What do you call a movement that began by calling out a self-described rapist and fighting to get funding for a media project designed by women? A movement whose mascot is a woman? A movement that has given thousands of dollars to help a brutally raped sex worker get back on her feet, while being made the target of a bomb threat that may have been encouraged by a man who believed that “rape is normal?”
The group is GamerGate, a consumer movement against dishonest, unethical, agenda-driven coverage of the gaming industry that quietly turned a year old this month.
Besides the successes listed above, GamerGate can be heralded as a movement that mounted the first serious resistance to the pervasive social justice ideology that has crept into seemingly every area of culture and politics.
That the ideologues in question took this resistance poorly is evident from the above quotes. It should be noted that their outrage was deeply hypocritical.
The Contradictory Backlash Against #Gamergate
For instance, they attacked GamerGate members for being conspiracy freaks while simultaneously entertaining conspiratorial fantasies about the movement’s secret leadership: an “insidious core” of radical right-wingers who should “make your skin crawl.” Some implied that the aforementioned bomb threat was a false flag.
They accused the movement of being sexist while claiming that support for the aforementioned rape victim was “stupid shit.”
They complained that GamerGate is anti-intellectual, even though one of the movement’s most prominent critics bragged about “mind-killing” himself every day.
When all these smears failed, they literally tried to get the FBI to act as their personal Twitter blockbot.
The irony is that for all the criticism of GamerGate as a reactionary right-wing movement, most of its members continue to loudly identify with the political Left. A similar tension could be seen in a fight that recently erupted into the public eye, when Bernie Sanders’ microphone was commandeered forcefully by #BlackLivesMatter activists. If you’re looking for a canary in a coal mine for what Jonathan Chait described as an incipient fight between “liberals” and “the Left,” GamerGate is a very good candidate.
You’d think the Left would have learned. After all, Sanders and GamerGate are hardly the first self-described ideological liberals to find themselves ideologically orphaned by their more radical brethren.
The very same exclusionary politics dominated during the campus protests of the 60’s and 70’s, when the liberal lions in numerous faculty lounges suddenly found themselves besieged by illiberal Leftist students. The radicals argued that their professors were mere mouthpieces for a racist, sexist, warmongering capitalist “system.” That these professors were open supporters of civil rights or socialism appeared to make absolutely no difference. “We will destroy your world, your corporation, your University,” boasted the triumphalist Leftist hordes. In response, the old-fashioned liberals “suddenly discovered that [they] had been cultural conservatives all along,” in the words of Irving Kristol.
From this battle between old school Roosevelt-era liberalism and radical sixties Leftism, emerged a reluctant new breed of intellectual: the neoconservative. Kristol himself defined this breed this way: “A neoconservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.”
Or, as a similar thinker put it:
It would also appear that my politics are now a matter of survival for pieces of my identity that I hold dear. It can never be emphasized enough that 10 news outlets on the same day said I was dead or needed to die because of those parts of my identity. Will I forgive? Eventually. Time heals all wounds, after all. Will I forget? Never.
The Rise Of The Videocons
The difference is that quote was written in 2014 — by a member of GamerGate. Given that they’ve lasted a year and show no signs of slowing down, I think it’s high time we start reckoning with the fact that the new neoconservatives might be about to ascend. Since “neoconservative” is taken, perhaps we could say “videoconservatives,” or “videocons” may soon arise.
The evidence that such a group will materialize is fairly good. For instance, GamerGate’s champions these days seem to come almost exclusively from the Right. Witness the six pro-GamerGate voices who will debate the issue this coming weekend in the company of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). When Cathy Young, Christina Hoff Sommers, Allum Bokhari, Milo Yiannopoulos and Ashe Schow make up five of six of those voices, you really have to admit that this looks like a movement looking for an alternative.
However, it is also true that GamerGate remains leery of the Right. Why? Well, if you look at the five people I just named, you’ll find that they share another, deeper trait beyond their association with right-leaning outlets: each is a committed defender of immutable and universal political rights, the core principle of liberalism going back to John Locke himself.
Yiannopoulos and Bokhari, for instance, are fierce defenders of absolute free speech. Hoff Sommers and Young are principled proponents of equal rights for the sexes, regardless of which sex some rights favor at a particular point in time. Schow has been one of the most pugnacious defenders of due process against rape witch hunters. To the extent that each is on the Right, it is by virtue of their desire to conserve Lockean liberalism against its Leftist and illiberal opponents.
But this is not the concern of all the Right. Indeed, many GamerGaters I’ve spoken to seem to believe that the Right is just as illiberal as their new enemies on the Left, even going so far as to claim that the two are synonymous now. As evidence, they cite what they see as the Right’s continued fear of porn, its willingness to cave on bills that restrict internet freedom in the name of cybersecurity/anti-piracy, and its phobia of certain areas of scientific inquiry. These three items alone provide much for conservatives to quarrel with, but they do suggest something very important that we must reckon with if these newly disaffected liberals join our ranks.
If GamerGate does take the same plunge as Kristol and his compatriots, it will do more than simply change them into conservatives. Like the neocons, the videocons will also change the nature of what conservatism in America means. How they might do this, and in what ways, I can’t say — unless they do end up taking that plunge.
I hope they do, and not merely for their sake but for ours. As Bill Buckley once wrote of Irving Kristol and his compatriots, “Come on in, the water’s fine!”
Keep on fighting, GamerGate. Hope to see you at CPAC in a couple years.