Feminist Frequency‘s Anita Sarkeesian can’t seem to catch a break. Forced out of her home just a few weeks ago after the latest part of her Tropes vs. Women in Video Games went live in the midst of the Gamergate furore has now cancelled a speaking engagement at Utah State University tomorrow morning, after the university received emails threatening “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if the lecture went ahead.
The Standard Examiner has published alleged excerpts from the email, whose author says “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they’ve wronged.” The author, who claims that he is a USU student, says “I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs” and promises a “Montreal Massacre style attack” if the lecture is allowed to go ahead.
The author goes on to warn that even if security is increased they will be unable to prevent the attack: “One way or another, I’m going to make sure they die”.
The email accuses Sarkeesian of being “everything wrong with the feminist woman… She is going to die screaming like the craven little whore that she is if you let her come to USU.”
The author signs off by promising that everyone will soon know their name: “I will write my manifesto in her spilled blood, and you will all bear witness to what feminist lies and poison have done to the men of America.”
Hoo. Fuckin’ Boy.
While USU initially stated that the lecture would go ahead as planned after running the email by federal, local and state law enforcement and bolstering their own security, Sarkeesian has decided to cancel her appearance after the university could not guarantee that attendants would be unarmed (Utah law allows personal arms if the owner carries a valid concealed firearm permit). The Standard Examiner reports that USU spokesman Tim Vitale explained the police’s decision as being based on similar threats made to Sarkeesian in the past: ”They determined the threat seems to be consistent with ones (Sarkeesian) has received at other places around the nation… The threat we received is not out of the norm for (this woman)”. Good to know that one person being used to this shit is a valid reason to put a large room full of people at risk.
This, of course, isn’t the first time that threats have followed Sarkeesian in public. Bomb threats were made leading up to her appearance at the Games Developers Conference in March, yet another reminder that this stuff has been an active concern long before Jayne’s teeny brain coined a phrase. It also cements the fact that although this stuff is likely just as impotent and pathetic as the rest of the vicious, cowardly abuse we’ve gotten used to seeing documented in recent times, that still doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an innate power in that nobody knows when someone is actually going to mean this stuff, and carry it through. Abusive messages and death threats are one thing: nakedly threatening the lives of large groups is wholly something else.
To be specific, that ‘something else’ is terrorism, and you can’t help but feel that some people are starting to bite off more than they can chew. Never mind Social Justice Warriors; this kind of thing gets you the attention of the kind of people who don’t give two shits about video games or trolling, but will rub you from the face of the Earth if they choose to take your Tony Montana rhetoric seriously.
Funnily enough, it’s also further proof of how the more strident anti-SJW operators ruin their own credibility by taking things just a bit too far. The Gamergate controversy is now big news in the mainstream. yet those who agree with the (extremely loose) movement’s conservative, antisocial justice in gaming stance have been unable to articulate their objections in any kind of terms that would be palatable to the public at large, never mind all the stalking, death threats and bomb threats – stuff that generally doesn’t help keep people onside, by and large. This was highlighted just recently when, in a spectacular example of self-sabotage, Gamergate proponents allegedly nagged sceptics’ site RationalWiki to add the controversy to its database. The result is both hilarious and succinctly lays out just how flimsy and devoid of merit the complaints are to everyone not already entrenched in the gaming world. Like many of you likely have, I’ve spoken to a fair few non-gamers over the last couple of months who have heard of the controversy, the abuse and the threats, and have no idea what the hell these people are going on about; all they understand is that the things these people are doing is fundamentally wrong, so wrong that even they can’t handwave it as ‘those weird gamers’ without wanting to know more.
Maybe in there lies an answer to the question I posed when I wrote about Revolution 60 developer Brianna Wu’s troubles a couple of days ago: the question of what the rest of us, the vast, vast majority of gamers who are rational, open-minded members of society, can do in the face of behaviour that seems to give us all a bad name. More and more, the stalkers, threateners and abusers are revealing themselves as childish and irrational, unable to convincingly portray even arguably valid concerns in terms other than self-centred melodrama devoid of credible proof. More and more, they take the focus of attention away from the issue of games and what forces they feel are affecting it, and more towards their own fantastical and unstable worldview, and more and more they look less like gamers and more like cranks at best, and thugs, even terrorists, at worst. In many ways it’s a shame: those who resort to threats of violence often do so out of pain, either through medical issues or hurtful life experiences (One wonders what the UCU ‘student’ means when he says that feminists ‘ruined his life’, and what real-life suffering he may have experienced that he believes he can heal by doing what he has done). Ultimately, however, their destructive and aggressive demeanour drowns out any message they believe they are conveying.
So maybe our contribution can be to remind the people around us who are unfamiliar with our world that they do not represent games, nor the nature of those who enjoy them. Use the opportunity to explain to your non-gaming friends, family and co-workers why these people are kicking up this stink, and how it reflects the many positive steps gaming and the games community have taken in recent years to becoming a vibrant and universal part of society and culture. Let’s show the non-gaming public how smart and switched-on we really are, and the kind of nihilistic, emotionally and culturally shut-in attitudes we’re leaving behind. Tweet it, post about it on Facebook, mention it if people bring it up in conversation. People are finally starting to realize that the medium is having its coming of age, and a few dinosaurs having tar-pit tantrums is as good an opportunity as ever to point it out.