It didn't start with GamerGate, but GamerGate was certainly the "first boss" of the culture war we have found ourselves enmeshed in today. To understand how we got to "the Meme Wars of 2016" it's important to understand the imageboard culture that acted as the front line troops who were instrumental in GamerGate, the revolt againt the SJWs, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. If John F. Kennedy won the 1960 election because he was more in control of the visual medium to become our first "TV president" then Donald Trump won the 2016 election to become our first internet president. Unfortunately, if you appeal to traditional media or academic sources for an understanding about these matters, chances are you're only going to get half of the story. For normies who really <i>do</i> want to understand though, you could do far worse than to check out Irish feminist and journalist <a href="http://www.zero-books.net/books/kill-all-normies">Angela Nagel's book Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the Alt-Right.</a>
Nagel has spent around a decade trudging through the trenches of Tumblr and 8chan and she manages to shine some light on the culture wars from Pepe's camp without any desire to "drink the tears" of her enemies. Nagle understands and doesn't minimize the issues that lead people (including many young men) to these online communities as well as the disenfranchisement that leads to the sort of existential crisis that cultural movements on either side aim, or claim, to be working to ameliorate.
<iframe width="688" height="417" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/128IR21ZQa0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>
This is a far cry from <a href="http://www.theplasticscreen.com/i-was-trolled-the-laughable-defense/">the type of media coverage "Anonymous" and their ilk are used to receiving</a>. From the beginning, the traditional mass media has gotten it wrong. Whether it's the Fox news affiliate who introduced the "hackers on steroids" to their viewing audience with dramatic, but unrelated, footage of a van exploding to punctuate their point to bemused CNN anchors, mystified wondering "who is this hacker 4chan?" And it hasn't gotten much, if any better, for the most part.
Here's a for instance, just earlier today I was skimming through a section from the book Social, Casual and Mobile Games: The Changing Gaming Landscape while building a bibliography on scholarly work referencing 8chan. In the afterword, they reference the GamerGate phenomenon and refer to <a href="https://books.google.com.ph/books?hl=en&lr=&id=nW5yCwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT227&dq=8chan&ots=hgGlJkireD&sig=HpBoxFZlwDhKrPHvEWGPjglB_pQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=8chan&f=false">"8chan chatrooms."</a> Ummm, do you mean imageboard? Because the last time I checked (i.e. earlier today) 8chan is a collection of categorized imageboards. There isn't an official IRC (or other) 8chan "chatroom." This may seem like a little thing, but consider the fact that this book has dozens of footnotes to prove its points, but when it comes to dealing with "the other side" they don't even bother to be anywhere near accurate. Nagle is an unabashed leftist, but still manages to get the internet subcultures that helped spawn the latest iteration in the cultural revolution right.
This latest iteration, by the way, seems to be a response to the cultural revolution that blossomed in the 60's. Nagle examines how much of what we are seeing is pushback. Revolution, reaction, counter-revolution, counter-reaction. She paints the so-called Alt-Right and Alt-Lite figureheads like Richard Spencer and Milo as being successful due to how they were presented in the packaging of anti-establishment rebels and considering the surprising amount of so-called "Bernie Bros" were able to make the shift to Donald Trump and the catchphrase "Conservatism is the new punk rock" it's not hard to agree here.
<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3AL6dA1pjnw" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Nagle also acknowledges how the "trolling spirit" of anonymous imageboards makes it difficult to really penetrate the enigma of the anonymous imageboards. The trolling culture, born out of trying to get a rise, has been at the center of the culture of sites like 4chan and 8chan. The old mantra of "lurk moar" was a warning to the unwary noob to beware before posting. At first glance, it looks like a sort of pidgin English, but the evolving language of memes, in-jokes and language usage does require a sort of observational anthropological approach. Like Jane Goodall and her chimpanzees, Nagle only got this far by a full immersion into the culture.
I've seen complaints in reviews that Nagle doesn't provide references to any previously published work. Well, as I note earlier, the academic record on the subject is notoriously incomplete. You don't see the sort of violent complaints against the latest bit of dreck to "review the extant literature on the subject" despite it being incomplete and at times faulty. Perhaps there's a reason for that. Perhaps the academy prefers a closed view that sacrifices nuance to paint a preferred narrative. If so, then I can see why a few reviewers and academics are upset.
Unfortunately, Nagle's book received some backlash for the publication as it didn't seem to fit the "mold" of leftist critique on the subject of the online culture wars. There was not enough class analysis, not enough identity politics, not enough footnotes, there was plenty to quibble about while missing the point of what is there. In an interview on Zero Books Podcast (the publisher) she admits a fear that leftists seem to feel the need to "move in lockstep with the new ideas or be purged." This sort of purity spiraling is not endemic to right or left and, in fact, a lot of the issues and causes are similar or the same regardless of partisan politics. Regardless of your partisan predilections though, learning a little bit about "how the other half lives" from experience rather than second hand could be the antidote to the ideological echo chamber.