Boogie2988 and The Internet Victim Machine
In my own insignificant part, I became engaged in this awful Boogie Twitter fuck-up yesterday. As much as I treat the anxiety ulcer developing in my gut with the maternal care normally reserved for a fledgling embryo, I don’t actually hate-follow anyone. So I only happened to see it retweeted when he compared JonTron and Anita Sarkeesian as people who held opposing, yet extreme, views.
Apparently, this was only the latest flower to blossom from a seed planted almost two weeks ago: a video, the thumbnail of which is above, I value my already decrepit mental health too much to actually watch. Even his stupid fucking expression is making it nearly impossible to focus.
“The Internet Hate Machine,” remember, came into being when the news media of the doe-eyed mid-’00s first tried to characterize Anonymous’ puerile-yet-multitudinous cyber bullying, the cutting edge “hackers on steroids.”
The phrase was so quaint that it remained in parlance, like all-caps Impact font over a screenshot (see above, unless you too are overwhelmingly sickened by the blithe, smarmy use of both).
Yet somewhere along the way, instead of being used as a chuckling mother’s boys-will-be-boys admonition, people slowly awoke to the idea that countless — anonymous — drops in a bucket engaged in targeted harassment wasn’t the most adorable thing. Even if “The Internet Hate Machine” never fully caught on as the severe warning it was devised to be, perhaps now it evoked our miserable, misanthropic reality in some small but truthful way.
I’m wading too deeply into Internet history than I’d meant to. I only want to give this context:
Boogie made a video about the Internet Hate Machine being directed at PewDiePie, Colin Moriarty, and JonTron.
Yesterday, as a result of comparing the latter of those three to Anita Sarkeesian, Boogie ostensibly apologized for including him among the former two.
There’s a very strange political clockwork here.
What made me start writing this — this post, here — was that I’d quote-tweeted something Boogie said yesterday and noticed this morning that it was gone. I doubt any screen capture of it exists, so now there’s only my half-complete vestige.
In the tweet I was quoting, Boogie had speculated some were capitalizing on the backlash against JonTron. He believed people had an ulterior interest in seeing Jafari disgraced.
It’s funny, if you’d told me before now that we live in a world where Boogie2988 cynically doubts the motives of human decency and I’m naïvely content to think people could be upset about racism for its own sake, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I’ve brought Boogie up on Twitter once before, after he won Trending Gamer at The Game Awards 20167 abhd ehelp csakll a doctor myc right hand briojke itsekf off vof my wrist so it cdidnt have to finush writib g this sebten ce
Then, as I did yesterday, I referenced a past event with the accuracy and immediacy of a jilted lover: that time I got banned from NeoGAF because of him.
It’s a difficult story to summarize (inasmuch as it is a story and not just a minuscule thing that happened once of no importance to anyone, anywhere, but me), not only in a hundred and forty characters, but because I can’t claim it was a black and white issue of morality in which I was absolutely correct, as I can with so many other things.
Quickly: If you’re unfamiliar with NeoGAF, know that they treat their happenstance role as the largest video game forum on the Internet (one large enough to draw in membership from professionals in both game development and coverage — the only reason I found in it any appeal) with absurdly exaggerated propriety. Registration requires an ISP or business email address, a potentially months-long waiting period for approval, a junior membership probationary posting period, and so on and so on … you can fucking guess how much fun at parties the NeoGAF administration must be.
To be honest, I don’t even know what brought me there. I’d had an approved account three years prior, which I never ended up using and was banned for inactivity (naturally). However, soon it was 2014, I was a junior member, it was the advent of GamerGate, and I was fiending for microaggressions to point out in other posters.
As the new gaming culture war began to take shape, the forum (for once true to its mostly unearned reputation for progressivism) put a moratorium on any topics concerning Zoe Quinn’s sex life, leaving one comprehensive thread gaining thousands and thousands of pages discussing the ethics of gaming journalism.
In there, was me, angrily spitting at young men crafting very ambassadorial essays about why Anita Sarkeesian was bound to antagonize with her suggestion that boys who’ve spent their whole lives enduring sexual rejection and exclusion for their hobby (and looks and social status and …) still had some sort of privilege.
Also there was Boogie2988, calling for peace, moderation, an end to the mean-spirited mud-slinging from both sides. Boogie wanted those who were genuinely disgruntled with gaming journalism to be heard, not brushed off as a bunch of misogynist hackers because of the actions of a small minority.
