#GamerGate debate at SPJ Airplay broken up by bomb threats

For almost a year, video game consumers have been at war with the media thanks to the latter’s repeated attempts to smear gamers as angry white male misogynists for having the temerity to point out the very real ethical lapses in journalism both inside and outside of the video game industry.

That’s about how my “#GamerGate’s one year anniversary” post would start, to answer one of many questions members of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) asked a panel of #GamerGate supporters at a debate in Miami today.  The event, called SPJ Airplay, was created by SPJ Region 3 director Mike Koretzky to give #GamerGate a chance to talk directly to journalists so that they might figure out a way to move the conversation forward.

Originally it was supposed to be a debate between the pro and anti sides of #GamerGate, but as usual the antis refused to show up.  So instead it featured two segments with a panel of pro-#GamerGate speakers making their case to two journalists and one neutral game developer.  The morning segment seemed to go well enough (despite some pretty horrendous audio issues) with the pro-#GamerGate panel of Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow, Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari, and Gather Your Party’s Mark Ceb looking a little nervous as they tried to distill all of #GamerGate down for someone who knew nothing about it.  As someone who’s tried that before, I understand why they had some difficulty.

Despite that, they had some reasonably productive exchanges with the non-#GamerGate side of the room, namely journalism ethics expert Lynn Walsh, journalism trainer Ren LaForme, and independent game developer Derek Smart.  Koretzky took the moderating duties and guided them through a discussion of some of the potential ethical lapses the pro-#GamerGate panel had seen in the past, with the journalists largely agreeing that they were serious lapses and laughing at the notion that Gawker Media outlets should be taken seriously.

It was after the break when the real fireworks began. Tagging in for the #GamerGate side were Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos, AEI’s Christina Hoff Sommers, and Reason’s Cathy Young.  They started by working to unravel the media narrative that #GamerGate is a hate group, only to be repeatedly shut down by Koretzky who didn’t want to hear any of that.  He only wanted to talk about how the media should approach situations like #GamerGate going forward, and it was mostly downhill from there.

The panelists tried to explain that no discussion of what to do right would make sense without talking about what had gone wrong in the first place, particularly as #GamerGate itself is very much a reaction to media malpractice. Even Smart jumped in to make this point, but it was continually brushed aside as no longer relevant.  Instead Koretzky continued to press the pro-GG panel on how mainstream journalists should cover #GamerGate, which began a bizarre exchange wherein the journalists seemed not to understand even the most basic notion of observing a group of people online and using those observations to locate people who could give them a solid idea of what exactly the group wanted.  This was considered too time consuming or too difficult to accomplish for a mainstream outlet, but as Milo ultimately retorted, “you just do the work.”

As this back and forth intensified, with Yiannopoulos and Young tag teaming Koretzky, it seemed the whole thing was headed straight off the rails.  Fortunately, Milo was able to redirect things by turning the question back on the journalists, asking them how they would want or need gamers to approach them.  That led to a discussion of the problems with anonymous sources, and right about as Walsh was wondering what would actually be worth covering about #GamerGate, the answer provided itself because the entire facility had to be evacuated due to bomb threats.

Apparently several calls had been made to the Miami PD and Miami Herald indicating that a bomb would go off at 2:45 PM, and though apprised that this has happened before to #GamerGate, the authorities weren’t taking any chances.  They sent everyone back a couple blocks and cleared the entire neighborhood surrounding the venue.

Stuck standing outside in the 96 degree Miami heat, suddenly the journalists present were extremely interested in what #GamerGate had to say, and many of them were seen giving interviews there on the street.  After about an hour, the attendees who remained decided to finish their discussion outside, which was recorded and will hopefully be posted later.


Meanwhile the #SPJAirplay tag had hit the top spot trending on Twitter, and gamers have planned to meet up later this evening to eat, drink, and generally be the merry bunch they are.  We’ll see if they can get through the night without being driven out of yet another place thanks to anonymous trolls on the Internet.

All in all, Airplay seems to have been a mixed bag, but now that journalists have gotten a little taste of how much people want to shut down #GamerGate’s attempts to have rational discussion, maybe they’ll be more inclined to make the effort to get to know some gamers before they write their next pieces on the subject.