I will preface this article with an admission: I in essence fall into some of the same categories as the now-infamous social justice warriors at war with Gamergate. I’m a right-brained, left-leaning, liberal arts graduate of California universities. (My degree was in History, and received at the particularly leftist UC Santa Cruz.) That admission is important because I feel I can offer some insight into what the SJW mindset might be, and why they’re now very angry, if not scared.
One of the aspects of Gamergate that I see getting very little attention—at least in what little public coverage the scandal receives--is the #NotYourShield campaign, wherein people who consider themselves gamers, but do not fit the crass definition the gaming journalists reduced the term to in their attack articles of August 28, 2014, take to Twitter to pledge their support for Gamergate, and hence, solidarity with those people who do fit the description to a greater degree, but with much less predisposition to misogyny and terrorism than the articles alleged. The campaign is a huge success; it alone, though not nearly as loud on Twitter as the core #Gamergate, dwarfs the tag made by its opponents in usage. Naturally, these black gamers, female gamers, gay gamers, etc, do not represent all of their given minority, but they nonetheless are far more common than the collection of loudmouthed journalists who claimed to speak in their name.
The Gamers Are Dead articles had some deeply troubling odors of ablism and appearance-shaming; opting to associate common autistic traits with heinous crimes, but one could still, if he or she tried hard enough, conclude that these people acted in good faith, genuinely believing in the ideal of increasing minority involvement in game culture; even if miscalculating the degree to which they were already there. Still, once the masses of the #NotYourShield adherents came out to play, surely these equality zealots would be happy for it, for whatever the reason; right? Somehow, their writing the GAD articles did, in a roundabout way, lead to many minorities speaking up as undeniable parts of game culture, so the positive outcome should have outweighed any embarrassment about getting details wrong. Yet instead, the same clique that essentially accused autistic people of refusing to accommodate other minorities, then went and attacked members of these minorities who were happy to be part of gaming culture; claiming they possessed “Internalized racism and misogyny” and the like. Somehow, they felt, a minority wasn’t being all he or she could be unless they adhered to these self-appointed social-commentators’ views of such. How can such a subjective, essentially undemocratic approach to progressive politics be rationalized? My guess would be, the SJWs have seen their world-view wrecked, and they are now sore losers.
That brings us nicely back to the point I made at the start of this article. As a Liberal Arts major who studied History in two universities, under multiple professors, I have found much cause to be skeptical—which is a blessing I believe that those who took a more narrow curriculum may not have received. I experienced rather contradictory narratives from one professor to the next, and between the rash of variously interpreted data and cited books, I came to conclude that even the best of us come to see that which we want to see, and don’t always think about the ramifications our own chosen world view has on those who have chosen another. Yet nothing could foster skepticism like one outrageous statement by my mentor, that “Historians secretly rule the world,” except, perhaps, for the aftermath, wherein I, like many Liberal Arts majors, discovered that the business world, by most evidence, cares nothing for our abstract craft.
For many now-jaded social scholars who have gotten used to the feeling that they had learned to understand, better than most, how people work, and why they do the things they do, I suspect the shock can be debilitating. They spent four years of reading the exact books as prescribed by their professors--many of them old, possessing outdated views of the world from before the Cold War ended, that hold onto economic dreams that many others have moved past, possibly in the job only because they could do nothing else with the same education they now dole out, and still in the job only because they have tenure--pleasing them with papers and tests wherein they arrived at the sort of answers these professors wanted, surrounded by pamphlets printed by other students who are sure they’ve come to understand the world and solution to its ills, their socio-economic views growing up in an institution where reading The Motorcycle Diaries in their all-you-can-eat dining hall on breaks from splurging on still more food moves them closer to the abstract goals their curricula sets. Then these people, with their limited, pre-planned, cushioned—and yes, often excessively left-wing—assumptions graduate, and meet the private sector. A new world with new rules, wherein the subjects the students learned to write about so well are often the ones most consumers don’t care to read about, where left-brained (and not necessarily left-winged) thinking is en-vogue, where paychecks simply can’t be given to as many people as were given As.
When these once-empowered self-assumed sociologists arrive at real adulthood and see how little use the big employers have for their voluminous but debatable social analysis, they have two options: One, they can, as I largely did, conclude that their alma maters were at least to some degree full of hot air, and wallow in painful but sobering self-pity, or two, they can fall back on the outdated, at least partially Marxist rhetoric that they inhaled in college like second-hand hemp, and go looking for what they think is a righteous intellectual fight worthy of their assistance. For the latter group, it is easy to fit their newfound unemployment or underemployment into their outlook; they are but the latest victims of the capitalist system that, so they’ve concluded, seeks out victims everywhere. In keeping with academia’s take on Marxist theory, this vile invention of the guilty white race has warped their consciousness, has subjugated their governments, and pressured those governments into going and subjugating those of non-white races who, in their primitive innocence, never came up with anything as vile as capitalism. Thus may the mindset of social justice warriors be born (often without them bothering to check conditions anywhere else in the world); they seize upon the idea that they have joined the “others” in a presumed resistance to alienation and marginalization by the conventional power-brokers of society; in this case, straight male WASPs. That the capitalist system of these straight male WASPs has conspired against everyone else is a base assumption, and hence, the SJWs see attacking the system and its presumed elite as the best thing that can be done for women, minorities, and foreigners, if these groups are ever welcomed into the lucrative market and culture of gaming.
