Tobold's Blog
Monday, October 13, 2014
Winning a culture war

I consider myself a neutral observer in the culture war commonly known under the name Gamergate. I believe that both sides use lies, propaganda, and other means of interaction that I personally find unacceptable. But anybody looking from the outside at any war is wondering who is "winning". In a culture war it is usually two rather small groups who are fighting for the attention and positive opinion of the mainstream, and this one isn't any different. It doesn't matter very much how much the culture warriors on each side agree with each other, because there is usually a lot of self-delusion going on within such groups. It matters more how the people who aren't in either group see the culture war.

The Boston Globe is a newspaper founded in 1872. Due to the lack of video games in 1872 it would be hard to accuse the Boston Globe to be a video game publication. One could say that it is leaning slightly left-ward, but in general it would be very much considered a mainstream newspaper rather than "communist" or "SJW". So if I read articles like this one in the Boston Globe, I believe that this is what the main-stream press sees and thinks.

Now I have no opinion on how it came to pass that the police is investigating death threats made against female video game developer Brianna Wu. I'm sure that some people believe those threats were fabricated, or that at least making such threats against outspoken women in gaming "isn't what Gamergate is about". But I do know how this looks. Gamergate might not *be* a movement whose whole purpose it is to discourage women in gaming, but it sure *looks* like one in the mainstream press.

We can all agree that only talking about the persecution of women in gaming is an extremely one-sided and narrow view of this culture war. But the problem is that the other side isn't represented in mainstream media. There is no article on Fox News about Gamergate, explaining the problems of video game journalism ethics or about pushing left-wing agendas in video games. The "harassment of women" theme is present in every single mainstream reporting of Gamergate, even in those that defend the movement.

Some people actually believe that this unbalanced presentation of the issue is due to a huge world-wide conspiracy. If find that extremely unlikely. There are tons of mainstream newspapers that have a conservative view of the world. Why would those be controllable by a conspiracy of "social justice warriors"? So somewhere something in the strategy of Gamergate isn't working. If you want to win "hearts and minds", you can't win if your opponent gets all the good press in mainstream news outlets, while the people defending your side do so on Twitter, YouTube, and niche blogs where the message is only seen by the people who already agree with it.

I believe that the Gamergate movement needs to think very carefully what their message should be and how they could get it into the mainstream. Sorry, "I feel insulted by left-wing misrepresentation of gamers", while very true and understandable, isn't going to get you an article in a mainstream newspaper. What is Gamergate really about, and how can you formulate a mission statement that isn't easily dismissed as a first-world problem of privileged, misogynistic, white males? If you don't have a response to that, it will be impossible to win this culture war. 

Reading your analysis it looks like it's almost sure that the entire things is fabricated, either to provide free advertising or to decredibilize a specific part of the participants..... I don't think that the reality is that extreme, but I would not be surprised to find quite a bit of instrumentalization and media manipulation on both sides. The mainstream media covering only a part of the facts comes probably from the fact that they cover the part they can understand best, since the rest it's much more "industry-specific".
The mainstream media covering only a part of the facts comes probably from the fact that they cover the part they can understand best, since the rest it's much more "industry-specific".

I see at least two Gamergate concerns which aren't too industry-specific to be discussed in mainstream news outlets:

1) Attempted censorship of video game content.

2) Attempted manipulation of video game reviews.

It is because you can replace "video game" with "movie" or "book" in the phrases above that these themes are understandable by the mainstream. Society has come to an understanding regarding movies and books where we say that free speech is the more important value than political correctness. We accept that there is porn and violence in books and movies, so why shouldn't we accept them in video games?

And if we read movie or book reviews, we wouldn't want them to be "paid promotions", we wouldn't want our movie and book critics to be too dependent from publishers, or having undisclosed financial or personal links.

These are good, mainstream-ready messages. And it is a shame that they are somewhat lost in the heat of battle.
Well, right-wing organs such as Breitbart and The Spectator have in fact run articles, so maybe Fox will catch up. But that said, the Gamergate side was always going to take a pounding as outrage-based media cannot resist an article about someone "forced to leave their home by evil Hackers".

However, I don't think this is necessarily the arena in which the battle (it's only a small part of a long war) will be concluded. A few posts ago, Tobold, you suggested that 'Gamergaters' had blundered by causing more people to read the 'Gamers are Over' article.

But that's not a problem IMO, because that article doesn't speak to 90% of the world. The other side doesn't gain and may even lose from more people seeing it! What Alexander and her pals want is to control the agenda in a small pool in which they can easily scream down any opposition. In my view, taking this away from them would count as a win for 'Gamergaters'.

As for whoever has sent threats to various parties on both sides, I hope the FBI catch some or all of them.
I don't think there is any kind of conspiracy among the media, they just cover what sells advertising best and what they relate to. Honest investigative journalism really does feel like a nearly dead forum. You can go to practically any major news site, and read the most popular articles, then go to another major site and read almost the exact same thing. They all draw their stories from the same pool and then alter the text enough to not be a copyright issue before publishing it.

I very much believe that any and all death threats should be investigated by law enforcement. If we had the manpower and capability I'd even press for investigation of any reported online harassment. As it is though most law enforcement services will laugh you out of the lobby if you show up to file a complaint about pretty much anything online related.
The problem of the "gamers" is that they don't have a positive message. They rally against some people, but not for something. They don't have a declared goal "we want X" that people could identify with, just "we don't want Y", which isn't really attractive even if you don't like Y either.

My two cents: gamergate is a reactionary response to the mainstreaming of gaming.