Then Boogie was doxed. Of course he was. This was a battlefield and the invasion of privacy was the weapon of choice.
There was something unique about this culture war: imagine if, before Franz Ferdinand, no one had ever been killed by a bullet. As the Archduke became a martyr for the Central Powers, every person subsequently shot to death among the Allies would have been propped up as an example of extremism on both sides.
I want to be completely serious: No one can suggest false flags without getting their hands irrevocably dirty. Yes, during the height of GamerGate as a confrontation rather than a cultural virus, some of its proponents may have been doxed because of their support for the hashtag, as they claimed. That does not change the fact that GamerGate, and the alt-right into which it was absorbed, put these stakes into play and fomented the behaviors which affirm them.
There is no “both sides” and anyone who presents these issues in a way that implies equivalent culpability between victims and the amoral is with the amoral.
Boogie posted on NeoGAF after he was doxed (nobody told him that if he were really in danger he should go to the police instead of whining on the Internet). Boogie used this as a first hand example of extremism from both sides. He humbly, in the way that continues to endear so many to him, considered if he brought this upon himself by vocally supporting the hashtag, which he knew was potentially incendiary. He then wondered if thinking so wouldn’t be the same sort of victim-blaming that “anti-GGers” were accusing people of so frequently.
I posted something, I forget what exactly. It was probably curt, possibly sounded more hostile than I meant it, but I remember specifically trying to point out the difference between his idea of self-imposed victim-blaming and what GamerGate had been perpetuating — noting importantly that he was male and GamerGate was able to prey upon societal stigmas against female victims. I was the only post in a dozen or two not expressing profuse sympathies and concern for his well-being.
When I returned to NeoGAF next, I saw a moderator’s post saying things had gotten out of hand, there’d been a large purge, and emphasized in particular that it was unacceptable to tell anyone they were not a victim due to their gender. (I regret how vague this all is; it is genuinely the best of my recollection and if anyone were to find more unflattering details in the actual, massive, archived thread, I’d invite them.) Ultimately, I was banned.
Of course, that Boogie was ultimately banned from NeoGAF as well, specifically for his support of GamerGate, makes this all the more frustrating for me.
The moral of this larger-than-my-original-point digression is as follows:
My neogaf mail, my twitter dm box, my email, and elsewhere is literally FILLED with people ‘warning’ me to be careful. Friends, casual associates, and people I’ve barely done business with.
I have been ‘cautioned’ to be careful about associating with a movement that is supposedly being more and more associated with ‘misogyny and harassment’. I was told by more people than I can count that I had ‘burnt several bridges’ already and I should be wary of burning any more, especially once this whole thing ‘turns sour’.
Not from just one person, but from many.
Being told that it was because I did not properly defend women in gaming or whatever is frustrating because its about 90% of what I’ve been trying to do the past 2 months. Many women I’ve spoken to (as well as many men) have assured me of that. Ah well.
Being told that its because i side with monsters, when I have routinely condemned the bad parts of gamergate in that thread over and over is likewise painful. But again, ah well.
So, let me get back to Boogie taking up the cause of PewDiePie, Colin Moriarty, and JonTron “and their turn in the internet hate machine.”
Note: I don’t know much about Philip DeFranco and whatever’s apparently happening with him as well. I forgive myself for not researching the subject for a Medium post no one will read, since I’m already taking years off of my life through the news I passively absorb on the aforementioned three, plus Boogie himself.
Likewise, I’m not going to watch Boogie’s video, because I already know exactly what his argument is going to be. If I’m wrong, someone can let me know, and I will admit it with full embarrassment.
The video will condemn the oversensitive cultural climate of the Internet which yearns to discredit and professionally harm Boogie’s fellow white male YouTube contemporaries just for making jokes.
Here’s the twist: the reason Boogie is Boogie — and Boogie is so warmly beloved and populist and arguably the least divisive personality in gaming — is that he might stop just short of saying that PewDiePie paying a couple of Indian guys to hold signs saying “Death to all Jews,” or Colin Moriarty singularly laughing about how women are too noisy on a day of unified feminist protest, are such obvious examples of harmless satire that taking offense at them is nothing short of deliberately malicious.
I believe Boogie may indeed acknowledge in this video that I will not watch that some might have been sincerely hurt by these jokes. Although he doesn’t believe they were meant to insult anyone, he has respect and sympathy for the feelings of those who were insulted, even if he disagrees.
