The Gamergate-Like Veneer of Anti-BreadTube Backlash

Methods once hogged by the far-right have now become common in reactionary leftist circles.

If it appeared on the surface that this recent round of backlash against BreadTube is about the actions of one single creator, it has now culminated into what could only be adequately described as a harassment campaign masquerading as legitimate criticism. This in all ways but figurative emulates a similar pattern of behavior by Gamergate, wherein the furor of a disillusioned loud minority is carried out in intermittent doses at first, to now becoming an entire movement of its own with stated goals and objectives it won’t back down from pursuing until they are fulfilled.

Much like Gamergate, the error would be to assume a group whose main mechanism of conviction is to harass a select few individuals into submission, is indulging in the discussion in good faith at all. As it stands today, Lindsay Ellis, Oliver ‘Philosophy Tube’ Thorn and Harry ‘Hbomberguy’ Brewis have made the shortlist of BreadTube creators who have had to stem the tide of relentless and unending criticism of their affiliation with Natalie ‘ContraPoints’ Wynn, merely on the ground of having featured a controversial figure in her latest video. Now that the fruits of BreadTube are perceived as rotten, its critics see the taking of any measures to grind BreadTube’s cultural impact to a halt as vital to their message. Unfortunately many — including me — have been swept under this current of toxicity, and it’s worth establishing a few ground rules about how discourse functions online and apply the lessons of Gamergate to hopefully instruct a more positive change.

The mistake that BreadTube critics make in trying to distance themselves from Gamergate, is they assume the function of its harassment emanates from an inherent sense of toxicity within the community that most predominantly occupies it–in this case, it’s thought that being a white supremacist and a misogynist are the essential, and sometimes only components you would need to qualify as a Gamergate member. That couldn’t be further from the truth–Gamergate’s strength as a movement is that it wields group identity tension between itself and its targets as a valid pretext for why it is its divine right to harass individuals whom it deems unfit to spare its wrath. The anti-BreadTube current functions in a similar way, whereby the perpetrators of harassment are working through a process of elimination and scanning affiliations of creators — past and present — to determine if an individual is worth harassing. Being bombarded with the same brand of criticism over and over again at the hope a target of harassment might yield isn’t all-that-dissimilar from what Gamergate pioneered five years prior–this time around however, it’s coated in leftist ideals rather than right-wing ones.

If Gamergate’s instigative battlecry was a qualm with “ethics in video game journalism”, this one seems to be more along the lines of “ContraPoints is bad, and anyone who associates with her is also bad.” Concerns about her treatment of non-binary people, or the inclusion of controversial trans activist Buck Angel in her latest video seem almost secondary–if you closely read the feeds of those most devoted to the cause of BreadTube’s downfall, they’ll openly admit that no solution is exhaustive enough to satisfy their needs. The outrage against ContraPoints is used as but a mere vessel to channel a greater anger over BreadTube’s reticence to represent the most fringe parts of the political left online, despite being pandered to.

The key difference between Breadgate and Gamergate, is that the latter has always been doused in political complicity, but never had quite a clear goal to speak of. The — almost terrifying — strength of BreadGate is that it derives its power from exactly the opposite–followers of this doctrine are expected to manifest their political beliefs through praxis, and in a near-constant Marxist fashion, that praxis entails following through with a plan on an artificially-large scale to simulate the appearance of mass appeal. This way, BreadTube creators are à la fois duped into thinking that the grievances of their critics are a legitimate concern, and Breadgaters get to convince themselves of the usefulness of what they’re doing regardless of what little material good it actually achieves.

This correlates pretty neatly with what critics of BreadTube thinks it’s actually doing to them. So far, accusations of impotency are still hypothetical, and nothing BreadTube did or endorsed has yet to cause the purported effect Breadgate is complaining in droves about. The main contention seems to be that the group of progressive creators on YouTube have exploited their fans for fame, sold them out, and are now berating their non-binary fans by proxy of associating with ContraPoints, who has a knack for ruffling feathers against her better judgement–the problem with such a conceit is that it clearly has little bearing on what BreadTube fans think of the movement, and most are actually completely fine with ContraPoints and her creator friends. So far, the like to dislike ratio of recent BreadTube videos doesn’t seem to have suffered in any tangible way, making any reaction to this outrage hugely disproportionate to the damage actually done–it would’ve been akin to Nike cowering to Colin Kaepernick’s dissenters once a few of them started burning their shoes. The pressure felt to respond otherwise is illusive at best.

If what happened with Gamergate is any indication of what will ensue shortly thereafter with Breadgate, is that it’ll have tragic ramifications for all involved. Both those on the offensive will have to inevitably come to terms with the inefficacy of their methods, while BreadTube creators will need to develop a greater distance between their audiences and their work, outlining a clearer distinction between their own beliefs, and the aspiration of political change that a sizeable portion of their critics feel like they’ve not yet assigned great importance. In the here and now, judging by reactions online, it seems as though this won’t blow over anytime soon, and it’s quite a sad state of affairs to realize that no community is immune to toxic impulses–even one that spends its waking hours screaming atop rooftops about mental health and the importance of emotional levity.