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The Internet Ruined My Life

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The Brianna Wu SyFy Bingo Card. All but four spots were filled by the end of the night.

The Internet Ruined My Life is a show on the SyFy network. It is a show predominantly dedicated to telling the story of how certain individuals had their lives "destroyed" by the Internet and Social Networking. It is primarily of relevance to this wiki due to the appearance of Brianna Wu on the show on March 17th, 2016.

Whilst Wu clearly intended the episode to be supportive of her long-held narrative and talking points that she was the victim of everything and GamerGate was on a mission to personally destroy her, the episode instead became the subject of widespread mockery, as Brianna Wu claimed to have been driven into a nervous breakdown by a meme, claimed to have had her claims ignored by the FBI, and finally, featured both Jace Connors and Tyce Andrews of Deagle Nation fame, over a year after the pair were shown to be a hoax, the brainchild of comedian Jan Rankowski.

The episode was presaged heavily by Brianna Wu explaining that her story was finally going out to the masses, and the Kiwi Farms setting up a betting pool and Bingo card based upon what the episode would actually cover and how: Would Wu lie in the Episode as she had at SXSW? Would she try to sensationalize things like she had with previous incidents, irrespective of the damage she did to her own professional credibility? Would she own up to the accusation that Natalie O'Brien didn't exist, or that she didn't have any of the college credentials she claimed?

The answers would become clear when the episode aired.

Those wishing to watch the Episode may do so here.

Episode Breakdown and Analysis

The episode opens with Wu stating she was targeted for "violent harassment," and immediately blaming GamerGate.

It then immediately launches into an oft-repeated story of how she first got into video games because of her owning an NES and getting Super Mario II, wherein Princess Peach was playable. Whilst its not been possible to confirm or deny this information one way or the other, all current evidence is that Brianna Wu first got into video games in the 1990s, specifically when the Sony Playstation came out, as evidenced by the various memes and references in Socially Unconscious and Revolution 60. Wu goes onto claim that Video Gaming in general didn't "move forward" from featuring Peach in SMB2, though there are countless examples of female protagonists in video games in this time period.

Wu then goes on, with the help of SyFy, to cite the "women are a majority demographic in games" statistic, a flawed study that chooses to group people by gender and not by platform of choice - so the grandmothers playing Candy Crush or Angry Birds on a mobile phone are considered the same as the more hardcore gamers playing Call of Duty. This flawed study, commonly cited by GamerGate opponents, seeks to stamp out such demarcations to make the argument that there is a problem with inclusion in video gaming - when there provably is not.[1][2][3]

At this point, we finally see the actress portraying Brianna Wu, and the first bit of unintentional humor arrives in this piece. Wu proceeds to go on about the need for inclusivity in gaming (a claim that has, again, been refuted by evidence multiple times) and cited this as the impetus for forming Giant SpaceKat Studios. Wu then shows clips from Revolution 60, which at the time, was not on the IOS Store or Steam, and hence, is a game that was completely unavailable when this episode aired. Wu goes on to claim that there needs to be "more games for women" than there currently are, whilst citing her own game, which garnered considerable controversy because of its overtly sexualized character designs.

Several clips criticizing GamerGate then air, mostly attempting to sensationalize the hashtag consumer boycott into the terrorist threat that Brianna Wu likes to pretend that it is. After posting more examples of the "Harassment" Wu received (the overpowering majority of which were either stuff from burner accounts/trolls and/or in response to something inflammatory Brianna has said or done, Brianna Wu then labels, essentially, all male game developers as unintentional conspirators with GamerGate and claimed that they enabled it to happen via their silence. Brianna then claims that she intended to use her own voice to get the word out. This mirrors what Wu previously attempted to say, albeit less articulately, on the David Pakman Show, wherein she was unable to give an example of how her own harassment was tied to "the industry." Appropriately enough, Brianna Wu did not provide an example in her SyFy episode, either.

Brianna Wu then cites the Oppressed Gamergate Meme, wherein she made an image macro of a screaming autistic child, and started posting it to provoke GamerGate supporters, only to have her macro appropriated and mocked. Wu claims, as seriously as she is able, that this was "the tweet that ruined my life," and, as she had done previously, attempted to frame her unfunny (and arguably offensive, given the autistic child used in it) meme being mocked as "violence" and attempting to frame longstanding internet-isms like "Talk Shit, Get Hit" as threats.

