You were sent here because you think Gamergate is right wing. You are wrong.
Maybe you think they’re the alt-right. Perhaps you labeled them all as Trump supporters. Nope. But don’t fret! You are not very wrong. There are right wingers within Gamergate. There are alt-righters within Gamergate. They’re just not the majority. It is a common mistake, and it is understandable why many people feel this way. At first glance, looking at the anti-progressive, anti-social justice, anti-feminist movement, you could be forgiven for thinking it is right wing. It requires a good amount of research and engagement to see that it is not, and most people are not interested in understanding Gamergate. It’s also commonly not a mistake when people call Gamergate right wing, but rather an attempt at painting the complex, nebulous online movement as politically extreme and hateful in order to dismiss it outright. If that’s the case – if you are portraying Gamergate as right wing because it makes your political round pegs fall neatly into your mental round holes – then I have to ask you to consider whether your political position is a strong one if your view requires the mischaracterization of thousands and thousands of people?
Who am I to tell you that you’re wrong?
I’m Brad Glasgow and I am among the few journalists who understand Gamergate. In fact, I am currently writing a book about the movement. As a local newspaper journalist who finds internet culture fascinating, I decided to step up and cover the story after seeing the ineptitude online journalists applied to their coverage. Being a small fry journalist, I knew I had to distinguish myself from the multitudes of editorialists covering Gamergate. I took the radical step of reaching out to its supporters, listening to them, and presenting their side of the story in my famous Interviewing an Internet Hashtag article.
Before I became a journalist I was a project manager for a market research firm. I applied that knowledge to my study of the movement, and in January of 2016 I conducted a survey with 725 Gamergate supporters who were able to verify that they had supported the movement on Twitter, Reddit, or elsewhere, at least one month prior to hearing about the survey. You can read my methodology, including the entire questionnaire, here.
Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s get down to business
The first mistake that you made is that you tried to paint a complex movement with one big fat hairy brush, and that’s not how you make happy little trees. Gamergate is not at all a cohesive movement. It contains factions upon factions, renowned within the movement for warring with each other every weekend. Just about the only thing you or I or anyone can definitively say about Gamergaters is that they are gamers.
Let’s talk about Gamergate’s politics
If you ask Americans where they fall on the political spectrum, you generally get about the same percentage of liberals as you get conservatives. If you ask the same question of Gamergate supporters, this is what you get.
You will immediately notice that around half of the Gamergate supporters I surveyed were not American. As one would expect, they are more left wing than American Gamergate supporters. So let’s take a look at how the more conservative American Gamergate supporters voted in the last national election.While Obama leads by a huge margin, it is worth noting that libertarian Gary Johnson nearly beat out major party candidate Mitt Romney.
If you look at the numbers for the second largest nation in terms of Gamergate supporters, the United Kingdom, it does not bode well for the Gamergate-as-conservative argument.In total, Gamergate supporters from 48 nations took the survey, and if you look at who each nation voted for you will see the same left-leaning results.
“But they’re lying! Those evil Gamergaters want to appear that they are not right wing so they misrepresented themselves in huge numbers in your survey!” you say? I have several responses to that. First, why would they lie? Gamergate supporters are known for their bluntness. They are famous for their desire to talk and argue with people with whom they disagree. In my research I have never known them to be shy when it comes to telling people exactly who they are and exactly what they believe.
Second, at the end of the survey I asked them to pick between several political choices. Take a close look at their responses.You will notice some overwhelmingly liberal choices, such as the abortion and homosexual marriage question. But you’ll also notice some not-so-liberal choices, such as the huge proportion of Gamergate supporters who believe minorities have as much a chance to succeed as anyone else. The more classically left wing response was obvious, yet Gamergate overwhelmingly went with the more conservative answer. Why would Gamergate supporters lie throughout the questionnaire on every question but that one?
Furthermore, if I broke down the responses by American vs. non-American, you would see exactly what you would expect: Americans are more conservative than the rest of the world. If they were misrepresenting themselves, I would think there would be less of a difference.
Gamergate supporters overwhelmingly think abortion, marijuana, and gay marriage should be legal. When given the choice between the two, they would rather have government-run over private health care. They are not climate change deniers. Does that sound conservative to you?
But they are anti-feminist and that means right wing!
Their stance on feminism is more nuanced than you think. They fully believe in equality between the sexes. They believe a woman should be paid as much as a man working the same job. In general, Gamergate supporters deny the claim that men make significantly more than women; especially the 77% wage gap assertion, which does not compare apples to apples or adjusts for education and experience.
What’s more, they may be more accepting of women in gaming than you think.
Gamergate supporters frequently argue that they are not, in fact, anti-feminist. Rather, they say, they are against Third Wave or intersectional feminism.
But they have a close relationship with Breitbart and when they chose people to represent them, they chose conservatives, including that guy from Breitbart!
Last point first. The people they chose to represent them at SPJ Airplay were not progressive liberals, sure. Christina Hoff Sommers identifies as a Democrat (Update January 19, 2017: I recently conducted an interview with Sommers to answer that very question. Decide for yourself.) Cathy Young identifies as a libertarian. Ashe Schow is more of a conservative, I believe. But, in my opinion, Gamergate chose them because they are three strong women who listened to Gamergate, and rejected the notion that it was an inherently sexist, misogynistic movement. They listened to Gamergate. I know from personal experience that is something Gamergate values more than you can ever understand.
Likewise, the Milo Yiannopoulous affair with Gamergate is an unusual, complex relationship. He was perhaps the first to listen. In return, he – not Breitbart – received Gamergate’s support. Check out this graphic from my survey.
Gamergate is not a big fan of Breitbart, with two thirds rarely or never reading it. My interpretation is that most of them don’t care for Breitbart except for their Gamergate coverage. Breitbart and Milo and Gamergate had a mutually beneficial relationship. They used each other. At a time when media sites were desperately censoring everything related to this upstart Gamergate movement, Milo listened to them and published their plight. In return, Gamergate gave Milo an audience. They appreciated his antics. He gravitated to the more extreme factions within Gamergate, who taught him about imageboard culture. He eagerly adopted that culture and language and used it to become even more outlandish, more radical, more alt-right, gaining an even larger audience. Some in Gamergate went with him to become this odd Trump cult. The majority stayed behind and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.
Gamergate supports those who listen to them, regardless of their politics.
Even if my survey is crap (it isn’t) and even if they’ve misrepresented themselves to me over the past two years (they haven’t), do you have any evidence to disprove my findings other than your limited interaction with them?
Have you considered that you may believe they are right wing because you are so far to the left? Many of Gamergate’s detractors are anti-capitalist, and Gamergate, which adores gaming culture and the consumption of gaming products, is in direct conflict with such philosophy. I believe this is the reason many of the ultra-progressive opponents of Gamergate label it as right wing.
As I said early on, however, you are not very wrong. There is a highly organized, highly contentious alt-right faction of Gamergate supporters. If you are on the receiving end of their ire, as I have been, it can be daunting. Likewise, there are trolls who find extreme joy in exploiting the Gamergate controversy for their stunted version of “the lulz”. It can be a lot to wade through. It doesn’t help that Wikipedia’s listing for Gamergate is a political minefield, taken over by zealots. If your experience is with the alt-right faction or with the trolls, then you have an unfortunately skewed view of the larger picture, and I can empathize.
While Gamergate is complex, it is not impenetrably so. You can understand them and their movement, but it takes time and effort and not many are willing to offer these precious commodities. Had more people done so at the beginning of Gamergate way back in August of 2014, we would not still be talking about it today.