The Guardian had a great article today that makes explicit many of the connections between the so-called “alt-right” and other predominantly male online movements/communities such as #Gamergate. I’d extend their analysis by adding two more communities: free, libre, and open source software (FLOSS) developers, and pro-Trump communities like the_donald on Reddit. Like Gamergate and alt-right, these are male online communities that have the same predictable speaking style and culture as referenced in the Guardian article:
Prominent supporters on Twitter, in subreddits and on forums like 8Chan, developed a range of pernicious rhetorical devices and defences to distance themselves from threats to women and minorities in the industry: the targets were lying or exaggerating, they were too precious; a language of dismissal and belittlement was formed against them. Safe spaces, snowflakes, unicorns, cry bullies…. These techniques, forged in Gamergate, have become the standard toolset of far-right voices online.
I’ve built data sets of insults, gender stereotypes, double entendres (e.g. “that’s what she said” jokes) and so on using the 90+% male FLOSS developer community, and earlier this year I worked with a student and another colleague to build a machine learning classifier that could automatically detect the abusive speech style of Linus Torvalds as compared to other Linux maintainers.
After doing this work, I think there are a few other characteristics in common between all these communities:
- Their members engage in hero worship of strong, identifiable male leaders. Moreover, these hero-leaders are always excused when they behave badly.
- Trump in the_donald,
- Torvalds in FLOSS,
- Robert E. Lee/Stonewall Jackson and a large cast of other generals and ancestors to worship in neo-confederate communities,
- even Cernovich in the allegedly “leaderless” Gamergate
- Their members believe that meritocracy is the ideal arbiter, and that they have been victimized in the past by non-meritocratic institutions or systems. Examples of this are replete in discussions of:
- Their members fetishize their hero as a David up against some Goliath
- Trump is King David up against the mainstream media and liberal elites,
- GamerGate versus PC culture (social justice warriors, or “SJWs”) and PC journalism,
- Neo-confederates versus Yankees/”Northern Aggression”/Lost Cause Mythology/carpetbaggers,
- FLOSS projects against the evil proprietary software company du jour (Linus vs. Microsoft, Linus vs. Oracle, Linus vs. Sun, Linus vs. Nvidia), and the list goes on.
So yes, Guardian, it is all very predictable.