Anita Sarkeesian Is Not Jack Thompson 2.0

In an ABC News segment last week, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian again hit the media circuit with her crusade against “misogynist” video games. For many gamers, her appearance was reminiscent of odd-ball moral crusader Jack Thompson, who in the late 1990’s argued for regulation of violent games like Grand Theft Auto on the theory they were corrupting the youth of America. Thompson, who was ultimately disbarred for his abuse of the legal system, made numerous media appearances claiming teens used the games as “murder simulators” before committing school shootings and other acts of violence.

While there is some overlap between Thompson and Sarkeesian, their ideologies, support networks, and potentials for success couldn’t be more different. Conflating the two is dangerous because it underestimates the severe threat Sarkeesian poses to free expression in gaming culture, which until now has managed to remain relatively free of political hijackings.

"Know thy self. Know thy enemy." - The Art of War

“Know thy self. Know thy enemy.” – The Art of War

The most fundamental difference between Thompson and Sarkeesian derives from political visions – Thompson being a Christian conservative, and Sarkeesian a progressive feminist. Thompson was clear throughout his campaign that he was trying to protect young children and took no issue with adults enjoying the content. Sarkeesian’s mandate is more sweeping, based on the notion that  the culture itself is misogynist and that most popular games today are a problem. Thompson, for all his faults and fumbling, was guilty of taking an otherwise agreeable concept too far: that we have a responsibility to protect still-developing minds from harmful influences. Sarkeesian instead infantilizes all gamers and injects demonstrably effective victimhood messaging and identity politics into her arguments. As a self-anointed culture elite, progressives like her feel obligated to dictate acceptable content for the rest of us.

Another key difference is that while Thompson remained a buffoonish object of ridicule and never gained mainstream support for his beliefs, Sarkeesian is successfully waging a proxy battle in the larger culture war, tactfully exploiting political inroads with nearly the entire progressive and feminist movements backing her cause. Sarkeesian’s company, Feminist Frequency, has hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers and has raised over $160,000 through sympathy donations in the past year alone. Unlike the skepticism Thompson often received from interviewers, The Colbert Report, ABC Nightline, and other programs have lent Sarkeesian a sympathetic ear and granted her free platforms to broadcast her propaganda wholesale. Thompson, an extremist within his own broader circle, never enjoyed the support of any significant number of conservatives, Christians, or any other movement. Sarkeesian cuts a clear contrast, being cheered on by progressives as the face of feminism in gaming, and the misrepresentations of game events in her videos mirror the “rape culture” hysteria and false statistics appearing on any mainstream feminist blog.

Most troubling of all is the 5th column element that has arisen within the gaming community itself, undermining the GamerGate backlash and opening the gates for social justice reformers. Geek celebrities Wil Wheaton, Chris Kluwe, and Seth Rogen have joined Sarkeesian in condemning “gamer” culture, as have some game developers like Tim Schafer. The same gaming publications that staunchly opposed Thompson have, for the most part, cast lot with Sarkeesian via the “Gamers Are Dead” articles and subsequent pieces tarring resistance as a misogynist hate mob – a standard Alinskyite smear tactic.

As TNV has pointed out before, gaming has a progressive problem that needs addressing. Sarkeesian and other “social justice warriors” aren’t going to abandon their endeavors until gaming is no longer a fertile ground for exploitation. Only when this threat is correctly identified, rejected, and marginalized through a united front will gamers again be able to enjoy their hobby free from the pernicious shaming and oppressiveness of political correctness culture.

Why GamerGate Needs to Address SJWs

It’s been four months since GamerGate kicked off its efforts, and proponents remain just as dedicated to the cause entering 2015. There is wide agreement on the goal of restoring ethical standards to gaming journalism, but opinions differ on whether GamerGate should concern itself with “social justice warriors” (SJWs) such as Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, Leigh Alexander, Arthur Chu, Chris Kluwe, and other public figures lambasting gamer culture and seeking to sanitize games by scrubbing “offensive” content from the medium.

This isn’t really a conflict; as a grassroots movement, each of us can prioritize efforts as we see fit. But for those viewing SJWs as a distraction, I urge you to venture further down the rabbit hole for a bit and to consider how SJW behavior fits into a larger, troubling attack pattern across different components of society.

“We got ourselves a progressive problem.”

This is the first time many in GamerGate have faced down the “progressive” political animal, so the viciousness and tenacity of those espousing “tolerance” may come as a surprise. Similarly, they may be ill-prepared to deal with the extreme Alinskyite tactics progressives have used since the early 20th century to isolate and intimidate targets into submission.

GamerGate itself is not a political movement in a partisan or governance sense, boasting membership from all across the political spectrum, but the progressive objective is to politicize gaming to advance their agenda, which makes them a political enemy of gamers. It’s a fine distinction but an important one to make to avoid mistaking opposition of politicization as politicization itself, and to avoid confusing identification of progressive tactics with the identity politics progressives use exploit various social identity groups. Another key difference is that, while progressives use intense negative social pressure and intimidation to suppress content they dislike, GamerGate favors traditional market mechanisms to assess value and provide utility to consumers.

