The Chris Kluwe and David Pakman Interview: How Does Corrupt Form?
Standard Disclosure: I play neutral with the topic of Gamergate. This means that I support the original goals of discussion of gaming journalism and the gaming community, but do not support harassment, censorship, or hate of any individuals. I am a thirtysomething adult. Gaming is not my primary focus in life, but I feel I am a gamer in the most basic definition a gamer can be, someone who enjoys games and has played them a long time. My views are my own and not reflective of anyone else, including people who support Gamergate. I have no personal or corporate connections to anyone in gaming whatsoever, and no investment in either side. I am just a person. Plain, simple me.
Third in the new series of David Pakman interviews, comes former professional football player and lifelong gamer, Chris Kluwe. He has defined himself as “Anti-Gamergate” which is a loose term for the many groups who oppose the Gamergate discussion, including feminists, social justice activists, and neutrals.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t closely follow his Twitter, or any of his other online affairs aside from retweets, so I don’t have what I would consider any pre-existing bias coming into this, as opposed to someone like Arthur Chu, who Pakman has interviewed before, and whom I recognized his article on the Isla Vista shootings before Gamergate and thought he was a sod. For the purposes of keeping this post simple, I am not going to look back at his involvement in the past eight months, but focus on his comments in this interview, against the overall framework of Gamergate, the hashtag, and not the weird social identity.
Kluwe espouses two major topics: Corruption in Games Journalism, and Internet Anonymity. He also opened the video talking about the titles of Pakman’s previous “anti-gamergate” videos, but really, it’s grasping at straws for the purpose of trying to make Pakman look like a pro-gamergate supporter even though he isn’t. I paid little attention to it. I realize your job as a punter is to get in the extra point, but your team has to score first.
Corruption in Games Journalism
This part of the video is where I found myself facepalming in the middle of afternoon commute traffic listening to this.
What Kluwe says, and I am paraphrasing, is that he has no problem with Gamergate’s fight for ethics in gaming journalism, but that he feels the fight is not being directed at the right people, and that the hashtag has been corrupted by outside interests in that the only course of action is to disengage and start a new platform or hashtag. I find this to be incredibly egregious, because I believe him when he says that he thinks the corruption starts with large game developers and presumably publishers, and that indie developers, journalists, and critics, are someone not responsible for this at all. That shows me someone who is incredibly willfully ignorant of just basic human interactivity. Let’s say, theoretically, Zoe Quinn did sleep with five journalists or developers for a little positive bump in her game development. Think of it as she told you, Chris Kluwe, this secret, one time somewhere at a conference or something. Would you still believe that it isn’t possible for everyone else below the AAA gaming scene to be networking with each other for benefits? You’re a football player, you haven’t seen players take lucrative contracts and promotion deals with PR firms to boost their image and sell more jerseys? This has nothing to do with what Zoe Quinn did, it has everything to do with how those five people handled the situation and how their parent companies tried to feign ignorance, and failing that, shift the blame on to nasty, angry gamers who just hate women, because reasons. It’s the biggest load of disingenuous shit I’ve ever witnessed, and it boggles my mind people like you don’t see how it takes more than just developers and publishers to corrupt an entire fucking industry. Because if these journalists were ethical, moral, and with integrity, they’d refuse the parties, the favors, the gifts, and even the early-access review codes, and just review video games. I’m sorry man, but I cannot buy that line of reasoning, because if it was like you claim, Gamergate would have been over in a week. There would be nothing to protest, because we’d have gaming journalism’s back against those greedy, self-centered corporations. We’d form Occupy 2.0 and camp out in front of EA and play on our handhelds into the night.
But what I found even more annoying coming from Kluwe is this idea that all the people who support better ethics in journalism should abandon Gamergate, and form their own hashtag. He willingly divorces himself from the reality that he then immediately describes with relation to Stormfront and Brietbart, where he accuses these organizations of co-opting the movement to drive young men (and women) to radical, right-wing ideologies. Well that’s interesting, Chris, how do we purify our sins when the devil and his minions are standing right there waiting for us to step back out into the light, only to be sucked right back in? The thing is, even if Gamergate has lasted this long on a leaderless platform, they’ve still had de-facto leaders you have gone after before, but who have championed the debate on ethics whom and still do not align with Gamergate. People like Erik Kain, John “TotalBiscuit” Bain, and David Auerbach. There are others still who lean pro-gamergate but speak from a moderate position, like Oliver Campbell or William Usher. A closer look would show you that those who still care about ethics and helping reform gaming media talk with these people and tend not to associate with more radical, divisive figures on either side. An even closer look into Gamergate, one that most opposing folks will never entertain because it involves diving deep into sites and people they don’t want to dirty themselves with, and you’ll find a great deal of division within the various groups that have been trying to co-opt and steer the discussion in many ways. Consider the fact we’re now debating comics, television, movies, and science-fiction books. Co-opting a movement doesn’t take much effort in fandom culture and on the internet, because the vast majority of these people are followers, they just follow what is called THE HAPPENINGS simply for their own amusement. But without any real leadership, any time one of these groups is dissolved by others, another simply takes its place. The only way a real serious hashtag movement, or platform, for neutral ethics-based conversations to take place that people will take seriously, is if effort is put in from both pro, and anti Gamergate supporters. Much in the same way the only work that gets done in Congress is when both Republicans, and Democrats, stop grandstanding for their constituents and do their jobs. I’ve always maintained, that now eight months in, appealing to hard-pro or hard-anti, is a complete waste of time. They’re entrenched, and they’re staying there. Your only hope is to continue to appeal to moderates, or “normies” who may have views, but don’t want to associate with one side or the other. The problem here, of course, is that the majority of the most divisive anti-voices, completely shut out neutrals and normies, because if they aren’t 100% in their camp, they are against them. That does not seem like a viable winning strategy in the end, especially when more and more of your side burns out or calls it quits.
