The Value Of Just Shutting The Fuck Up Sometimes
A few weeks ago, I was doing an interview with a reporter and she was asking about almost every weird GamerGate conspiracy theory that had come up about me in the last few years. I’ve honestly forgotten more of them than I remembered at this point. She didn’t seem to understand why I’d never addressed most of the accusations which had ranged from whose dick I touched to literally murdering people. She said in researching me for the piece, she’d only ever found the weirdo accusations but not my version of events, and seemed to not understand why I wouldn’t just say what actually did or didn’t happen.
I can’t blame her for being curious. I think whenever we hear something wild, especially about someone or something we care about, we want to know answers. Lord knows if you’re the one being lied about, it’s a natural impulse to want to set the record straight or give your side of anything.
Sadly, that’s extremely short sighted. No one thinks about what might happen next.
It’s been over three years of being accused of all kinds of shit from all kinds of people, and if I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned the importance of restraint and the responsibility that comes with having a large platform and gigantic visibility. It makes me feel like a kaiju where any small movement could potentially tip over a building. I’ve written a bunch in my book about how engaging with bad-faith accusations and signal boosting them just to refute them can easily backfire and ingrain false information in people’s minds even further. That can sometimes just come down to a math problem - if someone with an audience of 50 makes up a rumor about you, if you respond to it with your audience of 500, more people are going to see the false stuff than would otherwise. To complicate matters, there are enough people out there who think that even refuting something at all makes you look guilty. There are people who want you to be guilty because they already don’t like you. Frequently, bad-faith accusations will not be addressed by proof to the contrary, because you can’t reason someone out of something they didn’t reason themselves into in the first place. People are complicated.
But when you put your side of anything out there, the thing that comes next isn’t usually “oh, okay”. The thing that comes next is usually escalation. It’s people digging into shit trying to prove you wrong. It’s invasive, and it can have so much collateral damage.
For example, when people ask me why I didn’t address my ex’s claims about who I did and didn’t sleep with, even when I had the floor, I get why they’d ask. My own desire to keep some remaining shred of my privacy aside, those claims aren’t just about me. I’ve been accused of sleeping with people I haven’t ever really talked to, people who are pretty private in general who just want to be left the hell alone. I don’t have the right to drag them back into a messy situation that involves probably getting stalked and yelled at by nazis just to try and save my own skin, especially since it’s more likely than not that people are just going to believe whatever they want to anyway. Or maybe that’s me being cynical after watching years of people claiming that I fucked someone for a review I never got from a website I already had written for in the past. I honestly have, I think understandably, lost a bit of perspective on that particular point.
This is especially complicated by situations like mine, because I am under constant surveillance by people who hate my guts who are looking for people to hurt, and people looking to feed on “drama”, and people looking for new targets. If you think that’s being dramatic, there are places I know of that have threads specifically about stalking me *to this day* with literally thousands of posts in them. Bad faith actors aside, my audience is in the hundreds of thousands. The responsibility that comes with that is something I take extremely seriously.
It’s something that I encourage everyone else with big online platforms to take extremely seriously too. I think a lot of us internet famous folks ended up here without really trying to, and it’s easy to feel like “well I didn’t ask for this and it’s not my fault if something happens” and while, yeah, sure, you can’t take responsibility for the actions of other people (especially people who are super out there and just looking to hurt someone regardless of whatever you’re doing), I see no reason to not try to minimize harm. A power dynamic doesn’t cease to exist just because you didn’t explicitly seek that power out, or maybe didn’t even want it in the first place. People who have less resources than you will still have less resources than you regardless of how you feel about it.
When there’s a significant power differential at play, there’s harm algebra to be done when it comes to addressing disinformation. It’s not as simple as “just setting the record straight” in public, because once you make something public you give up a certain degree of control that you cannot get back. It might mean putting someone who is already hurting or has so much less than me in more harm than I’d ever face by just taking the reputation hit.
Sometimes there’s situations where I just have to take it on the chin, because nothing happens in a vacuum. Sometimes I just have to let it go, no matter how much it fucking sucks to have people out there tearing into you for reasons that really have very little to do with you, because the collateral damage is too much on too many people to justify any potential repairs to my reputation.