Those who dispute progressive ideology as the source of the cultural rot are hard-pressed to explain why journalists at the heart of the corruption all identify with this particular far-left-wing political orientation. They are all progressives – yes, all of them – which strains the credibility of those ascribing the homogeneity to mere happenstance. To understand why this is the case, a useful conceptual framework comes courtesy of economist Thomas Sowell in A Conflict of Visions (summarized by Wikipedia):

“The unconstrained vision relies heavily on the belief that human nature is essentially good. Those with an unconstrained vision distrust decentralized processes and are impatient with large institutions and systemic processes that constrain human action. They believe there is an ideal solution to every problem, and that compromise is never acceptable. Collateral damage is merely the price of moving forward on the road to perfection. Ultimately they believe that man is morally perfectible. Because of this, they believe that there exist some people who are further along the path of moral development, have overcome self-interest and are immune to the influence of power and therefore can act as surrogate decision-makers for the rest of society.”

Remind you of anyone you know? Like their Marxist cousins, progressives subscribe to a Utopian vision of mankind in which the inherently good nature of man is corrupted by damaging environmental influences around him, whether they be racist institutions; the trappings of poverty; or misogynist, ableist, homophobic cishet video games. To the unconstrained visionary, the solution to all of the above is simple: remove the offending content and the less desirable qualities of mankind will disappear – we’ll all live together in perfect harmony in a world free of privilege, prejudice, violence, and oppression.

If your eyes are rolling at the idealism, then you probably fall somewhere in the “constrained vision” camp, which holds a more tragic and classical view of mankind – ambitious, flawed, and resistant to social engineering. GamerGate is, at its heart, a constrained-view social movement, enthusiastic about video games as a healthy outlet for exploring through fantasy and recreation humanity’s natural compulsions toward lust, greed, violence, and power. As such, GamerGate is incompatible with progressive political philosophy, and the two sides are destined to butt heads over values and visions for the future of gaming.

Progressivism is also, at its core, a utilitarian philosophy, achieving its designs via the Machiavellian principle that ends can justify the means. This is the source of the often atrocious and hypocritical behavior progressives engage in when confronted with obstacles to their vision – when the opponent is racism or sexism incarnate, it’s acceptable to be a little racist or sexist yourself if it means vanquishing your foe; hence, coordinated attacks on #NotYourShield minorities as “Uncle Toms,” or on female GamerGate members as “whores” of males in the movement. Similarly, gaming journalists have no moral qualms about using the power of their positions to advance their progressive cause. If a game uses “tropes” against women, or is too violent for the reviewer’s taste, then it deserves a bad review for being damaging to society, i.e., corruption is an acceptable price to fight the even greater corrupting influence of negligent social messaging. Whatever other value games may offer is eclipsed by the social justice mission to the self-anointed agents of human evolution and progress.

GamerGate can ignore SJWs and succeed in limited aims, but it would do so at its own existential peril. We the constrained face an enemy hellbent on tearing down our very identity and culture in the name of human “progress.” The progressive sees video games as yet another territory to be conquered and used as a launchpad for further political conquest. If you wish to see the result of capitulation, you only need look at the washed-out cultural wasteland Hollywood and academia became when they fell to political correctness decades ago.

Gamers Don’t Need NFLer Chris Kluwe

Subcultures tend to latch onto celebrity recognition for inroads into popular appeal. In the chess world, “chess-playing” celebrities like Dustin Diamond and Will Smith have written forwards to study books in place of those with tournaments named after them for decades of devotion to the hobby. So has been the case with minor celebrity and “gamer” Chris Kluwe, who was punter for the Minnesota Vikings until he was thrown out of the NFL for his constant verbal abuse of managers and fellow players, and for turning the NFL into a referendum on gay marriage after the league asked him not to do so (Kluwe erroneously claims such actions violate the First Amendment – he is not a legal scholar).

Kluwe enjoying a stale rehash of a AAA title.

Kluwe recently wrote an article called “Why GamerGaters Piss Me the Fuck Off,” which parallels so many of his other poorly written rantings and ravings, laden with juvenile potty language and self-righteous indignation towards those not as socially progressive as Kluwe. This particular screed is remarkable only because it targets one of the few groups still interested in Kluwe’s association with them, which is the gaming community. To be fair, after white millionaire Kluwe complains of “patently obvious white privilege,” he only calls “ignorant,” “slopebrowed,” and “shitgoblins” those gamers participating in an online social movement called “GamerGate,” which – to make a long story short – is a grassroots, leaderless backlash against politicization of gaming by social activists, and the collusion and corruption in gaming journalism that inevitably accompany progressivism, of which there are numerous examples. Kluwe now spends much of his days insulting gamers on Twitter and blocking the many female participants in GamerGate who challenge his Alinskyite smear campaign that the movement is a platform for misogyny.

For GamerGate, incurring Kluwe’s wrath is a reliable indication of being on the right track. Following his pattern of atrocious behavior in the NFL, Kluwe is exploiting gaming to advance a progressive agenda and assaulting the un-politicized escapist value that has made gaming meaningful for so long. Those reluctant to see gaming go the way of television and the movie industry – “exploring” the same politically correct themes over and over again – should welcome Kluwe’s ostracism (or ragequit) from the gaming community as a positive development.