Looking at Gamergate - The conservatism myth and Breitbart's place in GG

Gamergate nears a year and a half of activity and Breitbart opens its technology section. Just how conservative is GG anyway?

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.

Published Nov. 23rd 2015
View Comments
  • Mathenaut
    How long before someone calls this harassment?
  • Vordreller
    No mention of /r/kotakuinaction ?

    Basically the only place I go for GG information.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    Thanks for the subreddit mention, I didn't know about it. Now I know that Blade and Soul is getting censored into the ground. So much for being excited for that game and jumping into Asian culture.
  • Rev_9504
    "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." - Evelyn Beatrice Hall
  • UptownFunk
    The real problem with GamerGate is that it was borne out of anonymity. There's no one to 'claim' the movement or act as a real public figurehead and denounce the harassment and praise positivity. Sure, you can claim to be a person in GG - and the writer here seem pretty level headed - but so can anyone who harasses women online and justify it by saying "no, this is about ethicslolz". That's why major news sites aren't going to take GG seriously. It's not a mainstream 'left-wing media bias' as so many people love to claim - it's because you have a movement mostly based on anons using hashtags and posting to 4chan (or 8chan, or Voat, or whatever). Of course toxic anons are going to get in and cause that in-fighting. If GG wants to be taken seriously at all, it can't be anonymous and public figures supporting GG need to condemn anyone who does unethical things and claims to be part of GG.

    Besides, really, most of what I can find from GGers is pretty alarmist and sensational. If there were accusations of unethical behavior coming from the Associated Press, maybe I'd listen. Most journos seem seem scared shitless that anything they might write will get them in deep with internet commenters and any REAL breach of ethics would get them booted from the industry, so they're pretty ethical. It's not like there are journalists sitting in a board room thinking "ok, what unethical things can we do today? muahaha." But, for now, and since GG started, most of what's out there in favor of GG seems to actually be slander against ethical sites that some anons dislike because they have different perspectives and priorities. And that's really all it seems to be from my point of view as an outsider looking in.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    "anyone who harasses women online"

    anyone who harasses PEOPLE online

  • Ver Greeneyes
    GG certainly came from chan culture in part, and that is this article's perspective, but let's not downplay the role of Reddit and Twitter. /r/KotakuInAction is easily the biggest pro-GG community with its 55k subscribers, and the hashtag has been used literally millions of times on Twitter. Neither of these platforms are anonymous: they are pseudonymous, and often can be traced back to someone without much difficulty (my Twitter certainly can).

    It's true that the media has shied away from approaching people on either of these platforms, but those who have tried - e.g. Kathy Young (looking through twitter) and Brad Glasgow (doing a survey on reddit) have generally gotten a warm reception. It's unfair to blame people who support GamerGate for the fact that supposed journalists have utterly failed to do their jobs.

    In addition, people in support of GamerGate have come out time and time again against harassment, be it against people claiming to be part of GG or third party trolls. Indeed, a group of pro-GG people set up an anti-harassment watchdog, and have reported hundreds of accounts to date. I also cannot think of a single e-celeb associated with GamerGate who has not spoken out against harassment. But this never gets any media coverage. Instead, the media only focuses on the reports of harassment, never checking their validity, attributing every nasty post to GamerGate even when no such link can be established.

    As for what GG has found, you should check out deepfreeze.it, which documents many ethical violations in meticulous detail. Most are nothing to get particularly up in arms about by themselves, but they add up - and if nothing else, a lot of work has gone into gathering the information.

    In addition, several of GG's worst detractors have been quoted as stating that they do not strive for truth or objectivity, that their aim is to make the world a better place for women and minorities. A noble goal in theory, but considering the multitude of lies they have spouted regarding not just GamerGate, but representation of women and minorities in games, developer intent and so on, I don't think it's unfair to say they will use every means at their disposal, no matter how unethical. These people are glorified bloggers out only for themselves and the people they claim to speak for (but usually don't).

    Finally, if you think current complaints are alarmist, you should look into the student protests currently going on at 63 universities in the USA. Things have gotten so bad, so insane, that black students are asking for what amounts to segregated housing on campus, as well as total control over the curriculum, enforcing mandatory social justice training courses. Today's extreme left is demented and a danger to western society - and I say that as a liberal socialist.

