Hanging out with some Wikipedia critics, I was informed about a set of Medium posts by media critic T.D. Adler on GamerGate and Wikipedia . I looked up GamerGate and found this article from Boston Magazine. Game of Fear: The Story Behind GamerGate.
Adler claimed that article was “not a good source. Lots of distortions by the author,” and he referred me to his “Press Kit”
Adler’s general story is one of what amounts to be a media conspiracy to suppress the truth about GamerGate, but looking over his material, he clearly mixes up journalistic truth (which attempts to report fact as distinct from interpretation) and “story” which is interpretive, judgmental, what facts allegedly “mean.” Looking at the Wikipedia article, I see interpretation, sourced fact presented interpretively. First example that leaped out at me:
The controversies and events that would come to be known as Gamergate began in 2014 as a personal attack on Quinn, incited by a blog post by Quinn’s former boyfriend Eron Gjoni. Called the “Zoe Post”,[a] it was a lengthy, detailed account of their relationship and breakup that included copies of personal chat logs, emails, and text messages. The blog falsely implied that Quinn had slept with Nathan Grayson, a reporter for the website Kotaku, in exchange for favorable coverage of Quinn’s game Depression Quest.
What stands out is “falsely.” Where did that come from? The word “implied” is weak. What was actually in the blog? What exactly was false? Sleeping with or quid pro quo? This is allegedly a copy of that post.
Primary source, to be sure, but I don’t see the implication there. There is direct claim about “cheating” with Grayson, but nothing about Kotaku. What is clear to me is that Gjoni is naive and obsessed, has little understanding of what a woman with Quinn’s history would be like, falls in love with a fantasy, a role that Quinn can play and Quinn herself is stuck in stories from her past, etc. He does not love the real woman, but the fantasy, and while that is understandable, he is then punishing her, I’d say, by telling the story. It would be important for him to share what was going on with people knowledgeable about relationships and, say, sex and love addiction and the patterns of behavior that are common. But publishing it?
But that’s getting ahead of this story. This is about that one textual claim “falsely.” What was falsely implied and how? There is a source, p. 43 in Crime, Justice and Social Media, Michael Salter. In fact, it’s page 44 and the implication about sex for favors was largely outside the blog post, I haven’t seen it in the post itself, and it was all pretty vague. Yet that is the basis for the claim that GamerGate is about “corruption.”
This is how Adler starts his recent Breitbart article on the subject:
Five years ago Wikipedia got sucked into the controversy over GamerGate, the anti-corruption movement in gaming. The narrative found on Wikipedia, like many others about GamerGate, is a lie. Editors, including this author, worked hard to give the movement a fair treatment and got several biased opponents banned only to be cast by the media in a fake news storm as “throwaway accounts” forcing out honest editors over provoked incivility. Wikipedia’s treatment of GamerGate foreshadows the site’s treatment of many political issues during the Donald Trump presidency.
The concept of “fake news” in mainstream media is quite new, and promoted by a political faction. There has always been “yellow journalism,” pandering to what is shocking and often carelessly reported, but journalists are professionally obligated to distinguish fact from interpretation, and to attribute the latter (which makes it true even if the interpretation is, at an extreme, a lie.) Tarring the entire profession, as evidenced in attacks on mainstream mainstream media, is very dangerous and hence my concern.
There is always an issue of what publishers choose to report, which can display a form of bias, but “lying” and “fake news” is well outside that. If such bias is displayed, the remedy generally is to report the missing facts;; the cause of informing the public is not served by creating counter-interpretations also presented as fact. In a sense, this is trying to defeat biased interpretation by asserting more biased interpretation.
The first distinction is always “what actually happened’? That is, what can we know and how do we know it?
Reading the Zoe post, I get a clear picture of a very confused young man, who blames his own confusion on Zoe Quinn, who is, relying on the blog reports, herself one very confused young woman. Or was, at least. These things do not ordinarily change overnight. Promises by sex addicts (and she could easily qualify) to never “cheat” again or never lie again are rarely kept. The roots of the behavior must be addressed if there is to be any hope, and that applies to both of them. (Mostly, this would be and should be private business, except where legal boundaries are crossed.)
Gjoni, on his part, would easily qualify as sexually co-dependent. He has no idea how common his story is, it appears. It is more commonly told by women, though. Gjoin keeps trying to “understand” what is survival behavior for the addict, not “reasonable,” at all. That she flips to guilt and shame is also common. There is nothing in all this surprising except for his decision to publish as he did, and to promote the story, as he apparently did.
It appears that Adler’s ‘lie” is the interpretation that GamerGate is about sexual harassment. But that would not be a lie, it would be an issue of definition and interpretation. GamerGate, most simply, is a hashtag that was used to identify posts relating to the issues. And those could be studied, as to statistics regarding them.
But as to Wikipedia, this is the bottom line. Adler has it that the mainstream press is biased, and reflects the view of GamerGate as being about harassment. As this is the mainstream position, it can be expected that the majority of available reliable sources, if they display a bias, will be in that direction. Adler, as a Wikipedia editor, was attempting to get Wikipedia to reflect “the truth,” a classic lost cause. Wikipedia will, if it follows its own guidelines, follow and give weight to what has weight in independent reliable sources, disallowing fringe sources or using them only with consensus. But Adler has not shown any lies as to the mainstream, as far as I’ve seen. An inaccuracy is not necessarily a lie. A lie is something said or written with intention to deceive, knowing that the statements or their implications are false.
So I will, here, collect sources. What happened with the Zoe post is clear, as to the origin, not necessarily what became of it later.
Sources for further research:
Game of Fear by ZACHARY JASON· 4/28/2015, 5:45 a.m, Boston Magazine