Intellectual bullying and the postmodern discourse of GamerGate

The discrediting of voices in intellectual discourse is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, when a person holds a position that is indefensible and plain wrong, they should either accept that they are wrong or have their soapbox revoked. Most of the time it isn’t this clear. Different opinions are held by disagreeing parties, and silencing dissenting voices requires tactics that are a little more underhanded. The tactic of dishonestly re-framing a viewpoint into something outrageous in an attempt to discredit those who hold the viewpoint is known as intellectual bullying.

Black_box bulling

This is a powerful tool. With enough voices dishonestly insisting that someone holds all those beliefs that everybody hates, the person in question will either be shamed into silence or suffer from character assassination. The black box takes an honest input and produces a dishonest output. But what goes on inside the black box? I am going to try to explain that, both in general and specifically for the GamerGate controversy.

A lot of of the tactics of the anti-GamerGate intellectual bullying campaign were famously codified in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.  The ideological guerrilla warfare tactics encouraged in that book and others like it include character assassination, isolation, and ridicule. Ad hominem attacks are implicitly encouraged, because people are easier to hate than abstract ideas. Strawman arguments are particularly effective – rather than addressing actual arguments, so one should ignore the points of those who disagree with you and respond to something else.

I initially scoffed at the prospect of Cultural Marxism being real, because in common parlance among conservative pundits, it’s used as a stronger pejorative in place of “political correctness.” Despite what the noise around the provocative term might sound like, Cultural Marxism is not Alex Jones-style paranoia. From the beginning, Marxism rejected positivism – positivism meaning the belief that mathematical logic and scientific experimentation are the sole authoritative sources of knowledge. This should be interesting for the reader who has heard of Marxism being scientific socialism. To Marx and Engels, scientific was merely a nice sounding word that meant that their socialism had a philosophical methodology behind it. This is true: Marxism does have a methodology, it’s just a non-rationalistic methodology.

Cultural Marxism is basically the application orthodox Marxist methodology, which is relegated to economic and political matters, to all of society. After the obvious failure of the Soviet Marxist-Leninists to bring about a desirable society, Western Marxists of the Frankfurt School determined that we must also revolutionize our culture as well. Culture’s traditional structure is responsible for the legitimation of oppression, and in  doesn’t occur naturally, but at the command of another oppressive ideology. Those with cultural dominance are the class of antagonists, just like those with economic power, and are therefore wrong. And so, critical theory was developed. Cultural dominance isn’t well defined, but in contemporary usage, it more or less applies to white males and any institutions or phenomena that one might attribute to them.

Going hand in hand with or at least methodological assumptions of Cultural Marxism is the postmodern discourse. Postmodern philosophy is characterized by the rejection of objective truth, and postmodern discourse emphasizes that the identity of a person is the essential determinant of whether their argument is true or not. Two people with different characteristics will have a different level of authority on truth, even if what they say is identical. A very stark demonstration of this occurred within the Occupy Wall Street movement. A method sometimes used was the “progressive stack” to determine speaking and the weight that should be given to speakers. Those who were parts of groups determined to be oppressed were given precedence. This makes sense in the context of an ideological revolt against culture and “cultural” methods of reaching truth, such as rationalism.

Rationalism is necessarily the nemesis of ideology. From the ideologue’s point of view, rationalism is assumed to be not only wrong, but an ideologically imposed wrongness that exists to legitimate oppression. Keep in mind: to the ideologue, everything is ideological. In this particular case, we see examples of non-white women making tweets in support of GamerGate accused of being sock puppet accounts of white males. The fact they must be white males isn’t an every day practical truth, but an ideological truth. It’s the special kind of truth that can illuminate a world that was constructed to keep you down. Some of the women respond with timestamped photographs of themselves. I can only imagine the kind of ideological tailspin that this puts their accusers into.

The assumptions of Cultural Marxism aren’t relegated to radical or academic spheres. Herbert Marcuse was the father of the New Left, the left that we know today, and he was a Frankfurt School Marxist. Our politics absorbed these assumptions to the point where don’t even notice. We still see this rejection of positivism in political discourse. Run-of-the-mill video game journalism constantly demonizes video game culture as too male, adding to the powder keg of suspicion about ethics and agenda pushing.

All of us have positivist assumptions to a certain extent. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to say anything, because meaningful speech requires logical construction.

Something is mean -> mean things are bad -> you shouldn’t do mean things.

Planes fly, mathematics works. Some are consistent with this, and thus have an immunity to ideology that is as perfect as their consistency with positivist thought is. People who (usually unwittingly) use the methodologies of Cultural Marxism are less consistent positivists. They use logic in some occasions. For example:

Oppression is bad -> culture legitimates oppression -> we must have a cultural revolution.

Assumptions, implications and conclusions are the bread and butter of the “ideology” of positivism that they are revolting against. Similarly, their use of the term “sexist” as a smear to incite popular support to show that GamerGate is an expression of anti-woman cultural assumptions is logically predicated on dominant cultural feelings that a sexist is bad and a non-sexist is good. The contradictions seem to be piling up, but we’re just getting started.

The best place to see this praxis is on the GamerGate Wikipedia article, and the article’s “talk” page. First, the reader should become familiar with three Wikipedia policies. Reliable sources, a neutral point of view and a lack of subjective judgment in what is being sourced.

