Saturday, 31 August 2013

Is Jonathan McIntosh behind Anita Sarkeesian's views?

No. That's the short answer to that question.

In case you don't follow, one of Anita's critics conducted something of an investigation into her internet past, uncovering little details about her former website, former career and a look into a man called Jonathan McIntosh. Up until now, McIntosh's name didn't mean much other than being a name that showed up next to Anita's in the credits of the Tropes Vs Women in Games series with the credits "Produced By" and "Written By". Looking into his other sites more, there's more to it than that.

[It seems this video has since been removed.]

In short, McIntosh was already expressing strong feminist viewpoints while Anita was still selling PR services online, before her own viewpoints ever became known. She went as far as to use some of his statements about Lego in her own videos. They've apparently known each other for at least five years or so. Today, McIntosh still expresses the same viewpoints on Twitter, still works with Anita Sarkeesian and you can see if you scroll far enough down his Twitter page, uses very similar language as Anita when talking about gender issues, albeit more argumentative.

There was a lot more revealed on a Tumblr page than in that video above but I'm afraid I won't be linking to that page here; there's a lot that can be said about Anita Sarkeesian -- and trust me, before the end of this blog, I will be saying plenty -- but when you're posting links to her mother's website, you really have to call it a day.

So why do I think McIntosh isn't responsible for Anita's arguments? Well in short, it isn't conclusive. I absolutely think Anita was influenced by McIntosh's viewpoints but there's nothing to say that she didn't already have feminist views herself. It isn't like McIntosh had a background in feminism, Anita had a background in pyramid schemes and one fateful day, the two met and Feminist Frequency was born. Anita has also performed college talks by herself and I'm sure she wouldn't be going out there on her own if she didn't think she could handle any questions on gender issues tossed in her direction. Not that I think she's been asked any challenging questions, mind you, and the no-recording policy is obviously in place just in case she ever is.

I don't want it to sound like I'm being too harsh on anyone who is in full support of the information dug up on Anita. In fact, she could learn a lot from people so thorough and hey, for all we know, I could be wrong and McIntosh really could be pulling the strings. However, I think the desire to uncover information on the notoriously closed-off Anita Sarkeesian won out over the need to argue sensibly in this case.

It's also worth noting that Anita acknowledged the discovery on Twitter:

In a way, she has a point. Except for the victim blaming, which is complete twaddle. I'm not even sure who the "victim" is that she's describing here. Jonathan McIntosh? Herself?

Something I've noticed is that, even though I've said before that Anita doesn't respond to criticism, that's not quite true; she actually responds to criticism that's very easy to dismiss. For example, it's incredibly easy to dismiss the information that people dug up on her either because it doesn't appear to be relevant to her current videos -- I don't want to speculate on how much or how little of Anita's slightly shady "Success Secrets Of Self-Made Millionaires" course have influenced her current work, although the case is certainly building -- or because it really does sound like a conspiracy theory. Still, it certainly is the pot calling the kettle black when a person who blames everything on the patriarchy blames other people for concocting conspiracy theories ...

It isn't the first time Anita has responded to the "easy" criticism. Earlier this month, Doug Walker, who some of you may know as The Nostalgia Critic, posted a criticism of Anita on his Facebook page where he expressed his disappointment that Anita hadn't focused on any strong female characters yet. Now I'm happy that Doug, as a high-profile internet personality, is voicing his concerns over the Tropes Vs Women in Games series but I think most of us know that Anita will be devoting an episode of her series to positive female examples.

So naturally, this was one of the few criticisms that could easily be answered and dismissed:

And the only video response to the Damsel in Distress videos that Anita has made the wider audience aware of is MovieBob's reply, which was full of praise and dismissed the critics as trolls and abusers. It didn't break any new ground, in other words.

On-topic, it doesn't really matter if McIntosh is behind all of Anita's arguments. The fact that such biased and one-sided arguments are being given such recognition by the mainstream gaming media is the larger problem. In the last two weeks alone, she's been featured in Wired magazine and gave a talk at The Conference 2013 in Sweden. The online abuse crops up in what little of the Wired article is available to read online -- as does her example of Dinosaur Planet from the first Damsel In Distress video, with zero mention of the male playable character this time around -- and Anita's talk at The Conference revolved around it.

So yes, I know it's frustrating. We're talking about a person who has refused to face up to the majority of criticism aimed in her direction for the last year and a third, yet has been making the most of whatever publicity she can garner from the original abuse in that entire time. I know it's frustrating that mainstream gaming sites have never printed an article critical of Anita in the slightest (although the Wired article is the first in some time, so I guess no news is good news apart from that) or posted links or interviews with anyone who disagrees with her.

