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Looking Back on GamerGate: Part Two

Previously we looked at the lead up to GamerGate in Part One of my look back on how this all got started, for Part Two, we will be looking at the development of gamergate via media.

Back when all this started, the first footage I remember seeing was a BBC interview with Quinn and she did her best to make GamerGate about harassment of women and so forth, including telling the story that she had a folder on her computer detailing the women who had left the industry. The interviewer asked her a couple of questions which I found of interest, in which he rightfully addressed that there were many women who supported the movement and that as a result of the movement there were people who were arguing that the gaming media was being looked at in a new perspective. Quinn remarked that first one made her feel sadness and shame and likened it to feelings she had as a teenager and the second she strongly disagreed with and that didn't surprise me, given the treatment she had received from them.

Later I would see something I was quite infuriated with; MSNBC reports on Gamergate. To me, “One Sided” could be no better way to describe this style of reporting and if this is what a lot of the media deems “fair coverage” then I feel we are in dark times indeed. The segments have usually featured either one of their own staff and a writer called Eric Johnson as one talking head and another person who was usually against the consumer revolt. Only once, someone had a chance to speak on behalf of the consumer revolt, and that was Christina Hoff Sommers.

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Following this media tread, I ended up seeing one MSNBC report that featured one of their own reporters and Matt Binder, a staff member of The Majority report and a self-described internet comedian, neither of which had anything to do with Gamergate itself. After that, one featured Eric Johnson and Brianna Wu, with Wu going on to make many false and sensational claims against the consumer revolt, such as how the consumer revolt had gone after people like Jenn Frank, Samantha Allen and Mattie Brice. Now at this point I was going to start my criticism of the segments above but then it occurred to me that someone else already had, the YouTuber Sargon of Akkad. His two videos about these segments, named The Emperor Has no Clothes and The Lie Heard Around the World took the segments and tore them to shreds, I passionately suggest that you watch these videos as he really does do a great job with them. Sometime after this, a segment featured Eric Johnson once again(nobody else available?) and the self proclaimed megaphone, Leigh Alexander, who spent a lot of the time attempting to take the moral high ground on her views, still defending Quinn and attacking Gamergate at the same time. (editors not: This is quite contradictory to her current stance as seen below)

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Now we see leaders of controversy enter the stage: Anita Sarkeesian, someone who was not involved in GamerGate but chose to involve herself via some inflammatory tweets she made along with her writing partner Johnathan (full) McIntosh. She had nothing worthy to say on GamerGate itself, the talk was mostly about her cancelling of a speaking event due to the threat of a massacre if she appeared and her criticism of the local police for not doing enough, even though in the end, no credible threat was ever identified, but for her it was more time on air. At this point I should mention I’m not going to talk about Sarkeesian too much, fellow staff writer, Stefan Santen did a wonderful job in his article on her and I recommend you read it, but with that said the one thing that still does bug me about Sarkeesian was her appearance on the Colbert Report. For those who don’t know, Stephen Colbert has always come at his guests with questions that can be considered aggressive and perhaps harsh while his criticisms is harsher and he has rarely, if at all gone soft on them. With Sarkeesian it was noted by many that he had taken a softer touch and certainly mocked GamerGate in the process, but it was noticed by just as many that when Sarkeesian was asked to name three games which supported her arguments, she just barely managed to name Grand Theft Auto. I would have left that there, but after the show was aired rumors began to spread that not only implied that a lot had been cut out, but also that Sarkeesian had apparently been asked at first if games caused violence and she replied “no”. She was then apparently asked how they can cause sexism….

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Apparently she was unable to answer the question. When I heard this, I had trouble with it because it was simply a rumor and there would be no possible way of proving it, so I forgot about it. Then I saw a video by another prominent Youtuber, Thunderf00t, about it. He is one of Sarkeesian’s strongest critics who was mysteriously banned from Twitter earlier in the year despite no apparent reason to do so. He had seen the footage and had also heard the rumor which he had been quite skeptical about as well, until he had realized that the interview was put on YouTube with the comments section turned off, it has been the only time it has happened with Colbert’s videos and people were surprised by this and that rumor suddenly had a lot more weight to it. But that hasn’t stopped people showing their disapproval at the interview, at the time of writing this the Youtube video currently has 7417 likes and 19287 dislikes.

