Many of us in the men’s issues community have been calling that phrase an oxymoron for a long time. Establishment media hasn’t killed it, but it has irreparably damaged our belief in it.
When I say establishment media, I’m talking about the sources many people refer to as mainstream. I don’t say mainstream because I don’t think the term is accurate. Mainstream describes the dominant trend in opinion, the norm, convention. Press that was mainstream would try to cover that which is of interest to the public, explore popular opinion, work to serve the information needs of the community that is its target audience. They would not decide what should interest the public and shove it down our throats, or make deals to benefit from misleading their target audience. There’s no room for lying and manipulation in that role. Those behaviors belong to influential, powerful entities maneuvering to maintain their hold on a community they consider charges or subjects. That is what I mean by using establishment: a group within a community that exercises power and influence over policy or taste (in this case, public opinion, and establishment journalists are accustomed to enjoying significant influence over that).
Men’s issues advocates, or men’s human rights advocates, have watched for years as establishment media sources present material that misrepresents vital aspects of various issues to manipulate public opinion. Sometimes it’s subtle, like when the terminology a source uses to describe a single thing differs depending on who they’re talking about. Other times, it’s not so subtle, like when a source offers a report highlighting the inaccuracy of a particular position on an issue, then later produces work that promotes that debunked position. Establishment media has become a megaphone for the establishment social justice warrior.
The multiple “gamers are over” articles of #gamergate were a prime example of not just media bias, but deliberate attempts by people in positions of power and trust to manipulate the community their publications serve. These were the people with what they thought was the biggest voice trying to shout down opposition to their own objectionable behavior. The response of the gaming community has been amazing.
Gamers have stood up to one hell of a systematic bully: an entity prepared to try to humiliate and shame the community into submission, not in a close, personal setting, but publicly … not content to simply pick, but possessed of a sense of entitlement to unearned regard and loyalty. Gaming media had the gall to feel entitled to manipulate the community for profit, to decide what the community is and should be, and to tell gamers everywhere what we should think and feel.
The easiest lesson everyone can take from #gamergate is that a media source’s accountability meter is its readers. You showed that, and though there is still a long way to go, it has led to some positive change. Gamers have had the courage to face an established power—those who see themselves as the gatekeepers of information—and tell them they’re useless if they can’t be honest. That is a huge act of resistance. “No” isn’t something the self-presumed gatekeepers of information are accustomed to hearing, and it’s a big reminder to them as to whose interest they depend on to stay in business.
Even bigger, though, is an underlying point the #gamergate response made about the evolution of modern journalism.
The American Press Institute defines journalism as “the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” The site goes on to cite the value of the information, value which comes from a purpose of providing people with verified information they can use to make better decisions, as the factor which differentiates journalism from other forms of communication. Throughout its description of the profession, the institute continually stresses that point—the value of presenting the public with verified, useful information.
Sound familiar, #gamergate?
It ought to, and the reason why is incredibly important.
Gamers didn’t just stand up and reject biased media. Gamers also engaged in the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information, and in particular, verified, useful information. Gamers tracked down the truth behind various rumors, myths, and allegations that floated into the community after the initial story broke and blew the lid off of various conflicts of interest within the gaming industry and gaming media industry. Gamers compared notes and analyzed the information to form conclusions, then presented their findings to the community so that the community could use that information to make their decisions. Gamers didn’t just criticize the work, but stepped up and did the job themselves.
This is something establishment media hasn’t been ready for in any of the communities which have begun doing it; the next level of evolution in communication and journalism. There’s competition from new blood in the field: You, Joe and Jane Public, at your computer, your tablet, your phone, anything you use to communicate.
You are not just the accountability meter by which journalism is measured.
You’re the new Journalist.
You don’t have to be a writer for an established publication to fulfill the standard that makes communication journalism. You don’t have to do it full-time, or for money. You don’t even have to do it regularly. It is not the source, but the standard that makes journalism what it is.
That’s probably the most valuable lesson the general gaming public can take from this controversy. You do not have to depend on established media sources for anything. Establishment journalism is not dead, but its monopoly most certainly is.
- Relational aggression and victim gender – a tale of two standards | HBR Talk 165 - January 14, 2021
- Antifeminism, relational aggression, and the men’s rights movement | HBR Talk 164 - January 7, 2021
- Update with Deborah Powney | HBR Talk 163 - December 31, 2020