John Walker's Electronic House

How Internet Hate Mobs Work, And Why It’s So Insidious

by on Aug.20, 2014, under The Rest

In the wake of another really horrifying social media attack on a few individuals – some I know, some I don’t – I find myself needing to process the way it works. The awfulness of what is done, and just how frighteningly proficient are the organised attackers.

In this particular story, an angry ex-boyfriend has made public a huge screed of personal information about his former girlfriend, along with a long list of accusations. These accusations crossed my path when they included claims that someone I employed had behaved inappropriately. There was no evidence provided for these claims, and indeed no examples of the suggested corruption have ever existed. I assume much else was untrue or twisted too, but it’s absolutely none of my business. What I was in a position to know about, I knew was entirely false.

Yesterday the woman involved had her Twitter and Tumblr hacked, her personal information including phone numbers, family phone numbers, street addresses and PayPal information made public. She has received unending abuse on all channels, including to her personal phone and address. People close to her have received similar abuse. People who have made it clear they are against the abuse have received small fractions of the abuse too. There is, without question, a huge amount of abuse to go around. The thing is, it’s not from a huge number of people – they’re just exceptionally good at making it look as though there are.

Whenever anything like this happens, in my experience, the vast majority of the abusive messages come from accounts that either were dormant for a long time previously, or have never tweeted/posted about anything other than the specific subject. They are classic ‘sockpuppet’ accounts, multiple accounts set up by very few people, to create the impression that the attacks are coming from all over. The same people post from forum communities, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, Tumblrs, Instagram, and on and on, again to create the impression of a vast army of the same mind. And then of course the hangers-on and the vultures swoop in to join in with a cause because it tangentially connects with something they’re hurt or upset or angry about. Invariably it’s rooted in misogyny.

That’s phase one, making it look as if it’s a vast, majority opinion. Phase two is repeating the same lie so many times that it becomes accepted by the followers of the event, becomes received information, passed on as fact, no one actually checking. And while that’s pathetic, to not check, it’s in a large part because of the extraordinary confidence and conviction of those who circulate the lie in the first place. In this instance, one of the lies is that my former colleague wrote a series of articles about a specific subject. He, in fact, wrote no articles about this subject whatsoever. The lie requires almost no effort to prove false, but is delivered so frequently, and so convincingly, that the ‘no smoke without fire’ bullshit theory takes hold. I have since encountered people telling me with absolute certainty that such articles must have been deleted since, because that’s the only explanation of their not being there now – rather than the wholly more realistic notion that they were never there in the first place. The lie is so strong that its being demonstrably untrue is rejected in favour of conspiracy.

Phase three is then to make anyone who is pointing out the falseness of the lie into part of that conspiracy. Anyone who denies it is part of a “cover-up”. And further to that, that the games press isn’t reporting the lie (most likely because they know it’s a lie) is proof that the cover-up is so widespread that the media is in on it too. The Man doesn’t want you to know! See, not one site is reporting this story, and therefore this story must be so so incendiary that they daren’t! WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO HIDE?! And this is delicious for the followers, the hangers-on, the vultures – this is just the proof they needed that it’s not just this individual who’s corrupt, but it’s the whole system that’s corrupt!

Phase four is by far the nastiest part. With the previous phases in play, with the notion out there that there’s a cover-up taking place, that the corruption is endemic and that it’s all part of [whichever agenda], something hideously personal happens like a hack. So the person’s privacy is hacked, their personal details are exposed in public, such that those swept up into the tornado of abuse can release their rage on that person. But that’s not the key part of this phase. The crucial element is then instantly following this up with accusations that the individual involved leaked the information themselves, so they can get sympathy/prove they’re being victimised/pin the blame. This is so insidious, so damned horrendous. Within seconds of any such exposure of personal information, the same people will immediately throw their hands in the air and beg the victim of their attack not to fire. It’s like that moment in the film where the identical killer robot version of the human looks at the cops and cries, “I’M THE REAL HIM! KILL THE ROBOT, NOT ME!” Except in this case, it’s their actions that attempt to make the target look indistinguishable from them. “She’s the monster! She’s the one doing it all!”

The idiocy that someone would expose their own personal details is all part of the elaborate conspiracy. Exactly! She did it because it would make it look like it was something she’d never do! En masse they will begin tweeting and posting links to the hacked page, saying, “Look what she has done! She’s done this to make herself look like a victim!” It’s the ultimate twofer for them – they get the personal details out there, so that the abuse for the victim can become so much worse, and they make it part of, and proof of, the conspiracy they’d already begun.

It’s the same each time. And it’s gruesome each time.

What unnerves me most is the competence with which it’s organised, despite the utter inanity of the motivation, the haphazard and illogical nature of the delivery. It always comes down to the same ass-backward drivel about how “SJW”s and so on have hideously changed the gaming world, making it impossible for men who just want to be MEN to wank off to their favourite pair of bouncing tits. As if the industry isn’t buried alive in bouncing tits. In the dudebro shooters and action games that seem to be the only acceptable form of gaming for these troglodytes, AND THEY’RE GOING TO TAKE THEM AWAY. This fantastical delusion is that a feminist video maker, or blog article about how maybe some games could do some things differently maybe, is in some way irreparably harming their precariously balanced bone china reality. But I suppose, when you deal in invented conspiracies every day, surely they especially cannot be impervious to the insidiousness of it. That pathological process of falling for your own lies, and then living inside them.

