This Apology To Brianna Wu By An Ex-GamerGate Supporter Finally Recognizes The Movement For What It Is
Hey, do you remember #GamerGate? If not, well, feel free to brush up on the details, but in all honesty I couldn't blame you if your memory has gotten a little hazy — it's been going on for months now, seemingly unabated, with a familiar cabal of YouTube personalities, Twitter users, and anonymous trolls working ceaseless to advance what's essentially an anti-feminist, anti-progressive culture war in gaming. And throughout it all, very few voices have openly moved from one side to the other, until now: a former #GamerGate supporter has apologized to Brianna Wu, in an email which Wu posted to her personal Tumblr Friday.
Rest assured, if you've felt fatigued by all this, it's worth a read — if you're wondering whether it's actually possible to win people over in this frenetic online fracas, where intimidation, threats, and harassment of women have been and remain hallmarks from the very start, it may help to take a moment to read an account from somebody who's actually turned sides. Just one necessary disclaimer: Wu states at the top that the email was "lightly edited for clarity and anonymity," and as such we won't ever get to know who precisely authored this mea culpa, unless they someday feel moved to come forward publicly. It's a little long, but it's undeniably worth your attention.
The reference to "Gamers are Dead" articles represents one of the core complaints of #GamerGate — in a relatively short span, a glut of articles were published across various gaming websites about whether the typically perceived "gamer" identity was on its way out, owing partly to a broadening consumer base and changing social norms.
This was seized on by #GamerGate, spurring accusations of collusion between major websites. This is sometimes characterized by supporters as the movement's inciting incident, though in spite of whatever individual motivations may exist, that's not true — it was an invasive, violating blog by an ex of indie game developer Zoe Quinn that first set off the #GamerGate firestorm, and fueled its largely anti-feminist and anti-woman bent.
There's something worth noting about this letter, which anyone who's followed the #GamerGate tumult over the last several months can attest to — most people involved in the movement probably won't believe its authenticity. After all, there are people out there who still don't believe women like Wu, Quinn, or feminist pop-cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian have been harassed or threatened in any significant way, despite countless examples.
As such, an anonymous, eloquent letter claiming a defection from their ranks is probably going to be met with angry insistences that it wasn't written by a real #GamerGate proponent, a possibility which Wu addressed pretty succinctly on Twitter.
The comment about 'outfoxing' Pakman is in reference to an interview Wu did with progressive television and internet host David Pakman. In sum, it was mostly devoted to Pakman quizzing Wu on #GamerGate's various accusations about her motives and actions, after receiving a series of harrowing death threats. Wu answered all the questions, but wasn't thrilled with the overall thrust or tone of the interview — as the recipient herself of terroristic death threats, there's a case to be made that she shouldn't have been on trial as much as Pakman's questioning implied.
A pretty powerful change of course, huh? Look, obviously, this probably isn't going to change anything in the near term — in my personal experience, at least, the number of #GamerGate proponents who at least appear to have this kind of mea culpa lurking within them seems like a slim number at best. But it's got to be at least slightly reassuring and heartening for the women who've been targeted by #GamerGate to see that there are kind people among them who can be appealed to. In a week in which Wu's been disgustingly harassed and taunted over the death of a beloved family dog, including by virulent Breitbart writer and #GamerGate hero Milo Yiannopoulos, it's nice to see somebody reach out to her with a message of growth and respect, instead.
By all means, check out Wu's Tumblr, her Twitter account, or give her views on games a listen on the Isometric podcast — she's a dynamic voice in this discussion, and an essential follow as #GamerGate rolls along.
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