When the SJWs come to learn, as I believe that many already have, that the free market they’ve condemned for so long (even while many of them benefited from it) has actually managed to beat them and their overthought analyses to establishing the inclusive, universally marketable culture they proclaim as their goal, it’s very possible they get angry and scared. In the case of Gamergate, that which was merely a haunting shadow of doubt they felt about themselves during their first post-college reality-check, which they locked away mentally to focus on careers analyzing others, suddenly became a real threat trumpeted by many of those others. Their credibility is on the line; as are the inherently limited paid positions that people of their “specialty” can hold. For years, they reaped a rich harvest out of their relationship with a beloved aspect of our culture, and up until now, few looked into exactly what that relationship was, but the moment people’s eyes are opened, it’s hard to shut them again. The dread felt by this self-righteous clique of professional social critics may well be amplified by their having witnessed the dramatic fall from grace that SeaWorld has suffered since 2013.
Having grown up in Southern California, I can attest to an era when, for the schoolchildren learning about animals, orcas were Shamu, Shamu was somehow the name of every orca, and Shamu lived at SeaWorld. We loved animals, so we loved orcas, so we loved Shamu, so we loved SeaWorld. Then, in 2013, Gabriela Cowperthwaite released her expose Blackfish, detailing how much abuse underlay the fun, and that chain of affection blew apart. The shamed theme park did everything in its power to fight back against the changing tides, but it was a futile effort after decades of digging their own watery grave. Their business model had played upon, and almost certainly amplified, people’s admiration of and empathizing with remarkable animals; their surrounding human purveyors being a minor detail in comparison, so once the conflict of interest between the two came out, many who had come to love their animals expressed that love by condemning the purveyors. SeaWorld’s attendance and stock values have plummeted, forcing them to downsize dramatically, and despite what seem like endless talks about revising their business plan, there is no evidence that anything will succeed at mending their image.
The same issue inherently haunts external critics (as well as, in fact, even appraisers) of anything that is widely-known; as Antoine Ego declared in his moment of truth towards the end of Ratatouille, that which they address, be it good or bad, is the only reason the critics get any attention themselves, and the thing will probably stay known while they who once professionally commented upon it tend to fade. When audiences who already have a strong attachment to something--be it their hobbies, politics, sex, race, or other things in broad discussion these days—see it horribly served by commentators who have attached themselves to it and declared themselves worthy authorities, they know well that they can turn their backs on the commentators with no real harm done to the passion those commentators addressed. Many gaming journalists, having already abandoned their credibility in addressing their original subject and its fanbase; have gone to work in favor of those self-righteous cultural critics who attack popular art in the name of the greater good. While it may seem at face-value that this makes SJWs appear legitimate, bringing their spiel into the loud realm of consumerism has just given them the most brutal exposure yet to how worthless—and often, detrimental--the average citizen considers them, as both the archetypical gamers and the #NotYourShield crowd have demonstrated in tandem.
The social justice warriors don’t acknowledge the success of #NotYourShield—seriously, at least—because they can’t; the revelation that people of all types have already come together in the free market of video games will probably demolish their textbook leftist claim that people like themselves, imposing “enlightened” restrictions on that market, are needed for the greater good.
Yet amidst all of these rude awakenings, the great irony of all the recent talk about “Cultural Marxism”, and how it’s now at war with Gamergate, is that there’s nothing fundamentally anti-Marxist about the video game industry; with the exception of that major error of Marx’s exposed since the bourgeois, rather than the proletariat, proved the class that grew larger. Everything else about the way this expertly refined, infinitely marketable industry has brought in people of all identities, in fact has taken exactly the course Marx anticipated capitalism to take as a necessity for the ultimate unity of humanity; something it seems his most trigger-happy followers and their distant cultural descendants have consistently ignored. Marx, unlike many New-Age leftists, did not see commodity fetishism as a bad thing; on the contrary, he felt that ideologically-prone facets of identity, such as race, were the real delusions, and that only capitalism’s major reinvention of consciousness along materialist priorities could bring all people onto the same page to act as a whole. This whole could then act in concert against capitalists and allied cultural purveyors who betrayed their trust...which, thanks to Gamergate, has also happened.
Popular materialism has scant room for demagogues who claim they know better than the masses. SJWs, by their nature, are antagonistic to capitalists, their forays into public debate have been met with disgust by the average consumer, the atypical crowd they claim to speak on behalf of is in the process of abandoning them (if they were ever with them to begin with), and when ultimately, it comes to light that they can’t even get right the Marxist sentiment that many of them picked up in college, it will be a wonder if they’ll have any substantive followers left. Might Gamergate, ultimately, actually out-Marxist its opponents? It sounds absurd, but it’s beating them in many places already.