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GamerGate has been a thing for long enough that people are starting to share their stories of how they left, and it makes for fascinating reading. You can divide them into two rough camps: some were driven away by the toxicity of GamerGate culture.

The more you target people like Zoe, the more you empower them. This is what they thrive on. You’re playing right into their hands, and you are giving them the power they need to keep doing these shitty things. Gamergate may not have leaders, but it does have goals and priorities. If the upvote system is an example of democracy in action, then you guys have made it pretty clear what those goals and priorities are, and it’s not something I really want to be associated with anymore.

I just can’t help a movement who hails an actual hateful person. I’m sorry, but I’m gone. Maybe something will change eventually, but overall I think this will only cement #GG as being a hate movement in the eyes of everyone else. It’s just going to hurt everything and I don’t have enough energy to even try with this going on. […]

One thing I want to say right now, tho: The fact that I said I’m leaving definitely doesn’t mean I’ve changed my beliefs, and DEFINITELY doesn’t mean I’m joining the other side. I’ll just lay low and be inactive, watch from the sidelines. At least for now.

“I was once a #GamerGate supporter.” Those words fill me with so many conflicting emotions. Once I turned my back on the consumer revolt, or harassment campaign (depending on who you ask), I reflected on my time within the group and why I participated. I left with crippling depression and as much hatred as when I joined, but this hatred wasn’t for the members of GG or its opposition. It was for myself.

While others realized GamerGate was nothing but a toxic movement, and they had been suckered in.

I used to think that the idea that GG was a harassment campaign was overblown. After all, who can control Internet trolls? But since my comment about Milo’s trans issues and the reaction I got for making it, I’ve been doing a lot of reading from the opposite side of the fence, from those against GG. I thought I was just another rational GGer, but I never realized just how baseless the accusations against our Literally Whos were, starting with Zoe Quinn. I had always just assumed the evidence was there, but yesterday I realized that there wasn’t much evidence to start with, and that what started the whole thing was a coordinated smear campaign by her ex and other people over at 4chan.

And now I must apologize. This whole time I thought GGers were in the right. How could we let nepotism control our games media? But I was wrong. I was made into a tool by some disgruntled creeps for their purpose of causing controversy where there was none, for their purpose of smearing and ruining a woman’s life. And I supported their ideas.

In conclusion the majority of GGers show such a massive double standard in their treatment of progressives and social conservatives, that it is impossible to construe it as anything other than a thinly veiled right wing socially conservative movement, with no real care for journalistic ethics. That is why I left

That’s when it hit me: this is a movement about ethics started by 4chan, using the same MO and terminology they use when they try to trick teenage girls into mutilating themselves for the lulz. 4chan. Demanding more ethics. Fuck that. Fuck them. And fuck me for falling for it.

I’m sorry for the length, but I just wanted to let you know there are people out there who you will ultimately beat and win over with your sheer integrity. You beat me, and I’m so glad. I am leaving GG so I will remain anonymous as I fear these people getting to me somehow but if you wish to talk further please do so. I will listen, and would appreciate any advice on going further to become the person I should have been as I’m quite ashamed of supporting what was an ugly, chaotic mess.

I’ve rejected feminism from it’s very starting point and I’ve done nothing but stand in the way of people.

Who in their right mind joins a hate group? The people in the second category hint at a reason: they had been ignorant of the facts and shielded from pursuing them via logical fallacies, while at the same time gaining social status and a purpose. We have research pointing to this.

Hate groups function similarly to cults in regards to recruitment and most importantly can provide a sense of belonging, identity, self-worth, safety, and direction for those experiencing crisis or vulnerability in their lives.Woolf, Linda M., and Michael R. Hulsizer. “Hate groups for dummies: how to build a successful hate group.” Humanity and Society 28.1 (2004): 40-62.

We are not the perfectly rational actors we paint ourselves to be, emotion can colour our assessment of the situation and drive us towards hate. Consider this common line of thinking:

  1. I am not a bad person.
  2. A feminist said I was sexist.
  3. Sexists are bad people.
  4. But 1) and 3) contradict. The latter assertion cannot be wrong, and the former is contradicted by the evidence.
  5. Therefore, assertion 2) must be wrong, and that feminist was incorrect.

This can nudge people into a “treadmill of lies,” as I’ve called it, where they gradually build up a long list of flawed arguments. By rapidly cycling through them, so that each receives only superficial scrutiny, you can provide the illusion of enormous supporting evidence.

You can explain the typical member of a hate group quite well with just the above. Still, we should recognize the possibility of everyday sadism.

Current conceptions of sadism rarely extend beyond those of sexual fetishes or criminal behavior (Fedoroff, 2008; Knight, 1999; Nitschke, Osterheider, & Mokros, 2009). Yet enjoyment of cruelty occurs in apparently normal, everyday people (Baumeister & Campbell, 1999). Consider the popularity of violent films, brutal sports,
and video games with cruel content—not to mention incidents of police and military brutality. These commonplace manifestations of cruelty implicate a subclinical form of sadism, or, simply, everyday sadism.Buckels, Erin E., Daniel N. Jones, and Delroy L. Paulhus. “Behavioral Confirmation of Everyday Sadism.” Psychological Science 24, no. 11 (November 1, 2013): 2201–9. doi:10.1177/0956797613490749.

Some people genuinely enjoy inflicting misery and suffering on others, so it’s no surprise they’d be attracted to a hate group. While these form a minority of total membership, I figure, they are the core, dedicated members that keep the flames of hatred running and seek out ways to add new recruits.

With just those two factors, working in concern, you can easily explain why GamerGate began and continues to exist.

[HJH 2015/03/22: Added an ex-GamerGater story I’d lost but badly wanted to include.]