A reply to Cathy Young re #Gamergate
So firstly, let me just say that Cathy has done a very good job of summarizing one particular viewpoint about the proper future of #Gamergate going forward. However, as someone who is a gamer and a journalist and has been a political consultant, I do have to say that I find her viewpoint admirable, but deeply naive. Moreover, given that the vast majority of what she wrote was in response to Tweets I wrote (though I appreciate her not singling me out by name), I'd like to take the time to respond.
1. Cathy's interpretation of what Monica Foy wrote is, in my view, excessively charitable. I have never bought the line that Sam Biddle was joking when he said "bring back bullying," and I don't buy it here. There are a couple reasons for this. Firstly, as someone who's tried his hand at comedy on and off again, I simply don't see where the humor is in either Tweet. If I were setting out to satirize the "must've done something to warrant a hanging" mindset that Cathy thinks Foy was mocking, I would be much more explicit about it than simply saying someone has "creeper eyes." If this was a joke, I hope Foy will say as much, and if she does, then I think Breitbart should acknowledge that, even if they choose not to believe the disavowal. However, I don't think she was joking for another reason, which is that social justice discourse tends to be both painfully earnest and humorless. This is the same reason I take death threats from SJWs more seriously than from trolls. Trolls are steeped in irony and SJWs aren't. Pretty simple distinction.
2. Cathy says, in response to language I posted -- verbatim -- that "to take a 'don't bite the hand that feeds you' stance is basically to accept the position of a lapdog that gets fed and owes loyalty in return." The rhetorical flourish here is nice, but no one would confuse GG with a lapdog. What the "don't bite the hand that feeds you" argument assumes is some degree of loyalty and reciprocity between GG and Milo, and arguably Breitbart as well. At the very least, I would say they owe Breitbart the benefit of a doubt in a way that they wouldn't owe, say, Gawker, simply because Breitbart gave GG the same when everyone was shitting on them. This isn't lap dogging. It's just simple reciprocity. Don't shit where you eat, and if someone's nice to you, don't turn on them unless you have a very good reason.
Cathy also says that while GG might regard Milo as an ally, Breitbart can't be assumed to be the same, and also that Breitbart publishes some imperfect articles. I think this is only true in the realm of theory, and dangerously naive in practice. Yes, Breitbart is imperfect. No journalism outlet has ever managed to be perfect. What's more, I certainly have seen my share of Breitbart articles that I disagreed with. That being said, when #Gamergate starts comparing Breitbart to Gawker, it is perfectly reasonable for Breitbart's writers and fans to be concerned that #Gamergate will start employing similar tactics on Breitbart to the ones they employed on Gawker. Those tactics are aimed squarely at destroying a publication's revenue stream. It is disingenuous in the extreme to claim that you like Milo, while putting the people who pay him at risk, especially when they'll be able to claim it's his fault that those people are paying attention to them in the first place. Attacking Milo's workplace, or his ability to remain there, is an attack on Milo's livelihood, and therefore an implicit attack on Milo. #Gamergate needs to reckon with this and decide if their distaste for Breitbart is worth forcing Milo to become a Patreon beggar. For their sake, I hope they realize how short-sighted that is.
3. I have made no secret of the fact that I agree with some anti-GGers that there are no bad tactics, only bad targets. Furthermore, I've said publicly that as long as Twitter shaming works, any movement that wants to be successful has an obligation to use it. And #Gamergate itself is quite good at Twitter shaming, given that they've drawn attention to some of the most problematic Tweets by people like Phil Fish, the developers of Sunset, Anita Sarkeesian, and Zoe Quinn. I regard this as totally fair, whatever the target, because barring protected Tweets, Twitter is a public medium. When I Tweet, I do so with the express understanding that what I say may be used against me by Gawker, Polygon, Media Matters, or any of a number of other organizations that might find me a useful target. If you're not mentally prepared for that, get off Twitter for your own sake.
Cathy also says -- again, directly to me, though not by name -- "I'm seeing people make statements along the lines of 'You don't throw your allies under the bus' and 'We have to fight dirty because it's a war and the other side does it.' As I said on Twitter, this is how movements get hijacked by their worst elements. (Also, not everyone who wants to glom onto your cause is an ally.) A culture war in which both camps fight dirty and neither camp rejects the extremists, zealots and bigots in its ranks is most likely going to have no winners, just an escalating vicious cycle of polarization and ugliness."
