Thrilled to announce that the Neoreaction a Basilisk Kickstarter hit goal twelve hours in, which means we’re on to stretch goals, the first of which is a long essay to be titled “The Blind All-Seeing Eye of Gamergate,” about the tortured and short-circuiting logic of everybody’s least favorite hate group. I wrote up the first 1500 words of both it and the next stretch goal essay as demos to make sure they worked as concepts, so here’s a preview of it. It even turns out to be timely. (I wrote it weeks ago.)
Anyway, thanks to everybody who’s backed the Kickstarter, and if this looks interesting to you, we’re only about $1500 away from my having to finish it.
One measures a circle starting anywhere, so let’s pick up where we left off. Vox Day, who got in on the ground floor, back when it was still called the Quinnspiracy, begins his description like this, in the first of two chapter fives:
“In 2012, a fat and unattractive woman with blue hair and numerous piercings decided to play at being a ‘game designer’. She plugged forty thousand words into the Twine engine, a hypertext tool that allows people without any knowledge of programing to create interactive fiction games similar to Zork and other text adventures circa 1977, combined it with a ten-second piano loop, and called it a game.”
It is ironic that the book should be called SJWs Always Lie, because he lies right there. He lies when he uses the same disaffected tone of factual declaration for “a hypertext tool that allows people without any knowledge of programming to create interactive fiction games similar to Zork and other text adventures circa 1977” and “a fat and unattractive woman with blue hair and numerous piercings,” as though these are both straightforward truths in the same way. He lies when he shifts the definition of game throughout; one moment she is a faux “game designer,” the next the not-games she not-designs are defined straightforwardly in terms of an iconic piece of gaming history.
Day tears into the game at length – a critical savaging. “It’s even less fun than it sounds”; “I have never played a less entertaining computer game”; “soul-drainingly boring and more than three decades technologically out-of-date.” He brings a gun to a knife-fight, eviscerating the game with a level of contempt that raises the question of why he even gives a shit about it if it’s so self-evidently unworthy of attention. Of particular note; his citation of its 1.8 score on Metacritic, based on 308 ratings.
Eventually he reaches his point, saying that the game was a complete irrelevancy until “August 2014, when an upset young man who had finally broken it off with his cheating girlfriend created a WordPress blog called The Zoe Post that documented, in excruciating detail, his experience of having loved and lost.” Apparently the designer of this game cheated on a guy with some people who wrote for some websites that had mentioned the game in articles at some point. From this he casually spins out a conspiracy theory; “Given the very poor quality of Depression Quest, it seemed readily apparent to casual observers that the unusual amount of media attention garnered by the game must have been the result of the developer’s liberal distribution of her sexual favors.”
At this point, three pages into the chapter, entitled “Counterattack,” Vox Day makes a stunning reversal, admitting that “this does not appear to have exactly been the case.” And no wonder. The “very poor quality of Depression Quest” is, after all, a point offered on the evidence that Vox Day does not like it and it has a 1.8 score on MetaCritic. It is, however, worth noting that 307 of those 308 reviews on MetaCritic came in August of 2014 or later. In other words, the proof that the game is bad – a premise upon which all of the subsequent venom that he is about to justify depends – is a consequence of the very venom it justifies. The serpent eats its own tail.
Vox Day finds it amazing as well. “And that’s when everything started to get truly weird,” he says, and he’s honestly not wrong. Here’s how he puts it:
“Game journalists reacted to the gaming public’s attacks on the game media by lining up solidly behind Depression Quest and its neophyte female developer. Unexpectedly, so did 4chan, a popular site with a sizable gaming contingency that had previously been ground zero for anything-goes channer culture. As charges of ethical lapses and corruption were thrown at the game journalists, accusations of death threats, sexual harassment, and doxxing were hurled right back at the gamers criticizing Depression Quest, its developer, and two notorious attention-seeking SJW fame whores.”
It is not so much weird as Weird; a writhing mass of deception and tangled prose that evades all attempts to actually derive meaning from it, monstrous and malignant. The transition from “game journalists” to “4chan” elides the fact that by 4chan he means the owners of the website 4chan.org, as opposed to the “anything-goes channer culture” of the site’s community. Similarly, the list of “gamers criticizing Depression Quest, its developer, and two notorious attention-seeking SJW fame whores” contains a sudden swerve from one side of this embittered feud to the other, without a moment to stop and explore what was actually happening on the ground.
