Eron Gjoni, the guy whose post about his ex-girlfriend helped fan the GamerGate firestorm contacted me on twitter last night. Asking for my email so we could discuss the flaws and inaccuracies in my column on Saturday, and my inevitable retractions.
Anyone who's hung around here long enough knows I have no problems correcting my own errors and apologizing for them. I don't have plans to make any corrections to the GamerGate piece, although I might publish a par this weekend with Eron's denial's, rebuttals, whatevs.
I @replied to him, even though I routinely ignore most GamerGate approaches at Twitter because mostly they're (1) empty abuse, and (2) utterly pointless.
I was fascinated to talk to him because he's such a pivotal figure in this latest flare up and I'd read he had some regrets about the consequences of his original post, if not the post itself. I won't insult him by psychoanalysing him here. That wasn't the purpose of this post.
I instead wanted to reflect briefly on an incident that played out (and god help me is still playing out) in my timeline during the exchange with Gjoni. Early on in the exchange, when he was still pretty fired up but showing some signs of being able to talk reasonably, another user jumped in and gave him a serve. I quickly replied asking her to dial it down, although looking at my tweet now I can see I just said "Dial it down, Ann", which looks like an order. Very poor choice of phrasing, JB.
Well, you can imagine what I woke up to this morning.
That's why this piece in The Atlantic resonated with me. Robinson Meyer nails it. Not Gamergate, but the exhaustion of Gamergate. The exhaustion of all online echanges these days. Gamergate, writes Meyer, "is an enervating army that makes itself known as soon as the “#Gamergate” hashtag is tweeted. It’s an attentional brushfire that, even when it’s not being discussed, could flare up at any time. It’s a source of exhaustion even before it has done anything to exhaust."
He goes on to explain why this is an existential crisis for Twitter, but to me it looks like a... well, maybe not anything as immediate as a crisis, but it looks like a deep rooted systemic flaw in the very structure of online communications. Flame war seems to be the default setting now, although maybe it always was. I remember talking Murph out of his ennervating battles with online foes at various sci-fi forums, and we've all learned to skim over the worst, if not most, of the comments at places like Blunty, assuming anyone but the trolls reads them these days.
Is living such a public life worth the trouble? Is such a life worth being constantly exposed to vitriol and rage and threats from strangers—especially when the patterns of that abuse seem so random? Is the kind of work that would be required to sustain a “good” public, online social network possible? Is asking people to perform that moderating work something we even want to do?
No it's not. Not really. But I've decided that everyone who has the ability to nuke trolls out of the comments here will be holding onto it for a while yet. Probably forever and I'll probably be extending the power to even more of you.