There is only one sentence in this that I agree with, and it's Cathy's point that "not everyone who wants to glom onto your cause is an ally." To that end, I would say that GG is within its rights to reject people who want to claim to be allies, but actually contribute nothing to the movement, or even hurt it. That is clearly not the case with Breitbart, who have done all the legwork necessary to prove the legitimacy of Gamergate's grievances. Furthermore, the article being complained about had nothing to do with Gamergate, and no one would have associated it with them if not for Kotakuinaction crying bloody murder about it.
But let's deal with Cathy's wider points. Firstly, no, loyalty is not how movements get hijacked by their worst elements. If anything, the opposite is true. Extremists generally begin by trying to purge people (the management of the Daily Worker back in the 40's is an instructive example), and by creating circular firing squads. Social Justice Warriors did exactly this to the gaming community when they tried to write the majority of the community out of existence with the "Gamers are dead" articles, and the same is true of the fight over Atheism+ in the Atheist community. Movements where politically and ideologically diverse constituencies, even the distasteful ones, have to rub elbows with each other tend to be far more disciplined in the way they approach matters, and tend to be much better at doing internal policing of their worst elements, precisely because they know they can't just purge them at the drop of a hat. When those worst elements turn on them, on the other hand, throwing them out is both necessary and valid. Bill Clinton's approach to Sister Souljah in the 90's is a good example of how you can purge an extremist because they've said something that insults not just your opponents, but also the people you're allied with or want to persuade.
Social Justice Warriors do not follow this rule. In fact, they endlessly try to purge each other, as anyone who's watched an Oppression Olympics style bitchfight between Tumblr users can attest. That is, unless they are faced by an external threat, at which point they instantly become monolithic and fight in lockstep. An organized army, even one full of people that hate each other, is always going to beat a disorganized group that wants to engage in in-fighting over ancillary issues. Cathy's "never compromise on your principles" approach sounds noble and good in theory, but it gets you killed in the realm of politics. Gamergate can't afford to be the Thomas More of the internet.
That goes double because of who their enemies are. A lot of people have expressed concern that, by adopting hardline tactics, Gamergate will sink to the level of Social Justice Warriors. Let me be quite frank: It is impossible for Gamergate to sink to that level. Whatever Gamergate might do to win, its desired end state is one where everyone abides by liberal norms. Social Justice Warriors, on the other hand, want to impose identity politics-oriented fascism, complete with speech codes, rape kangaroo courts, silencing of people on the basis of their skin color/sex/gender identity, and pervasive shaming for everyone. Bullying is not just their preferred tactic. It is how they want the world to work.
Winston Churchill once said, "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a positive reference to the Devil in the House of Commons." The logic of this should be obvious. Churchill recognized (rightly) that maintaining Britain's liberal order was worth allying with the devil. No one went to war with the Nazis just because of the tactics they used. They primarily did it because they couldn't stand the idea of living under a Nazi regime. I can't stand the thought of living under what Cathy calls the "quasi-totalitarian" Social Justice regime. And I will pay any price necessary to make sure that quasi-totalitarian ideology is defeated and sent back to the urine-soaked faculty lounge from whence it came.
4. Cathy confuses what is prudent with what is moral when she says that rejecting certain far-right allies doesn't count as appeasing the Left. Certainly, taking on allies who alienate the vast majority of people you're trying to persuade is tactically stupid. But purging people when they have done nothing to damage your cause, but happen to have made you uncomfortable because of something unrelated, is simply cowardly. There is a very troubling tendency among many Gamergaters to believe that anyone to the right of Noam Chomsky is somehow "icky" or should be held responsible for the sins of Jack Thompson. This isn't the early 2000s. Most conservatives have moved on from the stupid anti-video game craze, and the ones who are most loudly on Gamergate's side generally never bought into that craze in the first place. Refusing to accept support from people who would destroy your ability to maintain your coalition is one thing. Simple bigotry against conservatives because you don't like the idea of being on the same side as people you laughed at on the Daily Show is quite another.
5. I agree completely with Cathy re Nyberg, so I won't respond to this prong. I will, however, only say that Social Justice Warriors take no notice of the difference between "combatants" and "non-combatants," which is typical of fascists and terrorists. The only way to stop such people from targeting non-combatants is to make them afraid to do so, because they know the retaliation from you will hurt so much more than anything they could do. Mutually assured destruction requires the commitment of both sides to destruction if the other starts something, and it is why we have yet to see a nuclear war. If you want to stop people using bad tactics, the only way to do it is to make them prohibitively costly. And the only way to do that is to use the same tactics with such brutal efficiency that they cry "uncle" and agree to a ceasefire.
Tl;dr: Cathy's counsel, while well meaning, is an invitation for #Gamergate to act like Ned Stark. The only way for them to triumph is to act like Tywin Lannister.