Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Spare A Thought For Normal Folks.

So, for the past few months, I've been embroiled, in various ways, in the hot-mess on the internet that is GamerGate. For those who don't know, I chatted with fellow Let's Player Skippy Granola about the whole phenomenon a while back, and we put our thoughts on Tindeck (Part 1 , Part 2 )

Neither of us truly believe that the majority of folks are harassers, misogynists, and doxxers (doxxing, as an aside, is the releasing of someone's private stuff all over the internet, usually to allow other harassers easy access, or to shame the individual in some fashion. It ain't cool, and is definitely illegal), although we have both, at times, gotten angry at folks for joining the hashtag... We go a little into why we feel the hashtag (and twitter) don't work for social movements in the chat, but to sum up: Anyone can use a hashtag. Harassers and asshats on both sides, people with genuine concerns, and people trying to address those concerns. And it's about those last two groups that I want to talk about, because, regardless of the history of the tag, there are folks trying to discuss.

I've reached out to a few of those folks in a variety of ways (Why didn't I reach out to lots, do more? More on that later), from attempting to clarify, to attempting to show proof they ask for, to just talking and trying to find common ground. And two things that sound obvious, but are actually very important, come up nearly every time.

People are angry. People are scared.

People are angry for a variety of reasons. The harassers are angry because, as much as they are causing fear, they are also being exposed, one by one, and organised groups of such harassers are slowly being dragged into the light. The reviewers are angry because people appear to be blaming and attacking them. The readers are angry because they feel like they're being lumped in with the harassers, while often being harassed themselves, simply for taking a stance.

The harassers are scared for the same reason they're angry. The reviewers are scared because they feel it's a case of "Damned if you do, damned if you don't", and because harassers are trying to shout them down. The readers are scared because they feel they are being disenfranchised by all these articles saying "Nope, GamerGate be harassers, and anyone who tweets on the hashtag, yo!"... And, obviously, because they themselves are being harassed by extremists on both sides.

[EDIT: I'm simplifying a lot, but you get the basic picture, I hope.]

One thing that also comes up, time and time again, is that reviewers and developers are somehow... Better than normal folk. Bigger. Giants in the earth, that sort of thing. And while it's understandable (We want to put those who are good at speaking out, at creating, on a pedestal), it's also untrue. I actively reviewed for two years, and in all that time, I was, respectively, in a cottage in the middle of West Wales renting from family, and a bedsit in West Wales renting from an agency. I've mostly done voluntary work, one or two film extra bits, but mostly I'm an unemployed joe trying to make it in the world, same as you, dear reader (*laughs* the trying to make it in the world bit specifically, just to clarify!). That's why I didn't speak to hundreds of people, just a few... Because I'm human, just like you, and there's only so many hours in the day I *can* spend talking shop and discussing such things... Just like you only have so much time to do so a day.

And both of these things tie into one common thread: We are all just folks. We are trying to make sense of our world, we are trying to find belonging, we are trying to make our world better (Yes, even the harassers, although their definition of "better" is definitely one I disagree with... On both "sides".)

So I'm not going to get on my high horse and say I'm better than you. I'm not going to tell you you're wrong, or right. All I'm going to say is that, whether you feel the people using the GamerGate hashtag are wrong or right, whether you feel they're supporting harassers or being attacked, they are people, just like you. They have the same spectrum of good and bad as the rest of the world, the same spectrum of intelligence and capacity for "getting it" as the rest of the world... And you can, if you find those good people, explore other options without name-calling, find other places to discuss that aren't inundated with hate speech. You can send mails to twitter, asking for change. You can help your fellows who are being harassed find help, you can give them support.

But please, keep it in mind when you get angry at what Fish or Wu or Kain or Sarkeesian, or whoever the hell is getting angry/saying something you don't like, that they are normal folks like you, with all that implies. And keep in mind that responding to anger with anger, as much as it can make you briefly feel better, isn't going to help your peace of mind, or to help de-escalate this and promote actual, constructive discussion.

Okay, okay, my ankles are starting to ache from this rickety soapbox, I'll step down now... I hope these words helped you. Oh, and Twitter? Please help ensure that folks can feel you're a safe and cool space for folks to hang out, it's not what you started as, but it sure as hell is something you need.

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