How the Public Faces of Anti-Abuse Nearly Killed a Ton of Trans People
It's notable for being Jake's own personal Zoe Post; an attack piece against Randi Harper, and against Zoe Quinn for cutting him out of her life. It's also notable because in this post, he actually acknowledges some of the biggest claims made against Crash Override Network as legitimately, all the while failing to actually acknowledge them as such.
It also features an attack against Soha El-Sabaawi, the director of diversity and inclusion for Riot Games, dismissing her as a romantic rival of Quinn's.
This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to write, and I'm sure it's going to have terrible repercussions for me, but my conscience won't allow me to stay silent on this any longer.
In the middle of August of 2014 a coalition of neo-nazis, suicidal teens, and movement misogynists came together to start something which would later be retroactively named Gamergate. There's a lot to get into about what Gamergate is, much of which I've covered at length here, but all you really need to know is that the perpetrators are dangerous terrorists, the elaborate coordinated system they created to terrorize their targets was Zoë Quinn, and nearly everyone they have targeted, Quinn included, is someone they at least initially believed to be trans.
When Gamergate first began, I happened to be in a very low point in my life. I had just made an attempt to come out as trans to my family, been met with severe hostility, and started an anonymous blog largely to try and find resources on how to escape the resulting situation, with which I wasn't having any luck. Additionally, many of those who first came to Quinn's defense were, if not personal friends, members of a social circle I was affiliated with, and from the initial pattern of doxxing and targeting "associates" it seemed at the time that everyone I cared about would eventually fall under Gamergate's crosshairs. So between my conveniently pre-established social media sites I couldn't be traced through, concern for my friends, and a mental state which didn't especially prioritize my own safety, I dropped everything in my life to focus on a combination of exposing Gamergate for the gleefully life-destroying gaggle of neonazis churning out ridiculous conspiracy theories it was, and providing as much moral support as I could to victims who were specifically being isolated from their social safety nets by Gamergate's favored tactic of threatening the lives of anyone so much as talking to an active target.
I was not alone in doing this. Several other people with no skin initially in the game, for reasons I have to this day never been impolite enough to ask, also jumped in on the general principle of the thing to pull back the curtain on what Gamergate was and aid victims as best we could. We became familiar with each other as a result, eventually becoming friends, and all of us were, of course, targeted by Gamergate and subjected to absolutely horrific attacks for the last three years and counting. Zoë Quinn was also largely in the mix, having obvious personal reasons for wanting to see this terrorist organization brought down, and dealing with some guilt over defender's getting targeted just as severely if not more so.
At some point, one of the people involved in this horrible mess had the bright idea of creating a chat room to act as a support group for us, initially containing only the small handful of us dealing with all this anonymously, because you need some kind of emotional support when neo-nazis are bombarding you with videos of dogs being beaten to death with shovels and grotesque threats about mutilating your body and those of any children in your family, and we were keeping it small with a promise not to invite anyone in without unanimous consent. At some point however, we collectively made the mistake of inviting in Zoë Quinn.
Quinn immediately started making demands of the whole group, mostly in the form of concerns about security, and invited in a number of other people, forgoing the established rule of anonymity, and instead going by a simple standard of anyone publicly standing up to Gamergate and/or publicly talking up how great Quinn was, for a mix of very good people I still consider very good friends, some extremely unstable people who made a lot of us feel rather unsafe, someone who would later be revealed as a sexual predator, and a neo-nazi Quinn knew was a fan of Hitler, but argued to the rest of us was reformed.
Being the only common link after inviting in a bunch of strangers, and playing up concerns based in being the primary target of Gamergate (who ironically enough at the time were bending over backwards to distance themselves, dubbing Quinn "Literally Who" and attempting to focus on other targets), Quinn adopted the role of leader, issuing increasingly demanding requests from everyone to monitor neo-nazi websites for serious threats, compile tweets with clear death threats from Gamergate ringleaders to present at meetings with the company, and encouraging outreach and solidarity to the targets of the day.
All of this came at a huge toll to everyone's mental health and personal safety, which Quinn was quite aware of, generally keeping up everyone's spirits with constant promises of sharing the absurd amounts of donations rolling in through Patreon, providing everyone with quality psychiatric care, safe housing for everyone who had been doxxed and was being subjected to extreme dangers like SWATing and becoming the focus of Breitbart hit pieces. Even promises of formally forming an organization that would give everyone full salaries and health coverage.
Most of the people these promises were being made to were desperate unemployed trans women a step away from homelessness, who had been rendered absolutely unemployable due to the attacks being delivered by Gamergate.
Nobody other than Quinn ever saw a single cent.
Quinn was also engaged in extreme emotional manipulation with everyone in the group. We exchanged private messages almost every day, where I was told Quinn trusted me more than anyone, would always have my back, would support me in dealing with my increasingly abusive home life, and asking me to take custody of a cat at a point where stalkers were necessitating a move across the country she might not be able to come along for. Years later I learned she had similar conversations with everyone else present, with the phrase "I love you" as a specific common thread, and platitudes of support for trans people's rights as appropriate.