The scene then cuts to a dramatic re-enactment with the Actress portraying Brianna Wu and the actor portraying Frank Wu, about how horrified she was over this whole thing, followed by a lengthy segment of Frank Wu talking about how Brianna had been personally attacked. Ever strong, however, Brianna Wu claims she intended to stand up to this bold criticism of her terrible meme, which she claims on national television, lest anyone following along not put two and two together, has destroyed her and her husband's lives. Of note: Frank would not stop smiling during his segment, undermining any attempt he may have been making to look serious.

Wu acknowledging that Jace was a fraud back in February of 2015. Oops!

Brianna Wu then claims that because she stood up to GamerGate, that she was subjected to doxing. There are a number of glaring issues with this claim. The Operation FalseFag II posting was proven to have been from either Brianna Wu herself or one of her associates (An anonymous former employee of GSX has claimed it was Frank Wu) via the hashdata. Similarly, the incident in which Brianna Wu was initially doxed on 8chan featured contact information from Brianna Wu's own website. You see, Brianna Wu's "office" is at her home, and Giant SpaceKat Studios' mailing address is her home address, and was on her own website until it was removed in October of 2014.

At this point, Brianna Wu drops all pretense of subtlety and posts the Death to Brianna Tweets and claims they were a legitimate threat to her life. These tweets were provably from Something Awful, who took credit for both them and similar threats directed at Anita Sarkeesian.[4] The claim that this was legitimate makes for excellent drama, but sadly has no real basis in reality; Brianna knew this one was no threat to her hours after it was made, and, as David Pakman pointed out, Brianna Wu did the exact opposite of what the police advise to do in such a situation and publicized her own harassment. Brianna Wu also openly berates the FBI's failure to act on her behalf, presumably because she repeatedly tried and failed to use it as her personal army.

Brianna then goes on to faux-cry about how she feared for her life.

This rather massive bit of silliness is followed then by Wu making the widely-disproven claim that Brianna and Frank were forced to leave their home by the harassment. This has been disproven multiple times, since Brianna Wu did most of her interviews from her home, including her interview with David Pakman. Frank then claims that they were constantly on edge and looking behind them just in case they were being followed by a threatening tweet. It's then that things get a little bit unusual: apparently not content to have this wiki debunk the claim that Brianna Wu was forced to leave her home, Brianna Wu then elects to do so herself by claiming to have returned to her home to do work before leaving the house at night to go to a hotel, because this is how death threats work, according to Brianna Wu, and claims that she thought she was going to die, as she received yet more death threats and got the police involved, who had the unmitigated audacity to tell Wu to not respond to her harassment and to avoid using Twitter if she was that worried about people sending her fake threats from one-off accounts. Anyone familiar with the Wu Family and their relationship with law enforcement knows that the reason Wu didn't do exactly this is because doing so wouldn't allow her to exploit it for attention.

It is then, at about 9:47 in the video, that history is made, when Brianna Wu cues her infamous "threats from GamerGate" audio - and follows it up with the leering, skull mask-wearing visage of Tyce Andrews of Deagle Nation. At this point, any attempt to take this seriously is officially gone forever; by this point, Deagle Nation had been known to have been a hoax for almost a year and a half, and even bitterly Anti-GamerGate communities felt that claims that Deagle Nation was a threat were non-credible. Not to be outdone, the scene then cuts to the infamous Street Racing Incident and Jace Connors shrieking near his mom's crashed Prius.

Wu's SyFy episode has just become a full-blown farce.

Frank Wu then tries to explain how shattering this entire incident was for Brianna Wu, all the while smiling about it. Brianna Wu then complains about how the harassment she suffered destroyed her life, cutting to a scene of the actress portraying her collapsing against the door in tears, claiming that she has been terrorized by the prospect of "GamerGate coming to hurt her." Brianna Wu then claims there were no prosecutions for her death threats - which is true, but it's because Brianna Wu didn't do anything to minimize them and, of course, never filed a police report.

Brianna Wu then attempts to push for federal legislation to stop trolls from committing acts of bullying on Twitter. She says then that the Internet destroyed her life, but that if she could go back in time, she'd totally do it all again the same way, proving that Brianna Wu has learned absolutely nothing for the experience and has no intention of playing anything but the victim of everything anytime soon.

