“Morality in Europe today is herd animal morality. With the help of religion, which indulged and flattered the most sublime herd-animal desires, we have reached the point where we find even in political and social institutions an ever more visible expression of this morality. The democratic movement is the heir of the Christian movement..”

—F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, §202 (edited excerpt).

There is an incredible discussion happening in the comments of my last video, Dear Sam Pepper, about Nerdfighteria, morality and what role the Vlogbrothers play in all that. Hank Green stopped by to give his take earlier (above), and John shared his thoughts on Twitter. I was delighted to hear from them, but even more impressed by the thoughtful and reasoned arguments viewers have been posting in that comments section. I’ve always said I have the best commenters on YT. This kind of engagement means so much to me. 

What I have denied and what my reason compels me to deny, is the existence of a Being throned above us as a god, directing our mundane affairs in detail, regarding us as individuals, punishing us, rewarding us as human judges might.

When the churches learn to take this rational view of things, when they become true schools of ethics and stop teaching fables, they will be more effective than they are today… If they would turn all that ability to teaching this one thing – the fact that honesty is best, that selfishness and lies of any sort must surely fail to produce happiness – they would accomplish actual things.

—  Thomas Edison
Faceless Together

For a while now I’ve been kind of meaning to write a long, in-depth post about 4chan. With the recent controversy between them and some significant feminist figures in the gaming industry, I think it’s important that I finally go ahead and do this. Since, let’s be honest: any time there’s a big controversy on the internet, 4chan is going to be involved. And yet, a lot of people don’t really understand what 4chan is.

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First, I should probably start with some explanation of where I am coming from. When my webcomic first began taking off, I went to great lengths to keep an eye on everyone who discussed it. I like feedback on what I’m doing; the way I see it, the natural progression of an artistic career is that you eventually come to rely on audience feedback rather than individual critics who purport to represent it.

For the most part, this just entailed reading forums and blogs, nothing too complicated. however, there was this one audience segment that continually eluded my sight: 4chan. I could see 4chan links in my referrers, but could never find anything there about me or my work. The threads, with their short, transient lifespans, were always gone by the time I got there.

Well, needless to say, I eventually did catch a Prequel thread, and then more, and gradually over the next few years I learned a lot about 4chan - as well as a lot of other sites, major and minor (this one included). Of them all, though, 4chan stands out to me as having the most interesting culture - as well as being one of the most confusing, misunderstood, and outright scary entities to outsiders. I can understand why they are such a prevalent and relatively powerful force online, and I think it’s important for everyone to understand exactly what 4chan is.

I’m going to be sharing my personal observations and conclusions regarding 4chan. So, buckle up and put on your ethnologist hats, kids, because we’re gonna talk comparative internet cultures!

Anonymity

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The first thing that always trips people up about 4chan is this idea of an “anon culture”. Like, we all understand the idea of anonymous comments on a site, or accepting anonymous asks on Tumblr, and probably understand that such anonymous submissions are often used to attack someone without suffering any social ramifications or backlash for doing so. But what happens when you bring hundreds of thousands of people together who idolize the idea of anonymity and the freedom it brings?

Well, you get something kind of cool, in my opinion. What you end up with is this concept of a fluid identity. Not only do people on 4chan have no social ramifications for being rude, but they face no social ramifications for being inconsistent with themselves. On 4chan you have no obligation to stick to or defend your past beliefs or opinions, because no one knows they were your past beliefs, nor do you have any incentive to display beliefs that will make you look good - since no one will ever even know it was you.

It’s like… imagine being an invisible person in a room with a bunch of other invisible people. You, as well as each of them, are wearing an (also invisible) random voice-changing mask. From the seemingly empty room, one voice calls out: “so, what webcomics do you guys read?”

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If you were in a public place, you’d pick the answer that makes you look good. It’ll be something pretentious (if you’re around pretentious people), or something relatively normal and acceptable (if you’re around normal people), and you’ll choose the answer that doesn’t ostracize you otherwise negatively affect you socially.

