I know I’m a Fascist. I’m a misogynist who is pathologically afraid of female sexuality and takes it out on the world at large, and thus wants to put women back into their place, and out not only of videogames but of the public life altogether. I would have donned a blackshirt uniform by now already if only it didn’t clash with my fedora and neckbeard, and I can’t be bothered to march on Rome because no airline would let me chek my anime body pillow as hand luggage. And “marching” sounds like too much physical exertion anyway.
I know all of this because the media told me so.
This leaderless fracas called Gamergate has had the support of people I loathe: neo-Nazis, yellow journalists, bigoted politicians, less-than-stable game developers, Koch-funded pundits, living caricatures of the worst MRA have to offer and an endless horde of anonymous idiots who use terms like “redpill” unironically and who lack self-awareness to the point that they can’t realize that they misuse “cultural Marxism” in the exact same way Tumblr blowhards use “patriarchy”. Yet, apparently, I belong to all of these groups because, while I was pointing and laughing at the tragicomedy that is the videogame press and certain adjunct cliques, these keyboard reactionaries hitched a ride. That must mean I’m one of them.
To make this obvious, the point I’m trying to make is that people levelling these accusations are stretching the notion of guilt-by-association to a degree that would make Mike Godwin blush. Or livid, maybe. I’m not familiar with his stance on his own adage.
Anyway, Godwin’s law is older than most people involved with GG (and probably the sole reason why Gawker hasn’t used the ol’ “Nazis” and opted for the more lenient “Fascists” instead), but comparing a person or group you don’t like to Hitler obviously predates the internet itself. It was common enough during WW2 itself, and by 1951 the lovely term Reductio ad Hitlerum was coined.
Besides sounding like the title of a particularly bad Harry potter slashfic, Reduction ad Hitlerum is a sort of gold standard of cheap association fallacies. You know who else breathed oxygen? That’s right. Add to that the structure of the internet communication, and it’s easier than ever to find a commonality between any one person and anything you might wish to saddle them with.
The simple fact that Gamergate is internet-driven and leaderless makes it easier than ever to abuse the argument of guilt by association. Since it’s practically impossible to stop someone from participating is what’s essentially a free-for-all opinion slapfight, any aspiring sophist can ascribe one party’s sin to the whole. No matter how much criticism someone’s moronic notions attracts from their own side, that whole side can easily be said to “not having distanced themselves enough” or “adopting their absurd ideas” or other such nonfalsifiable accusation.
A clear accusation, when directed at a named individual or a clearly defined group, ought to be falsifiable and thus there should exist the possibility to be disproven. A common dirty trick is simply making the accusation itself vague and nonfalsifiable. BUT (capitalized because it really is a big but) the rub with the accusations against faceless internet groups is that they’re nonfalsifiable not because the accusation is unclear, but because it’s the accused group itself that is ill-defined. All the various descriptions of what Gamergate is — consumer activists, harassers, subcultural movement, “white male cis clubhouse”, anti-corruption crusaders, reactionary culture warriors and, yes, even stale epithets like angry neckbeards — are true to some extent, exactly because it is internet-driven and leaderless. So Gamergate is a prime target for association fallacies by its very nature.
To take another example of a far more momentous movement taking it to the internet: Iran 2009 revolts, sometimes called Green Movement or some such variation. From the start it felt like one of those rather common occasions where Western media grabbed onto internal upheaval of an inimical country for the sake of propaganda. However it was distinguished by the supposedly major involvement of Twitter activism, which prompted a furious circlejerk of Western journalists and intellectuals gloating about the influence of new media into crafting democracy and whatnot. After the revolt was done for, it turned out that unsurprisingly, the “Twitter Revolution” was largely a sideshow ran by Westerners for Westerners. So if you participated in that particular bout of slacktivism, congratulations, you’re as much an imperialist and interventionist as Gamergaters are fascists and Nazis.
One possible solution is Kazerad’s recent proposal of compartmentalization. I regard his posts on GG as some of the most sensible writing about the topic — far more level-headed than than just about every single anti- or pro-GG article I have seen in mainstream media, in fact. I can’t say whether this proposal is solid, seeing as I’m just an anonymous nobody pushed into GG by the actions of the words of anti-GG people, but it seems solid by itself. Implementation, obviously, is the problem, again because of GG’s decentralized nature.
Still, Kazerad’s compartmentalization option sounds better than what we currently have, where anyone can claim GG anything and it will be true to some extent, however little (“this tweet by a random idiot proves that Gamergaters are literally devil worshippers”). If GG will get labels stuck on it from every side, we might as well try to direct the right labels to the rights parts. At the very least, it should improve self-criticism within it.
But why would you listen to criticism from anyone? We all know Fascists smash all dissent. Why, you’ll probably even dox me for this. And you know who else doxxed people? That’s right.
Ergo you’re Hitler. QED and checkmate, shitlords.