The Other McCain

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Can We Ever Forget the Tattoo-Covered, Mentally Ill Ex-Stripper Whose Real Name Is Chelsea Van Valkenburg?

Posted on | January 29, 2020 | 3 Comments


Alas, we can never forget. #GamerGate is newsworthy again. Over the weekend, without warning, I noticed a surge of traffic to one of my posts about “Zoe Quinn,” whom I’ve described thus:

“Zoe Quinn” was Patient Zero of the #GamerGate controversy. A tattoo-covered, mentally ill ex-stripper whose real name is Chelsea Van Valkenburg, Quinn was the creator of a tediously dull game called “Depression Quest.” She broke up with her boyfriend, a software geek named Eron Gjoni, and allegedly became intimate with a videogame journalist named Nathan Grayson. In August 2014, Gjoni published a nearly 10,000-word article exposing Quinn’s alleged misconduct. . . .
Quinn was accused of gaining favorable coverage of her work — which is allegedly useless and awful — by providing Grayson and others access to her nasty poontang. And when these allegations of quid pro quo were published by one of Quinn’s embittered ex-lovers, Quinn’s defenders accused her critics of misogyny.
There were all kinds of background factors involved, but liberals decided that the narrative was about “misogyny” within the male-dominated videogame industry, and also about women being “harassed” online.

When that controversy erupted in late August 2014, I paid intermittent attention to it — I haven’t played a videogame since the Pac Man era — until, in October 2014, a friend urged me to give it more coverage. I placed a call to Adam Baldwin, the man who named #GamerGate, and he explained to me that this was an important battle in the Culture War, and that it transcended the usual right/left divide. Many of those who supported #GamerGate were sincere liberals who simply had gotten fed up with the sanctimony of so-called “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs) who were trying to take over the multi-billion-dollar videogame industry.


It was arguably as a result of #GamerGate that Twitter in 2016 created its infamous “Trust and Safety Council,” including arch-SJW Anita Sarkeesian, whose first action was to ban my @rsmccain account. The wave of banishments that subsequently swept across social media platforms — not just Twitter, but also Facebook and YouTube, not to mention the James Damore incident at Google — exposed the extent to which SJWs have consolidated their power in Big Tech. According to the SJW narrative, anyone who complains about this kind of censorship is defending “hate speech” and “harassment.” The larger issue, however, is that social media, once viewed as an alternative to the establishment media, has been taken over by people with the same biases and control-freak conformity that made establishment media so untrustworthy. And the controversy over #GamerGate highlighted how leftist ideologues operate to obtain and exercise their control. Differences of opinion are turned into moral crusades against “hate,” and the result is that there is an ever-growing list of Things You Can’t Say, Even If They’re True.

So, why has #GamerGate become newsworthy again? Well, last week, Aja Romano wrote an article at Vox-dot-com with the headline, “What we still haven’t learned from Gamergate,” asserting that the rebellion against SJWs in videogames “ultimately coalesced into the larger alt-right movement that helped fuel the election of President Trump.”

That article is more than 4,500 words long, and I don’t know that anyone here will click the link and read the whole thing. Romano, who evidently considers any non-“woke” opinion to be white supremacy or some other species of “hate,” operates from the premise that there was never any legitimate basis for #GamerGate, so that her story is about how hate and harassment became a problem, and what needs to be done to stop it:

Robert Evans, a journalist who specializes in extremist communities . . . described Gamergate to me as partly organic and partly born out of decades-long campaigns by white supremacists and extremists to recruit heavily from online forums. “Part of why Gamergate happened in the first place was because you had these people online preaching to these groups of disaffected young men,” he said. But what Gamergate had that those previous movements didn’t was an organized strategy, made public, cloaking itself as a political movement with a flimsy philosophical stance, its goals and targets amplified by the power of Twitter and a hashtag.
Again and again, throughout 2014 and afterward — and, really, well before that, as women in online subcultures withstood years of targeted harassment — many failed to understand and assess what Gamergate was. The media, tech platforms, the niche internet communities these reactionaries came from (places with marginally obscure names like 4chan, 8chan, and Voat, for instance), the corporations they easily manipulated, and the general public, who seemed to take it in as nebulous online noise; no one properly identified Gamergate as a major turning point for the internet. The hate campaign, we would later learn, was the moment when our ability to repress toxic communities and write them off as just “trolls” began to crumble. Gamergate ultimately gave way to something deeper, more violent, and more uncontrollable.