Remember, this is Boogie, who insists that he spent 90% of his time in support of GamerGate in simultaneous support of women. This is Boogie, aw shucks.
Even if everyone in Boogie’s audience believes that the Internet and video games are being eaten alive by SJWs, committed to weaponizing offense until being a cis white male is punishable by law, Boogie will stand as a voice of tolerance and moderation, saying “There are extremists on both sides.”
I’m talking in circles in my frustration. Let me try to put this more concisely:
Boogie epitomizes the sort of Internet personality who cultivates an audience of regressive, GamerGate conservatives with virtual exclusivity, but maintains such an otherwise agreeable persona that this audience believes he speaks sympathetically to the masses.
Believe me, I’ve seen TotalBiscuit referred to as a reasonable moderate by GamerGate without an ounce of shame.
Later, Boogie admitted that, at the time of recording his Internet Hate Machine video, he hadn’t been aware of the full content of JonTron’s racist remarks. Naturally (this is my interpretation, obviously), he had reflexively defended his peer, assuming the reaction of the easily offensible Internet was overblown, as it inevitably always is.
Boogie’s way of handling this was to distance JonTron from those other scamps, PewDiePie and Colin Moriarty (and, look, I would really love to get into why those two are sincerely fucking vile and through his sycophantic association indict Boogie even further, but this overwrought piece of writing is so far past both practicality and effort-to-reward ratio that I couldn’t live with myself if I tried), and designate JonTron over to a different category:
JonTron, who supposedly incurred the Internet Hate Machine by making statements like (God, take your fucking pick, but how about), “You’re making an appeal to emotion.Bcuz ‘Jazz and Pad Thai are sweet’ does not mean a country should commit demographic suicide,” was now, in Boogie’s mind, peddling the same level of misguided extremism as Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency.
If you can read that sentence, in which Boogie classifies white nationalism and feminism both as “crazy ideas” and not feel your blood boil, then you can be truly proud of that special place in Hell you’ve earned. I’m sure you can expect Boogie to spend eternity in purgatory, speaking tenderly of how there’s good to be found above and below.
Besides that, though; to Boogie, to Steven Jay Williams, the creators of Yooka-Laylee choosing not to use the voice over work for which they had already paid JonTron, Kotaku and Polygon running articles featuring his own quotes, these things were comparable the same level of ire, of Internet outrage and hate, as the fuming machine of GamerGate that required police protection and FBI investigation for Anita Sarkeesian. These people were both victims of the Internet Hate Machine (assuming, generously, that in Boogie’s mind, Sarkeesian ever was in the first place).
Remember what GamerGate called Anita Sarkeesian when she spoke out about the harassment she’d received from the movement? The term they applied to her, and Zoe Quinn, and Brianna Wu, when they appeared on television news and at TEDx and the United Nations because the Internet Hate Machine had so vehemently opposed their place in its culture that it was willing to threaten and endanger them out of it?
They called them “professional victims.”
Which brings me, ultimately, to the initial reason I began writing this blog.
That tweet of mine I mentioned way up top, the one in which I quoted Boogie’s deleted supposition that people were hijacking the JonTron outrage to damage him. It was an extremely manipulative picture painted by Boogie, who recently mourned how political his profession can be:
So, I’d like to offer a thought: if you’re going to be so cynical, Boogie, to suggest that people were somehow trying to profit from the backlash against the increasingly frequent racism, sexism, and other complicit bigotry displayed by YouTube personalities, who are astonishingly without parallel as the voice of media to this generation, can we apply that same cynicism to our assessment of purportedly positive role models?
Boogie came out in defense of someone reprehensibly toxic and thereby gained the applause and gratitude of his audience, who would be understandably feeling shunned at the moment, not unlike the moderate proponents of GamerGate who objected to being told years ago they were all misogynists and harassers.
Doing so, Boogie got the attention of the wider audience which had already rightfully condemned that toxic entity, and he was forced to walk back his support. Carefully, equivocating in a very delicate way, Boogie refused to denounce him altogether. Instead, he indicated a simple disagreement with his views, noting that he disagrees with people often and unilaterally.
The fans of the toxic JonTron remain grateful, the wider audience is pacified, and Boogie’s own fanbase stays as placated as ever, watching their man adhere to his principles once again: a timeless, inexhaustible failure to maintain any principles at all.
Save for one: he is the victim.
