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The video threatening to visit Wu’s house is clearly a parody, but the scare factor is all too real.
A Gamergate member who crashed his car on icy roads this weekend used the incident as an excuse to film a tongue-in-cheek diatribe against noted Gamergate target Brianna Wu, claiming that he was on his way to her house to kill her.
As with all things Gamergate, it’s extremely hard to tell where sarcasm ends and terrifying death threats become reality. But it made enough of an impact with Wu that she notified law enforcement.
Wu tells the Daily Dot via email that the Arlington Police got in touch with her Monday and she’s scheduled to speak with them Tuesday morning. This after filing three different reports over the weekend, she says. Wu says it’s a process that has taken far too long: “I needed them to take action a month ago. We’re past the point where excuses are acceptable.”
Wu says that even if this incident is a satirical prank, her family is legitimately concerned by the Gamergate threats: “We’re scared and we’re exhausted. I’m worried that someone is going to have to die before law enforcement takes these threats seriously. Law enforcement’s reaction has been to suggest, ‘shutting off your electronic devices.'”
It’s an ongoing issue that Wu says requires a more aggressive solution across the board from law enforcement.
“He’s still tweeting threats at me, and by doing nothing – law enforcement [is] enabling it. The long term solution is to make sure law enforcement has the tools it needs to prosecute online harassment,” Wu says. “This is going to require funding, it’s going to require laws be [passed] that clearly outline whose responsibility it is to respond to these threats.”
The good news is that to anyone familiar with the gaming community on YouTube, the video is clearly a parody, as is basically everything about the Gamergate persona alternately known as Jace Connors, or ParkourDude91. Connors went on what Gawker called a “deranged” rant about his totaled car on Friday, which he claimed he wrecked while street racing. Here’s his reportedly sarcastic writeup of the incident, which he posted with the video called “Brianna Wu tried to assassinate me via street racing”:
On Friday, January 30 2015 I nearly died in a rollover after borrowing my mother’s Prius to drive to Boston and make a video exposing Brianna Wu for her treachery in the games industry. While on the highway I was “Street Racing” by driving very quickly and challening [sic] other drivers, in order to sneak up on Wu un-noticed [sic]… Unfortinately [sic] she saw me coming and sabotaged my vehicle.”
Outside of gaming, the style of near-incoherent screeching in rage that Connors uses in the first half of the video may seem like the mark of an individual who’s completely gone off the rails and who is capable of anything. But it’s actually a hyperbolic style familiar to gamers and gaming YouTubers, most notably in the fictional persona of “Francis,” a character of YouTube celebrity Stephen Williams (boogie2988) who’s known for working himself up into epic incoherent rage fits over various issues in gaming.
In addition to the video parody, an alleged transcript of a Skype chat shows Connors attempting to get a friend to join him in the “op” to challenge Wu in his street-racing duel. The exchange shows Connors urging his friend to bring a gun while claiming to fear for his life. The exercise, with its commentary on video games versus reality (“this is just the same exact thing as Payday 2“), again seems to be a parody.
But while Connors seems to be a troll, it’s hard to laugh him off given a Gamergate history that includes an anonymous gamer threatening a mass shooting on a university campus in order to silence a feminist gamer. Wu, an independent game developer, has repeatedly been a Gamergate target because of her feminist critique of the culture. She’s also been the prominent target of an endless string of real death and rape threats, and was forced out of her home at the height of Gamergate last year.
Wu saw the video on Saturday. Understandably, she was terrified:
This is serious stuff. This man has other videos where he is brandishing firearms, and one with a knife threatening to kill me.
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) January 31, 2015
Does a woman have to get murdered for law enforcement to take the online harassment of women seriously?
— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) January 31, 2015
To make things even more impossibly confusing, after the incident, Gamergate members flocked to accuse Reddit‘s anti-Gamergate community r/Gamerghazi as proponents of creating the video. The Ralph Retort and KingofPol interviewed Connors, who aligned himself with Gamergate, and came to the conclusion that “Jace is just trolling everyone.”
Monday, Connors uploaded another video in which he declared the “Wupocalypse” would continue:
I am still receiving daily threats from Brianna Wu. She said she has a gun and she is driving to kill me. Please donate to my Patreon… so I can survive her brutal assaults on my character.
Screengrab via ParkourDude/YouTube
Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.