On /gamergatehq/, /ggrevolt/, and Divide and Conquer
As at least a few people are aware, this Twitter account belongs to the owner of the 8chan #GamerGate hub, /gamergatehq/. My name is Acid Man.
The last few weeks have been a turbulent time for #GG. We've overseen the successful launch of the biggest operation in #GG history, Project DeepFreeze at http://www.deepfreeze.it and also we have the upcoming SPJ Airplay event where a cavalcade of big name #GG supporters will be interviewed by the Society of Professional Journalists. Both of these are huge events for #GG's Ethics front, much as our support of the #Shirtstorm and Sad Puppies campaigns were major events on our anti-SJW front in months past.
But this time around, we've seen the differences in priorities between our Ethics and anti-SJW sides pushed to a head, and for the first time a fracture has appeared in the 8chan #GG community.
Almost since /gamergatehq/ was created, we've had to contend with a small community of disaffected posters. When the competitor board for the new hub, /gg/, fell off the topbar we ended up with a population of users who 1: Didn't like the stricter, more purpose-oriented moderation on GGHQ, and 2: Had lost their home board. To add to the tension, many of those users blamed #2 directly on #1, evincing a belief that GGHQ had engaged in some hostile act or acts to drive their home board into the gutter where it otherwise would have flourished. When a poll was taken early on, the board users returned a high majority who were satisfied with the board and the rules, with the dissenters making up about 8% of the userbase.
Due to their dislike of our moderation style (and dislike of the board owner, i.e. me) a number of these users who immigrated to our board felt the need to chastise the staff at every opportunity. For months practically every moderation action was met with loud scrutiny on the board, and followed by post after post and thread after thread of complaint from this same disaffected minority. Trying to funnel the resulting drama into threads designated for it and locking or deleting spammed topics was decried as "censorship" and served to drive even more complaints from the same subgroup.
After DeepFreeze launched, there was a noticeable uptick in the tempo of complaints, as well as a couple new memes that formed. The idea began to be circulated that the board majority and staff were "ONLY about ethics" (untrue, and even the board rules explicitly said so) and the term "ethics cucks" was coined as a label for these mostly-imaginary board users. While there is a very small minority of users that believe that #GamerGate is a fight for ethics and ethics only, the anti-SJW, anti-political correctness aspect also enjoys wide support both on the board and within #GG at large. The problem as board staff has always been the question of how to prevent the sort of general, SJW-related gossip that naturally comes up in huge volumes from a conflict as big as GG from drowning out the rest of the board. When a Hollywood celeb throws in with the SJW crowd on a matter totally unrelated to gaming, does that really warrant a separate thread that will push a thread for a #GG operation or research project off the front page? Does letting it do that actually accomplish anything?
Gossip and banter are fun, and both drive lots and lots of posts from those interested in it. But gossip rarely evolves into concrete happenings or actionable information. It rarely results in planning or action to do anything about whatever issue it involves. Its idle chitchat. Or as we say in *chan language, "shitposting." Shitposting as a concept is something integral to chansites, but the fact of the matter is that shitposting about SJWs can, and does, appear on a board in such frequency, and in such volume, that it fills up the board catalog and actually blocks exposure of many good and actionable threads. Digging and research and #GG operations threads on the old #GG hub boards would frequently be pushed down and knocked out of sight by the flood of SJW gossip. Thus when GGHQ was created, the board rules were tailored in a way designed to keep that from happening again. Which brings us back to the disaffected posters mentioned above.
After days of both obnoxious complaints and sincere pleas alike, the staff began to relax the rules on /gamergatehq/ at my instruction. Shitposting and SJW gossip threads began ticking up on the board as the rules were relaxed more and more. Even as this happened, any action by the board moderators to keep a metaphorical lid on this pot of now-boiling spaghetti were met with very loud, harsh resentment. This began a cycle wherein the staff was both deluged in requests to get rid of the rules, and publically shamed on the board for attempts to enforce any remaining ones. Ironically the more the rules were relaxed, the louder the complaints about remaining rules grew and more horrendous and widespread were the exaggerations of staff actions.
By the time DeepFreeze launched this had reached a fever pitch, and another meme appeared, labelling anyone in favor of the board rules or staff a "rulecuck." It grew to a point where we were basically enforcing NONE of the original rules of the board, and yet whisper campaigns were running to drive posters off, claiming that people were being banned left and right for practically anything. Even just for dissenting against the mostly-fake "ethics-only" viewpoint. When someone did finally do something to warrant a ban, screencaps of their ban would be shared on bother boards with wild, out of context stories about how it happened, furthering the drama.
The final nail in the coffin came around June 5th. GGHQ's number of active users had been shrinking for a while, down from nearly 1800 at the board's inception. I had been under the assumption that this was because the board had finally filled up its number of maximum pages, which causes old threads to fall off and be deleted. Under the way 8chan's server used to work, when these threads fell off all the unique users who posted in them were removed from the count. I was unconcerned because of this belief until I was informed, and confirmed, that this tally system had been changed some time earlier, and that no, the board was actually losing users and that a significant number had vanished around the start of Summer break. The question then became why.
Certainly the Memorial Day holiday and beginning of Summer played a part. Internet traffic goes down nationwide during this same timeframe, as people are spending less time indoors and students are finishing up Finals and enjoying their vacations. But it was a sharp drop indeed for our board, and this bore investigating. When the topic was broached on the board, the response from the minority was immediate: The horrible, Nazi moderation had driven them off by the hundreds! Two and two wasn't coming up as four, however. The rules had become more and more progressively lax over the same timeframe, while the bleed of users had only accelerated.