Aftermath

The aftermath of the episode was marked by it being an immediate object of ridicule and mockery, as Brianna Wu repeatedly attempted to claim everything in the special was factual and accurate as countless others pointed out the numerous holes in Wu's story and examples of Wu's failings.[5] Suffice to say, Brianna reacted to such criticism sharply, going immediately on the offensive against anyone who covered it. Indeed, Brianna was responsible for getting the Kiwi Farms' twitter account suspended for a day after it posted an image of the forums at the time, who was mocking Brianna Wu.[6]

Other groups focused on the lies Brianna told during it, most notably the ones centered around Wu's coverage of Deagle Nation, which Wu knew was a hoax almost 13 months previous.[7] Others brought up that Wu is a sensationalizing fiend who has been drawing attention from actual victims.[8]

Where Are They Now?

Brianna Wu had a follow-up interview with the SyFy network on March 17th, 2016, to accompany the the infamous video.[9]

Below is a transcript.

Transcript

Brianna Wu, a prominent figure in the video game industry, stood her ground against misogyny and for that she received death threats. Found out what life for Brianna is like now.


1. Are you currently active on Social Media? If yes, how has your online activity changed since the incident that changed your life?

Yes, I'm still very active on social media! Unfortunately since then, my interactions with strangers are much more guarded. Even when people are acting normal or even nice, there's the possibility that they have an ulterior motive. There was one guy who liked a few of my tweets so I responded a few times. A few days later him and others started attacking me, contacting business partners and harassing them about their connections to me. When his account was shut down for violating Twitter's policies, he started a blog where he posted all about me a few times a month. I'm definitely much more wary of people now.


2. What type of support did you seek in the aftermath of what happened to you?

At first, and for a few months, I was in shock. I didn't know where to turn, who to ask for help, or even how to ask for help. There wasn't a lot of information out there for victims of these kinds of attacks. My husband was my rock, but just by being associated with me he was sometimes under attack too. I am not in touch with my family, so my team at Giant Spacekat, and my husband, I would say they are the ones that have kept me going every day. They've kept me from quitting.


3. If you had the chance to re-do the tweet/post that changed your life, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I don't regret standing up to Gamergate at all. It was the right call, and my actions were a turning point in changing the public perception of them. When I was initially targeted, a lot of people did think it was about ethics in game journalism. That said I do wish I'd gotten help with handling harassment on Twitter earlier. I wish I'd stepped away more, because being that hurt and angry in a public forum wasn't good for me.

4. What, if any, ramifications from your incident are you still experiencing today?

Too many to name… I'm still reporting dozens of tweets and accounts for harassment and impersonation every day. I've spent way too much time in the last year working behind the scenes trying to make this whole situation easier for women who are attacked. There's been progress, absolutely, with social media companies like Twitter starting to evolve their policies to be more inclusive of minority groups who are most often targeted. But, it takes a lot of time, and I have a business to run. I've done a lot of public speaking too, but that has its challenges; because you never know who is going to show up at a speaking engagement and start shouting at you halfway through your presentation. I have to have a security presence at most of the engagements I agree to. Even though it's just a precaution, it's a necessary one. It's too big a risk to take.


5. Have you had any other life-changing incidents on the Internet since the one we profiled?

Not in the same way, but I find myself dragged into drama on a weekly basis. The problem with becoming well known is everyone wants to walk by and "punch up," at you. It's exhausting.


6. What advice would you give to other people on managing social media?

I'd say be willing to admit your mistakes when you make them. The public will forgive you almost anything if you're honest about it. Also, don't be afraid to throw the Twitter keys to a friend and walk away when it becomes overwhelming.


7. What do you feel are positive aspects of the Internet (if any)?

The Internet has done so much for so many. It allows women and minorities to have access to education, training, and information that sometimes isn't available to them for whatever reason. It helps us stay connected and see all the angles of a story when it breaks. There is tremendous good that can be done, and is already being done, online. The real question is whether or not the communities that rule the Internet can make their spaces safer for users, especially women and minorities.

References

  1. Why Gamers Had To Die - Part 1
  2. Why Gamers Had To Die - Part 2
  3. Why Gamers Had To Die - Part 3
  4. LadyFuzztail's Storify - GamerGate is the Victim of a False-Flag Operation
  5. Brianna Wu's Twitter - I've Been Fact-Checked
  6. Kiwi Farms - Account Locked for Mocking Wu
  7. Mundane Matt - Wu Lied about Tyce and Jace
  8. Twitter Archive - Brianna Wu Discussion
  9. SyFy Network - Brianna Wu: Where is she Now?