In the room of invisible people, that pressure does not exist. You are speaking to the equivalent of an empty room. You can say the most embarrassing shit you can think of - let them know about that horrible, poorly-drawn DeviantArt comic series you are super into. If they laugh at you for it and you regret your choice to bring it up, then all you have to do is step a few feet to the left and say you like something else. All of a sudden, you and are effectively a different person. Alternatively, you could just own up to your love of this awesome DeviantArt comic. Why not? You can unassociate yourself from these claims at any time.

Or, imagine someone else in the room says they like some poorly-written little ComicGenesis comic, and you decide to rail on them about how horrible it is. Suddenly, they come back at you with this amazing explanation about its hidden nuances, and you realize that you misjudged this little comic and it is in fact the epitome of perfection. If you want, you can just instantly pretend you are a different person who liked the comic all along. You don’t have to feel any shame for wrongly disliking it at first, or any obligation to remain consistent with your earlier beliefs. You just do what you feel like. It can’t hurt you. You are just you.

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Of course, the consequence of this is that 4chan is completely depraved by normal societal standards. Without the pressure to conform, it turns out people are naturally pretty weird. But, you know, they live it. It’s a culture where nobody is really shamed or hurt for the things they enjoy. Someone can try to shame them, but it’s not going to have any effect and it’s usually more of a joke.

The other consequence of this - and the one that probably scares the most visitors away - is that people can’t really be shamed for being what we would consider horrible people. Someone can be flagrantly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or whatever, and you can’t really harm them. All you can do is talk to them. Things that would garner death threats on Tumblr or Twitter tend to be short, comparatively nonconfrontational exchanges on 4chan. With many people from Tumblr or Twitter, that does not sit well.

The Anon

Sort of separate from this idea of “anon culture” is this idea of “the Anon” as an individual.

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When we get an anonymous hate comment on Tumblr or something, we know that person has an actual identity they are hiding. It becomes a guessing game as we speculate who they “really are”,

With 4chan, however, there is this idea of anonymity as an identity. By posting an anonymous message, you are not “hiding” your identity, you are an Anon. In their art, you typically see the Anon represented as a thin, green-skinned man or woman with a suit and no facial features other than a mouth. It’s an intentionally race- and class-neutral representation of a human - the Anon can be anybody. They celebrate this idea that they are indistinguishable - coming across as one single, undefined individual with a lot of conflicting tastes and perspectives.

This is a somewhat foreign idea on other internet cultures like Tumblr, where individuality is greatly valued. Look at anyone’s Tumblr page - we go to great lengths to define what is us. We often wear a banner declaring our race, gender, and sexual orientation. We list our interests and phobias. We even choose a picture to represent ourselves - mine is a little blue butterfly drawn by me and colored by a friend. Our identity gains strength and influence as we do things that please people, and weakens as we do things that they disapprove of. After posting this, my influence will probably reach 1,100 people, and I’ll do a little dance in celebration of this milestone. But, posting in a random 4chan thread, I would still just be an anon like everyone else.

The World To 4chan

Looking at it from this perspective, you can hopefully start to understand the political angles that someone who regularly participates in 4chan is inclined to take.

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In their own weird way, 4chan is a sort of utopia. They circumvent a lot of the harassment problems that places like Tumblr and Twitter have. You probably aren’t going to see someone on 4chan depressed over harassment they got on 4chan. They also circumvent most peer pressure problems - nobody on 4chan is going to agree with anyone else there just to look good. You are also going to have very few people who hide things, since there’s very little incentive to do so. If you feel a little gay that day and want some hot beefcake, say it, nobody will care and you’ll be happy.

Imagine how the rest of the internet looks to someone who is used to that as their background, though. It causes the person to develop a certain distrust. If someone publicly supports a position and a large group praises and rewards them for it, you wonder if they really believe what they profess. When someone publicly attacks and uses social leverage against a person who disagrees with them, you wonder if the attacker really has a decent argument that could stand on its own. The world becomes a vicious and uncivilized place full of powerful, violent people who might be lying or keeping secret agendas, and you want to look into it. You want to knock people off pedestals, jam their weapons, air their secrets, and leave nothing but a depraved and equal Anon behind.