Although even with all that, we shouldn't go looking for a quick-fix to discredit Anita. You could say that bits and pieces of the information have merit but the fact is that educating people on why Anita's arguments are flawed, hypocritical and biased is always going to be necessary, if a pain in the neck more often than not. The thing is, as stupid as this sounds -- and writing it down now, it occurs to me that maybe I'm making a bigger deal out of this than is necessary -- I think that if we're not going to be listened to, we shouldn't be listened to for all the right reasons rather than the wrong ones.

Besides, having chatted to Anita's supporters online, we could uncover evidence that she's a killer robot from the future and they'd try to find a way to justify it. That's what they did after the video-stealing affair and the Randy Pitchford murder fanfic hypocrisy.

In other news, I got banned from the TV Tropes forum a while ago for talking about Anita Sarkeesian ... in a Feminist Frequency thread. Seriously, that was more or less the reason ("derailing" was the actual term used, in spite of the fact that I didn't start the derail and other members weren't talking about Feminist Frequency anyway). I wouldn't normally broadcast that here but I know I have at least one private message that I'm unable to answer. So I'm sorry to that person.

Also, I start my game development course at college in a little over a week. I've been playing around with Unity and the Unreal Development Kit and they're both terrifyingly daunting. I also don't get much information from the college, so I'm petrified that other students will be better than me even though I figured we'd all be at the same level. I'm hoping that's not the case.


  1. So that's why I've not seen you on that thread on TV Tropes lately, I thought you'd just given up on the discussion.

    Anyway, it's strange how she's managed to stay so relevant in gaming this past year. I guess that's a testament to so many people thinking she'll in some way make video games look "less shameful" or something to the general public.

    Maybe there needs to be some kind of mass movement to get a better (for lack of a better term) "spokesperson" for equality out in the spotlight, like that Kite Tales girl or something.

    1. I'd like to see a better "spokesperson" for equality too but apparently, Kite Tales wants to disassociate herself from the discussion; she unlisted one of her videos on the subject because she had other topics she was interested in and didn't want people thinking that's what her Youtube channel was about.

    2. I don't blame her, though. Most people don't play video games for the politics.

      The problem I think isn't that she wants to distance herself from the issue, but that positive people like her aren't the ones people 'see' when they view the culture (especially as opposed to Sarkeesian).

      I lay the blame, however, for the lack of a better 'spokesperson', at the feet of the self proclaimed progressives, who instead of standing up and doing the job properly themselves, opted to just fall in behind Sarkeesian and her biases (And I could say, cynically, showed their true colours in doing so...)

  2. First, good luck in your studies! I know it can be hard entering a new field and finding that at least some people might be better. Don't give up, though!

    Second, whether someone is behind her views or not, Ms. Sarkeesian is one of the most woefully tone-deaf people ever to call themselves pop culture analysts that I've actually seen in action, and supposedly, Sady Doyle is worse in that regard. Though criticisms of both women are similar--they're both tone-deaf about the pop culture that they criticize, they treat anyone who might disagree with them on even one point like they're trolls, or men in love with being every kind of "-ist" known to humanity, and both of their opinions are given way more of a platform solely because they're women who call themselves feminist, rather than because they have anything worth saying. The only difference between Ms. Doyle and Ms. Sarkeesian is that Ms. Doyle, to my knowledge, doesn't have as big a following as Ms. Sarkeesian does. As big a following that is willing to defend her even though the bulk of her arguments are based on special pleading, pseudo-authority, contradictions on top of contradictions, her favorite being the old "I'm not saying exactly what I spent an entire video saying", and some good old fashioned slippery slope and creating causal links that aren't there. But then I don't think that most people, or even nearly all people, are that influenced by the media they consume. I simply refuse to believe that people are passive sponges that only absorb what they see in video games and then mimic it mindlessly in a game of Simon Says. That's one of the things that bothers me the most about pop culture critics like Ms. Sarkeesian or the number of Concerned Parent/Concerned Citizen groups that exist, this assumption that everyone else is a mindless sponge, but they're somehow more "enlightened", the sort of people who would use the word "sheeple" unironically.

    And that whole Randy Pitchford Murder Fanfic fiasco was just vile, but I kind of expected it. Like I've said, Ms. Sarkeesian embraces this "Mockery For Thee But Not For Me" position, another manifestation of her hypocrisy.

