by Jed Pressgrove
You might know what Gamergate is, but perhaps you haven’t recognized Gamergate Obsession. Gamergate Obsession refers to a condition where people speak about the lurid details of Gamergate to make themselves look smart. Even when Gamergate seems dead or irrelevant, these people want you to think “Gamergate. Gamergate. Gamergate.” so that they can feel insightful. The Guardian, no stranger to smugness, recently published something that tops every previous example of Gamergate Obsession: an article condescendingly titled “What Gamergate should have taught us about the ‘alt-right.'”
Matt Lees, the author of this piece, uses roughly 20 paragraphs to connect Gamergate to the alt-right, also known as white nationalism, Neo-Nazism, etc. What Lees doesn’t tell you is that his grand revelation could have been expressed in one sentence: “Steve Bannon, U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump’s chief advisor, is a founding member of Breitbart News, which publishes articles by Milo Yiannopoulos, a writer who rose to fame opining about Gamergate.”
But Gamergate Obsession demands more than that. It demands for you to believe, for instance, that “[T]he culture war that began in games now has a senior representative in The White House.” Nevermind that riling people up with discriminatory rhetoric has been a common practice throughout recent political history (citing Gamergate is hipper than articulating Hitler’s rise). Nevermind that this “culture war” likely involved scores of non-voting immature little snots who wouldn’t know a male Nazi from an old man buying chocolate for his grandchildren. Nevermind that Bannon is not merely defined by his involvement with Breitbart. Nevermind that Trump is not thinking, “You know, I think that Milo guy made great points about Gamergate; I need to hire a random founding member of Breitbart.” Lees just wants you to think that Bannon represents supporters of Gamergate.
After making this outrageous claim with evidence that amounts to “These two guys worked at Breitbart,” Lees showcases another common characteristic of those who suffer from Gamergate Obsession: defining women by the abuse they endure rather than by the work they produce. That Lees names specific women, rather than making a general point about sexist harassment, speaks to his concern that, if he doesn’t name the same names the media have largely focused on, his Gamergate Obsession will be called into question.
The most absurd Gamergate Obsession characteristic is pretending no one talked about Gamergate. Notice the irony of Lees, a writer for Guardian, saying, “This hashtag [Gamergate] was a canary in a coalmine, and we ignored it.” Who is he talking about? The Guardian? Certainly not: here is a collection of every Guardian piece that talks about Gamergate. Other media outlets? The New York Times, among others, ran more than one article on Gamergate. Social media? Just look up “Gamergate” on Twitter and see what you find.
Lees concludes his article with one final symptom of Gamergate Obsession: the implication that, before Gamergate, we had it all figured out, that no one experienced targeted online harassment or got phony-baloney information from the Internet. From Lees’ perspective, only right-wing movements deal in false or questionable language. That sort of bubble-world thinking doesn’t prepare anyone for what may come in a virtual land with virtually no grasp of what’s true or moral.