What was Gamergate? The lessons we still haven’t learned

Gamergate should have armed us against bad actors and bad-faith arguments. It didn’t.

Vox has an important article connecting the storming of the US Capitol with Gamergate, What was Gamergate? The lessons we still haven’t learned.  The point is that Gamergate and the storming are the visible symptoms of something deeper. I would go further and connect these with activities that progressives approve of like some of the Anonymous initiatives. For that matter, the recent populist retail investor campaign around stocks like GameStop has similar roots in new forms of organizing and new ironic ideologies.

It is tempting to blame forms of postmodern thought that deconstructed everything but irony. There is a form of humanist self-hate that blames our own evolving theories for what appears to be the cynical relativism of these new movements. I frankly doubt that Derrida is responsible for the alt-right. It has its own histories and intellectual traditions and they have more to do with militarism and race privilege than theory. See Ctrl-Alt-Delete: An Antifascist Report on the Alternative Right.

What is true is that forms of resistance, often pioneered by the left, are being repurposed by the alt-right. Silicon Valley told us that personal computers and then the internet were essentially progressive and liberating technologies. I believed. We thought technological change would lead to political change. Alas, the truth is more complex, and the changes facilitated by information technology are a mixed bag.

What we can say now is that we know many of the nasty side-effects. Whatever the underlying structures, we can deal with the harms. The value of the Vox article is that nails some of the concrete changes that could take place now:

  1. Police have to learn how to keep the rest of us safe from internet mobs
  2. Businesses have to learn when online outrage is manufactured
  3. Social media platforms didn’t learn how to shut down disingenuous conversations over ethics and free speech before they started to tear their cultures apart
  4. Violence against women is a predictor of other kinds of violence. We need to acknowledge it.
  5. Politicians and the media must take online “ironic” racism and misogyny seriously

I would articulate these differently, but that doesn’t matter so much as developing solidarity around the changes and regulations we need to reduce some of the harm.

Thanks to Erin for pointing me to this.