GamerGate’s war against Ghostbusters and Leslie Jones

Here we are again. The hate group known as GamerGate—with many members who prefer being called the “alt-right” as though that’ll get them taken any more seriously—has waged an ongoing campaign against a black woman. This time, they decided to go after a rather famous and well-known black woman rather than swarming a small user who wouldn’t have any recourse.

Leslie Jones made her experience and harassers known; news outlets took notice quickly, documenting the disgusting “banter” being directed towards Leslie. Not only does this documentation do well to show the exact kind of tactics anonymous cowards like GamerGate utilize, but it adds to the pile of evidence they’ll proudly own to each other yet deny when concerned with PR.

Of course, the size and scope of the cowardly abuse wouldn’t have been possible without GamerGate’s infamous comment-section-turned-pretend-human Milo Yiannopoulos.

(Fair warning: Screenshots below will contain swears, slurs, and a lot of bigotry.)

At 10:32 AM (all times CST), Milo published what he calls a review of Ghostbusters, but what most would consider the result of copying and pasting random YouTube comments due to being a talentless writer more concerned with looking like a rejected Super Saiyan from Nazi Germany.

Leslie Jones started mentioning some of the abuse she was receiving by 11:12 AM.

By 2:45 PM, it hadn’t let up. She stated she’d been called an ape, received pictures of apes’ buttocks, and sent a picture of her face with semen on it (something several women GamerGate has targeted have endured).

Just before 3 PM, she announced that she wanted everyone to look through her replies and mentions to see the evil directed her way.


Unsurprisingly, Milo wasn’t satisfied with defecating on a keyboard and getting praised for it; he took a break at 6 PM from being the proud gay man at the Republican National Convention that conservatives could use to say, “See? He’s gay and hates gays too! It’s ok!” First, he accused Leslie of “playing the victim.” Minutes later, he accused her of being illiterate in two consecutive tweets, then finished off by calling her a man when she rightly blocked him.

Leslie continued to share the hell she was going through. The hate speech directed at her was interspersed with racist slurs, pictures of gorillas as her “family,” and graphic images ranging from porn to gore. Death threats made an appearance as well, with one being in the form of a YouTube video. These are a couple of the more tame ones:

Around 11 PM, Milo came back to share screenshots of tweets made with a third-party fake tweet service, alleging they were actual tweets from Leslie Jones. Whether he made these himself is up for debate, though it should be noted the screenshots contain a ‘delete’ button which would only be seen by the creator. Regardless, he knew they were fake yet shared them anyway.

His loyal horde of pets—who deal with the impermanence of their lives by trying to make everyone else equally miserable—joined in with the sharing of false screenshots. Some went a step further than using a third-party service and instead used their browser’s built-in ‘inspect element’ feature to edit Leslie’s tweets so the screenshots seemed more genuine.

There are several ways to tell their screenshots are false. The first is that several of them bear the markings of said third-party service used to make fake tweets, as tweets on the main Twitter site don’t have a link to ‘embed’ displayed prominent; you’ve got to click three little dots to open an options menu that provides this ability. Secondly, nowhere do these tweets show up in Leslie’s Twitter timeline, nor does anything about her, her history, or her personality give the impression that she’d ever be a hateful bigot.

Finally, and most importantly, GamerGate and its ilk are fond of archiving everything so they can spam it as ‘proof’ of whatever thing they’re mad about. When they post screenshots, they almost always include a link to that archive either in the text of their post or overlaid onto the screenshot itself.

None of these screenshots include an archive link of any sort.

Of course, GamerGate knows they have such little relevance that most people wouldn’t know their tactics, so they’ve taken to claiming Leslie deleted the tweets. Hopefully, that same irrelevance should prevent anyone but the same racists abusing Leslie from ever seeing the fake screenshots or GamerGate’s claims of their deletion.

Now, remember that all of this started sometime around 10 AM, because it wasn’t until 10 PM that Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, reached out to Leslie about the abuse she was receiving. It took 12 hours of abuse—and several articles from huge news outlets—before a CEO cared about the massive hate campaign his service and inaction was enabling. Multiple other celebrities had already reached out to Leslie to offer their support by this time.

Two new hashtags were also started before Jack reached out to Leslie. The first, #LoveforLeslieJ, was to send positive vibes and condemn the harassment she experienced. The second was #BanNero, referring to Milo's Twitter handle, with calls for Twitter to finally kick him off the site after years of targeted harassment.

But the abuse kept going. Leslie took her leave of Twitter after midnight, expressing the hurt and sorrow she felt after 14 hours of targeted abuse.

She will likely wake up in the morning to a fresh wave of hate speech and vitriol, as the GamerGaters and alt-righters who give pond scum a bad name are still gleefully celebrating and threatening to bring more. (These two screenshots provided by TakeDownMRAs.)

The question Jack Dorsey needs to ask himself is why he allows people like Milo Yiannopoulos to continually pollute his service. Milo’s had his account suspended on more than one occasion, and his role as conductor of multiple harassment campaigns resulted in having his cherished Blue Checkmark of Verification revoked. There's no doubt that the only reason he works at Breitbart is because nobody else wants a libelous bigot in their organization and the white supremacist news sites don't make enough money to put him on the payroll.

Removing a wannabe fascist like Milo would be a welcomed step towards reducing the instantaneous maelstrom of bile that so often occurs on Twitter; it would send a message that Twitter is actually serious about protecting its users, and deter the countless other bigoted windbags that strive to reach Milo’s level. There’s even the possibility that Milo’s removal from the service could see a boycott by thousands of mangry grown adults who truly believe a good way to spend their time on this planet is yelling at women for liking a Ghostbusters reboot.

What we also need to ask ourselves is how accepting we’ve been of behavior like Milo’s in our complacency and inattentiveness. Because, as many others will tell you, Leslie’s experience isn’t singular. It’s just well known. Any person of color, any woman can be subjected to this kind of abhorrent abuse without a moment’s notice—with nobody reaching out or writing an article at Buzzfeed. Even white men can endure certain levels of similar abuse should they dare to say anything that pisses off GamerGaters, alt-righters, 4channers, while supremacists, or someone overly defensive of the status quo (though it’s difficult to see a difference between any of those groups). And yes, sometimes people considered more ‘progressive’ will take part in large, disorganized abuse, in case you were already saying, “But what about—“ in your head.

Because while we like to focus on the top brass of websites for not doing enough, we also need to focus on ourselves and the online culture we tolerate so long as it doesn’t affect us. Leslie received no shortage of replies from people telling her to just ignore the hate.

That doesn’t work. It never has, it never will.

All we do by feigning ignorance is allow the propagators to move on to another target (as one friend said), fester and lash out harder, continuing to believe they’re invincible.

Leslie’s approach was to showcase the hate she was receiving, encouraging people to actively call out and address the hate groupies. I think we need to consider doing this proactively rather than waiting for things to boil over. As several have said—including Leslie—the majority of people online aren’t bad but the bad ones are the loudest.

If we can make our love louder and show the racists, bigots, sexists, and all the rest that we’re not letting them dominate our discourse, we can make real change. We can prevent more of these hate campaigns. We can drive the bad out and refuse to let them profit off of their message.

But it has to start now, and it’s going to take more effort than just reacting.

You can find us on Twitter and Facebook. Want to support Amala Network? A small donation can go a long ways.