It’s starts off with a guy swigging from a bottle of vodka and slowly develops into a great free-wheeling discussion about journalistic ethics. I’m referring to the latest Google Chat posted on YouTube by Internet Aristocrat: Lazy Thursday Stream – 10/09/14. The audience gets warmed up with the usual BS about penis size. Then the drunk aristocrat guy lets an anime guy into the chat. Eventually Eric Kain from Forbes and Milo Yiannopoulos from Brietbart join in. A panda named Lo-Ping gets appointed as the moderator (lol!) and the discussion steps up a notch. btw Here’s a couple of recent articles by the aforementioned writers:
Oct. 9, 2014, Eric Kain in Forbes: #gamergate Is Not A Hate Group, It’s A Consumer Movement
Oct. 10, 2014, Milo Yiannopoulos in Brietbart: How to Lose a Public Relations Battle on the Internet
There’s just so many different angles to #gamergate and it’s bringing a lot of different voices into the mix. I’ll say it again as a disclosure: I’m not a gamer. I’m following this story primarily because of the journalistic ethics angle.
The yakfest is over 5 hours long, so I’ll just drop you in the middle of it here, at 3 hours 5 minutes and 5 seconds (garnished with about three minutes worth of of transcription, a meagre contribution, below):
Eric Kain: YouTube is just going to keep growing. We’re going to get more and more serious critics doing video and if we want that to be quality, if we want people to have trust there, like they don’t in traditional games media right now, then we’d better pay attention to what’s going on. And if we don’t, the same problems, the same issues that we’re facing now in games journalism, it’s just going to carry right over.
Milo Yiannopoulos: Don’t you think they’re doing quite a good job of policing themselves because TotalBiscuit covered this weeks ago and everyone had that conversation then. And don’t you think that, you know, by and large, this stuff because of the greater degree of transparency and conversation and scrutiny that already exists with these big YouTubers, don’t you think the market is dealing with this in a way that it can’t address journalism because journalists are so distant and so opaque in a way that YouTubers generally are not.
Eric Kain: It depends.
Milo Yiannopoulos: They are–for a burgeoning, young, you might say not yet professionalized, not yet institutionalized industry–policing themselves a hell of a lot better than journalists ever have.
Eric Kain: Well, some of them are, we know, because they’ve been very upfront about it. Boogie2988 and Francis whatever, he had a video, and I thought his video was really good, I just disagree with him doing the paid deal for Shadow of Mordor. I disagree with that. But he also pointed out something really important there, that in the US we have a legal obligation to disclose, but that’s not the case everywhere. So we can say, oh great that TotalBiscuit and boogie came out and were very upfront. That’s great. That’s a couple of guys. But there’s a lot of YouTubers, and there’s going to be a lot more.
Internet Aristocrat: But Eric…
Eric Kain: That’s my point. It’s not that, sure, in this instance.
Internet Aristocrat: [attempts to interrupt again]
Moderator [Lo-Ping]: Let him finish.
ShortFatOtaku: If I could jump in after as well.
Eric Kain: There was great… there was some very good disclosure from a couple of very prominent YouTubers, but that does not simply erase the problem with these kind of deals. And if this kind of deal was going on in print it would also be a very big deal. The response I’ve gotten from #gamergate has been, “We can only focus on one thing at a time.” Well, I just think it’s the same thing. The problem is, people who are helping consumers decide how to purchase something, in this case video games, being too close with the people who are selling that product. Whether you’re a YouTuber or a critic online or whatever, if you are helping the industry sell your [sic] product before you’re thinking about the consumer, then it’s a fucking problem.
Internet Artist: And I agree with that. And I will let ShortFatOtaku go on in a second. Two points really quick. I think Milo is right. I mean, TotalBiscuit did disclose this, but even more than that, if you look at somebody like I believe it’s Jesse Cox on YouTube. At the start of their videos when they’re doing a preview or review of a game they’re talking about where they got it. They’re totally disclosing the source that they got the material from, how they got it, the connections that were involved. It seems to be a community that does self-regulate. But you’re talking about YouTubers stepping up to the plate and doing something they don’t have a degree or an ethical obligation to do. And again, I agree with you at heart. It is shit that they’re doing it and they should be called out on it.
