The conversation I had one night and into the next morning with the GamerGate supporter (i.e. a ProGGer) was long. It started off with my comments on Twitter about the need to not censor texts and instead use them to create dialogue. But the problem is that people too often don’t want to talk about things they disagree with, and thus would rather censor a text than engage in a painful discussion.
This was a year ago. I was afraid to post this back then. I am less afraid now because I see what I have here as being helpful to work being done by myself and others.
So I tagged #GamerGate with this. And as always seems to happen when I do so, I get a response from one ProGGer who seems to need to defend the movement. He suggested that I was acting all superior by insinuating myself in something that was none of my business.
So that lead to an immensely long conversation — about five hours — over Twitter. The conversation ranged from how to do dialogue to what is empiricism to the nature of harassment to the problem with with AntiGGers and so on and so forth. At one point, he even brought in Arthur Chu to the conversation, and he seemed hurt when I asked Chu to ignore us because Chu was not relevant to the conversation. So I brought Chu back in, and, it just went on.
Parts of the conversation (it was a lot of try to record) can be found in this Storify: Another GamerGate Conversation with Depth and Breadth
Now, I think in doing all of this, I still don’t understand everything that is going on, other than the need for people with far more conflict resolution training than I have (which is none) getting involved in this debate.
What I think I do understand is the following;
1) ProGGers may not see online trolling, bullying as harassment. This man said that death threats and doxing is harassment, but calling people names and attacking them in Twitter and forums is not harassment, because they need to learn to toughen up and not be delicate flowers. He also said he has been bullied himself, and did not seem to think it was possible to to stop bullies, and so not worth trying.
2) That the issue is not just journalistic ethics; it is about people making claims about the meanings of texts that suggest meanings they do not agree with, and then the perception that those people making such claims are trying to impose their meanings on everyone else. So the whole issue of journalism ethics is because of their perception that SJWs — read liberals, as is often the “slander” used against me in these conversations — are trying to change the these texts against their will.
3) ProGGers apparently see themselves as the true fans of games, and antiGGers, SJWs, and so forth are not true fans. This came up when I mentioned fractured fandom, and he positioned ProGGers this way. So the idea of identity being wrapped up in these games does seem to be at work here.
4) There seems to be a sense that they are not doing anything wrong. Often he mentioned that there is no evidence that any “real” harassment was done by ProGGers, and that even if there was, there was no way to police it because they are not a true cohesive entity. So if you are able to position yourself by saying there is no harassment occurring, and even if there was, it does not reflect on yourself, then you are able to ignore all of the horrible things being done in your name, and focus instead on those you see as doing horrible things against you — although those horrible things seem to be classified as harassment and you do not seem to need to grow that tough skin. Unless ProGGers think they all already have tough skins, and it is only liberals who need to grow them.
5) There is a tendency to say that they base their behaviors on assumptions based on patterns they have observed, saying that the patterns overwhelmingly prove that they are being ignored, not being treated well, being harassed. So he would often say that he does not need to give individuals the benefit of the doubt and engage with them as individuals, using the empathy he says he gained from his mother. Instead, he would see them as representations of the pattern, assume that he knew what they would do/say, and act accordingly (i.e. attack, try to win, not talk to understand). But then they will focus on specific cases, and not patterns, to prove their points that SJWs are attacking them. So I could bring up the empirical research of content analysis of video games, and he would focus on Anita getting one thing “wrong” as he case for why SJWs are out to attack video games.
6) I’m not sure there is listening occurring. He started with what he called a “mild rebuke” of my comments on censorship and dialogue, and then he would vacillate between wanting to understand me, to wanting to prove his point, to wanting to attack me (calling me condescending, a leftie, not understanding reality, an AntiGGer, and so forth). I would ask him questions, but he would not answer my questions, and he would make assumptions about me without asking me questions, even when I asked him to. I gave him my entire stance on GG, and he seemingly ignored it because it did not fight into his assumptions of what I am.
I wish I had friends who were on this side. I wish I had not given up on people I so fundamentally disagree with. But it is psychically taxing to deal with people who only want to attack you because you think something different than they do. For me I do not care if you do not like me, but if you misunderstand or mischaracterize my ideas, then I will work to rectify that situation.
So much of fractured fandom simply appears to be people unable or unwilling to engage in open honest dialogue online and elsewhere. Such a waste. Is there no way to create dialogue when all people want to do is win an argument or censor someone’s voice?
The problem is, people who disagree about such texts often cannot discuss them in respectful, dialogic ways that do not devolve into abuse. If you are offended by a pop cultural text, do not shut it down — open up a conversation about it. But that means it must be respectful.
Censoring a pop cultural text is ridiculous. Use it instead as conversation starter for honest and respectful dialogue.