On Friday I hit a tipping point and posted about #GamerGate.
I spent a while thinking about it before I wrote that post: not so much what I was going to say (I’d had that taking shape in my head for a while), but whether I should say it. The internal conversation went something like this:
OUTRAGED BRAIN: Aaaaaaaugh must rant.
NERVOUS BRAIN: . . . do we really want to jump into that pit?
OUTRAGED BRAIN: But if we don’t, we’re part of the problem!
NERVOUS BRAIN: Yeah, but we might get trolls coming after us.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: Honey, our microphone ain’t that big. Nobody will notice.
NERVOUS BRAIN: They will if we use the hashtag.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: So? We’re still nobodies in the grand scheme of things. How bad could it get?
NERVOUS BRAIN: The answer to that question is exactly what I’m afraid of.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: What, you think somebody’s going to bother doxxing us?
NERVOUS BRAIN: No. But what if they do.
OUTRAGED BRAIN: You realize this is exactly what they want — to frighten us into silence.
NERVOUS BRAIN: . . . .
And lo, I posed, and lo, I attracted some Twitter trolls. I responded to a few of them, not because I thought it would do any good with that specific person — at least a couple were almost certainly sockpuppets — but because it might do some good with people reading the conversation. Even then, though, I set some ground rules for myself: I’d give people maybe three or five chances to say anything of use, and if they didn’t (or if they set me off faster than that), I’d mute them.
Some of them didn’t even really merit that much consideration. But like I said, having the conversation in public might do some good, and since I haven’t been involved in this (or any major internet altercation) very much, I have the emotional resources to engage, at least for now. I can see, though, how that would change very fast: even dealing with the limited response I got ate most of my morning, and had things gotten scarier than they did, it would have drained me in no time flat.
Which is to say: the tactics work. Unfortunately. Even while I’m laughing at their transparency, they’re still eating away at me. And this is when I’m wandering around in the shallow end. I don’t know how people do it, the Anita Sarkeesians of the world, the ones who are on the front lines of this crap for an extended period of time. I hope I never find out firsthand — and yet, it’s possible that someday I will, because see the conversation above. I do not want to let fear for what might happen stop me from saying what I need to.