Looking at Gamergate - The conservatism myth and Breitbart's place in GG
Like it or not, Gamergate has been a thing for over a year now. The movement has steadily grown this past year despite the claims the movement is a "hate group" and that it's full of "right-wing nutjobs." Political conservative website Breitbart entering technology coverage last month certainly didn't help these popular conceptions, and some have taken it as a sign that they were right all along about GGers.
To preface what's to come, I would like to disclaim the fact I have been involved in Gamergate before it had a name. I was up all night feasting in the drama (like a typical /v/irgin) the night the Zoe Post hit last year. I left my 10-year home on 4chan /v/ over Gamergate because I believe(d) in its core goals. I am a woman, a moderate liberal, and can confidently state I know more about the internals of GG than anyone watching from the outside.
There's a lot to say about all sides of the movement, especially on what people outside of anonymous imageboard culture can easily misconstrue as genuine bigotry and radical conservatism. The most I'll say on that point is that if you act like an idiot ironically, real idiots will soon follow in swarms with the assumption they have a new pack of bedfellows. /v/'s addiction to infantile rages over censorship and /pol/'s subsequent infiltration of /v/ culture is a very clear example of this in action.
Why Gamergate is considered right-wing
There are a number of reasons Gamergate has a reputation for being "right-wing," many of them squarely in the laps of pundits who have chosen to portray the movement in a slanted light out of malice or ignorance. This is not the only root of this popular perception, but it is the largest. The second contributor to this conception is 4chan's (and now 8chan's) politics board, /pol/.
Anyone even halfway familiar with chan culture is aware of /pol/. There isn't much positive to say for /pol/ and a pro-GG's opinion on it generally varies based on whether they're /pol/ users or not. Unsurprisingly, most are not -- /pol/ itself is vile and its far-right (often extremist) users' beliefs are not much in line with most of Gamergate. Just like most anti-GG sentiment is not actually to kill all men.
/pol/ itself has been the root of a lot of in-fighting
The board's initial connection with /v/ and subsequently GG during the first few months of the movement is one of the reasons it's been so easy to pin Gamergate on simple misogyny. People not knowledgeable on chan culture see 4chan as one big hivemind when the reality is each board has its own culture and way of communicating. /v/ culture has never been much in line with /pol/ culture and vice versa, but the two boards did vaguely agree on one topic: feminism.
/v/ is adamantly against censorship, and much censorship was called for in 2012 and 2013 in the name of third-wave feminism. This is the time the term "SJW" really started to make the rounds on the board and shitposting reached critical levels. This is also the same time /pol/ saw an opportunity to "align" itself with /v/.
/pol/ hates feminism, /v/ was mad about censorship generally associated with third-wave feminism
It was a close enough common ground for /pol/ users to worm their aggressive ideologues into /v/ one post at a time. /v/ at large has not been a particularly bright board since 2005/2006 (ages ago in internet time) and /pol/ most certainly took advantage of that once the calls for game censorship ramped up in 2012.
It's important to keep this all in mind when looking at Gamergate. While outsiders attach the movement to /pol/'s bigotry, the /v/-/pol/ connection is not as close as it seems. Much of /pol/ and its poster boy Internet Aristocrat bounced a few months in when they deemed the movement as not being extreme enough.
To say /pol/ isn't related anymore would be dishonest -- /pol/ migrated to 8chan not long after Gamergate supporters, making much of the 8chan userbase extremely conservative -- but it is not as tied up in it today as many are led to believe.
Let's get back to Breitbart's technology section "backing up" the popular anti-GG theory that Gamergate mainly consists of conservatives.
This is less far-fetched than the widespread opinion that Gamergate is a hate group, but both are at about the same level as fantasy. The stereotype that all GGers are white, male misogynists with a gun stash is about as valid as the stereotype that all anti-GG are pink-haired snowflakes living off their Patreons. Positive coverage is positive coverage, and honestly we will take what we can get.
Even if it's from what most equate to a ring-wing alarmist tabloid.
The need for more points of view
So, we've touched on why Gamergate is widely seen as a conservative movement, and it's more than likely that Breitbart's in/famous Milo Yiannopoulos likely entered the ring under the same assumption. Milo has been a massive boon to Gamergate as Breitbart has been the only larger site to cover it in a positive light. This, too, has fueled the myth that GG is conservative.
