GamerGate reached its zenith long before I began writing in earnest. I was fortunate to not be a direct target due to the lack of any public profile. Even so, it was obvious to me that it was not a movement with any clear or coherent claims about “ethics in games journalism” so much as it was directionless rage at the existence of anyone not cis, heterosexual, white, able-bodied, and/or a man, particularly in gaming spaces. Despite this, I was, at the time, surprised to learn that the movement and its posterboys had actual apologists claiming arguments as asinine as “you not being a doormat is why Nazis exist.” The title of this post was supposed to be a parody of centrists… I didn’t expect them to be so disconnected that they’d actually make that argument.
This was before I noticed the utter moral vacuity that is political centrism, and if I’m honest, seeing otherwise respected pundits bat for these sadistic, nihilistic shitheels would be the first of many steps damaging my enthusiasm for representative politics altogether. It would also be the start of my descent into the rabbit hole where I found out that every atrocious crime against humanity in history has its defenders.
Of course, to this day, mentioning GamerGate inevitably results in trolls flooding my Twitter feed and getting caught in my comments filter (I daren’t publish such filth). To this day they are stalking every mention of their movement. I wasn’t even a concerted target of their harassment and I figured out, like three years ago, what was really motivating them. Then “news” of alt-right posterboy Milo Yiannopoulos’ connections with white supremacists broke out and all these centrist pundits have the fucking chutzpah to act surprised.
GamerGate wasn’t new, it was an escalation and formal marshaling of longstanding forces (one can’t even say they were dormant, just disorganized). Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon saw the terroristic power of GamerGaters’ rage against something as simple as a gay videogame character, and it’s no wonder they set about trying to harness it for ever more consequential ends. What’s gobsmacking about Bernstein’s report is that it took incontrovertible proof that Yiannopoulos did things like use Nazi-themed passwords for his emails, and literally sent one of his most famous articles to actual neo-Nazis for line edits, for some people to go “oh, maybe we should’ve listened” (never mind that evidence of Yiannopoulos’ history of Nazi sympathy has been out there for a long time).
More grating still are people who actually worked with Yiannopoulos because they saw him as useful to their “anti-PC” crusade, now trying to cover their asses. There was a furious alacrity to Cathy Young publishing an article at Forward that pretends to be a mea culpa, at once saying she “take[s] full responsibility” for “enabling” Yiannopoulos, and then trying to find a way to blame her “PC Police” bugbear for him as well. “If people who gave Yiannopoulos a pass on bad behavior (myself included) were his enablers,” she wrote, “so was the politically correct culture that fueled his ascent.”
If everyone is to blame, then no one is. Which, one suspects, is rather the point of her writing this.
If you think you won’t pull out your hair, watch the shameless attempts at damage control by the pundits who profited off calling GamerGate targets hysterical.