First Person Scholar has published two round-tables on GamerGate; the first covers how research into that movement can be kept “safe.”
Katherine Cross (KC): That’s the interesting thing for me as well. As a researcher, you are in the midst of this maelstrom, implicated in it, and it is almost impossible not to be directly emotionally involved in a way that is exceedingly difficult to justify in other research endeavours, because as the researcher you are directly under attack. So many of GamerGate’s conspiracy theories and its general weltanschauung about the gaming space positions academics as being part of the problem, especially if you study gender. So any attempt to theorize about them or write about them is to make yourself a target, and some might argue that biases you. I’ve certainly had that charge leveled at me multiple times. […]
Jenni Goodchild (JG): The main difficulty I’ve had talking to GamerGate is that they don’t use words in the way everyone else uses words, which automatically makes any attempt of studying or talking to them a matter of playing the definition game before you can get any discussion done. As I do philosophy, I am kind of used to that. That is the kind of thing philosophers do — but not at this scale. Philosophers will say “I am using this word, in this context, and this is what I mean by it, and now I’ll use it.” Whereas GamerGate just kind of abuses words.
The big thing that got me doing my survey in the first place was that a lot of GamerGate was talking about “objective reviews.” “Objective” obviously does have multiple senses of the word, so I wanted to clarify who was using it in what sense. Quite a lot of them did mean it as “impartial,” which I can agree with, and that is a good goal to aim for, in the sense of not having a personal connection. But a lot of them meant “I want a review free of opinions.” And then you try and explain to them that a review is just an opinion, and they say “no it’s not, it’s facts.” And so you say OK, is saying “this game is good a fact?” and they go “yes! It is objectively good”. And that’s just the point where you can’t have a conversation with them anymore.
The second focuses more on pulling apart what GamerGate “is.”
JG: Such tactics have been there from the start; it’s just that they’re only explicit now. For example, I’ve seen attempts by GamerGate to argue that Nazism wasn’t about anti-Semitism. So you can be a Nazi without being an anti-Semite, and that’s what being a NatSoc is.
Michael Lutz (ML): This logic is part of GamerGate: “Because Nazism was such a diverse movement, you’d be misrepresenting it to focus on the anti-Semitism!”
JG: Other members of GamerGate have argued that, under the definitions of the United Nations, feminism is attempting to commit cultural genocide, because apparently it is trying to get rid of white-male Christendom. Even if this were true, cultural genocide is what Christianity spread via. I guess GamerGate is being honest now — it’s about feminism.
KC: GamerGate has successfully radicalized a disaffected group of mostly—not exclusively, but mostly—young white men who feel put-upon by structural changes in society, but for whom videogames are one of the most important and personal manifestations of that. And so it follows a very familiar pattern that we see in reactionary movements of late capitalism where that latent sense of resentment—of birthrights not being fulfilled, privilege no longer counting for as much as it used to, at least in the eye of the privilege beholder—is being exploited now as a source of movement energy. That’s a big part of what has been happening in GamerGate from the start, and why it was so easy to get this particular group of energetic people opposed to so-called “Social Justice Warriors.” I would say there’s a very strong isomorphism between the idea of “they’re going to take our videogames away” and “they’re going to take our country away.” This rhetoric that is being deployed on the political right, especially in the UK and the US, that reactionary movements depend on this idea.
Both are well worth reading, if only to get inside the mindset of the modern hate group. I’ve also been heavily influenced by Umberto Eco and his notion of “Ur-Fascism.”
1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.
… This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only, as the dictionary says, “the combination of different forms of belief or practice;” such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and although they seem to say different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.
3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake.
Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering’s fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play (“When I hear the word ‘culture’ I reach for my gun”) to the frequent use of such expressions as “degenerate intellectuals,” “eggheads,” “effete snobs,” and “universities are nests of reds.”
7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country.
This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged.
8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.
… by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.
11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero.
In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm.
14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.
All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
It’s not perfect fit, but the reflection is still strong enough to send chills down your spine.