    I seem to bring him up every time I post about this, but I highly recommend checking out Sargon of Akkad's Youtube channel. In particular, check out his videos on neo-progressivism and how it is nothing like classical liberalism. I also recommend Dave Rubin, in case you find Sargon too abrasive. And Christina Hoff Sommers' Factual Feminist series, if you'd prefer a female perspective.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    I think the problem with "right-wing" GamerGate and the "left-wing" side of gaming journalism is the very notion of a right and left wing in gaming to begin with. For some odd reason an unending wave of gaming blogs, journalism sites, and so forth all tend to hang out on the "left-wing" while the few touch upon the "right-wing". From what I have seen of the right-wing sites, few have been so far extreme to the right that they push for conservative views. Many - in truth - seem to just present two views and say one looks better than the other.

    I certainly don't agree with the almost censoring levels of left-wing media we get nowadays. It's a result of the PC movement of the last decade, and it really hurts to find the "truth" no matter what type of news you are trying to look up. It's honestly just pandering for views, and I don't think anyone on the left seems to notice that they're just being herded like a flock of sheep for profit and little else. I honestly doubt many left-wing gaming sites really care, just as long as they make their 100k views for the day. Not saying GG is probably any better, but at least it's a different voice for once.

    That said, articles like these make me glad to be part of the GameSkinny community since we can post something that looks somewhat positively on GG without getting blocked out, while someone can write a negative view the next day and get similar results. I know many of my articles wouldn't make it to the more liberal sites, while others I write wouldn't get to the door on the conservative ones.
  • Ashley SSS
    Associate Editor
    "For some odd reason an unending wave of gaming blogs, journalism sites, and so forth all tend to hang out on the "left-wing" while the few touch upon the "right-wing"."

    This dynamic is one of the biggest problems with games journalism today. I'm not one to care for politics or the ideologues that are so prevalent on each side today -- and honestly I'm very tired of having other people's opinions pushed so heavily as fact on most mainstream gaming sites. This does happen far more often on liberal-focused websites, but at the same time there are nowhere near as many conservative ones dipping their feet into the gaming coverage pool.

    So what we, the reader and the consumer, end up with is a bunch of the same opinion coming from different mouth pieces. You see this very much in different entertainment industries, but its onset in gaming has happened much faster and much more aggressively.

    I feel like the quicker demand for impartial coverage in comparison to other industries is because (and I hate to say this) how many game enthusiasts have a need to be comfortable. That is, after all, why we immerse ourselves in games. They're safe, comfortable excitement without any risk but to your wallet.

    Once the far-left sentiment in games journalism became more prevalent than simple clamoring over the latest fads, it went from something most gamers can somewhat relate with to something aggressively trying to push particular ideals onto a readerbase that just wants to read about video games. I would even go so far as to say (in some instances) this shift has made modern mainstream journalism more of a propaganda machine than a marketing one.

    I feel like I went too long with that point, but if I'm going to write an article like this one I may as well be as honest and longwinded in the comments as the article itself.

    I really feel like the now-constant calls for censorship are a big problem, and I'm glad you brought it up. The fact that the people who are making this big push for games to become art are the same people harassing developers to change their artistic vision to pander to their personal sensibilities is so hypocritical it's almost comedic. But it's not funny -- this mindset is depressing prevalent on the internet.

    I'll stop now before I make this comment as long as, but thank you for commenting and being open to discussion. I enjoy that I could write this here and have it find its way to the front page, which is definitely one of the benefits to GameSkinny, but I was certainly scared to publish it. And I'm still worried about what's to come.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    I wouldn't worry too much about it, honestly. If anyone truly had liberal ideals they would understand that the purpose was to allow people to speak their minds and do as they please (that is what a truly liberal society is). What we have nowadays isn't so much liberalism as much as it is a strange fascism of sorts where you are ostracized for having any opinion other than the PC movement's.

    It's a sad irony, really.
  • UptownFunk
    First of all, that's much more of a libertarian idea than a liberal one. Nothing wrong with libertarianism, but let's get that clarified and out of the way.

    Being politically correct is being polite and mindful of other people's backgrounds, not fascism. Sure, some people take political correctness too far (like the conservatives insisting on the term 'radical islam' or censoring swearing on TV), but saying "supporting political correctness is supporting censorship" is the same rhetoric as saying "supporting Gamer Gate is supporting harassment."
  • Spyke_3447
    One can be libertarian AND liberal. They are not mutually exclusive... hence the term liberal libertarian. Which I identify as when one simply MUST demand I have a label in regards politics.