So what can we do? React.

Even today, I’ve seen very few games journalists say anything. I think most people believe that keeping their head down, “not giving it the oxygen of publicity”, is the best plan. Which is not the case. Every voice added to the chorus singing back against this stuff makes a significant difference. The faked crowd feels smaller when a real crowd starts condemning them. And crucially, it is not up to men to defend women who are being attacked. It’s up to men to join the voices of those who condemn the attack itself, while celebrating the woman being targeted. (And to be clear, retweeting someone else’s saying it is not the same thing at all.)

Follow Leigh Alexander’s excellent guide for responding, too. Especially if you’re a man. (Don’t misinterpret the third “don’t” on that list, by the way. The first “do” clarifies.)

Yes, you will get idiots tweeting rubbish at you when you say something. But hey, guess what, doing the right thing isn’t always free. Make judicious use of the block button, and be smarter than me and don’t try to win them round – they’re trolls, they want you to try, it’s part of their game. It goes away very, very quickly.

This whole thing makes me so sad. I feel horrendously sad for the victim of it all. And for those around her. And I feel a more general sadness that this is normal, this is a thing that regularly happens. It’s awful.

62 Comments for this entry

  • drewski

    That general sadness kills me – that this is what we do to each other.


  • DGan1x

    Good article (as ever). A couple of (possibly ill thought out)thoughts:-

    Interesting how the boyfriend in this has been seen as having no case to answer. Because no man has ever lied about a girl he used to go out with. Especially one who’d try to shame his ex on the internet. Who the fuck does that?

    Interesting how your ex-employee is seen as having no case to answer. No one’s going “oh, that guy, sleeping with that video game producer for exclusive stories”.

    In short, interesting how a bunch of men has turned on the only female participant. Also interesting how, for a lot of men who are trying to shame here for having sex, those lot of men just can’t seem to stop thinking about her sexually. Come on guys, at least get your stories straight.

  • Dean

    Good stuff – the one thing I’d note, I read the entire original blog post and I don’t think the boyfriend ever made the claim that your employee was acting inappropriately (at least from a journalistic perspective). The whole ‘sex for reviews’ angle, as well as being provably false, was dreamed up by the internet hate mob.

  • james

    A valid read for sure. I am of the opinion that unless actual proof of collusion is there, it is the participants personal business.

    could you, as RPS has not currently, clarify why Nathan has been removed from your staff today if you consider the claims to be baseless? again, i am not trying to insinuate anything here, just curious.

  • John Walker

    Nathan left RPS a couple of months ago. Our entirely forgetting to remove his beautiful face from the About page was confusing the nasty people, so we finally got around to it.

  • DGan1x

    As a regular reader of RPS, I can confirm that they’re a total shambles about this sort of thing ;) Indeed, I notice he’s still listed under “Rock, Paper, Scissors was” at the bottom…

  • Sakkura

    @James: Nathan Grayson posted about leaving RPS a month ago.

  • Josie

    Dean is correct. The boyfriend never accused her of sleeping around to get better reviews. The hate mobs are inexcusable, though, even if she had. Her mental health really shouldn’t be the subject of a witch hunt. What are these mobs even trying to accomplish? If you don’t like her games, don’t buy them. Everyone should just stop bullying people, period.

  • james

    thanks for the reply John, i guess i should’ve checked that one out myself!

  • Diddle

    As experience, I can tell the same story. The motives where not misogynist, but the methods were exactly the same.

    The initial attack came from approximately 2-3 accounts, but they succeeded in looking much more numerous by creating fake “participants”. With the fake crowds in place, they then succeeded at making other people participate a bit, using numerous social media to multiply reach factor, enlarging the crowd, and disseminating their fabricated “truth” to a larger audience. This is their public, their real target.

    What followed is the extremely repetitive “straw man campaign”, putting word and actions on me I never said nor did, or were in total opposition with. But as you said, “no smoke without fire” prevails, so the objective is to convince an external public and hurt in the process.

    Repeat for a few weeks, add some hacking in the process, continue to have fun, before finding another target.

    What I learned in the process is that some people have nothing else to do in their life than hating others. I’m targeting both the small initial attacking team, which spent weeks on his meal, and the crowd of occasional morons who joined them just for the fun of hurting someone for free.

    But as you said, the initial team was very small. 2-3 people maximum (which I can identify).

    I still wonder how the situation could have happened better. I see no way. As long as the attackers feel totally safe, and get some fun at hurting others “for free”, I see no reason why they should stop.

    And I guess it’s the key point.

  • Sam Chester

    Thanks John, well thought out & thoroughly passionate.

    You kick ass. Keep it up.

  • Shannon

    Great post, and very illuminating for me personally.

