Monday, 13 October 2014

The social justice warrior in four seasons: A Tanka cycle

NOTE: A Tanka is a style of classical Japanese poetry with a 5,7,5,7,7 syllable line structure. This one satirises the early events of GamerGate. Scroll down a little if you aren't interested in the background and just want to read the poem.

The first verse is a dig at Zoe Quinn who was alleged to have habitually cheated on her boyfriend and engaged in a number of sexual relationships with people within the videogaming industry and videogaming journalism. Some of these individuals went on to provide favourable coverage for Quinn's terrible text adventure 
Depression Quest without disclosing their relationship with Quinn. This event was one of the flash points for what became GamerGate, with many gamers regarding it as emblematic of a wider malaise within the videogaming industry. For more information see the Quinngate section of The Monster To Silence on the DeepFreeze website.

The second verse addresses a common practice among those in the social justice community who donate money to each other, either in support of a particular project (anti-harrassment websites with vague objectives and zero transparency are common) or as gesture of support or virtue signalling. These donations are often made using the crowd-funding platform - Patreon. Prominent anti-GamerGate figures can rake in several thousand dollars a month for effectively sitting on their backsides and complaining about how hard their lives are. Since this loose-knit community includes the organisers and judges of videogame awards, gaming journalists, and games developers, this transfer of money creates myriad biases and conflicts of interests, which are seldom disclosed and are often actively concealed. 

The third verse refers to a crop of provocative articles announcing the death of the gamer identity, that appeared across various prominent gaming websites on the 28th August 2014 and in the days that followed. The similarities between these editorials and the fact that five were posted within an hour of each other, suggested that they had been coordinated. 

One of these articles titled 
'Gamer's don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over was penned by the journalist Leigh Alexander and appeared on the Gamasutra website. The megaphone reference dates back to May 2014. During an argument on Twitter with the game developer Russ Roegner, Alexander had announced: "Be careful with me. I am a megaphone. I am much less kind than Rami and I won't mind making an example out of you." Alexander was a notorious bully who bragged about killing careers, expressed contempt for her audience, engaged in online harassment and casual racism, and attempted to justify cronyism.  In another characteristically arrogant Twitter outburst, she announced: "Silly kids. i AM game journalism." 

Possibly as a result of her confrontational approach and its impact on site traffic, Alexander left Gamasutra in March 2015 for a new videogaming website, Offworld, over which she assumed editorial control. When Offworld closed in February 2016, Alexander announced her retirement from gaming journalism.

This verse also satirises the persistent, premature claims made by those in the social justice community that they had killed the GamerGate movement. These claims were made so often that they eventually became a source of some amusement.

The fourth verse is an observation that a soap box built on lies, nepotism and self-interest is a poor foundation and one that is likely to crumble underfoot. While a few of the individuals who attacked gamers have profited and advanced their careers, the majority are treading water at best and appear to have no direction and bleak prospects.

The epilogue refers to an incident in which the journalist, Jenn Frank penned an article for The Guardian regarding the alleged harassment of Zoe Quinn, without disclosing that she was financially supporting Quinn and her agent, Maya Kramer, on Patreon, and had also paid $1000 towards Quinn's hotel room at the Game Developers Conference in 2014. 

Following the furor over her non-disclosure, Frank announced her retirement from freelance writing. However, on the 20th of September (19 days after the publication of the Zoe Quinn article) a further piece by Frank, entitled 
Female gamers: 'The concept of gamers as a community was new to me - to all of us appeared in The Guardian. 

On the DeepFreeze website, Frank has been cited for numerous breaches of ethics, mostly non-disclosure of personal, professional and financial relationships while providing positive coverage. She also admitted to not playing the lion's share of the games while she was a judge for the awards at the Independent Games Festival, but claimed that, in spite of this, she was still a good judge. 

The "caught yellow-handed" line is a reference to so-called yellow journalism - a term used to describe poorly researched opinion pieces masquerading as news, often garnished with eye-catching titles to draw in readers. 

SJW stands for social justice warrior. Depending upon your outlook this is either a badge of honour, or a derogatory term for the lunatic fringes of the authoritarian left.

The social justice warrior in four seasons: A Tanka cycle

Spring blossoms. I write
on bare skin in our combined
sexual juices
a fawning review of your
terrible video game.

Summer winds blow favours
from friends. Undeserved status
wealth and influence.
Your money buys the ink for
my pen that sings your praises.

Autumn rot. The body
that we pronounced dead rises.
I, a megaphone,
cannot drown its words or quiet
the voice of my enemy.

Winter snows. Our febrile
heat cracks the ice underfoot.
A cold spider web
showing through starved foundations
slowly pulls itself apart.

(Lament for the career of Jenn Frank)

Caught yellow handed.
In shame I exile myself
from journalism
for 19 days, which is 10
lifetimes in SJW years

~ backwards7

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