Looking back, it’s hard to overstate the cultural significance of GamerGate: it marked when the Left suddenly and unexpectedly lost control of social media, right at the point where the influence of social media actually started to matter. In a sense, it was the second wave of discontent that started with the arrival of anti-MSM blogs in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but within a very different internet environment compared to ‘The Golden Age of Blogging’ 2001-2010. As has often been the case in military campaigns, when one side becomes greatly overextended, they only realise they have lost the initiative when they seek to advance and experience a completely unexpected reversal: a result that may seem obvious and perhaps even inevitable to a historian looking back, but which was far from obvious to the people on the ground at the time.GamerGate always struck me as a battle seen from afar - hard to distinguish the protagonists, hard to see the lines, hard to see who was winning and who was losing. The link goes to Wikipedia which presents a very one sided, partisan view of the struggle. My sense is that it was a bunch of insider SJW protagonists on the one side who had managed to craft a corrupt process of reviews to commercially (and ideologically) favor their products while on the other side was a bunch of misfit libertarians insisting on transparency and honesty.
So certain was the Left that they had won the culture war, so confident with the established media under their effective control that ‘truth’ was theirs to declare, that they gave up on any pretence of objectivity. After all, their enemies had been swept from both airwaves and print (I sometimes cannot tell the difference between the Times and the Guardian and the Economist). And so they began to manoeuvre with the assurance and arrogance of an army under an umbrella of complete air(wave) supremacy, a supremacy that suddenly proved to be illusory because opinions had moved on-line.
I could just as easily be talking about Brexit or Trump, for it was a widespread tone deaf lack of introspection by establishment folk that made those things possible (albeit for very different reasons)… but the way I see it, GamerGate was the canary-in-the-coal mine. And almost no one on the Left noticed that particular canary had fallen off the perch and dropped dead. I imagine when the history of Brexit and Trump are written, GamerGate will probably be a forgotten footnote (and it is indeed a mere footnote), but I think it was (and sporadically still is) a more significant series of protracted skirmishes in the culture war than a lot of us Old Farts realise, a very successful clash that radicalised many younger people in ways that horrify the Tranzi Left.
And their response every time has been to double down as if nothing has changed, eventually stripping words like ‘misogynist’, ‘racist’ and ‘nazi’ of any meaning in the process.
I think de Havilland is right that GamerGate was a canary in the coal mine but I don't think it was the canary in the coal mine. I had to check the dates but there were three major movements in close proximity to one another; The Tea Party, GamerGate and Sad Puppies. All represented an emergent order of the masses rejecting the status quo of the corrupted establishment political parties and the authoritarianism of the ideological left mainstream media/entertainment/academy.
The Tea Party emerged in 2009, Sad Puppies in 2013, GamerGate in 2014.
From my perspective, while all three were trashed by the mainstream media, the Tea Party was broadly a principled movement with a critical message which conquered the Republican party. I believe they were the canary in the coal mine which the establishments of both parties, the academy, the entertainment industry and the mainstream media all did their best to ignore. It was an abstract issue for Democrats, the academy, Hollywood and the MSM. For establishment Republicans it was much more existential as the Tea Partiers took down one Republican leader after another in primaries, effectively executing a reverse take-over.
GamerGate and Sad Puppies, in contrast, appeared to me to be a no-holds barred, brass knuckle gang rumble in the byways of the internet. While my sympathies for their goals might lie with the GamerGaters and Sad Puppies, their tactics and often their principles left much to be desired. But when your struggle is with unprincipled Gramscian social justice totalitarians, it is understandable that there is not much of a basement when it comes to lowest common denominator behaviors. You fight by your opponent's rules, such as they are.
I think the Tea Party was the canary in the coal mine. GamerGate and Sad Puppies, and indeed the Bernie movement, were just further manifestations of the underlying emergent order. A reassertion by the citizenry that governance can only work where there is consent and that we have too long cultivated a culture of coercive elite cronyism at the top which has spit in the eye of the citizenry. Trump is yet one more wave in that realignment. Where it ends, nobody can foretell. I hope with a reassertion of the principles of the Age of Enlightenment as articulated in the Constitution and a rejection of the stasist totalitarian culture.
When you are in the middle of white water rapids it is challenging to see where you have come from and even more difficult to see what is ahead. It is enough of a challenge just to stay upright.