Bomb Threats Tilt GamerGate Event

SPJ AirPlay panel
SPJ AirPlay panel (SPJ Florida photo)

By Casey Bukro

GamerGate from its beginning a year ago seemed touched by lunacy, and that was borne out when bomb threats forced the abrupt closure of a video-game program in Miami.

The Society of Professional Journalists event AirPlay aimed to pin down the social-media campaign GamerGate – whether it’s about journalism ethics and accurate reporting about the video-game industry, attacks on women in the male-dominated industry, or resistance to political correctness and censorship. Or something else.

The conference goal was to “make a good gaming press better, or a bad gaming press good,” said Michael Koretzky, an SPJ regional director who organized and moderated. The conference “concocted some novel yet practical ideas for achieving that,” he said, such as an SPJ award for games journalism or recruiting games media critics.

A Twitter feed and hashtag and a YouTube channel suggest the event provoked lively discussion. SPJ secretary/treasurer Lynn Walsh said “if mainstream media jumps on this, it should be done well and ethically.”

Topics included plagiarism, fabrication, anonymity, fair reporting and the performance of Gamer writers. Koretzky asked about a “troll patrol,” how to vet or write about their social-media statements, and how to expose anonymous digital mischief-makers.

Then it all ground to a halt.

Miami police cleared the building after a series of bomb threats, UPI reported. Breitbart.com reported that the event got 10 bomb threats before police stopped the program and moved participants out of the building and into the streets.

Koretsky said two separate conferences in the building drew about 135 participants, of which about 60 attended the AirPlay event.

AirPlay was supposed to teach us something about GamerGate. AdviceLine asked Koretzky what the abbreviated conference taught him.

“I learned I was right about one thing,” Koretsky responded in an email. “Face-to-face opens minds. As for the bomb threat, it was awesome. It happened only 30 minutes before we ended, and it made @SPJAirPlay trend worldwide.”

Such threats are not new to GamerGate. Earlier this year a bomb threat cleared 300 people from a Washington, D.C., event aimed at GamerGate supporters. And Anita Sarkeesian, creator of a video series of pop-culture critiques, canceled an appearance at Utah State University last year because of the threat of a mass shooting.

AdviceLine asked Koretzky if continued threats of violence prove that some of those GamerGate folks really are nuts.

“I knew some GGers were nuts from the get-go,” he said. “But I learned just how many aren’t. I’d say it’s 50-50 &ndash which might offend both sides. But really, that’s a ringing GG endorsement, since so many folks told me the stat was 100 percent.”

And what else did he learn from the event?

“I’ve been talking to some gaming journalists post-AirPlay about why it wasn’t covered. Interestingly, the reporters are cool, editors are not. So once again, it’s age more than philosophy.”

As for his next move, Koretzky said he’s considering hosting a feminism-and-media debate.

Mark Samenfink, a lifelong gamer, wrote that he was frustrated by the way the Miami GamerGate event ended.

“This feels like a hollow victory,” Samenfink wrote. “But since at least half of the event took place (and was streamed live, worldwide), it’s not completely hollow. I was excited all day, my hype was real, I sat down to watch the debates and was overjoyed by them, but this … it just killed the mood.”

Did the gaming press cover the event?

“No,” said Koretzky, “just the bomb threats, and some not even that. It says more in defense of GG than anything else to date.”

 

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