Meanwhile, as she is also rather important to this story, let me back up for a brief discussion of Randi Harper. A few months into Gamergate, Harper was working at a fairly obscure game company, and as such felt the urge to comment on what was, from that perspective, an obvious coordinated terror effort, attracting the ire of Gamergate. This was not in any way remarkable, as they were constantly running twitter searches to find critics and attacking literally anyone speaking out about them. I reached out in support, and honestly hit things off fairly well with her. She's one of those people with a very short fuse, an irreverent streak, and no real impulse control, which makes her easy to get along with when it's nazis that are pushing her buttons, if a source of headaches in, really, any other situation. Continuing to kick the beehive and getting stung in kind eventually lead Harper to use her coding skills to throw together GG Auto Blocker, a script scanning the followings of twitter accounts for Gamergate ringleaders, interfacing with Blocktogether to preemptively block a huge swath of disposable nazi accounts before they can get a word out. Damn handy to have at the peak of things where literally anyone so much as mentioning them was routinely getting shouted at by 100-200 different attack accounts per day, and I did my part to promote Harper and her work to everyone having to deal with that. Something for which I am of course now very sorry.
Harper became something of a celebrity for creating GGAB, being interviewed regularly over it, getting enough donations in thanks to quit her job, and letting it all go to her head to enough of a degree to formally found an anti-abuse organization, with the official backing of Zoë Quinn, who immediately regretted the endorsement as, frankly, Harper's personality makes her incredibly ill-suited for being in charge of anything, especially a public facing role fighting abuse, and Quinn routinely complained about Harper's inability to take the role seriously, or do anything meaningful with it and encouraging everyone to distance themselves from her.
Harper's confrontational nature coupled with her newfound platform and reputation more or less immediately began to cause problems, wherein she would pick fights with random activists on twitter. Most infamously, she once attempted to call out a trans woman for being irresponsible as she was organizing efforts to get twitter to ban a woman with a very long and public record of stalking trans women and threatening their lives, with evidence of acting on these threats with very real physical violence. Harper blocked the actvist to avoid dealing with counterarguments to her baseless objections, and an ever-growing snowball of others, mostly trans, as people began to demand why she kept getting into public fights with trans activists. Around the same time, Harper also began to market her private blocklist as an "improved" alternative to GGAB, sharing it with anti-abuse organizations and big name celebrities who shared it in turn, effectively blacklisting some hundreds of trans people and trans allies, cutting them off on twitter from the bulk of the entertainment industry, the press, and organizations specifically focused on trans outreach.
As the issue of Harper's blacklist was growing difficult to ignore Quinn became more isolated, at first focused on book writing, but also clearly bored with the whole anti-abuse scene, and conflicted over how to address the aforementioned neo-nazi showing his true colors and attacking the rest of us more and more openly. Quinn had also encouraged everyone to pick a fight with a former romantic rival that largely turned ugly and was actively looking to shift the blame onto anyone else, making me into something of a scapegoat, despite me not having stuck my foot into that particular mess, privately suggesting to people that I shouldn't be trusted as I never trusted anyone with "my real name."
Eventually, Quinn decided to pull the plug on the whole thing, dissolving the chat room (having migrated everyone to a private server), seizing everyone's collective work combating GG and exposing nazis, getting an extention on a then near-finished book for rewrites to remove everyone else's contributions, and checking out of the anti-abuse scene more or less entirely to work on a goofy FMV game.
Before fully stepping out (with individual promises made to everyone that after a brief hiatus that steady pay and security would be coming for everyone who wasn't too risky to deal with), Quinn and Harper both made fairly public displays of attacking a woman for starting an extremely ill-advised kickstarter for a database of "bad people" designed to encourage vigilante attacks against anyone whose name was submitted through an open system. This was indeed an extraordinarily terrible idea and I'm glad it never got off the ground, but generated a fair bit of negative publicity for the pair, as the woman behind the kickstarter had enough of a platform to amplify conspiracy theories Gamergate began feeding her about Quinn and Harper making Gamergate up to advance some ridiculous agenda. In the midst of this she abandoned her twitter handle, still plugged in her kickstarter, with a horde of nazis in a position to then seize it as a mouthpiece for all sorts of ridiculous propaganda.
Fortunately, a quick-thinking bystander grabbed it instead, made a couple quick joke posts to establish it was no longer in use by its original owner, and mothballed it. Deprived of their new toy, Gamergate picked a name out of a hat to redouble attacks on, and claimed the account had been "stolen" by either Harper or notorious and dangerous in his own right anti-trans bigot Jessie Singal. Harper responded in the most horrifyingly irresponsible way imaginable, making a random guess that the identity of the actual thief was some random mouthy trans person and encouraging Gamergate to investigate and attack accordingly. In the words of the person they primarily switched their focus to...
(Editor's Note: What follows is a selection of tweets from Nora Reed, denying that she did anything wrong with her hijacking of the Social Coroner account.)