Honestly, it’s really not worth it to me to escalate a situation just to make a frequently pointless attempt at getting people to be more critical of the wild shit they read about me online, especially when it means probably hurting someone else. It’s been years and I still don’t know how to navigate a lot of this. I’ve tried so much already - talking about bigger stuff, proving what actually happened, attempting to prove negatives, responding only with screenshots of fighting game win screens. It’s not like people making shit up about me, regardless of motivation, is a novel occurrence in my life. It’s not like I’ve made the right call all the time - I’ve arrived at this method of dealing with shit after making a lot of *wrong* calls. I’ve been pretty open about being a bad fit for being a public figure of any sort - I was (and still feel) vastly unprepared to handle being a weird symbol to so many people who want all kinds of things from me regardless of if they need a villain or a hero or a symbol of whatever the fuck.
Frankly I can’t live my life around playing whack a mole with whatever new horseshit slithers out of the corners of the internet on any given day that ends in Y, because when I was trying to do that it really almost cost me my life.
A fun side effect of being a survivor of domestic violence is how easy it is to slip back into doubting your own life and experiences to a hyperbolic degree. A fun side effect of depression is feeling like everything you say and do is bad and wrong and that you’re worthless on a regular basis. A fun side effect of my PTSD is flashing back to being in that fucking elevator shaft when GamerGate started and I couldn’t sleep or eat and was convinced everyone would turn on me and I’d be alone forever any time some conspiracy comes up that hits me at just the right angle that it gets under my armor.
But I know that’s squarely out of my control. All I can do is manage what I do with that. I don’t know what else to do other than seek external advice from people smarter than me when something comes up that really gets under my skin or makes me doubt my own version of events even when I damn well know something didn’t happen to help counter the trashbrain filter that the disinformation comes in through because having those issues doesn’t let me off of any hooks. I don’t want to use any of that, or even my status as someone who is frequently targeted with shit that I’m too exhausted to type out so just picture me gesturing vaguely at everything to absolve me of anything. I don’t ever want to think I’m above reproach, so I check in with people around me who will be honest and call me on my shit. When I do fuck up, and I do because I’m a human in an extremely weird fucking situation, I do whatever seems like the right thing to do, not the face-saving thing to do. Sometimes, this is shit that’s done in private. I don’t know why people assume everything has to be handled extremely online. But overwhelmingly more often than not, shit is maliciously made up, and more often than not the only right move that will de-escalate shit and hurt the least amount of people is just letting it go and praying that people will see through it, or they’ll actually talk to me if they see some wild accusation. And if people wanted to look for reasons to think the worst and get the knives out immediately, honestly, I feel extremely done with anyone looking to build people up only to gleefully tear them back down. I’m tired and I’ve watched too many communities devour themselves to want any part of that, and am only interested in working toward a future that’s centered on restorative justice instead of exclusively punitive systems in different settings. I’m tired of enthusiastic disposibility masquerading as community. All that behavior says to me is that I was never safe around you in the first place.
I know I’m taking a gigantic risk in even posting this to begin with because I know it’s an uncomfortable subject, but it feels like a bigger, longer-term risk to watch my comrades, siblings, and friends all scared and lost on either side of the power dynamic - both as people who have grievances with people with gigantic platforms, and as people who have gained both visibility and the jealousy and hatefollows that come with it. I’m tired of talking about this stuff in dms with other scared people who don’t know what to do. And by no means do I think this is the only way to deal with any of this - this is just how I feel, and how I approach being someone who went from being some random weirdo to being a cultural football. Your mileage may vary. Hopefully I figure out a way that’s less dehumanizing, and if I do, I’ll be sure and let you know. But again, I’m a random weirdo game developer. I’m figuring this shit out as I go, and I lean into my skids and wear my heart on my sleeve and if y'all want to throw me in the trash over being aggressively vulnerable and human at you, that’s ok. You don’t have to like me or support me, and I like trash anyway.
Shit’s pretty fucked up in the world right now (duh), but the very least we can do is really interrogate how and what we use our varying degrees of reach and visibility for. We have to see ourselves as part of something larger and look at our impact instead of just our intentions. For me, sometimes that means that being right doesn’t mean a damn thing and is unrelated to doing the right thing. Sometimes, for me, that means knowing when to just shut the fuck up and let people think what they’re gonna think. And if nothing else, I’ve seen that on a long enough timeline, people tend to figure out who makes shit up without my involvement.
So I’m only gonna say all of this once, here, so that I never have to say it again and I can point at it any time I’m asked to weigh in on something someone said about me on the internet, because god damn I’m tired and I’d rather spend my time and effort trying to help people and make dope shit than fuss about what people think they know about me.