The Gamergate Moment

This is the moment from the whole Gamergate catastrophe that resonates the most for me. It has to do with Lord of the Flies.

Way back on August 29, Vice writer Mike Pearl published "This Guy's Embarrassing Relationship Drama Is Killing the 'Gamer' Identity," about E*** G**** and everything else that had happened to that point. I won't link it. Mostly it's just another death-of-gamers mimeograph, but Pearl was one of the better writers to try his hand at it, and he came up with this analogy:

"You know the very end of The Lord of the Flies? When that British Navy guy is standing there, looking at the boys screaming and chasing each other, and he scolds them for their bad behavior, and they all look at each other like, Jesus, we killed someone, and the book is just over? That’s the world of video games right now."

I get it. The gamers and trolls are the boys, the island is the unreal and antisocial world of video games, and people like him and the other journalists are the British officers, come to look in on the carnage and wag their fingers.

I read Lord of the Flies in eighth grade, and the way it was taught then, we were told that the book showed how in the absence of a stable, established society, humans regress into brutal savages. In ninth grade, one of the best teachers I ever had, Mr. Parkman, pointed out to me that that was all bullshit. Look, he told me, the officer shows up on a goddamn warship in the middle of a *nuclear war*, presumably just having killed hundreds if not thousands. Whatever happened on the island was peanuts next to the apocalyptic war that's been going on offstage for the whole novel. Yet the officer feels justified in shaming the boys?

Not quite. The officer announces "Fun and games," on first seeing the boys, and then refers to The Coral Island, a kids adventure novel that inspired Lord of the Flies. In The Coral Island, the evil is on the island and the boys are intrinsically good. So the British officer is saying, "Damn, this island really did a number on these poor boys. Time to get them back to civilization." He's full of shit. Humanity is rotten from the inside. Golding hated The Coral Island.

Don't take my word for it. SparkNotes says the same thing: "Ironically, though, this 'civilized' officer is himself part of an adult world in which violence and war go hand in hand with civilization and social order. He reacts to the savage children with disgust, yet this disgust is tinged with hypocrisy."

Those who *do* look down their noses at the boys on the island haven't looked enough at the world around them--or at themselves. The world made those kids that way. Whatever happened on the island was burnt into them long before they got there, by the world the officers had created. But the officers have to go on pretending they're more civilized than these brutish boys, because they have the patina of British respectability and civilization to cover up their own far greater violence.

I tweeted to Pearl saying that I thought he’d misunderstood the ending. He didn’t reply. The next week I wrote my "Death of the Gaming Press" article. The Lord of the Flies analogy was pretty accurate after all.

Thanks, Mr. Parkman. You were an awesome teacher.

"...He reacts to the savage children with disgust, yet this disgust is tinged with hypocrisy..."

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