    Political correctness is a nice notion in PRINCIPLE. However the arguments are NOT that the principle is wrong but that in ACTION and in it's current form, it's become all too authoritarian and is twisting said principle and ideals in an effort to shut down discussion, silence dissenting opinion and of course smear others who dare to disagree with groups they dogmatically believe are right. I find it distasteful and sickening.

    Any and all groups when they lean towards heavy authoritarian ideals run the risk of rightfully being called fascistic. Because that's exactly what it is.
    However, I do not fully disagree that in principle liberalism is at it's core fascistic and promotes censorship, but when taken to the extremes that are commonly seen today and in regards "social justice" that is EXACTLY what we see. At best it's borderline fascism or well on it's way towards it.

    This is why the backlash, there are clearly shades of difference of course. But to say that there is not this clear and present danger coming from so called liberal minded people is honestly incredibly dishonest IMHO.

    As for the "lolethics" comment, that was and has ALWAYS been nothing more than a weak attempt to limit the scope of discussion which arises through the gamergate hashtag and networks, the irony being it's often tossed out by the same kind of people who have moved the goalposts so many times, they can't even remember where they were. I would argue this is/was done deliberately too.

    Do I as a GG supporter care about games journalism ethics? sure!
    but that is NOT the limit of my concerns, there are plenty of tangential problems and ALL are arising from a simple lack of diversity of opinion in the discussions which were happening in and around the gaming sphere and in it's related media sites, in particular the biggest ones which all operate under umbrella parent companies or loosely. The arrogant smearing of people who simply dared to ask pertinent questions, the mass blocking of people based on a narrative that the minority of harassers represented the whole and of course...

    The genetic fallacy which you yourself mistakenly display.

    "It started with harassment and therefore it's always going to be about harassment, it's tainted by that irreperably"

    This may not have been what you intended to imply, but it's all too eerily similar to it. I don't CARE about the origins, I care about the current discussions and focus, does that mean I don't think there have been missteps along the way in regards GG's focuses? of course not, but that doesn't mean it hasn't hit gold with it's digging and repeatedly so. Need I remind you that an actual secretive mailing list existed wherein so called journalists sought a consensus on what to cover? this was not ok. Not one bit.

    I've heard the arguments that it wasn't a "smoking gun" a thousand times and no matter how many times repeated it simply does not make them true. The idea behind the anonymous nature of GG was simply to avoid placing the emphasis on one person above others. No matter who appears to be a "figurehead" or "spokesperson" that person is still only speaking for themselves and those that agree with them in GG and not GG in it's entirety because 100% consensus is not required for it to operate, it is not a hive-mind. It has plenty of internal strife and disagreement and I would not personally want it any other way.

    That diversity of opinion is what makes it valuable to me. And all leaders do historically is mess up and make bad calls which then gets nothing but shit for those that loosely affiliate with them even, I'm not a follower I'm not a leader I'm simply there and speaking for myself and taking part in the wider discussion, I'd prefer the meritocracy of a leaderless group any day thanks. good ideas float, bad ideas sink. Does that leave it open to bad faith actors? sure! but I'm not responsible for those people, they don't represent ME as an individual. I represent me. That is all there is to it.

    Now, does this mean I don't think a site has the right to exist if it's priorities are "progressive" or "politically correct" then? no.
    But it needs to wear that openly and operate with a higher level of transparency or else it runs the risk of ending up nothing more than a groupthink laden mess along with all the other sites that devalue their input into the discussion by acting in said manner.
    And certainly, those sites should NOT hold a monopoly on who is listened to in every single discussion. Yet this is EXACTLY what happened. A homogeneous set of sites all communicating in secret to put out how they "interpret" the news in the gaming medium and ONLY those events that they deemed "ok" and only then with a shocking disregard for objectivity. That monopoly had to be broken and it was LONG overdue.

    If you believe in the nirvana fallacy-esque laden nonsense of people like Jason Schrier, then I have bad news for you. Just because you can't be 100% perfectly subjective does not mean you throw objectivity out of the window entirely, that's condoning lazy and narratively led coverage and it cannot be allowed to stand.

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