Wait — “more violent”? How many people did #GamerGate kill? The only death I’m aware of is when “Zoe Quinn” accused an ex-boyfriend of sexual abuse, thus driving him to suicide, but that’s obviously not what Aja Romano has in mind. No, what she has done is to assert (rather than prove) that #GamerGate was and is connected to every incident of “right-wing extremist” violence since 2014.  You would have to read the whole thing (and again, I doubt that many of you will do so) to see how she makes this connect-the-dots narrative seem plausible, but this is standard-issue media smear tactics: Ever since Trump was elected, online “hate speech” (i.e., disagreeing with liberals) is automatically implicated whenever a frustrated “incel” goes on a murder rampage.

Notice the clever prestidigitation Aja Romano achieves here:

Gamergate ultimately made us all much more aware of the potential real-world impact of online extremism. Yet, years after Gamergate, despite increasing evidence suggesting a connection between online violence against women and real-world violence — including mass shootings — many corporations and social media platforms still struggle to identify and eradicate extreme forms of violence against women from online spaces.
Despite all of its algorithmic tweaking, Twitter is still abysmal at identifying and taking action against rape and death threats on its website. The 2019 murder of 17-year-old Bianca Devins, a well-known Instagram user, carried a disturbing online component that involved her killer posting graphic online photos of her death. The photos rapidly went viral, including on Instagram and Twitter, which were both largely ineffective at curbing their spread. . . .
This failure to act has serious consequences, because many of the perpetrators of real-world violence are radicalized online first. In 2018, the International Center for Research on Women identified online gender-based violence as “an emerging public health and human rights concern” and linked it to a growing number of mass shootings, noting, “Failing to detect and deter technology-facilitated GBV is a missed opportunity to prevent deadly consequences offline.” Other research has found that more than half of the US’s mass shootings involve the targeting of an intimate partner or ex-partner, and many of the most recent mass attacks involve a perpetrator who displayed or threatened violent behavior toward one woman or multiple women, either online or off. In the past year alone, multiple mass shootings have had an element of misogynistic or domestic violence targeted at women.

It goes without saying that I disapprove of murder (“Teenage Girl Nearly Decapitated by Jealous Loser She Met on Internet,” July 15, 2019), but exactly how is #GamerGate to blame for what happened to Bianca Devins? (Answer: Not at all.) But if you create a category as large as “online extremism” and then assert that this is connected to a category as large as “gender-based violence,” you are free to pick and choose the most egregious examples to illustrate your argument that (a) mass murder is caused by (b) people saying mean things on the Internet, and therefore (c) #GamerGate is like The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zionism, the all-purpose conspiracy theory that explains everything.

Repetition is a basic tactic of propaganda. If the Big Lie is to triumph over truth, it must be repeated until people internalize the false belief with which you wish to indoctrinate them. And so the liberal narrative — about “gender-based violence” and everything else — must be consistently reinforced by retelling the same biased version of events, and also opposing viewpoints must be silenced. It is especially important to totalitarian ideologues (which is what SJWs actually are) that their authority as truth-tellers never be subjected to criticism. This is why the media hate Trump so much — every time he mocks them as purveyors of “fake news,” the President demonstrates that we do not have to passively accept whatever narrative the people on CNN are telling us.

OK, so why did Aja Romano and her Vox-dot-com editors decide that January 2020 was a good time to revisit #GamerGate to the tune of 4,500 words? We may suppose that that they fear liberals might forget the narrative about the menace of online “hate,” so as to lower their guard against it. But the question is: Why now? It’s not about the off chance that some extremist kook is going to go berserk with an AR-15 next week or next month. It’s really about politics, as Aja Romano herself emphasized in concluding her article last week:

The public’s failure to understand and accept that the alt-right’s misogyny, racism, and violent rhetoric is serious goes hand in hand with its failure to understand and accept that such rhetoric is identical to that of President Trump. . . .
As described by Vox’s Ezra Klein, Trump’s willingness to engage in incendiary racist rhetoric is similar to the tactics that have led many journalists to dismiss his followers as trolls: “He chooses his enemies based on who he thinks will rile up his base. He uses outrageous, offensive insults to get the media to take notice. And then he feeds off the energy unleashed by the confrontation.” In other words, he and his followers — many of whom, again, are members of the extreme online right-wing that got its momentum from Gamergate — are using the strategy Gamergate codified: deploying offensive behavior behind a guise of mock outrage, irony, trolling, and outright misrepresentation, in order to mask the sincere extremism behind the message.

