Self-employed former Gap spokesmodel Andrew Sullivan has been typing about the Gamergate movement again. Previously, when he weighed in, he began by telling his readers that they knew gamer culture "far, far better than I."
But ignorance, even admitted ignorance, has never inhibited Sullivan in pursuing his multifarious career as an amateur race scientist, forensic doula, or endocrinologist. "[P]art of my job is to write and think about burning current web discussions – and add maybe two cents, even as an outsider," he explained.
So the latest investment of his well-worn tuppence is a blog post headlined "The SJWs Now Get to Police Speech on Twitter." Quite a headline! The event to which it refers is Twitter's announcement that it had agreed to receive—though not necessarily to act on—reports from a new harassment-tracking tool developed by the group Women, Action, and the Media.
"[W]e're not Twitter, and we can't make decisions for them," WAM reportedly said, in a quote reprinted by Sullivan. And Sullivan notes:
I can find no reason to oppose a stronger effort by Twitter to prevent individual users from stalking or harassing others[.]
Good, then, we're done, no? Nope! Sullivan has identified WAM as a "left-feminist activist group" whose "goal is to police and punish others for their alleged sexism – along the well-worn lines of contemporary and controlling left-feminism." For instance, they wrote a report complaining that more than 99 percent of classical music performances in the time span they studied were of works by male composers (and one in 15 were of works by Beethoven).
These left-feminists are "outraged" by this, and Andrew Sullivan is outraged by their outrage. Quotas! Equal representation! Are we to believe that the field of classical music is somehow tilted against women?
It's testimony to the atavism of the Gamergaters , or to the monotony of Sullivan's thought, that he can simply plug his '90s-era subroutines into the program and execute them. However else the movement may be faring, it's still going strong as a Branson, Missouri, for faded culture warriors. It's a wonder we haven't heard from David Horowitz or Camille Paglia yet.
And so the stock figures in Sullivan's mind are more compelling to him than the people and events in the real world. He is aware, or has previously expressed awareness, that Gamergate has involved hideous harassment of its targets, including rape and murder threats. But that doesn't mean now is the time to talk about new approaches to preventing harassment.
No, those things are a distraction from the valid points the movement makes about "creeping misandry" and "an atmosphere in which it has somehow become problematic to have a classic white, straight male identity."
What really matters is not the stalking and abuse that has taken place, but the hypothetical danger that feminists will seize power as authoritarian censors, burning Beethoven and establishing anti-masculinity brainwashing camps. Thus building a system for forwarding complaints to Twitter becomes "handing over the censorship tools to a radical activist group bent on social transformation."
Sullivan's performance, in all its hyperventilating absurdity, is probably best received as an off-site contribution by a former editor to the New Republic's ongoing 100th birthday celebrations. Here is the spirit that the magazine embodied through the latter decades of the 20th century: tireless vigilance, in the face of an empowered reactionary movement, against any signs of excess on the left. Every outspoken liberal a Red Guard, every word about racial injustice an incitement to riot, every slope a slippery slope. Except the slope one is standing on.