Breitbart Leaks & the Terrorism of GamerGate

Joseph Bernstein’s article at Buzzfeed News—”Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream“—includes larger implications for the video game community. Bernstein creates a narrative from a series of leaked emails from Breitbart which show Steve Bannon giving directions to Milo Yiannopoulis regarding their white nationalist agenda. They also “out” several male members of the press who were secretly giving Breitbart ideas for articles.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article that showed how Bannon had been grooming supporters from World of Warcraft forums way back in 2005. Bernstein’s article includes a bit where Breitbart editor Alex Marlow is editing one of Yiannopoulos’ speeches and approves a joke about “shekels” but asked to remove a joke about gas chambers. The article shows how Yiannopoulos would push the limits and the higher-ups would reign him in. At any point that he hinted at their racist, misogynist, or nationalist agenda, they would have him reword and rephrase certain excerpts.

The article is extremely long and detailed, and includes several examples of this sort of careful planning and manipulation. But the most interesting part for video game communities is how seemingly “good” guys were actually feeding the hate machine.

Traitors

Tara Golshan wrote an article for Vox that summarizes Bernstein’s article and highlights a few findings. She points out that Mitchell Sunderland, a senior staff writer for Vice’s women’s channel Broadly, asked Yiannopoulos to mock New York Times columnist Lindy West. Sunderland called her a “fat feminist”.

Golshan also points out that Dan Lyons—who is a writer for Forbes and Newsweek, a screenwriter for HBO’s Silicon Valley, and a non-fiction author published by Hachette—suggested articles about the “real” birth sex of one of the women who was viciously targeted by online GamerGate harassers.

Finally, David Auerbach—former tech editor for Slate—gave Breitbart information about the personal love life of another GamerGate target, along with a slew of other horrendous ideas. While Sunderland is quiet after being fired and Lyons made a public apology, Auerbach is self-destructing. Shane Ryan at Paste writes about how Auerbach started a Tweet storm directed at Buzzfeed, calling them hypocrites for hating on 4chan but hiring their founder. In one tweet, Auerbach says, “If Buzzfeed directs a shitstorm & harassment my way, I’ll either go private or deactivate.” This implies that he is afraid of being harassed online, which is ironic considering that his actions asked for this treatment on other people.

What’s This Mean?

Austin Walker, Patrick Klepek, and Rob Zacny talk about this on Episode 102 of Waypoint Radio. A large part of their conversation goes back to 2014 when the term “GamerGate” first started. Walker laments about how gaming publications took a neutral approach that ended up hurting them in the long run. Klepek also apologizes for not doing more at the time.

If you listen to the episode, it is clear how much fear GamerGate caused in people’s lives. Female journalists were terrified of writing about it because they didn’t want to be “doxed“. Male journalists didn’t speak against it because they didn’t want the female members of their teams to be harassed. Unfortunately, female journalists were harassed regardless. It is very clear that the people who actively engaged in doxing are not activists: they are terrorists. And their campaign worked.

Moving Foward

In 2014, mainstream news outlets were more likely to give the pro-GamerGate crowd a platform. However, we have to recognize that this is a terrorist movement. Unlike #BlackLivesMatter or #YesAllWomen, #GamerGate was never actually about anything positive. People arguing that GamerGate was about “ethics in journalism” were either lying or believed the lies they’d been fed. Bernstein’s article perfectly illustrates how people like Bannon and Yiannopoulos preyed on the insecurities of young, white men. They created myths and, behind the scenes, figured out how to make the fiction sound like fact.

We always need to be more mindful of separating fact from fiction. As an essay-writing tutor, this is something I strongly support. We also need to be adamant that people with covert agendas are exposed and not given the “benefit of the doubt”. We can’t go back in time and call GamerGate doxers “terrorists”; however, we’ve learned a lot over the past year, and it’s important to keep using that knowledge to our benefit.


Also published on Medium.

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