Matt Lees had an article published on the Guardian on December 1st, 2016 titled “What Gamergate Should Have Taught Us About The ‘Alt-Right’”. It’s a generic hit-piece filled with easily disprovable lies, defamation and misinformation. Lees also manages to unethically skip over disclosing ties to the subjects he discusses in the piece.
Lees manages to name-drop Leigh Alexander and link to her piece about the death of gamers in his article. He’s actually business partners with Leigh Alexander’s husband, Quintin Smith, for whom they share a Patreon account and conduct a podcast with each other, as pointed out in a Kotaku In Action thread, which was originally picked up by content creator Mundane Matt.
Matt Lees wrote an article about GamerGate again…his business partner Quentin Smith is married to Leigh Alexander. Its 2014 all over again
— Matt Jarbo (@mundanematt) December 1, 2016
While it’s not an overtly gross ethical breach, it’s something you would think he would inform his readers about, given that #GamerGate is about ethics in journalism.
Nevertheless, the first bit that has been debunked and disproven with many facts over and over again happens near the top of the article, where Lees writes…
“[GamerGate’s] most notable achievement was harassing a large number of progressive figures – mostly women – to the point where they felt unsafe or considered leaving the industry.”
He has links to various other articles – mostly hearsay from Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu – to backup his statements. The particular quote above has no link, so it’s literally just conjecture.
Worse yet is that #GamerGate was never a harassment campaign according to various survey reports and statistical analysis, the most notable one being the peer reviewed report from WAM!, as reported by TechRaptor.
Even when Lees does decide to link to some fact to back up his point, he misrepresents it — such as showing the Newsweek statistic as evidence of harassment, when in fact the graph in the Newsweek article literally shows more than 92% of the tweets they measured from #Gamergate were neutral, with the other percentage divided between being either positive or negative. There’s a more detailed analysis of the stats in a piece on Medium.
In fact, no journalist has been able to actually point out where or when #GamerGate was used as a harassment campaign. The evidence doesn’t exist. Even Zoe Quinn’s own Crash Override Network couldn’t find any evidence that #GamerGate ever harassed Anita Sarkeesian.
More to the point, #GamerGate’s greatest achievements came in the form of getting various media websites to reform their ethical policies and for the FTC to update their endorsement standards regarding disclosures and affiliate links for video game reviews and Let’s Play videos. You could say, they achieved better ethics in journalism.
That’s not to mention that according to Max Read, the former executive editor from Gawker, #GamerGate’s greatest achievement was costing Gawker seven figures in revenue, forfeiting them from being able to get a loan to stave off bankruptcy during the Hulk Hogan trial, which ultimately led to the downfall of the main Gawker website and allowed Univision to take over the company.
Lees either decided not to do any research or felt his career was worth tanking on pushing such an easily disprovable lie about #GamerGate. His only citation for a #GamerGate victory in ethical reformation was pointing to Polygon’s paltry update regarding disclosing writers having ties to crowd-funded projects, but he ignored Destructoid, The Escapist, VideoGamer, VG 24/7, Eurogamer, Kotaku, The Verge and IGN also addressing the ethical concerns raised by #GamerGate.
If you look through Lees’ citations for harassment and rape/death threats, they all point back to other articles on the Guardian or similar interviews relying on the words of Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu. All three have been proven to have misled and misinformed the general public on multiple occasions. Just recently a veteran game developer debunked a lot of the misinformation Anita Sarkeesian has spread through the Feminist Frequency videos that has led to censorship and enforced policing of video game content under false pretenses.
Brianna Wu’s claim to #GamerGate fame came from a series of death/rape threats sent from someone using the handle Chatter Whiteman. There’s no indication that this individual had any connection to #GamerGate and after posting the death/rape threats the account was quickly deleted. Nevertheless, this one-off event was used to springboard Wu into the spotlight as an alleged victim of #GamerGate.
Zoe Quinn, the co-founder of Crash Override Network, was also discovered to have lied about what actually transpired during the Polaris Game Jam. Where leaked chat logs from the Crash Override Network Skype group revealed that Quinn admitted to purposefully sabotaging the Game Jam to see it tank.
Essentially, the only evidence of harassment and threats Lees can provide is from people have been discredited on multiple occasions due to lying and utilizing public platforms for their own private gain.
