The recent "Gamergate" controversy has kicked the newest Internet culture war into high gear over accusations suggesting that indie video game developer Zoe Quinn slept with gaming journalists as a means to further her career. The parties involved are users of the Internet hub 4Chan and “Social Justice Warriors,” or SJWs, a pejorative term for feminists and other like-minded individuals.
What originally was a debate about journalistic ethics soon turned into a hot-button argument about the place of women in the video game industry, with accusations of misogyny or misinformation being thrown by either side. The hashtag #GamerGate generated a quarter of a million tweets and retweets in its first week of activity.
Despite the online firestorm that has since grown out of the controversy, here’s the sad truth: Nothing has changed. The 4Chan users and their ilk on the one side have not altered their general opinion one iota over the course of this conflict — and neither have the ceaseless SJW's on the other side. Taken as a whole, the entirety of Gamergate has been a massive pissing contest between two exceedingly disparate groups of people, and neither side has won yet.
Therein lies the problem. These supercharged groups are both arguing to win — not to come to a consensus and move forward collectively. The goal of making debate should be to grow and learn, not to be victorious as though being on the “right” side of an issue makes one a champion. Both sides are guilty of this.
As a result, the online (and greater) community is just spinning its wheels, like always. Whenever disagreements over gay marriage, gun rights, abortion, immigration or literally any other issue arise, the argument in the comment section follows a formulaic path of insults, non sequiturs and gaping holes in reasoning.
We are subjected to this on a daily basis from our news stations, YouTube videos and even our own friends and family — who doesn’t have that one uncle who always makes Thanksgiving dinner awkward with his drunken, inflammatory comments?
All joking aside, the nature of debate on the Internet is a critical issue and certainly one that defines our generation. The violent, vitriolic skirmishes that characterize the Internet are hopefully just the growing pains of its infancy, not a harbinger of permanent manners and mores to come.
It’s time to start using these impassioned forums as places of learning about alternative points of view and the wide variety of people that inhabit the World Wide Web. Ayn Rand summed up best the proper role of debate: “When I disagree with a rational man, I let reality be our final arbiter; if I am right, he will learn; if I am wrong, I will; one of us will win, but both will profit."
Are we not rational men and women? Can we not all profit together, by creating a more conscientious atmosphere online? Some would disagree, suggesting that we never will see that day. Well, to each their own.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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