Here’s some initial thoughts on what went down at SPJAirplay and it should be read or viewed even by people who are sick of the whole thing or have written it off as a misogynistic hate movement.
The Society of Professional Journalists held an event in Florida, part of which was a separate event to discuss Gamergate. Gamergate representatives were chosen by popular votes on Chans, Reddit and Twitter and anti-Gamergate… refused to come. Even with offers of having their way paid, despite any and all inducements to do so. This may have been a tactical mistake.
In its final form the event became more like a panel of Gamergate involved people, trying to explain to conventional journalists a) what Gamergate was b) why it was more important than it seemed and c) why the media had failed so hard to report well on it.
There were two panels, the first explanatory and giving examples of some of the ethical breaches Gamergate has been concerned with, the second supposedly to try and find solutions and new practices, though the second panel was very poorly handled by the moderator and then interrupted by a ‘credible bomb threat’ (according to the local police department).
The event was simultaneously a huge vindication of everything Gamergate has stood for and argued, and a disappointment.
Gamergate’s ethical concerns regarding cronyism, corruption and collusion were agreed upon to be unethical, chuckles were had at the expense of Gawker Media (and others) and Gamergate got a well-earned morale boost and stamp of legitimacy from the SPJ.
This was a win.
The more frustrating part was the second panel. Panellists Cathy Young, Milo Yiannopoulos and Christina Sommers tried to explain Gamergate contextually by reference to other problems and other, similar movements (such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter) but kept getting shut down before they could make their points, by the moderator.
It seemed obvious to me what they were trying to establish:
- That these issues are serious issues not just in games journalism.
- That it is possible to report on these issues in a more sensitive and balanced fashion.
- That these were, perhaps, more understandable and analogous situations via which conventional journalists might be able to understand Gamergate.
To take one example that the moderator seemed very keen to avoid, the problem of radical feminist influence on media in general and with special reference to Rolling Stone’s rape-reporting scandal the issue of blindly believing what you’re told, reporting it as true and causing a great many people a great deal of harm on the back of irresponsible reporting is obvious and a window into the sort of biased, activism-distorted reporting that has plagued discussion on Gamergate.
Thwarted at every turn trying to make these points, via constant interruptions from the moderator (who I think was trying to fill in for the lack of anti-Gamergate) the conversation finally had to turn to more simplistic examples of better ways to report on internet affairs… only to be interrupted by a bomb threat.
Every precaution had been taken, the police had been pre-warned of hoax bomb threats but this final one – the tenth – containing details on the venue and other warning signs, was enough that the police had to act. Everyone was evacuated out into the terrible heat and continued the discussion in smaller groups wherever shelter could be found.
Videos of those discussions haven’t emerged yet, but hopefully these small group discussions were productive.
The bomb threat was likely simply third party trolls, upping the ante having been shut out of the chats on streams and so forth. Another high possibility for me would be the conspiracy theorists who have – unfortunately – been lurking around Gamergate since Common Core and DARPA were mentioned. We shall see if anyone ever gets caught for these hoaxes though. It’s probably best not to speculate too much.
Something has changed though.
Gamergate is vindicated as an ethics/consumer movement.
Some parts of the media are now reporting more sympathetically.
The spin of anti-Gamergate on Airplay, and older events, is now ringing even more hollow.
The Gamergate meeting in Birmingham will likely be the endcap on my more active participation. Many of Gamergate’s goals have now been met and with Airplay I think Gamergate can smugly consider itself – rightly – legitimised and vindicated.
Gamergate won the war, on all fronts, and now there needs to be a negotiated peace. Hopefully we can continue what’s started with SPJAirplay – a conversation instead of a confrontation, a move to understanding and mutual tolerance that hasn’t been possible so long as Gamergate has been blamed for the actions of trolls and while ideologues have cowered behind automated block lists.
I hope some people will join me in trying to start conversations, and I hope some on the other side (rather than simply neutral people and journalists) will contribute.