    I have been watching this awful thing unfold over the last couple of days. While I am fully on the side of the developer and other victims involved and totally condemn the actions of the rabid mob, I must confess that some small part of my brain had been left with niggling doubts as to whether or not there was any truth to the mob’s claims. Even if all of it were true it wouldn’t have changed my stance, because nothing ever justifies such abuse, but it would have saddened me somewhat. I should have known better though, and it just goes to prove your main point: the more effort expended on propping up a lie and its attendant hate campaign, the more insidiously the “no smoke without fire” effect takes hold and can fool people. Even those of us who have been around long enough that we should be able to smell these things out.

    So thank you for this eye-opening piece. By deconstructing how such hate campaigns are put together, you have helped me at least – and, I hope, many others who read it – to realise that such things can in fact be falsified, and to understand how my thought processes had been misled. I am relieved to be shown that there is after all a demonstrably logical alternate explanation based on cleverly-structured lies and the use of a known, insidious process for disseminating them. Perhaps I am just more naive than I realised, but it really does feel eye-opening to learn all this, and cleansing to have that stain of doubt removed. This new armour of understanding will also help me guard against having my perceptions fooled in the future. At the same time, it also disheartens me to realise that the world of deceptive practices out there is so much more complex than I’d thought, and the ease with which they can trick people.

  • Xercies

    This also sounds like how Conspiracy Theories get started and seem to get fueled.

  • Keefie Wood

    So what can we do? React.


    I tried to ask you on Twitter last night about why RPS hasn’t published a response to this You were rude and abusive to me and then blocked me. At no point did I support the allegations or peoples action on this situation. I just wanted the RPS take on the issue but was dismissed out of hand.

    Ignoring the abuse (which is disgraceful), both RPS and Kotaku have a responsibility to respond to allegations that articles were written promoting a free game/developer by a journalist who was in a relationship with said developer

    The Kotaku response has been professional and well managed.

    The RPS one is none existent and arguably has allowed the abuse persist.

    An article did appear on the website that referred to that game by said reported. Yes it was in a paragraph proceeding a list of 50 other games but if the inclusion of that game was based solely on a personal relationship then it is still wrong.

    All that was a required was a brief response that referenced that article and whether the writer had a relationship with the developer at that date (which I believe was not the case)

    That would have sufficed and hopefully gone some way to close out the whole thing.

  • Esophegus

    Here’s kind of my issue with this, though. People are quite willing to endorse the ugly hostility of the internet when it agrees with them. We tend to excuse it and argue they’re getting entirely what they deserve for being a whatever.

    I mean, while the misogyny plays a part, the opposite end of the spectrum from this tends to use the exact same tactics you’ve described here, albeit replacing the rape threats with death threats and exhortations to commit suicide.

    If you want this shit to stop, you need to go after your friends and allies for this shit, for being ugly and confrontational and trying to destroy peoples lives, as much as your enemies otherwise this crap is going to keep going and going because it’s going to be how we’ve decided the internet is going to work.

  • J. Keep

    I believe people should be speaking out against this sort of thing. Silence will not help. However, having been the recipient of over a year of harassment myself for trying to inculcate a more kind atmosphere in my own gaming-related community… I’m not so sure community action is enough.

    A single, lone individual went on a personal crusade against the community I own/run (purely as a non-profit contribution) and my own personal business, all because of our polite efforts to build a more accepting and welcoming community. This one individual created — at the VERY least — over 150 accounts to spam negative reviews for my books as well as those of another author who donates their time/energy, plus several others only related through their publishing efforts with me.

    All on his own, he disseminated lies and hurt my sales based purely on his own persistence. That was just one guy. And what was I able to do about it?

    Almost nothing. Two review sites, like Goodreads, looked into some of the sockpuppet accounts and acted appropriately, while another did so more thoroughly and gave us a scope of how deep this man had gone to hurt us. (Over 150 accounts on that one site.) Yet none of the book vendors themselves did, leaving the most damaging in place.

    We tried to mobilize fans to give us honest reviews to balance things out, but when balanced against someone with endless animosity and nearly as endless time, that was a losing battle. It took 2-3 five star reviews to return the balance after a single one star, after all, and you can create sockpuppet accounts with ease.

    Can positive community action stop someone’s account from being hacked? From them receiving threatening calls?

    So after my experience with a single individual, I can’t conceive of how the community is to deal with a pack of committed harassers.

    I’m a big proponent of positive, community action. Have been all my life. From my days as an idealistic protester to now, and I’m loathe to think of options beyond that. Though I wonder how it can be enough when I see people being the target of far larger and more concerted efforts than what I experienced.

  • Jambe

    I’d dispute the “competence” allegation and the general impression you’ve given that this is especially systematic or planned. The patterns you note have merit but they don’t point to explicit, directed agency. Having dealt with this before, I feel this sort of thing is a kind of distributed feedback loop.

    The conspiracist/MRA crowd already exists. One need only provide a nucleation point for outrage and the cup of groupthink soon foams over. This requires neither cunning nor intelligence. Nick has noticed this phenomenon on Twitter but it applies to all fast-flowing forms of social media.

    It’s tempting to concretize the other as a skilled adversary, but these really seem to be ad-hoc mobs.

    That is the real worry: a nebulous threat. It’s not that we face sly media-savvy bullies; such types certainly exist, but they’re exceedingly few. The problem is that the internet has democratized access to information but has not done the same for critical thinking, compassion, or empathy.