Over the internet’s short time, we’ve seen a lot of communication methods come and go. Most still exist today, but the once-high popularity of protocols like AIM and ICQ have been largely abandoned for Facebook Chat and Twitter. Yet Kluwe seems to suggest somewhat of a genetic fallacy in that with each new internet generation, they seem particularly pre-determined to fortify and defend the previous generation’s stronghold. The entire idea gamers are white, male, teenage-basement-dwellers even comes from this idea that even though we’re talking a mostly predominant younger generation in gaming today, they grew up on the identities of thirty-somethings who did the same thing back then and made it “look cool”. It’s sort of the same line of thinking people think their political views come from, that rather than developing them on their own through experiences, they simply inherit them from their parents or guardians, because that’s what they heard adults at the adult table talking about.
What made your Something Awful, Fark, 4chan, and other sites popular is that you didn’t have to adopt someone else’s ideas into the conversation. You could be yourself, or someone like you, to a bunch of random strangers online. Like anywhere in the real world, when you get a bunch of people together, most of them will do whatever the topic of the day is, but others are going to go looking for trouble. That has not changed no matter what platform we’ve used in the last fifteen good years of the internet. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter didn’t change this either. What happened is the bar for entry has been lowered with each new improvement to technology. Consider this: A BBS was used by the most tech-savvy and elite of users in the 1980's. A chat room was used by the more tech-savvy but common of users in the 1990's. Forum boards and 4chan were used in the early 2000's by fairly tech-savvy but common of users. Finally, Facebook and Twitter in the late 2000's were used by no tech-savvy, everyday people. When did you mother and grandmother get on the internet? If it wasn’t with email in the late nineties like my grandfather, it was when Facebook opened the way for even the most no-talent of computing to benefit from its power. With it, came all of the ideas and mannerisms the baby boomer generation and their children have about social interaction. Screen names? What are those? JPEGS and PNGS? Why are you telling me to GTFO? The internet used to be for tech-minded computer people. Now it’s for everyone, and yet these tech-minded people are the ones questioning why everything has gone to hell when the regular folks are the ones imposing their ideas on everyone else.
Kluwe talks a lot about “chan” culture, related to 4chan and 8chan, and like Zoe Quinn, seems to think that it’s all their fault we’re in this mess. The thing is, imageboards are not the problem because imageboards are just the medium. They’re like any other communication medium. What set imageboards apart from traditional forum boards is they require no registration, and no identity. You post anonymously and that’s it. With such a low-entry point, it appeals to people who don’t want others to know who they are, even by a false screenname. But its most important feature is that with everyone being anonymous, it removes the sense of individualism from the community. Instead of fostering a community driven by only the most veteran and noteworthy posters, everyone is on a level field, posting as Anonymous, forcing you to inspect the content rather than the person. The irony is a lot of these progressive socialist types hate a system that is essentially constructed for their own ideology. Instead, they demand everyone have a face, a real name, and a traceable method so that when someone says something they don’t like, they can be publicly shamed and ridiculed.
What Kluwe espouses greatly in this video is the idea of some kind of middle-level law enforcement that specializes in policing the internet and bringing these harassers and haters to justice where applicable. While the goal is noble, I believe the slippery slope he introduces is what measurable criteria do we use to indicate harassment? We’ve found during Gamergate that harassment can be something completely innocuous that someone just calls harassment because they don’t like that person. Other times we’ve found that the person being harassed turns right around and counter-harasses back, and tries to spread the damage further by “dogpiling in” supporters, something Reddit refers to as “brigading” and 4chan has historically called “raiding”. The actual percentage of harassment is unknown to us, because filtering out the false information takes time no one has to commit except the parties themselves, which can’t really be used since they hold inherit bias. So it stands to reason any law-backed middle-tier law enforcement made to serve and protect the internet will have broad powers to silence, censor, and eliminate anyone who they think may be in violation. If you didn’t support The Patriot Act after 9/11 (and I did not) then you’d definitely not want to support giving any kind of government watchdog organization any kind of power. Our police forces lately can’t even control theirs, and Kluwe acknowledges this much when he mentions how government will probably screw up any sort of legislation or enforcement of the internet.
The fact is, there will always be places on the internet Law and Order SVU affectionately call the darknet. Even if 8chan were to go away tomorrow, there are a dozen other chans no one is aware of, and many more private that these people can use to plan their dastardly deeds, but really, the vast majority of users are content to their own communities and are not going to really bother anyone outside of them unless someone gives them a reason to. Both radical sides like to poke the hornet’s nest far too often for my liking, which has reinforced my neutrality on the subject.
In the end, I think Kluwe is actually a pretty intelligent guy, and for that reason I am disappointed that after eight months, he has not at the very minimum stopped calling Gamergate a hate group. Anyone with any iota of knowledge about the people involves, and the issues at hand, can at least humanize the people within it, even if the extreme ends of the identity are shit. I feel that if he truly wants to see this move towards a more positive light, he needs to be more willing to reach across the table to people who just want someone to tell them, at minimum, that they’re not shitty disgusting human beings for wanting a better gaming community. All these people, and gaming journalists, need to do, is tell the gaming community that even though things have happened, they will support them and efforts to rebuild and move on. I think you’ll find the radicals from both sides will separate away and fight each other until they’re no longer relevant and no longer able to co-opt the larger gaming community as a whole.