There were two panels, one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. You can watch them on YouTube ( morning panel – transcript / afternoon panel – transcript / post-bomb threat discussions 1, 2)
For the record:
I am neither pro- nor anti- GamerGate. As explained in this SPJAirplay update, I am, and always have been a neutral party because I tend not to take sides in issues related to gamers because I feel that doing so, goes against the very unified and eclectic culture that is gaming.
Another reason that I accepted when invited, was because since Michael Koretzky had invited prominent pro-GamerGate (Sommers, Yiannopoulos, Young, Bokhari, Ceb, Schow) personalities and professionals to attend, I wanted to be the man-in-the-middle insert who, as a gamer and game dev, could bring some insight from that perspective, while ensuring that the narrative remained focused on this specific discourse. As most of us had already read and discussed most of this online this past year, I felt that regurgitating the same things in what I believed would be a viral debate, given the nature of the beast, would be a disservice to everyone involved. This was more about education, than it was about pontification; more about the path forward, than what had come before. You know, that sort of thing.
Mike knew this going in. Which is why, though the debate was not scripted, he did setup some guidelines which focused on the premise for us all being there and why this open debate needed to happen.
What I felt would be of interest to most who had no clue what GamerGate is, was that, some media folks, having been caught in numerous ethics violations which started the GamerGate farce to begin with, had turned around and used events by some anti-social misfits operating under the hashtag, in order to promote the narrative that GG was a hate group designed to harass women in gaming. Which is like walking into a room full of people, finding a thief in there, then branding the entire room a den of thieves. Yes, it’s bullshit. And I’ve said this time and time again, since this whole thing started a year ago.
And so these are the primary reasons that I attended when invited.
And as I said in the morning panel, how this whole thing came to this, is akin to:
“Now, the very short version is this: when this whole thing started out, two people were in a relationship. It went bad. And, one of the people in that relationship got mad, went online, and wrote all this stuff. It’s like, the cops… this is a very simple version… the cops come to your house, they get a call about a noise alert. They walk in and they find drugs. Now you’re talking about the drugs. Nobody cares about the noise. That’s what happened.“
Unsurprisingly, I also wanted to ensure that this didn’t end up being an issue of taking sides, but rather one in which those who either a) had no clue what GamerGate was or b) who had the wrong impression (it’s not and never was a hate group) of it, could better understand it in the simplest of terms, without all the fluff (e.g. all the feminism, SJW issues etc are for another debate) and hyperbole. The message, I thought, needed to be simple. It needed to be straight-forward. It needed to be direct. Which is precisely why I made the closing argument (1, 2) that I did in the morning panel.
Despite the fact that I didn’t have any idea how this would go, or whether or not it would have any effect on the current GamerGate discourse, I was pleasantly surprised.
The morning panel was particularly enlightening and informative; and if you looked at my Twitter feed, or that of the several learned and eloquent panelists (Christina Sommers, Milo Yiannopoulos, Cathy Young, Ren LaForme, Lynn Walsh, Allum Bokhari, Mark Ceb, Ashe Schow) in attendance, you will clearly see the reaction.
It wasn’t all fun and games though, because following a comment that I made about why gamers can’t be expected to conform to anyone’s doctrine, my Twitter feed lit up.
“There’s a very good reason why they’re different. Gamers are unhinged. That’s the first thing. Totally unhinged….I always say to people… gaming is about drama. If you take out all the drama, all you have left is psychosis….Because these people are all unhinged and they can say and do what they want because they’re passionate about this stuff.“
I had made the above statement, and that without drama in gaming, what’s left is psychosis (“a loss of contact with reality“). Some got it; but some didn’t because I think, in this day and age of social media, most have forgotten the basic foundation of the English language and that the Urban Dictionary is not what’s taught in schools and should be treated with the same caution that one would pretty much everything written on the Internet. So I had to take to Twitter to explain the context.
For those who have a hard time understanding the “unhinged” context, here’s help: “deprive of stability or fixity; throw into disorder”. My context was to point out that gamers can’t be cordoned off because gaming is about drama, and without it only the worse exists
Of course, while all of this was going on, anti-social trolls (those doing it with malice, and not in jest), were present in the spjairplay live stream. They were there doing all manner of shitposting (complete with Swastika) etc. Then several panelists (e.g. Ren LaForme who got a call from Russia during the event and showed me a Tweet with his personal details), got doxed. So spjAirplay had to disable the comments in the feed during the afternoon debate.
UPDATE: The original of this article previously indicated that Mark Ceb was doxed. This was corrected when I first wrote this blog, but for some reason the WP cache plugin that I use, appears to be acting up again.
The afternoon session, which I thought would be the most important and vital one, given the panelists involved, didn’t go quite as planned. In fact, all three panelists (Sommers, Yiannopoulos, Young), had prepared various pointed statements; most of which didn’t get read because Mike – though he had said this would be a non-scripted, open debate – was, in my opinion, a bit heavy-handed in his bid to keep the debate focused on specific points.
The problem I had with that is this GG thing is so huge, and encompasses so many aspects, that trying to pigeon-hole it into one specific format and/or direction, would have been a great disservice to everyone involved, even the on-lookers. It’s not like these panelists (For the record, I don’t bring prepared scripts to these things because it all tends to go side-ways anyway) were just run-of-the-mill individuals arguing online about some crap or the other. These were professionals who, regardless of fame or infamy, have been well versed in this since it blew up, and who have consistently and eloquently I thought, presented their commentary and opinions on this issue in a clear and consistent fashion.
So yeah, I was getting very annoyed. And that’s why I was interjecting during the second debate; much to the annoyance (he hid it well, but I can read people like a book), of our gracious host, Mike.
In the end, all three decided to agree to a format that I thought not only served to stifle everything they’d prepared, but also which ended up being a debate about common sense bullshit, that every decent journalist should already know. So I was very happy to learn this morning that Milo published his opinions on what he was trying to say at the debate. I am hoping that both Sommers and Young do the same, because from the bits that I gathered, these are the issues worthy of discussion; not all this other stuff.
Though it came as no surprise, heading into the afternoon debate, around 1:16PM EST, we were notified of a bomb threat. We decided to continue because we already knew this sort of crap was coming anyway. They (whoever did this) did this before and as recently as this past May in DC.
Around 2:35pm EST, during the debate, a Miami-Dade police officer entered the auditorium and announced that the building needed to be evacuated. We later learned that several bomb threats had been called in to the Miami-Dade police station, as well as the local Miami Herald newspaper, with a “time certain” of 2:45pm for said bomb to go off.
People do stupid things like this because they want to spread fear, disrupt the debate, then try to make it look like the pro- or anti- GameGate gamers are the ones doing it. Thus far, nobody knows who has been doing this, and it’s no different from the practice of swatting that some anti-social misfits tend to do. But since this tends to happen at GamerGate related events, the association with that, continues to push the narrative that this group is nothing but a hate group, blah, blah, blah. Whatever.
So we had to evacuate the building immediately. First we were in the parking lot, then we got moved off the premises. Shortly after, we were moved an entire block away from the premises where, in over 96 degrees heat and humidity, we had to mill about. Some of us were wearing jackets and everything, since the auditorium is notorious for being very cold (it was and almost unbearably so for some people).
As soon as we were evacuated, I took to Periscope in order to let everyone know what was going on, and live as it was happening. Since our debate was cut short by 30 minutes, I also wanted to get the chance to talk to some of the attendees there, as I had planned to do following the end of the debate. Someone managed to splice my complete original Periscope stream into one continuous YouTube video, from the beginning to end (at the point that I left).
And in typical fashion, once the media (some were in attendance) started interviewing us panelists, the first question I got (I was in several interviews which is why I had given my phone to Ashe so she could continue the live stream) was “Did GamerGate do this?”. Which is the same sort of ignorant bullshit that turned this whole GG thing into the year long shit-storm that is currently is. I mean seriously, this is precisely how these things go. That’s the narrative being pushed because that’s the one that makes the news, which in turn generates revenue. And that, right there, is part and parcel of the whole “ethics” thing we’re all going on about.
Anyway, later on, as the heat descended on us without mercy (yeah, I know, I just wrote that line. I will pray to the Gods of all things literary, for forgiveness), Mike and crew arranged to have water bottles brought for everyone.
Shortly thereafter, all the homes on the street from the venue, were also evacuated. Some folks coming home, also couldn’t enter the street. The end result is that we ended up with a group of people who now started asking questions about what was going on. And so now they too know about GamerGate and that this bomb threat on their street, was related to it.
But that wasn’t the end of it, several hours later, Mike decided that we would continue the debate outside, and to take questions from the crowd that stuck around. So we setup camp on the premises of an empty building (YouTube video) at the end of the street, and continued.
Around 4:50pm, after being out in the sweltering heat for several hours, Miami-Dade police finally cleared the building and we were let back in to get our stuff and cars. Mike subsequently did a quick wrap-up which I also caught on Periscope.
Most of us met later that night in downtown Miami at an undisclosed location for a meetup where the usual tomfoolery continued in full swing. We had a blast. I met lots of wonderful and interesting people; most of whom I’d only “met” online but never in person.
I am hoping that a similar event takes place in the near future.
quotographs used in this blog courtesy of @oliverbcampbell
ps: You should probably read these excellent articles: Challenge accepted: Interviewing an internet #hashtag and Why GamerGate is going to win.