And you see that in what 4chan does. When a controversial figure declares they were hacked or bullied, 4chan are the ones compiling evidence of whether or not it was faked. When someone tries to defend a position with their social standing or identity, 4chan is the first to stand against them, confronting them as an equal. And when someone preaches what others should be doing, 4chan is the first to get on their case if they don’t do it themselves. They are not a unified group so much as a group of people who share a common mindset - that inequality and its associated social pressures are the root cause of problems. They tend to confront people as equals - and if that doesn’t work, they try to knock them down to their level.

4chan To The World

Equally important to understanding 4chan, I think, is looking at the way 4chan is seen and portrayed by others - especially those who actively oppose its ideals.

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It’s no secret that 4chan is often viewed as this hive of racism, homophobia and misogyny. They’re this chaotic force that harasses feminists, hacks websites, and spreads the personal information of any good people who try to stand up for justice. It’s this vague, faceless force, and it fits the common perception of “evil mooks” we are fed in movies.

I find it kind of a shame that, for all that 4chan’s culture does to maintain the Anon’s gender, race, and class neutrality, the common assumption is that they consist entirely of middle-class, straight, white males. You see this whenever there’s some clash between 4chan and Tumblr - 4chan is the oppressor; some angry, privelaged mass that wants to make life difficult for minorities.

The nature of an anon culture makes it difficult to get actual statistics on 4chan - these are people who are not only anonymous, but often revel in the nature of anonymity. Race is almost impossible to analyze, since someone will only bring it up if it’s relevant to what they’re saying. Gender is easier though - according to 4chan’s advertising page, the userbase is 30% female - if you don’t believe their self-report, the third-party analytics site Alexa.com claims it to be over 50%. I have a few friends who frequent the site’s (often extremely risque) My Little Pony board - they once ran a lingerie selfie contest there, and exactly 50% of the entrants were female.

Overall, you’re looking at this very diverse community that has its minorities effectively erased by its opposition so it can make a better enemy. 4chan knows this, and you can see it leading back into that aforementioned concept of them seeing their detractors as hypocritical and barbaric. You’re not likely to get any big moment where 4chan’s minorities band together and say “hey, we exist!” because so much of 4chan values their anonymity. Gaining social leverage by declaring what you are is the sort of thing they generally stand against.

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Equally interesting is the way 4chan responds to hatred against them. Though it may not be readily apparent from the outside, they stick by their ideals at least as strenuously as Tumblr does. With the recent controversy in feminist gaming, for example, a number of people from 4chan have been watching Twitter and boycotting any company that claims the attack on The Fine Young Capitalists was justified. There’s been a lot of disappointment any time a loved developer comes to the attack’s defense. 

Similarly, there’s a lot of disappointment every time a creator directly speaks out against 4chan. I remember a time a few months back when the author of the comic Paranatural tweeted about how nobody should ever go to 4chan. Over on 4chan, there was a rather touching post where an anon described how it hurt them to have a figure they admire speak out against a community they loved. I actually emailed the Paranatural guy about that, though I never got a reply. I like to pretend it’s because he got a million other emails about it, but it’s probably not.

Open Door

I think the one last thing that is most misunderstood about 4chan is that if you are a horrible person, it can be a tool.

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4chan has no barriers to entry. There’s not even a signup process; anyone who wants to can go there and instantly become a part of their community. If you want to do something bad and hide that it was you, you can go to 4chan, make posts about it, and have it look like 4chan is to blame. You will suffer no ramifications for doing so - like any action on 4chan, it is effectively done by “the anon”.

Nothing keeps someone from setting 4chan up as a scapegoat. Heck , you could even go there and pose as multiple people, organizing entire attacks on someone. Even yourself, if you want. This is not a hard thing to do.

The question is why you would do it. Like, 4chan is fundamentally not a bad place. Its one property is that people there interact anonymously - for better or for worse, that ideal of fearlessly being the person you want to be is viciously preserved. It has a very interesting and generally nonconfrontational culture that can still bring ridiculous change or over-the-top revenges when them or their ideals are attacked directly. Between the social equality, lack of fear, and ability to drive action, it sometimes feels like everything Tumblr wants to be. 

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I guess what I’m saying is: be informed. It’s easy to use 4chan as a scapegoat, or construe it as an unstoppable force of evil, but if you really look into it it’s one of the more interesting cultural designs to come out of the internet. It’s worth lurking and understanding where they are coming from on things before dismissing them enemies.