    1. Thank you for the support! Just what I needed right now.

      I hadn't heard of Sady Doyle until I read your comment but I did a quick search and found some of her articles. I can see why she and Anita receive similar criticism. They say very similar things when they review Sucker Punch, when they praise Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc. The usual stuff. The article that changed my opinion on Sady Doyle for the worse was this one on domestic violence:

      It starts totally fine. Hits all the right points and gets across how an ill thought-out advert might deter male victims of domestic violence from coming forward. Then the last paragraph ruins it all by saying, "of course, you know that the real victims are women, right?"

      As for the rest of your points, I couldn't have put it better myself. Back when Jack Thompson was pursuing his vendetta about video games, practically every video game enthusiast I saw was pointing out the inaccuracies of his arguments; for example, according to him, video games like Grand Theft Auto were "murder simulators" but if we were that influenced by video games, we'd all be magnificent drivers after playing racing games too. Anita is certainly guilty of creating the same causal links that aren't really there, as you said, designed to fit a conclusion that she's already come to; a system that "tends to reinforce the dominant gender paradigm", to quote from one of her transcripts.

      I love the phrase "Mockery For Thee But Not For Me". First time I've heard it. I might try to slip it into conversations in real life.

    2. You're quite welcome.

      "Mockery For Thee But Not For Me" is the best phrase I could think of to sum up that bit of hypocrisy. She has more or less stated that mockery and heaping abuse on people was fine as long as they "maintained the status quo" or something like that, but rails against it when it's dpne to her. So, of course she'd approve of, or at least condone, fanfiction written about her killing Randy Pitchford, who represents "the status quo".

      Then again my dislike of Sady Doyle came when she criticized Harry Potter for being sexist for, among other things, Molly Weasley's usage of the word "bitch" and Hermionie's not being mentioned in The Prophecy as being important, as if not being explicitly stated as important makes her unimportant. That was when I realized that she had no idea what she was talking about.

      But then, I don't think that people are that easily influenced by the media, be it video games or movies or books. It was something I encountered with certain people on the right wing, namely Concerned Parent groups, and it's one of the things that bothers me about Ms. Sarkeesian, right next to her getting basic facts wrong and her tendency to backpedal so hard the bike chain snaps. People who think that everyone is just going along with what pop culture says, as if it's a game of Follow the Leader or Simon Says. A game that, the Concerned Parents or Concerned Pop Culture Critics know is a game, and so not only won't they play it, but they've taken it upon themselves to "wake people up" to the fact that it is a game. For all their talk of other people being overly influenced by the media I think they've watched the Matrix movies a few too many times.

    3. So I realize I'm kind of just walking in, and acting like a know-it-all, but what Ruby said about the mindless sponges business sort of solidified in my mind an observation I had.

      I don't think it's correct that people don't absorb and act on media like a sponge, infact I think they do...but the important distinction in 'what kind' of media, and in what regard people hold it.

      People regard books, movies, and video games, as fantasy.
      People regard news, journalism and 'critics' as FACT.

      And if that 'factual' media tells people that other people will sponge up what video games tell them, well, they sponge that a spongeception.

      It's related to Mean World Syndrome, but what I'm zeroing in on is the fact/fantasy dichotomy, and how the former has the power to essentially override the latter and blur it (Unless I've botched this, which I probably have).

      Then again, I think we might possibly be arguing semantics...

      And personally I've tried to pay as little attention to Sarkeesian herself as possible, but I'd heard this Randy Pitchford murder fanfic being mentioned around the net, but honestly had no idea what the details were, nor cared to look.
      My assumption was somebody had just written a revenge fantasy (For reasons not hard to imagine...) and Sarkeesian had harped on it as being proof of 'the dangerous, testosterone fueled masculine culture of violence' or whathaveyou...

      But you're saying, no, it's about her, murdering Randy Pitchford, and she's happy with this? even after she's expressively stated she's against violence...


  3. paraphrasing lewis black: she's either a jackass in black and white, or she's a jackass in color.

  4. Hi, this is Nettacki from the forums.

    While I did appreciate your presence and insight while you were at TVTropes, even I have to admit that you were a bit of an ass sometimes when you're in a heated argument with someone, and some of those arguments were started by you. Maybe that's why you were eventually banned, perhaps the last thread you participated in, even though you didn't do a lot wrong, was the straw that broke the camel's back.

    1. Considering a mod accused him of misogyny and annother agreed I have the feeling his arguments and not the way he presented him were at fault for his ban. The stated reason, after all, was "derailing", not any kind of attitude from him, which was far worse from several feminists on the forum.