It should be noted, in light of all this nonsense, that the whole “journalistic integrity” thing isn’t so much a strawman as it is a giant Christ the Redeemer constructed entirely from hay bales. For a start, the journalist in question never reviewed Quinn’s game. And beyond that, in any industry there’s some crossover between writers and subjects. I have written about music for years, and — shock, horror — I know some music journalists (and actual musicians too!). This doesn’t mean that there’s some giant conspiracy to rid the world of pop music and force everyone to listen to Neu! until the world ends. If only.
It’s the same for the world of games journalism. No one’s gonna pretend that the tech press is exactly a shining example of principled journalism — not when stuff like this happens — but if you truly believe there’s some sort of secret meeting whereby all the nasty feminists and social justice warriors sit down and plan how they’re going to victimize innocent game designers, you probably need therapy. The bitter irony is that in this case, there was a conspiracy — but it was one directed at Quinn herself, because it turns out that a whole lot of #GamerGate was planned out on IRC by, inter alia, a vindictive ex-boyfriend. And hey, here’s the evidence!
It’s instructive, if awfully depressing, to read through the pages of IRC discussions wherein various men discuss how they might go about ruining Quinn’s life. The levels of paranoia and the degree to which the people involved are removed from reality is both startling and frightening — at one point, a user wonders idly if they can “[end] careers and marriages” and get Quinn “federal time for racketeering.” Again, you have to pinch yourself and realize that, no, we’re not talking about Watergate here — we’re talking about a bunch of conspiracy theories formulated by people so threatened by perspectives that conflict with their own that they’d prefer to believe that somehow the entire game industry is biased against the sort of high-budget, high-return games that pay its bills.
In one respect, it seems ridiculous to be arguing about this — we’re arguing about fucking video games, for Christ’s sake. But it’s all too symptomatic of how women are treated on the Internet (and, if you’re wondering just what sort of shit Sarkeesian puts up with, do have a read here or here). I see misogynistic hatred every day in the comments sections of articles written by female colleagues and friends. I never see anything similar directed at men. When I shitcan Beyoncé or denounce Terry Richardson, no one threatens to rape me to death. The worst I get is the occasional sweary tweet from a sad Gavin McInnes fan.
The temptation is to offer sympathy, to shake your head at what these women go through. But this, too, is disempowering in and of itself. This sort of coverage also serves to elevate the importance of those doing the threatening, which is another reason why Flavorwire has refrained from covering this whole sorry business until now. So let it just be said that the fact that women like Sarkeesian and Quinn — along with contemporaries like Molly Crabapple, Laurie Penny, Amanda Hess, and many others — continue with their work despite being subjected to this shit every fucking day, is both humbling and inspirational. But I look forward to the day that it has to be neither.