    To borrow Meades, theirs is the politics of the playground. Everything about them screams of juvenility: their actual concerns, their modes of discourse about them, their retributive nature, and especially their entitlement complexes.

  • amphigouri

    In truth, it does not matter if Nathan Grayson’s coverage of Depression Quest was influenced positively because he slept with Zoe Quinn. He is a journalist (allegedly). He is supposed to be held to a higher standard. Sleeping with a source, sleeping with the people you are covering, always represents a conflict of interest. I will direct you here for further information, though, Mr Walker, I should hope you are already familiar, as you are allegedly a journalist yourself:

    But, in truth, gaming journalism as a whole is lacking in integrity. Websites like Kotaku, Polygon, and Rock Paper Shotgun, amongst others, host ads for the very games they’re reviewing. They accept gifts (“swag”) from the companies whom they cover. They are flown out and put into hotels by the companies whom they cover. And now, apparently, they are in bed with indie developers, too. Literally. This is all just lovely. It doesn’t in any way raise valid concerns about what’s going on. Nuh-uh, no how.


    I know that addressing this to you, Mr Walker, is useless, but I will anyway. I know that the usual readers of this blog will dismiss all that I am saying here. They might suggest that it’s -okay- for Ms Quinn to do it, because, well, others must do it to. Or they’ll talk about slut-shaming and misogyny, that even if I’m not participating in that, others are, so let’s talk about that, rather than the things that actually matter to gaming.

    Whether Zoe Quinn’s personal actions are morally reprehensible or not is a question for philosophers. But her actions have been made public, and her actions affect the public. The gaming press is circling the wagons, defending their own, despite this being a major ethics breach by a supposed journalist. That smells of something far more incestuous. Sex with journalists shouldn’t be the standard, but is it, Mr Walker? If I can send you doritos and mountain dew, do I need to give you a blow job?

    There is a problem with corruption in video game journalism, and it’s a shame that all of you are erasing and silencing the voices of the concerned. You call us misogynists, you tell us we are making the world a worse place, that we are engaging in conspiracies. Mr Walker, what does it matter to Ms Quinn whether some nobody on a forum calls her a slut? She has power and influence. It’s wrong of them to do so, sure, but she’ll survive. How is she being oppressed?

    By turning the eye when journalists engage in corrupt practices, you are promoting anti-consumerism, Mr Walker. You are hurting the little people. And I thought that was what Social Justice was against, Mr Walker; I thought you would want to help us. I thought you were supposed to be a voice for us, not against us.

    But as with so many things, I suppose I was wrong. Have a good day.

  • Jason Mann

    A great post John, the use of dummy/sock-puppet accounts is illuminating, I think an automated mechanism to find and limit these accounts could potentially stop the level of abuse in the future.

    I’d like to add a further point for consideration, the Streisand effect.

    One reddit moderator handled an ongoing discussion quite badly, by deleting over 25 thousand comments on am ongoing discussion:

    This had the unintended affect of bringing the thread to the front-page of reddit and pulling in a mass audience, further increasing the level of speculation and opinion.

  • Ben Garrison

    All the people who is upset about this are videogame enthusiast who fear that the current state of nepotism and corruption on the indie community will reach to the big studios. Pro-feminist supporters tend to confuse this with a gender war when Zoe Quinn is being punish by the consumers (the virgin, misogynistic pigs) not because she is a girl, or because she slept with 5 guys but because she put on her game on steam not because of hard work and dedication but by favors and most important her game didn’t make it to steam because it was exceptional but because some people owned her favors, and this needs to stop.

  • Alex

    There’s definitely a conspiracy theorist bent, here. Every ignored tangent is confirmed as gospel in their eyes, and every reaction from the victim is used as evidence that something they said was true in ~some~ way. “Oh, claims A, B and C were shown to be impossible? Well, maybe if we interpret several key words to mean X, Y and Z, then they’re true in a different way!”

  • Violet J.

    I’m not sure if this is the right place to say this, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about over the past few days.

    I’m in agreement with most people saying that the harassment is unwarranted and some of it is truly disgusting to read about and witness… but is there any room for discussion about the events that actually took place? Forget everything related to sex or reviews, it’s baseless and irrelevant. I’m talking about the constant manipulation and dishonesty that led to this all being revealed. If the answer is a simple “No” I’m fine with that. We’re talking about the details of a personal relationship that should never have been made public. What bothers me is that now that this is public, it seems that you’re forced to side with these asshole misogynists calling for her head, or the defense force claiming that she did nothing wrong and that she should be left alone.

    Again, there is absolutely no excuse for the harassment. But when it’s revealed that someone you support is shown to be disingenuous and sometimes hypocritical with their ideals, I’m not sure those details are something that should be ignored.

    Eh. Even that last bit makes me feel like an asshole. It just seems odd that nobody is condemning the attack while giving thought to what actually transpired. Lying to the ones closest to you is not admirable, and in the wake of all this I honestly hope that she’s able to work on her own issues rather than sweeping all of it under the rug.

  • Nate

    Lots of astroturfing going on here.