Just as during GamerGate, when Boogie’s refusal to abandon the movement made him a martyr, Boogie’s support of JonTron this week earned him only ire and, irony of ironies, put him in the cross hairs of the dreaded Internet Hate Machine.
I mentioned earlier that I’d only happened to see Boogie’s fuck-up via retweet yesterday. It was Patrick Klepek’s retweet. Naturally, both of them being reasonable, polite industry professionals, a dialogue was inevitable. As inevitable as Boogie’s sickeningly saccharine self-victimization.
Maybe it’s not extremism that’s politically agnostic. Maybe it’s that both sides have their professional victims.
It might just seem by now that I’m bullying him. Thing is, Boogie really seems to have an underlying persecution complex (and that’s a big one coming from me, since I’ve got at least a couple ex-friends who’d be pissing themselves to see me accuse another of such a thing). His pattern of recurrent mistakes and supposed apologies enveloped by reminders of how abusive the criticism toward him is can be taken as downright manipulative.
So, if I’m being harsh, I’d like to remind you that putting on a smile and polite veneer doesn’t make your content better, because that’s what Boogie himself does, and Boogie is fucking up, a lot.
Currently pinned to the top of Boogie’s Twitter timeline is this. It’s an ostensible apology posted to TwitLonger late last night, “To the people hurt or disappointed in me…”
In it, Boogie sympathetically mentions his mental health problems, his history with abuse, his belief in tolerance, and his responsibility as a voice to children. I’ve no desire to undermine any of these genuine items of concern.
It also contains passages such as:
My point of that video was to explain that I have always believed in tolerance, rather than intolerance. I had always believed in peace, rather than war.
I, unfortunately, will never be the kind of person who dogpiles on a person. Even if I feel they are damaging our hobby or industry. Even if they are possibly damaging people. Hell, I rarely am even able to stand up for myself. I certainly do not have the strength to do it for others; But that is the way that I am broken and I see that. I hope you can too.
I’ve heard things from as innocuous as “boogie doesn’t seem to really get it” to “isn’t boogie dead yet? I wish he’d die soon so he’d do less damage.” I have been called a “piece of shit” by people more in the last 24 hours than I have been called a fat ass. Since that often crops up in my social media about 30 times a day you can imagine, its been trying.
Once more, the post is titled “To the people hurt or disappointed in me…” It contains zero instances of words such as “apology,” “apologize,” or sorry.”
Boogie is right to call himself a liberal. There’s a larger political issue right now that always hits me in the gut. I am, or was, a white liberal too. I still feel remorse at abandoning the term, after so many years of seeing it first eschewed by weaselly little anarchists or whoever.
More and more, though, white liberalism has been accurately identified as a tolerance of intolerance. Liberalism is, right now, demanding racism and not-racism both have voices at the table. Liberalism is dignifying Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren and Jon Jafari as though their opinions were valid, opposing viewpoints, justifiable rhetoric integral to a democracy built upon both sides.
Buried deep in the middle of Boogie’s non-apology is the implicit assertion that he will no longer be complicit in bigotry. I hope so, but I have my doubts. For one, I have no reason to believe his barometer for what constitutes bigotry is anywhere close to functional. Remember, PewDiePie and Colin Moriarty weren’t bigoted enough to disavow. Neither do I trust that Boogie won’t have blinders on when it comes to people he considers his friends, and that he’ll have a generous definition of the term at that.
Remember, if Boogie never makes another mistake, he won’t have any more opportunities to talk about how viciously he’s being attacked.
That’s not my concern now, though, I suppose. I’m exhaling. It took me all day to spit this trash into being, and while I still wish I could transmit my contempt for Colin Moriarty across the globe, indefensibly, like fucking Contagion, I’m finished for the moment.
Here, a lovable populist like Boogie would sign off with something like, “Let’s just all go enjoy our games.” That can’t be accepted anymore, though. That’s complicity; that’s what brought us here. “Let’s just all go enjoy our games” means that the people who are willing to smugly espouse hate, indifference, and classism in the name of being rational are heading back to the same place as you: playing the same games and speaking of them with just as loud a voice, or one four million subscribers, fifty thousand patrons, louder.
I don’t accept that complicity. I don’t think everyone deserves to be heard, or be defended, if doing so means destroying something else. If that means I’m part of someone’s concept of a hate machine, that’s fine. I’ve heard there’s hate on both sides.