A Washington, DC-area bar hosting a meetup for supporters of GamerGate was briefly evacuated Friday night after someone called in a bomb threat. Reason contributor Cathy Young, who attended the event and has written positively about the online social protest movement, gave her take on the happenings here.
GamerGate is the name ascribed to a diffuse online community ostensibly targeting corruption in video game journalism, political correctness run amok, and certain progressive feminist critics of video games and internet culture. Several of the group's most respectable leaders, including the American Enterprise Institute's Christina Hoff Sommers and Milo Yiannopoulos, were in attendance on Friday.
I say leaders, but really, GamerGate has no such people. Like Anonymous or Occupy Wall Street, it lacks formal structure or a set of definite goals. This means, of course, that people can very easily claim the GamerGate mantle in pursuit of less noble ends—and that GamerGate as an entity gets the blame for vile, misogynistic personal attacks made against critics of the movement, like Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. Indeed, bomb and death threats made by GamerGate activists have forced Sarkeesian to cancel speaking engagements and other events in the past.
But the events last Friday should make clear that GamerGate has no special monopoly on making threats or conducting smear campaigns. While it's not clear who specifically made the bomb threat, Twitter personality Arthur Chu—a celebrated Jeopardy! winner, Salon columnist, and vitriolic critic of GamerGate—personally spearheaded efforts to convince the bar, Local16, to cancel the event. He sent emails to Local16 management asserting that GamerGate was a "right wing hate group and harassment campaign that's caused tremendous damage to my life." Letting the meetup take place was akin to "letting anti-feminists gather to celebrate the harassment and intimidation of women in tech," he claimed.
I'm not sure how GamerGate has damaged Chu's life—indeed, criticizing the movement has given Chu an impressive podium in his post-Jeopardy! career—but it seems hyperbolic (to say the very least) to brand the entire meetup as a right-wing, anti-women hate group. As Yiannopoulos pointed out in his write-up of the event, attendees included a lesbian video game designer—who currently relies on a cane and had some difficulty evacuating the after the bomb threat—and her fiancé. Presumably these are not the right-wing opponents of women in tech that Chu was talking about.
Some have suggested that Chu's cryptic Tweet, "Whatever, it's ending tonight with them meeting up there," amounted to a threat of violence. This seems like a stretch (and Young agrees). To make absolutely sure, I emailed Chu to ask if he had any knowledge of the bomb threat. He responded: "I know nothing about it. Please leave me alone."
Chu seems unable to separate the real abusers from the honest critics of his perspective, and plenty of other people on both sides of GamerGate have done the same. The mentality of "you either agree with me or you're a Nazi," is often on display.
But threats of violence against another group are never okay, and that goes for militant GamerGate anti-feminists, scorched-earth social justice warriors, and everyone in between.