Lees has no actual examples of #GamerGate harassment but hinges the entire article on the topic while trying to tie it into Donald Trump and the Alt-Right. To compensate, he continually refers to the movement as a group of anonymous males or young men, making blanket statements to erase the identity of women, minorities and those in the LGBTQ community. Nick Monroe, an infrequent contributor to One Angry Gamer, pointed out how Lees didn’t mind erasing the identity of women who supported #GamerGate to push his own agenda.
— Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) December 1, 2016
Lees even tries to say that Sarkeesian was a target, even though Anita Sarkeesian was the one who brought herself into #GamerGate, claiming she was a target. There was never any threats sent her way during that period from #Gamergate. The only series of threats she received was from an egg account that had nothing to do with #GamerGate.
Lees tries using the cooked up GameJournoPros’ conspiracy that #GamerGate was some 4chan monstrosity cooked up in anonymous sub-culture. He points to the “leaked’ chat logs of a public 4chan chatroom where – just before getting kicked and banned out of the room – someone mentioned about wanting to hack Zoe Quinn. It turns out that the selected chat logs were part of a 4,000 line public chat discussion, which was dumped in full and available for everyone to see, as reported by The Escapist. The hashtag itself didn’t come into fruition until actor Adam Baldwin made it so after watching a viral video from The Internet Aristocrat.
Lees disingenuously leaps from one flimsy talking point to the other, ignoring reality and facts along the way, even going so far as to write…
“[…] it has never been possible to write openly about Gamergate without attracting a wave of online abuse.”
As an anecdote, I’ve never received or attracted abuse for writing about #GamerGate, whether it was at Cinema Blend or One Angry Gamer. The only people who seem to regularly attract what Lees labels as “online abuse” are those who continue to push easily disprovable lies. And in this way, Lees affirms the self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing out the same kind of propaganda and misinformation that made #GamerGate such a massive force back in 2014.
Lees dishonestly proclaims that there was no clear goals and that attempts to find common ground (through media censorship and bleated pleas to force people to “abandon the hashtag”) were never enough, writing…
“It was constantly demanded that we debate the issues, but explanations and facts were treated with scorn. Attempts to find common ground saw the specifics of the demands being shifted: we want you to listen to us; we want you to change your ways; we want you to close your publication down.”
There was never actually common ground reached because journalists didn’t want it. In fact, Matt Lees himself told MCV in an article published on October 1st, 2014 that “I don’t see any point in negotiating” when it came to #GamerGate. Thus Lees betrays his own statements about finding common ground by admitting he wasn’t willing to negotiate or discuss the matter back when it first blew up.
What’s more is that #GamerGate supporters put up their own money to fly journalists out to the SPJ Airplay event in Miami, Floriday back during the summer of 2015. The only thing gamers received for their efforts – in an attempt to have a civil discussion about ethics in journalism – were bomb threats, as reported by Forbes.
The better question is where was Matt Lees during the SPJ Airplay and why didn’t he choose to be a part of the discussion if he intended to discuss ethics in a fair manner? The goals and discussions were always clearly defined: better ethics via disclosures. There’s even a video cut together by LeoPirate that clearly outlines what gamers wanted discussed at the SPJ Airplay event.
Lees even goes so far as to contradict the very reality that slapped gamers in the face during 2014 that kicked #GamerGate into high-gear, where he writes…
“Gamergate painted critics as censors, the far-right movement claims critics are the real racists.”
Rock, Paper, Shotgun is a censor. Heck there’s literally an infographic showing the media’s role in censoring people from even discussing the early days of #GamerGate before it was known as #GamerGate. And let’s not forget that Ben Kuchera from Polygon literally implored former editor-in-chief at The Escapist, Greg Tito, to censor and shutdown the #GamerGate discussion board on The Escapist forums, which is chronicled on the Deep Freeze entry for the GameJournoPros.
It’s clear that Matt Lees was taking one desperate attempt to further smear anyone who doesn’t align with his political views, abandoning all hope at honest discussion by cherry-picking falsehoods and completely ignoring all the facts. It’s a shame that the Guardian would taint their brand under blatantly obvious fake news.
(Main image courtesy of Alejandro Argandona)