I had an interesting weekend on Twitter.
I follow Randi Harper, a well-known feminist, OS developer and pioneer of anti-online-harassment initiatives. One tequila-fuelled night some months ago, she rattled off “GGAutoBlocker,” a few lines of automated script that produces a list of a few thousand twitter accounts that follow prominent GamerGate ringleaders, which you can then plug into your twitter settings to auto-block them.
And she is right at the top of GamerGate’s MOST WANTED list – she is regularly doxxed and SWATed, and receives credible anonymous rape & murder threats every single day. This just makes her fight harder, and she’s a phenomenal badass.
So this GGAutoBlocker tool she made is bad news for GamerGate. They *hate* it. It allows the (mostly) women they utterly swarm with harassment to reduce their twitter feed from an endless hateful roar to a normal gabble. GG have been impotently trying to stop it through any possible means ever since its creation, and make constant vague references to its illegality.
After watching this for months, I finally bit. Mark Kern – a team lead for World Of Warcraft and GG ringleader – was making yet more vague insinuations, regarding free speech, censorship, constitutional law and libel, and so I challenged him to plainly state his legal argument. I just wanted to know, once and for all, what the hell he was getting at.
This was a truly eye-opening experience.
Against all evidence, I honestly expected directly challenging one of the biggest, most vocal names in GamerGate to lead to some kind of drubbing, a schooling in some unpleasant and poorly defined point of unfortunately applied law, but the opposite was true. Mark often mentions his law degree, but consistently avoided the legal question or fudged his replies. There was nothing to his case.
I kept pressing for something specific, turning his replies back with a calm and consistent refusal to go off-point, (and some support from other interested twitter folks) and I even started to feel bad for him after a while. I felt like a cat batting a mouse around, boxing him in more & more. It became clearer and clearer that he had no argument at all, and finally, I pinned him down to the following statement:
“the blocker is being used to screen potential hires by at least 2 companies I know of”
“if the list is aiding such illegal activity, there are grounds for potential legal liability by the list maintainers”
“certain states make conspiring to black list illegal. That would be the legal theory on those states.”
Just to be clear, then:
- if Randi Harper were actively curating a list (which is in fact auto-generated & updated by a short script)
- and if it could be proved she were doing so in conspiracy with a third party company
- with the clear purpose of keeping a person from being hired
- and if it could be proved the potential hire was refused a job for being on that list
- and that they would have otherwise been hired over other potential hires
- and it could be shown that the social media activity that got them on the list would not have otherwise led to their non-employment
- and if this all took place in one of the states that legally prohibits blacklisting
…then there might be a civil case against Randi Harper. Not against the list or the script, mind you, which Mark admitted is legal.
Which is to say: there is no legal case whatsoever.
All this is by-the-by, and the lack of reason and proportionality betrayed by GamerGate’s advocates is no surprise. What shocked me was just how pitiful Mark was, with his argument and his response. I felt bad for him.
But that realisation was as nothing compared to the the sheer VOLUME of the vitriol that accompanied the exchange. For every tweet Mark or I posted, I received ten or a hundred mentions from the seething morass of his followers, the avid rabble of GamerGate. It was deafening. At its peak I was receiving notifications every few seconds.
Bear in mind, in Privilege Poker I was dealt a straight-flush (pun intended). I’m an educated white cis-het able-bodied man, with no skin in the game and no financial reliance on the web. I am literally the least viable possible target for these trolls, and I was facing a fucking *deluge* of bile and rage.
It was staggering.
And I *know* that what I faced was but a tiny fraction, in volume and severity, of a percent of the shit that gets flung at women, PoC, industry members, journalists, or anybody with something to lose or something to say, whether or not they directly engage these hateful children.
I felt the furthest, most fleeting, feathery edge of the stunning, endless tapestry of constant noise and terror that smothers Randi Harper, Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn, Ellen Pao and other figureheads of feminism in gaming. I’ve read some of their stories and I still cannot even fathom, emotionally, how extreme their experiences are. It’s a hallmark of privilege that I will never experience anything like that.
However valuable that peek of insight is to me, though, it’s not what stuck in my mind. What really stays with me is what GG is actually doing. The argument itself, the stuttering half-thoughts of a misogynistic luminary, was completely forgettable. Debating with Mark Kern was like having an argument with an angry tween: a barely-coalesced bundle of opinions and convictions crammed into the ostensible mould of adult words, draped in the trappings of any rhetorical sledgehammer that might shut down further dissent.
But the noise *around* the argument, the braying mob of hate and rage, was endless and overwhelming. If it were to continue for days or weeks, I’d be forced to leave twitter. If it spread into the rest of my web-presence, I’d give up on the web. The arguments are nothing, but the noise…
THE NOISE IS THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THEIR POWER. That’s literally all GG has – its ability to shout and scream and threaten and terrorise, without end, beyond reason or appeal. If only someone would invent a tool to shut them out of my twitter feed…
And THAT is why GamerGate is so *terrified* of Randi Harper and GGAutoBlocker. The Noise is the only weapon they have in their desperate pursuit to keep the world of gaming in its cultural infancy. They have nothing to say that can’t be shot down with a moment’s rational thought, but fuelled by the fear and fervour of the cult, they can say it louder and longer and angrier than anyone else. Take that away, and they have nothing but each other.
TIL: A smart, bold, tequila-and-anger-fuelled woman did something more powerful, enduring and good in one evening than an entire legion of angry, misogynistic (mostly) man-babies could do in a year.
“The noise is the beginning and end of their power.”
“Mark Kern – a team lead for World Of Warcraft and GG ringleader -”
Just in case people wanna understand the kind of atmosphere Blizzard might potentially cultivate.
I went and researched him.
The guy was the one who left wow like ten years ago for whatever reason and became ceo of firefall and then was let go later for various reasons.
He comes across as a monumentally self absorbed douche bag