The Harassment Monopoly

What constitutes harassment seems difficult to determine nowadays.

When I was in elementary school, I learned that harassment was the act of continued, unwanted advances, comments, or actions. But what it means in the Twittersphere isn’t that simple. Some are quick to cry, “Harassment!” at the first sign of constructive criticism or civil disagreement.

What isn’t up for debate when it comes to what defines harassment, however, are things like blatant insults, doxxing, and death threats. And, according to John Bain, better known as games critic TotalBiscuit, people such as Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu aren’t the only ones to experience it.

Bain released an 11-minute audio blog Sunday titled “Enough is Enough.” In it, he mentions the tweets of a Rowan Kaiser, who’s written for reputable sites such as IGN, Joystiq, and The A.V. Club. In Kaiser’s tweets (which I accessed through an archive because I’m blocked from viewing Kaiser’s profile, despite not even knowing who he was until today), he calls Bain a “serial harasser.”

“No game company, no PR people, nobody should talk to or about him other than on those terms,” Kaiser continued.

This sparked Bain’s audio blog, in which he reveals some disturbing truths about his own experiences with harassment—like the fact that he’s in therapy for the bombardment of death threats he’s received over the past year.

That’s right; an Internet-based game critic is seeing a therapist to help deal with the unceasing harassment he receives from strangers who disagree with his opinions and viewpoints.

“No game company, no PR people, nobody should talk to or about him other than on those terms.” —Rowan Kaiser, after calling TotalBiscuit as a “serial harasser”

Probably the best example of Bain being harassed happened in January. After Bain retweeted a link to a charity livestream—which, by the way, is what the original tweet specifically asked people to do—several people harassed Bain for bringing GamerGate’s attention to the stream. Bain received death threats, including messages wishing he’d die of the cancer he was being treated for at the time.

Bain tried to promote a charity and received hatred for his efforts. If that’s not harassment, I don’t know what is.

The strange thing is you won’t find this story in mainstream gaming media. Love him or not, TotalBiscuit is a huge voice in the gaming industry, boasting more than 450,000 Twitter followers and more than 2 million subscribers to his video game YouTube channel. But after experiencing this disgusting display, not one major gaming outlet reported on this injustice, to my knowledge.

However, when personalities such as Anita Sarkeesian or Brianna Wu face harassment, the gaming industry can’t stop writing about it. Why does the harassment female critics face in this industry warrant coverage when death threats sent to male critics such as Bain—especially when he was promoting a charity, of all things—aren’t worth mentioning? If a dozen websites can report on how much money PewDiePie made last year, surely some writer could find the time to report on the 300 or so accounts that lambasted Bain for having the audacity to bring his followers’ attention to a charity stream. Failing to report on such a story doesn’t seem like fair and objective reporting—staples of the “journalism” component of “games journalism”—to me.

“When you engage in character assassination that has no basis in fact, you are a harasser. It’s really that simple.” —John Bain, referring to Rowan Kaiser’s defaming tweets

I don’t need to tell you harassment is bad. Kotaku doesn’t. Polygon doesn’t. Anyone with any moral semblance will tell you that death threats are wrong, no matter who they’re sent to.

But what no one seems to be saying (and desperately needs to be heard by all) is that harassment isn’t exclusive to women or minorities. Sadly, it comes to anyone who holds the limelight, whether they’re white, black, male, or female.

Another thing that no one’s saying is that harassment doesn’t come exclusively from the GamerGate movement. Are there people who would identify as GamerGate supporters and harass women, especially Sarkeesian and Wu? Absolutely. Trolls exist in every group once they grow large enough, and that includes the anti-GamerGate group.

But we never hear about their vile insults, their doxxing attempts, their death threats. Gaming publications only cover instances in which the antis are harassed, which warps the public’s view of GamerGate’s entire purpose. Maybe spins like this are why we get biased reporting about the movement from major news organizations.

Bain mentions other things in his audio blog, including that several of Kaiser’s claims about Bain are lies—another instance of harassment.

“When you engage in character assassination that has no basis in fact, you are a harasser. It’s really that simple,” Bain ends his rant with.

It’s just a shame that TotalBiscuit’s loyal fans and his persistent detractors are likely the only ones who will hear his cries.

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