A question for the Moderates... what do you see GamerGate as having achieved?
Honest question! I know there are lots of well-meaning GamerGate supporters out there. I've talked with several of you, and some of you have been incredibly respectful and reasonable during those interactions. Others much less so, but let's ignore them for now. I just want to talk to YOU. You, the cool rational people. You've been personable and gracious despite our disagreement, and I want to repay that in kind.
I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt. From what I can gather from our collective conversations, you guys are completely not on board with the harassment and abuse and awful stuff that's gone down. You aren't even here to talk about Zoe or Anita. For you, GamerGate isn't about that stuff at all. You support GamerGate's STATED purpose: exposing corruption in the game industry and press, defending the "gamer" label against unfair negative stereotypes, and reminding the industry that the core gamer audience matters. You've been very insistent to me and other critics of the movement that the harassment unpleasantness "isn't what GamerGate is about", and you are frustrated that so many of us attribute it to you.
So ok. Let's roll with that.
Let's set the whole Harassment Mess aside for the moment and take stock of the current situation. For the purposes of this response, I'm going to buy in completely. Let's take it as given that GamerGate is a 100% well-intentioned movement with positive change as its singular aim, and all the awful people doing the harassing are doing so independently.
Ok. With that in mind, I would like to ask YOU, the true representative of GamerGate, a question:
What do you see GamerGate as having achieved over the last two months? What good do you feel it has accomplished?
I'm going to be honest: from the outside, despite your noblest intentions, it seems like the movement has achieved very little tangible progress toward it's stated objectives. In fact, the whole thing appears to be a DISASTROUS failure.
The efforts to root out corruption have been unfocused, and yielded few positive results. Your most noticeable victory was convincing Intel and Adobe to pull ads from a couple game sites (and, even then, it's questionable exactly how making a site succumb to ad client pressure by altering their content qualifies as promoting "journalistic integrity").
And the PR battle to defend the "Gamer" label has gone HORRIBLY. Gamers are getting more negative press right now than I've seen in years, and “GamerGat”e is the name everyone has attached to the problem (fairly or not).
On top of that, the increase in (unaffiliated) harassment that has coincided with the rise of GamerGate has created an environment of incredible FEAR. People are terrified to speak out for fear of being targeted, threatened or harassed. Multiple women in and around the industry who have spoken out against GamerGate have been threatened with rape and murder and driven from their homes. I know YOU aren't responsible for those threats. You are 100% against the harassment that's happening. But that's the reality of where things are now. In fact, regardless of intent, I’d say that this FEAR is the single most tangible result of the last two months.
You have to admit: GamerGate the Well-Intentioned Movement isn't going very well.
And here's the thing: even when you are supporting a movement that GENUINELY has the best of intentions, if that movement's activity results in two straight months of damage, that's when it's time to STOP.
Not to stop caring about the goals you value, no, but time to stop the train, regroup, assess the situation and ask "What's going wrong here?"
Now, maybe you don't see GamerGate as having caused any damage. Maybe you find it incredibly unfair that everyone is pinning the harassment on GamerGate and, by extension, you. After all, you don't endorse the actions of those jerks harassing people. They aren't with you (or at least, you aren't with them). Unfortunately, fair or not, right now GamerGate is becoming synonymous with "harassment and misogyny" to a significant number of people inside and outside the gaming community. And as long as GamerGate has that enormous PR problem, it's going to have an incredibly hard time winning additional support or gaining any momentum.
Your instinct might be to blame the opponents of GamerGate (and the press at large) for mislabeling you so, but those people aren't really reacting to YOU. They're reacting to THEM: the harassers, the people who continue to hound Quinn, and threaten Sarkeesian and Wu. The assholes threatening rape and mass murder. THEM.
THEY are your biggest problem right now. Because, while you may be fighting to distance yourself from them, they sure aren't trying to distance themselves from you. And they are DESTROYING you guys' credibility, because they keep tagging along with you and attacking your opponents. In fact, THEY are all your opponents can see anymore.
This Chainsaw Suit comic adequately sums up how GamerGate appears to its critics right now. http://chainsawsuit.com/comic/2014/10/15/the-perfect-crime/
And here's the crappy reality: your critics have GOOD REASON to be wary. They may not have reason to fear YOU, because you aren't harassing people. But if they speak out against YOU, they risk getting hit by THEM. Because THEY have a suspicious tendency to hit people who criticize YOU. They've done it multiple times.
You can say it's not fair to make the conversation all about what THEY are doing when they aren't WITH you, but ultimately, they're still standing back there behind you with the gun, controlling the whole conversation. And, because they seem to keep standing WITH you, even if it's completely against your will, your opponents consider you to be allies.
The Felicia Day ordeal is actually a perfect example. She wrote a post about how she's been scared to speak out about the GamerGate situation. She feared for her safety and privacy, and she HATED that she felt afraid of her own community. So she finally spoke out, in a very heartfelt fashion. She criticized the GamerGate movement and made a call for empathy. And, half an hour later, she was doxxed. By THEM.
I KNOW you don't endorse it and are probably just as outraged as everyone else about it, but at this point, it doesn't even matter. All the public sees is that - when a person speaks loudly against GamerGate (especially if they're a woman) - SOMEONE hits back.
You say you don't want them there, that they don't represent you. And you know what? I BELIEVE YOU. But it doesn't matter, because they're still standing right there, with or without your permission. And, given GamerGate's lack of structure or leadership, you have no effective way of controlling OR disavowing them. That's the problem with the mob approach: when there's no official leader to look to, the loudest voice in the crowd is the one that gets paid attention to. You are only as good as you are collectively perceived from the outside. And THEY, the assholes, have achieved a LOT hiding behind the GamerGate label, far more than the Well-Intentioned GamerGate you represent.
It's gotten so bad that the majority of GamerGate activity at this point appears to be damage control. Passionate pleas to not disregard GamerGate at large over the actions of an independent few. Insistence that GamerGate is NOT about harassment or affiliated with harassers. PR projects like donation drives, and genuine efforts to track down the harassers yourselves. In fact, it's reached a point where it appears (from the outside) that GamerGate's singular goal is to defend itself from accusations of harassment and misogyny rather than the pursuit of your ACTUAL goals.
If you're having to spend more than half your time in damage control mode, then things don't look good for the movement at large. If the best you can say about the movement's value right now is that it has donated money to abuse victims and tracked down a few of the abusers (neither of which have anything to do with GamerGate's stated purpose), then I submit that the battle is already lost.
I guess that's my ultimate point. This is why I'm addressing you, the GamerGate Moderate, because I know you absolutely wish no ill to the people that have been harassed or hurt on either side over the last couple months. Because I believe you have the best of intentions, even if I don't agree with the particulars of your platform. Because I can empathize with your frustration, even if I don't necessarily share it. I am addressing you because I think that, even on its own terms, GamerGate as a movement is utterly FAILING to achieve your goals. Because, in two whole months of campaigning, so little has been gained, and SO MUCH has been lost.
If you really want to help improve game journalism while preserving this community as a place where EVERYONE is welcome and NO ONE feels afraid, I submit that the GamerGate movement is not helping you to achieve that. And, at this point, I don’t think it’s ever going to.