So still anytime I mention my thoughts on #notyourshield, it’s met with a barrage of people who deliberately or indeliberately misinterpret what I’m saying and I get accused of all sorts of silly prejudices. This is intended to be my final word on the matter. Take it or leave it, but at least I’ll be able to make my thoughts on the matter clear.
Gamergate will tell you that #notyourshield was created to give voice to the minorities within gamergate who felt they were being drowned out and unfairly lumped in with allegations of misogyny and racism, and also that opponents of gamergate were speaking in their names when making said allegations.
The reality is #notyourshield is an astroturfing campaign designed to invalidate very real accusations of misogyny and racism in gamergate, and a deliberate attempt to silence people and create divisions within minority communities most likely to oppose gamergate.
But first some history.
#notyourshield was actually first used by user @Ninouh, and not @j_millerworks as many have stated, but they were both discussing it around the same time and I have no doubt that @j_millerworks was instrumentally involved in this groupthink experiment, and soon became the most vocal supporter of #notyourshield as well as regularly claiming authorship of it. However, for the purposes of posterity, @Ninouh, 4chan member and /pol/ (yes, the white supremacy board) contributor is our particular Columbus. UPDATE: 03/08/2015 @Ninouh recently posted corroborating most of this.
A reader forwarded to me an archive of the above 4chan thread on /v/ showing what looks like the first use of the tag on the board. It’s roughly around the same time that the tag was used on Twitter, give or take depending on how 4chan posts are timestamped for various time zones.
It is however telling to note that the post directly above it reads: “Trannies are abominations though. They need to be purged.” More than anything this thread corroborates the sentiment that #notyourshield is a culture jamming hashtag and the movement’s true idelogy does not accutally support women, POC, queer and transfolk, but merely tolerates them as long as they promote gamergate’s talking points.
Now we need to go back a few months, to an extreme Twitter social justice campaign from feminists to #EndFathersDay. It was absurd, militant and laughably illogical. It also was not created by feminists. No, this was another 4chan /pol/ culture jamming campaign built out of whole cloth in attempts to make feminism look absurd. And it worked for awhile. Some mainstream media outlets reported on the trending hashtag until Twitter users started exposing the OVER 200 sockpuppet accounts that had been created by /pol/ members to push this hashtag and make it a thing. It was revealed that this was part of a larger campaign known as Operation Lollipop and called “The Privilege Wars” which had been going on for a year and was created to form divisions within online feminist, POC and LGBT communities.
Infiltrate, corrode from within, and conquer. This strategy has never changed.
So back to #notyourshield, where it starts to get pushed around Twitter but before it has a chance to find any traction, it’s already getting discussed in the IRC #burgerandfries channel to strategize how best to wield it as a cudgel.
#burgerandfries, for those who may not know, is the original channel members of /v/ and /pol/ on 4chan set up to formulate their plan to destroy Zoe Quinn based on Eron Gjoni’s letter. Right from the word go, this was never anything other than another spin campaign for them, another way to infiltrate, corrode and conquer, and all the same targets as #EndFathersDay were in their sights.
And in case anyone finds this evidence to be too spurious and disconnected to prove that #notyourshield was always intended to be a culture jamming campaign to disrupt and silence rather than an innocuous grass roots campaign to give voice to the voiceless, I present to you the following instructions which appeared on 4chan only a day later after the hashtag started gaining traction:
Early versions of the op included using sockpuppets ala Operation Lollipop peppered with every real female or POC gamergate supporter they could rally. The intention was simple. Go looking for a fight and play the race or gender card so you can accuse detractors of the very thing they accuse gamergate of.
Eventually when sockpuppets were exposed, the op let them fall away because by then they had managed to gather enough real accounts to support the hashtag and the narrative was that the real misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia was actually in the opponents of gamergate and certainly not within gamergate itself as gamergate had been welcoming to all these minority voices.
For more information read the Storify on the subject which goes into much greater detail than I care to.
#notyourshield in practice
Now that we’re aware of where it came from, how and why it was formed, and what the original intention of it was from the beginning, we can talk about the unfortunate realities of the #notyourshield campaign.
The truth, as we’ve seen, is that it was designed as a way to deflect very real accusations of misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia within gamergate.
Now, I check off a couple boxes myself, but as a white girl I would not be so callous as to pretend I could speak about the racism in gamergate except to say that I’ve seen plenty. I’ll let some other man or woman of colour add to this to share their personal experiences. However, as a woman, I can say that I’ve observed, experienced and endured a very specific gendered harassment from gamergate that is typical of the experience that many women who oppose it share. This is a reality that I and many women face from gamergate and all the hashtags in the world can’t whitewash that.
