The Data & Society network published a report recently by Alice Marwick and Rebecca Lewis on May 15th, 2017 entitled “Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online”.
It’s one of the rare reports that focuses on #GamerGate that actually uses citations. Commonly, when we do a breakdown on an article, editorial, news piece, or feature that focuses on #GamerGate, it’s rife with claims backed by little more than conjecture and sophistry. In this rare case, Lewis and Marwick actually took time to establish citations for the claims made in their report that includes #GamerGate.
However, the report is rife with selective citations aimed at painting a very specific picture of the internet event that took gaming and the media by storm back in 2014.
For instance, the aim of the report is to depict #GamerGate as some sort of mobilized amalgamation of an internet hate machine cooked up by 4chan to fight against feminists, Social Justice Warriors, and what the report labels as “progressives”.
Regardless of their personal interpretation of #GamerGate, the cited notation for its mobilization is attributed to something that has long since been debunked (by the originators of the comments, no less). On page 10 of 106 in the report, they write…
“IRC chat logs have since revealed that a group of 4chan users strategically engineered Gamergate to foster support among a diverse array of constituents, including Men’s Rights Activists, journalists, gamers, and conservative political commentators in the service of harassment.25”
The “25” at the end is a link to the citation. If you follow the link in the end notes it will take you to the article from former Ars Technica contributor, Casey Johnson, who penned the piece back in September, 2014. Johnson was a member of the GameJournoPros, a secret e-mail group for game and tech journalists that was started by Kyle Orland. The piece was part of the media flurry of propaganda put out by the GameJournoPros in an attempt to misinform the public about #GamerGate, and paint it as a campaign about misogyny and harassment.
If you scroll to the bottom of the article there’s an update post-publishing relating to some corrections that had to be made to the article regarding its claims. Why? Because it turns out 4chan did not cook up #GamerGate. The people from those chat logs were doing what’s called “shitposting”. This was outlined and expounded upon by those who participated in the chat in the full article over on The Escapist, which was published on September 7th, 2014.
One of the posters from the 4chan chat explained to the Escapist…
“We don’t speak for GamerGate or notyourshield as a whole. It is impossible for us to do that. Each and every one of us speak only for ourselves. I’ve said some things in this chat I’m not proud of. I’ve said ‘fag’ and ‘retard’ a few times and now that I think of it, I let anonymity get the better of myself and I have to bring it back around. None of us want people like Zoe, Anita, Leigh, Jenn, Burch, Grayson et al to disappear from the industry. We don’t want to put them out of jobs or take their livelihoods from them. This is and always has been about transparency in journalism. Holding people responsible and accountable for their actions. Asking for recusal where necessary and being completely honest with the ties you have with the people and things you write about.”
The chatlogs referenced in the report are based on agenda-driven pieces. For instance, if you read the full 4chan chatlogs that weren’t cherry-picked and misconstrued on Zoe Quinn’s blog, you would find that the a lot of the content is typical 4chan banter, including organizing a CSS game of Go. For instance, they’re talking about Alec Baldwin joining the cause, even though Adam Baldwin was the one who coined #GamerGate.
Adam Baldwin, the actor, went on record multiple times explaining that he based #GamerGate on Watergate. Baldwin mentions that it was the Internet Aristocrat’s videos that got him involved in #GamerGate, and the lack of ethics in media journalism that helped spawn the hashtag. In an interview with APG Nation on September 21st, 2014, he stated….
“Well, there were a series of videos that were thrown out, I don’t even recall how they came over my Twitter feed, but there they were; and you know, I click on things… I’m a curious guy. I started watching it, and it seemed like an interesting story that the Internet Aristocrats had put out there. It was well sourced, but it had some salacious [details], which I don’t really care about.
[…] However, when it does come to collusion and conflicts of interest, it does become part of the story. Be that as it may, we all know what that is. It was really the catalyst for the rest of what was interesting to me, which is journalistic ethics. And also the corruption that was going on, which has now come to light through a series of leaks in an e-mail chain from [GameJournoPros].”
The GameJournoPros played an integral part in ballooning #GamerGate into the mainstream. Even the citation about 4chan starting #GamerGate from Lewis and Marwick points to the Ars Technica piece, which was written by a member of the GameJournoPros.
In fact, days before Johnson wrote the article, Kyle Orland, the creator of the group, had already formulated the narrative on September 6th, 2014
Orland explained in the post on the GJP that #GamerGate was nothing more than a 4chan troll job and was organized by the internet hate machine. Johnson used this angle in her piece on Ars Technica. Other sites reiterated the claim without even bothering to ask Adam Baldwin about it, save for sites like APG Nation. That’s not to mention that the topic of ethics in journalism has been an ongoing discussion in gaming since the infamous Jeff Gerstmann firing from GameSpot back in 2007 over the Kane & Lynch review.