By way of investigation I checked out the other alternative #GamerGate boards on 8chan. If the users had simply left the board then they had to have gone somewhere. Chan users aren't typically amenable to Reddit, so KotakuinAction was largely ruled out. And none of the other #GG boards had absorbed 800+ active users. The people from our board had simply vanished. The only thing true about "Nazi moderation policies" on our board was that a meme about it was being pushed. It had never happened in reality. So if that case were to be believed, then the people responsible for chasing off users were the same complainers running the whisper campaign. They had painted a picture of the site so dire and spread it so wide that anyone who believed it had packed up and left. Furthermore the board was a mess, with a catalog full of offtopic posts and SJW-related gossip, and many of the major operations and digging threads were dead. It hadn't just been any users who had left - but the productive ones that the board had been created for. The board was entering a death spiral where people who came to do #GG work couldn't, because the board was an ocean of shitposting and drama. So they left, and in many cases didn't return. Something had to give.
Thus came the purge. I brought on extra moderators to handle the inevitable spam that goes with any major rule revamp on a chan board, and engaged with the community about cleaning the place up. The majority of users who weren't contributors to the problem gave us their support, and the mods and I met in an IRC roundtable to hash out the details and new rules. Among the new bannable offenses? Lying about the board rules to deter posters, and derailing other threads with board-related drama. A couple days later the mods and I came down on the catalog and deleted six full pages of garbage. The board stickies for operations, digging, and the FAQ were axed and remade in a cleaner, more compact form. No quarter was given to spammers or shitposters who tried flooding the board with drama in response, and we handed out bans liberally for the first time in GGHQ's history, including banning a pair of notorious trolls that we had long overlooked. If the summer had brought on slower times, then a clean, usable board was that much more important for the #GamerGate supporters still doing their work there.
And thus came /ggrevolt/. A group of posters evicted from the board under the purge started a competitor board, dedicated to the types of off-topic discussion that we were trying to be rid of. They spammed 8chan sitewide for two days, counting on the drive-by responses they got to boost their user numbers and raise the board into the site's top 25, hoping that people who saw it would join and sustain it organically. And for a while, #GamerGate had two boards on 8chan.
Revolt latched hard onto the "ethics cuck" and "rulecuck" memes, and the majority of their board spent its time filled with drama about GGHQ and myself. Ironically many of their own users who tried to dissent over their course of actions were accused of being me. A few of their users tried getting research or operations threads going, but most of them dead ended after a few posts. Giving the gossip free reign over the practical had caused a concentrated version of the effect that had plagued GGHQ - their board couldn't get anything done. And at last, it began to slide down the rankings. Whereas it was poised to overtake GGHQ's #4 slot at the start, it currently ranks in at #25 and continues to fall.
Yesterday I began to consider what it has to be like to bet on a board with so much only to see it die. One thing that I have espoused since the beginning of all this is that #GG supporters are all brothers and sisters in arms. "Division and infighting serve no one but the enemy!" was a slogan from our friends at /pol/ that I once spread whenever drama reared its head on our other boards. #GamerGate houses a myriad of people of all stripes and beliefs under one VERY big tent, and, not to put too fine a point on it, unburied hatchets don't do anybody any favors. Driving a wedge in our ranks has been a goal of our opposition since the day we started, and at least as much effort is spent maintaining #GG's sense of unity as is spent on operations and digging.
Looking back on it, I can't help but wonder who the loudest, most damaging "users" who pushed these memes and created this problem from whole cloth really were. Who benefitted the most from having us divided on our home site? From having two groups of posters, albeit with different reasons but both still #GG, at each others throats?
Not #GamerGate, I can tell you that much. When I first broached the idea of making amends with revolt on our board, a pair of posters appeared very quickly, posing as revolt users. Neither had any history of posts on our board, and both piled me high with their anger and vitriol. Yet something about it didn't quite sit right with me: They were laying it on so thick that it felt more like they were trying to make me hate them. To abandon the uidea of rapproach with /ggrevolt/. "Who would want me to hate /ggrevolt/ as much as many of the users there seem to hate me? That doesn't sound like #GamerGate either."
Divide and conquer tactics rely on driving an ideological wedge into a superior opponent's ranks. It means to foment, cause, encourage, and sustain infighting until your enemy divides up into camps along ideological lines and starts failing to support each other because of harbored resentment. Then each separate camp can be engaged and defeated piecemeal, because none of them are as strong as the whole side working together.
The only thing those two "anons" did was convince me even more that this was necessary.
I want to make clear to the users of /ggrevolt/ that the staff of GGHQ doesn't bear you any ill will. To be honest I think all of us have been rused in varying degrees. Some of you genuinely believe that GGHQ is Hitler incarnate about moderation, but I think if you check yourselves a bit you'll realize that you've been TOLD that was the case far more than you've seen yourselves. Others of you were banned during the purge, which in itself was an event perhaps brought about by the actions of the same outside parties, and you yourselves were not actually participating in causing the problems on the board.
It doesn't feel right to me, as a board owner or as a person, to leave you guys stranded on a dying board because you may have been given the boot under partially manufactured pretences. I'm inviting you to come back.
The rule are staying as they are this time and thats something that all parties have to accept, but we now more explicitly welcome anti-SJW operations and research to go on in the board proper, with the same priority as videogames related issues. Gossip is still allowed, but is now contained to a single thread that allows infinite posts to cycle through it, which solves the flooded catalog problem. The rules aren't designed to chain you down, but to let all of us work together and coexist.
There's no reason that all of us can't have our cake and eat it too. #GamerGate is far from over, and even once the battle is won against the corrupt games media it will still likely continue in other forms, be it gaming as a whole, mainstream media, or running political correctness off the Internet on a rail. Or all of the above.
We don't hate you, /ggrevolt/. If you want to stand with us, come home.