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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Book Review: Read Zoë Quinn’s “Crash Override” to understand the Trump error

In response to a recent Buz­zfeed arti­cle about behind-the-scenes goings-on of Milo Yian­napoulus’ and Bre­it­bart’s prop­a­ga­tion of racist, white nation­al­ist thought, Wash­ing­ton Post jour­nal­ist Philip Bump declared, “An ear­ly chap­ter of every book doc­u­ment­ing the Don­ald Trump era will be about Gamergate.”

Crash Override, by Zoe Quinn

Crash Over­ride: How Gamer­gate (Near­ly) Destroyed My Life, and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate by Zoe Quinn (Hard­cov­er, PublicAffairs)

If Bump’s pre­dic­tion comes to pass, Zoë Quin­n’s book Crash Over­ride will be cit­ed by schol­ars for decades to come as an essen­tial text to under­stand­ing the Trump error.

In Crash Over­ride, which is part­ly an auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Quinn tells the sto­ry of Gamer­gate and how she’s worked to defend every­one against vicious online mobs since.

Quinn had first got­ten wide­spread atten­tion as a video game devel­op­er in 2013 for her text-based “Depres­sion Quest”, an inter­ac­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion of what it’s like to expe­ri­ence depres­sion when you seem capa­ble of mak­ing only the worst and most unhealthy deci­sions instead of any good ones.

Depres­sion Quest was unique and cre­ative and earned many pos­i­tive reviews.

Then, in 2014, Quin­n’s abu­sive ex-boyfriend went online to smear her rep­u­ta­tion and accuse her of sleep­ing her way into get­ting good reviews.

A group of peo­ple — most­ly angry young white men — began a sus­tained cam­paign of harass­ment, threats, and stalk­ing that prin­ci­pal­ly tar­get­ed Quinn and oth­er women in a series of dis­turb­ing inci­dents that became known as Gamergate.

Quin­n’s Crash Over­ride: How Gamer­gate [Near­ly] Destroyed My Life and How We Can Win the Fight Against Online Hate is real­ly more like four or five books, and it’s not exact­ly a crit­i­cism to say that each might have been a full work in their own right instead of por­tions of this fair­ly brief two hun­dred and thir­ty-eight page one.

Quinn believes the larg­er under­ly­ing prob­lem involves peo­ple inside of tech com­pa­nies being them­selves unwill­ing to solve emi­nent­ly solv­able problems.

Face­book, Red­dit, and Twit­ter are staffed (in part) by the same sort of angry white males who are entire­ly capa­ble of automat­ing copy­right infringe­ment take­downs or vis­i­ble nip­ples, but claim noth­ing can be done about spe­cif­ic, detailed rape threats or exhor­ta­tions of geno­cide because free speech is sacrosanct.

Toward the end of the book, Quinn also exam­ines the con­se­quences of soci­ety’s fail­ure to con­front and coun­ter­act abu­sive behav­iors in their ear­ly stages.

Peo­ple have to grad­u­al­ly build their courage for dra­mat­ic action. Domes­tic vio­lence is one of the few com­mon threads con­nect­ing men involved in mass mur­der, even when ide­ol­o­gy and means of accom­plish­ing a destruc­tive end differ.

Steve Ban­non saw the poten­tial of exploit­ing such peo­ple, but most­ly angry young white men (in his words, root­less white men) who could be brought into a move­ment by first attack­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple on the Inter­net over video games and sci-fi cul­ture. He rec­og­nized Quin­n’s tor­menters and peo­ple like them could be orga­nized into a polit­i­cal force and har­nessed to achieve even more cor­ro­sive ends.

Quinn writes that she was­n’t sur­prised by Don­ald Trump’s vic­to­ry in the Elec­toral Col­lege because she had already felt the speartip of a move­ment dri­ven by noth­ing more than the hatred of any­one expect­ing to be treat­ed with equality.

There aren’t more of those peo­ple than decent peo­ple, but there are enough of them, and they’ve been prop­er­ly acti­vat­ed and moti­vat­ed to be harmful.

Hav­ing been at the receiv­ing end of the fury of white nation­al­ists and their enablers, Zoë Quinn under­stands Gamer­gate bet­ter than any­one. Read “Crash Over­ride” if you want to bet­ter under­stand the pri­mor­dial pools that nur­tured juve­nile, pet­ty misog­y­ny and racism until it could be brave enough to enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly spread Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da on behalf of the Trump cam­paign and demon­strate in public.

They were a fig­u­ra­tive torch-wield­ing mob light­ing up their key­boards with “iron­ic” hatred and dox­ing before they were a lit­er­al torch-wield­ing mob, actu­al­ly chant­i­ng Nazi slo­gans and assault­ing peo­ple in com­mu­ni­ties like Char­lottesville, Virginia.

But don’t just read Crash Over­ride to under­stand how we got to this sad junc­ture in our nation’s his­to­ry. Read Crash Over­ride to under­stand what can be done now as we live with forms of intim­i­da­tion and harass­ment that nev­er could have exist­ed pri­or to the advent of an always on, Inter­net-con­nect­ed cul­ture — and what we still need to do as a soci­ety to con­front and stamp out these tox­ic behaviors.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for this review!

    # by Chris Spusa :: October 17th, 2017 at 4:27 AM
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