What ends up happening is that we get misinformation spread as legitimate news. So when people read reports like the one from Marwick and Lewis, they’ll be convinced that the now-debunked citations are actually legitimate.
Moreover, well ahead of #GamerGate becoming a thing, Adam Baldwin had already mentioned about his knowledge and familiarity with Social Justice Warriors. He mentioned to Heat Street…
“For young people in the gaming community, I saw this an an opportunity to raise awareness. ‘Social justice’ and ‘social justice warrior’ was a light bulb that went off for me. If they’re throwing that around, I had read about that for years from folks like Thomas Sowell. When that bugbear reared its ugly head —I thought well, I’ll jump in and see where this goes, #Gamergate, let’s see what happens and here we are.”
Lewis and Marwick’s report also attempts to tie #GamerGate to white supremacy and Mens’ Rights Activists. They claim that it’s a form of “Retrograde populism”, writing…
“Gamergate participants asserted that feminism—and progressive causes in general—are trying to stifle free speech, one of their most cherished values.30 They are reacting to what they see as the domination of the world by global multiculturalism and the rise of popular feminism. This is a retrograde populist ideology which reacts violently to suggestions of white male privilege, is directly linked to the language of the Men’s Rights Movement, and is also present in the messaging of the alt-right.31”
Here the citations get particularly flimsy. For instance, 31 cites a paper from Banet-Weiser and Miltner titled “#MasculinitySoFragile: culture, structure, and networked misogyny”. The paper was published on December 22nd, 2015. The paper reiterates common talking points from third-wave feminists and self-proclaimed progressive ideologues about “toxic masculinity”. Their other citation is from Marwick’s own Data Society post titled “Are There Limits To Online Free Speech?”, which was published on January 5th, 2017. Marwick’s piece is about defending companies like Twitter, Reddit and other private organizations to censor content and free speech that they don’t like.
Both citations are essentially citogenesis; a confirmation bias of the talking points Marwick and Lewis are trying to get across, even using their own published articles to back up their narrative.
What they fail to mention is that #GamerGate had nothing to do with white supremacy, troll culture, or MRAs. #GamerGate, in regards to free speech, had everything to do with stifled speech in game creation and the limitations of creative freedoms that have become increasingly prevalent since sex-negative feminists like Anita Sarkeesian took hold of the industry by utilizing the media to content police developers.
For instance, Koei Tecmo avoided releasing Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 in the West due to fears of a feminist backlash. That’s considered an attack on artistic freedom of creativity.
Bandai Namco avoided releasing Summer Lesson in the West due to fears of a backlash from Social Justice Warriors. That’s a perceived attack on freedom of creativity.
Larian Studios were attacked for Divinity: Original Sin by media and feminists for having a female on the box cover with her midriff exposed. That’s an actual attack on the freedom of creativity.
Hatred was originally pulled from Steam due to complaints from SJWs for being too violent. Valve President Gabe Newell eventually restored the game after catching wind of the incident, as reported by Forbes.
Blade & Soul had missions and story content censored because the localizers adopted to third-wave feminist ideals, and felt that the game needed to be more progressive. They literally began censoring gamers on the forums when gamers began complaining about the censorship of the Western version of the game.
And of course, in those examples, some of those games are from Japanese and South Korean studios, which has nothing whatsoever to do with “white male privilege”. Additionally, Lewis and Marwick are wrong; there isn’t a “claim” about attack on the freedom of speech and creativity in the gaming industry, it is an attack on the gaming industry.
Nevertheless, the foundation of Lewis and Marwick’s portrayal of #GamerGate based on misinformation spread by the GameJournoPros sort of tells you where they were heading with their conclusions right from the start.
They state that #GamerGate was about harassment, misogyny and doxing, and then they forgo citations when making these denigrating remarks, writing…
”Ultimately, Gamergate demonstrated the refinement of a variety of techniques of gamified public harassment—including doxing (publishing personal information online), revenge porn (spreading intimate photos beyond their intended recipients), social shaming, and intimidation. It also provides insight into gender as a key rallying point for a range of online subcultures.”
Here, they have no citations since it’s never been proven nor adequately quantifiable that #GamerGate was ever a harassment campaign; because it wasn’t. A WAM Report showed minimal activity in regards to #GamerGate and reports of harassment, and a European Commission study showed that harassment wasn’t a top priority for Twitter users engaging with the GamerGate hashtag.
The FBI closed out their own case after nearly a year of investigating the hashtag, only managing to find a few trolls who used the hashtag to troll, but could neither identify nor quarantine the “mobilized”, “mass” group of gamers who were supposedly harassing women online. You can read the full FBI report for yourself.
The Media Manipulation report is interesting insofar that it talks about disinformation and group mobilization, yet on so many turns it uses its own levy of disinformation to misinform readers and continue to spread false propaganda about individuals and groups across cultures they don’t understand.
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