Friday, November 14, 2014

Subterranean Hashtag Blues

Intel has resumed advertising on Gamasutra, bringing an end to the first and only time most people who aren't involved with videogames at an academic or professional level have given a shit about Gamasutra, advertising, or Intel. Within minutes of the announcement, cognitive dissonance--which was one of the Weekly Words not long before--set in, and an entirely plausible theory has been developed that Intel is not actually paying for ad space on Gamasutra anymore, since apparently it is common for ad-funded websites to post advertising for free.

Once again, people are happily declaring #GamberGoat dead. It's not entirely inaccurate; the mainstream coverage of #GillyGoop, for all the centrist bias our media demands, has been uniformly negative. The lone exception, Breitbart, is named for a man whose name is literally synonymous with politically motivated libel. There have been no victories to speak of, so anyone "joining" #GlimmerGong now--in the sense of taking up their iconography and collective identity--is essentially volunteering for ridicule and contempt. Mostly ridicule.

But this doesn't mean they're actually going away. They're the LaRouche Democrats of gaming: occasionally amusing, varying degrees of racist, and prone to fits of whimsy in their attempts at graphic design. They'll be around, putting Hitler mustaches on Anita Sarkeesian for the foreseeable future. Their ability to recruit has been severely compromised, but the dead-enders really do have nothing better to do. To say nothing of the neo-nazis, rape apologists, and actual honest-to-god terrorists that made up #GappaGoob before it had a name; they'll scatter when someone gets arrested, but they'll be back in some form or another. They've never not been here.

What people aren't talking about anymore is changing the hashtag. The argument for the change was that it would enable the conversation to focus on its stated purpose--ethics in games journalism--without legitimizing or tolerating its toxic origins. The argument against the change was that it would rob the group of momentum, which they needed for whatever the hell they were doing.

As with most things #GrizzleGoom, it's hard to tell whether this is ignorance or dishonesty, especially since the two can crossbreed in interesting ways where issues of identity politics are involved. The actual reason there can be no new hashtag, no separation from the hate campaign, is that the "legitimate" face of the movement is wholly dependent on the hate campaign. It's not just that the latter created the former; the former is built on a foundation laid down by the latter.

Back when it was still called the Quinnspiracy, it wasn't all doxxing and death threats and stalking and slut-shaming. It was a crowdsourced disinformation campaign, and the "legitimate" movement is predicated on uncritically accepting those lies. The scandal for which #GombaGum was named--and it's frankly bizarre that so many people seem to think they can just gloss over this part--simply never happened. It's bullshit, it's obvious bullshit, and the press said as much once they'd realized it wasn't going to blow over and they had to address it. The accusations of censorship began with several websites deciding they didn't want to provide a platform for an obviously unstable individual's transparent attempts to ruin a woman's life, and continued with other websites' decisions not to publish the ensuing cover story for the entirely unfair reason that it was obviously, demonstrably untrue. The specific journalistic question raised by #GlammaGrrl concerned whether or not gaming websites were obligated to publish slander based on hearsay. (They are not.)

But it's not about that anymore, right? The ensuing accusations followed the same pattern: unadulterated horseshit, easily disproven, and widely distributed. #GanderGibb's rhetorical strategy has been to tell so many lies that people will uncritically accept at least a few of them. Jenn Frank's malfeasance? Lies. The attacks on TFYC? Lies. "Gamers are dead?" Well...

I'm not sure quite how to characterize this argument. Leaving aside the claim that a dozen articles on the same subject constitutes a conspiracy--see also the thousands of news sites who all started talking about the 2014 election results at the same time--and leaving aside that only one of those actually contained the phrase "gamers are dead," and it wasn't the famous one, you'd still have to laughably misread them to come up with anything like the preposterous, genocidal screeds #GuppyGatt claim to have been offended by. You'd have to not know that "gamer" has been a contentious term for years specifically because it denotes a large, varied, fun-loving audience but connotes a hostile, exclusionary hive of anxious masculinity. You'd have to ignore that Leigh Alexander spent much of the iconic "gamers are dead" post lamenting how embarrassing this shit is, and how the assorted anti-feminists and crypto-fascists who kicked off this "consumer revolt" are representative of a wider problem of arrested development and toxic masculinity, a pissed-off, chronically insecure clique who don't realize that Chuck Palahniuk is making fun of them. You'd have to imagine that it contained the phrase "gamers are dead," and read it as...I don't even fucking know.

Reading it literally would seem to be out of the question, because being dead is not, traditionally, a morally loaded thing. Short of a relapse of Cotard delusion, it's hard to imagine how this could be applied literally, yet the gators assert their physical alive-ness with seemingly no awareness of how ridiculous they sound. Some people seem to have read it as a threat, an interpretation it's difficult to believe is being offered in good faith. But the weirdest part isn't so explicit. The canonical #GabbaGone response to discussion of cultural conflicts within gaming culture was to act as if they were being attacked from outside, from people with contempt for a rather important part of this particular techno-cultural moment. You'd have to believe that the people who've devoted their lives to videogames--building them, experiencing them, taking them apart, putting them back together, and sharing their experiences with the world--hate the technology and culture they've helped build. You'd have to believe that Alexander, who commemorated a successful no-kill run in Metal Gear Solid 3 by permanently inscribing the Pigeon icon onto her goddamn body, hates videogames and wished everyone would just give up and get really into puppet theater or something.

You'd have to believe a lot of really stupid shit. And so they do. So do lots of people; sooner or later, I'll run into the LaRouche Democrats in Harvard Square again. Sooner or later, there'll be another manufactured scandal. Sooner or later, we'll have to do all this bullshit again.

But the conventional wisdom on this particular outburst has been set down, and it's not changing. They lost. They'll probably lose next time, too.

Screengrab courtesy of @SJWIlluminati

Gamers are alive.

Kill the gamers.

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