Back in late 2014 #GamerGate kicked off on social media because of all the rampant corruption happening within video game journalism (much of that said corruption has been cataloged over on DeepFreeze.it). Little did gamers know that these issues have been rampant in mainstream journalism as well. This very thing was highlighted when multiple major publications put out articles based on a troll-style Reddit post centered around the movie Ghostbusters.
Kotaku In Action, the sub-Reddit for #GamerGate, put together a quick image showing that multiple outlets published stories based on a post made by a Reddit user named Better_Butter321. The post was originally published on July 10th, 2016 and was seemingly a call-to-arms against the positive reviews of Sony’s 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. The post was titled…
“Ok, so obviously the reviews aren’t as bad as we had hoped. So what more can we do at this point to make sure that the public knows it’s terrible so that it bombs?”
Multiple sites quickly jumped on this after managing editor at Death and Taxes, Maggie Serota, sent out a tweet on July 10th highlighting the post. Serota has since deleted the tweet, but The Sydney Morning Herald managed to capture the original tweet before it was deleted. An image is below.
Serota’s message managed more than 700 retweets and was then picked up by established outlets like Yahoo!, Metro and Glamour, amongst many others like The Mary Sue and AV Club, as highlighted and archived by Reddit user Spiritual Successors.
What’s more is that the BBC also published a piece pointing to the Reddit thread, along with Ben Wilson from GamesRadar. However, the two of them decided to make some last minute edits after it was revealed that the whole thing was a troll attempt.
It turns out that user Better_Butter321 they had been shilling for Ghostbusters for quite some time, and that the thread they made attempting to rally people against the movie was like a reverse-marketing move to drum up interest. You can see a quick image of Better_butter321’s post history below, courtesy of Spiritual Successors.
User NixonForBreadsident pointed out how much the post looked like astroturfing, writing…
“Hijacking top comment to point out: Better_Butter321 has been shilling this terrible Ghostbusters reboot for over a month. They post non-stop about how “great” it is and how anyone who doesn’t want to see it is a misogynist (because apparently “the graphics, jokes and script looks terrible” is misogyny).
“Suddenly they’re posting an Anti-Ghostbusters thread?
“And WITHIN SECONDS, with NO REPLIES, a journalist called Ashley Lynch happens to screengrab it and post it on her Twitter as “proof” that it’s somehow a conspiracy of people “hiding good reviews” that early audiences are absolutely panning it as terrible?”
After that comment was made by NixonForBreadsident, along with others pointing out that the entire thread was likely a false flag attempt to give journalists ammo to call people “misogynists” and “sexists”, user Better_Butter321 quickly deleted their account and their entire post history.
The thread itself was downvoted into oblivion and even at this moment has 0 upvotes.
However, the damage was already done. Multiple websites had fired first without asking or even investigating beyond the Reddit thread’s headline.
The Sydney Morning Herald managed to capture an evenhanded take on the story, but the BBC and sites like GamesRadar had centered their stories around the troll post, only to have it pointed out to them after the fact that it was a troll post. So what did they do?
Delete… delete… delete.
The articles themselves are still up but the references to the troll post on Reddit have been removed, as indicated in the image above.
The original BBC article was published on July 11th, 2016. The updated article, with the archive captured on July 18th, 2016, shows that the references, quote and images linking to the Reddit post have been removed.
GamesRadar was a lot more egregious in their changes, completely wiping out the entire context of the story after it was revealed that they had based their story on a troll post. The original story went up on July 11th, 2016 which you can check out below in the image.
The updated story was archived on July 18th, 2016, and as pointed out in the Kotaku in Action thread, the author of the article has been changed from “Ben Wilson” to “GamesRadar Staff”. The image below shows that the core of the article has been gutted.
Thankfully, the internet never forgets.
The misleading stories from the above publications would give people the impression that there’s this organized, rampant culture of misogyny at work in the gaming, tech and nerd culture aimed at taking down properties like Ghostbusters. This narrative has been going strong since 2014 and hasn’t let up since. The only thing is that this time around the major publications got caught with their pants down, just as much as they also got caught trying to pull their pants back up.
And for those wondering, this is why #GamerGate became such a deal back in 2014; given that media publications have been repeatedly caught engaged in some form of corruption, but have opted to misdirect attention or place the blame elsewhere to avoid being accountable for their poor practices.