Postmortem: Social Autopsy

PREFATORY NOTE: 

The following post contains references to people and subjects that when mentioned cause extreme emotional reactions in some people.  To make a point very clear: I take no stance on anything related to GamerGate.  I have no desire to discuss anything related to “ethics in gaming journalism” or “harassment” outside a clear examination of what’s made Candace Owens and “Social Autopsy.com” tank within one week and how terrible responses to communication affected this entire debacle.  The entire situation is a dumpster fire, but one we can learn from.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”–Mike Tyson

I love this quote from Mike Tyson because it examines your response to true adversity.  On a baseline fight level, Tyson knew this maxim meant you could plan for a fight, but the moment you experienced true adversity most people would freeze up and revert to their own personal defense mechanisms.  The same holds true when you’re examining just about every aspect of your life, especially conflict.  If you’ve polished your “fight strategy” going in and know your counterpart’s moves, you’ll do well until you get “punched in the mouth.”  You’ll freeze up and revert back to your old ways of talking to people or dealing with conflict.

Those who experience true adversity, people who’ve been metaphorically “punched in the mouth,” have an easier time dealing with it when adversity comes knocking.  Conflict is painful, but when you’ve dealt with it repeatedly you don’t have an issue with the pain.   You know what your reaction will be to conflict, and you can control it.  The case study for a complete inability to deal with conflict is Candace Owens and “Social Autopsy.com.” One good solid round of adversity in attempting to launch her startup made her resort to the very behavior she wanted to change societally.

Initially, Owens’ project, an “online database” searchable for parties desirous to learn about another’s “bad behavior” seemed like a joke.  Attempting to stop “cyberbullying” by calling someone a “cyberbully” is counterintuitive.  Fortunately, people recognized a Really Bad Idea when they saw it, and several people reached out to Owens in an attempt to warn her of the potential consequences for this new index.  One of those people happened to be Zoe Quinn, the alleged “patient zero” of GamerGate.  During a phone conversation, the two discussed the Social Autopsy project.  The world will most likely never know what occurred during the original exchange between Quinn and Owens.  What we do know is Quinn came away from the conversation convinced Social Autopsy wasn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, and Owens left thinking Quinn mentally unhinged and that “GamerGate” was the subject of Owens’ woes. In that moment of adversity, Owens reverted to her baseline tactic: call people names.

At best, the conversation I had with [Quinn] was weird. At worst, it was unstable.

Randi Lee Harper, another self-styled “anti harassment activist,” took issue with Owens discussing her telephone exchange with Quinn on Twitter.  She penned “An Open Letter To Social Autopsy,” where she described Owens as “a trainwreck,” “shady as hell,” and more.  Owens’ response, yet again, was to decry Randi Lee Harper as a co-conspirator with Quinn and GamerGate in shutting down her Kickstarter because of one line.

You blamed your Kickstarter getting shut down on trolls. You’re wrong. That was us.

That statement can be interpreted in any number of ways.  “Us” could be Zoe Quinn and Randi Lee Harper.  “Us” could be “anti-harassment activists.”  In a moment of complete and utter cluelessness, and relying on something as superficial as Wikipedia to get information, Owens somehow managed to connect Quinn, Harper, and GamerGate as a united front ready to put Owens through some sort of imagined cyber-bully hell.

I announced on Twitter that I would be releasing all of the e-mails; that I would be going on [a] webcast with my suspicions that Zoe Quinn was behind the cyber attacks. I ranted that I thought she was behind all of the e-mail attacks we had received and that this time, to quote her cohort, “the gloves were off”. I announced that I had e-mails and evidence and that I would be speaking out. I focused purposely on the fact that I had e-mails.

My plan worked: the emails magically stopped. They stopped cold turkey. As I sit wring this today, we have gone an entire weekend without receiving so much as one e-mailed threat.

Still think that’s a coincidence?  A total inundation and then a total sudden stop? No that is the work of Zoe Quinn.

No one, I’ll wager, has explained to Candace Owens correlation doesn’t always equal causation.  That said, no one really explained to Owens her fantastical delusion didn’t constitute “terrorism,” either.  That much is evident from her continued screed against Quinn, Harper, and GamerGate.

Randi Harper and Zoe Quinn had discussed my project with one another. Regarding that, there can be no question.

They thought they could get me to pull the project down by beefing up their respective resumes, and with one phone call from “patient zero” of Gamergate.

When that didn’t work, the two of them launched an effort of cyber-terrorism.

Once Owens ran with her gaffe on Degree 180, she started twitting it to every major news outlet she could imagine.  When she got a “hit” from a blog called “Heat Street,” she gave her side of the story and ran with it.  She was favorable to Jesse Singal of NYMag until Singal twitted a less than favorable response to the Social Autopsy project.  When that happened, Owens’ response was to question Singal’s objectivity as a reporter, intimate Singal lose his job, and stated in the same breath she didn’t care about what journalists said concerning her.

Never you mind that Candace Owens is already attempting to silence yet another journalist before an allegedly less than favorable article goes live on a national platform.  This is her new MO; you silence those who are against you and give a voice to those whose ideas you accept.

Cause of (eventual) Death: Hubris and an inability to understand target audience. 

Current Status: Project on life support due to victim status monetization.