Just one side

Soraya Nadia McDonald at the Washington Post reports on the threatening of Anita Sarkeesian.

As escalating threats of death and rape marked Sarkeesian’s tenure as a video game vlogger, she’s been adamant about not allowing them to silence her.

The Utah State threat is just the latest one in the ongoing saga of Gamergate, an increasingly nasty culture war between video-game critics like Sarkeesian and a mob of gamers.

I really wish she hadn’t put it that way. It’s not true. Sarkeesian isn’t “increasingly nasty” and she isn’t engaging in any kind of war. It’s not a war, it’s a terror campaign. It’s not “both sides,” it’s one side. Talking about trope in video games is not waging war, it’s not nasty, it’s not threatening, it’s not doing anything wrong.

There aren’t two sides here. It’s not always the case that there are two (comparable) sides.

Typically, Sarkeesian does not back out of events because of threats — last month, someone threatened to bomb the Game Developers Choice Awards if they honored Sarkeesian. They proceeded anyway, under caution — and Tuesday night she clarified her reasoning for canceling the event at Utah State.

This instance was different because of Utah’s concealed carry law: Anyone in the state, including college students, can carry a concealed weapon as long as they have a permit for the gun.

“To be clear: I didn’t cancel my USU talk because of terrorist threats,” she tweeted. “I canceled because I didn’t feel the security measures were adequate.”

According to university spokesman Tim Vitale, the university formulated a security plan when they knew Sarkeesian was coming, prior to her arrival. “We were going to not allow bags in at all,” Vitale said. Once the threat was sent, “We added officers, both uniform and undercover, and we were going to empty the room and sweep the room [for bombs].”

However, the university didn’t plan to use metal detectors or institute a temporary gun ban restricted to the confines of the lecture space. Utah State is a publicly-funded university.

When Sarkeesian arrived in Utah, campus police Capt. Steve Milne “explained by state law if someone has a legal concealed carry permit, that they were allowed by law to have that,” Vitale said. “In the end, it caused her to decide to cancel the event.”

Of course it did. When your hosts tell you they won’t be screening for guns or taking guns away if they find them, then it makes sense to decide not to go.

And so the bullies get what they want.

The Gamergate crowd responded to news stories reporting Sarkeesian alerted authorities with accusations that she was fabricating threats to serve herself and her message. She wasn’t, and law enforcement confirmed they were investigating the threats against Sarkeesian, which prompted the involvement of the FBI.

Wu was also accused of making up the threats against her, which has become a tactic to discredit the very women who are being targeted.

“I am a professional developer,” Wu told Kotaku. “The quickest way I could think of to end my career and destroy my credibility would be making something like this up and getting arrested for filing a false police report.”

But it doesn’t cost the bullies anything to make those accusations, just as it doesn’t cost them anything to make threats.


  1. quixote says

    Why is it taking the authorities so farking long to find the actual people behind the criminal threats against Sarkeesian?

    1) Electronic surveillance gets so much data they can’t find anything in all that mess.

    2) They’re incompetent.

    3) They don’t really care. It’s not like we’re talking about real people, like airline passengers or something.

    Or I guess it could be any combination. The choices aren’t mutually exclusive.

  2. Fortesque says

    I don’t get how the NSA is doing everything they can to collect all the information they can about everything anyone ever does online, but we can’t find and prosecute these chucklefucks making death threats (AKA domestic terrorism).

  3. Athywren says

    @doublereed, 2

    “So farking long”? It’s been like a day.

    It’s been like a day… for this threat. It’s been like several months for many of the others.

  4. Kevin Kehres says

    I really do wonder when the authorities will take concrete action in the form of arresting someone for making terroristic threats — which is a crime under the Patriot Act. If this doesn’t qualify, I don’t know what does. In fact, it’s right there, in black-and-white. Threats made to kill or injure another person are illegal under the Patriot Act.

    What this situation needs is a very public “perp walk”.

  5. says

    Remember it took the FBI almost a year to crack lulzsec (partly because they had to catch and turn one of the players, then collect evidence and thoroughly entrap the other players)

    The question is whether they are taking it seriously. Media attention helps; the FBI goes where the bright lights are shining.

  6. freemage says

    There’s a minor quibble with wording:

    Of course it did. When your hosts tell you they won’t be screening for guns or taking guns away if they find them, then it makes sense to decide not to go.

    The university really does have no choice under the astoundingly stupid Utah concealed carry law. So I’d say it’s less “they won’t be … taking guns away,” as, “are prevented from taking guns away”. (“Won’t” has always implied a bit of an active decision, at least in it’s more casual connotation, hence the common retort, “Can’t or won’t?” when someone says they can’t do something.)

  7. says

    @freemage There is always civil disobedience. A university acting to protect a speaker by making the lecture space secure is just the kind of thing an institute of higher learning ought to engage in. Do you think the government would arrest the chancellor (or whoever) for reacting to a terrorist threat with common sense precautions? Even if they did, I doubt a prosecution would make it very far.

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