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The Huffpost Live show came next and this would be where things got interesting, as it held, what to me, would be some very good and constructive debates on GamerGate and I give Ricky Camilleri full respect for the way he went about it. The first segment featured Brianna Wu (again), Fredrick Brennan (owner of 8chan) and Erik Kain (believed by many to be one of the best game journalists out there) as guests. The most constructive of the three guests was Kain with regards to what he said regarding how the consumer revolt started, describing it as the boiling over point after years of dissatisfaction with the games media and when later addressing sexism, pointing out that sexists can be found in ANY industry, not just games. Criminally though, he was not given much to speak as it seemed to become a slugging match between Wu, who had repeated parts of what she said on MSNBC, and Brennan, who showed quite a superior intelligence and had no trouble taking verbal swings back at Wu. The show ended up focusing more on them then the subject at hand. The segment finished with some parting shots between the two and Camilleri was not happy about it, but he was keeping an eye on Twitter throughout and as he read people’s reactions to what they were seeing he must have made a realization that one voice had been left out of the debate and what happened next will be for many, if not all of GamerGate to be one of its finest moments. The consumer revolt finally got a chance to defend itself.

Onto the second HuffPost segment came Jenni Bharaj (gamer, Youtuber, GamerGate supporter), Jemma Morgan (gamer, GamerGate supporter) and Georgina Young (staff writer at Gamesided) and to call it a lively debate would be doing it a disservice as both Bharaj and Morgan passionately defended the movement and the attacks leveled against it whilst Young came at the subject from a neutral perspective, recounting her experiences with both the pro and the anti GamerGate, pointing out in particular that any hostility she had encountered had come from the anti side. Morgan addressed the issue of calling the movement sexist and misogynistic and pointed out that it was being used as an easy way to deflect the concerns the movement had as well as Bharaj, who went a step further and called out the gaming websites by name that had helped spark this scenario. Camilleri himself got a bit flustered at times but again I cannot fault him for the way he hosted the segment as again he managed to both ask questions and keep an eye on Twitter comments as the show was happening, but the highlight belonged to Bharaj who took the “Listen and Believe” quote coined by Sarkeesian and essentially threw it back at the anti-side with added venom. After the show had ended, Twitter was on fire and praise for the ladies’ performance was coming in from all angles, Adam Baldwin and Christina Sommers were two of hundreds of voices who praised them and the YouTube video of the show is the highest viewed of the three shows at the time of writing this, almost at 59000 views.

The next and last show that Camilleri would host would focus on the pros and cons of the consumer revolt and if it was being treated fairly in the media. Young returned for this show and was joined by Jesse Singal (senior editor at NYMag.com) and Alexander Fitzpatrick (homepage director of Time) and it was much more critical in nature. It fairly pointed out that sections of the consumer revolt have not represented it well and have been quite hostile at times to people with what they deemed a critical approach. Camilleri himself told of his experience of going into a GamerGate exclusive Google Hangout and talking with people in there for about forty minutes, even though he disagreed with a lot of their points the discussion was very positive. The only negative point of the whole segment was when Fitzpatrick talked about Sarkeesian having to cancel her school talk after the threats and he made the connection to Gamergate, but Young was quick to address that and say it was unfair to do so without proof.

I had thought that the coverage might have ended there but along came David Pakman Show, an independent media show that is hosted on YouTube and would provide a very unbiased and critical look at the whole issue. The shows are well made and equally well hosted, Pakman’s style of questioning is best described as subtly aggressive but respectful all the same. His first guest regarding GamerGate would be Brianna Wu(shocker). At this point I wondered if I was not the only one who saw this repetition but this show proved to be quite different, mainly thanks to Pakman and his previously mentioned style of questioning. Wu started off the interview by making some very false statements about the consumer revolt, claiming it had been going on for at least two years and had originally gone after Anita Sarkeesian and Samantha Allen and had caused the latter to be bullied out of the industry, then shifting on to why she herself had been the target of harassment. Pakman asked her the responsible question of what proof did she have that the threats had come from GamerGate and Wu led him along the events of the harassment up until the more specific threats were issued, but her answer seemed to only imply that the timing mattered in this and Pakman again pressed her on this and Wu appeared to be getting slightly hostile in her responses. Pakman pressed on with another matter that had annoyed most people and that was Wu’s choice to publicise the threatening tweets against her, as he pointed out that when he had been threatened and had gone to the police he had been advised not to talk about them or publicise them. Wu’s response again showed hostility as she didn’t take kindly to him using the word “publicise” and her answer was that she had shown the threats in an attempt to stand up the threats and bullying that were apparent, as well of her criticism of the industry publications who had stayed silent on the issues, such as Giant Bomb and IGN. When Pakman asked her if a small group of people could possibly be responsible for the threats as opposed to GamerGate on the whole, she quickly dismissed that notion and continued with her answer. However it was towards the end of the interview that things took a darker turn when Pakman asked about the failed interview Wu was supposed to have done with Milo Yiannopoulos and Wu accused Milo of lying about her. When Pakman brought up the topic of some of questions that he was going to ask her Wu’s reaction took a much more hostile tone as she accused Pakman of attempting to do a “hit piece” on her and he was quite taken aback by it. After Wu had finished addressing his question regarding Yiannopoulos, Pakman told her quite bluntly that he had no horse in the race and that he was simply trying to not only be fair but to get a clear picture of what was going on.