#GamerGate is still relevant because Trump is still president. And in fact, Aja Romano has previously made #GamerGate the explanation of why Trump was elected. In December 2016, she published “How the alt-right’s sexism lures men into white supremacy” at Vox:

In the wake of the election, perhaps no topic has been more widely discussed and debated than the self-described “alt-right” — the racist, sexist, meme-happy, mostly internet-based movement associated with radical white supremacy that has unexpectedly taken center stage in US politics after the election of Donald Trump. The recent disruptive violence of incels — a shortened form of “involuntary celibates” that refers to an online enclave of extreme misogynists — may seem like a lone outlier with little connection to the racialized politics of white supremacists. But in fact incel culture, the “men’s rights” movement, and their focus on what they perceive as belittled masculinity have more in common with the broader alt-right than you might think. . . .
In the wake of Trump’s victory, many have pointed to Gamergate’s sexist assault on feminism as a harbinger of things to come. Far more than the “fringe” components of the alt-right, the Gamergate movement drew mainstream attention from its beginnings in August 2014 and gained extensive coverage from popular geek media outlets as well as international news organizations as it grew. . . .
The ease with which the alt-right channels male insecurity around women’s rights into an ideology of white supremacy ultimately illustrates that the paths by which men wander into the alt-right movement are deceptive. While many of the movement’s male-centered online communities may seem to offer something of value to the men who join them, the alt-right movement has never been about helping men cope with low self-esteem, relationship problems, or their personal pain and insecurity. In fact, it’s never particularly concerned itself with building up men as individuals at all. Instead, it’s about maintaining a sense of power at all costs over an ever-expanding list of designated targets.
And with Trump’s victory, the movement now has more power than ever.

Even if we stipulate, for the sake of argument, that both #GamerGate in 2014 and Trump’s election in 2016 reflected some larger Zeitgeist, including forces of sexism and racism, this still does not mean that the cause-and-effect relationship is what Aja Romano says it is. Does anyone believe that American voters were more racist and sexist in 2016 than they had been eight years earlier when they elected Obama president? Is identity politics the only possible explanation for Hillary Clinton’s defeat? Could it not be that voters — including those crucial working-class white voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin who swung into the GOP column in 2016 — had other reasons to prefer Trump over Hillary?

If a hammer is the only tool you’ve got, every problem looks like a nail, and if “intersectionality” is the only tool you’ve got, every problem looks like misogyny, white supremacy and homophobia. By ruling out every explanation of the 2016 election that is not identity politics, Aja Romano is able to conclude it must be identity politics. This is similar to the sophistry by which an anti-Semite blames everything on Jews.

Still, why now? Why resurrect #GamerGate in January 2020? Consider what has happened in the Democratic presidential primary campaign: All of the non-white candidates except Andrew Yang (at single digits in the polls) have now dropped out, so that the choice is which white candidate Democrats like best. And look at the numbers in Iowa: Bernie Sanders leads the field with 24.2% in the Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls, with Joe Biden at 21%, Pete Buttigieg at 16.8% and Elizabeth Warren at 14.7%. If the most formidable female Democratic candidate can do no better than a fourth-place finish in Iowa, with three white guys leading the field, how can progressives explain this except as the result of racism and sexism? And this is why #GamerGate is suddenly newsworthy again: The Left must hype up the threat of right-wing extremism — angry Trump-supporting “incel” terrorists — in order to distract from the unbearable whiteness of their own candidates.

Also (and you have to pay close attention to the intra-party squabbling among Democrats to notice this), the feminists supporting Elizabeth Warren are all still angry about how “Bernie bros” fought against Hillary’s nomination in 2016. Lots of the guys who back Bernie have glaring misogyny issues of their own, according to the women who support Warren, and thus reviving #GamerGate becomes a way of trashing Sanders supporters and making a preemptive excuse for Warren’s ultimate defeat. So we must endure this #GamerGate revival for a few more weeks, until Liz finally quits or perhaps until some demented “incel” goes on a shooting rampage, which would give Aja Romano her see-I-told-you-so moment. Meanwhile, back in the real world, establishment Democrats are panicking over the possibility that Bernie Sanders could actually win the nomination.

Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen . . .



3 Responses to “Can We Ever Forget the Tattoo-Covered, Mentally Ill Ex-Stripper Whose Real Name Is Chelsea Van Valkenburg?”

  1. Friday Links | 357 Magnum
    January 31st, 2020 @ 11:27 am

    […] Other McCain – Can We Ever Forget the Tattoo-Covered, Mentally Ill Ex-Stripper Whose Real Name Is Chelsea Van Valke… #GamerGate has officially become “The thing that would not […]

  2. Friday hawt chicks & links – The Internet edition. – Adam Piggott
    January 31st, 2020 @ 4:01 pm

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  3. News of the Week (February 3rd, 2020) | The Political Hat
    February 3rd, 2020 @ 5:34 pm

    […] Can We Ever Forget the Tattoo-Covered, Mentally Ill Ex-Stripper Whose Real Name Is Chelsea Van Valke… Alas, we can never forget. #GamerGate is newsworthy again. Over the weekend, without warning, I noticed a surge of traffic to one of my posts about “Zoe Quinn,” whom I’ve described thus […]