From GG to RT: The Transformation of Sophia Narwitz
How an ‘independent journalist’ sold her soul to the Kremlin.
It’s not always that the opportunity to work on Vladimir Putin’s dime presents itself, but when long-term advocate of Gamergate Sophia Narwitz was prompted to take it, reservations about Russia Today’s editorial bottomline were apparently a secondary concern. To gain a cursory understanding of who Narwitz is, consider her the result of a threeway mating between Blaire White, Jeremy ‘TheQuartering’ Hambly and Andy Ngo–if presuming disingenuity and bad-faith was your first instinct, then you’ve guessed correctly.
When Narwitz was first an unknown quantity in the discourse, there was still no telling what her true motives are–the media first caught wind of her when she somewhat unceremoniously broke the story of an ill-fated E3 leak back in August of 2019, then she underwent a slow transition from being strictly preoccupied with the dynamics of the gaming industry to becoming a regular chronicler of the culture war for Russia Today by November of the same year. Once that transition was complete, it had become clear that much like her analogues on the right, she’d come to view her contributions to the reactionary world purely as a means to self-enrich–intellectual inquiry be damned, she was not to leave this world without having milked right-wingers for their every ounce of attention and money.
Before further abording who Narwitz is and what she stands for, a brief history of the establishment utilizing her services is in order. To start, there’s a clear throughline from Cold War-era anti-American sentiment to modern-day Russia’s insistence on recruiting to its ranks every agent seeking to disrupt the social order of America and its closest allies–Russian state-controlled media still holds so much of what erstwhile made it powerful during the Soviet era, and while its explicit intent was often to distract from the political elite’s own failures, it also served the purpose of anchoring Russia’s national identity around something eerily contrarian, and the object of that contrarianism at the time was a staunch rejection of bourgeoisie and American capitalism. Along the way, incentives got muddled and what was once a semi-potent application of Marxist theory suddenly turned into a game of cultural sabotage aimed specifically at exploiting America’s political shortcomings only to further Russia’s ends, and those happened to neatly align themselves with the interests of the conservative right-wing movement.
Following in the habit of state-sponsored Russian media poaching Western media rejects, Sophia Narwitz was ripe for the taking–her brief stint as an independent journalist had all the markings of an Andy Ngo-like grifter where narrative prevails over story, and Russia Today found themselves with a flexible mold that they could shape into whatever best fit their purposes. That shape has so far turned out to be one not-too-dissimilar from the existing fray of alternative right-wing media, save for the explicit blessing of Putin himself.
How Narwitz came to be a hired mark with the clear purpose of poisoning the well of American political discourse makes sense if Russia’s disruption of recent high-profile elections is anything to go by. This is further exacerbated by online platform’s flagrant incompetence in being able to keep dis-and-misinformation at bay, where Narwitz’s ilk have free reign to spew falsehood with impunity, just as that information is gobbled up and spread without due scrutiny.
Perhaps the scariest thing that Sophia Narwitz has been able to successfully do throughout her tenure as faux-journalist and Gamergater combined into one, is her ability to galvanize her audience into adopting a cynical view of the social order refracted through the pseudo-anti-corporatist facade of Gamergate–proclaiming herself to be an outlet for people’s deepest-held grievances against the gaming industry, she leveraged the anti-imperialist tone of Russia Today — which is more-often-than-not purely aesthetical — to impart upon a populist veneer. It’s her sheer ability to turn something utterly obscene — as tends to be Russia Today’s framing of most issues — into a palpable narrative for reactionaries to get behind that makes her ideas a valuable currency in right-wing circles.
It’s no surprise then that Narwitz has slot herself firmly in the ranks of protest-skeptics as she continues to parrot a narrative of unkempt violence, completely ignoring the underlying socioeconomic conditions that have pushed America to the brink of revolution in the first place–besides being cognitive dissonance at its worst, it just goes to show how integral to the Narwitz brand has become her proud embrace of journalistic malpractice. There’s no consistency to ideas, nor is there any clear pattern that her proclamations are supposed to fit into–it’s just showing up in opposition to whatever the left is advocating for, activating negative polarization within her audience to great effect.
If ever confronted with that fact, Narwitz will no doubt turn around and claim simply having won in the marketplace of ideas–but in her case, it only proves that physical items aren’t the full extent of the snake oil trade. Narwitz could have evaluated her ideas based solely on the merits and realized they’re not potent ingredients for intellectual legitimacy–but much like the path that so-called ‘skeptics’ have charted out for her, long-term viability is rarely a consideration when short-term benefit is on the table, and for as long as those Russia Today checks will clear, expect more malice on the way still.
Narwitz’s success is perhaps the biggest indictment of media’s inability to reward tact and facticity, letting saboteurs compromise the reputation of the craft instead–it was bad enough that social media cultivated an entire generation of people willing to tie themselves into mental knots if only to maintain ideologies most-flawed, and now they have a steady supply of intellectual kool-aid to satisfy their needs. Such a reverence for dis-and-misinformation has already caused the death of innocent life, and it’s about time we treat those glorifying it — including Sophia Narwitz — as an active threat to public safety, not mere fringes to tolerate on the side.