Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

#Gamergate discussion at SPJ event disrupted by bomb scare

A perusal of those attending confirms the quasi-movement’s right-wing ethos

Sun, Aug 16, 2015, 22:25


Over the weekend I was contacted by a Twitter user and asked to comment on the news that a conversation on this Gamergate nonsense (no, it hasn’t gone away) hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in Miami had been disrupted by a bomb scare. It sounds like a worrying business. Having grown up in Belfast during the 1970s, I’ve been caught up in a few bomb scares myself and I know a chap would rather not suffer that inconvenience and worry. Happily, nobody was hurt and the attendees were free to continue whining about feminism for another day. Not being in the business of reporting bomb threats anywhere in the world, I politely declined. Later on, when I retweeted the correspondent’s own posting of my replies, I received the sort of response we have come to expect from this ludicrous non-movement. “Maybe you should comment, stop being such a cowardly ignorant little dipshit? Maybe?” it oozed. I really can’t understand why people are so unkind to these lovely people at Gamergate.

Anyway, not having thought a thing about Gamergate for about six months, I decided to have a cursory poke around the digital evidence. If you haven’t heard of the non-movement then, as I find it hard to type out this nonsense one more time, I direct you to a column I wrote and a blog post I used for further expansion. The short version is that, sometime last year, a number of video game enthusiasts began complaining about supposed corruption in gaming journalism. A few female commentators were singled out for particularly vehement vitriol. It got nastier still and then, as far as the wider public was concerned, it all faded away into specialist corners of Twitter.

It’s hard to know where to begin when adumbrating the ludicrousness of this phenomenon. It barely has any independent existence worth discussing. Gamergate is a hashtag on Twitter around which angry people gather to shout wildly at passing clouds. My first correspondent felt it significant that some very large number (I’m fairly sure it was eleventy-seven squilly-willion) of tweets had referenced the Gamergate hashtag over the past year. Given that they’re mostly talking to one another, I can’t say this impressed me overmuch.

Here’s the thing that really bugs me. Again and again, people associated with Gamergate (nobody is really in it) argue that the tribe — allegedly a consumer movement like the Campaign for Real Ale or something — is not right-wing and is not anti-feminist. It may be mere coincidence that the timelines of both correspondents contain endless complaints about feminists. I’ll admit that barely constitutes anecdotal evidence. A glance at the make-up of the panels at the SPJ event is, however, not so easy to dismiss.

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I was pointed towards a report on the session at (what else) a “conservative blog” called Hot Air. The story tells us that were three panels on the day of the bomb scare. “The event, called SPJ Airplay, was created by SPJ Region 3 director Mike Koretzky to give #GamerGate a chance to talk directly to journalists so that they might figure out a way to move the conversation forward,” C T Rec writes. He tells us about two pro-Gamergate panels. The first consisted of Ashe Schow from the Washington Examiner, Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari, and Mark Ceb from Gather Your Party. The second comprised Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, Christina Hoff Sommers from the American Enterprise Institute and Cathy Young from the Reason Foundation.

We will ponder those credentials. Breitbart is a conservative website, named for the right-wing commentator Andrew Breitbart, and Mr Yiannopoulos, a man with an admirably sharp turn of phrase, is among the spikiest of their writers. The Washington Examiner is another Conservative journal. The American Enterprise Institute is a think tank, again positioned on the centre-right. Ms Sommers is a registered Democrat and has described herself as a liberal, but the author of The War Against Boys (described as “a conservative polemic” by The Washington Post) has dedicated herself to a fight against certain current strains in feminist thinking. You can see her in action above as she outlines “five feminist myths”. Reason is a libertarian foundation whose journal has included such conservative icons as Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek among its contributors. The Foundation’s co-creator, Robert Poole, was (along with Hayek and Friedman) an inspiration to Mrs Thatcher in her early days. In short, only one of those listed on the pro-Gamergate side was not associated with a right-wing publication. Gather Your Party is a site dedicated to “honest gaming journalism”.

Let me be clear why this matters. Of course, these people are free to meet and forward their right-wing agenda. I may even agree with parts of it (you never know). The point is that, again and again, followers of the Gamergate hashtag claim that their organisation skews neither right nor left. It is not about opposition to feminism, they argue. It is purely about ethics in gaming journalism. “Unlike the rest of GamerGate, I’m happy to admit I’m a pretty conservative guy,” Mr Yiannopoulos writes. ”And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t recognise the potential of GamerGate to give the left a bloody nose.” Elsewhere he notes: “But I quickly realised this wasn’t a left-right thing at all.” Well, if it’s really not a left-right thing (and it obviously is) then the organisers of the SPJ event have done an absolutely terrible job of gathering together a representative group of “pro-Gamergate” speakers. Gamergate is, on the evidence of the organs mentioned above, a right-wing pressure group (insofar as it’s any sort of group at all). That’s a perfectly fine thing to be. Just don’t pretend it is anything else.