    Most of the comments use same wording as the next. Seems PReople are going ham.


  • ruaidhri

    The guy involved is clearly from some other planet. He feels so entitled to explanations and closure its just ludicrous. When someone cheats on you, you walk away, get tested for STDs and move on with life. Or do something somewhat more complex and excellent. But a blog with chatlogs, screeenshots and phenomenal amounts of garbage about trying to put together a jigsaw? That is just super childish (or entitled, or something about hipsters or millennials or something i clearly cant fathom).

    And whilst he ‘seems’ to be the wronged party ( and completely putting aside the blog for a moment) if he actually cared about her in a grown up way he should have moved the hell on and left her alone rather than going “but why, with who, but why with who blah blah blah.

    What a dingbat.

  • John Walker

    Keefie – wait, so you’re aware that the article was written months before the allegations took place, but you still require a statement denying a thing that you know didn’t happen?

  • Seriously

    How can you work in a daily basis while being so full of bullshit.

  • Seriously


  • Seriously

    Now I see why every comment is sucking your cock

  • Merus

    Having read a little bit into research around ethical conduct in the pharmaceutical industry, and in the film industry, here’s my take: games journalism, despite the prevailing opinion, is actually one of the most ethically rigorous sectors of the entertainment industry.

    Games journalists are very willing to discuss their ethical standards, and the idea that the hard wall between advertising and editorial is anything other than necessary is never publicly raised. (No less a publication than the New York Times has stated that the wall between advertising and editorial is a burden – that’s right, games journalism is more ethically sound than the New York Times.) Nearly every site has specific standards forbidding reviewing games the journalist has a personal relationship with, and using different journalists for previews and reviews. That openness and willingness to discuss ethics does not happen in, say, the film industry.

    There’s more that the games industry could be doing – for instance, junkets are inherently corrupting, despite everyone’s best intentions, and research bears this out – but widespread corruption in the games industry appears to be incredibly unlikely.

    So the idea that this is the smoking gun exposing a vast conspiracy to give games reviews that people were pretty much to give them anyway seems a lot less likely than this is a bunch of bullshit calculated to hoodwink some of the least discerning corners of the internet.

  • Pitchguest

    Ahahahahahaha, this is rich. There is a plethora of evidence on the internet detailing the lies of X but still the meat grinder keeps on churning. There were no abusive comments, there were no “doxxing” and there were no one spreading around private nude pictures. (She was a nude model, went by the name of “X.” She did several sets with at least two sites specialised in that area, which could have been “spread” way before the shit hit the fan. Her lying is patholological.)

    This article is just another in the line written by people who did not do their research. It’s true I didn’t expect much from the co-editor, co-director of Rock, Paper, Shotgun to begin with (especially considering the integrity of former employee X), but come the fuck on. Even 4-fucking-chan made more of an effort.

  • Kelly J. Compeau

    This story reminds me so much of a horrible cyberbullying campaign launched against me several years ago. It got so bad, and I became so frightened, I had to hire a bodyguard because complete strangers were contacting me, telling me in great detail, how they were going to kidnap, rape, torture and murder me. What was my offense? Well, go to this entry in my blog and scroll down to the “Cyberbullying” entry at the very bottom.

  • burnout

    Glad to see you’re as big a hypocrite and a worm as Nathan was, John. Great way to cover up an enormous breach of journalistic integrity; But you don’t really care about that, do you, you cocksucker?

  • WasNotWhyNot

    any decent person is against hate mobs so I don’t need to defend myself

    “It always comes down to the same ass-backward drivel about how “SJW”s and so on have hideously changed the gaming world, making it impossible for men who just want to be MEN to wank off to their favourite pair of bouncing tits. As if the industry isn’t buried alive in bouncing tits. In the dudebro shooters and action games that seem to be the only acceptable form of gaming for these troglodytes, AND THEY’RE GOING TO TAKE THEM AWAY.”

    I quote this because it falls face first. it is entirely incorrect. the culture that propagates this sort of hate and is reactionary towards social change in the industry barely, if at all, enjoys western games. they probably have an irrational love for dark souls among other weaboo games. they most likely do support bouncing tits, but it isn’t dudebro shooter action games that feature those, and they sure aren’t the target market for call of duty.

    to everyone focused on the controversy, this may be a small point. but I’ve never been convinced that others understand the hate mongers. they do not care if the western industry changes. they’re not invested in it.

    it’s simply because they don’t like the western industry that they propagate their closed-minded ignorance. they’re annoyed and find the controversy funny. it further convinces me the gap between the gaming media and what should be their audience. it’s not systematic, it’s not cleverness, it’s not even political. they just don’t like you.

    your understanding and representation for the other side of this – even if they’re irrational and hateful – shows a complete lack of understanding. I do understand that nobody rightfully cares to be correct about the ‘villains’ of the story. but realize that they aren’t idiotic troglodytes, they’re semi-intelligent assholes with social problems and too much time on their hands.

