you already have. For those who are opposed, or uncertain, please, keep an open mind. If we’ve grown to distrust you, help begin the healing. If we question your focus on a passion for gaming; show it to us, reassure us. We don’t want to destroy gaming journalism, we’re concerned with it’s current path. Reflect, research. Many might not welcome you back with open arms, but some will. Many of us might not forget, but we’re willing to forgive.
To those opposed, neutral, undecided, I ask this. Has anything I said here concerned you? Were you unaware of any of the information I provided, the implications made? There’s much more to be read and seen, and I encourage you to research it. If the omission of this information from the mainstream upsets you, or you in any way agree that the treatment of the movement or the attitude of journalists has been inappropriate, perhaps you’re not as opposed or neutral as you thought.
This is a climate of change, and change is scary as hell. A trench of resentment has been dug between the ill-defined sides, and neither side can cross it unless people are reaching out from both ends.