“History never repeats itself, but it rhymes,” — Mark Twain.
We, as a planet, are living through an absurd period of history. Despite our current climate, there is still plenty of time and energy to swarm people over the internet. We have yet to hit the second wave of Corona, but we may be hitting the second wave of the gamer hate mobs mobilizing. Flashes of late 2014 come to mind with a mystic rhyme reiterated in the spectacle of FerociouslySteph. Escalations of harassment, conspiracy theories, rape and death threats, doxxing, and at times legitimate criticisms.
The controversy started as Twitch published a post about their new Safety Advisory Council, which was quickly reported on by The Verge. Twitch’s new council comprised of both online harassment experts, Sameer Hinduja, T.L. Taylor, Alex Holmes, and streamers CohhCarnage, Cupahnoodle, FerociouslySteph, and Zizaran. At first, there were basic reactionary talking points over the idea from some but also a cautious optimism from others. Most of the streamers are well-known in the community except for FerociouslySteph. FerociouslySteph is a streamer who identifies as a trans-deer-girl Twitch Broadcaster. It was upon research of Steph that things blew up. The atmosphere surrounded this issue harkened back to the Gamergate era.
The Genealogy of Gamergate
Gamergate, defined by Wikipedia, was a harassment campaign targeted at women in the video game industry, notably Zoë Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, and Brianna Wu. Gamergate started with a nasty blog post by Quinn’s ex-boyfriend stating false accusations that she had an unethical relationship with a journalist for a positive review of her game. The campaigns that targeted these women included everything from rape and death threats to doxxing.
Gamergate was perfectly summed up by former football player Chris Kluwe in his post on the topic. Gamergate is “…a combination of a secret cabal of power-mad journalists are working with the world-threatening feminist agenda in order to remove the purity of video games, because Obama and Jews.” Kluwe also hilariously stated that toxic gamerbros were “…paint-huffing shitgoblins think they’re “gamers,” and it pisses me the fuck off.” The movement was full of healthy mindsets.
Gamergate and the Atheism Plus movement are what led to the development of the Youtube skeptic community and the ever-popular Anti-SJW sentiment, usually in the form of SJW Cringe Compilations. This style is how many of these ‘skeptics’ got their start. Notable Gamergate commentators from this time were Carl Benjamin (or Sargon of Akkad) and Thunderf00t, who led the discussion over the anti-feminist movement. Carl remarkably over his six years on Youtube has made at minimum 25+ videos about Anita Sarkeesian.
Gamergate was a symptomatic microcosm of an underlying cultural and social fervor boiling under the surface. This view of society is not only still present but has grown more mainstream.
Steph’s Hot Takes
There were only a few clips that exemplified FerociouslySteph’s controversial opinions of the gaming community. Those few clips have been endlessly shared, discussed, and used as ammunition to harass Steph. These clips have been in the top posts of the beautiful subreddit r/LivestreamFails for the past week.
In one clip, FerociouslySteph said to her stream that “A lot of you gamers are actually white supremacists.” This is the first statement that everyone has been sharing and got everyone talking.
In another clip, following the announcement of her position in the safety council FerociouslySteph stated that: “There are some people that should be afraid of me,” after which Steph danced and exclaimed that haters couldn’t do anything about it because Twitch endorses her.
One video, in particular, has been touted as ultra-cringe. It is a clip where Steph is getting her head scratched by whom presumably is her partner. While having this massage, Steph is making ecstatic deer noises.
The one prescriptive assertion pertains to voice chat. FerociouslySteph explains that minorities are at a disadvantage in voice chat with competitive play. When she says minorities Steph means women, Non-native English speakers, and members of the LGBT community.
The Critiques, Concerns, and the Council
There are a decent amount of reasonable, level-headed critiques about Steph and the comments she has made on stream and of the council in general. One streamer, Asmongold, found FerociouslySteph’s comments highly discriminatory and admits that he worries that the council will either a machine to push personal agendas or will be a direct group of people that undue blame will be placed upon. Both streamers Cr1tikal and Vaush point to Steph’s behavior as immature and unprofessional. Another point stated was a lack of self-control, which led to the spicy statements that set the community on fire.
