On Regulating a Movement or; “You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you”
Carly Simon isn’t happy. She isn’t happy because of Gamergate, and neither am I. Thought the conflict between the various parties involved is unequivocally an ideological one, the argument has been derailed and perverted into a fallacious race to the bottom about “practice.” Supporters of Gamergate cite the moral lapses (however few they may be relative to the number of supporters) of supporters of gender equality in video games as somehow contributing to the righteousness of their cause. This is, of course, silly — the ideology of Gamergate is the scrambling for an excuse to perpetuate gender oppression based on the false flag of journalistic ethics. The facts that are lost on supporters of Gamergate are as follows:
1) a movement’s ideological core has no inherent logical relationship with what is done in the name of that ideology. For instance, bombing a school and killing a large number of children in the name of equal education for everyone is a wrong act. Such an act wouldn’t impact the moral goodness of every child getting a quality education. Similarly, releasing someone’s personal information in the name of gender equality does not say anything about the soundness of promoting gender equality in video games.
2) if one intends to make the method of how an ideology is promoted a key issue, one must also be accountable for their own behaviors. That is to say, to argue that gender equality is a moral corruption because a small number of people have done bad acts in the name of that idea, it doesn’t follow that the next move made by a Gamergate supporter is to say “well, the people doing bad things that support Gamergate are a minority and have nothing to do with me.” Of course, to have a conversation governed by the rules of formal logic about Gamergate’s “key points” would require that the ideology supporting those points to not be abhorrent and the evidence to support those points not be nonsense.
3) finally, despite the link not being inherent, a case CAN be made suggesting that an ideology does promote certain behaviors. As stated, there’s nothing about gender equality as an ideology that has a reasonable connection to abuse or releasing an individual’s personal information. On the other hand, if one’s ideology is that they hate a certain race and they then harm that race in some way, a case could be made that the behavior follows from the ideology. Similarly, Gamergate’s strange ideological positioning (and relative newness compared to the storied and well established notion of gender equality) means that it is an issue of significant dispute whether the behaviors of Gamergate supporters are a consequence of the ideology or in spite of it. Perhaps Gamergate’s odd fixation on indie developers as opposed to the AAA developers and publishers (which actually threaten the journalistic integrity of gaming news outlets) is part and parcel to their desire to abuse and threaten easy targets.
Ultimately, all of this is to say that it is primarily the responsibility of a movement to police itself. The notion of gender equality, and feminism specifically, has a rich history of examples of this regulation. Gamergate, on the other hand, attempts to paint its bad actors (however numerous) as clandestine operatives.
A fantastic example of this process in action is the feminist sex wars. However, more recently feminism has taken itself to task for its racism. Although feminism has never been free from critiques about its approach to race, (see: Womanism and Alice Walker) the awareness of this tendency of feminism to focus on the experience of white, upper middle class women has never been more acute. It is not outsiders or critics of feminism who criticize this racism, nor would they be equipped to make said critiques as a consequence of their ignorance, but feminists working from within that framework to improve the quality and inclusiveness of the movement. Though the fact that “white feminism” has become a meme deployed primarily by, you guessed it, white feminists probably doesn’t enrich the discourse of feminism, but this memetic reproduction of racial awareness pays lip service to the serious critiques which have been leveled toward feminism and the monumental changes the critiques have just begun to enact.
Gamergate can learn from this example, though they likely will not. For their so-called movement to be understood as anything other than a campaign of hatred and vitriol towards women and their supporters in the gaming industry, serious measures must be taken to bring these bad actors of Gamergate into the public eye and out of the movement. The well-meaning supporters of Gamergate have a responsibility, if they want to promote the catchphrase, to publicly criticize and forcefully excise these bad actors rather than simply attempt to use the cop-out of “well, they’re not me!!1”
Still, a more ideal solution is to realize that Gamergate has no morally acceptable ideological core and that it is, in fact, a hate group. Anyone who has even a modicum of interest in the gaming industry growing stronger, better, and more diverse should yell off the tallest mountain “FUCK GAMERGATE.” However, those who remain under the delusion that Gamergate’s primary concern is journalistic ethics have an enormous task ahead of them in bringing these bad actors to justice. Only upon getting their house in order can they entertain the notion of leveling critiques towards gaming journalism that can be taken seriously. Well, either that or just pick a new hash tag. #Gamerghazi.