The GamerGate article itself begins with a line describing the reaction to the subject matter itself; we can already tell this is suspect, since describing reaction or opinion before the actual subject of the article itself is bizarre. No other Wikipedia article does this. At all.

edit requestThis first underlined comment is indeed true, reliable sources are required, and for whatever reason, most reliable sources cover the reaction rather than the movement. And why would they cover the movement’s points about corruption in video game journalism? That’s pretty trivial in the grand scheme of worldwide news. But women being victims of harassment? Now that’s a story.

But the first red line is wrong, first of all, because the opening line of the article itself doesn’t even have a source (notice the lack of superscript number at the end of it.) More importantly, the reliable source policy doesn’t require dictate the construction of articles – that falls under the neutral point of view, where commentary never comes before subject matter. Selective adherence to rules has prevailed. Mixing truth and falsehood is an extremely powerful tactic. The GamerGate Wikipedia article serves its purpose as a mouthpiece of ideology.

Equally deft misdirection comes in the form of ignoring points and repeatedly responding to a point that the opponent simply never made. The rest of the underlined comments in both images show this. The same sort of thing defines the entire talk page.


Not underlined in either of these screenshots are ad hominem attacks, for clutter reasons.

GamerGate has about as much to do with Zoe Quinn as much as World War 1 has to do with Gavrilo Princip – someone was going to ignite the powder keg. The fact that this someone happened to be a woman was a Bonfire of the Vanities-style political theater opportunity for video game journalists, who had a lot of narrative and not enough examples of oppression. And the ethical violations came in the form of her sleeping with people reporting on her game? Ha! Slut shaming! This is the perfect storm that allowed ideologues to co-opt the momentum and stoke the fires of their permanent revolution.

We once again bear witness to that bizarre narrative that always pops up, that this campaign that is just people being angry about someone being a liberated woman with many partners. Is this the fucking 70’s? There is no longer a spectacle in a woman being open like that. Sleeping around just isn’t radical any more. Progressives refusing to realize that their politics aren’t as transgressive as they used to be is like a case of Alzheimer’s. They are not iconoclasts to anyone outside of rural Mississippi, and haven’t been for many decades. The sexual liberation camp won, and I for one am pretty happy about it.  This kind of lack of self-awareness, or perhaps lack of error detection among social justice ideologues is going to contribute to a piling up of contradictions. The more out-of-touch and off-the-wall your narrative is, the more scummy shaming tactics are required to manipulate the discussion.

GamerGate has nothing to do with gender politics or feminism beyond the incessant (and ultimately successful) underhanded tactics employed by ideologues attempting to frame an earnest call for ethical scrutiny as an insidious political attack on them. In truth, GamerGate is a storm in a teacup. To anyone paying attention, video game journalism clearly lacks the ethics and professionalism that is demanded from and by respectable journalists. But in the end, who the hell cares abut the actual goals of the movement? Not the mainstream media, as I mentioned before, and not me either. While nobody in any industry should be unethical, let’s be rational here: someone with ambitions that amount to talking about video games on the internet should not really be expected to conduct themselves with dignity and professionalism. Video game journalism doesn’t need to exist. If I am considering a purchase, I will do my own research using abundant firsthand sources.  We’re well into the age of user-created content, after all. Anyone who plays video games is savvy enough to do the same thing. Video game journalism needs video game players, not the other way around.

I don’t care about GamerGate. I care about an ideological smear campaign symptomatic of the political assumptions that exist in our culture. This can be expressed through the black box model.

Black_box ethicalNormally such a model would be simplistic; in this particularly creepy situation, it’s exactly what happened. Interested parties tried to morph GamerGate into a feminist passion play and they succeeded with flying colors. Mainstream media sources reporting on the GamerGate simply saw this as some kind of woman-hating campaign organized by sexist nerds.

In truth, some of the nerds definitely are sexist. There are a lot of immature, hateful assholes online. This is a basic truth about the internet held by people between the ages of twelve and fifty. But the professional victims, who happen to be internet celebrities — you know, celebrities who have this status due to being internet savvy — are apparently astonished by this fact over and over again. Their reactions to the revelation that internet is an outlet for jerks is reminiscent of a child discovering that Santa Claus isn’t real. And with each successive anonymous harassing, this amazement is just as fresh as the first time. Never do these savvy veterans react like savvy veterans, they are perennially naive. This doesn’t mean they are bad people. There are just incentives, ideological and financial, to remain a clueless victim.

It should be noted that receiving harassment and threats doesn’t change the truth value of what someone says. Threats are a dime a dozen in this age of spectacular interconnectedness. Death threats were made against the people who fucking took Ellen DeGeneres’ hairdresser’s dog away. It’s horrible, it’s immature, and it’s unacceptable; but receiving a threat doesn’t automatically make you right and does not make anyone who disagrees with you an unreasonable bigot.

The victim narrative, here and elsewhere, is really peculiar. We have a handful of women who get harassing messages on the internet. One of them literally gets paid an annual salary of $36,000 for being a victim. Another got a lump sum of $160,000. These ambitious victims have a narrative that is supported by:

It’s a perfectly Orwellian contradiction. This is a group so oppressed that if you even tangentially offend their ideological sensibilities they will bully you into silence with the full weight of dominant cultural institutions behind them. Indeed, this intellectual bullying occurs in service to a heroic effort to resist the oppressive dominant culture. But the manifestations of these oppressive structures are strangely absent from this controversy. The patriarchy did not save GamerGate from being consigned to the trash heap of history.

Should this site be smeared so that we become bona fide victims, The Mitrailleuse has a patreon. I guess it’s going to be hard to cash in unless we have a hip, culturally dominant narrative that aims to end the oppression of the culturally dominant narratives.



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