Many others have noticed that Gamergate has become just another battle in the everlasting American culture war, and as such it’s forcibly divided into easily digested liberal- or conservative-flavored chunks. And within that culture war, it has also been painfully obvious for months that almost all articles or even passing mentions of Gamergate in the liberal side of the mainstream media frames it in the exact same way: as a campaign of harassment aimed straight at women in videogames in order to keep them out of videogames.
This has led the rightwingers in the pro-GG side (which, much to my chagrin, are numerous) to occasionally bring up attempts to get the conservative side of mainstream media up to par, and blame the media collusion as a solely liberal phenomenon. Time and again, I have explained on forums and boards and such: it won’t work. Even if you skip the sensationalist outlets like Fox News and go straight to reputable ones, they won’t care. And to explain why that is, I have to establish a very simple reason: moral panics.
Altho largely considered media phenomenons nowadays, moral panics are not intrinsically linked to the press at all. From old witch trials to pogroms and political purges, the element of a moral panic goes far beyond the scope of journalism. However, due to modern journalism’s 24-hour newscycle, the media’s furor to fan the flames of controversy lead them to always seek scandals and outrages, and videogames are always an easy target.
One common aspect of these a moral panic is how vastly overrated they are, since the point is to find, or rather “find”, a scapegoat for society’s ills — or simply to sell newspapers. Corporate news or political groups are hardly demanding and in order to feed a moral panic they’ll gladly use anything, from legitimately serious issues such as drug trafficking and terrorism (which are easy scapegoats because no one will openly defend them) to RPGs and videogames (which are easy scapegoats because they’re marginal subcultures). Some of these topics are rather dated; the moral panics surrounding satanism and RPGs were so farcical they might as well have been a Mel Brooks screenplay.
Some, however, are gifts that keep on giving. If you’re a news editor or a would-be cultural critic at least. If not, their unwated return is more akin to herpes. Regardless, among these renewable rerousces are drugs, because there’s always some new narcotic to stir the corcerned parents up, and, you guessed it, videogames.
Everytime there’s a shooting rampage (and sometimes when there even isn’t one), the mainstream media, among other groups, will, without fail, bring up the role that videogames might have had into it. Let’s recount some examples:
- After the Virginia Tech shooting, the victims’ bodies were still warm when Fox News had Jack Thompson on blaming videogames
- At the Northern Illinois University shooting, the Chicago Tribune implied a relation to the perpetrator’s “beloved videogames”, and Fox News was quick to call Thompson again
- In the wake of Anders Breivik’s massacre, he claimed in his rambling manifesto as well as in a court hearing that he considered Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as “training” for his rampage, causing several publications to blame, overly or implicitly, videogames for Breivik’s violence, and British MPs of all 3 main parties to call for a ban on violent videogames
- Sandy Hook rampage’s perpetrator Adam Lanza was similarly “motivated by violent video games” and “wanted to top Breivik’s death toll” according to CBS, and the Daily Mail didn’t shy away from giving his online scoreboard of FPS kills more importance than the fact that he collected of pictures of mutilated corpses
Seeing a trend here? The notion that videogames cause violence is propagated by both the left and the right, simply because it’s an easy target for a moral panic. It’s a ready-made scandal, really. Politicos and churnalists just love it because they can always blame it all on videogames. Left or right, it doesn’t matter, what matters is the scandal.
Now let’s go forward in time a bit to Gamergate, where sexism is the new hot button, with GG itself being almost unanimously dubbed as a harassment campaign by the press. Yes, that same institution which never missed a chance to shit on videogames and gamers. That one. So when a certain clique of indie devs and gaming journalism wearing a very thin mask of feminism came to them basically saying “hey gamers are horrible people and we have a brand new way for you to shit on them”, the mainstream media was only too happy to comply, smelling a brand new moral panic involving videogames.
But here’s the rub: in this case, only the liberal MSM played along, while the conservative MSM stayed almost completely silent. When violence was the hot button issue, both the left and the right sides of the mainstream media always attacked violent videogames because it’s the easiest target possible. However, historically sexism has been fought mostly by the left, not just in America but in the world, thus the leftwing side of the MSM was quick to propagate the new videogame moral panic because of the pseudo-feminists tweeting furiously about it, putting the rightwing MSM in a bind:
- if they went along with the usual sensationalist narrative shared by both the left and the right sides of the MSM that gamers are monsters, it would mean siding with
feministsinternet slacktivists playing at a cargo cult of feminism
- if they decried the pseudo-feminists they loathe so much, it would mean defending gamers, one of their easiest targets for EZ-moral panic
It would be a lose-lose situation for the conservative MSM, so they just plain stayed silent. And that’s exactly why you just plain won’t hear much about Gamergate in rightwing media outlets, and definitely no influential voices defending Gamergate.
The only rightwing exceptions that come to mind are Reason’s Cathy Young and Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos. The former writes for a magazine that doesn’t fall into the usual conservative MSM mold, so it’s not that surprising that GG has received some support from them. The latter… well to be honest, Yiannopoulos journalistic career is less than stellar, and as a gay man with Tory and slightly dandy affectations, I doubt he was ever popular with Breitbart’s core demographic. If I’m going to be honest, he saw the opportunity for a new audience and took it.
tl;dr: the conservative mainstream media won’t talk about Gamergate because it would mean either defending videogames or defending (what passes these days for) feminists, and it wouldn’t be cauht dead doing either.