The next show sure enough featured Yiannopoulos himself as a follow up to some of the answers Wu had given previously as well as to talk about his own stance on the many issues at hand. Milo had no trouble admitting that he was sympathetic to the movement and pointed out that some of the claims made against the movement by people like Quinn and Wu certainly warranted looking at such as Quinn’s claims that she had stabbed and killed someone and that Wu had had a restraining order filed against her in the past, as well as the many manufactured claims against the movement when he felt it had made some headway in its journey. The interview then shifted onto its main topic which was the claims Wu had made against him and Milo had wasted no time in responding to them, explaining that he had felt she had been ignoring him, his producer and his staff whilst still communicating regularly, tweeting whilst ignoring their DM’s, emailing people whilst ignoring their emails to her after she had received the questions from him that he was to ask her. When addressing the questions he was to ask her, which Pakman had a copy of, Yiannopoulos stated his claim that she cancelled her appearance on his show when she realised it was not going to be a platform for her to use and that she would be facing questions from a journalist and not give her an easy ride. I found that answer to have some weight to it as when I had seen her other interviews, especially on MSNBC, the questions had been very soft in nature and she had no trouble in answering, possibly down to a perceived mental state at the time. Yiannopoulos certainly showed his annoyance towards the end of addressing the whole situation and as he pointed out he was going to leave the whole thing there until she had come on the show and lied about him, compelling him to respond as he certainly did.

The GamerGate side was once again given a chance to speak as Jenni Bharaj appeared to have a say on the show and she wasted no time in stating her case against the games media. Although Bharaj did well to put her points across is was noticeable that she was quite hesitant at times and clearly not as strong as her performance on HuffPostLive. For Pakman’s next show he played an absolute master hand and had on none other than TotalBiscuit himself, John Bain. The conversation was one of the most productive yet, talking about many of the grievances he had the gaming world and even a story of how he had been offered a free laptop for what he felt was a good review of a game. He also pointed out the problems with Metracritic and how its ratings had caused developers to loose money in the past and what steps he himself would set up a website, such as eliminating review scores which in effect would depower Metacritic in the long run and also offering proportional reviews. The interview wrapped up with Bain’s worthy opinions on how to resolve the situation with gamers against the gaming media, on how self-reflection was needed on the part of the media as well as a more pro-consumer in the future. It was a worthy and excellent interview by Pakman and was held in high regard by many in GamerGate and Bain himself spoke highly of it afterward as it had been fairly critical of all aspects involved.

Pakman would run five other interviews about Gamergate in early November and December with the likes of The Fine Young Capitalists (which was far too short), Frederick Brennan and adult film actress Mercedes Carrera(who which we also interviewed) but there were two that really stood out for very different reasons. The first was with Arthur Chu, who has been writing about “Nerd” culture and Gamergate itself. Chu had been very critical of some of Pakman’s interviews, claiming in the show that he had been giving a voice to an angry mob of people and legitimising inane conspiracy theories and he himself labelled GamerGate supporters as anonymous trolls. Chu also accused Pakman of publicly pressuring Zoe Quinn to come onto the show to address the accusations against her, which Pakman defended due to him not having direct contact with his interviewees except on Twitter and that he had indeed apologised for the approach, but Chu was not satisfied with this and continued to attack him none the less. The interview had a very hostile tone through out and Chu did not come across very well, almost seeming to find fault in most choices Pakman had made and seemed to never be satisfied with any explanations Pakman had to offer and it did not end pleasantly.

The second interview that stood out for me was with Liana Kerzner, a video game writer who gave a very constructive view on the whole situation. Pointing out that one of the reasons Gamergate kicked off was that besides “those articles” was that the gamer’s confidence in the gaming media had indeed been lost and they were now been quite protective of their community. As Pakman pointed out, Kerzner was in an interesting position because she was in a position where she agreed with points from both sides of the arguments of the pro and anti GamerGate movements. Kerzner recounted some of the things that had been either written or said about her after she had voiced her opinions over the few months passed, such as a negative response she had received from Yiannopoulos after criticizing how he had handled the GameJournoPros story and two very unfair and one sided hit pieces on The RalphRetort which caused her some pain and grief. Constructive views were offered on what she described as reviewers getting “swag” at conventions and how easy it was to spot new comers based on how they would brag about how much they would get at these conventions. Her insights into the industry were a worthy interview and certainly much more constructive then what Chu had had to offer on the whole.

People reflected this keenly, also pointing out with great delight some of the props she had in the background, Master Yoda watched over her, he did….

(Be sure to check out Part Three)

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Husband, Father, Life Long Gamer.