Why Gamergate in 2014 was a warm-up to Trump’s 2016


Video game fans got a sneak peek at post-factual politics, Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns says.

For some observers, the bitterly divided 2016 campaign, which pitted fact against fantasy and policy against paranoia, was new. But it was all a little too familiar to Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns.

Gamergate inadvertently prepared me for the 2016 election,” Burns said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka.

Mixed in with vile harassers who targeted women in the gaming community, he recalled, was “another group of people who are saying that they were doing it for more noble reasons, to put pressure on media. ‘Ethics in journalism.’ It’s the same thing as when I talk to my friends who voted for Trump … ‘I voted for him for these other reasons.’”

Burns is not the only one to make this connection. As the Guardian contributor Matt Lees recently opined:

In 2014, the media’s reaction was often weak or overtly conciliatory – some sites went out of their way to “see both sides”, to reassure people that openly choosing to be affiliated with a hate group did not make them in any way responsible for that hate. Olive branches were extended, but professional lives continued to be ruined while lukewarm op-eds asked for us to come together so we could start “healing”. The motivations may have been sound, but it’s the language Trump and his supporters have used post-election to obliterate dissenting voices.

“There were female game developers and female games journalists who were ‘doxxed,’ which means [harassers] took their personal information and posted it, their address, online, and made horrible threats,” Burns said. “It was horrible. And it lasted for such a long period of time.”

One of the key themes of Gamergate was the sowing of doubt about media coverage, which tended to be skeptical or critical of the harassment.

“All the analysis of media, where media can’t be believed in any way … Any information you’re getting, ‘If I don’t agree with it, it’s biased information,’” Burns said. “There was a lot of that from Gamergate and of course there were all the hot-button issues from the Trump campaign — building the wall, everything else — that people were being lumped into, people who were voting for Trump who tried to say they were voting for more normal reasons.”

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If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

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