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Well, it has been more than three months since gamers (as an identity) were declared dead, but the sometimes consumer revolt, sometimes protest for transparency and ethics known as GamerGate keeps getting up in a display startlingly like something from a Rocky movie. And that is not the worst possible metaphor; similarly in the position of underdog, what GamerGate possesses in spades is resolve. Or toughness. Balboa-ness.
I want to discuss more than that, though. I am using this post as something of a journal for my thoughts and feelings since first discovering, then lending my vocal support, to GamerGate. I want to start with a mea culpa, in order to provide an additional opportunity to be heard admitting fault, and to do the right thing in a certain respect. In mid-November, I wrote an article in which I made a harsh characterization of Bart Baggett. At the time that I did it, I had my head in a place where nothing seemed more important to me than “exposing the truth.” And what is funny about that, is that it is still the most important thing, only I have, since being contacted by Mr. Baggett, made a small realization about that truth.
We are, by our human nature, limited in how much of the “Big Picture” that we can take in at a certain time. The picture that I saw, when searching online and building a body of material to write the story on, was influenced by my conviction that Anita Sarkeesian was a bad person. Or at least a person doing bad things. To prove that point, I basically did the exact thing that GamerGate protests, although with a sense of righteousness that came completely from feeling like the underdog. I took what I found, and with the complexity of life offering differing perspectives on every issue, I was compelled to agree nearly unquestioningly with the most damning accounts that I came across.
Bart Baggett did not ask me to write any part of this. Nor did he imply that he would appreciate it if I wrote further on the subject. This is my conscience speaking, and trying to right a wrong from the other direction. He contacted me through an intermediary on Twitter.com, William Usher, and was polite, dare I say displaying humility? Basically, he made me feel like a complete jerk. I had made an incredibly snarky remark about his appearing in some movies that were poorly received, and his first email to me included this: “The only part of that article I can completely agree with is I have been in some [expletive, replace with “crappy”] movies. Yep, that’s true. You got me.” If you were in my position, do you think you might feel like you had been on the wrong side of bullying? What I did was conflate the idea of supporting GamerGate with reductio ad adsurdum of people I saw as needing to be “checked.”
All Baggett wanted from me, according to his email, was to amend the article to remove some parts that he objected to. Largely, it was the result of my characterization of his business, and dismissive tone towards his qualifications in graphology and handwriting analysis. I will say in my defense, that all terms pertaining to analyzing signatures and handwriting, as an entire discipline, appear to be in a state of chaos. It was relatively meaningless on my part, though I did not fully understand it at the time, to aggressively question his lack of having (to the best of my knowledge) an Ivy League degree in the field. As far as I can tell from going back to look, Kaplanuniversity.edu is the most renowned institute to offer a course in Handwriting Analysis, Graphology, or Forensic Document Examination. Ugh, not even. That result was in the “sponsored” section, apparently the field relies on certifications, not degrees. Yet still, testimony in regards to those fields is admitted in courts regularly, and organizations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation have demand for people trained in them. Missing that point resulted in my insulting Mr. Baggett, for which I owe him an apology.
As I continued to see the light, my shame deepened. I had a Harvey Keitel, Bad Lieutenant-style “coming to Jesus” moment where I realized that if people acted in GamerGate the way I had, in a misinformed way of attempting to do good, it would be a cancer that ate it. It would die, all of its protests absorbed by the darkness it purported to shine light on. What GamerGate needs to do is to represent the goodness that they did before, without my misguided “help.” The goodness that the majority of GamerGate continued to do all the way through, anyways. Things like reaching out to people and really listening. It has been awe-inspiring that GamerGate, as a collective, has been better than me; it has been a standard to strive to hold myself to. That is why I support it, unashamed.
If GamerGate is, to the best of our knowledge, the latest and greatest attempt to call out a media moment that got “caught with their pants down,” (Oh my god, that is the only snarky joke for this whole post, I swear) then it does not need people doing what I did, and heeding the call of the dark side. That is what Arthur Chu did in The Daily Beast, it is was Leigh Alexander did in Gamasutra, it is what many more have done and it is what the main objection to the broader media does, on a regular basis, that GamerGate has attempted to stand in opposition to.
What I did was morally wrong. I want to use this opportunity to make a commitment that will live on in the internet long past the time when it seemed like a good idea to, that I will only oppose ideas that I stand in opposition to from now on, and not the people who carry them, despite temptation. I will still write in such a way as to examine, and often challenge, narratives, but it will be on the merit of the idea and to the best of my ability to do so philosophically and without insult. And I want anyone who reads this to hold me to it. If I come out with the idea later on, to engage with verbal covering fire on a given ideological battle, then abandon me. Stop reading my articles, because it will have meant that I abandoned you.
It is indescribably sad that decency requires radicalism, but more and more, it seems like that is the position that our culture finds itself in. To do the right thing in writing this post feels like a radical action. So be it. Then let that be the radicalism of the Gamergate generation; that we were the ones who stopped the idiocracy in its tracks, that we were the ones who remembered common sense and lived up to at least the shadow of our values. Let us stop framing things in the restrictive conceptual cookie-cutters of Left and Right, and be the ones who regained the discipline to analyze ideas before slapping labels on them and tossing them into partisan bins. Let GamerGate be the voice that uses humility and contrition as their rebel yell. And Billy Idol, I sincerely hope you do not mind my borrowing that. I thought it sounded pretty good.
Blog by Brian Whittemore
Header Photo by Zé Valdi – flickr License