Last week, I challenged Anita Sarkeesian, host of Feminist Frequency and bête noire of GamerGate, to a debate. I said I would give $5,000 to a charity of her choice if she accepted. Today, thanks to a generous anonymous benefactor, I am increasing that offer to $10,000.
Some people will find the idea of conditional charity distasteful. But it is my hope that Sarkeesian, who has to my knowledge never once agreed to a public debate or taken audience questions about her wild and offensive views on video games, will be motivated by this offer to join me in a live panel discussion some time in June, in Los Angeles, shortly before or after the E3 gaming convention.
Sarkeesian’s ideas are controversial, and extremely unpopular. And gamers have reacted angrily to her depictions of them as hateful bigots. This ABC news report featuring Sarkeesian has 48,000 down-votes on YouTube (97 per cent negative) and some 15,000, mostly negative, comments. It was at one point the eighty-fifth most disliked YouTube video ever.
Although Sarkeesian recently made the TIME 100, this was not by popular demand. 80 per cent of voters in TIME’s online poll did not believe she merited a place on the list. There is, it seems, a gigantic sentiment gap between media elites and everyone else.
There’s also a feeling among gamers and many video games industry figures that Sarkeesian is reluctant to step outside hermetically sealed environments and engage in the battle of ideas. No one seems quite sure why, but they’ve noticed a pattern of dodging when it comes to engaging in intellectual discourse, as opposed to preaching from distant pulpits.
ABC’s online video is exceptional in that commenting has been permitted at all: when Sarkeesian appeared on the Colbert Report, she struck a deal with the show to have comments turned off any online copy of the video. It’s the only Colbert YouTube clip to have comments disabled. On Sarkeesian’s own YouTube channel, no comments are allowed anywhere and haven’t been since long before GamerGate started.
Given the damage I believe has been done to the video games industry by Sarkeesian’s flawed and divisive philosophies, I think consumers, developers and publishers alike deserve the opportunity to hear her defend her thesis, that video games contribute to a damaging atmosphere of misogyny and that they “reinforce systems of power and privilege and oppression.”
They also deserve to hear her justify claims that gaming is saturated with misogyny outside the safe confines of friendly television segments and her own glossy YouTube clips. I believe GamerGate has been a powerful force for good, despite some rough edges. If the case against GamerGate is so self-evident, it should be able to withstand challenge. It ought to be easy for Sarkeesian to conclusively demonstrate that it is an irredeemable hate movement with no ideological objectives beyond the subjugation of women.
My own views on this subject, and my opinion of Sarkeesian’s slippery methods, are clear and, by now, well-known. I would like the chance to challenge her thinking in a live environment and explain why I believe her criticisms of gaming and game culture are without merit and belong to an outmoded and discredited era of academia. I would like to show how her prescriptions for video games are unnecessary, trivial and even counter-productive to her stated aims.
Sarkeesian may choose the date, venue and the moderator. I will agree to any reasonable security and format demands, including pre-screening of audience members, provided each speaker is given equal time, each answers the same number of questions and each has the same time allotted for brief opening and closing statements.
I have a couple of conditions. The debate will last at least an hour, and must be streamed live. No subject is off-limits. Questions must be taken by each speaker from members of the audience and from each other: there should be plenty of time for cross-examination. Questions should not be shared ahead of time. No earpieces, and no long prepared statements. Admittance is free. (I’ll cover the cost of the venue and security, if need be.) And that’s really it.
“What I couldn’t say,” remarked Sarkeesian at a women’s conference in March, about the harassment she says she has faced as a consequence of her provocative and extreme opinions, “was f–k you.” Well, here’s your chance. I can take invective just as well as I can dish it out, so bring your A-game. If you think you are a victim of hateful, oppressive bullying, and not merely a professional provocateur crying foul, why not make your case to the world?
Say it to our faces, Anita. There’s $10,000 on the line for any charity you choose.
Follow Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) on Twitter.