    I believe if the mainstream was more accepting of conservative gaming (conservative meaning ‘retro’ and nothing to do with politics) and the eastern industry, then controversies like these wouldn’t become political conspiracies. it would just be some normal TMZ shit feat. angry ex. the pathetic people wouldn’t be clamoring for representation. it isn’t, however, conservative gamers that become part of the media, so expect more misdirected hatred from those inable to solidify their identities.

    blaming SJWs and feminism is just a bunch of boogeymen, as is blaming misogynistic gamers. it’s not a conspiracy that there truthfully is no politics – it’s that there truthfully is no politics, no matter what mobminded people convinced themselves of. I’m quite sure, after deciding the people of 4chan play dudebro shooters and action games (they don’t), in declaration of absolute ignorance, that it’s a difference in videogame appreciation before it’s a difference in personal values. that’s the conspiracy I offer.

  • Thanatos

    What’s truly insidious is the people who perpetuate that the “victim” has never done anything wrong ever, and that anyone who disagrees is a “hater” fueling hate because they hate.

    No. There are many, many, many people with legitimate issues here. You need to stop sweeping them under the rug with the same tired “The internet is harassing someone! The internet is evil!” chant.

    You can’t cover it up. Not this time.

  • John Walker

    I’m moderating comments here. I’m deleting any that are repetitions of the bilge that’s all over the place, because this is my private site, and I’ve no intention of hosting it. But I’m clearing the ones that are just here to insult me, because I think it’s important that people see the tone and nature of this behaviour.

    Pitchguest’s is by far the most emblematic of it all, in which all the classic techniques are employed. Most incredible is the idiocy of stating,

    “There were no abusive comments”

    As described in the post, the technique is to state ludicrously false things with blunt conviction, enough times that people start nodding along. But this particular one is so phenomenally stupid as to reveal the rest. *I* have been inundated with abusive comments over the last three days, and I’ve had a fraction of a percentage of the monstrosity that’s been sent to the campaign’s target and those close to her. My Twitter handle has been included in a small amount of what she’s received, and indeed when tediously checking abusive accounts before blocking them, I’ve scrolled through to see some of the most abhorrent things I’ve ever read being sent her way. This laughable, insultingly stupid claim, is the key to understanding that everything stated so boldly by these people is utter rubbish.

    She has been the recipient of some of the most appalling abuse I’ve ever read. Anyone who wants to check for themselves need only look. “There were no abusive comments.” Good grief, these people are so damned thick.

  • John Walker

    It’s also pretty sad to see the techniques described in the post being attempted by many commenters. They really doesn’t work so well underneath an article discussing them!

    However, if these people really were reading RPS before this, and really are going to stop reading it as a result, then at least some small amount of good has come from such a horrible time.

  • Erin

    If all of the stuff you are saying is true, Zoe really is a “victim”, you still slept with her. You lied about it. Why should we believe anything you say? Sleeping around with game developers is a no no if you write articles about them for a living. >.>

  • Nat

    I came up with some simple rules to live by when I was younger, an over time these have been updated as I have got older and (hopefully) matured. I would like to share rules 1 and 2 with any who happens to read this.

    1) Don’t be a dick.
    2) Don’t believe what you’re told. Double check.

    These simple rules lead me to do some research and come to the conclusion that none of the people being targeted by these misogynistic fools had in fact done anything wrong. If only everyone took the time to think, do some research and remember that a persons private life, whether they be male or female, is exactly that. Private.

    Thank you for your time.

  • WasNotWhyNot

    commenting twice is not my style, but I find it odd that you’re celebrating a loss of readership. are opinion pieces meant to preach to the choir, or to convert? though I know the answer is a bit of both.

    though a spiteful rationalization is fine directed at human filth. I just hope that you don’t actually believe it’s a good thing if people stop reading RPS and are just saying it for effect. I know you didn’t specify a scale, but it’s just a strangely self-immolative thing to say. a hope that the readership of RPS doesn’t obsess over personal lives of individuals when considering the quality of the works is the assertion I personally would make, not damning anyone who has gotten heated for whatever reasons. we should hope any amount can change for the better, even if it’s less than 1%

  • John Walker

    WasNotWhyNot – I one hundred percent mean that I would prefer these bastards stop reading RPS. The fewer there are, the more welcoming a place it is for the rest of the world.

  • Marc Forrester

    I believe it bears pointing out that Depression Quest is fucking *free* on steam. The hate machine has been activated to protect the internet against the corrupt gifting of free stuff. Yay. Jealous suppression of free speech, nothing more to see here.

  • Cro

    “Even today, I’ve seen very few games journalists say anything. I think most people believe that keeping their head down, “not giving it the oxygen of publicity”, is the best plan. Which is not the case.”

    That patently is not true. Tirades like yours are the flames that fuel those people. You’re just helping to create yet another hollow circus. Nothing was done after the Anita Sarkeesian attacks, but the circus still happened. And you still think it’s worthwhile? Everyone picks a side, shouts about it on Twitter and then forgets that it ever happened, until it happens again. Woop de do.

    This needs to escalate to a place where governments and serious decision makers are involved. Tough questions need to be asked, and merely yacking about all this in the games industry echo chamber is merely a free ticket for everyone to promote themselves and their awe-inspiring sensibilities.