Cr1tikal, who has 5M subscribers on Youtube and 800K on Twitch, shared the same views towards Steph but contrary to Asmongold, Cr1tikal, despite not knowing the level of involvement, feels the Safety Advisory Council will be a net good. It shows that creators on the site will have a say in new rules and regulations moving forward to him. Cr1tikal, although while disagreeing with Steph’s voice chat opinion, understands where she’s coming from. He explains that it’s a commonly known fact that women in videogames are dog-piled with flirtation and requests or vitriolic harassment.
Vaush had less to say about FerociouslySteph’s opinion and more about its optical presentation. Vaush went as far as to take Steph’s statements and reword them into a less volatile and affectatious instead. Here is a paraphrased example:
“I do think there are some issues with racism and white supremacy everywhere but this is my community and I just want to make sure that people aren’t being discriminated against for the color of their skin and I believe this is a message all gamers should be able to get behind.”
Vaush also believes FerociouslySteph is not suitable for the position because she is not capable of managing the level of public responsibility and scrutiny.
These are the criticisms of FerociouslySteph that are reasonable, measured, and in good-faith.
The Attacks and Conflations
As said earlier, this thing blew up r/LivestreamFails and being mild, the comments were not positive, but a lot of the harsher comments were removed. Many remarks were about FerociouslySteph’s identity as a trans-deer-girl regardless of her arguments.
One of the non-gamer critics was transphobe Sophia Narwitz. Narwitz put on her alt-right tin foil hat and criticized Steph for having ties to the ADL in her RT article. This attack alludes to a conspiracy theory that the ADL is controlling Twitch. Like Kluwe mentioned beforehand, if not the Jews, then who?
One of the most frequent criticizers of Steph is right-wing neckbeard Jeremy Hambly, better known as The Quartering. The Quartering as of writing has made seven videos on the subject since the council’s announcement. Many of which appear to repeat the same content from the previous video. In one of these videos, Jeremy mentioned that deer hunting season is usually in November but that over the weekend, there was’ a slew of BTFO attacks and antagonisms.’ Jeremy tells us that he loves this ‘dumpster fire.’
Self-avowed White Nationalist Carl Benjamin or Sargon of Akkad claimed that everyone on the safety council were “experts at being radical socialists who are pushing a particular agenda…” Not a biased take at all. Carl got his start during Gamergate and created the trend of right-wing Youtubers using ambiguous avatars and voice-overs to respond to “current events.” Sargon has dropped the avatar feeling comfortable with his IRL appearance, but he has not dropped the disingenuous attitude towards those he views as undesirable. In his coverage of FerociouslySteph, Sargon inflated and misinterpreted nearly everything Steph said, twisting one statement from “a lot of gamers” to “all gamers.” Journalistic integrity FTW.
Worst of all, on May 17th, Loehr was doxxed, meaning all her information: phone number, address. Which is conceivably the apex of online bullying as it opens the door to all sorts of in-person harassment. Doxxing is widely condemned, usually, by both sides of the political spectrum (mostly) for the undeniable danger, it promises on its target. At times doxxing has led to swatting, calling in fake emergencies to dispatch armed forces to a residence, sometimes leading to deaths of the victims.
Corrections and Conclusions
Are people misquoting, misinterpreting, hyperinflating what FerociouslySteph said? Yes.
Are people taking what she said out of context? Sadly, no.
Is some of Loehr’s content cringe? Absolutely.
However, the most significant condemnation should be levied against the toxic gamerbros. If you have a problem with what Steph said or how she said it, join the club, but don’t harass her, don’t fight cringe with your cringe. Think about it, the guys who do this kind of shit can boil down to being solely online sexists. Online sexists are losers who can’t get laid and can’t realize why they can’t get laid (which is because they’re sexists). Don’t be one, have some dignity. Don’t be cringe, don’t be toxic.