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Twitorama: Mark Kern Can’t/Won’t Stop, We Can’t Have Nice Hashtags

If you’re still worried about letting Mark Kern speak, you should rest easy; Mark has decided that, after making literally hundreds of tweets demanding he be heard, that this really should not be about him.

Instead of being about Mark and his lovingly crafted social media campaigns, it should be about, gosh, I don’t even know any more. Apparently Ben Kuchera (opinion writer at Polygon/one of the few male hate figures of Gamergate) got tired of him:

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I’m…. pretty sure that when someone blocks you on Twitter, that doesn’t stop you from speaking. Case in point: Mark Kern.

Finally, after his brush with the cold and unfeeling censorship that is, actually, about corruption in games journalism, he seems to have settled on something:

(note: there were about 30 tweets in this vein throughout the day)

And in so doing, for the next day, he retweeted, tens of thousands of times (breaking his own Twitter feed in the process), literally ANYTHING anyone tweeted to him with that. All of these were taken from Kern’s now-unreadable-past-8000 timeline, with no perceptible irony whatsoever.

And then there were the people who hit below the belt.

(note: Kern was rumored to have been banned from the forums of his own game)

Well then. Let’s just step back from the circus for a second and actually pick out an issue or two to examine.

I’m not sure if this stream of tens of thousands of retweets was just his latest in a long line of Kern’s content-free yet very loud demands similar to “I’m going to make a controversial statement, and demand you agree: puppies are cute! #AdmitPuppiesAreTheCutest #KittensAreOKToo”.  The irony is that I actually disagree (no, not about puppies, they ARE the cutest!); media should not be unbiased, because people are not unbiased. The target of an unbiased press is a uniquely American notion; in most countries with a healthy free press, the bias of a media source is fairly well known (for example in the UK, the Guardian is left-leaning, the Telegraph is right-leaning, and we don’t talk about the Daily Mail, EVER). In America we’re seeing this with the notion of Fox News (right) MSNBC (left) and CNN (Don Lemon and Wolf Blitzer).

We also see a clear reaction against this. As part of our civic culture, we’re taught that the media (including, paradoxically, editorial commentators) should be free of bias. Which is odd when you consider that the alternatives are either that the reporter in question does have a bias, but chooses to conceal it in the name of being ‘unbiased’ (see: most major mainstream US newspapers – New York Times/Washington Post/etc.), or is so clueless about what they report on that they honestly don’t know enough to have an opinion (see: Don Lemon, Wolf Blitzer) People often get angry with the outrages of the spin of stories from their chosen antagonists, and occasionally organize campaigns against the advertisers of commentators they really don’t like.

This also ties into some of the confusion we’re seeing (and Kern is sharing, whether out of ignorance or self-aggrandizement it’s hard to say) about Right of Reply, so a brief word of explanation here. Simply put, (a) there is no right of reply in the US – it was called the Fairness Doctrine, and was overturned in the late 1980s, which prompted the rise of partisan media such as Fox, (b) in general, media as part of their code of ethics give subjects of news articles the opportunity to comment when a particularly controversial news story regarding them is published, and (c) right of reply almost never applies to editorial/opinion pieces; otherwise no opinion piece would ever be published simply because it would turn into an endless point/counterpoint (which was why there was no commentary-driven mass media in the US before the 1990s, due to the existence of the Fairness Doctrine).

You might see some connections here with what Gamergate demands of the gaming media, and it’s not a coincidence. Gamergate’s stated purpose is, depending on who you ask, either to return gaming media to a point where there is no perceptible bias (“can we please just talk about videogames”), or explicitly demanding that the bias return in favor of where the speaker desires (“stop these left-wing Cultural Marxists from talking about my videogames”). And these are both valid points! I disagree with both of them, because I enjoy reading the views of someone who has a clear, educated viewpoint, whether or not I agree with it. But these are valid topics of discussion, especially as gaming media becomes more professional and more people become interested in news and discussions about gaming. We absolutely should be having a conversation on what direction that should go!

The kicker, of course, is that the people whom Gamergate seem to fix on, 99% of the time, don’t actually have anything to do with the gaming media. Last I checked, neither Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu, nor Randi Harper had anything to do with gaming media. This is because Gamergate’s stated purpose is far, far beyond what Gamergate actually DOES. See, for example, the #GDC2015 (now #GDC15, thanks to the below and now equally as applicable) hashtag on Twitter, Gamergate’s latest target of action. Note that GDC is not part of the gaming media – it’s a conference for game developers, those poor forlorn creatures that Gamergate is supposedly in favor of (unless they harbor incorrect left-leaning opinions, which Gamergate has apparently not yet discovered includes roughly 99.8% of game developers). If you’re like me and follow a lot of game developers on Twitter, that hashtag is a revelation – in default view, it looks pretty normal, yep, all the people you know talking about GDC things. If you switch from the default “Top” to “All”? Hoo boy. Gamergate is here and they want you to know they really don’t like you that much, game developers.

Why is this happening? Because GDC invited Zoe Quinn to speak (which was noted for being both heavily attended and for being the first GDC panel with visible police protection).

Clearly, this is about ethics in games journalism.

Or, failing that, Mark Kern’s new career: fixing Mark Kern’s Twitter.

Mark Kern.

Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern Mark Kern.

Am I doing this right? #GDC15 #NotYourShield

11PM 3/2 edit: Gamergate has already had a response!

Given how much else Gamergate gets wrong (hint: about the only thing correct in that tweet was my name and gender), I guess we’ll just let that one go.

  • Cwbintennessee Michael Winton

    Cry harder

  • Shjade

    I’m a little surprised it’s only taken Kern about a week of this to go from “actively causing more problems and breathing life back into a dwindling group” to “what a joke.”

    That’s some impressive turnaround.

    (Granted he’s still causing a fuss despite this transformation.)

    • Chris

      Well, in all fairness, Kern’s been a joke since well before he got booted from Red5. We just got to be reminded as to why.

      • Shjade

        Not so much reminded in my case; I don’t really pay close attention to the names behind games or studio drama, so I’d never heard of him before this.

  • Sinnach

    “no, not about puppies, they ARE the cutest!”

    Oh, now you’ve done it.

    If you thought GG was bad, wait until the kitten inquisition hear about this totally biased and one-sided accounting.

    /full disclosure: I myself might be a member of the kitten inquisition and/or donated to their patreon

  • Irwright

    Well, come on Scott. At Mythic didn’t they put your desk in a closet? I mean, I assume that’s because you were busy not releasing anything.