Nerds have their domains; game cons, video games, MMOs. When they sense they are losing control of their domains, some of them react by trying to drive the interlopers away and reestablish dominance. Like when people get upset about women coming to the cons in skimpy outfits. Why would you be upset by that? You think frat guys get mad when girls show up in skimpy outfits?

This plays right into the interlopers hands in the end, because the bullying, lies, and hyperventilation makes the reactionaries look like, well, reactionary assholes. At the end of the day the mainstream doesn't give a crap about video game journalism at all, much less whether somebody banged her way into a good review. In the real world people sleep their way up the ladder all the time. It's a minor scandal at best.

Point being when you view it as just a giant bile dump it makes a lot of really tedious sense. It will burn out and life will go on.

Gevlon's right; they don't have a positive message per se. Shouting "free speech!" and "independent reviews!" will get you little more than a few eyerolls and "tempest in a teapot" comments from the general populace.

The gamergate fight is also coming up at a bad time for the gamergaters, in that there are other things blowing up that dovetail nicely with the representation side of things. When viewed in context surrounding the NFL domestic violence issue and the gay marriage issue, the Anita Sarkeesian side has more sympathy.

Attempted censorship of video game content and attempted manipulation of video game reviews may be topics that everyone can understand, but not topics regular people are very interested in. Even people who play games themselves might believe that those problems do not concern them as long as there are enough playable games.

And even though censorship is something that is relevant to everyone, even the mainstream media have long since noticed, that nerds like to throw that specific noun into pretty much every discussion whether it fits or not.

Murder threats and police investigations on the other hand are always newsworthy.
1) Attempted censorship of video game content.
2) Attempted manipulation of video game reviews.

Simply the fact that it contains "video game" makes it non-mainstream. Video games may be mainstream in the economic sense of the term, but culturally they are still very much niche. A simple test: take some older friends, non-players of video games, and ask them about movie censorship today and video game censorship next week and see the difference in the answers.

My two cents: gamergate is a reactionary response to the mainstreaming of gaming.

I've read some blogger making a big deal of it, but I don't believe this for a second. Japanese animation has/is undergoing the same phenomenon, but I don't see anime fans behaving as the gamers. It's just becoming "normal" and that's it. I don't see why video games should be any different.
I play a lot of games, I think that independent journalism is very important in general, and I'm a big fan of free speech even if you're saying unpleasant things... I'm even commenting on a video gaming blog here... so if they've lost me, that's not a good sign.

To my mind, the problem is twofold. First, as you say, there's no constructive "we should do X" (beyond "we should be objective", which is meaningless). Second, some percentage of #gamersgate are apparently utterly horrible people who're doing terrible things.

I'm prepared to believe that it's a small minority who're the monsters. But they so dominate the perception that we're reaching the point where aligning with #gamersgate is sort of like saying "but the KKK has some really good points, if you ignore the racism". It could even be true (I confess: I didn't investigate the KKK's social policies before writing that), but you're not getting converts that way.
What I dont understand about this whole "gamergate" debacle is the "who is who" in regards to the initial voices behind this thing? Surely the tweets and 4chan postings have been counted/data mined to establish who, or how many people were involved with beginning this..??

I am 100% behind the notion that game journalism should become mainstream and adopt credible press ethics and professionalism standards, but I really could give a care about who supposedly slept with who, or the supposed ulterior motives behind it.

The industry just needs to grow up and realize that every single other medium, whether it be books, movies or what have you, ALL have their own little clicks and groups driving things behind the scenes, but what the gaming industry fails to realize is that word of mouth and niche marketing methods caters to a very specific and targetted demographic. Gamers also have to grow up and realize that not every game is going to be targetted at them, and not get so butt-hurt in the process.

Gamergate doesnt even qualify to be considered a culture war. It's far from it.
The thing with GG is that a lot of the participants are so paranoid that they'd rather believe there is a massive conspiracy against them than that a lot of gamers don't like parts of 'gamer culture' because it is toxic.

If it was genuinely just about the journalism, no one would disagree.

Well, they'll have to deal. The world is changing and grown ups don't have to deal with that shit. That's why the grown up media is largely against it, they columns are telling you what people outside GG think. So either listen, or go back to the conspiracy box.

It also isn't a war. No matter how much any internet warrior wants to play at being a jihadist.
It probably doesn't help that Gamergate is basically rudderless and appears to be driven by people who won't put their name out there. From my perspective as a gamer outside the event I can say that I have suddenly learned who Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu and others are (already heard about Anita). I have seen two sides: one with names and faces that the other side, with no names and faces, seems hell-bent on shaming/punishing. When confronted about their attacks this other side presents incredibly biased perspectives, doctored-up screen shots full of sensational and extremely biased perspective, and still no names/faces or.....much more importantly....victims. When you can't stand up and present yourself, then outsiders have to look in and figure out who you are from your behavior....and the Gamergater behavior is aggressive, shame-focused, deceptive and so overwhelmingly creepy that I actually don't even know what the opposition's stance is, beyond "we have to keep calling cops because people send us death threats."

TL;DR: The gamergate people need a lesson in good PR tactics.
The New York Times only competition for most influential newspaper in the USA is the Wall Street Journal and today's article was

"Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign"

The article did have Baldwin distancing Gamergate from death threats, but the headline at first glance seems to have feminist critics on one side and the other side being gamergate death threats.

From my considerable distance, it sure looks like the gamergate side, to the extent complex issues can be said to have two sides, is on the wrong side of history and losing.
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