For those not familiar, TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, also known as John Bain, is a Youtube Games Critic and Let's Player. He is extremely popular (with a subscriber count in the millions), and is notable for being one of the most prominent mainstream GamerGate supporters, a stance that initially drew some controversy. Closer analysis would show, however, that Bain's acting as a consumer advocate and watchdog pre-dates GamerGate by several years, and he has a well-deserved reputation as being someone willing to openly call foul on devs and publishers engaging in unethical conduct. As an example, TotalBiscuit was notorious for being the one to break the Shadow of Mordor branding scandal.
In 2014, TotalBiscuit had a chance encounter with Brianna Wu - ironically one that happened before GamerGate had ever occurred - which would set the stage for TotalBiscuit receiving an enormous amount of harassment from Brianna Wu's followers, and subsequently, GamerGate's opposition as a whole. The entire incident would become known well-known on Social Media as the TotalBiscuit Incident, and involved John Bain receiving such harassment for over a year. Even today, GamerGate opponents continue to claim that TotalBiscuit is guilty of wrongdoing, often blaming him for harassing others despite having no evidence of the sort.
Initial Encounter With Brianna Wu
On July 19th, 2015, roughly one month before GamerGate happened, Brianna Wu approached TotalBiscuit in an effort to get him to review Revolution 60. Though TotalBiscuit doubtlessly was not aware of it, his declining to review Wu's magnum opus would set the stage for what was to come.
TotalBiscuit coming out in support of GamerGate was not well-received by GamerGate opponents - in no small part due to the size of his audience and the fact that he already had an established reputation as someone with credibility. For groups like Crash Override Network, this situation was intolerable, as they were determined to deny GamerGate any legitimate platform. TotalBiscuit, with his massive number of followers, broad support, and defiance of corruption in the games press was not someone they could tolerate giving GamerGate a voice, and on January 26th, 2015, when he had the gall to point out that Anita Sarkeesian's death threats were a hoax, in much the same way that the overpowering majority of Brianna Wu's are, Brianna Wu was immediately apoplectic, and immediately began rallying her supporters as part of the first wave of an attack.
Immediately in response, huge number of Wu's followers heeded the call to arms. This attack was led by none other than Wu herself, who repeatedly attempted to shame TotalBiscuit and attack him, Vade-style, via her followers, calling him everything from a "willfully ignorant gamerbro" to feigning offense at his use of the term "PC Master Race," an ongoing joke amongst Gamers that Personal Computers are a superior gaming platform, which Brianna Wu attempted to conflate with the holocaust and accuse him of being a white supremacist.
TotalBiscuit, however, would not be shamed by these tactics. He dug in his heels, even as Wu essentially just accused him of being a Nazi. He proceeded to mock Wu and her followers, pointing out their blatant hypocrisy, immunity to logic, and willingness to do anything to support the all-important narrative. TotalBiscuit paid no respect to the idiocy that was preferred pronouns and further infuriated Wu and her followers by making light of the outrage culture that GamerGate opponents so openly embrace. This behavior would later be seen again from Wu during the Sonic The Hedgehog Triggering.
Mere days later, Wu claimed she had "never heard of him before GamerGate," despite provably having tried to reach out to him repeatedly to get him to review Revolution 60. In response, TotalBiscuit openly mocked Brianna's horrendous game, and went on to point out that Wu was openly sensationalizing during the push to get Revolution 60 through Steam Greenlight.
The fact that he would not break under the assault Wu threw his way was intolerable to Brianna Wu, and it quickly began to attract other GamerGate opponents. Wu redoubled her efforts, and threw everything at trying to destroy him for the simple offense of publicly defying her narrative. She would go on to use other avenues of attack as well -including using her allies on GamerGhazi (before they rallied and banned her from the board). Wu's offensive would break soonafter, but not before being picked up by her counterparts in GG's opposition. It would not, however, the last time Brianna Wu would go after Bain by a long shot, however.
Escalation and #ZeroBiscuit
"For fuck’s sake, GOG., Tot*l Biscuit (sic) is not a popular, adorably controversial figure in gaming. He is a serial harasser who made GG mainstream. No game company, no PR people, nobody should talk to or about him other than on those terms. When I was at ParadoxCon this year his name was said as someone who can sell games with mentions. I instantly felt worse about being there. And, you know, I recognize that if your job requires selling games maybe he can be useful. But I don’t ever want to hear about him as normal."—Rowan Kaiser
Once the attacks started by Brianna Wu were in full swing, other opponents of GamerGate began to show up en masse, leading off with the likes of Rowan Kaiser, who inadvertently tipped a hand at what they were really concerned about. Arthur Chu would go on to begin a Twitter hashtag, #ZeroBiscuit, in opposition to TotalBiscuit having received accolades from several sites due to his hard work and due diligence, but the hashtag was quickly captured by GamerGate supporters who proceeded to use it to mock their opposition.
David Gallant, operating on the behalf of Zoe Quinn, soonafter entered the fray with particular gusto, and wrote several articles attacking TotalBiscuit, signal boosting the initial offensives against TotalBiscuit and leading to significantly more people in GamerGate's opposition harassing and attacking TotalBiscuit in turn. Gallant would proceed to try to convince game developers and publishers to blacklist TotalBiscuit in an attempt to hinder his ability to give GamerGate a voice online, arguing that his willingness to call things as he saw them constituted "harmful opinions" that couldn't be tolerated, arguing that TotalBiscuit's mere presence somehow contributed to the marginalization of women and minorities.
