IGN Is the Latest Victim of Corporate Meddling in Media

Freedom of press cannot be asserted under the thumb of capitalism.

It isn’t simply enough to advocate for an independent media out of principle–an environment in which writers have latitude to use their own platforms for good is necessary for a thriving ecosystem, but today we witnessed a textbook example of it being repressed only to appease corporate interests. IGN—a games media outlet—recently released a statement walking back their staunch support for ending the ongoing violence in Palestine, portraying it as a miscalculated decision on their part to not heed both sides of the conflict with equal regard–one need only to read between the lines to realize that this statement does not represent the views of the editorial in what is yet another instance of capital encroaching upon the media’s supposed noble aspiration of serving the public good.

For gaming media especially, this is a rare occurrence–the culture surrounding this space rarely serves up any intelligible political commentary, and it’s been partly the reason why high-profile developers have shied away from being explicit with their politics under the guise of neutrality. That withstanding, seeing the gravity of the situation in Gaza—and Palestine in general—IGN stepped up to the plate in an act of utmost journalistic courage–there’s no lack of far-right fervor against solidarity with the Palestinian people, so staff had plenty to lose as they broke from mainstream media’s script. Unexpectedly—and perhaps sadly enough—IGN corporate stepped in and watered down the moral potency of editorial’s initial statement, serving us yet another reminder that living up to the media’s ideal is merely a collateral for corporations, not a primary objective to be met.

Until very recently, the notion of showing up for Palestinian lives was considered sacrilege–the political environment in the United States and globally just housed a lot of unwarranted sympathy for Israel in which they hold all the cards and spare none of the spoils. Managing Editor of GameSpot Tamoor Hussain went on HasanAbi’s stream last night to discuss the plight of Palestinians in the games industry—between unfavorable representation and a deference to the narrative peddled by the American foreign policy apparatus—and that was not only significant because it was hosted by one of Twitch’s most outspoken leftist political streamers, but these kinds of gestures were once seen as literal kryptonite for games media. To have had this shift in recent years shows an immense growth on the part of games journalists and the structures they operate under, but shareholder interests are keen on setting that back if it poses even the slightest peril to their bottom-line.

This is ultimately the conflict between profit—a taboo subject in media circles—and the purported quest for the public’s enlightenment–they’re ultimately at odds, but those heavily enmeshed in the business community would like you to believe otherwise. What IGN did in support of humanitarian causes in Palestine shouldn’t be controversial at all—in fact, it would’ve been the subject of unanimous praise in the context of any fair and just society—but the editorial staff got clearly punished for it if the tone of the site’s recent own rebuke is anything to go by.

There’s a long road that games media has yet to walk in order to be taken seriously, and being the lolcow of the community it speaks on behalf of certainly does not make it easy, but the following should’ve been clear for IGN’s corporate just as it was for their editors and writers: to retract one of the most consequential gestures of support for Palestinians across digital media isn’t just evidentiary of a complete disinterest in serving the public–it’s equally undermining of their trust as readers were lead to believe a thing, then were told in a few days to believe another. Even if IGN wishes to do more in aid of humanitarian causes in the future, all credibility has been lost since their very first earnest effort was swiftly met with corporate hostility.

Feeling the need to kowtow to every viewpoint—no matter how erroneous—is an invention of the post-liberal media consensus in the latter decades of the Cold War era, and it would not be so obnoxious were it not applied to issues that seemed quite clear-cut. Like the late Michael Brooks said, over-complexifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a way to obfuscate its true moral implications, and depending on which side of it is co-signed, the result can be quite akin to what empowered humanity’s worst impulses in the past–to speak uncharitably of what’s happening to Palestinians isn’t just a conclusion any sound editorial would reach; it is an imperative in an age of such raging inequality and widespread injustice.

As far as IGN’s editorial is concerned, they’ve already done what some would consider is more-than-enough, and not all of them are in the opportune position of being able to pull a Deadspin, quit en masse and start anew–nonetheless, it is a forewarning of many more issues yet to come when the interests of capital clash with those of basic human empathy. To that end, it’s important to keep conscious stock of when that happens because when alternative models are floated, they’ll only end up reproducing our lamentable current state of affairs unless they are made with clear purpose, one that is built on a strong belief in justice and democratic deliberation as necessary steps to walk on the road to reinventing the media so it can finally reach its long-sought aspirations of moral and intellectual greatness.

Update: IGN employees did confirm in an open letter that this was a unilateral violation of their editorial freedom by management, thus the points made in this blog entry still stand.