But look at Grayson, look at Patricia Hernandez, look at any of these people that write for actual journalism websites. None of them stepped up to the plate. They only admitted wrongdoing once it was called out. So when you are talking about the enthusiasts press, when you’re talking about—I don’t know what you want to call it, the sixth estate? or however you want to coin it—they’re doing a fucking much better job than online media has. Kotaku, Polygon, Gamasutra, all of these have failed to ever disclose any information. And I think when you look at this recent thing with Shadows of Mordor or Middle Earth, what you’re seeing is YouTubers stepping up to the plate in a way that Kotaku and Polygon and the others never would have stepped up to the plate. They only responded when they got called out.
Eric Kain: There is a legal obligation to disclose financial ties…
Internet Aristocrat: [talking over] So why isn’t that in journalism?
Eric Kain: But most journalism does, I mean, most of it does. If you go to a website that does a review of a game there’s a disclosure…
Internet Aristocrat: But wait wait, Eric. If there’s legal disclosure, why wasn’t Patricia Hernandez speaking about this up front? If there was this legal disclosure… that’s not right.
Eric Kain: But the thing is, you’re pointing out something that’s not right. I wasn’t saying it’s right either. But again, it’s the two wrongs make a right thing. I’m not disagreeing.
Internet Aristocrat: No no no Eric, what I’m saying is… to the earlier question, when I said, ‘Should Patricia Hernandez be fired?’ you said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t have the information.’ But if you’re saying there’s a legal obligation to disclose a relationship before doing a review, if it is a legal obligation to do so and they are refusing to do so and they only do it after they are called out, why the fuck would they NOT be fired?
Eric Kain: I’m not in HR. I don’t know.
Internet Aristocrat: That’s not an HR question.
Eric Kain: It is.
Internet Aristocrat: That’s a simple ethics question. That’s a legal question. Why would they not be fired for failing to disclose…
Eric Kain: Because breaking the law does not get you fired.
Internet Aristocrat: Are you fucking kidding me?
ShortFatOtaku: I think what he’s trying to…
Moderator [Lo-Ping]: Hold on, hold on. [to Internet Aristocrat] You’re a bit drunk here. Give it a second.
Then a few minutes later there is this;
Eric Kain: The thing is there’s so much grey you miss when you decide to take a really hard stance on something. You may think she needs to be fired, but there may be a lot more things going on that you don’t know about.
Milos Yiannopoulos: This is an important point because one of the things you have to bear in mind is that a really important part of the journalist’s job, if they are doing their job properly, is probably to skirt very close to breaking the law in all sorts of ways. The fourth estate is there to hold power to account. Sometimes that power is the law. Sometimes it’s politicians. Sometimes it’s the police. Now, you could argue with some justification that very few members of the games journalism industry are doing anything of such size or significance that warrant a blind eye being turned. Eric is right that many of these things are guidelines and regulations rather than sort of statutory instruments. He’s right, but the more important thing is that journalists are there to break the law in some circumstances. They are there to do what ordinary members of the public can’t. Journalists do it because they have lawyers and platforms and power to hold other powers to account. Now, when that goes wrong, and journalists fail in their responsibilities… and their primary responsibilities are to expose wrongdoing by the way, not to be, as Eric put it perfectly correctly, an extension of the marketing arm of very large, very rich companies; a journalist’s primary responsibility is to expose wrongdoing. When they fail in that task, when there is as we have had in #gamergate an industry-wide ethical failure, then precisely the kind of consumer action that we seen in #gamergate is a proportionate, reasonable and appropriate response to that. But I do have to say, when we are really doing our jobs properly, it does very often put us in a really tricky position, which is why newspapers spend so much money on lawyers and why all journalists are worried about going to prison if they are ever working on any interesting stories. If you ever write about anything remotely significant, first of all you’re going to get a lot of people upset, and second of all, you’re going to get yourself into some degree of legal trouble somewhere. And factor in the possibility that editors are complicit in an ideological mission, as we have seen happen with video games journalists, and you start to understand why it’s not quite as clear cut, if I may be bold enough to disagree with Jim on this one…