While Gallant's attacks were clumsy and mostly met with ridicule, GamerGate's opposition threw everything at trying to make them stick. GamerGate opponents frequently exaggerated claims of ill behavior that were originally started by Gallant, Wu, and Chu, to the point where GamerGate opponents were outright accusing Bain of being a Nazi, white supremacist, and misogynist.
Bain later attempted to voice support for a charity stream, only for said charity to come under fire by the mob stirred up by GamerGate's opposition, who, appropriately, had gotten to the stream's heads, which, in turn, subsequently declared that the bulk of TotalBiscuit's massive subscriber count, which would have been a major boon for the event, consisted of nothing but misogynists and racists, and making the argument, essentially, that anything remotely willing to contact GamerGate was dead to them - despite being in an official partnership with the charity stream in the first place!
The attacks against TotalBiscuit continued without slowing for almost seven months. Almost every angle was explored and attacked, from Anti-GG randos like Mark Boyd lending their voice to the chorus, to other groups actively attacking his business associates. The attacks against Bain were such that several of his fellow critics, even ones normally separate from him politically, voiced their support, ranging from neutrals like JonTron and Angry Joe to GG opponents like Jim Sterling, all of which condemned the attacks against Bain. The worst, however, was yet to come.
Bain at this time was struggling with bowel cancer, and it looked increasingly like his was not going to be particularly treatable. One might imagine that with the target of their ire potentially dying, GamerGate's opposition might have shown some respect, but if anything quite the opposite was true, and Twitter soon saw multiple cases of GamerGate opponents claiming they "hoped the cancer killed him faster." Worse, attacks quickly were directed at TotalBiscuit's family, leading to a salvo of death and rape threats against his wife and son. The attacks were sufficient for Bain to require therapy, as even when he was undergoing chemotherapy, GG's opposition would not stop sending him hate-mail.
Ian Miles Cheong, a former GamerGate Opponent, was so aghast over what had happened that he turned on his associates and personally apologized for what happened. This, along with other parts of this incident, were covered (as well as many subsidiary connections to this incident) in a lengthy video by Sargon of Akkad (TotalBiscuit Segment at 12:35). Arguably the most disturbing facet of this entire thing, of course, was the fact that the very people who were attacking TotalBiscuit - be they Mark Boyd, Brianna Wu, Arthur Chu, David Gallant, or any of the minor individuals who were sending threats - did so while, at the same time, arguing that Bain himself was a "serial harasser." It is no coincidence that despite the constant harassment GamerGate opponents claimed to have received from the hashtag consumer revolt, their own side seem to constitute the biggest and most easily-recorded examples of harassment out there.
False Sympathy and GHC 2015
On October 15th, 2015, TotalBiscuit's cancer was shown to have spread into his liver. Such growth is inoperable, and the beloved Youtube icon was diagnosed as having 2 to 3 years to live. In a surprising show of candor, Brianna Wu extended the olive branch and offered her condolences.
There was only one small problem.
Her doing so was less than 24 hours before her GHC 2015 video went live, in which she was caught using TotalBiscuit's tweets as examples of death and rape threats she had received.
The TotalBiscuit Incident is a tragic occurrence - and a stern reminder of the kind of power Brianna Wu can wield indirectly through her supporters, and her willingness to do everything to destroy those who have the misfortune of drawing her ire. Whilst Wu herself was not directly responsible for the attacks on TotalBiscuit, she was one of the individuals leading the charge, and the only one actively seeking to profit off of claiming he harassed her.
Lolcows Involved in the TotalBiscuit Incident
- Brianna Wu
- David Gallant
- Bob Chipman
- Katherine Cross
- Dan Olson
- Arthur Chu
- Mark Boyd
- Jake Alley
- Games Reviews - TotalBiscuit reveals Shadow of Mordor's Branding Deal
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - Interested in a Press Copy of Revolution 60?
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - Did TotalBiscuit Really Say This?
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - TotalBiscuit the Poster Child of Willfully Ignorant Gamerbros
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - TotalBiscuit Told Me to "Lighten Up" About the Holocaust
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - TotalBiscuit is a Racist
- The Ralph Retort - Caught Red Handed! Wu gets busted on Twitter
- TotalBiscuit's Twitter - I'm Prejudice Against Character Models That Look Like Bratz Dolls
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - TotalBiscuit is Infantile in the Extreme
- Rowan Kaiser's Twitter, July 2015
- GamaSutra - NO MORE TOTALBISCUIT
- Sargon of Akkad - #ZeroBiscuit
- GamesNosh - Goons Blow Up At TotalBiscuit
- TotalBiscuit's TwitLonger - I Will Not Apologize For My Audience
- MagicNanners' Twitter - More Like Total Bigot
- Jamwa's Twitter - TotalBiscuit Should Let Cancer Kill Him Faster
- The GG - TotalBiscuit speaks up about Death Threats and Shame Crusades
- Sargon of Akkad - Social Justice Harassers
- Brianna Wu's Twitter - Condolences Offered
- JaimArchive - Wu Accuses TotalBiscuit of Being A Harasser at GHC