After talking to some of my peers in tech, science, and gaming journalism, it became clear that these annoying events are not only commonplace, but practically a rite of passage. Among those I know personally, well over half have received messages similar to mine, whether on Twitter, in comments, a phone call, or in some cases even physical letters. The letters, science journalist Trace Dominguez told me in an IM, “are taken more seriously. Because you have to REALLY WANT IT. But comments? Tweets? The barrier to entry for finding a stamp in your DESK is higher [sic].”
The ubiquity of these threats alarms some people, and it’s an understandable reaction. After all, we live in a weird time when dozens of female celebrities just suffered a mass nude photo leak, an executive of a major company openly talked about “digging up dirt” on journalists’ personal lives, and a nebulous movement called #Gamergate has generated a months-long firestorm of shit-slinging ostensibly around the issue of games journalism. In countless news headlines, Gamergate has been credited with “death threats” and “doxxes” specifically targeting female developers and critics — especially those, like Anita Sarkeesian, who apply feminist views to their work. Well-publicized events like this have led some critics to characterize the movement as gender warfare waged by misogynistic trolls intent on expelling female and progressive voices from the gaming community — in op-eds, in Tweets, and in countless headlines that mash “death threats” and “women” together in a tasty clickbait stew of culture war hysteria.