Note: I have chosen to include the “gamergate” hashtag with this post. Am I using it correctly? I don’t really know. I don’t have a friggin’ clue. I am not a gamegate scholar. I don’t have the time or inclination. I don’t really care if I’m using it improperly. That’s not what this post is about. IMHO a lot of people are trying to control, define and co-opt the term based on their own bias, point of view and/or agendas. I’m not taking sides in any gamergate wars. Any offense you perceive as you read the following is your own. –Ed.
Dear Ms. Sarkeesian,
May I call you Anita? I hope so. If not, that’s okay, too. Either way, no offense is intended.
I’ll be honest. I look up to you. I think you are a true modern day hero. When I say “hero” I mean that in the grandest sense of the word. You rock.
Wikipedia says that “[a] hero (masculine) or heroine (feminine) refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity.” Two different words for “hero” based on gender? Isn’t that part of the problem? Whatever. Either way, I believe a “hero” is you.
I would apologize on behalf of the creatures of this planet but I am not one of them and have no such authorization. I opted out of the human race a long time ago. I can’t abide them so I embarked on a different path. I stand apart. On behalf of myself I offer sincere apologies and empathy for what you’ve been put through.
One time, long before you were even born, I banned some racists from my online forum. This didn’t sit too well with them. They responded by publishing my home address and taking credit for killing my cat. (True story.) They flooded Craigslist with dead threats, obscenities, lies, and photoshopped goodness about me and my wife. They gave me “24 hours to get out of town or else.” I sent pleas for help to Craigslist but they fell on deaf ears. I never even got the courtesy of a reply. I went to the cops and they didn’t do a damn thing. “That’s online,” they said. “That’s not even real.” I can’t speak to your experience but I have had a taste.
So in the last month or so this “Gamergate” phenomenon has exploded on the scene? That’s odd. I seem to remember that you’ve been harassed, stalked and threatened online since 2012.
Why? Because you dared to offer facts and opinions in support of a hypothesis that some people didn’t seem to like. Namely that video games were sexist and/or misogynistic. Are they? Is that really how it is? Are you right? I won’t attempt to debate that question in this post. But just for having the audacity to ask the question you came under attack.
What were your methods? Keen observation. Research. Analysis. Facts. Deduction. Basic math. You counted and shit. You basically conducted an “existing data” sociological study using video games as a source. You posted your findings in an excellent and unparalleled series of web videos entitled “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.”
Is your content itself above reproach? Of course not. It’s open to interpretation, criticism and debate. There may be some valid quibbles. (Damn few, though, in my opinion.) If people have different points of view they are welcome to bring refuting facts to the marketplace of ideas and try to rally support for their own positions. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been too much of that. But there has been plenty of hate.
You still remember the response, right? Unlike the “gamergate” controversy of the last month or two, you’ve literally lived it for years. Here’s a brief recap:
- You were emailed images of yourself being raped by video game characters.
- Attempts were made to hack your Twitter and Google accounts.
- Doctored images of you were posted online.
- Rape threats against you were posted on Twitter.
- Your YouTube and Facebook pages were attacked with negativity, vile comments and abuses of the community system, ironically an attempt to get your videos pulled as “terrorism.”
- Your Wikipedia page was repeatedly vandalized with images of sex acts.
- Your website was hit with denial of service attacks.
- There were efforts made to gain and distribute your personal contact information like physical address and phone number.
- A “video game” was published online where players could “punch” an image of you until the screen turned red.
- Your supporters were also attacked with “rape and death threats.”
Because the internet is a giant fun house of mirrors where things are never what they seem, the fun doesn’t end there. They say you can’t believe everything you read. That’s exponentially true on the net. Centuries ago sailing ships would do things like fly someone else’s flag when attacking other ships. They did this to put the blame on someone else. Wars have been started this way. And now, I’ve read vigorous airings of the opinion that you invented these attacks against yourself. If true that would be a modern day “false flag operation” the likes of which would make you one of the greatest mastermind geniuses the world has ever seen. I guess these seeds of distrust is what the internet has instilled within us all, the belief that nothing must be what it seems. Yet, I submit, anyone who believes you orchestrated this all needs to have their head examined. It just doesn’t add up.
Recently, in August 2014, you were forced to go into hiding, to leave your home, because of continued threats that, at long last, the FBI is investigating. And now, just this month, October 2014, you were forced to cancel a speaking engagement at Utah State University. The school refused to prohibit firearms during your appearance, citing Utah state law, following a threat that there would be a “Montreal Massacre style attack” targeting you, attendees, as well as students and staff at a nearby women’s center.
Why does any of this make you a “hero?” It’s just about video games, right?
Like it or not, your genuine interest in video games and subsequent “aha” moment of discovery has touched on larger issues in our society. And rather than participating in legitimate debate by those threatened by changes to the status quo, you have been singled out for personal attack. This is a prime example of a logical fallacy in action. It’s much like a neighbor who screams, “I love democracy and freedom more than you!” then steals your yard sign supporting an opposition political candidate. It is the epitome of a totally failed position.
All this leads up to my point: I believe that many, many, many people who have remained hidden behind the internet making these threats are criminals who have long gone unpunished. The threats you received are indicative of dangerous elements within a civilized society. And they’ve largely gotten away with it. Few, if any, have ever been held accountable.
And, right now, the people who make rape threats and death threats and threaten our free speech and democracy and our very way of life are still out there. The police have not apprehended them. They haven’t been exposed. They haven’t been arrested. They are still able to operate with impunity and continue their campaigns of hate. Who are these people? They are our neighbors. They are people we work with. They are the people who walk by on the sidewalk and stand next to us in lines at the grocery store.
They walk among us.
Normally that phrase is reserved for dumb people. But mixed in with good measure are now the bad people who’ve gotten away with incredible evils. Comforting thought, eh?
The time has come for civilization to have a serious conversation about the harmful effects of anonymous free speech. The costs are too high. The people who engage in this form of hate are not being caught and held responsible. It’s my opinion that this represents a danger to us all. It may very well be one of the most insidious dangers many of us will ever face. What kind of society do we want to be?
We need to figure out a way to catch these persons. They need to be removed as threats. Depending on their situations it might be possible to rehabilitate them or just remove them from circulation. Either way, I don’t care. They shouldn’t be getting away with this.
I hope this letter finds you well. Keep doing what you’re doing. The videos are awesome.