A Self-Made Man - A Day in the Life of Joe Republican

by Kevin Liebel

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.

With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.

 Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax-payer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans.

The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good.

He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees:

"We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

GamerGate: Primer/Finale

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I swear, I really do want to stop making posts about GamerGate. As interesting as it has been for me, I really need to get back to my own responsibilities. Not just that, but the GG people have pretty much won at this point - more people are talking about GamerGate than ever before, a lot of unethical behavior has been fully confirmed, and word has it that more people in the industry will be coming forward about their experiences after things calm down a little. Like a chess player who whittles her opponent down to just their king and queen, all that is left is the long and tedious process of chasing them around the board and trying for a final checkmate. 

At the same time, though, I know there are still a lot of people out there who are confused on what this whole “GamerGate” thing is about. Tons of misinformation is going around, and you still see a lot of people saying things like “Isn’t this about getting rid of female developers? That’s what Kotaku told me!”. To combat the misinformation, I want to (hopefully) conclude my essay spree with a post about how this started, what happened, and where it is now.

So grab your sledgehammer, lonely Tumblr people, because a wall of text is coming.

Part 1: The Beginning

Journalists should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.

-Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics

This all started off when a game developer’s ex came forward to purportedly warn people about the developer’s manipulative and deceptive behavior. He detailed the emotional abuse in their relationship and how it ultimately culminated in this discovery that she had secretly cheated on him with five different people before he had the common sense to break things off with her.

The whole thing would’ve ended there if not for one fact: she was a game developer, and at least one of the people she she was alleged to have slept with was a gaming journalist.

Whether the ex-boyfriend’s actions were cruel or brave is up for debate. In the time since I first started writing this post, I’ve had two separate abuse survivors talk to me about how uncomfortable and victim-blamey it is to see the ex-boyfriend being painted as a villain for speaking out. No matter where you stand on the ex-boyfriend himself, the important part is that - as far as readers were concerned - a game developer had an undisclosed relationship with a gaming journalist. People started looking into it, and digging for any potential conflicts of interest this could have caused. The most well-known analysis of the situation was the Internet Aristocrat’s “Five Guys Saga" video, which currently carries over 36 thousand Likes. To make things worse, after the information was out, other people began to come forward to talk about abuse they had suffered from this developer - this is where we heard about things like her harassment and supposed press blacklisting of The Fine Young Capitalists or her alleged sexual harassment of developer Wolf Wozniak. Evidence was seemingly beginning to pile that something was up with this developer and her connections to the media.

Gaming journalism sites had to respond. At this point in time, we now know know that Journalists from the major gaming publications discussed it together and agreed that, rather than responding to concerns of journalistic conflicts of interest, they were going to focus on the harassment the developer received after the details of her sex life were outed. And indeed, when the news about this hit, there was no mention of journalistic corruption. Just “Female game developer harassed by internet misogynists”.

(Edit: for people who are apprehensive to believe the Breitbart link, there are members of the group confirming the messages real)

Part 2: Exacerbation

Journalists should be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.

-Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics

The “conflict” that followed was as ridiculous as it was entertaining. Here you had a diverse group of people - many of them women or feminists - concerned about the potentially abusive (or arguably rapey) actions of a developer and whether the media was connected to it, and in response they were being labeled as misogynists. When people tried to speak out in protest, there suddenly came a new wave of simultaneous articles declaring that the “gamer” identity had become something bad - a ravenous swarm of disgusting, sexist white men who were only speaking out on this because they wanted to keep female developers out of the games industry. You saw a new hashtag arise on Twitter, “Describe a Gamer in Four Words”, where people created these strange portrayals of gamers as a caste of angry and childish white males. 