    These deplorable people are not going to disappear. We need to discuss the feasibility of a drastic change in the law, because that’s the only way that these incidents will stop happening. How much freedom do we sacrifice? How would we even implement potential changes? What is prosecutable and what isn’t?

    These are impossibly complex questions, but getting to a point where they’re being asked publicly involves 400 times more work than just sitting on your backside and writing yet another blog post of empty horseshit.

    Why not break the mould of your contemporaries and attempt to actually DO something? Everyone in the games industry is fighting over the opportunity to be the talker. Talk has never been cheaper, and yet it is celebrated more than ever.

    Stop acting. ACT.

  • Jack

    From Reuter’s handbook on ethics:

    “A romantic or family attachment…with a person or persons who might be the subject of a staff member’s coverage should be disclosed to the appropriate manager.”

    This is a standard practice in established media.

    Obviously Zoe was *very* likely to be the subject of one of Nathan’s articles, as he had written about her multiple times already. So did he disclose the relationship properly before this whole controversy started? And if so, did you retain the documentation of that disclosure?

    Or does RPS have no such policy? If not, then why should we have any faith in the journalistic integrity of RPS in this situation?

  • Alex

    Undoubtly, the abusers are blowing up their size by registering fake accounts.

    What really got me was that people whom I know (i.e. I know that that is a valid account, with a real person behind it) which — which makes it worse — absolutely zero connection to the people mentioned here suddenly attacked me for posting about it, talking about how this is all a result of radical feminism and blaming the victim.

    Yes, there are a lot of sock puppets. There is still a lot of real and ugly hate to go around.

  • Dean

    Jack – I believe Nathan set his own agenda as to what her reported, so he could know with certainty that he wouldn’t have to make her the subject of an article. If he was asked to, he could simply decline, or ask another writer to pick it up. Disclosure isn’t necessary in that case.

    Incidentally that same Reuters code of ethics people keep pointing to says that you’re not supposed to write about people’s private lives.

  • drewski

    amphigouri – nobody else has called out your bullshit, so I will.

    Firstly, good games review sites either don’t accept (or declare) *any* significant freebies from publishers which are provided. For example, Eurogamer explicitly pay their own way to “review events” where required to attend them to get reviews, and donate significant “swag” to charity.

    I can’t recall precisely what RPS’s policy on freebies is, but as far as I know they don’t accept them either.

    As for “carrying ads” – guess what? Open a newspaper. Open a magazine (non-gaming). Full of ads. Ads for companies, ads for political parties, ads for governments, ads for companies that donate to political parties…media is paid for by advertising. That’s reality. Gaming is probably a lot less corrupt than, say, Kelloggs donating millions to political parties and paying tens of millions of dollars to media and in return getting politicans and editors quietly pulling action on childhood obesity. Not officially of course! Just…y’know. Don’t want to annoy those donors/advertisers!

    As long as nobody will pay for genuinely independent media, advertisers will get the chance to corrupt the process. Thinking that it’s exclusively – or even particularly – a problem with games press is naïve to the extreme.

  • Muz

    Just had to note that Pitchguest is into this. Oh the hilarity.
    There ain’t no anti-feminist bonfire on the entire internet he won’t show up at.

    One could even concoct a conspiracy theory about that fairly easily.

  • Hypocrisy

    Isn’t it weird how a hate mob against Anthony Cumia or Brendan Eich is a “boycott” but against Zoe Quinn it’s an outrage?

    What happened to, “freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences”?

  • Ey

    What you gonna say if you are implicated?

  • mook

    This is just the worst situation I’ve read about all year. People are shit. These immature bastards don’t realise what a private life is? They act like they own her. :(

    Marc Forrester
    August 22nd, 2014 on 09:04

    I believe it bears pointing out that Depression Quest is fucking *free* on steam. The hate machine has been activated to protect the internet against the corrupt gifting of free stuff. Yay. Jealous suppression of free speech, nothing more to see here.


  • Jef_klak

    ‘Anti-feminist” … what exactly is anti-feminist here? Isn’t treating everyone equal the basis of feminism?

    What the fuck do you think would have happened if it was a guy who did this? If Notch got close to 5 women who were also ‘gaming journalists’ (or bloggers whenever it suits them), all hell would break lose.

    You fucking SJWs are holding back feminism.
    Fuck you guys suck ass, you’re what’s wrong with the world.

  • st0dad

    Erin: just want to note that John Walker did not sleep with anyone involved here, he employed one of them but that’s it. I’m sure he hasn’t responded to your post because you clearly didn’t read his article, and you didn’t pay much attention to the controversy that’s going on anyway. Your post is ignorant, but I felt like I should clear that up in case anyone else reads your comment and gets confused.

  • Sir_Quackberry

    Eugh, another article trying to pass this all off as sexism/misogyny.

    It’s nothing to do with that. Hell, many feminists are absolutely appalled with her, myself included.

    It has nothing to do with her being a woman, it has nothing to do with her having sex.

