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GamerGate and Misandry: GamerGate Reacts to a Kind of Toxic Feminism

GamerGate and Misandry: GamerGate Reacts to a Kind of Toxic Feminism

From Cathy Young, writing at SpliceToday:

If you’re like many people, you’ve been doing your best to know as little as possible about GamerGate, the hashtag movement that is either—depending on who you ask—a consumer revolt against corruption in videogame media or a harassment campaign targeting women in the videogame world. Who wants to get embroiled in a two-month Internet drama over videogames? But this story is not nearly as frivolous as it might seem. One reason it won’t die is that it’s a battlefield in a larger culture war over issues ranging from gender politics to media bias to social libertarianism versus left-wing moralism.

In the last couple of weeks, the GamerGate story has become front-page news after highly publicized threats to two feminist critics of the videogame industry and gaming culture, media analyst Anita Sarkeesian and game designer Brianna Wu. While there is no evidence connecting these threats to any individuals involved in GamerGate, media coverage has heavily implied such a linkage. Newsweek published an analysis of tweets in the #GamerGate hashtag concluding that it is indeed an anti-female harassment campaign; blogger J.W. Caine responded with a counter-analysis arguing that the vast majority of the tweets the Newsweek reported counted as “harassment” were actually neutral mentions of women who were prominent in the controversy.

The full story of GamerGate is so convoluted it could probably fill a book by now. I’ve done some fact-checking in two previous articles for RealClearPolitics and Reason (and the Know Your Meme website has a fairly detailed chronicle).  While the various charges and countercharges are incredibly difficult to sort out, there are several ways in which the media narrative has been egregiously skewed.

Only a few journalists in the national media, such as Slate’s David Auerbach, have acknowledged that serious harassment, including threats and “doxxing”—posting a person’s private information online—have happened on both sides of GamerGate. Meanwhile, uncorroborated claims by Sarkeesian and Wu that the threats against them are connected to GamerGate have been uncritically repeated. In fact, there are persistent rumors, backed up with screenshots and chat room records, that at least some of the harassment and threats come from trolls who go after both sides to stir things up, because that’s what trolls do. To some extent, journalists have been reluctant to look into these claims because they don’t want to be targeted, but blaming the threats on GamerGate is also convenient. Meanwhile, GamerGaters’ efforts to stop and report harassment have been only rarely acknowledged. (When GamerGate members claimed to have found the man who had sent threats to Sarkeesian, anti-GamerGate blogger David Futrelle responded by accusing them of harboring some of Sarkeesian’s harassers in their midst—citing as his example a netizen known as “thunderf00t,” who has done little more than to engage in sharp criticism of Sarkeesian’s work.)

The online dust-up that eventually grew into GamerGate—a controversy surrounding feminist independent game developer Zoe Quinn—has been reduced to a misogynist attack on Quinn by a vindictive ex-boyfriend who publicized her sexual foibles and by Internet bottom-feeders who falsely accused her of trading sex for positive game reviews. In fact, as I showed inmy first GamerGate piece, the Quinn controversy was a grab-bag of many issues, including Quinn’s own alleged (and fairly well-documented) attacks on another feminist videogame project.

Read the rest of the story at SpliceToday.

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