David Auerbach on GamerGate and the Clickbait Media

Slate journalist David Auerbach posted a couple of quite significant things on Twitter a few days ago. It’s a screencap, which I know will have accessibility issues, but I couldn’t find the original text anywhere. There is a larger resolution version which is slighly more readable


When we finally write the history of the Twitter wars I hope that history covers the role of the clickbait media and the way they’ve often been willing to pour petrol on flames in order to monetise faux-outrage. The infamous #Shirtstorm was one of the most notorious; where a clickbait “news” website went with the cynically inflammatory headine “I don’t care they you just landed a probe on a comet, your shirt is alienating“, thus guaranteeing the internet would explode in a flame war that would end in people getting hurt.

As for Gamergate. I’ve been watching the issue from the sidelines for the past year, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that both the “Gamegame is a hate group targeting women and minorities” and the “It’s all about ethics in game journalism” are at best gross oversimplifications of a complex and confusing mess, and at worst deliberate and cynical lies.

My perception (which may be wrong) is that the persistence of Gamergate owes a lot to the nature of some of their more publicly vocal opponents, at least some of whom appear to be attention-seekers looking for their fifteen minutes of fame, who take Gamergate’s public mocking of them as validation. When more than one journalist has told me they won’t cover Gamergate because of the harassment and personal abuse they get from GG’s opponents, it paints a rather different picture to the narrative’s we’ve seen in the media.

As far as I can tell, Gamergate seems to consist of three groups. The first are gamers who, rightly or wrongly, had an axe to grind against the gaming press which they saw as agenda-driven and riven with conflicts of interest, much like the British music press of the 1980s. Second are opportunistic right wing types who had little connection with the gaming hobby but saw it as another front in a wider cultural war against “Social Justice Warriors”. Third were the malevolent trolls for whom the whole thing provided perfect cover to ruin people’s lives while letting others take the blame. The media narrative only acknowledges the last two of these three. Meanwhile the Ganergaters for whom it’s all about ethics are too quick to deny any connection with the trolls who have gathered under their banner.

The problem with Gamergate is that the only media outlets who have been covering the story are those who were themselves part of the story, on both sides, or are repeating their talking points without doing any investigation themselves. Nobody without a pre-existing agenda is interested in touching it.

The truth is eventually going to come out.

Given the contentious nature of this subject, I’m going to be strict on moderating comments. I’ll probably approve most comments from people I know and trust, but drive-bys with canned talking points may not be so lucky.

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