So, let's ask a question:
If a publication or website is actively insulting you or pretending your opinions don't matter, do you continue to visit it?
This was a huge focal point at the beginning of Gamergate as website after website published their "Gamers don't have to be your audience" articles in response to the Zoe Post backlash. There are a ton of details to that period, but the question above really nails the overall sentiment: If you don't want us, we'll go somewhere else. And so, many pro-Gamergate readers have looked for other outlets.
It's hard to say it was disappointing that so many sites decided to throw their hats into the ring with nary an original thing to say. Games journalism, after all, has been long considered dead by the chan community. The Kane & Lynch debacle of 2007, in which GameSpot's Jeff Gerstmann panned the game and soon fired, was what many consider the first real piece of evidence that games journalism couldn't be entirely trusted. The beginning of Gamergate only served to enforce the sentiment once and for all.
From the very beginning, many of the very sites that lambasted GG during its infancy also seemed to censor and squash dissenting opinions. What is far more disappointing than the betrayal of these sites is that you are not allowed to speak positively of Gamergate without being shouted down and modded out. This is especially the case as a woman, as I'm often referred to as a traitor or even worse for simply not sharing the same opinion.
It's very much worth noting that the majority of the sites that got in on bashing Gamergate early are extremely liberal. Many of these sites critique (or even bash) developers and publishers for including "problematic" content or not being inclusive enough. They seem to shame fans for liking attractive women in their games, blast developers for not including the "right" type of diversity, and some have been accused of writing about games they have personal ties to without disclosing that information.
This is exactly why so many new gaming sites have popped up within the last year claiming to be totally neutral, with Tech Raptor being at the forefront. Some of them have been gaining traction not just because they avoid the politics other sites try to tie themselves to, but because they have the freedom to publish investigative articles -- something generally taboo for mainstream gaming sites.
Wanting real gaming journalism doesn't make you a misogynist, it makes you an enthusiast. I want to read coverage for enthusiasts. Not whatever gossip will get the most pageviews that week.
Breitbart doesn't quite fit the bill, but its gaming coverage has been fairly impartial. The same honestly can't be said for the rest of the site and this could be worrisome for pro-GGers.
Filling the void
There's this rise of neutral websites, but where's the yin to the yang? The right to go with the left? This is where Breitbart's technology section comes into play and why it's important.
I have no doubt their technology section is the spawn of Milo's popularity within Gamergate and the need for traffic growth. It's also entirely possible the only reason Milo himself got involved with GG because of its reputation as a conservative movement.
The reason he jumped into the fray is of little importance now, nearly a year and a half since Gamergate started. What does matter is the site he works for gave the movement a platform to be seen as something more than the hate group most gaming sites have decided to dub us.
Breitbart's motives for entering tech are irrelevant, but a sizable website giving a point of view on games that isn't the same as everywhere else is relevant.
It's bizarre that an industry so obsessed with "growing up" is simultaneously so scared of points of view that are in direct conflict with their own. Breitbart's entry into technology coverage and news is not an affront to what you personally believe. It's simply giving the market another option, and it's an option that can be ignored.
If you are squarely on the anti-GG side and have taken Gamergate's embracing of Breitbart's expansion into tech news as a sign that we're all right-wingers, you should know the vast majority of Gamergate doesn't even know what the site is like outside of the articles related to GG itself. Even I didn't until I got curious a few months ago and gave it a peruse.
I don't think I'd recommend Breitbart outside of its GG coverage, but that's just me
It would be all too easy for Breitbart to become as sensationalist when covering gaming topics as it is in other fields. To take reading GG and game-related articles on Breitbart as a proof of a person's political leaning is to jump to a potentially harmful conclusion. No one deserves to be stereotyped, much less because their options are limited.
The site isn't ideal, but I can be at least thankful for another option. There is nothing wrong with that, just like there's nothing wrong with having differing opinions. I think we all can do a bit better to accept that.
This article is definitely late (Breitbart's tech section opened up last month), but a debate has forced my hand to speak out after over a year of public silence on Gamergate.
/pol/tards can feel free to get mad because bad and a-GG can feel free to get mad because sad, but neither should expect me to argue because I won't. Everyone is free to have their own opinions. I won't change yours nor will you change mine.