Michael Koretzky | July 14, 2015
Here’s a trick question.
What happens when you give GamerGate panelists almost everything they want at AirPlay?
They threaten to quit.
Last night was the strangest and saddest in my three-month-long descent into GamerGate. It began with AirPlay panelist Oliver Campbell calling to tell me, earnestly and weirdly, “My wife wants to kick your ass” and he feels like a “house nigger.”
Why? because someone is making decisions about the pro-GamerGate lineup without consulting him.
I reminded Campbell, “I have nothing to do with that. The GamerGate panelists were recruited by a committee of your peers. This is maybe the only time you can’t be mad at me.”
That led to an hour-long conference call with Campbell and fellow pro-Gamergate panelists Allum Bokhari and Mark Ceb. Campbell and Ceb had “a big problem” with AirPlay’s schedule. If I didn’t make changes, both threatened to stay home Aug. 15.
Their “big problem” is AirPlay’s smallest part. As it says on the schedule page…
In 15 minutes, learn the contours of the cruelest online controversy you’ve never heard of.
Campbell and Ceb wanted that expanded to an hour. I told them no.
AirPlay’s purpose is reach those outside of GamerGate, especially journalists. “If you can’t explain your movement in two minutes, much less 15, no journalist is going to cover you,” I replied. “That might not be fair, it might not be right, but that’s the way it is.”
Campbell kept arguing, even yelling. He repeated “house nigger” for this new audience. I said I needed to go because it was dinnertime – and my wife might kick his ass if I missed it. But he kept yelling. The others were mostly silent, which means they either agreed or were intimidated. Neither possibility impressed me.
When I said I’d consulted other journalists who adored this particular AirPlay feature – because it would quickly get everyone up to speed – Campbell calmed down but muttered, “I’m feeling disrespected right now.”
My mind immediately turned to the GamerGate meme that mocks feelz, but I simply told Campbell that this was a business decision and not a personal attack.
“Look, no one outside GamerGate wants to listen to an hour of GamerGate history,” I said. “They just don’t. I’m sorry.”
Ceb didn’t say much, but he agreed with Campbell that this was possibly a deal-breaker for him.
But this wasn’t the worst part. This was…
Campbell admitted he’d read these AirPlay updates before they were posted. I’m still unsure what point he was trying to make with this admission, but it floored me.
I share each of these updates with 3-4 SPJers. (Every journalist needs an editor.) I also show them to the GamerGate Committee. Why? Two reasons:
- I want to know if I’m making factual errors. Reporters sometimes share chunks of their stories with sources if the topics are technical. While not universal (and quite controversial in some quarters), it’s most common in science-heavy stories.
- I want to predict reaction. I’m hosting a debate, not researching an investigative series. So any insights into the mood of an alien culture are helpful.
All I asked in return: Don’t show these updates to anyone else. Apparently, at least one was shared on a Google Hangout. Maybe others, too.
Our too-long conference call ended with me asking for a decision by today – are you coming or not? I have yet to hear from Campbell, but Ceb replied a few hours later, “I’ll attend and make the best of the situation as possible.”
I’m not going to cancel AirPlay, but my own enthusiasm sure has taken a hit. GamerGate’s best and brightest – they were chosen from their own community – threatened to boycott, called me a literal slave-driver, and violated my trust.
And that was my first conversation with only half of the GamerGate panelists. Those three – Bokhari, Campbell, and Ceb – are sitting on the morning panel. Three more GamerGaters are sitting on the afternoon panel. I wonder what “big problems” they have. I wonder what ultimatums they’ll give me. I wonder if any of them will accuse me of making them a nigger.
Last night was everything that a dozen or so gaming journalists and GamerGate critics told me would happen…
- GamerGate is slash and burn. The movement can’t compromise on even the smallest of things. It’s all or nothing all the time.
- GamerGate is immature. Three grown men couldn’t let me off the phone even when I asked repeatedly and nicely. We had to resolve this right now.
- GamerGate is all-consuming. I’ve volunteered three months, sat on a six-hour stream answering all questions, posted nearly 500 tweets, and sent more than 100 email replies. Yet apparently, I haven’t done enough.
This much I know: If what happened last night happens at AirPlay, I’ll interrupt. If it continues, I’ll have those individuals escorted off the stage. If they refuse to go, I’ll turn off the cameras.
I’ve certainly met some wonderful, fascinating GamerGaters these past few months. But maybe there aren’t enough of them to make difference. Maybe I should’ve listened to my fellow SPJ board members: This isn’t worth the time and aggravation, especially when compelling projects await.
Maybe everyone else was right and I was wrong.
I have no regrets, because I’ve learned so much and enjoyed almost all of it. But I’m beginning to regret wasting the time of so many others, lobbying them that GamerGate is worth a good, hard look.
I wonder what holy hell this update will unleash.