Content warning: Harassment, threats.
I’ve been writing online for many years. My initial focus primarily centred on issues of ethics, since it was what I studied and taught at the time. It gave me an excuse to tackles issues I found interesting, while improving my writing ability. The themes I chose were considered “controversial” outside the semi Ivory Tower I operated in, but they generated discussions with students and peers, resulting in lively conversations and thoughtful take aways. Capital punishment, God, drugs, sex work, torture – these and more were all part of the conversations. I wrote and put my name under many of these and received furious replies — but only infrequently, and, even then, primarily from religious readers who were concerned for my immortal soul.
I then started writing about games and, since having a tiny bit of success from a few articles, I’ve become a central target of forums, reddit threads, and other dark tunnels running through the internet. Even my favourite readers do not care for me as much as online stalkers who, despite being blocked, still keep tabs, run to their creepy friends, to rat on what I said about a video game.
If you’re not digitally stalked, your swarmed, with anime avatars conveying horrific levels of anger and animosity, who require you to be silent and to take the punishment; or who, when you respond, engage in bad faith discussions about their alleged oppression or you faking or you lying or you being sensitive. (I’m a cishet man so I don’t receive anything comparable to those who do not identify as such; the focus, however, does tend to be on my race and threats to my “terrorist” self and family and what have you.)
The lesson I learned is: You are a perfect target because you can never be the perfect victim. Nothing you do or say to those attacking will ever be “good” enough to get them to stop because:
1. They aren’t seeking an answer, they’re seeking a bullseye and bullseyes are meant to be silent and still.
2. Even if they did, each one hates you for different reasons, meaning satisfying one would only anger another.
When I was in the firing line, no matter how many were expressing support, I felt isolated. People, even supporters, were having conversations around you.
This is what I was reminded of recently when this Tweet went viral for how ridiculous it was.
This ridiculous statement and its incredibly serious but equally ridiculous follow-ups, all concern… a video game.
Yet, they also are targeting PC Gamer writer, James Davenport. As evidence, you need only look at the responses to the original PC Gamer Tweet (CW! I do not advise it, for your mental health).
People like the original ridiculous poster whose Tweet went viral are not operating in isolation. If you see an article get that kind of vitriol, you can imagine the kind you don’t see: emails, DM’s, etc, that the author and colleagues have to deal with it.
Bullseyes must be silent and take it.
But we, who care, shouldn’t let that be the case. There might be an argument to be had that showing how ridiculous this original Tweet was helps to combat the normalisation of it. Yet, that still lends itself to promoting someone’s harassment above their work. This was confirmed by another PC Gamer staffer.
We can and must do better than this. I’m not saying don’t laugh at the ridiculous, angry people, who treat video games like it’s their life – but don’t let that stop you considering and prioritising the well-being of targets of these angry gamers’ harassment, the kind of awfulness targets have to go through, all in this weird landscape they’re just trying to make a decent living out of. I don’t blame anyone for laughing at this – hell, I laughed at the copypasta because I’d rather focus on laughter than harassment (since I was being targeted, too, recently). But again, we can do better.
In short: I’d rather more people read the words of Mr Fenton than one of his harassers.