Particularly horrible are the assaults I’ve seen waged on transwomen, with full blown ops from /pol/ and core gamergate supporters intent on gaslighting specific targets they determine to be at risk and harassing them into committing suicide, or the proposed plan to phonejam a transgender suicide hotline to prevent people who need help from getting it. This along side a regular barrage of insults, misgendering, deadnaming and transphobia both deliberate and unconscious that I see on a daily basis, and all the hashtags in the world can’t whitewash that.
So, given these pervasive issues that gamergate supporters refuse to acknowledge or take responsibility for, it becomes absurd to take #notyourshield seriously on any level, or to see it as anything other than a deliberate astroturfing campaign designed to insulate gamergate from the actual misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia they engage in.
Intended or not, the end result is absolutely no different than Stephen Colbert’s long running joke that he’s not racist because of his black friend.
That’s gamergate’s relationship to #notyourshield regardless of if that’s #notyourshield’s relationship to gamergate and there’s no getting around that. Having black friends doesn’t make you not racist, and having women in your group doesn’t make you not misogynist.
Why would they support gamergate then if there’s all this inherent prejudice? There’s a multitude of reasons and everyone who genuinely supports gamergate has theirs. For some it’s the need to belong to a group. As long as you don’t deviate from the party message, gamergate will certainly give you that. For others it may be a battle with their own internalized racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia. This is real and fucks people up big time when they haven’t addressed it in themselves. Or sometimes it’s just a conflict of interests where one wins out, like how gay republicans will support a party that despises their sexuality because it addresses their larger interest of keeping government small. The reasons are many and varied and I have no doubt that many of the supporters of #notyourshield aren’t even concioius of those reasons, but respond simply because it “feels right.”
The unfortunate irony is the ones truly left out are those who picked up #notyourshield not as an attempt to corrupt a narrative but with a genuine desire to voice their displeasure with being held up by others as something not to attack. They have a real point. The conversation dehumanizes and reduces a person from being an individual to being a series of characteristics for a political means, and this criticism is 100% valid. The problem is as soon as you attach it to gamergate (and it’s never not been), the result of using the hashtag, regardless of intent is not just to proclaim that you are not to be used as a shield for your minority status, but that those same allegations of prejudice cannot be levelled at gamergate.
This is directly provable because all you have to do is tweet out that “gamergate is racist” and you’ll be bombarded with people using the #notyourshield hash tag as direct evidence to the contrary. This is also known as using someone as a shield.
For those who bought into the hashtag, now lines were being drawn between gamergate supporters and those who decry the movement as being little more than harassment. Women telling other women “don’t speak for me.” Queer and transfolk quibbling amongst themselves over ethics in something-or-other. Already marginalized groups and voices were now being pitted against each other in a competition of who could blame the other for being the most sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic. The hashtag worked.
Infiltrate, corrode from within, and conquer.
Despite the fact that there’s still people clinging to use this hashtag, almost solely as some magic cloak of invisibility to accountability, one of the original orchestrators decided it was time to step things up and martyr himself for the cause.
Last month, @j_millerworks doxed himself on /baphomet/, 8chan’s notorious raiding board now delisted (but still very much active) with board moderator Benjamin Biddix under FBI investigation for selling social security numbers. The intent was simple — @j_millerworks pushed /baphomet/ members to have himself swatted and harassed. The only reason to instigate harassment on one’s self is so gamergate supporters could point to @j_millerworks as an example of how gamergate members are getting harassed as well, or to even point the finger at gamergate detractors as the perpetrators of his doxing and subsequent harassment.
Infiltrate, corrode from within, and conquer. This strategy has never changed. The tactics involved with #notyourshield have never evolved beyond it’s roots with Operation Lollipop.
@j_millerworks’ plan backfired when /baphomet/ members sussed out his trolling and in retaliation decided to expose his fraud.
The fraud of #notyourshield has been exposed for some time now. I’m not the first person to point this out, and much of the evidence I’ve shared here is the result of the digging of a whole community of people not willing to let gamergate get away with bullying and harassment while simultaneously whitewashing it’s origins.
The more curious thing is the fact that it worked, and worked well. It played off straight white cisgendered male guilt and attempted to paint those who openly exposed gamergate’s prejudices as the ones actually guilty of prejudice. It drew dividing lines in minority communities and duped a lot of people into supporting gamergate under the false pretense of standing up for individuality.
Exposing the fraudulent underpinnings of #notyourshield does not invalidate the supporters who with genuine intention just wanted a conversation not defined by identity politics. Nor can it invalidate it for those to whom topics of identity and represenation are incredibly valid and important. There’s room for all these conversations and more, and we should be having them.
But that’s never going to happen with people who hide behind a culture jamming campaign designed to provide cover for attacking the very people it pretends to represent.