SXSW Caves To Pressure, Announces ‘Harassment Summit’

Shelby Drummond/Flickr
Shelby Drummond/Flickr

Digital media festival South By Southwest (SXSW) has caved to media pressure following their decision to cave to online threats last week.

Two panels were cancelled last week: one on gaming culture and integrity in games media, and another on “harassment in games.” The latter panel, entitled “Level Up,” was strongly supported by progressive journalists and social justice activists.

The former panel, entitled “Save Point” and organised by the Open Gaming Society, was attacked as “pro-GamerGate,” although they themselves made no attempt to identify with the movement.

The festival has announced an all-day summit on online harassment, featuring all the attendees of the panel “Level Up: Overcoming Harassment in Games.” They have not made an attempt to host an event that addresses the topics of the first panel.

Guests of the first panel, including adult actress Mercedes Carrera, NBC Producer and President-Elect of the Society of Professional Journalists Lynn Walsh, and games developer Perry Jones, have been invited to attend the summit on online harassment.

But the failure of SXSW to host an event on integrity in the games media means that their original panel has been de facto cancelled.

In a statement, SXSW said that “online harassment is such a problem that it requires more than two panel discussions to address.” The statement stressed that SXSW was working with both former panels to “develop the most productive focus for their appearances.”

SXSW also announced 20 further speakers to address the topic of online harassment. They included a number of familiar faces from the online “social justice” movement, including games developer Brianna Wu, who was accused of wasting official time and resources by an Ohio state prosecutor with her complaints of “online abuse” earlier this year.

SXSW’s lineup also contains a glaring ommission: Nick Robalik, the 20-year veteran of the games industy and founder of PixelMetal studios. In the days prior to the announcement, critics of GamerGate had been claiming that Robalik was a “threat to safety” at the event, which may explain his absence from the summit. SXSW has yet to comment.

Speaking to Breitbart, Robalik explained his side of the story.

Today I’ve been made aware that my name was left off the initial press release from SXSW due to misinformation they’ve received about the content of my character.

The representatives from SXSW that the Open Gaming Society have been speaking with refuse to repeat the claims. I assume this is because the event doesn’t want to be put in a position where they could be seen as liable for repeating false information.

Ultra PC language has become a strange form of self-censorship. Yes, it opens the conversation to previously disenfranchised voices, to an extent; however, it also limits free discussion. It’s unfortunate that we are not mature enough to have a rational, cool-headed discussion about this issue. Free speech is supposed to be about listening to the ideas that we aren’t comfortable with.

I find it funny that I’m being attacked as a person who doesn’t want to see diversity and inclusivity in games, yet I’m making a game with a significantly more diverse cast of characters than any of the other panelists and pundits ever have.

The decision to remove Robalik, based on unsubstantiated and undocumented claims of online harassment carry the whiff of a double standard. SXSW has not disinvited Randi Harper, a notorious social media troll whose track record of vicious online abuse and character assassination campaigns is well documented.

Mercedes Carrera, an adult film actress and free speech activist who was scheduled to speak on the cancelled panel alongside Robalik, told Breitbart she was “furious” at SXSW’s decision. “If they want to have a ‘harassment’ summit they may, but to exclude Nick Robalik from it for no clear reason shows that the intention is disingenuous.” Carrera also expressed her frustration at SXSW for pulling an “unrelated” panel into an event about harassment.

Nevertheless, Carrera told her followers on social media that she would not pull out of the new SXSW event, promising that her presence would “upset the SJW totalitarians.”

Perry Jones, founder of the Open Gaming Society and organiser of the original panel featuring Carrera and Robalik, told Breitbart that his panel had been about “much more” than online harassment, and that he was “working with SXSW to make sure that the topics still cover the concerns of gamers.”

Perry added that the Open Gaming Society would “not allow the voices of the people we claim to represent to be suppressed.”

Breitbart Tech has reached out to SXSW for comment.

Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter, and download Milo Alert! for Android to be kept up to date on his latest articles.

Breitbart Tech is a new vertical from Breitbart News covering tech, gaming and internet culture. Bookmark and follow @BreitbartTech on Twitter and Facebook.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.