Trigger warning for discussions of harassment and threats.
A couple of years ago, I was involved in some drama on the Internet. Shocking, I know. Without going into unnecessary detail, the drama involved a review of the show The Leftovers (one of the best shows of all time) and people being critical of the person who wrote the review. I defended the reviewer. It is not irrelevant here to mention that myself and the reviewer are both women, and the reviewer is a woman of color. The backlash against the reviewer was immense, and she began to face serious online harassment. Because I defended her, I was targeted too. What I thought would be some simple AVClub drama that was forgotten or maybe joked about years later became part of a years-long campaign of targeted harassment. It started with a photoshopped image of me that included pictures pulled from my (set to private) Facebook page, pictures from my modeling days at SuicideGirls (so, nude photos), my contact information, and threats. It continues to this day, seemingly at random whenever the person or persons behind it gets bored and decides to find me on a website again, with threatening and disgusting posts. It has happened on Pajiba, though thankfully the mods there have been incredible about responding and banning.
What Zoe Quinn experienced is a million, million times worse than that. It’s depressing to say, but my experience with online harassment is a walk in the park compared to what so many people, especially members of marginalized groups, face online. Quinn details her experience with the very worst corners of the Internet and with being “patient zero” for the hate groups behind GamerGate, and it’s harrowing.
I appreciate the honesty she brings to detailing her experiences, both good and bad: because not only does she write about all the horrors of her experiences with harassment, she also writes about her attempts to do something about it, to protect other people, and to take a look at how we as a society can work to minimize this.
But the book is infuriating and hard to read, because it is so awful and because it is so common, and because Quinn also details the times in which she really was helpless to do anything. I had to take breaks to take a deep breath while reading this, not because I was triggered, but because I was filled with a rage that I didn’t know what to do with. I feel that rage a lot in this political climate, so it says a lot when something stands out as making me particularly angry.
I hate that these monsters did this to Quinn. I hate that by writing that her honest experience with this included trauma and completely legitimate fear, she has probably made these monsters feel happy and victorious. I hate that I had to take a second to wonder if I should write this review, because what if some GamerGater creep has a Google alert set, sees this, and targets CBR? I hate that the whole story sounded so familiar to me as someone who has faced (admittedly much more minor) doxing and harassment for daring to be an outspoken woman online. I hate that this is our world.
But I’m glad people like Quinn are speaking out against it. I’m glad people are working as hard as they can to try and change it. I’m glad this book exists.