Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Examining Gamergate Part 2: On Conspiracy

I'd like to get into the habit of announcing my blog posts more often. Letting people know I've posted something new increases my meager traffic considerably, it turns out. I don't think I'll be announcing these posts, though. Best case scenario, it will remind people that this is still an ongoing conversation, which is something many people (myself included) would like to move past. Worst case scenario, I'll get pulled into that conversation further, a prospect that fills me with exhaustion at the thought.

Researching and writing on this subject has been exhausting enough. It reminds me of something someone said, and I apologize for not remembering who it was so I can credit them. To paraphrase: the most frustrating arguments are with people who are wrong in a way that's exhausting to explain. To a large degree, that describes the Gamergate debate.

Exhausting or not, though, I'm determined to organize my thoughts on this subject. Only then, perhaps, will I be free. So, on to the subject of conspiracy in gaming journalism.


This allegation revolves around the existence of a Google group called "GameJournoPros," the existence of which is pretty well-documented. I've read some transcriptions of the conversations they had in the group, and I'm familiar enough with many of the journalists in question to recognize the things they say as, in fact, being the sorts of things they would say.

The discussion centers on the question of whether this group (or others like it) qualifies as conspiracy.

The group consisted of a variety of gaming journalists from multiple websites, and they would use the group as a platform to discuss news items and share information. There are transcripts showing instances in which some of the journalists suggested framing discussions in such a way to create a certain narrative based, according to Gamergate proponents, on false information.

I'm not going to lie, some of those conversations can appear rather damning at first glance. However, the transcripts of those conversations downplays the fact that these were discussions with dissenting opinions--no different, I imagine, than discussions being held in editors' rooms all the time, where journalists examine their stories together and figure out the best way to frame things; where they discuss ethics and argue about their responsibilities as journalists.

To me, GameJournoPros wasn't a conspiracy. It was a convention. There were 150 members--too many to be a metaphorical smoke-filled room. It seemed like a place where ethics could be discussed, not ignored. A place where facts could be shared, and where there were enough minds to find the truth, and too many eyes on it to get away with lies. It seemed like a place where aspiring game journalists could get tips from the pros and develop their craft.

In short, I don't really know why the discovery of this group qualified as a scandal, nor why the fact that the group dissolved is considered a victory. Are journalists not allowed to talk to each other now? What is the point?

Conspiracy is when people meet in secret to plan something harmful or illegal. Meeting to discuss the way they can frame a narrative is neither of those things unless, when they attempted to frame a narrative, they actually forced dissenters to abide by that narrative against their will.

That leads into the final topic: cronyism, which I'll get into next time.

As a final note, you'll notice that I'm not linking to examples of transcripts or Gamergate claims. Trust me, if you want to find them it's not difficult. Google GameJournoPros and you'll get plenty of Breitbart articles, but reading Breitbart is a thoroughly unpleasant experience for me, so I'll avoid linking to them if I can help it.

On the other hand, I just found this article from one of the former members of GameJournoPros, which kinda confirms my assessment of the group.

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