    What it’s about is the people she had sex with and the possible corruption that may have been a part of it. It’s about her directing a hate-mob at a group of likely completely innocent, socially-awkward, anxious and depressive guys. It’s about her directing a hate-mob at a feminist non-profit charity game jam on the baseless claims that it’s exploitative and sexist when it just so happens that Zoe is planning a similarish game jam. She initially got that one shut down but it’s back up, it’s called The Fine Young Capitalists. It’s about Zoe ruthlessly throwing other people and groups under the bus to gain publicity. It’s about the corruption and nepotism in gaming journalism.

    That people dismiss all this under the guide of misogyny is disgusting.

    This guy has done a fantastic job of detailing the reasons for all this:

  • cat

    @Jef_klak — Those 5 women would have easily been slut-shamed too, and the guy wouldn’t receive half the vitriol that has been spewed in this case. Hardly anything would break lose.

    And the slimy ex-boyfriend should get over himself.

  • Jarod Frye

    Hey John.

    one Question?

    What about the people in the middle?

    Not sure if you’re aware but when I see this.

    or This.

    Or Even my own words.

    I get saddened that both sides are completely ignoring our voices, like our opinions don’t matter to them.

  • Jambe

    It looks like the RPS forum in here.

  • Improper

    “Eugh, another article trying to pass this all off as sexism/misogyny. It’s nothing to do with that.”

    Yes, wishfully thinking this whole mess wouldn’t have generated the same amount of abuse and bigotry on all sides that it actually has, but… you can’t seriously just say that it has nothing to do with sexism at this point without sounding dismissive or ignorant.

    It has definitely not been a level-headed discussion about games journalism, it’s ethics and machinations and whatnot. Sorry, I wish it was otherwise as well. It’s just that, throwing around words like “conspiracy” (or “Quinnspiracy” in this case) doesn’t really help foster a calm or collected atmosphere required for that.

  • Dtec

    “It always comes down to the same ass-backward drivel about how “SJW”s and so on have hideously changed the gaming world, making it impossible for men who just want to be MEN to wank off to their favourite pair of bouncing tits. As if the industry isn’t buried alive in bouncing tits. In the dudebro shooters and action games that seem to be the only acceptable form of gaming for these troglodytes, AND THEY’RE GOING TO TAKE THEM AWAY.”

    Y’know, I rarely actually see this argument. But John Walker and the rest of the SJW blogosphere keep on insisting this is the case. So it must be true! Those NERDY VILE BASEMENT-DWELLING MANCHILDREN who just want to JACK OFF ON ALL THE TITS.

    I wonder why this conversation goes nowhere.

  • blargh

    >Y’know, I rarely actually see this argument

    I actually see it all the time. Why else would people in your position get so angry about feminist criticism of games or have this weird obsession with what an “SJW” says about their hobby? They’re either angry because women are daring to criticize them, or they have some deep-seated fear their toys will be taken away. Or maybe it’s both. Otherwise, there’s no reason to be so very very angry about it.

    What is up with the SJW obsession? The loathed and feared SJW is someone in their teens or twenties who posts on Tumblr, and probably the majority of them are female. Most of them have absolutely no power over anyone’s lives. Their political influence, at least in the US, is next to nil. The effect they have IRL is far far less than 4Chan, but 4Chan & Anonymous get a free pass most of the time for what they do.

    And I don’t understand this weird obsession with purity in gaming journalism. I like reading gaming blogs but it’s about as important to the world as sports journalism. There’s a lot of problems with real journalism right now and a lot of stories which aren’t being covered properly or covered at all, but, instead, all the passion of the Internet Hate Machine is directed towards one very small fish, small even by the standards of the insular gaming community.

    If you’re going to go to the trouble of deeply hating corruption in journalism, why not a more worthy target which actually has some effect on your world, like Fox News or CNN? A person who released a free game, which will probably be completely forgotten in six months, is not a worthy target even if she managed to “buy” a certain amount of publicity.

    And since no one is able to point out what publicity she actually received, then the targeting is even more ridiculous.

  • Chris

    Widespread belief in a false rumour makes it news, and worth spending a few headlines debunking. Remember when Scientology or the 9/11 truthers were news? Any half-decent reporter could have told you they were bullshit, but your granny probably couldn’t. And reporters’ job is to be your granny’s source.

  • TolP

    Anybody here hear of Giant Bomb? Of course you have!

    If this whole thing isn’t about misogyny and reactionary blokes fearful of having other perspectives in the room then why wasn’t a massive online campaign launched against GameSpot when this happened?

    That’s surely a much more clear cut case of corruption in gaming journalism isn’t it?

  • Jekadu

    Two months into this embarrassment, and I keep coming back to this post. I have the nagging feeling that the process described here never really stopped, and that this is simply one of the most successful trolling campaigns to ever happen.

    Consider, for instance, how utterly self-defeating the strategy of the hive has been — the entire thing is rife with contradictions, irrational demands and bigotry. There is an insidious undercurrent that seems to override all attempts at organization, that goes to great lengths to paint outsiders as enemies and to reject compromise. It all feels too machinated. The end result is that, at best, the hive exists only to defend itself. There is an incredible amount of noise and confusion, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s there to deliberately cloak the harassers and trolls at the centre.

    I think I know what a conspiracy theorist feels like now — no concrete evidence, all conviction. Such is the power of the Internet Hate Mob, I suspect.