I should be writing an incredibly poignant one year anniversary piece for #GamerGate that finally breaks through to those who still don’t get it and/or don’t care, but instead I have to write about a perfect example of the kind of lazy, incompetent, Narrative-pushing journalism that created the whole thing in the first place.
To recap extremely briefly for the uninitiated:
- There was a sex scandal in the video game industry (hence the -gate.)
- Video game media called its consumers sexist instead of covering it.
- Gamers revolted.
- They used the hashtag #GamerGate to organize, so it became synonymous with both the revolt and the sequence of events from then to now.
- A “supporter” of #GamerGate seeks better ethics in journalism and an end to attempts to force political ideology down people’s throats.
- Its “opponents” range from shady journalists to social justice warriors to merely misinformed people who bought the line that #GamerGate is a harassment campaign against women/minorities.
If you want a more thorough summary, please see this post I wrote last year, or I’m sure the commenters will help you out.
Since #GamerGate has become something of a boogeyman for the media, the media never misses an opportunity to blame it for pretty much anything they can. Last night that included a local news station in Atlanta reporting that the WDBJ shooter was a part of #GamerGate:
A local gamer says he had been communicating with the man who gunned down a reporter and photographer on an online gaming community well before Wednesday fatal shooting in Virginia.
The gamer, who asked not to be identified, said he plays online video games with a group known as Gamergate.
The gamer told Channel 2’s Tyisha Fernandes he would talk to a man he believed was Bryce Williams, whose real name is Vester Flanagan.
“He progressively became angrier and angrier,” the gamer said.
Flanagan is the man police say gunned down his former WDBJ-TV co-workers on live television Wednesday morning.
So they’re relying on a person who wants to remain anonymous who claims to have had anonymous conversations via the Internet with a high profile murderer to break the enormously important story that the high profile murderer played video games and was angry at the coworkers he murdered. Well, that’s just a paragon of journalism right there, isn’t it?
Maybe in the 90s when “video games cause violence” was still a thing and you didn’t have 59% of Americans playing video games, that might have been newsworthy, but even if it could be considered news worth reporting, any outlet that did the most cursory examination of this person’s claims would have discovered they were bunk almost immediately.
The supposed proof the “local gamer” provides is one conversation out of a purported 3 year stretch with a Steam account called Billi8473 that has the “Bryce Williams” name attached to it.
Gamer: “Do you wanna play (‘Counter Strike Global Offensive’)?”
Billi8473: “Not right now, I’m kind of out of it.”
Billi8473: “I can’t get WDBJ out of my mind. I have a strong dislike of those people.”
Gamer: “Dude, we have talked about this before… Just let it go… It’s not a big deal.”
For starters, one would expect the source to have at least several conversations to show the station if they’ve been communicating like this for years. Moreover, in this context, WDBJ could just as easily mean a rock group as it could a news station, and since the reporter was only “shown” this, it could easily have been inserted in place of almost anything else without changing that conversation in the slightest.
More importantly, pretty much anyone can fake the whole thing by configuring their Steam page accordingly, which gamers have been doing since the story ran both to prove it and just for fun:
There’s even an archive link to an account that previously identified itself the same way, but has since reverted back, that likely proves the whole thing was in fact a hoax from the start.
For the icing on this cake, the tweet that caps off that report was actually part of an obviously sarcastic exchange:
And there you have it folks, another media outlet got burned because it was too desperate to get a scoop to bother with all of the hard work required for actual journalism.
The station hid the last tweet from their written article without noting a correction had been made, and Youtube user Harmful Opinions managed to get a hold of the full interview they had originally posted with the “local gamer” that makes it clear he was definitely trolling them, which they also took down without notice. Mild language warning for the videos:
If you’d like to hear more from me, you can follow me on Twitter @crankytrex or check out my other writing at buzzpo.com.