Why Readergate is the Gamergate takedown we’ve all been waiting for

What started out as satire turned in to something darker as the #ReaderGate hashtag swirled across Twitter.

Internet Culture

Published Nov 10, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 6:03 am CDT

Since August, no one has been able to go online or turn on the TV without encountering think pieces about GamerGate. The situation began after video game developer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend wrote a blog post detailing allegations that she dated a video game journalist, which explained her success in the industry. Though those allegations have been debunked, it led to the rise of the GamerGate campaign, which promotes itself as a cause dedicated to journalistic integrity, and against, supposedly, this kind of means to success in the industry.

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Wednesday, writer and blogger Tauriq Moosa posted an article to The Daily Beast titled, ”Hey, Creeps, ‘Compliments’ are Harassment, Too,” in which he tackled the pervasive issue of male entitlement in society. His post trickled over to Twitter, where he and other followers continued the discussion, which swung back to GamerGate, as well.

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This began the #ReaderGate hashtag, which started when one intrepid Twitter user wondered to Moosa: Hey, what if literary criticism never took into account a novel’s political and social context and themes, instead just relying on the very basics of what’s written. Well, as we’ve been learning for the past day on social media, it would be a weird, weird place.

#ReaderGate hashtag users have adopted the four most common arguments from GamerGate supporters — such as anti-GamerGate advocates are just professional victims, the real GamerGate platform is about ethics in video game journalism, and those against the movement are just ”social justice warriors” trying to push politics where there isn’t any — and co-opted them, pretending to build a case for readers taking on gamers’ GamerGate concerns.

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The results? They were hilarious, yes, but then you have to remember that the arguments behind them are all too real for some people, and that’s just scary.

Take for example, if we did remove politics from literary criticism:

@tauriqmoosa Old Man And The Sea is about catching a big fish, just like Moby Dick – all those PC-loving SJWs just overinterpret it & shit

— Tommy Leung (@The_Episiarch) November 6, 2014

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Book reviewers should stick to the basics. Is the book in English? How many pages does it have? Is it printed well? #Readergate

— Jeff Fecke (@jkfecke) November 6, 2014

Damn SJWs with their reviews of Handmaid’s Tale, stop trying to push politics into my books! #Readergate

— Kayleigh Anne (@Ceilidhann) November 6, 2014

Why are SJWs like Upton Sinclair trying to force their political BS into the meatpacking industry? Go make your own industry. #Readergate

— Super NES Chalmers (@UnseenPerfidy) November 6, 2014

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Whoa, you’re trying to tell me Margaret Atwood had political thoughts? I do not believe you. And Upton Sinclair was just all about the wildlife of the jungle, right? Where’s your proof it isn’t?

@justinofclark @Senesense @Xanthe_Cat @tauriqmoosa You can’t PROVE she’s more radiant than a summer’s day. Where’s the evidence???

— Thomas Hore (@XMD5a8000) November 6, 2014

Maybe all of these political agendas are just because of secret collusion in the industry, hashtag users wondered.

Someone has leaked a series of e-mails that explain the shocking link between Stephen King, Tabitha King, and Joe Hill. #readergate

— Jodorowski’s Ben (@BenKuchera) November 6, 2014

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@DiscordianKitty absolutely disgusting collusion. #readergate

— Minah(Skeleton) (@DiscoNairobi) November 6, 2014

Many other hashtag users jumped on the idea that those against the “ReaderGate” movement are just professional victims. Salman Rushdie seems the perfect stand-in.

“Salman Rushdie was such a professional victim. Were any of the death threats against him proven?!” #Readergate

— James Lyon (@Senesense) November 6, 2014

#Readergate: Rushdie is just a professional victim, using harassment to try push book sales… eh? What’s the Booker Prize?

— Tauriq Moosa (@tauriqmoosa) November 6, 2014

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And it’s that final tweet that sends us into the underlying misogyny of “ReaderGate.”

I wish fake geek girls like Mary Shelley would stop trying to jump onto the scifi bandwagon. #ReaderGate

— ∂ₜChris = ∂ₓₓBenton (@hyperdeath128k) November 6, 2014

Gawd, Shelley. Don’t you know real readers only read Lovecraft?

Women just don’t read as many books as men, therefore the market caters to us. It’s just the way it’s always been. #ReaderGate

— Kayleigh Anne (@Ceilidhann) November 6, 2014

Facts? Who needs facts?

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#ReaderGate: Yes its bad that female authors are threatened with death but what do they expect when they come into this market. Jus saying.

— Tauriq Moosa (@tauriqmoosa) November 6, 2014

No you’re the harasser! Stop telling me how to be!

#Readergate: Marvel kowtowing to feminist agenda. Jesus!! Female Thor? What next? Female doctors?

— Tauriq Moosa (@tauriqmoosa) November 6, 2014

Let’s not get crazy, here.

Moosa and the many, many social media users who have contributed to the #ReaderGate hashtag (and many who still are) are doing what art, i.e. literature, fine art, and yes even games, is supposed to do—challenge the way we think, question the status quo, and do it all while being entertaining and engaging. How meta!

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This article originally appeared on Bustle, and has been reprinted with permission.

Photo via Caroly Czifra/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Nov 10, 2014, 10:30 am CST