The pushback came in the form of a counter-tag called “#NotYourShield”. Women and minorities of every kind who enjoyed gaming were encouraged to come forward and declare that they were not okay with journalists harassing gamers under the guise of “protecting women and minorities”. They argued that they were gamers, and that this portrayal of gamers as white men was nothing more than minority erasure. So, naturally, these people faced a whole new wave of accusations that they were fake accounts made by men, or commands of “if you’re really female, post a picture!”. When it was made clear that they were actually who they said, they were accused of being manipulated into defending a misogynistic cause - or, with some of the people who stood up, they were just harassed or hacked into silence. Even today, most news sources claim that the #NotYourShield tag was started as a “jamming tactic” by white gamers on 4chan, ignoring that its earliest use came from the anime reviewer Ninouh. Jason Miller, another black developer who is sometimes credited as the tag’s creator, was purportedly fired after someone from the internet contacted his boss

Around this time, you also got this interesting influx of well-known Conservative personalities coming out in GamerGate’s defense. They claim that it’s because “the Right supports free speech”, but I think the actual truth is a much simpler one: they faced no consequences to standing up. Liberal or feminist personalities who stood up in GamerGate’s defense risked alienating fans or losing connections - Boogie2988 even came open about the fact that he was receiving threats to his career if he “continued to connect [himself] with a movement that is ‘increasingly being associated with harassment and misogyny’”. Even when I sent in formal complaints about some of the journalist’s conduct, I did it under an alias in fear that the writers would read the complaints and perhaps make good on their threats of career-ending slander. Conservative personalities, though, didn’t need to worry about things like that - to them, threats were just more evidence that all liberals are evil and irrational. So, they stood up.

Of course, the gaming journalism sites took this and tried to spin it as a liberal-versus-conservative issue. There was no mention of the threats or harassment someone on the Left could receive for supporting GamerGate, just the shallow observation that conservatives were standing up for it. Sometimes, the observation wasn’t even true - Kotaku ran an article about feminist Christina Sommers titled “Conservative Critic Argues That Gaming culture Is For Guys”. When it was pointed out to them that Sommers is a registered democrat and leans liberal, they edited the title to “Critic Argues That Gaming culture Is For Guys” - curiously leaving out any note of her political affiliations.

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All through this, you still had people looking into that original question of whether developers were colluding with journalists. The curious lack of press coverage or even acknowledgement of this issue only caused them to redouble their investigative efforts. On one hand, this is probably what led to the continued harassment of several independent developers - which the gaming news outlets continued to report on as vigorously as they could. But on the other hand, the investigators began to scrape up evidence of actual legal wrongdoing. The Independent Games Festival, it turned out, might have had some games’ investors as judges. To quote developer Michael Vargas: “It’s one thing that I had participated in a rigged contest. It’s another that younger devs put college tuitions on the line, went into debt, made hours of sacrifices, all for a fraud and to send kickbacks to an indie clique”. Eventually people even uncovered evidence that could potentially place indie developer Phil Fish in prison - nobody knows what is going on with that now, since lawyers got involved and he deleted his Twitter.

This all eventually culminated in one games journalist contacting flaming conservative Milo Yiannopoulos and anonymously leaking the existence of “GameJournoPros” - a mailing list where competing gaming journalists could discuss issues in private. Milo’s article on the emails shows journalists dismissing the claims of journalistic favoritism toward the accused developer, while simultaneously agreeing to spin their articles in a way supportive of her and describing her as a “colleague”. At least one journalist in the group decries the actions as unethical and says he wants no part. Others discuss how they could use this to help the developer get positive PR - a curiously duplicitous move to support a developer who recently criticized 4chan for discussing how to best gain support.

Now, you pretty much just have confusion. There’s no clean, decisive victory in things like this. There are still people who only know about GamerGate from biased information delivered on gaming news sites. There are gaming journalists defending the GameJournoPros group, saying that it was just a gathering of friends and there was nothing unethical about it. On the flipside, you slowly have more developers and journalists coming forward to talk about their harassment or unethical actions, now that the tide is turning such that those who remain silent might be the ones remembered as being complicit. All that lies ahead is a slow and tedious cleanup as people without a voice band together to tediously correct misinformation one debate at a time.

Usually, something like this would just end with a few people getting fired. Sadly, gamers love going for the 100% completion score. Godspeed, journalists.

Part 3: Why I Care

Journalists should expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations. They should abide by the same high standards they expect of others.

-Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics

So, reading all this wordswordswords, you’re probably wondering: “why does this person care? And, why should I care?”.

