With a headline like that, what could possibly go wrong?
In this article I present an idea that may help both sides of GamerGate survive the ordeal. Simply this: negative movements are counter-productive. Positive movements affect change.
What is GamerGate if not a negative reaction? You could say it’s in favor of journalistic integrity, but it’s more accurate to say that it’s against journalistic deceit, despite the efforts of some GamerGate supporters to redefine the movement in positive terms. It can’t escape its reactionary negative roots.
The other side suffers from the same problem. Those journalists and organizations identified by GamerGate as “Social Justice Warriors” mounted the attack over the past few years in articles and other media which condemn gamer culture and promote an “us vs. them” mentality more frequently than they promote diversity.
By now, everyone has picked a side. Bi-partisan discussion is rare. How do we solve this? By reframing everything in positive terms.
I turn to an example from outside the industry. I think Christianity is on the tail end of a decades-long struggle with the issue of LGBTQ individuals. Many Christians changed their interpretation of the Bible to allow for alternate sexualities and genders. No problem there. However, some Christians simply cannot read that into the Bible no matter how hard they try, and they cannot abandon their faith. For them, there are two options:
- Openly condemn, alienate, and otherwise crusade against the LGBTQ community. Essentially, become a bigot.
- Respectfully show the LGBTQ community what Christian love is supposed to look like without interfering with their lives. Yes, you can do this while still maintaining a belief that their sexual/gender orientation is sinful.
Just for a second, put yourself in the shoes of a hardcore, born-and-bred, farm-raised conservative Christian. You are deathly afraid of the “gay agenda”, a scourge which will rampage across your home country and destroy everything you love. How hard would it be for you to choose option 2? Yet many Christians do this.
Of course you know the Christians who choose option 1. Westboro Baptist Church is the most horrific example. How effective were they? I haven’t heard from them in years. They generated an immense amount of vitriol, probably without changing a single person’s mind. More than anything, they damaged Christianity by driving LGBTQ individuals away from other, more welcoming churches.
The point is, negative movements don’t work. They’re actually counter-productive. Most Christians figured this out in the example I just gave. We in the gaming community have not figured this out yet.
The reason is, it’s much easier to be against something than to be for something. The tiniest injustice on either side of GamerGate instantly mobilizes a massive social media army, because it’s easy to get outraged and click “Retweet”. Both sides of GamerGate exhibit the lowest form of slacktivism.
So, “wat do?”
If you are pro-GamerGate: I don’t know if your movement can be salvaged, which is a shame. You’ve already tried to turn the focus toward positive things like integrity and respecting consumers, but GamerGate will always be a negative reaction against something at its core. Heck, #NotYourShield has a negative right there in the name. If you can, abandon ship and start a new campaign focused on the positive things you find important. Forget the half of the game industry that seems to hate you. Prove them wrong, not by posting a video showing how nice you are, but by forgetting the conflict and doing something positive that fulfills your goals, regardless of what people think. Maybe make a game!
If you are anti-GamerGate: Stop attacking; you’re only throwing fuel on the fire. What does that mean in practical terms? This will sound incredibly controversial (steady… let me explain before you crucify me), but don’t talk so much about harassment, prejudice, and the like. Instead focus on the great positive things women and other minorities are doing in this industry.
Charlie Brooker covers the topic of mass murders in a brilliant 2009 segment of Newswipe.
He quotes Dr. Park Dietz, the famous forensic psychiatrist:
We’ve had twenty years of mass murderers, throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, “if you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring.
Don’t have photographs of the killer.
Don’t make this 24/7 coverage.
Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero.
Do localize this story to the affected community, and make it as boring as possible in every other market.
Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”
I think it’s not a huge stretch to extend this advice from mass murders to harassment. Of course we all need to be aware that it happens, but focusing on the harassment itself only invites further attacks. Instead, focus on how much these minorities have accomplished, and only mention harassment in passing. They should not be admired for being a minority who puts up with a lot of hatred. They want to be admired for what they do, period. And there’s plenty to admire, so let’s focus on that.
For further reading on the subject of antagonism, tribalism, and politics, I leave you with a wonderful in-depth article written by a libertarian-ish Jewish psychiatrist entitled I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup.