It's remarkable that a movement as stupid and horrible as Gamergate managed to last more than a week, but here we are. Months after it began as a harassment campaign against game developer Zoe Quinn, Gamergate and its apparent affiliates have tallied numerous threats against women, most recently including a dramatic threat to shoot and bomb a gathering at Utah State University where Tropes vs. Women creator Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak. Promising a "Montreal Massacre-style attack" on USU's Center for Women and Gender, the unknown author wrote that "feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge." It's far from the first violent threat Sarkeesian has received over the past two years, but it's perhaps the most harrowing threat made in the wake of Gamergate — and it's causing Gamergate's critics to speak up loudly.
1999: gamers demand we stop blaming school shootings on videogames. 2014: gamers threaten a school shooting because videogames.— Dead Cousin Squinky (@TheSquink) October 15, 2014
Incidentally, Utah's gun laws may have helped spark today's vocal backlash against Gamergate. Sarkeesian has faced threats before and endured them, but she canceled her USU appearance because Utah's laws permit people to carry concealed firearms on school grounds and police were therefore unwilling to perform firearm searches or restrict them at her venue.
At this point supporting #gamergate is implicitly supporting the harassment of women in the gaming industry.— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) October 15, 2014
Since the threat to USU was reported yesterday, critics of the movement have spoken out on Twitter using #StopGamerGate2014, which sat on Twitter's trending topic bar throughout most of Wednesday. People have excoriated the movement for months now, but it's the first time thousands of voices against Gamergate have spoken publicly under a common banner.
.@assclit I'm not a gamer. The misogyny of "GamerGate" sickened me, which you could have learned with two clicks of research.— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) October 14, 2014
#StopGamerGate2014 Because I am tired of needing to hide the fact that I am a woman when I play a game to avoid harassment and abuse.— Hanna Fridén (@HannaFriden) October 15, 2014
Yeah, it's about girls. One girl. My daughter. I want her world to be free of online misogyny and rape/death threats. #stopgamergate2014— Jonny Nexus (@jonnynexus) October 15, 2014
This is bad news for Gamergate supporters who actually care about being taken seriously. Use of a hashtag by the opposition isn't the mark of a rigorous political movement, but, then, Gamergate isn't a serious movement either — at least not in any sense that would give it legitimacy among decent people. Every claim Gamergate has made, including its original claim that game journalism is corrupt, has been a lie in service of its misogynistic, regressive goals. It has been shown over and over again to be a movement that merely speaks about "ethics" while incubating and supporting angry people who harass and threaten women.
Of course, while a trending topic will give critics a welcome boost, it's won't be enough to convince Gamergate's zealots of anything meaningful. The simplest explanation for this stubbornness is that Gamergate is really dumb. But it should come as no surprise that a movement born from an image board where anonymous people ironically and unironically call each other "fags" and "niggers" has no authority on the subject of ethics.
Gamergate's most hardcore supporters don't even have a grasp on reality
Still, it's important for reasonable people to speak up, if only to set the terms of reality — something Gamergate's most hardcore supporters don't even seem to grasp. Gamergate's echo chamber is an endless rabbit hole of paranoia, like an irredeemably dark version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The entire affair is built on trolling, counter-trolling, anger, and ignorance; Gamergate's forums exhibit deranged skepticism in almost everything, including vicious doubts about every woman who speaks up against harassment and threats. Entire threads have been devoted to accusing Sarkeesian and other recipients of hatred and violence of running false-flag campaigns to elevate their own status. In their world, everyone who's not on their side is a "shill" who's lying for attention.
They're wrong. Last night Utah State University confirmed the authenticity of the "massacre" threat to The Verge, and Sarkeesian says several threats were made against the university with one threat naming Gamergate specifically. One hashtag won't turn the tide against this harmful nonsense, but it's a start.