If you read my blog, you know that I still consider myself to be a scientist. Truth is important to me, and discerning the truth means you must be able to judge the credibility and biases of information.

Just like academia has standards, so does journalism. Journalists are not just really popular bloggers - they have more credibility than the average person because we assume they abide by certain rules. We cite our sources and defend our beliefs and even write our own pieces using news articles as a reference - not because they are popular, but because we believe them to be more credible than the average internet blogger. When you have major public news sites publishing articles about how a bunch of gamers have been launching an organized harassment campaign at a female indie developer, it’s because the reporters got this info from sites like Kotaku and Rock Paper Shotgun, and assumed it was credible.

This whole fiasco has revealed that gaming journalists do not, in fact, abide by these standards, and in many cases probably don’t even understand them. They view themselves no differently than any popular Tumblr personality who uses their follower count to bully others - to quote professional gaming journalist Leigh Alexander: “Be careful with me. I am a megaphone. I am much less kind than [other journalists] and I won’t mind making an example out of you”. These are the popular kids who beat up gamers in high school, masquerading as journalists in a halfhearted attempt to do it again.

By all accounts, this blog is effectively a more credible source than sites Kotaku. I might have a hundredth of the followers they do, but at least I have a degree in the things I’m talking about rather than a degree in talking about things. As a standard blogger I have no obligation to abide by SPJ’s code of ethics, yet I still manage to abide by 32/35 of their edicts. Just going by information they’ve admitted to during this, sites like Kotaku stand at 6/35. People need to know this before regarding these sites as any more credible than hearsay.

Yes, it sucks that a female game developer got harassed - it sucks when anyone gets harassed. But she is a popular, public figure. It is unethical for journalists to focus on her harassment while being knowingly complicit in silencing people she harassed. Journalists are supposed to give “voice to the voiceless”, not say things like “I do feel that there is some legitimate public interest in a game developer being attacked by the internet”. 

I admit, though, there is another reason I care about this too.

Gaming is not a big deal. The gaming journalism industry is small and poor, and they don’t have the money or experience to launch any major information coverup or maintain a sizable conspiracy. This whole thing has been a sloppy and pathetic attempt at a real conspiracy.

And yet, people are still falling for it.

Sure, it might not matter now. A news site can declare “gamers are misogynists! We need to push back!” and the worst that will happen is some people get bullied on the internet or mailed an ominous syringe. But what happens when the news declares “Egyptians are terrorists! We need to attack!”? What happens when you have actual collusion and falsified information, headed by professionals, guiding you to political conclusions? \

The manipulation tactics people have fallen for over the course of GamerGate are appalling in their simplicity. You see people using grouping as a call to arms - “you’re a social justice warrior. If you want to keep being one, you need to stand against these misogynists with me”. You see harassment and threats given to people who speak out - before the syringe, Milo Yiannopoulos was sent 90 rolls of toilet paper as a presumed message of “I know where you live (and you’re shit)”. You see people using guilt by association - citing Adam Baldwin’s homophobic statements and how he’s a GamerGate supporter - or relying on the Genetic Fallacy - pointing out how much of this started on 4chan and claiming that ruins its credibility. I swear you even see fucking negging: people getting hit with these subtle implications that they’re inherently racist or overprivelaged, but that they can counteract it a bit by opposing GamerGate. Negging, for God’s sake! 

If you want a picture of how sloppy this entire operation is, consider this for a moment: there is no name for people who are against GamerGate. People who oppose abortion, for example, get the cheerful title of “Pro-Life”, but people who oppose GamerGate aren’t pro- anything. They can say “I’m pro-safety in the games industry”, but then GamerGate people just reply “so are we. We want people to be able to speak without losing their jobs”. They could say “I’m pro-women in gaming”, but then GamerGate people point out that they are too, and funded The Fine Young Capitalists after they were DDos’d and slandered by journalists and their friends. If they say they’re against harassment, the GamerGate people will point out that they have been actively calling out harassers in their own ranks while their opposition hasn’t. The anti-Gamergate people can’t even claim they’re “pro-representation in media” because, as people have pointed out, the gaming journalism clique is predominantly white men. #NotYourShield was created (and promptly ignored) because minorities were pissed off at these people’s claims to “represent” them. The only position anti-GamerGate people have is that they are against GamerGate. Sometimes, they even endorse all its goals but are pushed to stand against it anyway.