Mere sentences later, and with no explanation, there are three SJWs, “Literally Who, Literally Who 2, and Literally Wu,” named so to make “the point that neither they nor their identities were relevant to the larger point of corruption in game journalism.” Despite the apparent irrelevancy of their identities (a point that’s rather undermined by the fact that “Literally Wu” still contains the subject’s surname), he emphasizes that they are “professional agitators” before talking about how Literally Who 2 and Literally Wu got mentioned in the New York Times and Playboy “after they followed Literally Who’s lead by claiming to have also been driven from their homes by similarly non-existent death threats.” There are no obvious grammatical antecedents to “also” and “similarly,” nor is any evidence proffered of the non-existence of these death threats. No matter; he transitions, in the next paragraph, to how “things heated up rapidly in the second half of August 2014” that take place in Ars Technica, Gamasutra, The Guardian, The Financial Post, Jezebel, and other sites. This marks another spectacular dishonesty; the New York Times and Playboy pieces post-date August 2014, rather than being causes of these events. And it is at this point in the discussion that “#GamerGate” gets introduced. Vox Day is 100% for it.
But more than the constant structure of lies and obfuscations that constitutes Vox Day’s argument, it is the petty sadism that stands out. From the opening pen portrait, with “fat and unattractive” as the first two adjectives used, almost every detail seems picked for its cruelty. The nominal audience of the book – ordinary people worried about getting in trouble with their boss because they made an off-color joke or something – seems largely set aside in favor of framing things so as to maximally inflame anyone who is inclined to think that the harassment of Zoe Quinn is unconscionable.
This basic inclination towards crass sadism isn’t unusual for Vox Day, who, were he to be described in his own style, would probably best be introduced as “a bald and pudgy middle-aged Internet troll with daddy issues.” And so it’s easy to miss how strange it is. Let’s clarify: this isn’t a post on Vox Day’s blog, the traffic of which appears to consist largely of people who disagree with him but want to know what he’s up to. This is a $12 paperback; the people he’s trolling by and large aren’t even reading. The sadism serves no actual purpose. It’s unlikely to ever reach its nominal targets. It exists seemingly for no purpose other than that the targets of it seemingly cannot be written about in any other terms. This begs the question: what could possibly require this level of vitriol?
Vox Day commissioned illustrations for SJWs Always Lie from a cartoonist working under the pen name Red Meat (no relation to Max Cannon’s classic webcomic), who he did a brief series of editorial cartoons with on his blog. The first one is called Mount Gamergate. It depicts a young girl sitting on a rail gesturing up at a Mount Rushmore-esque carving of five faces. “Who are those guys, Dad,” she asks a smiling white man with an afro. “That’s Sargon, Milo and Adam, the Internet Aristocrat, and Ralph, honey.” And then the kicker – “five great men who helped save western civilization!” On the one hand, you can’t say it doesn’t answer the question. On the other, it’s madness.
A specific sort, even – the paranoid short-circuit of the conspiracy theory. Its signature move is displayed over and over again in SJWs Always Lie, easily discernible in the path we’ve traced so far: a stunning conclusion that’s always one reach, one crucial missing step away from being pinned down. This chain of implication from Eron Gjoni to the fate of western civilization is awe-inspiring in its scope, and yet visibly does not hold, is stitched together with nothing but cruelty and insinuation, disintegrating faster the more one stares at its details.
Can this even be said to constitute a weakness in the beast? The same tendency towards cognitive discorporation is, after all, a first line of defense, a move encapsulated in the evasion of “Literally Who.” Even Vox Day, a man whose first post on the Quinnspiracy came on August 21st, 2014, less than a week after the Zoe post, whose blog says #gamergate at the top, who has worked with Roosh V and Milo Yiannopoulos and has a documented history of using Internet abuse as misogynistic right-wing activism, somehow remains an object of plausible deniability, the possibility of his influence a thing any Gator knows to disavow instinctively, without further reflection. Just like any abuse and harassment was done by some other Gamergate. Indeed, the movement is consciously organized around this defense. It’s nominally leaderless; as Vox Day says in an interview, quoting a then-popular slogan, “I’m the leader of Gamergate and so can you.”
Watch in the logic of the savior of western civilization himself, the Internet Aristocrat, whose video expose of Zoe Quinn was cited in the Adam Baldwin tweet that renamed it Gamergate…
[continued], as they say in Albion