And this is all so easymode. We are better than this; these are manipulation tactics that should be harmlessly bouncing off anyone who graduated highschool. I’m glad that GamerGate seems to be winning, but understand: we need to be able to win harder. We need to learn from this, and become resistant to these methods. There are bigger enemies all around us, and we can’t afford to waste this much time struggling to beat the rat in the starting dungeon.

While writing these essays on GamerGate, I got a piece of fanmail from someone near Russia. He said that my writings and analysis of GamerGate were helping him question and confront the media coverage of the Ukranian crisis. “While bullets fly in our neighbour’s eastern parts, an information war is waged in traditional and electronic media and frankly, it’s terrifying.” This is the sort of thing we need to prepare for, and our track record following this GamerGate thing is pretty abysmal.

The dumbest part is, people who oppose GamerGate because they want to talk about sexism or misogyny in gaming aren’t even helping that conversation happen. There are people on both sides who really do want to talk about those issues, but it’s hard to do it when the media won’t even acknowledge women on the GamerGate side of things are getting doxxed, harassed, and blacklisted for not fitting the journalists’ model of how a woman “should act”. If we had just stood together and held journalists and their friends accountable for their wrongdoings without letting them subtly change the subject to harassment and misogyny, we could have moved on from this and all started talking about those other issues together. Heck, as soon as enough people stand up, that’s probably how it will play out anyway.

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I’m not the kind of person who likes to 100% games. I can see a gold coin laying on a table and I won’t even take it unless my character is short on cash, and I’m not going to keep writing about GamerGate while gamers go through the long and arduous process of dissuading site’s advertisers to pull out and getting people fired. If you’re interested in staying on top of things, there are people obsessed enough to do daily updates on the happenings. Please understand, though: we need to get faster at this. We need to get more resilient, keeping manipulation like this from having a leg to stand on to begin with. In the future, lives will depend on your ability to see through lies and discern the credibility of information sources. You can’t always afford to take this long.

But, to everyone who questioned this stuff from the very beginning, stood against harassment and misogyny even when the news itself was calling you a misogynistic harasser, and endeavored to give a voice to the voiceless even when the media tried to stomp them out: rock on. The world needs people like you.

Why Women Avoid the Atheist Movement (It's Not Our Feeble Lady Brains or Hormones)

Why Women Avoid the Atheist Movement (It’s Not Our Feeble Lady Brains or Hormones)

If you poke around most atheist communities on the Internet or take a look at the attendees at atheism conventions, you’ll probably notice that the crowd is overwhelmingly male. Is this because, as some of the biggest names in the movement have suggested, women don’t have the intellectual curiosity or logical capability to arrive at the conclusion that there is no God? (Spoiler alert: NO.) Or is…

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liveanotherslife said:

My protagonist is is driven by many selfish motives. I've seen so many MC's who wants to sacrifice themselves for their loved ones and does the right thing, but mine spends half the story running away from responsibility. Do you think people can still root for her?

Absolutely. A character does not have to be moral to be likable! And even if she isn’t likable, the bigger question is whether she is a compelling, interesting character.

I feel like I say this a lot, but it’s what I really, honestly think. If a character is engaging and interesting to readers, they can be awful people and still successfully carry the story. Consider the lead characters in Breaking Bad and Dexter: if audiences abandoned stories about bad people, these franchises would not be half as successful as they turned out to be.

Think about what makes your protagonist tick. She is a selfish person and avoids taking responsibility for things: why is this? Is there a motivation behind her selfishness? And yes, she is selfish, but what about the rest of her? What makes her the protagonist? Being the main character of a story means the story is either about you, or that you have a certain quality or perspective that makes you the optimal character to lead the audience into the story. Why did you choose her? What makes her interesting enough to be given protagonist privileges?

All of which is not even touching the possibility of her growing out of this as her character development progresses. A redemption arc is one way to take a character with normally unlikable qualities and turn them into someone readers can respect and relate to on a moral level, but it’s not the only way to make a character like this work.

-Headless

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